Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Biking Basics && Hungry for Hills!

Flying into T1 I was glowing with pride! I had just kicked major butt on the swim and even though the bike was going to be my most challenging leg, I was ready to take it on. I'd mentioned before that transition was inside for IMWI. So just through the doors and into the women's changing area, I ran down my lane and grabbed my number bag and drop my swim stuff. As I was dashing to change into my bike stuff I was greeted by a friendly face. One of the girls I had met just last night at dinner, Stephanie, luck would have it, grabbed me to assist me. I was fortunate that by getting out of the water a little quicker than the majority there was a surplus of volunteers standing around to help. It was good to have a volunteer I knew though. But both of us were so into the zone it took us a good 10 seconds to realize we knew each other! Hahaha! In my haze of Ironman stupor I almost yelled at her, "Steph! Hey Steph you're my volunteer!" We both laughed and she helped me dump everything out of my bag and grabbed me some water. I didn't have my to change into, I was already in my tri-shorts and tang top, but the morning was chilly and remembering some of my past training rides on the Madison hills I opted for a long sleeve pull over under my jersey. I would later be made fun of for this by other triathlete friends but honestly it was one of the best decisions I made all day because I would in fact of been cold!

After I was dressed, cleated and had my helmet on, I thanked Steph and ran out to my bike. I was lucky that my bike was right by the bike out site, unlucky because that meant I had to run to it. There were even more volunteers in the bike area, and they would run along side of you if they noticed your number (which was on my helmet) was close to where they were standing. And if it wasn't they would shout to the next volunteer " NUMBER 398 COMING DOWN!" Man those volunteers were great! I will probably say that a dozen more times before the end of it, but really they made my race! Finally getting down to my bike area and someone pulled my bike for me, I felt so important, thuse far I'd had someone take off my wetsuit for me, help me get all my stuff going for the bike and have my bike handed to me. That's pro treatment there :) So I mounted my bike and took one listen to the crowds cheering outside of T1 and the Bike Out spot before venturing off for my 112 mile journey. It would be a while before I got to hear this again.

I had never rode the "stick", as it has been termed, before. 16 miles that was a little choppy, with a no passing zone for some of it. And wouldn't you figure, within those first 10 I had an incident happen that could have ended my race. So for hydration I was more than set, I had a speed fill with water in it (which I LOVE!), a water bottle holder behind that for Ironman perform, and an aero bottle that had Ironman perform. Now I liked the whole concept of the aero bottle but during training rides I would often lose it if I hit a bump or went over railroad tracks. So I changed out the bottle that came with the holder and just stuck a normal water bottle that I could throw out, in there. As my luck would have it, within the first 10 miles of my ride, a squirrel runs out in front of me. It all happened too fast and I really had no time to think or act, it was the squirrel who was the one to make the move, and a move that allowed me to keep biking. He dashed out in front of me and before I would have ran him over he turned around and ran back. But in doing so I was mid swig of my water bottle from the aero position so there would have been no way I could have accessed my brakes had he just stayed there, we both would have been road kill. So the squirrel lived, but I dropped my bottle in reaction to all of this and didn't look back. I was lucky an official wasn't in site because I definitely would have gotten a penalty for abandoning equipment. Even so, a woman rode up next to me and in a not-so-friendly voice told me I dropped and left my water bottle. I said thanks and kept riding. It was a casualty I wasn't prepared to go back for.

Finally I had made it to the loop! Or the lollipop as that was termed. I knew this route, I had ridden this route, three times in fact, so I could definitely do this now! I pushed through those first 25 miles like nobody's business! But the best part were all of the people out on the course, dress up or dressed down (with barely anything on!) cheering us on. It made use laugh and forget for a bit, how much longer we would be on that bike. When I finally got to the first "sister" I took her head on! There were people dressed up as devils running up the hill with us, holding up pitch forks. I'm still not sure if this was a form of intimidation or a motivation factor, either way I loved it! I saw a friend here too, so that gave me a boost. The second sister comes quickly after the first and that one is my LEAST favorite because it's not a slow incline it's like, Ok you're climbing now and you're climbing high! There were even more people on this hill than all three of them. They had drums and music makers and were they loud! It made the fact that I was barely moving, feel better. But the best was the third sister. This is were all the Element people were located and I saw my coach's Hubby, Jeff. I flew through this hill though so the first time around I didn't really say much. Just yelled and smiled :) Getting back into Verona I saw the lead rider, he was heading back into Madison and killing it! One more time, I could do this! I had plenty of time and I just ate those hills for lunch. The question was, could I go back for seconds?

I started to slow a bit more on this loop. Special Needs was around mile 70 and I stopped....well I stopped only after I biked past my number. I didn't have much in my bag but I was definitely looking forward to the goldfish and chips ahoy bags I stuck in there. Nutrition wise, I went with bonk breakers. I tried guus for a bit but they actually upset my stomach after a while and I liked the concept of more "real" food than anything else. I was also keeping my water and Ironman perform filled. But the moment I got to eat real food, I was a happy biker! I threw one bag in each compartment of my jersey and just grabbed from them for the next hour. Coming out of the special needs area, one guy came up behind me and goes, "Goldfish and Chips Ahoy, man you know how to party, wanna order a pizza and see if they'll deliver it to us?" Hahaha I laughed so hard that I could have peed myself. But I didn't. In fact the first time I actually stopped to use the porta-john wasn't until mile 80. I tried so hard to just pee on the bike (which sounds both gross and weird but really I didn't want to have to get off my bike for anything!) It became harder to peddle up that first hill at mount Horob (I don't remember the correct spelling for it) but that was my first stop. Someone helped me by grabbing my bike as I got off and wracked it for me. It's a good thing because I probably would have fallen no so gracefully if they hadn't.  Even though I was on top of my nutrition and hydration, I was starting to struggle, no I was probably driving the struggle bus at that point and my mental state was not so stable. My mind started to play tricks with me, telling me there was no way I would make it through those three hills and even if I did, how in the HELL will you run a marathon afterward?

I had hit my dark place. But I peddled through. You have to. You've come this far there's no way you're quitting now, NO WAY! I made it to the first hill and there was a guy who literally ran all the way up it with me. Granted I wasn't moving very quickly but he was encouraging me, making comments about my posture and how I needed to sit up more and it would engage my core more. Looking back on it now I am grateful. In the moment I wanted to SMACK THE SHIT out of this man! I was grumpy, I was 85 miles into my ride that felt like it would never end and you have the audacity to tell me about posture?! But before I could think any  more on it I was at the top of the hill and he was gone. Something about that whole moment was empowering......and then I was at the second hill. I had barely gained any speed on my way down but I saw a guy that was joking around with me on the first time around about how fast I was going, so I called out to him, "Hey I'll race you!" What the hell was I thinking?! This man would definitely beat me up this hill but I took on the challenge and I grinded up that hill like there was no tomorrow. I would regret this for the next few miles but it got me through it, whatever it takes to get it done!

The next few miles hurt but I caught a second wind before I hit the third hill. The last hard hill, you got this! I started to weave up it and as I hit half way I saw my Element folk. I gave them a thumbs up and they laughed at me. Jeff caught up with me and jogged for a minute or two checking in. I told him the last few miles were hard but I felt better now. He told me that he and Steph were SO PROUD! He would see me for the run. I still had a bit to go, finishing up the loop and then the stick. On the way in, the stick went by faster than I could blink. On the way in, it was the WORST ride I can remember being on. 16 miles felt like the entire race. It was a little gloomy and windy and not many people were around me, I was starting to freak out. Not to mention I wasn't paying attention to my gear shifting and dropped my chain! Stupid stupid Sam! But just as I got off to fix it the Trek van was behind me, one of the guys got out and fixed it for me. I was grateful but then I was thinking, "Why are they behind me? Am I the last person out here? Is this going to be the pacer van? 100 miles will do that to you. In reality I still had plenty of time but I freaked out and peddled faster. I just needed to get to transition! Just NEEDED to finish this bike ride!

I started to see more people and I heard the crowds coming into Madison. I remember passing a guy who yelled out, "Welcome back, are you ready to run?" Up the round-about I rode and something in me snapped. I had done it, I had just rode 112 miles but yet I started crying! My system was overloaded with the fear that I wouldn't finish. I had my watch going, but it wasn't anything fancy, all I knew is that I was over 6 hours on that ride, which is what I was hoping for and I couldn't hold in the fear that I wouldn't finish. I dismounted my bike, someone took it from me but I was barely even aware of anything around me. Tears fell from my eyes as I ran into T2 .....

Monday, January 27, 2014

Splish Splash and a 2.4 mile DASH!

Madison is a gorgeous city, and I am so lucky to be doing my first Ironman here. I've worked hard, I've put in the training, now it was time to see how well I did mentally conditioning. I stood by the edge of the water and watched the pros take off at 6:50am. After that it was all me! A few last minute 'Good-Luck' texts from friends and I put my phone and sweatshirt away. Making my way down to the entrance of the lake I felt like a celebrity! People were already filling in the spaces to watch us take off, all up the round-about and along the edges of the lake....people EVERYWHERE! There were even police officials blocking in the entrance, so that if you weren't an athlete competing they directed you out. I made one more pit stop to the porta-potty before I took my first steps into the water. The water was SO WARM! It felt amazing to go into. Madison is a mass start, where everyone is in the water treading before the cannon goes. I got in a few minutes early to warm up and get situation.

Before the race there was a lot of talk about "where do you situate yourself?" Many people will start in the middle, if they are average swimmers, and then eventually try to push in to the right by the bouys. And not so confident swimmers were in the back or all the way to the left. Now I feel like I am a good swimmer but I decided that today was my day, and I was maybe a bit audacious, and swam myself all the way to the right. I made friends with some of the people around me who were telling me their expected times, roughly around 1:15, which was my hope, so I was in the right spot. Only a few minutes to go and all that was going through my head was "please let my goggles be fine the entire time!" They hadn't snapped yet but just as I went to adjust them, the side piece used to adjust them popped out and sank below me. I felt a surge of adrenaline because the announcer was now getting louder, even though he was still just barely understandable. I quickly tied the ends in a knot and put the goggles back on my head. The guy next to me did a quick check in with me, I think because he saw me go under, I was checking to make sure the goggles were tight enough that they wouldn't leak, but it was nice enough of him.

There I sat, or swam, just treading water, checking my watch, I was SO READY to start. not to mention I could feel people kicking me under the water so I knew the tension levels were rising and I was going to have to book it as soon as that cannon went off or I was going to be trampled. Saved by the cannon, 7am hit and we were OFF!

My coach gave me the heads up during training and the first bit of the race, about .2 was rough, because everyone is trying to push ahead and get to the right. And me trying to get a leg, or arm, ahead, was already there. Within the first 5 minutes I was hit and kicked like I had never been before! And on top of all that my goggles started to leak. I didn't have the room or the time to stop and fix them, I would literally get dragged under, so in between my stroke I did a quick pull on the lens and a push back on to release the water and then suction it tighter to my face. LUCKILY this got me through the rest of the swim just fine. But I will never forget the sense of fear that come over me when we hit the first turning point, everyone pushed in towards the bouy and I literally swam with my head up out of the water for a few strokes because of all the people on top of me, it was almost like I had forgotten how to breathe (with my head even out of the water!) but I didn't let loose, I kept with the pack.

The pack never actually calmed down, we were all hauling ass, and the people around me were really good pacers, I stuck with them for the majority of the swim. The water was choppy, not as choppy as Racine I think, but still enough that a ton of people on top of you with harsh water conditions meant I swallowed A LOT of water! haha My non-triathlete friends make fun of me because I tell them I have no problem swallowing lake water if my stroke goes funny, I just pee it out in the wetsuit anyways. You can only imagine the looks I get for that :) There was only one other time during the swim that was difficult for me to overcome, one of the guys swimming next to me was also an aggressive swimmer and as he was bringing his hand forward in his stroke he brought it down on my head right as I was about to breathe and submerged me back down. Now this would be no issue because I'm comfortable with my stroke and can go 6 pulls without a breathe most times, but when I wasn't expecting it, and I came up gasping for air. More so because I was scared than anything else.

But I was nearing the finish after recovering from that. I could hear the crowd on the shore and I could even see the 'Swim In' sign. I had done it, there wasn't much doubt that I couldn't but one leg of the race was done. As soon as I could put my foot down I ran up out of the water. I had THE BIGGEST smile on my face! I had just swam 2.4 miles and I put up a hell of a fight. All of my pictures coming out of the water made it look like a piece of cake, but I was ECSTATIC! I started to unzip my wetsuit and as much as I didn't want anyone to touch me, I started to feel a little tired but even more so I was anxious to get into T1 (and maybe a little time hungry) so I let the wetsuit strippers pull my wetsuit off of me. I felt like a fish out of water, laying down on the ground, but the suit came off a whole heck of a lot faster than if I would have done it myself......and lets be honest, I probably would have fell over trying! Up the round-about I went, I did my best to job but still hadn't quite grasped my land legs yet. There were people all the way up the spiral, cheering and yelling. it gave me so much energy that I ran into transition ready to take on the bike!

Scones && Set Up

It wasn't long after I drifted off that my alarm was going off. It was time for first breakfast. 2am I grabbed my first scone with a bottle of water and went to sit in the lobby. And as much as I thought I would be dining alone, the head desk guy was there, just hanging out. I can't for the life of me remember his name, which makes me feel bad because he recognized me every time I came through, but we sat and talked for 15 minutes as I put in my 600 calories and then I went back to the room for a 90 minute snooze. 3:30 was the final wake up time, grabbed the second scone and my ipod as I headed back out to the lobby for some coffee. I sat there and watched some of my favorite triathlon motivation videos (Welcome to the Grind is my favorite!). So I enjoyed the last of the deliciousness that was the blueberry scone and got lost in the video and the thought that in a few short hours I would be lining up to my first Ironman.

I hustled myself back into the room and began my pre-race prep. Meaning I turned on some Jock Jams and french braided my hair while dancing around in my tri-shorts. A lot of other athletes that I talk to will list off all of their before prep, I'm a simple girl ;) It wasn't long before I was making sure I had my morning transition bag that I was in the car and ready to roll! Being only 5am it was still pretty dark, but you would think it was 8pm when I got to the city, it was all lit up and people were EVERYWHERE! You would think after living in the city for the past 5 years of my life that this wouldn't be shocking, but it was the thought that this scene is what I would be running into in just a few hours, that got me!

Into transition I went! Pumping up the tires and checking to make sure I had everything in my bags. I swear I have the utmost respect for those volunteers, not only there bright and early, but peppy and excited for you too! The woman who marked me up was so bubbly, it helped the good vibes going. But oddly enough I wasn't really nervous, I was just PUMPED to get going! We had to be out of transition by 6:30, so of course around 6:15 I noticed that I completely forgot to attach my bike tools in case I got a flat and ALL of my pre-packed fuel. That could really have been awful! So I ran back in and attached the necessities to my bike and then started to head down to the lake.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Mingling in Mad-Town: Ironman Weekend Part 1

7pm on Wednesday September 4th, 2013: I was sitting my dad's dining room table on my laptop putting together bits and pieces for the big day tomorrow. Confirming hotel accommodations: check (won't make that mistake again!) and most importantly, DO I HAVE EVERYTHING? I laid out anything and everything, and lined up Gwen (who now had spiffy new tires to match the color, I mean her name does mean: Green With ENvy ;)) I would be bringing with me and per the advice of the coach lady, "Be like Santa and check through it twice....and then a third time just because". Everything was in order, now all I had to do was get through the next day and I would be ready to roll on to Madison.

2:45pm Thursday September 5th, 2013: My kids had all made it on to the bus and I was grabbing my bag. I had to restrain myself from sprinting to the car, as my coworkers wished me luck. By the time I got back to my dad's house I had a written check list of everything I had to do before getting on the road by 4. Pick up rented car, check. Pack car, check. Say bye to dad and off I went! I didn't make it up to Madison until close to 10pm, which is after my bed time and explains my passenger side nap! But since I used the same hotel the entire time I was training, the desk attendants greeted me in a familiar fashion, which was nice to come in to. I unpacked everything in the room, like I usually do, and hit the hay, the next day was going to be a little crazy.

Up at 7, my body doesn't need an alarm any more, and I mean I'm in Madison on Ironman weekend, how does anyone sleep? Actually I didn't have a problem with this all weekend and tended to opt for it. But this morning I made my way into Madison (oh right because I was staying in Middleton) to check in and grab stuff from the expo. Ironman check in is so different from half Ironman check in, it took a bit longer. So I got in what looked like a never ending line that roped around hallways and down an escaldaor. First task, fill out the info page, then get weighed (uhg I hated that part because I was heavier with the water weight!) I actually texted the coach lady and she said that's normal. What's not so normal is how i fluctuated from 139-160lbs throughout training :/ Anyways, then I met my guy, you know, the guy who checks you in and gets you so excited that you willingly paid nearly $700 to go 140 miles. His name was John and he knew almost immediately that this was my first IM, it must have been in my giggly smile or the fact that I asked why he was writing my number all weird on the cap. If you haven't seen them write the number on a swim cap for an IM check it out, it blew my mind! haha.

So I was OFFICIALLY registered, no turning back! I skimmed through the expo and picked up a t-shirt, coffee mug, and a pair of sunglasses since mine had cracked :( But as soon as I was done I skiddaddled out of there. I align a lot with my coach's philosophy on race weekend, she says that she likes to get in, get out, and get on with resting. I'm very much the same, and I didn't want to spend a lot of time in the sun and to be quite honest, I met up with some friends but a lot of me just wanted to lounge around the hotel, eat food and mentally get in the zone! And I got all of that. There were a few places I know I HAD to go to before I left Madison and I needed to have some spotted cow! The next morning I got up and went back into Madison. I needed to check in my bike but I also NEEDED to get a few scones from Lazy Jane's, because you can't say you've fueled unless you've eaten two of these bad boys! They quite literally melt in your mouth, at about 600 calories each! ....And I got three of them, don't worry I had a plan for these ;)

Into transition I went to drop off Gwen. The Madison transitions are set up very differently from other IMs, the changing areas are all inside! So Gwen was all set up on the wrack. I always have a moment of separation anxiety when I leave my bike over night but I know she will do me well in a few hours. Now downstairs to put my T1/T2 bags. I didn't put much in them, my coach told me people can get out of control with all the stuff n junk they put in them so I kept it simple. Once I got everything on the need-to-do list done I headed out. There was a lot of pent up energy in there and I was feeding off of it. Back to the hotel for a while to rest and then head over to the Olive Garden to meet up with one of my favorite triathlete friends Dave. Dave and I got way back to when I was working with him at the YMCA in college, he was the first person I knew to do an Ironman. And he invited me to the honorary pre-race racine dinner. So needless to say it was beyond wonderful to be sharing my "last supper" with him. He was up there because he was volunteering, along with a few others I met, and the lovely Stacy, who would come to be of great help to me in a few hours :)

We talking a little bit of strategy and joked about some of the people we saw this weekend, I sucked down a whole lot of water and a bowl of spaghetti before we said our goodbyes and I received a whole lot of well wishes. It was time to head back to the hotel for the evening as my 7pm curfew was quickly approaching and I told myself I was going to be in bed by 8. I've never had a problem falling asleep so I was out shortly after hitting the pillow but it wouldn't be long before my first alarm would be going off....

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Back to School && Badass Bricks

Summer swept past me faster than my 3 hour 20 mile PR. That was a proud day :) I finished working with Planned Parenthood and the Teen Outreach Program, but my training was getting so heavy it felt like I was putting in more hours there than with my kiddos. Weekends revolved around where I was riding and for how long. I did my first 100 mile ride with my girl Stacey. We rode from Evanston into Wisconsin and back, that was brutal! My first century ride I will never forget I had "found my dark place" like I was told by many-a triathletes, I would. It's funny because it would be around mile 50 that my mind would start to play tricks on me and I would have to convince myself that I could do this all over again. I won't say it wasn't hard. Every weekend planning out my route, occasionally finding tag-alongs, and making sure I had enough fuel. And  by the time I finished I was done for the day.

I made a few more trips back up to Madison to ride. My "race rehearsal" weekend bonked pretty badly, I didn't get up to 100 miles on Saturday due to a late start and went home feeling mentally wrecked. So I went back up the following weekend and was damned determined to get 3 loops in before the day was done. I met up with a triathlon group from WI and rode the first two loops with them. But when I say "with them" I mean I held on to the tale end of their group for the first 5ish miles before I was on my own. This could have been the end of my weekend, had I tried to keep up with them I would have gased my legs early and there would be no way I could keep going. But I knew the route and I convinced myself that I needed to ride my pace, just like I would in the race. The group was great about this and as I came in for the second loop they called it quits. We said our goodbyes and I headed out for a third round. I must have been low on my blood sugar, I felt like I was going a little loopey riding another 42 miles alone, no one to talk to, just a whole lot of cows and corn. On top of that I wiped out pretty bad crossing the railroad tracks because my water bottle bounced out of my aero holder and I ran it over and skidding over. But i stood up, brushed myself off and tried to brush off the dirt and blood and kept going. Luckily I made a friend, or rather I ran into a girl I had met on my second loop. She recognized me, and I didn't recognize her, but we finished the loop together. She was awesome, and I don't think I would have made it without her. We tried to ride together the next day but it was raining pretty badly. we got about 15 miles out when her hero of a hubby picked us up in the sag wag :)

I lived for the weekends but I was even more excited for the school year to start. I was beginning my first year at Maddock Elementary as the social worker. I knew I have wanted this job since I was 17 and I worked damn hard to get it. And as much as that was so, I had difficulty in the first few weeks trying to fit work and training in during the week. I was fortunate that school started right as I was tapering in my workouts but even with shorter workouts I was still even more tired than I was in the peak of training. Still I was loving every moment of it. What I wasn't loving was the commute from Hyde Park to Burbank everyday, that part sucked.

I guess at this point I should say a lot of life changes were going on leading up to my Sept 8th race. So as summer was wrapping up I was spending a lot of time with this great guy, Tim, so in between working in Burbank, training in Hyde Park and dating this boy in Oak Lawn, I was doing a lot of running around. The weekend before the race I decided to move back to my dad's house in Brookfield. The commute to work would be a lot faster and I'd be closer to Tim. The only downside? I was losing my lake path and city folk that I trained with. But I didn't have much time to ponder it, I wanted to be out before the race so I wasn't stressing about it before. All the while I was also playing maid of honor for my sister, as her wedding was only a few weeks and my niece was baptised that weekend as well.

Honeslty I'm not really sure how I paced myself through all of that....

Pushin a PR && Racin' Racine, Again!

Ironman training, much like life, has it's ups and downs. There will be days that you go into a workout and just absolutely kill it, and you will reward yourself with some sort of pastry for it. Then there will be others that you are just happy
 you got through it. As coach Steph says, "Whatever you gotta do to get it done". But even then there are days that couch will win and you need to let it. Steph was awesome about making sure that I was checking in with myself. Much like other triathletes though I HATED giving up on a workout, and at times I would try to make it up later (even though I was told not to) but your body is in charge, it will tell you if you can push out just 6 miles or if you need to sit your butt down and take a nap!

But by July I felt amazing! I was probably in the best shape of my life and I was getting closer to my 140 mile challenge. But before I could get there I needed to hit up another start line. I was back for more, at the Racine Half Ironman. The week leading up to the race I tappered a tad physically but most of it was convincing myself that this race was going to be epic! The year before I had a blast, and fell in love with triathlon probably around mile 10 of the run, as I was peeing myself and pushing towards the finish line. I had it in my mind that I would drop my time by at least an hour, PR or BUST!

Unlike my last race I actually put some prep into my step. I packed everything the day before and had a check list. But per the coach's advice, I always unpack everything the night before in case I need to hit up the expo for something left behind. Saturday morning in Racine was gorgeous! I am that over-achiever that likes to get to the expo early, list to the race prep talk and then just lounge around the rest of the day. And lucky I did, the place was swarming with athletes by 11am! I got through registration, picked up a few knick-knacks, listed to the race director chat about this and that and then went out on the hunt to feed my always hungry stomach. The rest of the evening was spent carbo loading and veggin out with a few triathlete friends at dinner, talking about the events from last years race.

Race morning I was hitting up the coffee and oatmeal, listening to my pre-race workout and walking around the hotel bare foot, in my tri shorts and french braids. Pretty bad ass, I know. The race set up for Racine has us dropping things into transition and then walking a mile down to the beach start. By the time I got there the sun was up and I was waiting anxiously for the cannon to go and the pros to break the waves. Last year at this time I was 20 minutes out from my wave start when my goggles snapped. It was AWFUL! This year that wouldn't happen, I had 3 pairs of goggles with me, but luckily my new shiny white ones did the trick.

So there I was, lined up with the 25-29 age group, dancing to some pop song, ready to race. The water was extra choppy but I didn't think twice about it. My game plan was to just keep swimming, but to haul ass doing it. As I ran into the water I remembered how terrified I was the year before and I embraced that fear as I passed into two age groups ahead. There were a lot of people that needed to stop because of how choppy the water was so there were a few times I almost had a few head on collisions or feet to the face as they decided breast stroke would do the trick. Just keep swimming. Getting out of the water and running on to the beach I checked my watch, finished in 35 minutes, two minutes faster than last year, get it girl!

T1 I fumbled a bit, trying to get my jersey on and this year, remember to put my bib number on! But even more, I was so excited to try out my new aero helmet....oh yea, I became one of THOSE triathletes ;) The ride was flat and fast. I played tag with a guy and we joked back and forth as we passed one another. But in the beginning of the ride, I didn't see many females. Now granted, biking is my worst discipline, and I didn't let a lot of people pass me but it definitely happened like once, or twice, or eight times. BUT! I chicked a few guys so I was ok with that.

Pulling into T2 I was ready to run. I had a great bike and my legs were feeling awesome! I finished my bike ride in 3:00 flat, so much better than my 5 hours the year before. Then again I had a tri bike this year, last year I had an ify road bike. Honestly though, I was more worried about my 100 mile ride the weekend after the race than I was the 70.3 I was doing right then.

The run went well......well as well as it could have. It got hot. Go figure, in July. But I pushed, ran the miles, walked the aid stations. And I got an extra little push seeing my boyfriend Tim at the turn around point. And of course as soon as I saw him I sat up a little straighter and pretended not to be in any pain as I pushed on. Mile 10 was the turn around to head back toward the finish line, I was jogging slower at this point and almost walking because I had a side cramp. But I told myself I could jog. One of my friends saw me at mile 6 and tried to convince me run it out. I laughed and told him I'd catch him later.

Mile 12. Ok one more, now is the time to PUSH! I picked up my pace and blew past two aid stations. this race was mine, this time was MINE! I looked down at my watch, I was definitely coming in under 6 hours but I was damned determined, and as soon as the finish line was in sit I sprinted it out! Crossing that finish line was epic! I felt great, well tired, but a great sense of accomplishment because I had given it my all and finished with an overall time of 5:54. Excellent. I walked over to Tim and despite my insisting I smelled awful, he hugged me anyways. What a guy :)

Training in all Seasons

From January to June, 6 months of waiting, and training, and eating. I grew stronger and workouts were starting to get longer. April was the start of my Ironman Specific workouts. So you wonder, what's the difference between the training I was doing before and Ironman Specific? Well I guess the best way to explain that would be through the 5am wake ups, 6am swim practices, 8 hour work days, only to come home to my running shoes and a ten mile run and added core sets, and that was just a regular Monday! But I fell in love with it! The structure and the consistency, my life revolved around my training and I wouldn't have it any  other way. That being said, there as also an increase in my inpatience. I had gone through the dreadful indoor training and even early snowy morning runs before work, finally when the weather broke so did my desire for trainer rides or lifting sessions in the gym. I hit the lake path more, even though I HATED riding on the lake path, I would get up at 4:15 on Sundays and hit it from 5-7. But it was almost like a reverse zombie apocalypse, as it got later and the sun started to come up, more people would show up on the lake path....but at 6am, just as the sun is starting to come up, now that is a sight to see :)

In May I went up to Madison for the first time with my coach, her husband, and one of her teammates. We rode Saturday for the first time on the course. I was eager, I was pumped, but by the end of the 42 mile loop, I was pooped. The poor coach lady was ready to let it rip....and I was all, I'm right behind you....kind of.....not really, go ahead, I'll catch up! Hahaha she really was great to have though. Sunday we went for two loops and wouldn't you know it, around mile 77 Stacey blew a tube. Now if there is one thing I have gotten really, no EXCEPTIONALLY good at, it's changing tubes. Steph and Stac had a good laugh at this, and as Steph put it, as she snapped a pic to jeff (my guru teacher) "The student becomes the teacher!" Hahaha I loved it! The weekend was a great success, and I would go back up several more times before the race just to take another beating from the "Three Sisters".

I raced Big Foot and it made me even more excited for Racine! I knew I was going to set a PR, I was stronger and more fit, plus my time was pretty slow since it was my first Tri. So I tried to get in a few extra open water swims. The swimming leg is my favorite, hands down. And I happened to have a gorgeous lake in my backyard. Most of the Chicago triathletes like to swim at Oak street beach. And don't get me wrong, it's a good training space but it ain't got nothing on the point! The point, in hyde park, unlike Oak Street, is much much more choppier and you can't touch the bottom. When I went out there it was usually at 6 or 7 in the morning and I would jump in with the "mermaids" which were a group of older adults who swam every morning, no matter the temps, without a wetsuit. I made friends with everyone and even a fellow triathlete who proved to be both experienced and helpful. But Fridays were my favorite. My girlfriend Alison and one of my coworkers, Darcy, would usually meet up with me and we'd do at least a mile before grabbing some coffee and I'd head to work. I really owe a lot of my open water success to these swims. Both Racine and Madison would be extremely choppy, but I didn't sweat it, not a bit. And of course the occasional pier jumping that would occur post long summer runs :) I loved everything about the longer training, I even froze my gym membership since I didn't have much time to lift but the time I did have I wanted to spend outside!

Life went on around me as I was training though. My younger sister got engaged and had her baby (my first niece) in June. My gorgeous Emma Elizabeth, she'll be an Ironman just like Auntie one day :) I also re-took my Basic Skills test, passed it and put papers in motion so that I could finally start applying for school social work jobs. The motivation of training for this Ironman overlapped into my personal lifestyle, as I decided I was tired of taking the back seat on my professional life. So then at the beginning of June I received a phone call for an interview at District 111. After a short 20 minute interview and a "we'll be in contact" I got a phone call the next day with an offer. Things were AMAZING! A new job, a new niece and a race all in the same month. Now that's impressive!