Sunday, June 25, 2017

#R2K: 4 Months Out

For so many months it seemed so far away, just off in the distance.  This intangible thing that I was piecing together but not letting myself focus on.  Well guess what...the time is coming.  Training is slowing building to look more like 140.6 #s and less like 70.3 #s.  The spring season racing is over - lessons learned, podiums conquered, tears and smiles, to put a wrap on the early part of the year.

Breakfast on Aerobars
The training load is building and finally beginning to look like those Ironman training weeks that I remember oh so well.  My mind has completely warped, and I'm well aware, that what I consider a normal training week is likely what some others peak out at for Ironman.  And I felt like I had a ton
of free time when I was cranking out 14 hour weeks.  With the increasing training volume recently I've come to realize I can't do ALL the things ALL the time or see ALL the people.  Lucky for me I get to head to Michigan for a recovery weekend and party with the best of friends for a very sweet 1 year olds birthday.

I've been slowly finalizing all the Kona plans.  Organizing my sherpa team, making sure flights and cars and all the logistical stuff is booked.  Not so covertly encouraging my sherpa team to volunteer on or before race day...and when I googled Ironman World Championship to get to the volunteer page, you know what showed up?  Google pulled up my registration confirmation for the 2017 Ironman World Championships...holy hit me.  That dream that was so far off in the distance, that even once the ticket was punched and coin collected still seemed unreal is getting very REAL.  We're going to Kona to race.  I am going to Kona to race.  I'd be lying if I said it doesn't scare the crap out of my when I think about it a lot.  I'm choosing to focus on the process, channeling my *get to* attitude and having fun.

My comments on my workouts have recently read something along the lines of...I'm terrible at dissipating heat, this makes me super nervous for Kona....We're pushing through what looks (and I hope) to be a hot and humid DC summer.   Learning how to handle the heat, getting used to being comfortably uncomfortable again, and putting my head down watts out.  I'm racing one more 70.3 in Maine pre-Kona.  While *fingers crossed* the conditions won't mimic Kona, I'm excited for would could be a PR type of course and conditions.

The early season saw 2 70.3 distance races (which I need to write race reports for) White Lake Half and Eagleman 70.3.  Great opportunities to get some racing under my belt again, get Pete some experience attempting to use the Ironman tracker and give me info and deal with all my pre-race, race day, and post race emotions/shenanigans.  I must say he did a great job and was right there at Eagleman to tell me my position coming out of T2 (1st).

This is the part of the process I love - the daily grind, the stacks of laundry, the adrenaline, the fatigue, the empty fridge, the big grocery bill, the choice to rise up and push and see what you're capable of.  It's coming and I'm ready for it.

Friday, March 10, 2017

#R2K: Getting There

So how did I get from one of the most disappointing and frustrating races of my time as a triathlete to punching my ticket to Kona in 6 weeks time?  It wasn't easy and it wasn't a sealed deal that I'd even be racing until about 3.5 weeks out from race day of the 2nd Ironman.  Physically and physiologically we had to make sure my body was up for the challenge.  Recovering from a full IM can take 3-4 weeks in itself and tapering takes another 2-3 weeks...if you do the math that doesn't leave much time for training, let alone peak training.  Mentally we had to make sure I was ready to get back out there, put in the hours, make the sacrifices and do the work.

Priority #1 was making sure I was healthy coming out of Ironman Mont Tremblant.  The first week was a mandatory recovery week - 3 days completely off,  some easy swimming, some easy cycling and some very easy running.  My body felt good and not nearly as sore as I usually am post Ironman. Likely attributed to the inability to push hard and race to my potential due to illness.  Physically my body was feeling good and ready to take on more training after the first week of recovery.  I attribute this in large part to weekly physical therapy sessions at Rose PT.

Upon returning from IM Mont Tremblant and knowing I wanted to try again (likely at Maryland) we resumed weekly PT sessions - working on mobility, stability and anything we could to get me through the training and racing with no pain.  I committed to daily mobility sessions, on my own, post-workout between the 2 races, knowing if I couldn't stay healthy there wouldn't be a start line for me for race #2.   There's no denying that training and racing 2 Iron distance races (as well as a couple
of 1/2 distance races) can take it's toll on the body throughout the course of the season.  Due to some strength imbalances my left shoulder had been starting to bother me with swimming and my left hip with running.

I was fortunate enough to have access to the best treatment in town with my coworkers.  We used dry needling, biofeedback, active release, and manual joint work to help decrease pain and discomfort and normalize and maximize the efficiency of my movement patterns as much as possible in the time we had.  As my training load increases this year I've continued with PT to ensure I stay healthy throughout the year.   We're working on run mechanics, posture, breathing patterns and shoulder mobility to get started.  I'd rather put the preventative time in now rather than try to recover from in injury in the middle of a training cycle.

There were a lot of pieces that all fell into place to make the turn around happen and happen successfully.  A huge part of that was the support system I had behind me throughout both races.  I surrounded myself with training partners that believed in me, pushed me, and were some of my
biggest cheerleaders going into both races and on race day itself.  My coach was on board and family was on board.  The rest was up to me, to listen to my body, be smart with the training, and gain get as much fitness back in the tank as my body would allow.  I prioritized sleep and recovery more than I ever had before during those 6 weeks.  I aimed for 8+ hours of sleep every night and time in the NormaTec Recovery Boots after key sessions.  I focused on my nutrition and made sure my body was getting what it needed to recover and adapt.
One of my favorite photos - so many emotions.
Best friend/training partner watching my finish at IMMD.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Looking Back through the Looking Glass

 If anyone had asked me early in my training cycle during 2016 what might happen I would have responded with I don’t know and I’m just trying to get through the year healthy and happy.  It was a rough start to 2016 with slow paces, high heart rates and low power #’s, which arguably all had to do with the Mirena IUD (read about it here).  That wasn’t my plan for 2016 but we all know the saying…the best laid plans of mice and men…I committed to the process and enjoying the journey day by day, trying to forget about result and time goals.

One year ago I closed out 2015 in Taiwan with 2 of my biggest supporters – Rory and Kara.  One evening we headed out to a small village and bought a Chinese Wish Lantern.  We spent a little while writing our goals and wishes for 2016 on that Lantern.  In big letters I nervously wrote “2016 Kona”.  Earlier in December I set my 2016 intentions to start each day fearless and confident.  Little did I know how much these two things would play into my season, my life, and my journey through the year.

After a few months of frustration and aggravation through training with the IUD I got that thing out and things changed for the better…almost immediately.  Although all my run training had been pretty much at ZR paces I somehow dropped a nice PR at Cherry Blossom 10 miler despite cold and windy conditions on course.  This helped change my mindset for the better, and propel me into each day fearless and confident, committed to the process.

A hell of a start the triathlon season followed a couple weeks later on the heels of a big training day on the bike.   Breaking the tape with a strong all around race at Rumpus in Bumpass Sprint.  This led into a season of solid training, gains all around and progress – all I was asking for was progress at this point.  Two strong ½ Ironman races later I was feeling ready for IM Mont Tremblant.  I was excited about the possibilities and opportunities that lie ahead.

Mont Tremblant – the land of lessons and looking back now I can’t believe how many lessons slapped me in the face during this week in Canada.  I can’t thank my dear friend Angela nearly enough for standing by me, becoming an Ironman for the first time and still making sure we had a fun time.   You can read about the race experience in my race report but looking back I want to highlight the lessons learned. 

As I lay sick on the couch in our condo, less than 24 hours before the cannon would sound I didn’t know if I’d even make it to the starting line.  Everything I’d put my time and energy into up to that point had been for this race and it was slipping away before I even got into my wetsuit.   Laying on the couch and trying to muster the energy to just go rack my bike and drop off gear bags something was said to me – and it mentally broke me down even more. “Don’t blame me, blame yourself.” At a time when all I wanted was to be able to race to my potential, to show what I’d worked so hard for.  A time when my heart was breaking because I knew it was highly likely that if I did make it to the start line it wasn’t going to be the day I had trained for. 

The rest of the crew didn’t dare suggest that I not race, they pretty much knew I was going to toe the line and hope the body would come around.  Toe the line I did – the body coming around not quite (not to mention the bike mechanical 20 miles in).  Every pedal stroke and every step I contemplated quitting.  This wasn’t the race I had trained for, I was better than this, but something kept pushing me to make it just one aid station further.   I’m so thankful for the perseverance to continue that day, to fight just to get to the finish line and for best finish line catcher in the sport to to be there as I came across the line (my mom).  Not to mention, witnessing Angela crush her goal with time to spare.   I struggled through accepting (or not accepting) the fact that my dad wasn’t there cheering for me, heck he’d never been to a triathlon and this whole Ironman thing came about because of his accident – my therapy, my release.  Five years later and emotions and memories are still there and they’re still very real.

(Would I toe the line again in the condition I was prior to IMMT – probably not.  It was borderline stupid, and I feel lucky that I didn’t come out worse for that decision.)

The silver lining of racing an Ironman almost completely with your heart rate in zone recovery is that it doesn’t take too much out of you physically.  Somehow the fever and chills and illness didn’t get worse despite the cold rainy conditions and 11+ hour day of racing.  I talked with Kim, we had a plan and let a couple weeks play out to see how my body would take to that plan.  All systems were go and I got the green light to register for Ironman Maryland – not a race I ever really saw myself at, despite the course favoring my strengths but an opportunity I was ecstatic about.

I spent 5 weeks with my head down and focused, getting every once of strength and power back that I could.  I developed and nurtured some awesome friendships with my teammates and training partners over the course of the year and leaned on some of these pretty heavily going into IM MD.  From dinners, to riding partners, to pouring out my heart and soul to you ladies (and guys), thanks for being there and supporting all of it.  To have you all next to me willing to grind, suffer, persevere and push was and is amazing and I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings for us.  I consciously started the process of surrounding myself with those people that build me up and cutting out the other relationships during this time period (I believe I subconsciously started this earlier in the year). 

I kept Ironman Maryland on the quiet side compared to IM MT.  My mom came out and we headed out to Cambridge with one main goal – to have the best day I was capable of having.   Adam joined us and made sure to keep everyone who was following along virtually up to date on my whereabouts.  Apparently the first person texts were quite a hit.  I knew that for me this day would be a success if I could stay focused on the process and stay present.  One day so full of feeling and emotion that it could last a lifetime.   I went into the day fearless and confident and when my HR monitor went on the fritz and the power meter decided to go haywire I honed in on what Ironman effort felt like and trusted the process – confident and fearless.  I had friends and teammates come out and they were everywhere on the course cheering, giving splits and information on the run and the best part was hearing at mile 23 from another friend that everyone was headed to the finish line to cheer me into Kona.  I said it in my race report and I’ll say it again – there’s nothing like crossing the finish line knowing that you’ve punched your ticket to the big island.

I am so thankful that my mom made the trip out to witness that race and the awards ceremony.   Who knew that Chinese Wish Lantern and those intentions would come full circle by the end of the season.  In the moment at Mont Tremblant I wasn’t thrilled with how things had gone but I am beyond happy with the way they’ve worked out.  I couldn’t have written it better myself.

Little did I know the most difficult part of that week still lie ahead, perhaps the most difficult part of the year.  I’d be lying if I said this came out of nowhere, maybe we both knew it was coming and delayed the inevitable because we were comfortable or because we had hope that things would change.  Just days after Ironman Maryland I learned just how meaningful those bonds with my close friends are to me and how hard it can be to remain fearless and confident when everything seems to fall apart.  I ended a 4.5 year relationship (even though I knew it was the right decision for me it was one the hardest things I’ve done) – a time filled with awesome memories, experiences, countless races and training sessions.  Some people come into our lives and quickly go, others stay for while….

That same night I went to dinner with a dear friend and got a tattoo I’ve wanted for 4 years.  I’ve been on dates, I’ve gone on adventures I’ve always wanted to go on, I’ve moved into my own one bedroom (no more roommates!),  and I’ve enjoyed the crap out of off season.  There’s been pure joy, happiness, heartache and everything in between and I can’t be more thankful or grateful for all of the support from friends, family, coworkers, and training partners - especially those who listen to my stories that usually start with #datingat30 (not quite 30 yet!).

I’ve got two weeks left before the training starts and the head goes down – focused, fearless, confident, present and authentic on this #roadtokona.   Biggest of thanks to some of my rocks through the entire year – Erin and Brian, Big Ron, Heather, Bryan, Shannon, Paige, Rachel and Kendall.  I may have leaned on you more than is fair this year, but I hope if you need it, I can repay the favor. 

The day that you stop looking back, is the day that you start moving on.