Race Repot: Ironman Canada

Let me start by saying this is a super long post and I apologize in advance about that. I just have so much to say about my experience at Ironman Canada and in Whistler. I don’t blame you for skimming and/or just checking out the pics!

Backing up a bit, as I said in my last post, we arrived in Whistler late afternoon on Wednesday and did a number of “to dos” on Thursday, including athlete check-in, picking up my bike from Tri Bike Transport, and attending the athlete briefing. 

After all of that was done, on Friday, Jon and I finally had a chance to be tourists in Whistler. 

Canada is the best!

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Friday: Gondolas!

On Friday morning, we walked from our hotel, The Crystal Lodge and Suites, on the “Village Stroll,” to Whistler’s gondola (Mont Tremblant gets a lot of credit for it’s adorable village, but this one is even bigger) and bought two day passes for the gondola. We took the gondola up to the top of Whistler, which is about a 20 minute trip. The views on the ride are beautiful, but at the top of the mountain (Whistler Peak), the views are truly breathtaking.

Snow in July!

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First sight stepping off the gondola!

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Mountains for DAYS!

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After snapping some pics, we took a short (less than half a mile) downhill hike to the chair lift that takes you up to the new Peak Suspension Bridge.

If I’m being honest, the chair lift was a little scary. There is just a thin metal bar preventing you from falling to certain death.

Once you get to the top of the chair lift, you can walk across the bridge. It’s purely an out and back now, although they are working on constructing a viewing platform at the far end of the bridge. The bridge sways in the wind and my husband is afraid of heights, but I have to say he was very brave!

The suspension bridge

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After we walked across the bridge we took the chair lift back down to Whistler Peak, did the (this time uphill!) hike back to the gondola, and then took a second gondola, the Peak-2-Peak to Blackcomb. Again, this was included in our day ticket which was about $60 Canadian.

Taking the chairlift down from the bridge

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The Peak-2-Peak is incredible as well. You travel over this beautiful light blue river and so many pine trees. 

Peak-2-Peak views

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There is a food court on the other side (Blackcomb side) and I was so starving that before I fully surveyed the landscape, I had already gotten in the taqueria line. HOWEVER (Steven A. Smith voice), you should learn from my mistake and instead walk past the food court to the restaurant – Christine’s – so you can sit outside, overlooking the mountains. 

Friday was awesome and I am so glad we spent the day just having fun. It definitely kept me from fretting about the race all day, too, which was a nice bonus!

Saturday: Shake Outs, Bike and Bag Check

The awesome thing about Whistler is that the Valley Trail makes it easy to walk or ride almost anywhere. I decided to forego the shuttles on Saturday morning and, instead, ride to T1 to check my bike and bike gear bag. It was maybe a 2-3 mile ride along the trail and super easy. While I was there, I went for a short swim in Alta Lake to get the feel for the water and my wetsuit again. After the swim, I took the shuttle to T1 to check my run gear bag.

Because of bears, we were not allowed to leave any nutrition in our gear bags or on our bikes. I was nervous about this at first, but #spoileralert it worked out completely fine on race day. 

Athlete guide bear warning!

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I went back to the hotel, changed into run clothes, and went for a 30-minute shake out jog. While I was doing all of this, Jon went for a scenic ATV ride, which he loved, so if you have family in Whistler and want to keep them out of your hair before race day, I definitely recommend this. 

After his ATV ride, while I was watching Netflix with my feet up, Jon went to Walmart to buy an insulated lunch bag for me to put in my bike special needs for my two bottles of liquid nutrition and Coke.  

Race Morning

I woke up at 3:15 on race morning to give myself plenty of time for breakfast and coffee before transition opened at 4:30. Breakfast went fine, but packing was sort of a mess. I discovered that I accidentally froze the Coke I planned to put in bike special needs. It was frozen SOLID and I was worried it wouldn’t defrost by the time I needed it. Then, as I was making my bottles, I tried to shake one only to have the top come flying off and my nutrition spill all over the kitchen. Finally, as I was about to walk out the door, I realized I couldn’t find my Garmin. It’s not like I couldn’t race without it – thankfully, I know I don’t need any gadgets to get through a race (thanks, Alyssa), but I did want to have it to track my nutrition on the run, especially. I ended up finding the Garmin and getting out the door around 4:35.

I walked to T2 to drop my nutrition in my run gear bag, and luckily-enough realized before it was too late that I left my bike jersey there, too. That would have been DISASTROUS so I am so glad I figured it out before boarding the shuttle to T1. 

The shuttle ride seemed MUCH longer than the shuttle ride on Saturday. Someone on the bus said we were taking a very round about way to get to Rainbow Park, which might have been the case. 

T1 Set-up/Swim Start

I can’t remember exactly what time I got to T1, but I had a number of “to dos” to accomplish there and I was trying not to forget anything. I filled my bottles, put air in my tires, lubed my chain, and then walked to my gear bag to put in my gels and my aero top.

At this point, I was starting to feel pressed for time and I still needed to get my wetsuit on. I found a small patch of grass to try to get my suit on (you need room for this torture) and I made a small pile with my chip, safety pin, gel, Garmin, and cap nearby.

After struggling to get my suit on (only if you have ever done this yourself do you know how awful of a task this is), I tried to walk back through the throngs of athletes to my place at the start only to realize I dropped my Garmin somewhere. Now, the start is VERY crowded. We were packed in there like sardines, so you can imagine how unpleasant it was to try to retrace my steps looking for my Garmin, feeling like I was running out of time. Sure enough some random guy said “Did you drop a big watch?” (that was a low-blow making fun of my very out-of-date and style Garmin, if you ask me, but I digress…). He proceeded to tell me that they had it at morning clothes bag drop-off. So back through the crowd of athletes I went and sure enough, they did have my Garmin at the bag drop. In the process, I dropped my pre-swim gel (yes, seriously).

I walked back AGAIN, found the gel, and then my spot among the 1:31-1:40 crew. Whistler has a rolling start, which means you need to line up based on your estimated swim time. I have not done as much swimming this year as in prior IM training cycles, so even though swim conditions were rough the year I did Tremblant, I figured my swim times would be comparable. I stumbled across some very lovely ladies waiting for the start. We all chit-chatted and it was nice to keep things relaxed before the race (no one in the 1:31-1:40 coral is too intense, as you can imagine…). I asked one of the very friendly ladies to zip and close my suit for me.

Soon enough the race had started and we were moving toward the water.

The water is quite shallow at the start and lots of folks walked pretty far into the water. I know that it’s always better to swim as much as you can, so I tried to start swimming almost immediately.

By about the second buoy I could feel my suit coming undone in the back, so I treaded water for a bit as I fixed that, but then got back on my way. I sang a song in my head to distract myself (I am a nervous open water swimmer).

For me, the swim is always about just getting through at a slow and steady pace and while I loved the rolling start initially, it’s of limited benefit on a two-loop course, and even less so when there is a 70.3 race starting mid-Ironman swim. Not only did we have the fast IMers lapping us, but also the first few waves of the 70.3 men, which was not pleasant. I got pummeled, especially at the buoys. I learned my lesson and took the second loop MUCH wider so that I would be out of traffic.

I got out of the water in 1:39 (my slowest IM swim), got my wetsuit stripped, grabbed my bike gear bag, and headed into the change tent. The volunteers were awesome and I tried to move swiftly, but thoughtfully, so that I didn’t miss anything. 

Bike

I felt very shaky at the start of the bike (combo of nerves and adrenaline, I imagine) and there was a notable descent with some turns right from the get-go heading back to the village, so I sat up and took some deep breaths and told myself to just calm down and take it easy until I could settle in. The 70.3 athletes were sharing the course as well and things were quite congested for most of the first lap. Temperatures started warming up fairly notably about half-way through that first lap and together, the climbing and heat really started slowing me down in lap two. 

I will say that, especially in these conditions, I did not like the fact that you either had to do special needs early or late, not right at mile 56. I ended up stopping at mile 70-something and I had been out of my liquid nutrition for some time by that point. My Coke was completely defrosted in the heat and that was a great treat. I took my two bottles out of the insulated lunch pack and then I had the brilliant idea (if I do say so myself) to take the two ice packs out and put them into my jersey pockets. I am still so proud of myself for that! I’m fairly certain I’ve never loved Jon more than I did in that moment. I also took my zip-loc baggy of pretzels and I was on my way.

Speaking of Jon, I saw him three times along the bike course, which I loved. That is one nice thing about a multi-lap course.

Even on a perfect weather day, this bike course would have been challenging (8000 something feet of climbing supposedly), but with temperatures in the mid-90s, in the full sun with no shade, it was especially challenging. By the third lap, I was picking up both water and Gatorade bottles at every aid station and I was stuffing bottles down my shirt so that I would be sure I had enough. 

As they had explained to us at the athlete briefing, the course is really 3 and 1/3rd loops. There was a split with a sign that said to continue straight ahead for laps 1, 2, and 3, but to turn right for the finish, and I was SO glad to finally make that righthand turn. 

I dismounted, handed my bike off to a volunteer, and walked into transition. There was no jogging happening here. I was double-fisting water and Gatorade as I stopped to complain to Jon about the heat, and then picked up my gear bag and headed into T2. 

Double fisting water and Gatorade as I walk into T2

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Walking into the change tent in T2

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Run 

I also walked out of T2. It was so hot and I was worried about what the run might bring. I walked to the port potty to pee for the first time since the swim (not a good sign), and then to the sunscreen station. All of a sudden a lightbulb went off and I realized I left my salt in my run gear bag. I told the volunteers and they started digging through the bags trying to find it. There was no way in hell I was going out on that run course without my Base. I ended up going back into the change tent and finding my volunteer/bag/salt in there after several minutes of searching, thus an almost 10 minute transition time! Whoops!

I finally got going and I started to jog and it was apparent pretty quickly that it was going to be a hard day. I told myself I would not be walking and I would just “trot” along because even a super slow run is better than a walk. I started counting cadence in my head “1-2-3-4 trot trotty trot trot” (yes this sounds insane – totally The Shining-esque – but it really did distract me!). I allowed myself to walk through every aid station to drink, put ice in my bra and pockets, get ice dumped on me by the volunteers, and to eat something. I walked a couple of steep hills, but other than that I really did just keep trotting. It sounds so silly to be proud of this, but I am so damn proud. I could have walked that entire run and finished in 17 hours, but I didn’t. I didn’t want to have any regrets.

After Mont Tremblant I had given Jon a lot of shit about not coming out to cheer for me after the first loop of the run and luckily, he learned his lesson. I saw him not once, not twice, but THREE times and it was such a huge boost to me. Running near the village was great anyway because of all of the spectators and the very large aid station nearby, but there is something extra special about seeing your hubs out on the course and having him give you a few words of encouragement. 

The volunteers were awesome as well. They were literally dumping cups of ice on us as we went through the aid stations. I’m sure it wasn’t fun for them to be out in that heat all day either, so I really tried to thank everyone as I went through.

For the last 2-3 miles of the run, I started feeling very lightheaded and nauseous (which I know is a sign of dehydration). I told myself to just keep moving and the sooner I could get to the finish, the sooner I could get to my husband. I did worry about passing out, but I thought about 2015 CdA and I knew my friend Ashley (and others, including Alyssa and Leslie) had finished that race in temperatures that were 10 degrees warmer. I just kept going. 

Luckily enough, some sections of the run course were shaded and you could really feel the temperature difference in those areas. 

At one point on the trail, a spectator told me I was only 2.5 blocks from the finish, but unfortunately, that was only true for spectators. The race course looped around the village and even though it sounded like we were SO close to the finish at one point, I could hear the announcer’s voice getting farther and farther away as I ran. The moral of this story is that you shouldn’t say anything about the distance to the finish if you are unsure of the actual race route.

Soon enough, I saw the finish and I got emotional. It was such a brutal day and I knew I had given it all I had. I started to tear up a bit, but kept things together. There was an older guy crossing the same time I was and I knew that might mean I wasn’t going to have a great finish line photo, but I didn’t even care. I just wanted to finish.

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I moved through the finish area very quickly and reconnected with Jon. I told him I felt like I was going to pass out. We walked very slowly, arm-in-arm, back to the hotel room, as I was chugging water. He had already taken care of getting my bike out of T2 and to Tri Bike Transport AND getting my morning clothes and gear bags back to the hotel room – husband of the year for sure!

Check out the salt on my visor/sleeves!

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Monday: Green Lake and The Nineteenth Hole

Thankfully, we planned for an extra day in Whistler after the race, which was awesome! We didn’t have to set an alarm for Monday and it gave us one more day to explore. I took Jon to Green Lake so that he could see what I could see during the run. It’s actually amazing how different it looks without all the athletes and the aid station.

Green Lake 

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After that, we decided to find somewhere outside to have a late lunch and we ended up at the golf course. The food was fantastic and the views even better. 

My final thoughts on the race are this – everyone raves about Mount Tremblant, but in my opinion, Whistler blows that course and venue completely out of the water. Yes, the multiple loops aren’t ideal, but the course is just so beautiful, and the volunteers and spectators are just so awesome. (2) Even though this was my slowest Ironman BY A LOT, I am very proud of the effort I put in on race day to get across that finish line. (3) Finally, this training cycle was extremely difficult for me, as I faced a number of personal and professional challenges, including the death of my much beloved, almost 13 year-old, Yorkie, Alexander Hamilton. I couldn’t have gotten through it without the support of Jon, Alyssa, Megan & Jen, my boss, Teresa, and others. I am so thankful for them.

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Next up for me is the Cloudsplitter 100k in October!

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Finishing Touches

Since taper started, I’ve finally had some time to focus on the non-training aspects of my race preparation. In the past few days, Alyssa and I worked on my nutrition plan for race day, I had my race wheels put on my bike (thanks, Transition Tri!), practiced changing flats, scheduled my final sports massage appointment with Peter, and revised my packing list about four thousand times.

Race wheels are on!

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My number one priority has been the SI joint/hamstring issue. I’ve had a bunch of appointments for massage and chiropractic adjustments and I’ve spent a lot of time icing my SI joint and working on my exercises to strengthen the muscles around my pelvis/hips. I’m doing all I can to be ready for race day.

9 days!!

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One Month to Go!

With just one month to go until Ironman Chattanooga, I am feeling pretty great. Don’t get me wrong – I’m definitely tired – but I’m really happy with where I am training-wise.

Since my last update, I’ve had a couple of big weeks.

Three weekends ago, I did my first-ever solo 100 mile ride on Saturday and a semi-long run on Sunday. For the run, I ran with my friend Emily along the C&O Canal Towpath from Georgetown (in D.C.) and that was a really nice change of scenery for me. I’ve never run on that path and was eager to try it out. Emily and I had a great run! I really liked having the company, as it made the time on tired legs pass more quickly. While I usually do most of my runs solo, it was definitely worth the extra time and effort to drive into D.C. with a friend to keep my motivation high after a big ride the day before.

Quick photo op in front of the canal.

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Since that training excursion worked out so well, the following weekend, I decided to do something similar for my bike. I drove up to Columbia, Maryland to ride with my friend and fellow Team HPB-er Megan. I’ve ridden in that area twice before, but not this season, so while the route was somewhat familiar, it didn’t feel boring. Getting to ask Megan a million questions about her first Ironman (at Lake Placid just a few weeks ago) was icing on the cake. I hadn’t seen her in-person since her race, so it was great to hear all of the details about her awesome day.

On the bike with Megan in Maryland.

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After riding with Megan on Saturday, I did a solo trail run on Sunday. It was a really beautiful day to get out on the trail!

The Cross County Trail (“CCT”) is a great place to run if you live in Fairfax County.

 

This past weekend, I ran (a lot!) on Saturday and then did the Reston Century Ride, which I also did in 2013, with Taryn on Sunday. It was a really beautiful day and while my time wasn’t much faster than when I did the ride in 2013, I felt a zillion times better afterward. In 2013, I could barely walk to my car after the ride, but this year, I did a nice easy run afterward and felt relatively fine.

After the Century Ride with Taryn.

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I still have a couple of big weeks to go and while I’m a little nervous about it, I’m excited, too.  Race day is almost here!

 

 

Two Months To Go!

Today marks exactly two months until Ironman Chattanooga!

 

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This past week, I have been vacillating between feelings of excitement and fear thinking about the race being so close. It felt so very far away when I registered (I volunteered at last year’s race and registered the following day), but time is going by quickly and the day I have been working so hard for is almost here. It’s an odd feeling. But I can say I am without a doubt firmly in the excited camp after a really great weekend of training and tracking!

After racing in Atlantic City and then heading right into Charlottesville Camp, Alyssa let me take two easier weeks to let my body recover before the IM build.

On Monday, we started adding back in some intensity and then this weekend, some volume, with a half marathon on Saturday and an open water swim and four hour bike on Sunday.

Saturday’s half marathon was with my awesome running group, Moms Run This Town. I am a member of the group, but also a “community partner” of the group through our real estate business. So, I was wearing two hats at the event – runner and supporter. In the latter role, we had contributed custom printed water bottles to the race goody bags and a raffle prize for race participants.

The event was a mock race, with people running various distances from 5k to half marathon, at paces from walking to 8 minute miles. This is one of the things I love about MRTT – all abilities and fitness levels are welcomed with open arms. I ran the majority of my 13.1 miles with Taryn, Emily, and Beth.

 

Major Go Pro envy! Thanks for the awesome pics, Taryn!

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We built intensity throughout the run, so while we could chat a bit at the beginning, “silent Stephanie” made an appearance as the run went on (I warned Taryn in advance that I would stop talking at some point and that I was fine, that just meant I was dying inside – HA!). Cruelly, the race ended with some climbs and I struggled a bit at the end, but we finished strong! It was a fun event and I’m really glad I went (even with the 6:30 a.m. start!).

 

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On Sunday, Taryn and I drove about 90 minutes to the site of the Fort Ritchie Triathlon. The actual race is happening next weekend, but the race organizers planned a practice swim for the prior weekend and even though we aren’t doing the race, we thought it made sense to take advantage of the opportunity to get in an open water swim practice. Those opportunities are pretty few and far between, so I was excited to get in the water for my fifth open water swim of the year.

 

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The water was very clear and quite warm. I swam in my Roka swim skin, although some people did wear wetsuits. The course was set up as a 500 meter course. Taryn and I decided to do 2000 meters continuous to make the long drive worth it. I don’t often do long continuous swims, so this was good for me and also a great opportunity to practice sighting.

After the swim, we got on our bikes and rode the Fort Ritchie Olympic bike course. We were so thankful the course was marked because there were some tricky turns and we weren’t at all familiar with the course. We did two loops of the Olympic course and then added some mileage at the end to get to four hours total for the ride. Let me tell you, this course is no joke. I didn’t have my Garmin, but Taryn said we did well-over 3000 feet of climbing throughout the ride. There was one long gradual climb that seemed to never end. I won’t publicly out Taryn’s bad reality T.V. habit 😉  , but I was glad she was doing the talking on that climb the first time up (I think we were both quiet for the second go-round!).

 

Taryn and I post-swim and ride. Taryn is training for IM Louisville, which is just a couple of weeks after IM Choo, so we have been able to do quite a bit of our training together.

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So, it was a great training weekend for me! Basically, we did a half Ironman over the two days. Not an epic weekend, but certainly a solid one!

The only bad part was that I had terrible cell reception where we were swimming and riding, so I could not track my amazing Team HPB teammates racing IM Lake Placid! Taryn can vouch for the fact that I was thinking about them ALL day and wondering how they were doing!

As soon as I got home, I immediately sat down in front of my computer to track everyone (unfortunately for my husband, I did not even shower first and I’m sure by that point in the day, I smelled amazing!). As I expected, they all did GREAT! It was so inspiring watching them all cross the finish line online and that made me even more excited for Chattanooga. In case I haven’t said it lately, I love my team!

So, that’s where I am with two months to go. I’m excited, happy, and feeling strong. I’m sure there will be plenty of lows still to come and I know I have a lot of hard work ahead of me, but for right now, I’m going to enjoy riding this high!

 

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Training Update – June 2015

With Ironman Chattanooga just 3 months and 16 days away (but who’s counting, right?!) I think I’m overdue for a training update.

My training volume has definitely started to increase, both for Challenge Atlantic City (70.3) later this month and Ironman Chattanooga in September. Things are generally going well and I’m happy with where I am with this much time to go. I’ve had a few struggles with scheduling/ time management/ balance, but I think that happens to everyone in this sport. I know finishing an Ironman is important to me, so I will find a way to make it work, but I also don’t want my family or work to suffer. That’s going to continue to be a challenge, but I am up for the task.

Here is a brief overview of where things are right now.

Swim

As has always been the case for me, my swimming is a bit hit or miss. While I do have great swimming days on occasion, there are plenty of less-than-great swimming days, too. This is definitely the toughest of the three sports for me mentally. I’m plugging away, though, and actually feeling better about open water swimming after Monticelloman and, more recently, the Jim McDonnell Lake Swim. The latter was both my longest continuous swim and longest open water swim ever, at a full 2 miles.

I was definitely tired by the end of the Lake Swim, but I stayed calm (which is HUGE for me in open water) and kept what felt like a fairly steady pace throughout. It was an enormous confidence boost for me to know that I can swim that far leading into Chattanooga. While I certainly wasn’t setting any speed records, I finished in a respectable 1:14:51. I was happy with my time.

I was so glad to have two of my Team HPB teammates at the swim!

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With some Snapple Team ladies before the race.

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A week or so after the Lake Swim (all the training days are starting to blend together!) I swam with Taryn at the Hains Point (D.C.) outdoor 50 meter pool and that was a really nice change of pace for me. I think I will try to do that again when I need a little extra motivation to get swimming.

Yesterday, I did a swim I have been doing for years (this is my third year on Team HPB and this is a regular in our rotation) and had better times than I have had in months (and I think maybe my second best times ever), so I was super pleased with that.

So, generally good news on the swim front!

Bike

The bike is definitely where I have spent the most time and effort of late. I’ve done two long rides – one 70 miler and one 85 miler – both with Taryn. I have another 85 mile ride on tap for this weekend. I actually like long rides (we’ll see if I am still saying that at the end of the summer) and love the feeling of accomplishment when I’m done!

Taryn and I rode through some beautiful areas in rural Maryland on our most recent ride.

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I’ve also started back up with some regular group rides and those are a real challenge for me. I’m in-between groups with one being slightly too slow and one being slightly too fast. I’d really like to be able to stay with the currently too-fast group for an entire ride start-to-finish without falling off the back (or being dropped completely, which is what happened last night) by the end of the summer. We’ll see.

Run

I’m still feeling a bit uncertain about my running. I had some hamstring issues during my spring road racing season and although I thought they had started to clear up, I had a bit of a relapse recently. I’m hoping it was related to some travel and being out of my routine, but I’m not sure. I have a longer run on tap for this weekend and I’m interested to see how the hamstring fares during that one.

Today, I did a speed workout on the track and while I definitely thought I might puke, and at one point debated laying down on the field during a rest interval, I always feel stronger after an effort like that (once the misery subsides).

While I’m feeling pretty positive about where I am in all three sports, I know I have a long way to go and a lot of work to do between now and the Ironman. I’m expecting lows along with the highs, but trying to stay focused on the positives. Speaking of, I recently found out my in-laws are coming to Chattanooga to cheer for me during the Ironman, which is AWESOME and adds an extra layer of motivation for me to train hard and have a great race!

Happy training!

May Favorites

I’ve really enjoyed putting together these favorites posts and while I usually stop at five favorites each month, this month I really had to narrow down my list to get to just six things! I guess that means I had a pretty great May!

Here are my favorites for this month:

1. New Recipes

Even though I haven’t posted many recipes lately, I am still plugging away with the plant-based diet. Unfortunately, one of the reasons I haven’t been posting recently is that I’ve tried a bunch of recipes that have only been so-so. I’m always so bummed when I put in the time and effort to find, grocery shop for, and then prepare a new dish and don’t love the final product. If I put in that much effort, I want the food to be stellar. Fortunately, I’ve had two winners this month and both were actually quite easy to make!

First, if you like Chipotle sofritas, you need to try this sofritas recipe from Yup, It’s Vegan!. The great part about this recipe is that it is super versatile – you could make burritos, salads, rice bowls, etc. using whatever toppings you like. I made burritos with black beans, green peppers, onion, pico de gallo, and guacamole. The seasoning was perfect – spicy, but not too spicy. This is definitely a recipe I will make again.

Second, I’m sharing yet another recipe from Minimalist Baker. I’ve shared several of her recipes on the blog before because they are always delicious and usually quite easy to make. This recipe for sweet potato black bean burgers satisfies both of those criteria. I will definitely make these again! I wish they had a slightly higher protein content, so I want to think about ways I can give that a boost. I’m thinking about trying to double the amount of black beans, but I’m not sure what impact that will have on consistency or taste. If I try it, I will definitely report back. In the meantime, try these burgers!

Making the Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers was quick and easy.

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2. Training Partners

I’ve traditionally done almost all of my training alone, but this month, I’ve been able to coordinate quite a few training sessions with friends.

Don’t get me wrong – I love alone time and that is one of my favorite things about training, actually. I like time by myself to think. That being said, though, now that I regularly work from home by myself, with my hubs at the office, it is nice to have some human interaction from time-to-time. I also find it makes the training time pass so much more quickly.

Luckily, there are lots of great triathletes in the Northern Virginia area and there really is no shortage of people I can tag along with for a swim, bike, or run. In fact, every single weekend in the month of May, I was able to workout with a friend.

At the very beginning of the month, I got to ride around Charlottesville with Alyssa after Monticelloman. It’s always a treat to get to ride with her and even though I was tired after the race, I was super excited to get some time on the bike with my coach. I’m looking forward to riding with Alyssa even more during her tri camp in Charlottesville this July.

The weekend after Monticelloman, I had the pleasure of swimming with some local Team HPB ladies. Cris, who I rode Skyline with last month, celebrated her birthday with a 10k “birthday swim” and she invited several friends and team HPB-ers to join in on the “fun” (use of quotes there intentional). I came for the second half of the swim and, with Team HPB’s Megan, helped pace Cris to the finish line.

Cris, in the center, finishing her 10k swim, with Megan on the left.

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The following weekend, I got to ride with Taryn at the Friends of Homeless Animals charity ride. We had an awesome time and her company made a challenging day so much more fun!

And, this past weekend, I rode with Megan after the Jim McDonnell Lake Swim Sunday (which I hope to blog about soon) and then with Mindy and Katie yesterday! It was such a great weekend, and even though it kicked my butt, I had a blast!

Since coordinating the schedules of busy triathletes is no easy task, I doubt this streak is going to continue, but I hope to plan for at least a few more coordinated training sessions leading into IM Chattanooga.

3. Vega Snack Bars

I’ve mentioned Vega products a few times on the blog before. I’m a big fan of their recovery products and have been since I sampled them at Hillary’s Tucson camp in 2014. Vega products are vegan, but I used them even before I adopted a plant-based diet because they taste better than a lot of the other sports nutrition products on the market.

More recently, I’ve tried their snack bars and I am equally impressed with the quality and taste of those. I had purchased a few individual bars from Whole Foods and then those same flavors in bulk from Vitacost, and then Vega was kind enough to send me the other flavors to try, along with a great new smoothie cup!

Thanks, Vega!

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Vega Snack Bars come in five flavors: Dark Chocolate Cashew Cherry, Dark Chocolate Mixed Nuts & Sea Salt, Cranberry Almond, Coconut Cashew, and my personal favorite, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup. All five flavors are available on the Vitacost website, and if you use my refer-a-friend link, you will get $10 off your order.

These are great to throw in your office desk drawer, gym bag, briefcase, or purse for when you need a quick and healthy snack on the go. I learned the hard way that the flavors that don’t have chocolate are better for leaving in the car, since you don’t have the melted chocolate to make your fingers messy. All are quite satisfying and tasty.

4. FlipBelt

My mom recently bought me a FlipBelt as a gift. I’ve seen these before on social media, but never in-person and was very excited to give the FlipBelt a try.

In particular, I was excited about using it to hold my iPhone 6 Plus, which is too large to fit in any pocket (I didn’t really think about that when I bought it!), but which I want to carry with me, especially on trail runs when I’m by myself, in case of an emergency.

The great thing about the Flip Belt is that it is basically a waistband for a yoga pant – i.e., stretchy, wide, and comfortable, with no bounce. I actually forgot I was wearing it on my first test run!

I own another brand of race belt that I purchased a few years ago, but my new, larger phone barely fits inside and there is definitely a bounce factor. I rarely ever use it.

If you are looking for something to hold your phone, keys, and gels for long runs, and especially if you own a larger phone, you should check out FlipBelt. Thanks, Mom!

5. Trail Running

Never did I think that “trail running” would ever appear in a “favorites” post of mine. Even though I am fortunate enough to have a beautiful trail practically right outside my door, I’ve never been a trail runner. I’ve run trails only a few times in all of my years of running and racing  – in Tucson at tri camp, in Bend at Oiselle camp, and once or twice at home here in Virginia, when Alyssa has specifically assigned me a trail run. The local trail runs I have done have always been short and I haven’t explored very much, so I didn’t really realize what I’ve been missing all of these years.

A couple of weeks ago, Alyssa assigned me another trail run – this time a bit longer – so I headed out on the “CCT” a bit apprehensive, but willing to have an open mind. It only took me about 10 minutes to run from my doorstep to the trail and just a few minutes after that, THIS was my view:

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It doesn’t get much more beautiful than that!

This weekend, I went out on the same trail again, this time running a bit farther than the last. I find trail running tires out my legs more quickly than running on pavement (I’m assuming because I’m using different muscles), but I couldn’t help but enjoy the scenery and, now that it is getting warmer, the shade!

Photo from this weekend’s run.

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I’m looking forward to doing more trail running now that I have realized I have this great trail so close to home. And, who knows – maybe a trail race will be my next “what’s next?” after Ironman!

6. Vegan Desserts

(I just realized that 3 of my 6 favorites for this month involve food. I guess I’ve been eating just as much as I have been training!)

I don’t want to turn into a “junk food vegan” – I really want to maintain a mostly healthy, whole food, minimaly-processed, plant-based diet. That being said, I have a sweet tooth and I like to have a treat from time-to-time.

This month, I tried two great vegan desserts: So Delicious Peanut Butter Zig-Zag non-dairy frozen dessert & Daiya New York Cheezcake.

So Delicious Peanut Butter Zig-Zag Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert 

Even though this ice cream is dairy-free and made from soy, it doesn’t have a noticeable “not-real-ice-cream” taste. The consistency is smooth and creamy, as you would expect from a dairy-based ice cream. While I definitely plan to try more flavors, I really enjoyed the Peanut Butter Zig Zag’s chocolate and peanut butter combo: “[s]crumptious peanut butter and chocolate flakes swirled in a rich chocolate non-dairy frozen dessert base.” This is a rich and delicious dessert. Note that if you visit the So Delicious website (linked above) you can download product coupons.

Daiya New York Cheezecake

The Daiya cheesecake is equally decadent. I had seen a few posts about these new cheesecakes on social media, so when I saw them in the freezer section of my local Whole Foods, I knew I needed to give them a try. I bought the New York Cheezecake flavor (there are 3 other flavor options), and as a cheesecake lover (we actually had mini cheesecakes at our wedding reception instead of wedding cake), I was skeptical, but hopeful!

I followed the instructions on the package for thawing (this is important to note – you need to thaw this in the fridge for several hours, so don’t expect to take it straight out of the freezer and dig in!). One bite and I was hooked. Everything was right – the flavor, texture, and consistency. I will definitely try another flavor (probably the chocolate) the next time I stop by Whole Foods. Try one and let me know what you think!

Realtor Magazine Article & MooMotion Interview

Finally, since this will be my last post in May, I wanted to mention two media pieces I was fortunate enough to be included in this month.

First, I was interviewed by Melissa from MooMotion for a post on the MooMotion blog about training for my first 140.6.

Second, I was included in an article in Realtor Magazine about scheduling exercise into the work day, which can be difficult in a field where your schedule often varies significantly from day-to-day. I’m quoted in the sidebar that includes a list of ideas for doing so on the right side of the article.

I had such a great month and hope you did, too!

 

 

What is Next?

Since its inception, the tagline for my blog has been “Trying to be my best self.” That phrase perfectly encapsulates the purpose of my journey to this point as a runner and triathlete. The fact of the matter is that I’m never going to win any races, or qualify for Kona, or go pro, but I can develop myself as a person through these pursuits. I believe I have developed as a person through swimming, biking, and running over the past several years.
 
I never really did anything athletic growing up. I took a couple of years of figure skating lessons, played one season of field hockey when I was 9 or 10, and that was really it. Even in school gym class, though, it was obvious I didn’t possess any athletic talents. I never have and never will. That’s just how it is.
 
In college, I started running on the treadmill at the campus fitness center to burn off the copious amounts of beer and pizza I consumed my freshman year. That’s when I first discovered how great running made me feel about myself. I still remember how amazing I felt – accomplished, really – the first time I ran a full 5 miles on the treadmill. The power of that experience was incredible. It may sound odd, but simply put, I felt better about myself after that run.
 
After college, I went to law school and other things were happening in my life. I moved a few times. I had lots of stops and starts with running. Then, in the fall of 2008, I decided that I wanted to start running again – and this time, I was not going to stop. I was going to stick with it and become a “real runner.” I started with run/walking and my (very modest) goal was to run at least three times a week.
 
Soon enough, I got up the courage to register for my first race (in full disclosure, I actually had registered for a race previously, during the “stops and starts” phase of my running life, but I never even made it to the start line of that one). My first race would be a half marathon in Annapolis, MD in May of 2009. I slowly built up my running mileage in training and with every new milestone that amazing feeling of accomplishment came rushing back – a feeling of strength and confidence. It was exhilarating.
 
Of course, I was scared (actually, terrified) about running 13.1 miles. I wasn’t sure if I could do it. But, come race day, I did. The process of training for and completing that first race really solidified for me the value of setting an athletic goal and working my a@s off to achieve it.
 
My second race was the 2009 Richmond Marathon and that was, undoubtedly, one of the best experiences of my life. Again, I was very scared about signing-up and I questioned whether I could do it. I experienced lots of emotional ups and downs training for the marathon (there were even some tears). But, when all was said and done, I crossed that finish line. I was beaming. I can’t even really express in words how I felt finishing that race. I could barely wrap my head around the fact that I was strong enough to run 26.2 miles. I did it. It was just me out there, on my own, and I did it. There is no feeling more amazing than doing something you just didn’t think you were capable of doing. My sense of personal pride and accomplishment was immeasurable. 
 
And, since then, I have continued on, challenging myself with new tests, setting new goals, pushing my limits, all in an effort to be my “best self.” I started beginner swimming lessons and bought a bike so that I could race my first triathlon in 2012. In 2013, I completed my first century ride. A year ago, in February of 2014, I attended a triathlon camp in Tucson and rode to the top of Mt. Lemmon. Last summer, I finished my first 70.3. In the fall, I challenged myself with another marathon (number 5) and had my best finish time ever. But, I’m not done. I want to continue to grow and develop myself as a person.
 
So, the obvious question, then, is: “what is next?”. What is the next scary, seemingly impossible, goal I will set for myself to continue on this journey to being my best self? The answer to that question is reflected in what will be the new tagline for my blog for the next 7 months: “Training for my first Ironman.”
 
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