Race Report: Ironman Mont Tremblant

It’s been more than one month since I raced Ironman Mont Tremblant and I’m finally getting around to writing up my race report. It’s a bit overwhelming thinking about how to sum up a 13+ hour day in one blog post, which is part of why it has taken me so long to get my thoughts on the blog. I also went on a trip to Europe post-race, which was AMAZING, but I will have to write about that another day. In any case, here is my race report.

The hubs and I headed up to Mont Tremblant on the Thursday before the race. My friend, Taryn, who I have mentioned many (many!) times before on this blog was racing, as were a few new friends I’ve made through a local women’s multisport group (message me if you want more info on joining up with that group!). I met up with two of these ladies, Sarah and Ashley, before the athlete briefing on Friday night.

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One of my Ignite teammates, Kevin, was also racing, as were several other athletes from the D.C. area. I loved seeing familiar faces in the days leading up to the race in and around the expo and transition. For the most part, I tried to stay off my feet but for a few short workouts to shake things out before the big day.

On Friday, Taryn and I rode part of the bike course together and, honestly, it scared the living daylights out of me. The section we rode was quite hilly and I think I was riding maybe 12 miles an hour average during the ride. Yikes! I went to bed on Saturday night excited about the race, but very nervous at the same time, knowing this would be a much more challenging bike course than I faced in Chattanooga last year. Of course, I hoped for a good day, but you never really know how things are going to go until you’re out there.

Race Day

On race morning, I reminded myself that in Chattanooga, things did not go as I would have hoped on the bike, but I was able to overcome those challenges and still have a great day. As I wrote on Facebook: “The good thing about having multiple flat tires in your first Ironman is that you know you can overcome (almost) any obstacles that come your way on race day!”

I met up with Taryn and we walked together to the swim start.

Before the race, Taryn, Ashley, and I got into the water and warmed up a bit, where we ran into Kate H., who is on Team HPB. It was very comforting to have the ladies to hang out with before the start. Soon enough our wave was called. Ashley and I walked into the water together and off we went. 

The Swim: 1:38:25 (86/112 AG)

I never really felt like I settled into the swim. I tried to get on some feet, but I just never felt like I was on the “right” feet. The swim continues to be something I need to improve on – and I will. Swim conditions were rough, especially during the section parallel to the beach and I’m a slower swimmer to begin with, so I honestly wondered when I got out of the water whether I had even gone under two hours. Yeah, it felt like I was out there a *really* long time. I didn’t wear a watch, but when I looked at the clock at the swim exit, I knew that while I was slower than I had hoped, I was not close to 2:00 (thank goodness!).

The run from the swim exit to T1 is quite long. I saw Jon and Taryn’s husband along the way and I said something to Jon about hating swimming and then scooted into the transition tent to change.

It had started raining as I was running to the change tent. We knew from stalking the weather forecast in the days leading up to the race that it was going to be a wet day, but I was hoping for intermittent light showers.

The Bike: 6:39:59 (47/112 AG)

Unfortunately, it was basically pouring rain throughout the entire bike ride (for me, at least) and I tried to balance riding safely with pushing the pace where I could. As you may have heard, there were numerous crashes along the course. Riding past bloody athletes laying on the side of the road was frightening, honestly, but I’ve ridden in the rain a lot this year and I know how to ride safely in rainy conditions. In addition to the rain, there was quite a bit of wind and I was afraid to ride in my aerobars at certain points during the ride (especially thinking about Alyssa’s windy crash earlier this year). But honestly my number one priority was staying upright and if that meant sitting up a bit, that was fine with me.

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I finished the bike in just under 6:40. The best part of the ride was that I had ZERO flats! I moved up from 86 to 47 in my age group, meaning I passed a lot of ladies on the bike. I was feeling good.

The Run: 4:56:43 (43/112 AG)

I loved the run the Chattanooga, so I was super excited to start my run. I saw Jon again as I was running out of the change tent. I waved to him and off I went.

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The first loop of the run went relatively well. I was pretty happy with my pace, especially since my stomach was not cooperating (this has been an issue for me at every race this year and is obviously something I need to address). However, when I got back to the village at the end of the first loop of the two loop course, I didn’t see Jon and I started feeling deflated when I realized I had to run the entire loop again. That’s when the wheels starting coming off. I really struggled on the second loop. I stopped to walk several times (which I did *not* do in Chattanooga). I was able to coax myself back into running, but I was definitely feeling down on myself for walking. I started spiraling a bit into negative thoughts. I reached halfway in 2:21:41 and really wish I would have been able to maintain that pace for the second loop. 

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I finished the run in barely under 5:00. This is my biggest disappointment and regret of the day. In my next Ironman, I *will* run the entire way. 

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What I liked about this race:

Mont Tremblant is gorgeous!

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We stayed in the village at Tour des Voyageurs, which is right next to transition and the finish line. We were within walking distance to many restaurants and a small grocery store. We parked our car and didn’t have to move it the entire time we were in Mont Tremblant. I would definitely recommend staying in the village if you race IMMT. It’s just so convenient.

I also really liked the bike course. If it hadn’t been raining, I think the bike would have been a lot of fun because of the opportunity to gain speed on the descents. I had to ride conservatively on the descents because of the slick conditions this year, but on a nice day, I think they would have been a blast.

What I didn’t like about this race:

The run is largely on a trail, so there are few spectators to cheer you on. In Chattanooga, I relied heavily on the awesome crowd support to get through my run and I really (really!) missed having that here.

Overall, I am happy with my day and proud to have finished a second Ironman. As always, I wouldn’t have been able to do this without Alyssa’s amazing guidance and support. She is the best! And a huge thanks to Jon, of course, for continuing to support my triathlon goals.

I’m not sure if I will race 140.6 again next year or not, but I know I want to do another Ironman at some point for sure.

Next up for me is the Marine Corps Marathon on October 30, which I am running for Team Fisher House. If you aren’t familiar with Fisher House, a Fisher House is a home where military and veterans’ families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving treatment. These homes are located at major military and VA medical centers nationwide, close to the medical center or hospital they serve. The program began in 1990, and has offered more than six million days of lodging to more than 277,000 families. Fisher House has earned four stars (out of four) from Charity Navigator and an A+ grade from Charity Watch.

If you are so inclined to make a donation to my fundraising effort, please know that we are extremely grateful for your contribution, no matter how large or small. Every little bit helps!

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Post-Ironman Recovery and Planning for 2016

It’s now been over two weeks since I finished Ironman Chattanooga and I am still on my post-race high! I’m not sure I can adequately describe my feelings in words, but suffice it to say, the race was one of the best experiences of my life and I can’t wait to do it again!

Since the race, I’ve been taking it easy. My first draft of this post used the word “lazy” but I’m trying to be better about positive self-talk. So, I’m telling myself I’m “giving my body the break it deserves” after such an enormous undertaking.

Truthfully, though, my physical recovery has gone better than I anticipated. The day after the race, I was sore, but I didn’t feel as bad as I had expected. This may have been a result of pounding calories during and after the race, but maybe that is just wishful thinking on my part. 🙂 In the following days, the only thing that really hurt was my left hamstring, which had been bothering me leading up to the race, so that wasn’t a big surprise. The important thing is that it held up during the race itself (thanks again, Peter!).

During the past two weeks, I haven’t worked out much at all. I’ve done a couple of short runs and rides (on my road bike), TRX class three times, some home workout DVDs, and that’s basically it. I initially ate whatever I wanted, too – which turned out to be an embarrassing amount of vegan junk food (I discovered, unfortunately, that there are WAY too many amazingly delicious vegan junk food options on the market!). But after about ten days, I needed to get back to eating more normally. Ten days is definitely the longest I can survive living like that.

I am still a bit out of sorts scheduling-wise. This has been the hardest part of post-race recovery for me. I think I thrive when I’m in a structured routine and not having that these past two weeks has thrown me a bit off-center. My time management is actually worse, even though I would have expected the opposite since I have so much more free time now. I’ll be glad to get back on a normal schedule next week.

Now that the Ironman is over, I’ve started planning out my 2016 season. Choosing races is always so much fun!

As I’ve already mentioned, I’ll be running the L.A. Marathon in February. This will be my 6th stand-alone marathon. I’m excited to focus on running for a while, although I am somewhat nervous about the hamstring holding up. We shall see how that goes.

My first tri of the season will be Rev3 Knoxville (half) in May and then I’ll be racing Toughman Tupper Lake Tinman in June. My “A” race of the season will be Mont Tremblant on August 21st. These will all be new races for me and I’m so excited to experience them for the first time.

I may add a local half marathon or ten miler in the spring, depending on scheduling, and I’d like to go back to Team HPB tri camp in Tucson, as well. It’s always so tricky to fit everything in!

I’m actually super excited about Tinman, which jumped out at me because I spent many childhood summers vacationing in Tupper Lake, New York.

Tupper Lake, NY, circa summer 1988? (age 7?). In my mind, that was a beautiful sandcastle.
I’ll be swimming in that water at Tinman.

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Tupper Lake is an absolutely gorgeous area and should be beautiful for racing. Tinman is also a smaller and very affordable race, which really appealed to me, as well. When my mom told me my parents would come to the race if I picked that one, that sealed the deal for me! They’ve never seen me race a triathlon before, so that’s going to be huge. I’m also really looking forward to setting some new goals for the half-iron distance, now that I have three 70.3s under my belt. I think I’ll have more confidence to actually race them now, too, since I know I can survive twice that distance in a race.

In addition to my parents coming to Tinman, Taryn will be joining me at Knoxville and Mont Tremblant, and Ashley at the L.A. Marathon, so I’ll have lots of company at my races next season.

I really couldn’t be more pleased with the year I had this year and I’m super excited about what’s to come in 2016!

 

Race Report: Ironman Chattanooga

One year ago, I volunteered at an aid station on the Ironman Chattanooga run course. The following day, I registered for the 2015 edition of the race. Every day since, I’ve worked toward one goal: becoming an Ironman. On Sunday, my dream came true.

Thanks for the screenshot of my finish, Leslie!

Pre-Race

We left for Chattanooga on Wednesday, the 23rd. With this being my first IM, I wanted to get into town early to make sure I had plenty of time to get settled and not feel rushed. The drive took about eight and a half hours, which wasn’t awful. When we arrived, I went for a short run to scope out the area. Our hotel location was great! If you are thinking about doing this race, I would definitely recommend staying at the Doubletree. We were just a couple of blocks away from transition and numerous restaurants in every direction (there is also a Whole Foods about a five minute drive away). Our room, although on the smaller side, had a mini fridge and microwave, which always makes race morning breakfast easier.

On Thursday morning, I did a short ride around the Chickamauga Civil War battlefield in Georgia. I had posted in the Ironman Chattanooga Facebook Group (definitely join this group if you plan on doing the race) asking for recommendations for rides without a lot of traffic and several people suggested I drive to the Battlefield and ride there. After riding there myself, I understand why this is a popular place for cyclists. I definitely recommend it as a safe and scenic place to ride for anyone doing the race next year. It wasn’t very far away (about a 20 minute drive from transition) and there was ample parking at the Visitor’s Center. There isn’t a lot of traffic and the cars I did encounter gave me plenty of room. It was also gorgeous and I lucked out with a perfect weather day, too. I felt great and loved the scenery – I really could have kept riding all day!

I just had to stop and take a picture of this scene. Two monuments in a field of hay bales. 

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Later in the day, I went for a short swim at the Chickamauga Marina. This is another place to check out if you’re doing the race next year and want a good practice swim spot (the lawyer in me feels the need to say that you swim at your own risk at the Marina, as there are no lifeguards on duty). The water was super shallow in spots, but it was still good to get in the open water and it felt much safer than jumping in the Tennessee River by myself!

The Marina.

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I also went to the Athlete Village to check-in, pick up my bib and chip, and shop on Thursday. There is an option to do athlete check-in on Friday, but I wanted to get this taken care of on Thursday to give myself plenty of time to figure out the gear bags! My last “to do” for Thursday was attending the athlete briefing.

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On Friday, I got my bags together, drove the bike course, and attended the Team HPB team dinner. Alyssa and three of her athletes (including myself) were racing and it was nice for everyone to get together for some social time before the race. Whiting was in town from Boulder to do the race and Leah from Salt Lake City. We had a great time chatting and getting to know each other.

I checked, double checked, and triple checked my lists for my gear and special needs bags.

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On Saturday, Whiting and I met in the morning to join about 30 other racers for an informal practice swim in the River. We also ran into Leah and her family there. Last year, there was a formal practice swim put on by the race organizers, but they did not include one on the schedule for this year. So, a group of athletes organized a practice swim via the Facebook Group. It was really nice to have Whiting as a buddy in the water. We swam together (she is a much faster swimmer than me, but we kept an eye out for each other as we went), which made it feel a lot less scary. The water temperature was perfect.

After our swim, Whiting and I went for a short ride together and then we turned in our gear bags and checked our bikes. I must say, it felt sort of weird to give away all of my stuff. It’s hard to hand over control of these important pieces of gear pre-race. I did a short run back to my hotel and then we met up with Jon’s parents, who had just gotten into town for the race. We went for an early dinner together and then I went back to the hotel to rest my legs.

Race Day

Whiting and I had planned to meet outside of hotel at 5:15 to walk to transition. I was following her lead since this was my first IM and her fourth. We dropped off our special needs bags and then went to set up our bikes. I will talk more about that later. After we finished up with our bikes, we got on shuttle buses to ride to the swim start.

The Swim

When I woke up on race morning, they had already posted on the official Facebook Page that the race would be wetsuit optional. Alyssa and I had discussed in advance that if that was the case, I would wear my ROKA swimskin. Even though I am not a strong swimmer, I am much more comfortable in my swimskin than my wetsuit, so I was actually pretty happy about this news. More people than I expected decided to wear wetsuits anyway. They started after the rest of the racers and weren’t eligible for awards.

In any case, after we got off the shuttle bus, we walked quite a distance to get to the end of the line for the swim start. This race has a first come, first served-style rolling start. I was so lucky to have Whiting to wait with in the morning before the swim. We took turns holding our spot in line and using the porta potties and stayed together right up until we made it to the dock and it was time to jump in the water. If you do this race in the future (which I do recommend you do!) know that the swim start line moves quickly once it gets started. Be ready to hustle! It’s kind of a frantic start, but maybe that’s better for someone like me who will freak out if I stop and think about what I am about to do.

I had a great swim. I didn’t panic and kept moving. I even tried to get on some feet to draft, although I need to work on picking the right feet (I was either behind someone too slow or too fast every time I tried this!). I am so very glad I did the Jim McDonnell Lake Swim earlier this year. I think that really helped my swimming confidence, since I knew I could swim two miles continuously (even though that was a wetsuit swim for me and this was not). I kept what felt like a steady pace throughout.

My swim time ended up being 1:12:52, which was quite good for me, especially without the wetsuit (it would have been a good time for me even considering the current, which people are saying saved around 11-12 minutes).

When I got out of the water I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to spot Jon! I gave him a shout and a wave. Then, as I was running toward transition, I saw my friend Mindy! I was so excited to see her!11071079_10100292733346851_8929630772715957320_n

The Bike

So, back to the morning in transition before the race began. When I got to my bike in the morning, there was a tube draped across my seat. I thought that was odd, but, at least initially, didn’t think into it any further than that. I put my bottles on my bike and then proceeded to try to inflate my tires. The front tire was fine, but I was unable to put any air in my rear tire. Something wasn’t right with my valve extender, even though it had been fine on Thursday for my ride around the Battlefield. Then I realized my bike was in a different gear than I had left it the day before. Whiting speculated that one of the bike support folks noticed I had a flat and changed the tube out for me. This definitely gave me some pause at the time. After some hemming and hawing, though, I decided that I would just leave the rear wheel alone since surely they had pumped up the tires when they changed out the tube that morning (or, at most, the day before). And, hey, that meant all of my bad flat tire luck was clearly out of the way, since the chances of me getting a second flat in one day would be slim to none, right? I thought I should just be thankful that a “flat tire fairy” saved my day and not stress about it. In hindsight, I probably should have trusted my instincts that something was wrong and taken the time to get it checked out by one of the on-site mechanics.

Fast forward to the race. To make the very long and upsetting story short, within two miles into the bike course I got another flat and from then until I finally got mechanical support at the first penalty tent (maybe around mile 25?), I just could not keep air in my rear tire. It was just one flat after the next. Yes, I did check the tire, but I couldn’t find anything wrong with it. I did try to have a volunteer radio for bike support, but they indicated they were busy helping other people and couldn’t get to me. I felt completely helpless.

All I kept thinking about was this Norman Stadler clip.

As I stopped, I had to beg other racers for tubes/cartridges as they were riding by because I ran out (in the athlete meeting they indicated this was permitted under the rules). People were awesome and I am so thankful for their generosity. I kept thinking that I would fix it (I know that sounds crazy, but I really kept thinking that).

Finally, after several unsuccessful stops attempting to fix the issue myself, I decided I just had to get myself to an aid station and wait for mechanical support, no matter how long it would take, because clearly I wasn’t able to deal with this on my own. At one point, I had asked a volunteer about walking to the next aid station, but he said it was too far. I ended up riding on a flat tire (yes, I know this is bad) to the next aid station where finally they were able to radio to get me help. Spectators kept yelling at me that I had a flat tire as I rode by.

When the bike tech arrived, he inspected the tire and agreed that wasn’t the problem. He took everything apart and found that my rim tape had gotten bunched up (I’m sure there is a more technical way to describe this) and that was causing the flats (in my race wheels, I need the rim tape to protect the tube from the spoke holes in the wheel). I hadn’t even thought about checking that. The bike tech recognized my bike and said he was the one who had fixed my first flat in transition on race morning.

Since I had ridden without incident at the Battlefield on Thursday, something obviously happened either during my short ride on Saturday, in transition over night, or during the first couple of miles of the race that led to the tape slipping. I’ll probably never know for sure what that was, but obviously the timing was unfortunate.

After he finally got everything back together and ready to go, a total of almost an hour of non-moving time had passed. I was worried I wouldn’t make the bike cut off after so many stops and so much wasted time. I wasn’t even sure what the bike cut off was, but I knew there was one and that I was way behind. The mechanic and another athlete who was stopped at the aid station told me I could still finish before the cut off, so after I gave them hugs, off I went.

Once I finally got going, I was really trying to balance the urge to make up time and the knowledge that going too hard too early (I wasn’t even a quarter of the way into the bike leg at this point) would only make my day worse. I tried to work, but not go crazy. I ended up riding at a little over 17 miles an hour average pace, which felt hard, but definitely wasn’t killing me.

My Garmin had autopaused during all of the stops and recorded me finishing the 116 mile bike course in 6:35:35, which would have exceeded my expectations going into the race by almost a half hour (I was thinking I would be right around 7:00).

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Of course, I understand that 6:35 wasn’t actually my time, but I really want to try to focus on the good parts of the day and not let the unfortunate bike issues overshadow what was otherwise a magical experience.

While all of this was happening, Jon had taken over my Facebook and Twitter accounts to keep my friends and family updated on my progress throughout the day (although, some of his funniest posts were updates on his activities). He had done this during my first 70.3 as well.

One of Jon’s tweets from the race.

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The Run

For obvious reasons, I was ELATED to get off of my bike and start running. With this being my first Ironman, I had no idea what to expect from my body on the run. I knew I needed to just take it slow and steady, one step at a time.

I had a blast on the run.

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I really wanted to run the entire way because Leslie convinced me that even a slow run is better than walking. I kept thinking of her and my friend Emily, who I did most of my longer runs with this summer. Emily and I would never stress over pace on our long runs. We would just run and talk and it never felt like a chore and we always got in the miles (or time). I told myself to run relaxed, but steady, just like I was running long with Emily.

I must say that the miles actually ticked by very quickly. I wasn’t super focused on my pace, but knew I was staying in the right ballpark, even with the significant hills on the run course. I was sick of gels, but knew I needed to eat, so I ate things I normally wouldn’t – bananas, pretzels, grapes. When my stomach would start to go, I would switch to pretzels one at a time and Coke. I think everyone’s stomach feels awful at this point in the race and it’s really just about managing that discomfort as best you can.

I kept passing mile markers and once I hit halfway, I KNEW I was going to finish before midnight. It’s funny because another lady I was running with said the same exact thing. We both knew at that point that even walking we would make it.

I finished the run in 4:45:37. That’s actually my third fastest marathon time ever. Alyssa had told me she thought I could run that fast and I thought she was insane. One of the (many) traits that makes her an awesome coach is that she really believes in us, even when we don’t believe in ourselves.

Overall my run splits were pretty even (fastest was 10:05, slowest 11:52 on a hilly section). One of the highlights of my day was text messaging Leslie after the race to tell her that I didn’t walk!

When I approached the finish chute, I was so immensely happy. I saw Alyssa and she said something like “you did it!” I was so glad to see her. I was definitely crying tears of joy. The volunteer who “caught me” asked me if something was wrong – presumably because of the tears. I said I was fine and that I was just really happy. The funny part here is that after I finished I was reading through all of my messages and my teammate Bri had read my lips and knew that’s what I said to the volunteer. I love my team!

Emotional at the finish.

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After the race, Alyssa met up with us at the hotel. I was so glad that she had a great race, too!

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I can’t say enough how much I loved this city, the spectators, and volunteers. But for the bike issues, I could not have asked for a better race experience. I would definitely do this race again!

I want to say thank you again to Jon, Alyssa, MooMotion, Bobo’s Oat Bars, and all of my friends and family for their support. I got so many amazing emails, text messages, voicemails, Facebook posts, etc. from my friends before, during, and after the race. I am truly so lucky to be able to do this thing I love and to have such an awesome group of people supporting me. Thank you all!

It Takes A Village

We’re leaving for Chattanooga on Wednesday morning and before we go, I wanted to take some time to say thank you to the people who helped me get to the starting line of this race.

Thank you

First and foremost, I need to thank my amazing husband who has supported me on this journey since day one – really, even before day one, because I don’t think either of us knew where this was headed when I did my very first race (a half marathon) in the spring of 2009. Triathlon is not a cheap sport (understatement of the century), it takes up a ton of my time and energy, and can be emotionally draining. He has put up with A LOT and I definitely wouldn’t be here without him. Thanks, Love!

One of Jon’s signs from my very first marathon. He has always supported all of my running and triathlon adventures, even though he thinks it’s all crazy. 

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I also want to thank my in-laws for making the trip all the way to Chattanooga to cheer me along. I’m so lucky and thankful to have their support!

My next thank you is obviously for Alyssa. There is no doubt in my mind that she has prepared me for this race better than anyone else could – even Brett Sutton himself. I trust in her 100% and I am so thankful to have her in my life as a coach and friend. Alyssa could tell me to walk backward for the entire 26.2 miles of the marathon and I would! Thank you for EVERYTHING, Alyssa – I cannot possibly begin to repay you for what you have done for me over these past two years.

With the world’s greatest coach after PRing my marathon last year.

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I also want to thank all of my training partners – especially Taryn and Emily – who have helped me get through countless bike and run miles leading up to this day. Their company kept my mind off of the miles and how tired I felt. I really enjoyed training with you ladies and look forward to many more runs and rides in the future!

At the Reston Century Ride with Taryn.

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Open Water Swimming isn’t so awful when you have a friend by your side!

I logged lots and lots of miles with Emily this summer.

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And, of course, I owe a huge thank you to my Team HPB Teammates, MRTT friends, and other running and triathlon friends who are either too fast or too far away to train with, but who have offered me moral support and advice along the way – Leslie, Bri, Megan, Ashley, and others.

Leslie kept me running when I wanted to walk during a tough run at camp this summer.

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Riding with Megan in Maryland.

I heart my team!

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I can’t name everyone in MRTT in this post (we have over 1,000 members!), but I’ve gotten so much awesome support from this fabulous group of women.

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I’ve been fortunate enough to be a brand ambassador for MooMotion for two seasons now and I really can’t say enough about the support Melissa has provided me – not only keeping me in beautiful, comfortable, functional clothes for these past two years, but also encouraging me during all of my training and racing. Thank you, Melissa!

I love my MooMotion kits!

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Thank you, too, to the folks at Bobo’s Oat Bars for keeping me fueled on many (many, many) long rides. I cannot even imagine how many Bobo’s bars I have eaten this year! I actually should have counted because I’m sure it’s a ridiculous number!

Fueled by Bobo’s Oat Bars!

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There are so many other people who have helped me get my body and bike in shape for this adventure – Alison at Machine M3 (TRX), Steve and Alex from Transition Tri, and, most recently, Peter Sherry for helping me deal with some last minute injury issues leading into the race.

Thank you, Steve and Alex, for getting my bike in shape for the race!

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Thank you Machine M3 for making me stronger this year (Alison is camera shy!)!

And, finally, a big thank you to all of my friends and family members who could not possibly care less about running and triathlon and who I am sure are SO sick of hearing about all of this and put up with me anyway. You’re the best!

No matter what happens on Sunday, I am proud of the work I have done to get here.

Let’s go!

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!

April Favorites

I’ve really enjoyed writing these “favorites” posts each month, so I’m sticking with it. Here are five things I’m loving in April, in no particular order:

(1) FINALLY training in the sun! It was a very long and very cold winter in the Washington, D.C. area. I’ve done a lot of training and racing in bad weather. I ran a race in a sleet storm, another in a cold rain, and had a race cancelled because of snow. I cut one recent outdoor training ride short because I couldn’t feel my face and my fingers actually hurt from the cold. It hasn’t been fun.

Things finally seem to be turning around, though. Last weekend, I had a total blast getting in a 3-hour ride in the sun!

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It’s amazing what a few warm rays of sunshine will do for my mood. It made me really excited for everything that’s coming my way this year. I think this winter was so long that I didn’t realize that race season is right around the corner, but it is! My first tri is in less than one month. Things are heating up (literally and figuratively) and I know I have a really fun and exciting season ahead of me!

(2) No-Bake Almond Granola Bars. I tried making my own granola bars for the first time ever, using a recipe from May’s Triathlete magazine. I’ve always heard it’s “easy” to make granola bars at home, but “easy” is a relative term, and since I’m fairly new to cooking and baking, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It turns out, it is, in fact, easy to make granola bars at home – although, I will say that the ingredients (in this case, almonds, almond butter, and dark chocolate) are not cheap!

These no-bake bars set in the fridge for two hours. I kept the dark chocolate in large chunks and that was a decision I don’t regret making.

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Despite the cost, the final product is delicious and nutritious! The recipe yields 16 bars, which you can store in the fridge or freezer. I think this recipe could be altered by using different nuts – cashews or walnuts, for example – or adding other ingredients, such as coconut flakes or dried fruit. I plan to experiment with this recipe after I finish enjoying my first batch of almond and chocolate treats.

I will say that these bars are a bit messy, so I’m not sure they are great training fuel, but they are good for snacking and/or dessert at home or in the office.

Check out the May issue of Triathlete for the recipe.

(3) MooMotion Cadence Cycling Capri. As I mentioned, it is finally warming up in Northern Virginia, which has meant more outdoor riding. YAY! Last week, I was able to wear my MooMotion Cadence Cycling Capris and a short sleeve jersey for a 2-hour outdoor ride.

After riding in so many layers for most of this winter, it felt so freeing to ride in only one layer of clothes!

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This is the first time I’ve been able to wear the capris outside and they did not disappoint! They are super comfortable, have the perfect amount of padding, and are just the right weight for this time of year. They are going to be my go-tos for spring riding. 

(4) Trader Joe’s Organic Whole Green Figs. My friend, Oiselle Flock member, fellow triathlete, and dietetics student, Taryn, always posts the most interesting nutrition info on social media. I love reading her posts! I have learned so much from her and I highly recommend you follow her on Instagram if you have an interest in food and nutrition (follow her on Instagram at: instagram.com/tmbf).

Taryn recently posted about the health benefits of organic whole green figs available in the Trader Joe’s freezer section (and, yes, she has an adorable dog, too). 

IMG_2834 I picked up a bag during my last grocery shopping trip, along with some other frozen fruit. I’ve been adding the figs to smoothies with Vega Protein Smoothie protein powder from Vitacost (use my Vitacost referral code for $10 off your first order).

One of my favorite combos so far is a ripe banana, one fig, a couple of frozen strawberries, and a few frozen pineapple bits, with one scoop of “Viva Vanilla” flavor Vega Protein Smoothie protein powder, unsweetened soy milk, and ice. I blend it all together in the Vitamix and it tastes just like a milkshake! It is an awesome post-workout treat!

I love that my “treats” are now healthy things like fruit smoothies, instead of Twizzlers! I decided I wanted to change my diet at the end of last year and I did. As Taryn says, you have the power to #makeyourhealthhappen!

(5) TriEqual.com and #50WomentoKona. I’ve posted quite a bit about the #50WomentoKona issue on Twitter and on Facebook, but I still get questions about it, so I thought I would briefly discuss it and provide some additional resources here.

No matter how complicated WTC (the company that runs Ironman-branded events) tries to make this issue, it’s really quite simple: while 50 professional men can compete in the Ironman World Championships each year, there are only 35 slots for professional women. 35 does not equal 50.

I obviously don’t have any direct personal stake in this issue, as I’m not a professional triathlete. However, I do feel passionately about this issue. As I stated on International Women’s Day:

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To me, the issue boils down to equality of opportunity (I can’t take credit for that phrase, but I think it’s perfect!) and that is a concept everyone should get behind – whether a professional or age-grouper; male or female; triathlete or not. 

If you want to learn more, I recommend the following:

  • Visit the TriEqual website for more information and to join the team of TriEqual volunteers. 

I hope everyone is having a great April!

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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