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.


Saturday, October 8, 2016

IMMD 2016: Dreams Do Come True

Ironman Maryland was not really on my radar this year.  I had loosely talked about it with my teammate Heather if we hadn't KQ'd earlier in the year, but I was leaning more towards doing a late season 1/2 and attempting to punch my ticket to 70.3 Worlds 2017.  Well, IM MT came and blew up in my face and I was left with a burning desire to use the fitness I had spent the long hours working so hard for over the year.  A few days passed after IMMT and I noticed Maryland was still open.  I talked about it with my coach, signed up and told about 2 people, mostly wanting to keep this a bit more low key.

My body came around and the last couple weeks of training went really well.  I rode the bike course two times during my last training block and was confident with where my running was it.  I was much more careful to listen to my body, sleep a full 9 hours and cut workouts short when I needed to as we got closer to race day.  My body had been good to me and I was doing my best to take care of it going into my second IM in 6 weeks.

A mostly non-eventful day - I was able to work 1/2 day and then pick mom up at the airport before heading out to Cambridge.  I loved having an IM so close, it felt like much less of a 'big' deal and just heading out to Cambridge for another long day of training.  Mom and I picked up my packet, checked out the Choptank Lighthouse and the aptly named Choptank River before heading to dinner.  We ended up with a ton of free time on Thursday evening so I decided to start getting my gear bags ready, which I figured wouldn't be a big deal since this was my 6th rodeo and I have photo references of what I like in each bag.  The ever so prepared Holli had prepacked nutrition for each segment of the race into Ziploc bags the week before...and...OH heart sank when I realized I left ALL the nutrition in the bags on my shelf, in DC, almost a 2 hour drive away.  It was 7:30 in the evening, I was on the verge of getting in my car and driving back to DC, though I knew that was not a smart move.  I started getting in contact with everyone I knew still in DC that was heading out to Cambridge.  My lifesaver of a teammate and friend literally saved the day.  She was just getting in her car to head out and drove straight into the middle of the city to get my nutrition - there are not enough words to express my gratitude.  So thank you, Heather, for being the best friend, teammate, and cheerleader I could have ever asked for.  A huge thanks to Paige, Bryan and Adam for also offering to help however they could to prevent me from driving back to DC.

A relatively calm Choptank on Friday afternoon.
After a good night of sleep I got in my final 2 workouts - an easy swim and bike.  I headed down to the Choptank, got into the wetsuit and jumped in.  It was a solid 20 minutes of getting thrown around by the river, and this was in the protected cove.  I was somewhat relieved to see that there was a small craft advisory when I got home and I knew the swim was unlikely to take place in the conditions I had just faced.  A quick and easy ride to check out the far end of the run course and I called it.  It was rainy and nasty and I was ready to go out for pancakes.

After big breakfast we swung by the Base Salt tent to say hi to Heather and grab my nutrition.  Then it was back to the house (2 blocks from the village/finishline) to finish the gear bags and clean up the bike before heading to check it all in down at Great Marsh Park.  With bags checked and bike racked it was a very lazy afternoon with my favorite movie, Cool Runnings.  Mom and I made a simple dinner and lounged around while Adam made the drive down to Cambridge.  Friday evening an official announcement was made that the bike course had to be shortened by 8 miles due to flooding.  While not a major deal this would take away from the time I could put into my competitors as the bike is my strongest discipline.

On Friday night I told my mom I wanted one thing out of the race the next day, and that was to experience every feeling and emotion possible while I was out there.  To be present in every moment and enjoy the day.

RACE MORNING - "Rise and shine it's butt whipping time"- Cool Runnings

Normal pre-race breakfast and Adam and I were off to wade through the tide waters to get to transition.  The tides had come up and some roads were flooded but it wasn't raining so at least we were staying mostly dry from the knees up.  I made it into transition, inflated my tires, calibrated the power meter, loaded on my nutrition and hydration and then made may way to a lili pad on the playground to sit and wait.

I told a good friend a few days prior to race day that I was racing with 3 angels.  An angel for the swim - my uncle John, an angel for the bike - my dad, and an angel for the run - my friend Brady.  

I was ready to go wetsuit and all, in line ready to get this show on the road.  I had been watching the water all morning and I'd be lying if I said I was excited to swim.  The water looked rough and I was convincing myself it was going to be ok, a slow swim for everyone, just get out there and get through it.  Just a couple minutes before we should have entered the water the announcement was made to delay the swim by 30 minutes.  I was relieved and I knew if the swim had to delayed anymore than 30 minutes the course would have to be shortened due to time restrictions and course cut offs. Back
Just sitting on a lili pad.
to the lili pad, watch the water, text coach, and chill.

As 7:15 approached I zipped back up, made my way back towards line and didn't quite get there before they made the final announcement.  I thought we'd be doing a shortened swim, but was  surprised to hear the swim would have to be cancelled.  I had a great 2.2 mile OWS just 1 week before and was excited to see what I could put together for a full 140.6 on this day, but looking at the water conditions there's no way you could have sent 2500 athletes in there and be confident you'd get 2500 athletes back out.  The call was made and we were all sent back into transition to the change tents in order to get ready to start the bike in time trial format.  I had registered very late and was bib 2593, pretty much almost the back of the pack.  I had plenty of time in the change tent to prepare for the race - just about 2 hours. Thankful to have friends Mack and Hilary starting at the back of the pack as well to hang out with in the change tent as we watched everyone else file out to start, mostly in the triple digits.


THE BIKE - 4:37:16 - 100ish Miles
Pure joy.  This bike was built for this.
The course apparently had to have a couple more miles taken out of each loop due to flooding.  I started out on the bike with the goal building into and holding IM effort through the first 90 miles and then pushing hard at the end if I was feeling good.  As per usual my electronics started going crazy on race day.  I backed off for a few minutes and tried to straighten things out (as best one can while riding 21+mph).  I had riden the course two times in the prior 3 weeks at Ironman intensity so I focused on what that should feel like, checked in on the data to see if it might be working and kept at it.  Nutrition and hydration were on point and the weather was fantastic.  

As I came around to start my 2nd loop, I pulled up to special needs to restock.  BSN looked like a complete clusterfuck.  The entire beginning of the area of bags was backed up with lines of athletes.  I contemplated just rolling through and using aid stations for the rest of the ride.  I knew that wouldn't be ideal so rolled on past the crowd toward the end of the bags (thank you high bib #) and started shouting my number.  Thankfully DC Tri had a good number of volunteers working special needs and Pat quickly hurried over with my bag.  No waiting in any lines for this girl, mostly because there weren't any lines at the back of the pack for bags yet.

Second loop was more of the same, head down stay aero and just get it done.  I actually love this course and didn't find it boring at all.  The amount of men I passed that were drafting was horrid (yes you #2053), but not my problem.  My bike was built for the conditions in Cambridge - flat, straight, shifty winds.  I was loving all of it, at some points thinking, what head wind?  As I made the turn off of the loop to head back to town I started to pick it up.  At this point folks were fading and I was feeling the best I'd felt all day.  I pushed it and enjoyed the ride back into T2.

T2 - 3:37
Tried to be as fast a possible.  Flying dismount at the line, had to rack our own bikes and into the change tent.  Socks, shoes, visor on and race belt in hand and I was out of there.

THE RUN - 3:52:03 - 26.2 Miles
Parting the waters.
My legs felt good and I tried to settle in to a steady cruise as soon as possible.  I saw Adam soon after exiting Great Marsh Park.  I knew by my bike split that I was probably doing pretty well, but pretty clueless about my position within the age group at this point (especially since most of my AG started 90 minutes before me).  Around the 1st aid station I saw Lauren and crew from District Multisport.  I love having familiar faces cheering on the run course.  I kept a steady intake of water and gatorade at every aid station as I ran through.  Around mile 2 I passed 'the lead female', she was on mile 11 or so and probably not in the lead time wise, but she was physically so she had the lead bike.  I calculated the time difference compared to my pace as best I could and figured I was doing quite well.  I felt great through the first out and back and was enjoying seeing so many friends racing and cheering.  I came back through Great Marsh - got a good kick in the pants from Heather and Ellen at the Base tent and headed out to Water St. to make my way to the downtown turn around.  Water street seemed to be taking on a good amount of water, but luckily had some high ground left to keep the feet somewhat dry.  My #1 cheerleader, my mom was out there taking videos and pics every time I went by. As I made it into downtown I was greeted by more great cheerleaders from District Multisport (Jen and Daren) and was happy to see Melani and Malissa out there as well.  As I approached the turn around I heard a chant start up, it took a few seconds, but then I realized almost an entire block was chanting my name.  Thanks to my coworkers, Rachel and Kendall, for getting this crowd fired up!
Swim or Run? Still not sure.
Back around for the 2nd loop and still feeling pretty good.  I felt good through about mile 16, started feeling the fatigue set in and kept grinding it out.  I used Brady here, whatever he was going through one year ago was nothing compared to the pain I was feeling in this moment.  Keep digging, keep grinding. This time through Great Marsh was more fun, passing through the Base area and then Water Street...oh Water Street.  It was completely flooded.  Most people were walking through, I powered through with the run and didn't mind it too much.  Friend and teammate Bryan got himself a lawn chair and relaxed in his speedo, ass deep in street water.  It made me smile and laugh, it was great.  Down through town again, more chanting and smiles and I knew I had a shortened loop ahead.    Got some encouraging words from Darren as I came through and then more wading through Water Street before wading through Great Marsh Park.  The swim didn't really get cancelled, the race just got reorganized.  The final 'loop' is modified and much shorter, such a good mental boost.  I knew I was in good position and was told just to hold my pace.  Ellen and Heather had given me the best pep talk as I came through around mile 19.  Hold the pace, got it, in my mind this made me think my lead wasn't all that big and I just had to get my butt to the finish line as fast as possible.  Made the turn around,  more wading into Great Marsh Park and down Water Street.  Matt from Base told me Heather and Ellen were making there way to the finish to bring me in to Kona as I passed through one last time and I started getting very excited.  One final turn around in town by the brewery and it was downhill into the finish.

Coming in to the finish!

I smiled, I pumped my fists, I jumped (even if Mikal says I barely left the ground) and I celebrated.  I was fortunate enough to know that I had punched my ticket to Kona as I crossed the line.  A little collapse beyond the line and I was dragged off to the med tent for a short while.  Luckily my support crew busted in to start the celebrations early.  Adam told me all of the news on my results and then the
girls came in to celebrate.

FINISH TIME - 8:32:56 - 1st AG - 10th Female Overall

Friends, training partners, teammates.  
I can truly say I was present in every moment.  There was enough feeling and emotion to last a lifetime, and that's what I had asked for.  I had the best, and one of the biggest, support crews out there.  Big thanks to my mom for making the trip for #6, Heather for getting the nutrition I left in DC, and Adam for making the trek out to stand in water and keep me going.  A huge thanks to my Coach, Kim Schwabenbauer of Fuel Your Passion, for believing in me to make the turn around from IMMT and setting me up for success going into Maryland.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about it.  There were a couple of times on the day that I thought I'm either having a great race or about to have an epic blow up.  Thankfully there was no epic blow up.

She's excited to go to Kona!
I'm excited and ready for a few weeks of off season, planning out the 2017 season, and a trip to Kona to cap it all off.  After Mont Tremblant I started doubting myself big time, wondering if I wasn't really sick and just making excuses, considering hanging up the bike for a few years and focusing on things I 'should' be doing (relationships, family, kids).  I can assure you I was more sick than I thought in Canada, IMMD showed me that.  I love the journey I'm on, the relationships I've forged through triathlon, the places I've had the opportunity to see and the life I'm living.  Here in lies my passion and allows me to thrive in all aspects of my life.

Celebrating with Rachel and Kendall!
Thank you to all of you that have been a part of this journey, it's been an awesome ride, and I wouldn't change it for the world.  To be able to have the race I've been training for in front of a 'hometown' crowd and so many friends was very special.  Thank you to my Snapple Teammates,  DC Tri Teammates, District Multisport friends, athlete friends (old and new) on the course, and my amazing coworkers.  Your cheers did not go unnoticed, I wish I could take you all to Kona with me.

 Thank you to my newest sponsor, Ultragrain, for helping to incorporate healthy whole grains into my diet (#haveagrainday). Thank you to my sponsors DC Tri Club, Snapple Triathlon, Team, District Taco, Xterra Wetsuits, Rudy Project Helmets, Louis Garneau, Pierce Footwear by Seven Dynamics, and Rose Physical Therapy Group and thank you to Base Salt for being on the course (#saltsaves)! I missed you at IMMT!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

IMMT 2016: Perseverence, Heart and Grit

It wasn't the day I trained for or planned for, but it sure was a day. I made a lot of sacrifices this year and prioritized training, recovery, and nutrition to prepare for this race.  I spent way more time in the pool, improving my swim more than I ever have before.  I was prepared mentally and physically for the course and for the day.  
Texting Kim, assuring her I feel 'fine'.

Unfortunately, my body had other plans.  Early on in race week I noticed a scratchy throat, I didn't think much of it other than allergies.  I took some airborne and continued on.  We traveled, quite smoothly with our bikes, to Tremblant on Wednesday and by Thursday I was completely congested and had a nice sinus headache.  I was still convinced this was just allergies and a non-issue.  We swam every day in Lac Tremblant, I did a couple of runs, and had a nice 2 hour ride on Thursday.  Everything still seemed on point, the cooler temperatures and lack of humidity helped me hit some good numbers power and pace wise in those lead up workouts.  I exchanged a few texts with coach on Friday, still sure I was just having
some allergy issues.  Then Saturday rolled around, and I was a hot mess.  Literally hot - I was flat out on my back for most of the morning with a fever.  I didn't want to take meds due to the effect they can have on HR, but I had to give in.  If I didn't start feeling any better I knew I wouldn't have the energy to make it down to rack my bike that afternoon, let alone see the start line on Sunday morning.  A cold washcloth and a cocktail of vitamin c and zinc later I had the energy to get up, pack my gear bags and make it down to bike check in.  I did a short swim and then laid low for the rest of the day.

Best sleep I've ever had the night before an IM!  I woke up feeling decent, went through the pre-race routine and got a ride to the bottom of the hill to take care of business (load food on bike, pump tires, setup Garmin, etc) in transition before walking to swim start.  There was energy in the air and excitement all around me, but I could tell something was off inside me, yet I remained hopeful that my body would perform once the cannon went off.  

Swim – 2.4 Miles - 1:26:11

I was feeling good and confidant going into this swim with the work I've done in the pool.  I felt fine during the swim and was even able to draft for a good portion of it.  I was surprised – not in a good way - by the swim time, we were thinking I'd be in the 1:16/1:17 range with a decent swim and even be sub 1:15 with a good swim.  This was a total crap swim for me, yes the water was rough out in the lake, but I should have swam sub 1:20 at least.  Maybe it was my body being low on energy or who knows what but it was disappointing and frustrating. 

A decently long run from swim finish into the change tent.  Moved as quickly as possible through here.

Bike – 112 Miles - 5:44:37

Fantastic race day weather.
I was able to quickly put the swim behind me, and was excited to get out on the bike course and do some work.  It started out fine and I was feeling good, then just before the turn around on 117 my return to center shifter (bar end shifter on a tri bike) stopped working and any attempt to shift made the chain jump around but ultimately stayed in my hardest gear. Luckily within the next mile or 2 I was able to wave down a bike mechanic.  He tried for about 8 minutes and was able to at least get the chain to stay on a cog when I would shift, but I had to hold the shifter in place in order for it to stay in anything other than the 11 in the rear.  As I got back on my bike I figured I'd finish the first loop and see how things were, hopefully see Adam at the U-turn and ask him to call coach and ask if I should DNF.  At around mile 40 my HR just stopped responding, it became increasingly hard to even keep it where it was at, and got to the point where I felt like I was fighting just to get into zone 1.  Cue my body stopped sweating and the feverish chills came back.  The kickers on the 2nd half of the ‘loop’ didn't seem so bad, though with the shifter issue I had no choice but to remain seated and it made U-turns, eating, and refilling water much more difficult than it should be.  Every time I had to use my right hand for something other than holding the shifter I dropped into the hardest gear, not ideal.  In order to set yourself up for a good run you do a lot more than just ride your bike in an IM and a lot of it requires use of your right hand.  From mile 22 and on I had a decision to make – was what I wanted to do with my right hand worth letting my bike drop into the 
At least my bike got washed.
hardest gear and/or crushing my legs for a minute or so? Refill front bottle, take water at an aid station, and eat all required this decision to be made.  On a course like Mont Tremblant with 5000+ feet of climbing sometimes the answer is keep the shifter in place and take care of food/water etc when you get to a downhill.  Then there were times where I just had to let go of the shifter because my right forearm was killing me.  Needless to say, not my best bike split.  I was very happy to hand her over to the volunteers at the dismount line.  At this point I figured I would get through T2, start the run and see what I could do.  I was hopeful that since I basically just did an IM bike in my recovery zone, perhaps I was setting myself up for a PR marathon.

T2: 2:37
In and out for the race belt, shoes and visor.  I love bike handoffs at IM dismount lines.

Run – 26.2 Miles – 4:36:48
I came off the bike and was running decently and figured I'd hold it there and slowly bring up my effort after the first 6-7 miles.   I was very very wrong, HR started dropping again despite all the caffeine I could handle, I also was pee-ing my pants literally every 10-15 minutes.  Anything hydration wise I put in came straight out.  And not pee-ing resulted in a painful bladder.  As I came through the village around the halfway point I told Adam, I’m sick, but I’ve made it this far so I might as well finish.  I wanted to quit multiple times, I wasn’t a happy camper on the run course and I think my face showed it. I actually managed not to walk at all, though I really perfected the Ironman shuffle by the last 4-5 miles, and it wasn't much faster than walking.  

Finish Time: 11:56:14 (9th Place AG)

Final Thoughts
Bike mechanical and illness tested me throughout the day. I had planned on DNF-ing about 6 times out there. When I got back on my bike after the mechanic 'fixed' (not really) the issue I remembered what Rory Finneren told me years ago while playing yard soccer...'you can't just quit whenever you aren't winning'.   I’m so thankful I was able to remember that in the moment when my day was falling apart in front of me. On the run, since my body wasn’t having any of it, I had the opportunity to cheer on friends and patients, many of them to their first Ironman finish line.  There were moments during that 2nd half 
There must be giants in Mt. Tremblant, the chairs are huge!
of the run where I was reminded, this is Ironman and if you’re capable, you get yourself to that finish line.  There are people who would love to have this opportunity, don’t take if for granted.  In the end I was very happy to not have a DNF next to my name. Mentally and emotionally that was the toughest finish line I've gotten myself to, so thankful for the opportunity to once again cross IM finish line #5 and see what I'm capable of. Thank you to everyone who tracked, cheered, and supported - you all played a part in getting me there. 

Now the door is closed on this race.  It happened, I was lucky to come out of it healthy.  A small silver lining - since I basically did an Ironman in zone recovery, my recovery has been smooth and it looks like I’ll have the opportunity to race another full this year.  An opportunity to really see the culmination of the training I put in this year, an opportunity to have the best day I’m capable of having, an opportunity is all I’m asking for.

**...I don't really care if nobody else believes, 'cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me...**

To answer the most often asked question: Placid or Tremblant?  Hands down for me it’s Placid.  My view of Tremblant is tainted, I know that, but I love Placid, and would go back in a heartbeat. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Syracuse 70.3 Race Report

I had decided pretty early on that I wanted to put Syracuse 70.3 on my race schedule...again.  I had done this race back in 2014 as prep for IMLP.  It was a fine race but I was left knowing that I needed
to come back to the course at some point, ready to give it everything I had.  This year I was actually able to convince Adam to race with me, which helped make for a fun weekend all around.

After a short day of work on Friday we were Syracuse bound by mid morning.  We arrived with enough time to head to packet pickup and visit with friends at the race site before checking in to our Air BnB in the quaint town of Tully, NY.  I'm so glad we stayed in Tully instead of Syracuse.  We were a quick/straight drive from the race site, only a couple miles off the bike course and right across the street from 2 excellent restaurants.

Saturday is one of my favorite days pre-race, because it means big breakfast!  The few mornings per year that I *have* to eat pancakes..schucks.  We started our Saturday with a nice easy ride on a bit of the bike course and checked out one of the awesome descents that we would get to speed down the next day.  We saw some beautiful log homes, barns and lakes that reminded me of my roots and why I love "up north".  After our ride we quickly headed across the street for breakfast.  It was glorious and I think the waitress was slightly concerned about the amount of food 2 relatively small people just ordered and consumed.

The rest of Saturday was filled with bike racking, a short on course swim (thanks to some locals that live on the swim course), preparing nutrition and laying around trying to watch soccer and succumbing to my guilty pleasure of The Mindy Project.  With the predicted race day temps I made sure to snack on salty pretzels and hydrate with Osmo all day long.  We headed across the street for our 2nd dinner at Sweet Basil before calling it a night.

Race Morning
Rinster ready to fly.  Undefeated in AG bike splits :P
I was happy to have slept well and woke up to my alarm bright and early ready to slam some sauce for breakfast.  We were very lucky that our host was flexible on checkout time, so we didn't have to pack up everything pre-race.  We headed over to the race site and arrived with plenty of time for transition set up and all the usual pre-race routine.  While bike racking on Saturday I had noticed the
bike next to my was racked incorrectly, thankfully a kind volunteer noticed and flipped the bike.  On race morning the bike on the other side of me was racked correctly but she was setting up her transition area on the completely wrong side - basically where my stuff was supposed to go.  Unfortunately she wasn't actually there, all her stuff was everywhere but she was nowhere to be found.  Thankfully, again, a race official noticed something was off and came and straightened things out.  Not that these things are a huge deal, but it was definitely flustering me.

THE SWIM - 39:56 (36th AG)
Ready to go, feeling strong.
I've been putting in some good work in the pool and making some pretty big gains there. Unfortunately, we haven't really seen these gains translate to the open water yet.  I've got some ideas to really try to help myself here over the next couple of months.  I felt strong during this swim and I was able to hang on to some feet for most of this swim.  Hoping to take the good from it and build on everything else pre IM MT.

T1: 3:45
A quick stop at wetsuit strippers and quite a long run into T1 makes for a long transition here.  Once at my bike it was a quick stop for shoes and helmet before running out.

THE BIKE - 2:51:16 (1st AG)
After having raced here in 2014 I knew the bike course would be challenging, then they announced a new bike course.  There were rumors that the new course was more challenging but I wasn't going to make any judgements until seeing it myself.  Getting out onto the course you have a couple miles to get comfortable and let your HR settle before starting into some extended climbing for 10-11 miles.  My legs felt great, my HR was coming down nicely and before I knew it I was catching a lot of my competition within the first few minutes on the bike.  I had a few weekends of some nice hill climbing on my tri bike in May - including 92 miles in the hills of West Virginia with some awesome teammates.  My climbing legs were on and ready to rock on Sunday and I was quite happy.  I spun up every climb I could on the bike course never really having to come off the saddle.  I was happy to do a lot a passing on the bike course, specifically to the cheers of crazy spectators and never once got passed by another female on the bike course.  As we approached mile 45 I knew I'd be in for a treat with the descent that was soon coming.  I tucked in and pushed my cranks until I spun out, hoping that maybe I could break 50mph, alas I hit 47.6, one day perhaps I'll hit 50.  There was one more decent climb before heading back into transition.  I had hit my nutrition and hydration plan spot on as well as my bike execution plan.  Though the time was far from what I usually do on a 56 mile bike course, I had stuck to my plan and I was confident things were going well (turns out I had the fastest bike split of my AG and most ladies were 3+hours).  That was one tough bike course but I was ready to see what I could do on the run (PS it was a solid 91 degrees when I dismounted my bike).

T2 - 1:29
I came into T2 neck and neck with a fellow AGer (we'll call her alligator jersey).  Helmet off, socks and shoes on and a quick spray of sunscreen and then I was off.   I alligator jersey run out of T2 maybe 10-15 seconds ahead of me.  She came out on fire, getting into the applause of the crowd and taking off.

THE RUN - 1:51:30 (5th AG)
Coach Kim and I had talked a bit about this run.  We knew it was going to be hot, we knew it was a tough run course, coming off of a tough bike course, and we knew that there would likely be carnage on the course.  I watched alligator jersey open up the gap between us as I settled in, getting in my bottle of Osmo+Pre-Load and getting my legs under me.  The first mile or so of this course is awkward - grassing on the side of a hill awkward.  It kind of makes you feel like you're going to have the worst run of your life as you're running uphill on this weird angle in the beating sunlight.  As I ran through the first aid station I took every cup of ice and water I could get my hands on - in the mouth, over the head, down the jersey, down the shorts.  I knew if I could keep myself as cool as possible things would go better.  As I made it out to the road me legs felt much better running on the pavement and I was able to find some shade.  Running through the 2nd aid station was a repeat of the first, with a couple swigs of gatorade added in.  I knew it was after this aid station I'd have a bit of flat before the climb up to the turn around.  As I started the climb  felt strong I saw alligator jersey and a fellow AGer heading down.  Alligator jersey had opened up a sizeable gap and looked strong and the other AGer was far enough in front of her I was left with hope that I was at least in podium position and just wanted to hold onto where I was.  I stuck to the plan, I kept cool through aid stations and I took in my nutrition as planned.  Coming through the 1/2 point and starting my 2nd loop I was feeling good and had noticed that the gap was not any bigger, and maybe, slightly smaller at this point.
Tank empty, crash coming...
 Again through the 1st 2 aid stations staying cool and getting in hydration.  As I made my way to the turn around both alligator jersey and the other AGer were considerably closer to me.  As I made that turn around and headed past he 10 mile marker I knew it was time to put in work.  Time to drive the HR up and leave everything I had on that course.  Through mile 11 I was pushing but still in control and feeling good, I looked up ahead and there was the fellow age grouper who had started out pretty far ahead, she didn't look great, had been reduced to mostly a shuffle, and I quickly caught and passed her.  At this point I was pretty sure alligator jersey had passed her too and I as probably well ahead - then I look up as I start the last significant hill, and there she is mid - hill just past mile 12.   I put my head down, told myself this was good practice for IM MT and if that could be a Kona spot I need to go and get it.  I put in enough work to catch her on the downhill portion of the awkward slanted grassy section.  I sat on her heels for just long enough to pull myself together and get ready for a hard effort into the finish line about 1/2 mile away.  I pulled out from around her and never looked back, just putting everything I had into that last stretch.  I was so relieved to see the finish chute and finish line and not hear any foot steps or breaths behind me.  I raised my arms in celebration the best I could as I crossed under the arch before stumbling towards the cameraman and taking a rest on the hot black pavement.

5th, 4th, 2nd Place F 25-29

OVERALL FINISH: 5:27:56 (2nd AG, 9th OA)

This race was one to remember.  Though a far far cry from a PR time, this was a tough course and definitely not a PR type of course for someone who has done quite a few 70.3's.  For the first time I felt completely in control of pushing the pace towards the end of the race.  Usually I 'pick it up' and really just hold a steady pace or go slightly faster.  For the first time I used some tactics on the run course as I made those final 2 passes.  I saw competition in front of me, believed, and executed.  I know how frustrating it can be to be running, holding on to a certain place/slot/etc and get passed near the end when you just have nothing more to give.  This race was about being confident in the plan, being patient, managing the day/conditions and digging deeper than I thought was possible.  On a day that presented a course that doesn't suit my strengths, in conditions that are difficult for a big sweater, I was able to manage and execute well enough to finish hard and run myself from 4th to 2nd.  Bigger and better things are coming - 8/21/16.

Ultragrain FYP Kit by Coeur Sports

Thank you most of all goes out to Fuel Your Passion Coaching, I was well prepared and confident in our plan, Adam and my family.  Thank you to my newest sponsor, Ultragrain, for helping to incorporate healthy whole grains into my diet (#haveagrainday). Thank you to my sponsors DC Tri Club, Snapple Triathlon, Team, District Taco, Xterra Wetsuits, Rudy Project Helmets, Louis Garneau, Pierce Footwear by Seven Dynamics, and Rose Physical Therapy Group.  Thank you to all the DC Tri athletes racing and cheering at Syracuse, it was great to be pushed  by  friends on the course!  Looking forward to a big chunk of prep work coming up to set the stage for the rest of 2016.