Thursday, November 5, 2015


This is the most severe post-season funk I have ever been in. Depression even. The injury hasn't helped (some sort of stress fracture/tendinitis that resulted in a walking boot), but I have lacked any and all motivation to be active or even just to complete the small, everyday tasks that need doing. Example - I forced myself to wash my sheets. Then I waited 9 days before making the bed and chose instead to sleep on the couch. I had laundry in piles on the bed that I refused to put away for over a week. I have bills that need paid - this involved less than 5 minutes of my day, but its this 5 minute task that I haven't actually had the will power to complete. I refused to go to the grocery store until I had no milk, eggs, bread, or ANYTHING edible left in the house.

It was ridiculous and I'm almost ashamed by how much life was getting away.

I've been on an emotional roller coaster since the race. Actually, it started well before the race, but I've let it get the better of me these last few weeks. I've said things I'm not proud of; harsh things, mean things, stupid things to friends. I've reacted to situations in ways that are unlike me. And though I've forced myself to step outside and stop floundering in the comfort of my living room - deep down I just wanted to *be* alone, though not *left* alone. It makes no sense...

So, I had the day off yesterday. I woke up at 5 am, sat up on the couch, and turned on the TV. An hour later, I had a chat with myself. It went something like - Self, I said - get your ASS off this couch and choose to do better.

I made a grocery list and went to two grocery stores to complete that list so that I could make a real meal for dinner for the first time in weeks.
I paid bills.
I did three more loads of laundry. And put it all away.
I put my bed back together.
I cleaned out my closet.
I cleaned out my desk and the dresser, I purged many things that I have been holding on to for no reason at all. Things that I should have tossed when I got divorced. Or moved.
I cleaned the kitchen/dining area and did dishes.

In a few words - I actually acted like a normal, functioning, adult member of the world.

And once that was all well and good - I put both wheels back on my bike, loaded it up in the trunk and headed to hains point to enjoy the latter half of an absolutely gorgeous afternoon.

I took off my walking boot and slipped the bike shoes on. I had no expectations - I fully expected to be slow as shit. But I made the conscious decision that today, I wouldn't let that bother me. That being said - I felt a weird little sensation of excitement when I saw a couple dudes fly past me just as I was clipping in.

Rosie wanted to fly - so we did. No warm-up, just balls to the wall for the first mile and a half. No humidity, but it was a little breezy. It felt like a tailwind so we cruised along to the top of HP. Usually this means that as soon as you make the turn, the headwind hits you. We turned, but I still felt like I was riding the tailwind, so we continued to fly along at the same speed. I caught up to a couple of those dudes at the stop sign and hung behind them for a mile or so until the one-way started and I gleefully passed them.

I started timing my laps and began racing myself. This one will be faster, I told myself. And the next one even faster. On the 4th or 5th lap I started daydreaming while stealing glances at the boats to my left. I decided I was done with speed for the day, but planned on doing an easy 2 or 3 more laps before calling it good as the sun was starting to go down.

All of a sudden, a guy in aero (on a very nice bike) passed me. I shook myself out of the daydream and increased my cadence in an attempt to catch him. He stopped pulling away and very slowly I started to catch up. This was at the cost of doing 23+ mph and a steadily rising heart rate, but why the hell was I even looking at my watch? Its an addiction.

Eventually I caught him at the stop sign and he promptly went in a different direction so fate decided I was done racing for the afternoon. I slowed down and caught the sun peeking through the trees to my right as it continued to get lower in the sky. On the airport side, I stopped and took pictures of the sun setting over the airport. An older gentleman was sitting on a bench at the water's edge with his bike leaned up against the fence and I took a minute to watch him (in a non-creepy way); I watched in a sense of admiration about the peaceful way he sat and watched the planes take-off and land across the water. I haven't felt that relaxed in a long time.

As I went to clip back in and finish the ride, 2 dudes flew past. And then it was on, again.

Dusk was setting in as I loaded Rosie back in my trunk. I was happy and at peace and I realized how silly and stupid I'd been acting for the past few weeks.

But it happens to all of us (and if it doesn't ever happen to you, pretend for me). Yesterday, I made the choice to be better than I was the day, week, even month before. Its hard to crawl out of that little hole that I've been hiding in, but I quite literally saw the sunlight and damn it, isn't life great?

Until next time my friends - I'll be around.

(There's also an IMLOU race report that I was half-heartedly writing so I'll post that soon.)

Monday, October 19, 2015

Race Recap: Ironman Louisville... an unexpected lesson in mental toughness.

For those keeping track (this one's for you, my negative 3 readers), Ironman number 3 is in the books. What I realized immediately following this last race is that I have now done 3 Ironmans in just over a year. And folks, I have to admit something that I don't really want to admit... I'm tired. I'm spent both mentally and physically and this off-season can't come soon enough.

Anyway. Grab a drink or two (because off-season, yay) and hunker down because this might get long.

I arrived in Louisville after an uneventful ten hour solo road trip to find that our house was unfortunately located in a less-than-awesome area of Lou. Travis and Kim had arrived earlier that afternoon and helped me unpack the car and settle in. Dinner involved BBQ at the Redneck Jew's restaurant (this is a legit establishment). The brisket sandwich wasn't great, but it did the job and we headed home to relax and watch the Maze Runner.

The next morning, I made waffles (breakfast of CHAMPIONS) and James joined us for breakfast so that we could head over to check-in together. Obtained the key for the weekend - the blue wristband - and had the pleasure of seeing both Erin and Meredith at check-in! Reunited! And it feels good! This would be their first IM (along with Travis), while James also had Wisconsin under his belt. It was raining off and on, so we escaped the rain in the Normatech tent and tried that out - Normatech virgin no more, it felt pretty nice. Yea, yea, that's what she said... or something.

Once the rain cleared for a bit, James and I did a quick bike/run on the course and got covered in mud. Poor Rosie went from sparkling clean to looking like she'd face planted in a pigpen. Headed home to spend the next hour cleaning her up and adjusting the speed/cadence sensor that had somehow worked itself loose. While I was outside riding up and down the street, I noticed that it wasn't shifting correctly (it was jumping gears) so I fiddled with that for awhile until it was running relatively smooth again.

We (Travis, Kim, James, Erin and I) headed out to drive the bike course and check out the hills. The loop is only 30 miles, so we ended up driving 80 plus miles but it was good to see the course - especially the "dreaded" out and back on 1694. That part actually looked pretty fun, but I heard stories about people recklessly descending and that made me a little nervous - especially since it was newly paved and pretty.

Dinner was italian beef which was delicious. We came home to pack transition bags and I tried to go to bed early... which ended up being 11pm (or later), but oh well.

The next morning, we nixed the practice swim (why chance the suspect blue-green algae bloom?) and I finished packing transition bags and headed over to meet a few of the SOAS girls. It was awesome. Jo, Andrea, Erin and I were there (Jenn, we missed you!) and Jo and Andrea's husbands and Erin's mom. We had a great time talking and laughing and before we knew it, it was past noon. I do feel like we are a close team, despite being scattered across the globe. The beauty of social media and our facebook group is that we get a glimpse into who each other is and once we meet in person, its not like we are complete strangers. I love that there is this network of women with similar yet different mindsets and goals and we are supportive and encouraging of each other - plus, it gives us a great sense of belonging.

Mom and Laurie arrived shortly after I returned home from brunch. I can't put into words how much it meant for them to be there. My moms - My MOMS! Spectating an Ironman is not for the weak of heart, its a long day and I so appreciated them coming to support us! I really missed Dad, but I knew that he was doing the supportive Dad thing from back home. We rounded up all our gear and headed to bike and gear check. My volunteer, Teri, was amazing. I gave her a hug, she made me cry, it was all very typical Heather behavior for the day before an Ironman.

Stopped at Joe's Crab Shack for a snack (mmm... lobster...) and they dropped me off at the house so I could hunker down and watch Kona all afternoon.

About an hour later, I was thoroughly immersed in my iPad, phone, and Travis's laptop with Kona coverage. Travis nudged me and said, "I think your mom is here". I looked out the window and didn't see the car so I sat back down. "You should answer the door", he said.

With the neighborhood that we were in, I opened the door and slowly peered around the door so I could see who was out there.

It was Dayle and Kevin.

I broke down. I made some noises that didn't sound quite human. I couldn't stop hugging them. It was pure, raw emotion and Travis captured the whole moment on video. I was thoroughly surprised, shocked... overwhelmed. She knows how important this is to me and when they showed up - I finally felt excited to get out there and race!

We Kona'd for the rest of the afternoon. Mom and Laurie came back and brought food so we could eat together for our "last" meal. After they left, Kevin, Dayle and I lounged in the living room and watched Ironminds and another motivational video. It was bedtime and I laid there for awhile, just picturing how the following day was going to go. Before I knew it, 3:45 am arrived and the alarm jolted me awake.

Half a Thomas blueberry bagel with peanut butter at 4am. 2 scrambled eggs at 4:30am. I dressed, packed my waterbottles + osmo and morning clothes bag with swimming gear and we headed to transition. We actually arrived shortly before 5:15 and the line was long. I checked on my bike, inflated the tires and loaded the water bottles. I saw Andrea, Jo, and Erin in transition and we hugged and wished each other safe and good races. Erin and I met up with Meredith and we headed down to swim start to wait in line. At 6:15 when we arrived at the swim start, the line was already more than 1000 people long. We walked and walked and walked to the end and Dayle, Kevin, Mom and Laurie met us down there. 7:30 was the official start and it was obvious that slower swimmers had positioned themselves at the start to give themselves the maximum amount of time to finish the swim/race - we saw them swim by as our line moved toward the start.

We donned our wetsuits, caps, and goggles and ended up at the start a little after 7:45am.

I jumped in and immediately began swimming past people. The initial 1/3 of the race is an upstream swim in the small channel between an island and the mainland. It didn't feel like we were swimming upstream, thankfully, and I unintentionally made my way toward the island until I hit sand with my hand. I got back on track and tried to swim straight, but it was a little difficult to do while constantly passing people and maneuvering around swimmers. The group thinned out significantly on the way back, though again, I didn't feel the downstream current that people speak so highly about. It was really difficult to spot the buoys, they seemed very spread out - but otherwise the swim was uneventful. I kept a comfortable pace, the water temperature was a glorious 69 degrees and I felt loose and ready to bike. The swim seemed to fly by and before I knew it, I arrived at the stairs to the swim exit.

Swim Time: 58:35

A bit of a jog to T1 from the swim. I had decided to don a sports bra and tri shorts under the wetsuit so that I'd have a dry top to start out with on the bike since it was likely to be chilly after the swim. I immediately regretted this decision when 1. the weather was only slightly chilly, 2. I got stuck taking off the sports bra and 3. I got stuck putting my tri top on. It took awhile to change clothes which made for another slow transition (someday... I will get better). I nixed the bike socks and arm warmers, though I (regrettably) elected to wear the calf sleeves (again, in the name of warmth) - have you tried to put these on with damp legs? Better yet, have you tried to put these on quickly? Fail, fail, fail! Helmet and sunglasses on, bike shoes in hand, nutrition in pockets and I headed out to see Rosie. Some amazing soul left a washcloth on the ground next to my bike - perfect for wiping some of the mud off my feet... I thank you kind soul... and I'm sorry if your washcloth was sacrificed to the transition gods but surely I was not the only one to borrow it...

T1 Time: 7:58 (yikes).

I felt awesome as I rode away from transition. The first flat 10 miles flew by and my average speed was shocking to me since I wasn't putting a lot of effort into the ride. At mile 10.5 was the beginning of some rolling hills and climbs but I kept a good pace throughout. I got really frustrated around mile 20 with the 1694 out and back. People were riding 2 abreast slowwwwwwly on the descents in the center of the lane - i was off the aero bars ready to brake anyway, but this ridiculous situation kept happening and there was no safe way to pass them at the speeds we were reaching on the descents. Once off 1694, a guy rode up next to me and said, "Hey - i really like how you tackle the descents - it shows confidence". Oh tri guy - keep talking dirty to me... I eventually passed him and left him behind, but that comment made me laugh whenever I thought about it later. I started to feel some fatigue after the first loop (mile 60) and rolled into bike special needs in need of some EL Fudge cookies and a swig of dew. They didn't grab the bag the first few times the number was called so that caused a delay and I was antsy as it was. I switched out bottles and grabbed some more food (bonk breaker, GU chomps, and powerbar wafer) and headed out within 2 minutes or so.

I attempted to stick with a couple of salt tabs on the hour and about 250 cals/hour nutrition on the bike. I was not hungry whatsoever, but forced it down nonetheless, knowing my run would suffer greatly if I didn't plan ahead. My stomach held up pretty well, but I was fading on the second half of the bike. I was looking forward to the last 30 miles which appeared to be mainly downhill, but when I approached 80, the headwinds set it and it felt like a continuous uphill climb until the final 10 miles back into town. That part, as you recall, was totally flat, but that headwind was exhausting! I tried to save my legs as much as I could but those 10 miles seemed to stretch into forever and the guys I was trying to chase down disappeared in the distance. The dismount line loomed ahead and it was like a beacon drawing me in. So ready to run - my favorite part!

Bike Time: 5:46:55

Put on socks, shoes, race belt, visor and grabbed the handheld water bottle. I'm really not sure how T2 took so long...

T2 Time: 5:49 (again, yikes)

After a few steps of jogging, I knew something wasn't right. My legs were utterly dead. I had no rhythm and my legs felt disjointed, as if one was longer than the other. My left knee was twingy, but not bad - that had been my biggest fear going into the race itself. The first mile seemed to take forever - I squeezed that out in under 8:40 but it physically felt like I'd just run a sub 5 minute mile (as if I have any concept of that speed). I knew my heart rate was high but I honestly felt too tired to do any sort of excess movement (like hit the one button on my watch to scroll to the next screen to show heart rate). Jo passed me between miles 1 and 2 and she asked how I was doing. "I'm hurting Jo", I replied. She said the same, but she looked good as she ran away from me. I willed myself through the next 2 miles because I knew the cheer squad would be stationed around mile 4 and I just wanted to see my people. From a distance, I could see the green and pink shirts and the posters hanging from the umbrella at a mexican restaurant's outdoor seating area. "I'm dying guys", I admitted as I ambled past. They told me to keep it up and they'd see me at 10. A girl in my age group sped by around that time and I had a gut feeling I would be out of the top 5 in the age group.

"Just gotta make it to 10" I told myself. I intermittently glanced at my watch which seemed to take far more energy than I had to give. My pace gradually slowed as the miles crept by. I started walking the aid stations to catch my breath and give my legs a break. I indulged in cola after a single failed attempt at gatorade (WAY TOO SWEET).

Somewhere near the turn around (mile 7ish) I had one of my famous internal chats with myself - Self, sometimes races don't go as planned, and logically, I know you know this, even if your heart does not. If you keep this pace, you'll finish with a 4:15-4:20 marathon and that's nothing to be ashamed of. You can continue to shuffle through this. It's not going to be pretty and it's not going to be fun - but you can do it. If you need to walk, don't be ashamed to walk. Don't just say fuck it and mentally quit, even if every fiber of your being is begging you to. You are not a quitter.
Self and I then shared a mental hug and high five. For a second, I questioned my sanity. But I continued to run.

After that hard-hitting talk with myself, I shuffled through to mile 10 and walked a little past the end of the aid station. A VERY ATTRACTIVE man touched my shoulder and said, "come on, I know you've got this" as he looked back at me. I looked him in the eye and all I could muster was a quiet "thanks". He turned back around and jogged away and I switched into a jog as I approached my people. "How are you doing?" they asked, a concerned look on their faces. I can't even remember what I answered, but I tried to muster a smile as I crept past.

Three more to halfway. Those few passed fairly quickly and I found myself on 4th street staring at the finish line. "Just a couple more hours and that'll be you", I thought to myself as I took the right turn to return back to the beginning of the loop.

As I ran past the now familiar course, I felt a bit of energy creep in. As if afraid to scare it away, I ever so slightly ran a touch faster for that 13th and 14th mile. My gait smoothed out and I started to finally feel more comfortable. It only took a 13 mile warm-up, but I found my legs out there near the finish line. 15 and 16 ticked by as I tried to maintain that pace and before I knew it, I could see the familiar faces. Dayle ran over to my side of the road, "You look so much better!" Oh thank God it wasn't just in my head! I asked them if they were going to the finish line and they said yes, so I bid them good-bye, knowing I wouldn't be seeing them after the turn-around.

I continued to feel better and better. I had my customary GU every 45 minutes and continued to indulge in the icy-delcious-not-quite-flat cola. Once I hit the turn-around, I found a girl with a "32" on her calf and it was on. I passed her, suspicious that she too was on her second loop. My speed continued to increase marginally and I could see my overall pace slowly ticking down. My goal was to be under 9:30/mile (that seems painfully slow) so I increased my turnover a smidge more with each passing mile.

I ran through the final few aid stations (Ain't nobody got time for that!) and realized I had no concept of my overall time. I tried to do triathlon math, I knew what my swim and bike were, knew transitions were slow and my run was slow - I was thinking it was going to be 11:10 or around that time, but I still don't know how to do multisport mode on this watch and I had no idea what time I ended up starting the swim...

Clearly, I utilize the 910 to the fullest extent possible.

Before I knew it, it was mile 25. Time to moveand finish this thing! As I turned onto 4th and could see the finish line and the sign says "left to finish", I felt that familiar creep of emotion and that tingle of tears. I was too mentally drained to have the full out emotional outpouring that I usually feel, but a hint of it was there. As I ran down the chute, I pondered what I would do once I got there. I considered jumping (as per usual) but in the seconds that I had left on the approach to the finish line, I changed my mind thinking that my legs would surely fail me if I attempted a jump.

It was one of those magical instances where you try to say two things at the same time and it becomes a new mangled word. I thought about jumping and my body got ready to do it, but at the exact same, I decided I would just stop at the line. Therefore, I didn't slow down on the approach. Can you see where this is going? At the line, something spectacular happened - I tripped over my own foot and slammed into the ground on my hands and knees. It was excellent! I looked up, volunteers didn't really look concerned (dudes, it looks like I just collapsed at the finish line of an Ironman), so I stood up, took a bow and heard the announcer say, "she's still smiling!". Another stellar finish in the books.

I headed immediately away from the cameras/live feed and I could almost sixth-sense the texts coming through on my phone questioning what just happened.

Run Time: 4:07:40

Overall Time: 11:06:56, 6th AG

Initially, I was super disappointed. In the minutes and hours that followed the finish, I thought logically through the day and gave myself a mental "get-it-together" smack in the face. It was PR, I did great in the swim and I came back from that awful run to put together a decent negative split (something like 2:08 for the first half and 1:59 for the back half) and I should really be proud of that mental toughness.

So, IMLOU - I can't say I came out and crushed you, but I learned a lot out there on the course that I will keep with me in my back pocket for future training and races.

For now... rest. recover. spend happy times with friends and family. next year will be here before we know it and we can do this dance all over again.


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Its the most wonderful time... of the year.

Taper. The most beautiful, sacred part of training for a race. While some seem to go crazy and get nervous about a decrease in mileage and training time, I embrace this all-too-short stint of relaxation and scaled back workouts with an emphasis on sleeping more.

Taper and I have been buddies since I was in middle school. I was that kid that began bouncing off the walls in the days leading up to big meets... when coach said "rest" I heard "more time and energy to play". I remember sitting in class feeling like I had restless leg syndrome because I legitimately could NOT sit still.

Training for ironmans and the associated tapers have been a little different. I feel more exhausted than anything else though workouts have been pretty spot-on. I did find that little piece of missy franklin-katie ledecky that has been hiding since "retiring" from competitive swimming.

I love swimming again.

Its taken years to be able to say that. I haven't loved swimming since I graduated from college. I liked it, sure. Its always been a strength in racing. But did I enjoy practicing? Nope. Did I love the swim in races? Not really. I found a semblance of speed again and its comforting and motivating and encouraging.

In the past few weeks I did a 5800 yard workout - its been 10 years since I did that! Last week in the midst of the work-out I had 5 x 100's on 1:25. And I did it - with REST. Its awesome to see improvements like that in training. I know that the swim isn't going to win me a race, but to be comfortable coming out of the water and onto the bike is a pleasant advantage.

Aside from swimming, biking and running has been sustainable. Its hard to say how I feel, given a nagging IT band issue, but come race day, I'll be ready.

One week.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Race Recap: Ironman Mont-Tremblant... Numero Deux

*EDIT - I forgot to hit "post" a couple weeks ago* Whoops.

Currently rocking the recovery week... aka doing NOTHING. So this is what its like to be a normal human being...

First of all, I need to say this - the race ended a week ago and the continued response to my facebook posts has been overwhelming. I am incredibly touched and surprised at the number of phone calls, texts, facebook comments and "likes" to anything race related. You - my dear family and friends - are amazing. Seriously. YOU ARE AWESOME. I can't say thank you enough.

I couldn't do this without you. Self motivation can only take you so far. From my amazing friends that were at the race to the new friends I met there (including a couple SOAS gals!); from my family at home watching my every step from hundreds of miles away and being crazy supportive in the days, weeks, months leading up to the day; from the people that have come in and out of my life that I don't speak to with regularity but took the time to say "good luck" or "congrats" - each of you is important and I hope you know that.


On my way to Annapolis for the night.

Arrived at Mont-Tremblant after a long ride in the car Thursday evening. Immediately unloaded the bikes and headed down to the little resort area of MT. Its baby Disney World and its adorable - cobblestone streets, matching colored rooftops, people dressed as insects being socially awkward... All good things. The beauty of the condo was the location (it was a very nice place too), about 10 minutes walking distance to everything that we needed in the little town.

Met up with the group at Casey's - a restaurant that would be the meeting area for the weekend. Met new people from DC Tri that were very cool and enjoyed the traditional "American Burger" and a couple of cocktails then it was (finally) time for a "quick" game of headbandz and bed.

Friday morning was a swim in Lac Tremblant. We jumped in from the swim start and swam straight to the espresso pontoon. NO LIE. Most of us sipped on coffee while floating in our wetsuits and taking in the gorgeous scenery. Who gets to do that? It was awesome!

After the swim, we parted ways - Lee was off to get tickets for dinner and pick up Kenzie from the airport while Mark, Chris and I headed over to check-in. The line was SUPER long but it didn't take too long to get through, thankfully. We were official, magic blue wristband and all.

LONG registration line.

I met up with a couple very cool SOAS girls for coffee for a short while, but unfortunately with the lack of phone service, the boys and I were supposed to meet 15 minutes later and I had no way of getting ahold of them to let them know I wanted to stay a bit longer - oh well.

Headed back to condo for a baby brick. Dined on a PBJ and set out for a short 30 minute ride on one of the tougher parts of the course followed by a 20 minute run around the water and transition and back. Everything seemed in working order, other than some goofy neck pain that had been nagging me for a few days. With each day, it was making me more nervous, but it wasn't getting worse, so I tried to forget about it. Took a muscle relaxant and called it good for the time being.

Friday evening found us at the welcome dinner and athlete meeting. It was long. And hot. And entertaining for a handful of minutes, but then you remembered you were still hot and people were still talking and it seemed to last FOR-EV-ER. Afterward, we were back at Casey's for beers and fireworks. I don't care how many times I've seen fireworks - they're magic and awesome and my love for them is fairly intense, so that made me happy.

festive dessert.

Saturday morning was a short swim, sans wetsuits (because who wants to put on a wet wetsuit race morning?). The water was BEAUTIFUL - I could've stayed all day... happy place. Most importantly, we had fun goofing around with the GoPro and just enjoyed being out there. We drove the bike course after the swim (got a little intimidated by the hills but the course looked pretty nice). Grocery store. Then packing bags... it makes me SO NERVOUS to pack transition bags and drop them off the day before. Double, tripled checked and crossed my fingers that I had everything I needed. Walked the bags and bikes down to transition, tried to get ART done on my cramped neck/back but sadly, it had just closed.

Lee - NO AWA. Me - AWA superstar.

We had visitors right after - Deb and Andy came to hang out and it was good to see them before the race. It was nice relaxing with the boys and the kids - we got along really great all weekend and the kids were amazing. Dinner was chicken parmesan with good intentions (no breadcrumbs and no baking pan = grilled chicken, pasta, marinara sauce and cheese on top). It was very good and the cookies after were just icing on the cake. 2 beers and a couple of funny rounds of Headbandz followed but eventually it was time to sleep.

By that point, I was getting really nervous and I called a couple of my friends and ended up crying... I was nervous and frustrated for various reasons and I missed them and my family, but talking to them really helped and I calmed down for the most part. I usually don't get stuck in my head like that and it concerned me that I was falling apart hours before starting this race. But finally - sleep. Or valiantly attempted sleep, seeing as the condo was 120 degrees, it was the night before the race and we were sweating our asses off. Woke up multiple times which sucked. I know I slept a little so at least that was better than nothing... right?

3:45 alarm. One snooze and I was up. Ate half a blueberry bagel with peanut butter and double checked special needs bags. I had frozen water bottles the night before and they were perfectly half frozen, half liquid. 2 with skratch and 1 water in special needs, same 3 to put on the bike. Got dressed (LOVE my SOAS kit) and made sure I had everything that I needed in the morning clothes bag. Made a couple of eggs and drank gatorade shortly before leaving at 5:15 to walk to transition. Rocked out all morning to my song for this race - Fight Song - along with a couple others (Hall of Fame, Closer to the Edge) - I was ready!

Got to my bike and found the left brake dangling and the right super loose and swinging around. um... WTF. No, really... WHAT. THE. FUCK. HAPPENED. OVERNIGHT. They were FINE when I left the afternoon before. I was waiting for Lee's pump, but decided to jump in line for the bike guys to see if they could fix at least the left side. Thankfully, 15 minutes later, I was good (ish) to go. I would have to make do with the right brake loose and flipping around but at least it wasn't dangling. Ah... siver linings. It was only going to be a 112 miles. I could make do. Glass half full... just keep swimming... don't freak out.

The boys were waiting for me, Kenzie had left to walk back home with our stuff (she was a trooper for getting up so early with us), so away we went to swim start. Attempted to get in line for the port-o-potties - Mark, Chris, and Stef nearly caused a riot with some confusion as to the way the line was wrapping around so Lee and I stepped out of line because we were running short on time. Yuck. Got the wetsuits on, figured out where to go and bid my friends good luck and good bye. I jumped in (to pee, obviously), swam a few strokes, water temperature was PERFECT, I was happy. Found Deb right away, thank goodness for familiar faces! We chatted and walked at the front of our wave to the water... and continued chatting as we started to wade into the water behind the last mens wave. We got called back right away (amateur hour!) and had a laugh back on the beach.


Deb and I ran in together and immediately started swimming side by side. After a quick 200m or so, we settled into a nice pace with open water. It was awesome!... for about five minutes until we caught up to the men. UGHHH THOSE MEN! I could see Deb nearly the entire time which was comforting. I know she's a strong swimmer too so I hoping we were on pace for a good time. I got kicked in the cheek pretty hard at one point (why this particular gentleman was swimming nearly perpendicular to the line of sight I do not know) but for the most part I wasn't being jostled around. It was frustrating to weave through the masses - I didn't have this problem at Wisconsin because of the mass swim start (I would MUCH prefer the mass swim start to starting in a wave at the end). Sighting was easy (for once... its hard being half blind) but I lost Deb about 3/4 of the way through the swim - after forcefully pushing her and going full contact swimming (I'm sorry, I still love you, and I have no idea what happened). I had a few openings of clear water where I could speed up and eventually I could hear the announcing and I sped up a touch more. I wasn't feeling tired at all, I felt great and I was imagining a swim along the lines of 1:04 or so. I hadn't pushed it at all, just that short marginally increased turnover at the end, so I figured I was exactly where I needed to be according to "the plan".

Of course, I forgot to turn on my watch at the start of the swim, so when the 0:00:00 stared back at me, I was a little disappointed to have no idea what my time was (running clock was obviously way off due to wave starts). Was I surprised that I did this? Absolutely not. I clicked back to current time while running to T1 and saw it said 7:58. If my clock was actually on time, I had a 1:01 or 1:02 swim. HELL YES.

swim: 1:01:44

Grabbed my bag and ran into an empty ladies changing area. The guys were having a fiesta on their side of the curtain but the ladies side was like a morgue - very quiet but full of volunteers so I had 3 of them to myself which was amazing. Didn't waste time, threw powerbar wafers and Bonk Breakers into my pockets, pink helmet, sunglasses, gloves, and shoes in hand. Stuffed a strawberry uncrustable in my mouth on the way out to my bike. Shoes on, was positioned right by the bike out/in so away I went. I was still having watch troubles, I couldn't get it to work for the first few miles and it was frustrating. It would get to a stupid distance of 212 feet or 414 feet and quit measuring anything other then running time. I restarted it twice and apparently it just needed TWO restarts to work right. Whatever watch, you suck.

T1: 6 minutes something

2 loops - settled into a comfortable pace on the bike, was rocking at 21mph or something like that for awhile and I felt amazing. No neck pain, just settled into a good pace and enjoyed being out there. Cruising through the sea of men was pretty good for the ego. I saw a handful of women but it was very much just men that I rode with. They were nailing people for drafting and other penalties so I tried to stay aware of my position in relation to every one else. I felt strong on the hills and had no real issues during the first loop. The end of the loop is a BITCH. Climb, climb, three seconds of relief, climb even more. Holy crap, that was rough! The way down was a blast though, I felt like I was soaring. I briefly thought about the fact that we would have to do that again right at the end of the bike but I was feeling so good that I didn't care... then. I saw Lee a few times and screeched out some kind of cheer along the lines of "Yea LEEEEEEEEEEE" - he was killing it and every time I saw him I tried to speed up. When I saw Mark, I yelled the "usual" - "GO NAVY!!!!!!", but I don't think either of them heard me - or at least didn't want to be associated with the crazy girl in pink. I'm sure the guys around me really appreciated the random, unprovoked screaming but it was fun to see them.

Turn around and it was time for loop two. All of a sudden, IT WAS HOT. Sweat started to pour and legs started to tire. Stopped at special needs for a minute, changed out bottles, ate a couple EL Fudge cookies and chugged half a Mountain Dew (I duly trained this way on training rides for THIS MOMENT). Shortly after the turn around, just before the turn onto 117, I started to feel bad. My stomach was cramping and nausea set in. I alternated between burping/hiccuping and dry heaving. My pace slowed way down and I left all those thoughts of killing the 2nd loop 2:40 bike split out there on 117. This continued for 20-25 miles. I zoned out and just tried to keep a reasonable pace - i.e. keep the legs moving. I didn't want to shoot myself in the foot by not eating so I ate a bonk breaker very slowly over the course of 10 miles. Shortly after the last bite, it came back up. Luckily I was way on the right side of the shoulder and no one was really around, but PBJ a second time is not so tasty. That killed my desire for the other PBJ bonk breaker and uncrustable sandwich - thank goodness for my favorite Powerbar wafers and Gu chomps - I would be dining on those later on. Cruised through the aid stations to get water bottles for the sole purpose of dumping cold water on myself. It. felt. glorious.

Chris passed me around mile 85 or 90 - He said, "Hey gorgeous!" and that shook me out of my fog of misery. He continued on and I tried to speed up a touch to keep up but he was slowly getting away. I re-evaluated the state of my stomach - I was starting to feel better and my nausea was gone so I said - Self, this race isn't over, go get that sexy Aussie! So away we went (Self and I). I started to close the gap and once we approached the awful out and back climb, I really gained on him and I got to surprise him with, "Hiiiiii" (thats all I could muster as my heart rate aproached 6000 and my legs were on FIRE). I hung out for a sec with him and then said, "Byeeeeee" as I crept away from him up the hill. Doing this a second time really freaking sucked, but eventually it was over, got to fly down the hill and shoot straight into transition.

Bike: 5:43:56

Again, it sounded like a frat party on the men's side and a funeral on the women's side because it was super empty. BUT - multiple volunteers! (thank you again!). I tried to hurry through, just taking the time to throw on socks, shoes, race belt, pink visor and handheld water bottle that also carried my GUs and salt tabs in a pocket. Just a marathon left to go!

T2: 3:36

A quarter of a mile in, I could tell my heartrate was really high (my heartrate monitor peaced out that morning, so I was just running based on feel) so I slowed my legs down and tried to regroup. It was awesome to hear people cheering in English and French. I loved hearing, "un madame! un madame!" because there weren't a ton of ladies in front of me. I didn't feel great the first few miles, my legs were tired and my sole thought was, seriously, a marathon? Say it ain't so! I started out at an optimistic pace between 8:30 and 8:40. Surely I could hold onto that for awhile and go as slow as 9:00/mile? The heat quickly told me, hell no, you can't do that.

The first few miles were hilly. The legs were a bit weary after the bike and were not at all entertained by the varied terrain. It was hot and I wasn't happy to be running... which is sad because its usually my favorite part. Each aid station involved multiple cups of ice down the front of my top, my back, my head - it was tough to keep from overheating. The handheld water bottle was great though, I filled it as needed around the course. Had the customary GU every 45 minutes, alternating between salted caramel and salted watermelon. Once on the paved trail (roughly 4 miles in), I started to feel better and found my legs for a bit.

Then... I discovered cola. Holy shit. People rave about it and I should have listened when they spoke about this sweet nectar of the gods. Did it make me run faster? Nope. Did it give me something to look forward to in between aid stations? Oh hell yes. I wanted to take all the cola and go into the trees and have my way with it - IT WAS THAT INCREDIBLE. It didn't make my stomach feel all that great after awhile, but my happiness level was dipping fast and unfortunately, cola was the only thing keeping it on the up and up.

This must be before I discovered cola.

I saw almost everyone on the run which was awesome! Ran with Lee for a sec, chatted with Taneeen and Stef for another sec, and even got to run (I sprinted about 10 feet) on the heels of Mary Beth Ellis as she cruised around me to a first place finish. I yelled at Mark, Bryan, Deb as I saw them and toward the end I ran with Darren for a minute.

The last few miles were a blur, I wanted to be done running and the miles weren't passing quickly enough. When I hit that cobblestone street, a sweet feeling of relief passed over me. Then I approached the fork - to the left was the finish and to the right was loop 2. I gleefully took my left and was overcome with emotion. I got teary eyed as I ran down the chute, hitting up some high fives in the process. Jumped across the finish line (because jumping is cool) and it was over.

run: 4:11:06

Finish time: 11:07:02

I got a big ass medal (its a little ridiculous, its like a WWF sized medal without the belt) and grabbed a chocolate milk. I found Octavio and sat with him for a minute. I had no real concept of where everyone else was on the course and I couldn't find the kids so I headed up to get a massage and although I felt absolutely disgusting and my stomach was fairly uncomfortable, it was wonderful and I nearly fell asleep.

Headed onto the balcony to get a better view of the finish and scan for any familiar faces. I found my people and did what needed to be done. There were some medical issues that needed addressing so our group split up and we headed back to the condo.

It felt a little anti-climactic without my family/friends as spectators and without having my phone to track who was left on the course still. Last year, our hotel was too far to go back to so we waited for 4 hours at the finish line and sat around together and recovered/ate/relaxed. However, it was nice to shower right after and feel human again. I wasn't too sore, a little bit of knee pain and a couple toes were sensitive but overall, I felt pretty good.

My phone told me I was 4th in my age group which was completely unexpected. Second after the bike which was unfathomable to me, especially given the issues on the second loop. My run was a mess though and I ended up 4th by 5 minutes.

The rest of the night was awesome - more food and drinks at Casey's - watched the final 15 minutes at the finish line and headed home to pass out after a very long day.

The rest of the trip was amazing. Got an award for 4th AG, roll down for Kona went to 3rd place, I nearly had a heart attack coming that close to Kona at this race that I didn't expect to do well in. While I was relieved, I was also disappointed - how could I not be? It was such a weird mix of emotions in that 1 minute of time that I didn't know what to think or feel. Minutes later, I was just happy with the award, went to have a celebratory beer and immediately dropped the award and broke the corner off. Ehh. Typical.

We had a blast Monday afternoon taking the gondola and walking around, kicking butt on the luge, ice cream, etc. Packing was sad, we had such a good time that I didn't want to go back to real life. I could have stayed in baby Disney World longer, but alas, duty calls.

Looking forward to Louisville...!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Finding inspiration and a recap of a particularly uneventful run down memory lane.

Confession time. I hit a low point in training, a mental weakness type of low further debilitated by injuries. For weeks, I felt like I was doing well; I was completing workouts, seeing improvements in fitness and I was feeling good about myself. Kona seemed totally doable.

Then I had a really bad run. Actually, the run itself was nothing spectacular, but due to my carelessness and dropping my car key along the running path, my 14 miler turned into nearly a 20 miler and my body wasn't prepared for it. I was out of water, nutrition - it was an overall poor turn of events. The following two weeks were hellish in terms of IT band pain. My neck issue decided to rear its ugly head so my lower left and upper right quarters of my body were useless. It hurt to stand, it hurt to walk, it hurt to move. I took a spill on my bike the day before the bad run and fell on the outer portion of my left knee which left quite a bump and bruise exactly where my IT band hurts so I'm sure that didn't help.

I immediately went into damage control (after envisioning how miserable running 1 mile let alone 26 miles would be in a few weeks). I foam rolled like crazy, used the stick, consumed ibuprofen like candy, slathered on diclofenac gel and icy hot, used the cold laser at work, and got worked on a couple times at PT. I didn't much run for nearly two weeks (a couple very short runs only). Friday, Holli and rode a touch over 5 hours and 100 miles and I felt pretty awesome after that. Then saturday rolled around which should have been a long run. I woke up from nap and felt really short of breath. It was an odd feeling, but I thought maybe the humidity was doing weird things to me and didn't think much of it. I set out to run and ran exactly 0.18 miles before I turned around. I couldn't breathe, my legs felt strange.

I thought, okay - I'll go swim! Coach had said if running hurt, then head to the pool. It wasn't that it hurt per say, but my body felt strange so I thought, better safe than sorry (I worry about asthma attacks), so away to the pool I went. I swam about 1400 yards before multiple lifeguard whistles were blown and we were kicked out of the pool because a kid had vomited.

And the Gods said, "you will not work out today."

I continued to feel weird through the following day. I used my expired inhaler (I know... really, I know) a few times and began drinking copious amounts of water wondering if dehydration was the problem. My stomach was visibly distended (though the rest of my abdomen looked fine, it was... strange looking to say the least) and I still couldn't take full breaths so I Dr. Google'd my symptoms and took tums and gas-x (though gas was really not the problem, boy scout promise). It was a rest day (though the previous day was basically a rest day too) so... I rested. Hard core rested. Honestly, I slept almost all day long. I was awake for about 4 hours in total and slept through the night.

It was ridiculous. What a waste of a Sunday.

Woke up Monday morning and went to work still feeling a bit off. I solemnly swear I will drink more water from now on. Mischief managed and all that. I really think I was super dehydrated from the ride Friday and didn't properly rehydrate like a sane person would do.

The IT band has verrrrry slowly been improving though some days I wake up and fall out of bed, but hey, no big deal. Yesterday it was time to test her out again. I was at my parent's house this past weekend to see them and my brother (!!!) and Sunday morning I planned on running 12. It would be a gold star added to the steps-to-ironman-readiness chart in my head and boost my low morale a bit. A lot was riding (albeit only mentally) on this run.

I was excited though. I was going to run my route. my path. I have run this path/route approximately 100 times. Or more. Many more actually. I ran here during college when I began "distance running"... i.e. greater than 4 miles. I ran here more days than not during the year after college when I was contemplating my next steps in life. I run here and think about many things... marriage... and later, divorce... school... and later, job... the miles on this trail are so familiar and comforting... I know I'm home. Now that I don't come home as often, I tried to really savor my run and take trips down memory lane because this is also where I grew up. I first played baseball on the field next to the prairie path (25 years ago), I spent my very early childhood in the apartment complex on the trail, the popcorn shop, the train station, the DQ after softball games, etc...

SO, I've been thinking a lot about heart rates lately and my lack of knowledge associated with it. I decided to aim for what-I-estimate-based-on-the-average-of-some-loose-calculations is zone 2, meaning pretty easy running. It was hot as hell outside and you could basically see the humidity in the air, so I thought this would be a safe way to complete my first long-ish run in 3 weeks. I was aiming for 12. This would get tricky if I wasn't up for 12 since I was doing a straight out and back, but I like to live dangerously so away I went.

My first mile was 8:40 and my heart rate was in the gutter but it was so hot that I knew in a mile or two it would come up significantly without trying. It did. I knew I was running really slow but it felt nice and easy and effortless so I just kept that pace. The miles ticked by fairly quickly, I know where the mile markers are and I know even where unofficial half mile markers are (I ran here a lot pre-GPS era). My heart rate stayed pretty steady until mile 8 - I had already hit the turn around, I had 4 left to do with pretty minimal knee pain so I decided that I was done with heart rate training and the heat hadn't ended me yet, so I was going to go faster. Surprisingly to me, my heart rate didn't increase all that dramatically though it felt like I was running pretty fast (thank you humidity) - my pace only dropped by about 10 seconds in mile 9. By the last mile though, my body thought it was hauling ass. It put up an 8:02 which was pleasing given the conditions and the fact that I haven't been running much. Still not fast though. But 12 miles later and buckets of sweat left in the car on the ride home, I was done and felt pretty good about running again.

I think I'm coming out of the slump now. Running at home seriously helped. I watched some triathlon footage and the paralympics for swimming today and I think I found a touch of motivation again. Watching the paralympics was incredible. It makes my stupid knee pain look ridiculous. Self and I had a quick chat - self, your life is fairly uncomplicated and you have a pretty healthy and able body to do awesome things; no excuses, its time for you to step up and kick your own ass but no one is going to do it for you. If they can accomplish the unthinkable, then you can sure as hell achieve what you want to if you work your butt off. End of conversation.

I'm ready for a bigger week of training, had a great spin session today with a made-up-on-the-fly workout that kicked my ass, so cheers to more ass kicking and getting closer to the big races.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Race Report: Grand Rapids Tri - Half-Iron (Plus Epic-Girls-Tri-Weekend)

I can't adequately describe in words how much I needed this weekend. I love my new home and new life out east, but I genuinely miss my people! This past week leading up to the weekend was an emotional roller coaster for one of my favorite people and it sucked being 700 miles away and feeling like I couldn't do anything to help her. She's strong as hell and although I knew she was going to be okay, I also knew that she needed this weekend just like I did. Cue GIRLS TRI-WEEKEND (and three-fourths-quad-pod reunion).

Up early Friday for my solo road trip to Michigan and, as per usual, not quite prepared. I was out of pineapple skratch and my favorite tri-berry powerbar wafer energy bars. Did I think to go shopping ahead of time? Of course not - that would be what the general public refers to as "being responsible" and "thinking ahead".

I did, however, have all my tri gear laid out but no actual clothing packed, nor had I cleaned out the car for my road trip (though I did remember to get an oil change so thats something). Packed up my stuff, double/triple checked that I had the big things like a bike. helmet. asian flavored chick peas. you know, the really important stuff.

Fast forward 11 hours and I was pulling up to the quiet lake to meet my sole sisters for a practice swim. Seeing them hanging out by the water (as I waved at them and missed the place to park) put a huge smile on my face - it was like coming home. I really missed my friends. They'd already pulled a "breaking and entering" act of defiance so we could get to the water... anything in the name of training, right? 15-20 minute practice swim and I was feeling pretty good. I normally don't swim before races, but after sitting in the car for 10+ hours, it was nice to get the blood flowing and play in the quiet water with the girls.

Founders brewery for dinner and had an incredible portabella mushroom sandwich and a couple nitro oatmeal stouts - Mmm. Then... THEN... Jurassic World. It was awesome, though I was quickly running low on energy and was really looking forward to bed. I was forced to get Reese's Pieces to keep myself awake... yep, forced.

Slept in until 8:30 (-ish, I woke up a few times but feel back asleep). Thats like noon to the rest of the world since I generally don't sleep past 5:30 am. The girls stayed in the room and I headed out with my bike and running shoes to the race site for a quick ride and run. As soon as I parked I realized I had no helmet. I toyed with the idea of riding sans helmet but if you've met me, you know I can't ride without a helmet. If you really know me, you know I should probably wear some sort of protective head gear at all times.

So, back to the hotel. Grabbed my helmet and arm warmers which I had also left behind (it was pretty chilly). Realized I also forgot my watch, but hey, no big deal. Quick 20 minute ride, legs felt good. 15 minute run and I was done and hungry for breakfast.

My parents showed up while I was taking a shower, amazing to see them! We headed out to breakfast at this cute restaurant and after debating between everything on the menu, I settled on a crab/asparagus/cheese omelet with a side of two pancakes. Ate it all along with a few glasses of water and coffee.

We then needed to go to the store to pick up last minute items for the race. I wanted to hang out with my parents too but for some reason they didn't want to come shopping which I thought was weird and unlike them. We headed out to Meijer and did some shopping - I had forgotten my uncrustables sandwiches so I picked those up plus gatorade and a starbucks double shot for race morning. My blueberry bagels, peanut butter, and bananas had at least managed to make it into my bag - at least I remembered that much in my scatter-brained mess of a packing situation.

Headed to packet pick-up and it ended up being a bigger deal than I thought - it even had a mini-expo which was great because I picked up some salted caramel GUs (supply was running low). Ran into James there - he was racing the Olympic. We wandered through the tents for a bit and then the girls and I headed back to the hotel. Opened up the door and I immediately noticed pink streamers... whaaaaat? Turned on the light and the whole room was decorated with streamers and Hawaiian themed decorations as well as my Mom's awesome posters. There were tiki bags with electric lights and leis and grass skirts even! It was super thoughtful and amazing - I love birthdays the way a five year old loves birthdays. Love.

We had a mini-party once Dayle's parents arrived and everyone spoiled me with gifts. I chatted with Coach T on the phone for a bit going over race strategy and getting geared up mentally for the race. Carrabba's for dinner (pasta with shrimp and asparagus plus calamari), then back to the hotel for Dayle's mom to get us race ready via heat massage, accupunture, and cupping. She focused on my shoulder/back where I've been having pain while on the bike and going to bed I felt relaxed and sleepy.

Oh yea, so that race report...

4:45am wake up call. First one up. Dressed in my SOAS gear with my usual hot pink visor and T casually checked the weather before opening the blinds.

"THIS COULD GET UGLY" was the headline. That made all of us laugh, but at the same time a little nervous that the race could be cancelled with the possibility of lightning. The threat of thunderstorms had been looming all week and the closer we got to racetime, the worse the forecast became. 100% chance of rain - they weren't kidding around. It was an absolute down pour.

Got my drinks together (2 with orange skratch - never tried it, but T had it, and 2 with water), a couple of GU chomps, 2 uncrustables sandwiches and a handful of salted caramel GUs. I stashed some salt tabs and ibuprofen in the race belt never thinking they would get wet and congeal into a pink powdery mess. Eh, turns out I wouldn't need them anyway.

Caught up with my mom and dad downstairs and loaded up my bike. I contorted myself around the bike in the backseat of the car in complete law-abiding fashion. "Athlete drop-off" was about a quarter of a mile away from transition, so I trudged through the rain with the rest of the water-logged athletes to transition. There were legitimate rivers flowing through parts of the transition area but luckily none near me. I arranged my stuff after cursing myself for forgetting plastic bags at the hotel. Ended up covering all my stuff with a towel and hoped for the best.

I hastily remembered I hadn't really eaten anything except half of a Starbucks double shot (seriously, what is wrong with me) so I crammed a banana and a soggy blueberry bagel with peanut butter into my mouth while I wandered out of transition. I found the Team RWB tent and made friends while I tried to pull on my wet wetsuit. Its tougher than I thought it would be - lucky I didn't tear that baby while I attempted to wrench it over my legs, body, and arms. By the time I had the wetsuit on, the race was starting and my wave was supposed to start 10 minutes after. Said hey to my parents and found T near the water with the other purple-capped ladies.

I positioned myself near the start hoping I might be able to stay near the front of the pack for the swim. Once the horn sounded, I took off and after roughly 10 strokes, I saw a few girls out to my right who were probably ex-olympic swimmers because they were already miles away. I ignored them and started swimming solo. I didn't see anyone around me until about 1/4 of the way through the swim when I started to catch up to the people in the waves ahead of me. Thankfully they were well out of the way and it was easy to get around the few that were in-line with the sighting buoys. The swim was less than exciting - kept a steady pace, water temperature was beautiful (upper 60's maybe?) and I stayed well in line with the buoys from what I could tell. Finished amongst black and red caps only so I knew I was ahead of most of half-iron women. Besides the handful of Missy Franklin's that had outswum me, that is.

Everything was soaked, which was no big deal. The real annoyance was the approximately 7 mile long transition area and the people walking their bikes like they were out for late morning Sunday stroll in the park. COME ON PEOPLE, THIS TIME COUNTS TOO. I should know, my transitions are already terrible and this delay wasn't helping.

8 hours later, I arrived at the line to mount my bike. Okay it was like a minute later but it felt like Monday morning. Anyway - got on the bike (still pouring rain, mind you) and zoomed off. I felt awesome. I NEVER feel awesome riding my bike, but I felt fast, so I went with it. I started to pick off the guys in front of me, trying to get a glimpse of women in front of me - I couldn't see any. The Missy Franklins in the swim were apparently Lance Armstrongs on the bike. A few men passed me - naturally, they were only in front for a little while until they sped away. My watch was reading a greater than 21 mph average which freaked me out a bit so I tried to get out of my head because my legs didn't feel like they were trying too hard. Go with it Prochnow. That NBC IM announcer voice that was narrating my story in my head was telling me I was looking good, so I continued on that pace.

I slowed a bit when I tried to eat the first Uncrustable around 45 minutes into the bike. I couldn't rip open the package and I ended up swallowing a small amount of plastic. Eh. Once I was able to figure out the plastic wrapping, I sped back up to my previous speed. The course was simple - 28 miles out and 28 miles back with what seemed like less than 5 turns. Despite the rain, I was pretty comfortable with how the bike was handling the slick pavement - thank goodness for straightaways and small rollers that ended in more straight roads.

Hit another small blip around 1:30 or 1:45 on the bike - I had a craving for a banana and I was coming up to an aid station. Slowed way down and called out "banana?" A girl looked at me and nodded and literally threw the banana at me which barely got close to my back as I crept past. No banana for me. Struggled with a package of GU chomps at that point because I knew I had to eat something, anything. Not sure why modern day food packaging was testing me, but I definitely lost that battle in an embarrassing way. With 15 miles or so to go on the bike, a girl quickly passed me and I decided I was going to stay with her. We picked up a male counterpart and the three of us took turns passing each other as we sped around a ton of athletes in the olympic race (the courses all overlapped each other).

My average for the last 15 miles was about 22 mph. Thats crazy fast for me! And I honestly didn't feel like I was working all that hard. It was still raining during the bike at that time and started raining harder by the end - but that wasn't about to faze me, I felt like I was killing the second half of the bike. For the first time ever in a race, I wasn't hurting and I was enjoying riding.

Another clusterfuck of a traffic jam in transition, but this time worse than T1. Complete dead stop at times. FRUSTRATING. I know my transition times always suck and this proved to be yet another terrible transition (there's never been a fast one for the record). A couple minutes later I was at the rack and discovered the river had finally reached our area. My shoes were sitting in a puddle and my socks were soaked. squish squish squish - I shuffled out of transition, quick stepping around more bike/people hazards.

Usually my favorite, but with everything soaked, it wasn't ideal conditions. The course was fairly flat other than a few small rolling hills and one mother of a hill. I began to pass people and with each woman, I tried to get a glance at their right calf for the "S", "O", or "H", designating which race they were in. Not really any "H's" to catch in front of me, though a couple girls flew past like I was standing still (They would later finish with half marathon times in the 1:30s). I could see one girl in particular very gradually gaining ground - I knew she was in the half but I didn't know her age group, as I was only seeing the front of her. Had a salted caramel GU right off the bat in the first mile, with the other two around miles 5 and 10. Around mile 6 or 7, the rain stopped and the temperature started to rise. I wasn't feeling the heat too much until someone yelled "DAMN ITS HOT AND HUMID". I looked around and was like, you know, you're right - it is hot and humid! At that point was the turn-around for the course which took place on a sandy path with the consistency of running on damp, packed, beach sand. With each step, I felt the energy suck out of me and by the time I hit the pavement again, I had lost my legs. I know this was a combination of poor nutrition on the bike and potentially a lack of fitness to finish off the run (the first half was on pace for a 1:43). Either way, the last handful of miles felt like I was still running in wet sand. I kept glancing at my watch and doing pacing math. Early on, I was guessing I'd be around 5:05 (huge PR). With a few miles to go, as long as I kept moving forward as a reasonable pace, I'd be under 5:10 - still a PR by 8 minutes. By the last turn with three miles left, my competition was uncomfortably close and I tried to hold her off. The sign for mile 12 was missing so with a glance at my watch, I picked it up with approximately 1 mile left to go. The finish line loomed ahead so I dug in and with a quick squint at the clock, I smiled - 5:08:03, a 10 minute PR.

(Little did I know, the girl that was gaining ground was in my age group - and I beat her by a measly five seconds! Looking back at the finisher pics, you can see her in every one. Victory.)

That time was good enough for first in my AG and a solid overall finish. Definitely a race I could be proud of after a disappointing time at Monticelloman. My family, Dayle, and James greeted me at the finish line. So awesome. Got a medal and finisher visor and a handful of pizza and mountain dew. We waited for T to finish just a bit after me and the sole sisters were reunited once again. We checked our results and I grabbed my award (plaque and $25 gift certificate).

My cheerleader during the whole race!

all by myself...

sole sisters post-race.

Awesome overall weekend, ready for some big training ahead!

Monday, June 1, 2015

From Beer can to Ironman

Confession - I stole the title from little brother's facebook page. Let me brag about him for a sec/min/hour, though to me, he is still just that hilarious kid that makes me laugh until I pee my pants.

At some point in the past 27 years, he grew up into this awesome adult. Recap - hes wanted to be a pilot since he could talk. No lie. Half of his childhood Halloween costumes consisted of a flight suit with patches from the pilot-neighbor down the street. When Halloween was over, the flight suit turned into normal clothes that he'd wear to play flight simulator games in. We watched Top Gun 8000 times and at family get togethers (or really, at any random time), we'd make him sing "You've lost that Loving Feeling". When the three year old who still can't pronounce all the words right serenades you with that song, you just melt. To us, he was "Maverick". Every summer, we'd venture up to Oshkosh, Wisconsin for the EAA air show, one of the highlights of our summers - we'd watch the air shows for the jets, the fast fly-bys, and the war birds - none of us were ever really interested in the acrobatics... it was jet engines and speed that impressed us.

He wanted to be an Air Force pilot. So, he got accepted to USAFA by way of Dennis Hastert, a pretty big deal of a man himself. It was tough on him at first... he struggled a lot that first year. In my heart of hearts, I'm glad that he went through that because it made him a different, yet stronger person. He grew up so much during that time - all of a sudden we were using words like "mature", "respectful", "dedicated", and "successful" to describe my baby brother.

Long story short, he graduated from USAFA and is now flying an F-16. That's neat.

The point of this weird-tribute-that-went-slightly-off-topic is he's always been athletic - I've been extremely jealous marginally impressed with how easily academics and sports come to him. He has a history of dabbling in various sports, never quite sticking with one thing, but merely enjoying being a part of all of them. Golf, baseball, swimming, volleyball, lacrosse, you name it, he could play it.

Around Christmas time last year, he told me he was planning on running a marathon. He followed that up with "But I've never run more than 3 miles before". I thought to myself, hell, I'll be pretty impressed if he trains and sticks to it. As much as I love my brother, follow-through is not always his strong suit in sports.

But then... he began asking me about training plans. Then shoes. Then knee pain - Ankle pain - Hip pain! We talked about GPS watches. We discussed work-outs, long runs, tempo runs! We've talked more this year on the phone than we have in years past. The months passed and the map-my-run alerts increased in frequency (and distance). Wait, he ran 13 miles? 15? 18???

In the middle of all the running, triathlon started to creep into our conversations. I knew he was proud of what I had done last year, going from a minimal triathlon background to a full 140.6 in less than a year. I wasn't sure how much it impressed him, but I knew that he thought it was cool.

He started asking questions about bikes (those two-wheeled transportation devices I know little about). I sought the opinions of the "experts" and researched online. More and more, he was asking ME questions. Me, the big sister who has always looked UP to her LITTLE brother. He wanted MY opinion. "What do you eat before/during/after you work out?" "I found this thing online called TrainingPeaks, what do you think?" "I'm thinking about signing up for a race, whats your opinion?"

A few weeks ago, he told me his goal for the marathon was 3:42.1. (421 is his squadron... I think. Bad sister).

Last weekend, he ran 3:39. He crushed it! (On that note, he also crushed my time, but I'll let him have the spotlight for today). His girlfriend kept sending videos and updates - my whole family were glued to our phones for just over three and a half hours, getting live updates and tracking his progress online.

Are there bigger accomplishments out there? Absolutely. Are there far more important things that are done all over the world everyday? No doubt. But on that day, I was proud as hell of my little brother. I told all my friends. I sent them video clips, I forwarded the updates. He had a following!

The kid just signed up for his first triathlon, he will be doing Ironman Silverman 70.3 in Vegas. He's planning on doing a couple shorter ones prior to it, likely Chicago later in the summer. And he started a facebook page (I think thats what the cool kids are doing) to hold himself publicly accountable for training. I even scored an acknowledgement on the bio page - "After seeing my sister transition from mortal human to Ironman, I decided I would do the same." Rad.

I'm just SO excited for him. Its really neat to share the sport with my family - I hope he grows to love it like I do. And if he doesn't, he'll find his passion elsewhere. He has the talent and the body type to be really good - I know if he sticks with it and pushes himself, he will be surprised at the end result.

The sport came into my life just as a major chapter was beginning to end. If we are being completely honest (and you know I try to be), it altered the trajectory of my life path. My affection for the sport is multi-fold but part of it stems from distracting me from my less-than-happy prior life. A year ago, I never dreamed I would be where I am today - career-wise, triathlon-wise, personal-life-wise. Triathlon isn't my entire life, nor do I want it to be - but does it greatly enrich my life? Hell yes. Will little brother feel the same way after a month, a summer, a year? Only time will tell, but I'm excited to follow him on that journey... From Beer can to Ironman.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Race Recap: Alexandria Running Festival Half-Marathon

The morning started off a touch out of sorts. Went to bed a bit late and woke up a touch early. My head was slightly fuzzy with a minor headache as soon as I woke up but judging by the rumbling in my stomach, my head wasn't going to be the problem on race morning! I popped some pretty pink pepto, ate a few tums and hoped for the best while I got changed. A few too many bathroom trips before leaving the house concerned me... but no big deal, I'd shake it off once I started running. Or not. We'd see.

Got to the race start (right outside the US Patent Office) and joined up with the Team RWB. If you don't know who they are - you should.

Go look it up and come back.

I'll give you a few minutes.

Welcome back. The mission of Team RWB, quite literally, is to enrich the lives of veterans through physical and social activity. A few people near and dear to me are involved and it seems like something I'd enjoy being a part of too!

Got together for a quick Team RWB picture which lead into a 25 minute delay in race start due to some unlawful parking situation that needed rectified prior to unleashing the masses. I.E. people parked on the course and their cars got towed.

...and Go time baby!

Lee immediately took off. Obviously. He's WAY faster than I. I started running at a seemingly comfortable pace but a quick glance at the watch a few minutes into the run revealed it was likely a non-sustainable pace. First mile was 7:10. I was hoping to hold a 7:37 pace that would put me at a 1:40 finish time (and also nearly a 3 minute PR), so I made a conscious effort to slow my role. I was able to hold a 7:27 pace until roughly mile 6. I had been running pretty well, I was trailing a girl going exactly my speed and every so often I was seeing Lee so I was pretty happy at that point. There was the occasional uncomfortable stomach feeling, but overall not bad considering how the morning began.

The course started intermittently changing terrain and directions with a bunch of out and backs and 180 degree turns. That didn't help with maintaining any kind of momentum! I was stronger than my unknown running friend on the "hills" and I'd nearly pass her but then my pace would quickly drop which made me nervous my legs wouldn't hold up. I dropped a gel somewhere in mile 6-7 and going back to get it as well as eating it added around 20 seconds and I guess my legs just figured it was time to check out and I never quite got them back.

My stomach really took a nose-dive around mile 8 - coincidently (or not) it was roughly around the time that my legs decided they were done racing for the day. I had a few spells of dry heaving and I only ended up eating 1/2 of the salted caramel Gu (my normal go-to flavor). My legs made a quick appearance after the Gu but it was short-lived. I knew I wanted the other Gu around mile 10, but I had a gut feeling (ooooh jokes!) that if I tried to eat it, I'd actually start throwing-up. I think the Gu would've made my legs feel better, but I'm pretty confident I made the right decision to abandon any and all nutrition.

The gatorade v. water debacle of 2015 was a little stressful on my upset stomach. Let the record state that I am not calling out the volunteers because those people are amazing and awesome for giving up their morning to help out. However, at each aid station, some people would yell "water" and I swear I actually saw their lips moving to form the word but then they handed me gatorade. I don't love gatorade when I'm running halves, I'd much prefer water. My turbulent stomach was also in favor of flavorless liquids. The fourth time this happened, I strongly considered having an over-the-top meltdown that involved chucking cups of gatorade and flipping over the cup-laden tables. I quickly reconsidered and continued running sans fluids. At the last 2 aid stations, I just asked for water and they found some quickly, so alls well ends... well, not well, but ends, sure.

The last two miles nearly ended me. I was silently willing my legs to continue moving forward but they felt like tree trunks taking root in the earth. I'd valiantly try to speed up and my lap pace would slow down. I looked down to make sure I hadn't started running backwards. I was confused. Um, hello, legs? Anything? Bueller? Okay.

Finally, I recognized the last bridge... curse you incline. As I tried to overcome the nearly stationary running position I was currently perfecting, I looked down at my watch and realized that 1:40 mark was about to fly past. I love re-evaluating goals with less than a quarter mile to go. Just get in under 1:41 - PLEASE!

The finish line appeared like a vision of water in the desert. Angels began singing. Maybe that was the music at the finish line. I'm not sure, toss up.

I got my medal, saw Lee and he ushered me onto the grass, presumably so I didn't throw up on any innocent spectators. I appreciated the gesture as I too wished to avoid public vomiting. After a few minutes that involved breaking a cold sweat while willing myself to keep my 1/2 Gu and undesired yellow gatorade in the tank, I recovered and rejoined the group.

At that moment, a lot of thoughts went through my head fairly rapidly as if in fast forward mode. Hey, a PR! Gotta be pleased with that. And no throwing up! And... and... aw man, 7th in my age group! Those girls are speedy! Chocolate chip cookies? Hell yes! Am I gonna throw up? Maybe! Okay, no more cookies! Water only forever!

All in all, it was a decent race but I didn't love the course. The weather however was BEAUTIFUL and it was a perfect morning for running. You don't get many of those perfect early summer mornings so I try to enjoy them when they sneak up on us.

End goal for the year if I run another half: break 1:39. 1:38:59. There I said it out loud, its official. No turning back now. Next race is the Grand Rapids Tri, T minus 3 weeks till REUNION. More on that soon.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Race Recap: Monticelloman 70.3

AKA First half-iron of the year = a lesson in perseverance and a painful look into the core of my soul.

Let's go back, shall we?

So, last weekend was the first "significant" race of the year. I say significant only because of the distance. It was only my third race at this distance. I wasn't expecting greatness per say, but I was curious to see where I was sitting at this point in the year. I didn't train crazy hard in the off-season, but I was pretty consistent and I was hoping to be ahead of where I was at this point a year ago. I had been working on the devil's sport bike during the last few months and was hopeful that I was making progress.

We drove down Saturday morning after running some last minute errands, about a 2 hour drive, fairly uneventful. Drove straight to the venue for packet pick up and a quick ride/run - it was a GORGEOUS day. Got the bikes put back together (though, lets be quite honest, I supervised the re-assembly of bikes) and went out for a quick 20 minute ride. Immediately, my right quad cramped up and I felt like I was getting zero power out of that leg. Both legs felt cramped, like my seat was too short (and it was put back exactly where it was at before), but the right quad was hard as a rock and really tight. The hills were rough with the state of my leg and all I could think about was "I have to do FIFTY-SIX MILES like this tomorrow?!" The end of the ride involved a short steep hill and I was too busy thinking about my leg to consider shifting at a logically appropriate time that I started up that hill in a huge gear and proceeded to almost stop short. I tried to shift, apparently failed, and then my quad said "OH HELL NO" and seized up into a ball of angry muscle. I came to an abrupt stop on the hill as all these cars were descending and I felt like every single one of them watching was thinking "look at this amateur who doesn't know how to ride a bike." And, quite honestly, they were totally correct. I looked like an idiot. Seeing as this is my usual state of being, I shook it off and made two valiant attempts to continue up the hill but with no momentum, I was looking even more foolish so I headed down the hill only to turn around and head right back up. Get this girl a cookie, she just won the day...

Set out on a short run and immediately, my right leg went alarmingly numb. My quad continued to be ridiculously tight and now my toes were tingling and losing sensation. WHAT THE HELL WAS GOING ON WITH MY BODY?

I tried not to dwell on it. I tried to enjoy the quick jaunt around the course but scrolling through the megatron in the back of my mind was "tomorrow is going to be an epic failure. you're a hot mess and the lower half of your body just went AWOL so tomorrows going to suck."

We had an internal chat. It went something like this: "Listen here self. I'm confused by our current predicament, but we know we're going to finish the race tomorrow even if we're cursing every mile. We know we're giddy to be racing again so let's get ourselves together and have a little fun."

Back at the hotel, I rolled my leg for awhile, I alternated between the stick and the foam roller. I grabbed the diclofenac cream and slathered it on. I drank water, then gatorade, then more water. I stretched. If I sucked tomorrow, it wasn't going to be because I ignored this new weird little injury.

Dinner was delicious. I had the pleasure of dining with the Snapple team (goal: get on this team next year). I had linguine with clams in white wine sauce - the usual go-to. Drank one beer and approximately 7 gallons of water.

Slept decently. Proceeded to wake up and feel completely out of sorts.

Thankfully, I had all my stuff packed from the night before. Put on the new SOAS team kit for the first time (Love it). Got my drinks together, my nutrition in a bag. I was as ready as I could be. Angry quad was no longer screaming at me - it was holding steady at a dull roar that I knew I'd be able to deal with. Pleased with the improvement, I was ready to head out. Once we parked and put the bikes together (still rocking the supervisor role mind you), I headed down to transition and realized I had left my banana and the majority of my blueberry bagel in the car. Jogged up to the car only to realize I was on the wrong street. Found the car only to realize that Lee was gone.

Repeat after me - YOU ARE A HOT MESS.

Rechecked my transition area, thought about applying sunscreen and immediately forgot, which proceeded straight into thinking about applying body glide only to see Lee and forget about that too. He graciously ran to get my banana and life was good again.

Wetsuit on, check. Head to water, check. Oh, everyone's out of the water and I don't have time to jump in. No problem! Who needs a warm-up??

Luckily we got to hang in the water for a few minutes before starting. Water was a good temperature, but I knew my feet would be numb pretty quick (those poor puppies are sensitive to cold).

Aaaaaand... GO.

Swim swim swim swim swim. Followed a girl going exactly the speed I wanted to go who was holding a remarkably straight line. Its always a crap shoot when I try to follow someone - sometimes its hard to sight when you're a few diopters away from being legally blind and your contacts suck. But I won the drafting lottery with this girl. She had a great straight up right arm stroke so she was easy to keep in sight if i sat just next to her. I tried to pass her a few times and speed up but each time we cruised into a sea of orange caps (the men ahead of us) and it was easier to sit behind her and let her find a line through the mess of men.

Finished the swim in a decent time, nothing spectacular, but I was satisfied since I didn't feel tired. Tried to have a quick transition (my usual downfall) and headed out on the bike.

Nearly immediately, I knew it wasn't going to be a spectacular ride - my neck twinged as I rode up the first hill and that's always negative predictor for the rest of the ride. Considering we were at mile 3 or something, I got a little nervous. Every weird feeling in my neck (though not entirely painful at this point) made my stomach a little queasy. 56 miles isn't incredibly difficult. 56 hillier-than-I'm-used-to miles isn't too much worse. However, 56 hillier-than-I'm-used-to miles with a messed up neck is pretty damn miserable. Around mile 10, the painful neck reared its ugly head and quitting crossed my mind. I'm not a quitter, I've never quit a race and very very rarely do I quit workouts, but I thought about it. While I did the incredibly difficult equation that is 56-10=46, I thought about how the next 46 miles were going to feel if I already wanted to pull over and cry.

Suck it up baby.

So, I stretched as best as I could without stopping. I stopped using the aerobars. Nothing was helping. I popped more ibuprofen. No relief. I tried thinking of funny things that make me laugh. I tried smiling (thank God, none of this is on tape). This part is funny only because after the race a woman commented about how happy I looked racing near the end of the second loop. If she only knew.

We quickly arrived at my favorite point in the downward spiral of this neck pain (about mile 26)- the point where it starts to hurt to use my right arm. I'm talking about the part that involves trying to extend my right arm to the end of my aerobars to shift. This is also the part where tears pop out of my eyes without warning and where I audibly grunt from how ridiculously awful I feel.

Approached the halfway point. This is where it got a bit hilly again. My legs got a workout from my lack of shifting, screw trying to save my legs to run - those suckers were gonna work those hills because I was not about to start shifting like a normal person. I was trying to keep my upper half in some sort of position that I could maintain with less pain. It was hit or miss with that one.

Mile 40-ish, I tried aero again. OH DEAR MOTHER OF GOD was that a terrible awful no-good very bad idea. It felt like 100 burning needles jabbing into my lower neck/upper back. Back to that upright position.

I kept zoning in and out of race mode. Id think about something completely unrelated to the race, slow down, get passed, realize what I was doing, re-pass that person only to fall back into the dreamy mind-set where I wasn't painful and was off the bike. I was practically drooling over the time when I'd get to put on my running shoes and RUN while forgetting about the past 3 sad hours.

Finally, FINALLY, it was over. I tried to re-rack the bike and epically failed. It took me 2 or 3 attempts because i could get the baby raised more than two inches off the ground thanks to my stunning lack of strength from the right side of my body. Shoes, visors, race-belt. check, check, check.

Run time... happy time. This is the part I knew I can do. However this came to be, I always make up time running. I think thats probably my strong suit now. I can usually run off the bike pretty well, at least compared to many in the age group. I felt better, though incredibly stiff in my neck. Standing upright made much of the pain disappear but I wasn't totally comfortable. First mile was 7:36. Slow down Prochnow. I ended up pretty consistently at 8:15-8:20/mile. Slower than usual, but definitely the hilliest course I've ever done.

Just before the turn-around, I approached a guy running a touch slower than I. I passed him going into the water station (I walked all the water stations since I knew I wasn't going to PR-ing and it was a refreshing little break), and he caught up to me. The next 4 miles were Iron-war style running. I'd speed up a touch, he'd stay with me. He'd speed up, I'd pick up the pace to hang with him. With three miles to go, I had a flash of Mark-Allen-like inspiration at a water stop and grabbed the water and went for it. When you can't have the race you were hoping for, its the little victories that matter, right?

The final miles were uneventful, just kept the pace to finish. I wanted to see my friends, I wanted to collapse in a heap on the grass... I wanted to be done. It wasn't a fun race. It was test of my mental fortitude and a glimpse into a dark place that I'd prefer to avoid from now on.

I ended up third overall, a real shocker considering the mess that involved the previous 5 1/2 hours. I got a pint glass and a decently nice duffle bag as a prize (sweet free stuff). Minutes later, in true Heather fashion, I dropped the glass on the pavement and it busted into 75 pieces. Are we surprised? They nicely gave me a replacement glass since I had gone all of 100 feet from the boxes containing the extra glasses.

Drove home. Saw Avengers. Lovely way to end the weekend. Actual racing aside, it was a really good weekend...