Sunday, December 23, 2012

May Your Path Be the Sound of Your Feet Upon the Ground

"Though I've never been through hell like that I've closed enough windows to know you can never look back. If you're lost and alone, or you're sinkin' like a stone....carry on. May your path be the sound of your feet upon the ground, carry on....carry on, carry on."--FUN

Birthdays are an interesting thing, they are a gift in and of themselves. So take a moment to unwrap them, think about all of the challenges you faced, the obstacles you overcame and the mistakes you made. Though some days are harder than others, you've gone through 365 of them and it's made you a stronger person. But it's more than that, birthdays are the gift that keeps on giving. You have in front of you another 365 days to be whoever you want to be, take on new challenges and breathe in new life. So surround yourself with the people you love, eat another slice of cake, and smile a little bit more, because the possibilities ahead of you are endless.

Another birthday come and gone, another page turned, and an end to a chapter of my life that felt like it only just began. Twenty-three was an astounding year, and I experienced more change than in the sum of the last few years. I finished my Master's degree, graduated and started my first real job. The transition from four part-time jobs to one full time one was an interesting one. Although, I do have an attachment to my pool and the swim lesson program I run, so I haven't quite let go of that one yet. I trained for, and successfully completed my first Half Ironman triathlon, which instantaneously invoked in me my new found love for the sport of triathlon that I foresee being a long term commitment. I took on my second marathon and set a PR of an hour and a half. I live on my own and do for myself, and while there are times that I miss being a child, living with my dad and seeing my siblings every day, I look at this as me being grown up and starting my life. This was only reinforced by the end of the grace period on my college loans! I've met a lot of people, some of them grew on me, shaped me, and others faded into the background. I'd say the combination of experiences and relationships over the year have given me insight into the person I am becoming. But even more than this is the motivation I put forth everyday in the tasks that I carry out.

I was on a run about a month ago, listening to my music and sitting with my thoughts...well no part of me was actually sitting, but you know what I mean. I do some of my best thinking on long runs, my knees will tell you otherwise though. It came upon me, however, that my birthday was coming up and I was one year away from my 25th birthday. A whole quarter-century of life! Being me, this signified that I would have 365 days to complete my "quarter centennial list" or things I want to do before I'm 25. This list has been added to, cut, pasted and probably had coffee spilled on it at least twice. So then I kept thinking, had someone told me this is where I would be with my life, five years ago I would have laughed at them, and told them they had it all wrong. But here I am.

So here it is, my plan, that probably won't go as planned. But it's what I will work towards because this is the person I want to be. For starts, in the next year, there are a few things I want to work on.
-- I want to work on being more comfortable in asking for help and letting people do things for me. I'm awful at this, and I will be the first person to admit it.
-- I want to be alright with knowing that it's ok to say goodbye. I have a tendency to try and fix things, mostly in my relationships, but this only leaves me exhausted....and some people are only going to hold you back, and offer you no growth as a person. I want to be able to surround myself with the people who support me, and love me all the time rather than just when it's convenient to them.

And of course the obstacles I will face along the way will be in the heart of the tasks that I take on. In the next year I hope to:
Professionally:
-- Sit for and pass my LSW test
-- Pass the Basic Skills math portion and finish my Type 73
-- Apply for school social work positions
Athletically:
--Set a PR on my Half Ironman distance at Racine
--Train for and complete my first Ironman
--Set a PR for my half marathon time (1:59:02)
Personally:
-- Get a tattoo
--Write an article and have it published somewhere


Life is a lot like a good, hard, long race. Each mile marker moves you closer, motivates you, and reminds you that the last mile you just completed brought you closer to the finish line :)






Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Rain, Sweat && Snot--A Runner's Delight!


Tendencies. I have a tendency to plan, pre-plan, and re-plan. And when things don't go as planned I get a weird, out-of-whack sensation. Call me a control freak, but what's the sense of making a to-do list, putting events in your planner and jotting down your schedule, hour-by-hour if you're not going to follow through with it? Some would argue that there are some things that just can't be helped or controlled.....like the weather. The weather and I, we have one of those relationships that is either off or on. I have yet to give up on running outside, and to be frank, I probably won't because I hate the treadmill even more than freezing temperatures. Yet we've been fortunate, for it being December in Chicago, we haven't seen snow and the temperatures aren't miserable, just finger numbing.

Usually I am fairly good about layering up, after going out too many times under-dressed. But I always end up following through with the run because going back into your apartment when you're 5 feet from the door is blasphemy! You know what's even more insane? Checking the weather on the computer before you go outside....I mean, who does that!? Radicals! Haha. What it all chalks up to is that it's my own fault for being under/over dressed.

But really, I don't think it has as much to do with my anal workout agenda as it does with my stubbornness. God forbid I miss a workout I already wrote down and planned out, because that most certainly is irrational behavior! So this past Saturday I had planned on doing a long run, say 8 to 10 miles. I followed my morning routine, wake up, turn on coffee pot, warm up oatmeal and go through email/social media sites. This is carried out until 1. I have had about two cups of coffee or 2. more than 45 minutes has passed and I have gone through all of the fbook/twitter posts I can handle. Any how! I actually managed to check the weather on my computer because it was still dark-ish at 9am. This meant rain. I have had some of my best runs in the rain, but that was not by choice. More so I would find myself 4 miles deep, out far from where I started, with no choice but to keep running. But I was determined to not deviate from "the plan". I grabbed a few extra layers and told myself there was no looking back.

As I started my run it was barely drizzling but it was chilly. I thought it would be a fair compromise to do 8 miles and then spend some time doing strength in the gym. Well all of that went to hell when I hit the 4 mile mark, I felt a need to go farther.....past 5miles and up to 6. I love running a 13 mile run (6.5 one way) north because it takes me up behind Soldier Field, the Shedd Aquarium and up by Museum Campus. I felt great at the turn around, and even managed to snap a few pictures. Wish I could say the same for mile 9. At that point it was coming down harder, there was rain dripping off the brim of my hat and the wind was blowing so hard that it was almost like it was mocking my idiocy for being out running. But I couldn't quit even if I wanted to, since I was still 4 miles from home. That is one of the best motivations for a runner, because really there is no choice to it....run and get home faster or stop and walk it out, only to feel how miserable your body is and that there is not one dry spot to you.

I finally made it home and I was quick to put together some warm tea and take some Advil. But nothing came close to being as inviting as stripping off those wet clothes, putting on some warm/dry sweats and hopping back into bed, feeling completely satisfied with my insanity :)

Core Power && Crowie

Have you ever had one of those moments, where you shake someone's hand and you say to yourself, "Ohhhhmyyygawd I'm never washing my hand now that so-and-so shook it!" Yea that's probably not something to own up to BUT the rush and sensation of having been in the presence of someone you look up to and idolize is a thrill unlike any other. I had the opportunity to experience this last Tuesday when Craig Alexander, informally known as 'Crowie' came to Core Power in the West Loop. Which, for anyone who doesn't know, in the triathlete world, Crowie is an unbelievably talented athlete and champion several times over. He recently put out a book, entitled, "As the Crow Flies" and it is a collection of pictures and stories about his last year of training/racing.

So Tuesday afternoon, after work, I drove down to Core Power to stake out a parking spot. But when I say I got there "early" that really is an understatement. I had an hour and forty-five minutes to kill. So I meandered my way over to this little corner coffee shop, pulled out my tablet and started reading one of the books on my kindle. I was quite literally kitty-corner from the building, and I found myself just gazing over now and again, thinking that Crowie was there and I would finally get to meet him! At one point a stranger next to me caught me gawking and asked if I was going to the event. I came to find that his name was Nick and he had come all the way in from Michigan for this. We shared small talk about the sport of triathlon, races we've done, goals we've set and before you knew it, were packing ourselves up to join the line that began to form across the street to enter into Core Power.

While I was standing outside in the line I could see Crowie through the window. The inner school-girl in me instantly lost all control and I grew more and more giddy. They must have gotten tired of seeing me drool because they let us in early. Let me just say Core Power is set up so nicely and the staff were very inviting. Take food, water, try our product and make yourselves at home, they said. While everyone dashed over toward that set up I made a B-line over to Crowie with Nick. As I went to shake his hand I almost forgot my name. He was beyond breath-taking and he shook my hand....but I did end up washing it.

The rest of the evening I mingled with fellow triathletes, networked a tad and listened to Crowie discuss his year in review. There was also a raffle, and yours truly ended up winning a pair of Oakley's! To be honest I still haven't really "worn them"....I took them out of the box once and decided that I didn't want to break them, so back in the case they went. Then Crowie came out.....I have to say, for being such an outstanding athlete he is also an extremely respectable father and male figure. He had a lot of passion for the sport but also for his family. Despite the fact that the man had been in a different city every day that week he was still happy, genuinely friendly and seemed like he really wanted to be there, which I don't think you could say for many people running on that little sleep.

After his Q&A the employees placed Crowie over at a table for book signing and pictures, and you bet I raced over there....might even have set a PR ;) When I got up to the table I felt like I had rehearsed 56 different things I could have said to him but ended up complimenting him on his book, his achievements and mentioned my goal of IM Wisconsin in 2013. He smiled, wished me the best of luck and asked for a picture. Those were the happiest 3 minutes, I can't even begin to explain...


 I left Core Power so bubbly and upbeat. In my possession I had Crowie's book, with a personalized message and a new pair of Oakleys. Tri life is good :)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

H.A.L.T. && Check In!


Yesterday evening I was sitting around the table with my grandparents, surrounded by some of the most delicious vegetarian food I have had in weeks. We were immersed in discussion about politics, the current incarceration rate, gang activity,  and my desire to go back for my Ph.D to change all of that. It had to be the tea, vanilla caramel tea will get anyone fired up about political activity and motivate the need for change. But I digress. The important part of this discussion stems from the time frame in which we discussed my current job in the Chicago Public Schools. I made the statement that, "If all of my kids could come to school with clean clothes, having had more than a few hours of sleep, food in their stomachs, and without the fear of being shot or jumped, I guarantee that half of the problems schools face would decrease significantly." I went on to rant about this BUT before I could my grandfather stopped me and chuckled. He said, "So you mean to tell me that triathlete is on her soap box talking about how her kids need to eat and sleep more? Hmm that might be slightly hypocritical."

Well played sir, well played. The irony is that he is 100% right. We go about our daily routines trying to get through this task, that email, (is it lunch time yet?) a meeting, a few too many walks over to the water fountain to check Twitter, (Today will be the day Crowie retweets me, I know it!) All with our eye on the prize: to stand on an over-crowded 'L' train for 35 minutes to get to the gym, work your butt off, go home,  and realize there's nothing in the fridge (or there is everything in the fridge but you have to cook it). Life is tough. Get a helmet....but make it a Giro Advantage 2, so at least then you look professional :)

Throughout all of this, how often do we stop and check in with ourselves? I know that if I don't pack a lunch, and probably dinner too, I won't get to eat until I go home (which on some nights isn't until 10pm). Or I default to Panera, if there is one around, with a mediocre chicken salad, with no chicken and the bbq sauce on the side. I should mention the people at "MY" Panera (yes I have ownership of it) now know my name, face, and order before I get to the register. Well done Sam. Anyways! food and sleep are essential for anyone, but even more so if you are training. One of the most valuable acronyms I learned at my two-week internship at a drug and alcohol facility was: HALT. It stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. My supervisor at the time told me that more often than not, when we are feeling grumpy or out of balance it's because one of these basic needs is not being met. So she would tell her patients to HALT, and check in with themselves. Obviously her patients are not the only ones that this applies to.

Hungry: I feel like my stomach and I, we are on the same "honda accord", I tell it when it gets to eat and it growls at me if it doesn't like that. But throughout this passive-aggressive relationship I have finally found a good pattern of foods and times to take it in. The one concern I have is being a vegan and training for an Ironman. I have heard that in training you can burn up to 3,000 calories a day. I don't even eat 3,000 claories a day! This will need to be a lifestyle change and something in particular I will need to actively pay attention to. But I am pretty dedicated to my diet so I will have to research ways to supplement my vegan needs through calories that are not found in dead, rotting, animal flesh :)


Angry & Lonely: I grouped these two together. Typically anger is something the bears it's unruly head at you immediately. Yet, it's often disguised, we utilize the emotion of anger to cover up another emotion....it's like a mystery box surprise. If I am "angry" because I missed a workout it's easier to get angry about it than to admit that I am disappointed and reassure myself that it will be alright, tomorrow is another day. It's kind of like bringing that 'D' on your report card home and having your mom give you the, "I'm disappointed in you" rather than "You're grounded for life".

Which, if you were grounded for life, would probably get pretty lonely. Being a triathlete means that you participate in not one, but three sports that are completely individual. Sure we spend time with our training groups and work with our coaches, but at the end of the day, you will be the one riding that 112 miles and if you have someone there with you, you will probably be called for drafting and have to sit in the dreaded penalty box! That being said, the regimented 4am wake up and workout, the 9 to 5 job, 5:30-7 workout and 8 to 3am sleep leaves, about......0 time for  recreational activity. Which is why I try to remind my friends that I do still exist, and that as long as I can be home by 9pm, I'd love to go out with you, to a bar, drink a diet coke and talk about my training for the week.

Tired: I've been tired my entire life. Who hasn't? The lifestyle I lead often has me running from one thing to another. Honestly it's a really bad enabler, since I have found that one of the most difficult tasks for me is to be able to sit for more than 3 hours at a time, in one space, working on one thing. How funny, I can walk, talk, chew gum, tweet, text, and drive (wait maybe not that last one) but ask me to sit still and focus on one thing, haha, what are you crazy!? Unless of course it's in my bed. Much like your average 5 year old, I have a bed time. And if I try to stay up past 9pm it's not my parents that yell at me, nope. It's my body that just starts shutting down, like a physical message saying, "I don't care if you are reading the last chapter of 'Sex, Lies, and Triathlon' you're going to bed NOW! And like that, it's done. Sometimes I think my body is more of a control freak than I am.

Ok so this post is getting sort of long and I am maxing out on being able to sit in this chair. To the point! Everything takes practice, and practice makes perfect. But you can't be perfect, or even at your best, if your most basic needs aren't being met. As enthusiastic as I am about training there are some things you can't pack in a bag, there are things that aren't in your supplements, and some things you can't get by going for that extra bike ride. Your body can take on a lot of impact but it is still yours and you only get one. So do it a solid. Stop yourself at least once a day and check in. HALT (I am Reptar! Rugrats? 90s? Ok maybe not....) You can't expect to be at your best when you're not giving yourself the best.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Holiday Highs && Wetsuit Woes

We are in the midst of what I like to call the "Holiday Block Party", that time frame between Thanksgiving and Christmas when the weather gets cold and when us crazy triathletes head into the "off season". All of the competitive races are done and we all begin to focus on our "core training". I struggle immensely though with this time of year for several reasons: 1) I am, by definition, to a "T" the physical representation of a Type A personality. I crave structure. Looking for a good laugh? Take away my calendar/daily outlook and watch me squirm. Tell me you aren't sure what you are up to later and that you'll let me know in a while if we are hanging out and my erratic self will spend the next 20 minutes thinking out plans B, C, and D to your response. You get the point. I need to know what's going on, when and how it will be done.

As if I'm not enough of a whack job already, winter time means more than snow, hot cocoa and holiday lights....it means I need to drag out my heat lamp because I tend to get mild Seasonal Affective Disorder. That's number 2. Number 3: as much as I love the holiday spirit and family time it definitely brings about a lot of unnecessary stress. I usually opt to go out to Boston for Thanksgiving to spend some well needed time with my extended and much missed family. One of the benefits of this is that it changes up my scenery, lets me get away for a little while and, as much as I detest off days, it allows my body to catch up on some rest. I had a great time on the Cape, oyster-ing in the ocean, visiting Plymouth (they have this really great rock there!) and roasting chestnuts on a fire.

Coming back in, at 7:30am on Sunday, was bitter sweet. Here I was with a whole day ahead of me but getting up at 3:30am was no picnic. So I did what most people wouldn't consider doing: A two hour bike ride and an hour run. As I got out of the shower and slipped on my sweats one of my friends reminded me that it was the last day for the "Black Friday/Small Business Saturday" sales (And yes it was Sunday....I didn't get it either). Anyways, I swapped out my sweats for jeans, slapped some makeup on my face and of course dried my hair (since that was one of the 153 valuable lessons I learned from my father growing up) and dashed out the door.

Going into the store had had hopes of finding a wet suit. The funny thing about a wet suit is that last year I only wore it once, the weekend of race day and I rented it. So really, it wasn't a necessity but if I could find it at a reasonable price, why not own one? It didn't take more than 5 minutes for me to find the suit I wanted, try it on and decide we were meant to be. It also didn't take long for me to be let down by the fact that it was late November and that I wouldn't actually get to use the wet suit until next year!



....But leave it to me to find a way around that. Post-13-mile run this past Sunday, in almost 70 degree weather on December 2nd I got it into my head that it would be a good idea to bring out the wet suit and hit up lake Michigan. FACT: 70 degree air temperature does not equate to even remotely 'chilly' lake water. I think it came out to about 44 degrees. But that's still above freezing! So I got in, full body, sleeveless wetsuit and flippers. I thought I was dying! Or at least being stabbed all over my body! I had only gotten out a few feet before I had to turn around because my throat felt tight and I knew this was not a good situation to be in. As I took my walk of shame back to my car a few people stared at me with my suit on. They probably thought I was either a badass or certifiably insane for getting in the lake. Either way I decided this was one decision that would be making my top 10 "What the hell were you thinking" moments, and I would just have to be satisfied with hanging the wetsuit up to dry until April.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

You Wear What You Eat

With the Thanksgiving holiday come and gone everyone seems to be diet/weight concentrated. Once a year most of us gather with family/friends, people we like and those we tolerate, to gorge on food and sip our favorite brew. This usually leaves us feeling bloated, lethargic, and we retreat to the couch in the hopes of a quick and painless digestion. Our poor bodies. Even being a vegetarian I couldn't help but sample all of the carb-overloaded potatoes, stuffing and pies, swearing to myself that I will work it off next week in the gym.

Several weeks before the holiday I noticed a surplus of articles and discussions come out on the different social media sites geared towards athletes: "What will you do to avoid holiday weight gain?" or "8 ways to avoid stuffing your face until you puke". Really? There's probably only one, not doing it, but I'm sure someone could come up with 7 others to make for a full article, and I'd still read it :)
Any who, the day after Thanksgiving I was having a conversation with my aunt about diet and how it effects our exercise....since 80% of it is what we put in our mouths. We gabbed a bit more about the impossible task of giving up diet coke and then she had mentioned that her sodium intake was up and that it was making her feel bloated. This got me to thinking....


In the past month I have been trying to keep consistent with a food journal but I was concentrating on the wrong things. I was focused primarily on the calories I was taking in when really I should have been looking at the sodium. Leading a busy lifestyle can put us in a vulnerable position, where we are all too quick to indulge in frozen, packaged and processed foods. I do. I love the Kashi meals in the frozen food aisle, but when I actually looked at the sodium content I was floored! No wonder I can't get rid of that last little bit of body fat! Sodium really is a secret killer to your diet, even if you're eating healthy, doesn't mean you're eating smart. So instead of getting worked up about one day of binge eating, we really should be more focused on the day to day intake. My aunt put it perfectly, "You wear what you eat". Maybe you are working out consistently, for an hour or two a day, but if you go home and feed your body crap you should probably expect it to stay there. If we could all physically see food sit on us or how much sodium we're really taking in, maybe we'd think twice before putting the last bite in our mouths. Food for thought friends

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Off-Season

It's that time of year again, where the water fountains on the lake path are turned off and that favorite sleeveless running jersey is replaced with long-sleeve underarmer. I found myself out on a run the other day, around 4:30pm, and I was racing the sunset, trying to get home before it got dark. All of my races have come to an end and I am officially in the "off-season". My last two races, the Monster Dash Half Marathon and the Hot Chocolate, were slightly disappointing I will say. Call me something of a RunNerd but I have become quite particular to CARA sponsored races. Neither of these were sponsored by them and maybe I'm being prissy but I felt like they could have been run better (pun intended). I was so turned off by the Hot Chocolate 15k that I don't think I will sign up for it next year--there were just too many people and not enough staff/organization/planning that went into carrying it out. The best part was probably that I was re-united with my lovely running partner again for the first time in a year! We ran together and caught up on all of life's happenings. And so ended my racing season.

With less structure and no training plan I have been doing my best to still run but indulge in some more weight training/core exercises. It gets tedious, going to the gym every morning or sometimes twice a day. I'm starting to feel like the definition of a gym rat and I have become a part of the "gym family". You know, the regulars who if you miss one day hound on you the next morning. I see them more than my actual family, so that has to count for something.

But I've also taken some time out to do some more "laid back" runs. Exploring new areas, some old favorite spots that will soon be covered with snow, and capturing some photos. I'm hoping having these will be something of a motivation for when I'm stuck inside or trying to take on the treadmill again....oh dear gaaawwwd the treadmill!

 Ending on an exciting note: I met with the coach lady the other day and we decided on a January 1st start date for training :D

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

R(evolution)UNNER

Everyone runs for a different reason, but that reason is specialized and meaningful to him/her. I started off as the girl who ran to relieve stress and transitioned into the crazy lady who races distances for a better time, every time. I had an interesting conversation with one of my friends the other day, we were talking on the phone while I was simultaneously cleaning out my closet. In the back of my rack I pulled out a size 8 pants. I remember buying these so so many months ago. It was one of my proudest days. Up until that point I had been a size 14/12 pants and for the first time since middle school I was finally a single digit size. So I said to my friend, "Why do I keep these pants, my 4s are starting to hang off me, why do I have these?" I asked in a rhetorical fashion but she responded with, "To remember where you came from." I have such clever friends with such tactful responses. So I folded the jeans and put them back in the closet.

This is my Type One: Run it off. A lot of people get into running to lose weight. I mean I certainly started noticing the benefits when I kept needing to buy new clothes and stepping on the scale with a "Are you serious?!" response. For an average runner, one mile will burn about 100 calories, give or take. So as you get into longer runs it starts to add up. The challenge for this runner is probably in diet. If you run often or you run long, making sure you eat enough/not too much can be a tricky thing to balance. I would often times come home from a 3 hour workout, starving, throw back a bunch of nutella and toast and pass out. Probably not the best idea. Counting calories was more important to me when I was this type of runner than the kinds of foods I was eating.

So when you run long you get lean right? As a runner, your ego can be your best friend and your worst enemy all at the same time. As I started to take on longer races, like the half marathon, I noticed that I was dropping weight but I was starting to become more interested in my pace, time and how far I could go. One weekend, when I was training for my first half marathon, I remember being dropped off 7 miles out from where I was staying, in corn-field WI and told to run back. I ran through rain, sun, past turkeys that I thought were going to eat me and made it back. That was the longest I had run at that point and damn did I feel good. But when I ran the actual race itself (13.1) I was mortified with my nearly 3 hour time.

Type Two: Running for Time: This was the runner I had evolved into. Having a few races under my belt my objective shifted from just finishing the race to meeting a goal time. This didn't come easy. I started changing up my lifestyle. At this point I was a full fledged vegetarian but I did a lot of research about how my increased intake of carbs was holding me back from dropping to a smaller size, which ultimately would allow me to have a faster pace. I also started befriending a lot of runners and asking for tips. They directed me to the weight room where I learned the importance of lifting and the benefits of having a strong core. My lifestyle was starting to shape around the sport of running and my daily routine, around my workouts.

I was so much involved in this sport of running, I was working at a gym part time for a free membership, talking to everyone who came through about the sport and even making some really valuable connections. One of which was my triathlon coach. I met her one day as she came through the gym with her Ironman hat on. We chit-chatted here and there when she came through and before you know it I was approaching her about coaching me for my first half Ironman. I worked with her for 16 weeks with an outlined training plan and a mix of different workouts. I never learned more about my body/working out than I did when I was training for this even. HIIT training, plyometrics, circuits, and box jumps were just some of what I got myself into on top of endurance training. With all of these new workouts I was seeing a change in myself, mentally and physically, like never before and I knew this was the person I wanted to be.

Type 3: The Runnerd. Ok I have to admit I didn't come up with that one, BUT it is quite witty. I like to think that this is where I am at. Completely in love with the sport of running/triathlons. I find myself reading articles about core strength, tips on biking, retweeting professional triathletes and subscribing to as many blogs as possible. Each workout I do is now focused to improve my overall strength and ability rather than burning calories. I do my best to write down what I eat every day, at what time and I put a lot of focus on my protein intake. I can see myself being a part of this sport long term and love talking to everyone about it....that must be annoying :P But overall the best part about this type is knowing that I have worked through each of the other two and that's how I'm here today. Running/racing define me and drive a lot of my motivation in life. It's been an evolution of sorts though. The person we become is determined by the choices we make.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

GWEN

6am Tuesday morning. Slept through my morning workout....fabulous! I've been really on target with my 5am workouts but something about Monday and Tuesday that really weigh down on me. I have to be at work earlier these days so it's harder to motivate myself out of bed for an hour workout only to run through the shower, slap some makeup on my face and sprint out the door with a wet head, spilling coffee on myself as I lock my door. Life happens, and it goes on as we live it....or something like that....that makes sense.

But what really got me through the day is knowing that at 3pm I would be on my way to go pick up my new tri bike....that I still didn't have a name for. There was less pressure in buying the bike than trying to come up with a name for it. Backwards logic, I know. When I got into the store I came across my friendly sales associate that worked so hard to make my sale, ha! We chatted casually about racing and swapped stories about drunken escapades before talking about clip ins. So I needed new clip ins for this bike, hoping to keep the same type as my road bike. What I wanted and what I got were two different things. The clip ins that fit my shoe would have costed $250ish bucks. Woah! So instead I looked at these more circular clip ins, which actually are better than what I had: you could clip in on either side, so there's no fumbling around, and they were green to match my bike. How do you pass that up?! On the bike they went. By the end of it all I felt right at home on my bike and am itching to try it out. Go figure, the lake path is closed because of high winds.....I joked with the sales associates that I might go try it out anyways, even if the waves ate me up...."I will be an ironman!"

Driving home I stole more than a few glances back at my bike. I felt like I was taking a baby home but didn't know what to call it.....whatever that feels like. I needed to come up with something to  make it mine. I really like the green accents on it, so the green lantern came to mind. As much as I love super heros, and yea they are pretty bad ass, my bike felt more feminine to me and needed a real name, not an alias. What is green? Grass....ivy....green ivy....envy. I've always liked the saying, "Green with envy". That's how I came up with GWEN: "Green With ENvy" And just like that it stuck.

I'm looking forward to all of the many hours GWEN and I will be spending together, me riding her for hours on end....where did your mind go? This is all in preparation for IMOO 2013  :P

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bike Bargain

Take your time. Be patient. Don't rush in. All sayings I've heard countless times growing up...and even still to this day. But see here's the thing, since I was young, I've always done things sporadically and in haste. When I was a child, before I knew how to actually swim, if I saw someone in the pool I would do a hop, skip and a jump towards them and just hope for the best. In some cases these decision making skills have worked out for the best, but there have been other instances when it really came back to bite me in the arse. And if you were wondering, I didn't drown, so I guess that one worked out alright.

So this weekend I told myself I would stop procrastinating on starting my hunt for a triathlon bike. Thiis whole process of getting fitted, finding out what I needed and then actually finding a bike sounded exhausting, and to be honest it sounded like it would take a lot of time. Time is the most precious resource to me, mostly because I never have any. The funny thing is that I wear this cheap little $30 Target watch on my wrist and it hardly ever comes off, and it helps me keep things in my life structured....for the most part.

Ok so back to the bike. I went to Element Multisport with one of my friends this weekend to get the fitting out of the way. I really love this store and the sales associates. So I went in with the mindset that I wouldn't be buying a bike, but that I was interested in getting it soon. Something for a beginner but good enough to race IMOO in...and preferably around $1500 or less. The guy, Ed, was really helpful and showed me a few that were inciting but a little more than I wanted to spend. Just as I had thought we were done he says to me, "Actually, I do have this one bike, in your size, for about $1,000"

These types of things don't happen in real life. Ok, well they do, because it did to me. I looked at my friend Kris and my eyes lit up. He goes, "Looks like someone is getting a tri bike today!" I had to laugh because he was all too right! I went for a test ride around the parking lot and knew from that moment that I had fallen in love at first ride! Ed didn't have to do any more convincing, although I did call my coach to get a final yay or nay but I was already sold. So I handed over my credit card and any hopes of a social life for the next few months and became the proud owner of a Ridley Phaeton :)


Now all I need is a really cool/badass name for it.....

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Curse of the Calluses

The other morning I woke up to my typical 4:15, 4:20, 4:25 and 4:30am alarms. I begrudgingly shuffled myself out from under my covers and into the bathroom to wash my face/brush my teeth. But not before turning on my coffee pot. See the first thing I do every morning is turn that bad boy on. The noise of it brewing is something of an association for me to say 'your day has begun'. Back in the bathroom, wiping the sleep out of my eyes, I took a moment and looked down at my hands. Callused. Not even just my hands, my fingers too. Yikes. Dare I even look at my feet?

Anyone who knows me well enough knows I hate feet. Especially my own. I don't like to look at them and I sure as hell don't let people come anywhere near them. So why is this? No they're not deformed, I don't have a sixth toe, and one is not longer than the other. But much like my hands, they are extremely callused. It makes me insecure and somewhat embarrassed, even though I knew each one of those calluses took a lot of hard work, sweat, and effort to make. The one time I had them removed when I got my first-ever pedicure it hurt like none other for them to come back!

I can hear my Kuerig pot dispensing my coffee and I am brought back into the moment. I still haven't been able to come to a consensus on whether or not my callused skin is a help or a hinder. When I lift, it helps. When I shake someone's hand, I drown in my insecurities of whether or not the person is judging me for having rougher skin than them (especially is the person is a male!). Race season is about at it's end for me. And as much as it might make my insecurities go away, taking off the calluses might not be as painful on my ego as my feet when I get back into the long runs in January!

Triathlete with Training Wheels

Whenever I talk to a non-triathlete friend about racing the most common response I hear is, "You know the bike would be the easiest for me, and I could probably push through the run....but the swim, I'd drown." This cracks me up nearly every time, maybe because I have a swim/run background but in the back of my mind I'm saying, "You have no idea how boring it is to be in the middle of no where doing the same motion over and over again for 56 miles. Not to mention your ass, yea it's gonna hurt". 

Biking. You ARE the weakest link. At least for me. I haven't actually been on my bike for hmm maybe 2 months now? It's been sitting in the corner of my apartment, collecting dust. I have those days when I stare at it longingly and convince myself I don't have the time to commit to the length of a ride to make it worth it. So the other day I had a really, really rough day at work and came home in some major need of a cardio pick-me-up. I had already been to the gym once that day and didn't exactly want to go back, just to be crammed into a small space with people. People. I did not want to be around people. Didn't want to talk to anyone and definitely didn't want to have any technology on me for at least an hour.

This is when I decided today would be the day to take out my bike. Without hesitation on threw on my spandex, jersey and grabbed my shoes, bike and helmet and ran out the door. I got all the way outside when I realized my tire was slightly flat. This day was just not having me! But luckily I had an extra CO2 in my pack and just inflated it. Aaaand I was off. I headed over to the lake path and went at it. It was everything that I needed at that moment, no one talking to me and it was just me and my bike for as long as I wanted to go. Well I had dinner plans at 7 so I opted to turn around before Navy Pier (especially since that passage way on lower Wacker is a hot mess anyways).

As much as I loved being back on my bike I'd be lying if I said it was easy! I had to push a lot, especially on the way back home. I felt like I was barely even moving! By the time I made it home I was beyond pooped. And my ego was about as deflated as my tire had been earlier. While I'm still months away from IMOO 2013 it makes me nervous that my biking was that bad. I feel like I will be starting back from scratch, like a triathlete on training wheels!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Oath of the Athlete

Sometimes the hardest part about training and racing isn't the workouts. It's hard to balance out a working life, a social life and a racing life. There have been countless times that I've been invited out by friends only to have to use the line, "I can't, I'm racing tomorrow" or "I can't, I have to get up at 6 and run 15 miles". The looks and comments are always the same and the guilt never goes away. It's more just learning how to swallow it. Because as an athlete you have to make priorities. And sometimes that means saying no social outings. Don't get me wrong, if you always say no you won't have any friends and the social life part will fizzle out...you don't want that! So find times to rest and relax but stay consistent with your training.

Another instance are those mornings, well every morning, that I get up at 4:30 to be in the gym by 5 and utilize the 2 hours I have to the maximum before hustling off to the shower and into work with wet hair and doing my makeup in the car. I will admit, while this is somewhat disgusting, there were quite a few times over the summer I would go into work (because I worked outside as a day camp counselor with kids) right after a workout, without a shower and just with a new shirt. So I'm smelly and not always put together a 100% but it's all part of my lifestyle.

A lot of my friends and family think I am crazy but when it comes to commitment and discipline aren't we all just a little crazy? I make a commitment and promise to myself that I will work my hardest because I'm goal oriented and want to do everything I can to reach it. This means going to bed early and struggling to stay up at 2am when all of your friends want to go to another bar until 4am. Or only being able to tolerate 2 drinks before you start feeling tipsy because the last few months have been spent abstaining for training purposes. But at the end of the day at the end of the race it's all worth it if you love it. If you don't, find a new hobby :)

Superstitions and Traditions

Everyone has that favorite article of clothing, food or thing they do before a race. To anyone else is may seem weird or unnecessary but to you, it needs to happen, be eaten or worn in order to feel your best when performing. Until recently I didn't think I had anything that set me apart from any other runner/triathlete. But then I thought to myself, runners and triathletes are of a whole other species and each one of them is unique. I mean have you ever listened to them talk? Geeesh!

Anywho, One of my favorite things to wear during a race are my steele wool socks. I have a few pairs but I have grown accustom to my bright orange ones. But I have also been known to wear mix matching ones, like a purple and a blue. A lot of people think running socks are unnecessary but I always have them for a race.

I have to have coffee every morning before a race. But then I also have to chug a huge glass of water. As you can imagine this cycle initiates the need to have to pee like 6 times before a race....it's obnoxious but I always do it.

I can't say I remember when I started doing this but it has become a tradition that at every race I run I have two french braids in my hair. The problem, when I first started doing this was that I always had to find someone who knew HOW to french braid. Then one summer I finally learned how to do it on myself and I no longer felt the anxiety of "How am I gonna get my hair did?!" I always admit though, the braids are never as tight or as neat as when one of my best friends does it for me. She has been braiding my hair since we were kids and she's proud that I learned to do it myself (because now she doesn't need to stay over with me every time just to do it in the morning!). But my left side always seems to have more hair/is thicker than my right.

Through racing I've learned a few hard lessons. The first being that it hurts really, really bad when you chafe. I've learned to wear my racing clothes during training runs so I can see what area of my body chafe the worst and apply more anti-chafe rub to them before I race. Because believe you me, try getting into a hot shower after a long run with chafe marks everywhere....talk about pain!

Carbo loading is crap. Oh and cheese, don't eat cheese the night before a race. Your body has a hard time digesting it so it leaves you more bloated than anything. So have the bowl of spaghetti, not the never ending one, but the regular one and skip the cheese on top.






It's not Sweat, It's Liquid Awesome!

The cold ate me up immediately so I started to run to the start line. I tried to keep in mind that I needed to start out slower than usual to maintain negative splits. I found my running partner just over the bridge and he jumped in with me. We hit the first 13 miles fabulously. Granted our pace was way faster than he had planned out (because, yes he did print me out a splits sheet, what a guy!). But we were holding well enough, between 9:20-9:40 that we just let it rip.

Downtown was such a rush! Everyone was so energetic! Lesson learned from last year: put your name on your bib, people cheer for you and it makes you feel great! We managed to Gangum Style every mile marker along the way (although I was extremely limited in energy in the last few miles for this) And if you don't know what I'm talking about...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZmkU5Pg1sw

ANYWAYS! I had a ton of fun in boys town, where I met up with one of my friends and she jumped in with me. I was running positive splits all the way up to mile 14. I made it just fine without my ipod because there were so many people calling out my name and yelling for my organization that it was the motivation I needed to keep me going. Mile 14 through 20 were decent. And actually I ended up taking off 16 minutes from my 20 miler time when I ran the Newton Ready to Run three weeks prior. Stoked!

Miles 21-26 were the hardest. I don't care what anyone else says, the last 10k sucks! There was no adrenaline rush and my pace dropped significantly. The only thing that kept me going was my PR hopes and the fact that I swore I would not walk in this marathon at all! My running partner did an amazing job keeping me going....or at least watching him speed up in front of me kept me pushing.

Between mile 25-26 they kicked him out. It was all me, the hill on Roosevelt being the only thing that stood in my way of the finish line. As if my quads didn't burn enough as it was fighting my way up that hill took almost all of the remaining energy I had left. And all I could think about as I was going was how much I hated each and every one of those photographers for being there. They picked the worst spot to take my picture because I looked like hell, but did my best to pull off a "extremely photogenic guy" face.

Somehow I mustered up the strength to pick up my pace and run towards the finish line. The crowd roared and I pushed closer. Crossing was the best feeling I had all day :) But I hated that everyone was starting to bunch up! I couldn't stop walking because slowing was already having my legs go weak and I was weeebles-wobbles all over the place. I made my way through the crowds to pick up water, food, my metal and some beer before plopping down next to a fence to recover.

Marathon Morning

4:05am Alarm goes off. Hop out of bed, turn on coffee pot and stumble into the bathroom. Take a look in the mirror, makeup from last night still on my face, gross. But do I need a shower? That's a lot of effort, especially since I'm gonna be out running for a few hours only to need to shower again....I could just wash my face. Then I realize I need to shave my legs. Uhg. Turn on the shower just as I hear the coffee brewing.

I get out of the shower and I'm freezing! Grab that cup off the brewer and sit to dry my hair. It's probably in the 30s or 40s outside and I would be headed out in about 35 minutes, might as well dry my hair. I watch the goosebumps cover my arms as I'm sitting in my towel running the blow dryer through my hair. It's marathon morning and the excitement is building. I want nothing more than to make a HUGE PR. I got everything ready the night before and was ready to go by 4:45. (This is somewhat atypical of me). I called my running partner at 4:50. He grumbled at me into the phone and said he'd be there in 30 minutes.

5:27am. We're walking up to the train platform JUST in time for the train to show up. Got down to Grant Park and headed into Charity Village. Honestly, I don't think I will do another marathon without being a part of a charity. If anything for the pre- and post race benefits. PAWS had an AWESOME tent set up for us with all kinds of food/drinks and the best part? It was heated! We also had our own porta-potties (which for anyone who has done any race ever knows that the porta-potty situation is ALWAYS a hot mess! And when you're waiting around for over an hour you tend to have to go several times before you even get into your corral). So it was nice to simple things like no lines and toilet paper!



6:45am headed into the corral area. I was in corral E with the rest of the charities but just as I got there I decided I needed to pee for the 4th time. Only I had to wait in line for about 15 minutes bc I was a long way away from Charity Village. It was just enough time to get into my corral and hear the National Anthem. I made friends with a few of the people around me and we chatted about Ironmans (go figure!) and before you knew it we were walking up to the start line. I was less than thrilled to give up my sweatshirt but as I approached the start line I took a deep breath and cast it off. Ok here we go....

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What time is it? Taper time!

Who doesn't love a good taper? When I first started running I absolutely hated them! I felt like I wasn't working to my full potential but as I have been training I have learned to take them in and soak them up. Taper runs are great for letting your body relax, but I also like to use them to work on speed. I had a 13 miler to do, and while I was still a few weeks out from the Chicago Half Marathon, I thought it would be a good idea to see how much I could push myself in the 13 miles. Typically when I run, if I feel great on the way out I'll have a rough run back in...or vice versa. This run though actually proved me wrong. I think given all of the strength training I had been doing I was able to push through this 13 and come in on a strong finish.

So much so that in the last mile of my run I had an older guy racing me. I had gotten to the .5 of my mile, or so. And this guy pulls in front of me (like works himself up to a pace that is fast enough to pass me and then pulls in front of me only to slow down.) I was peeved by this....enough that I decided I would speed up and pass him but I held my pace, like a respectable runner should do. This guy must not have liked that though because he tried to pull ahead of me again. Something in me was not having this AT ALL so I picked up again and we found ourselves shoulder to shoulder...racing to the end. Neither of us had to say anything to one another but we both knew. My competitive nature really was getting the best of me and I pushed everything I had in me to the water fountain. I beat him out and it felt so good. We didn't make eye contact after that, but we parted ways and I went home feeling like a badass.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Hurts so good

Another week. Another mile increase. 18 miles doesn't seem so hard when you've already done 17 the week before. After I finished my run the week before I threw some ice bags together and stuffed them under my sports pants and on my knees. A few weeks earlier I had gone to the doctor for a physical and had her give me a prescription for some anti-inflams and had decided only to use them after my long runs. And for extra precaution I also ran with my knee brace ont he left knee (which is the one I had problems with last year) for the extra support.

I made sure during the week to hydrate extra well, I even used the electrolyte tabs (Nuun brand, you can find them at Fleet Feet), dropped them in my first water bottle on the way to work and watched it fizz away. Consistency is also a huge part of training. I decided to take a more proactive approach to my diet, which up until now had been a lot of thrown-together meals at odd hours of the day. With my training notebook I started writing down what I was eating, when I was eating it and how many calories I was taking in. This helped A LOT! And actually I am continuing to see more results in my figure and my health. It has allowed me to also find a regiment since I found that for my body if I took in 100-200 calories every 2 hours I would be comfortable enough that I wasn't full but I wasn't hungry either. But some days were just different and I would be more hungry than usual. Pay attention to this. If you're hungry eat, but don't over-indulge and be sure it's not just a hydration issue.

With all of these factors coming into play I was sure that my 18 miler would be great. It wasn't. Not gonna lie, it hurt a lot more than the week before. I started off strong with a 2 mile run south on LSD and 2 miles back up to where I started. I did this to break up my path so it wouldn't be the same as the week before. The 7 mile run up north went well. I always say that if I have a good run going in I will most likely have problems coming back. I started to cramp at mile 14 and hit the wall by 15. I did have to stop a few times to stretch and one time, probably with about 5 miles left I sat down and stretch. Gotta make it home. I purposely didn't take my phone and I was at a point on the path where I would have to go back up north to catch a bus. I had no choice. Suck it up, pick yourself up, and move on.

I eventually made it back to the start and it felt AMAZING to have completed 18 miles. But I didn't stop, I made a B-line off the path and onto my apartment. When I got home I attended to my knees and took in protein, etc. I laid on my floor thinking about the run. Yeah it sucked but I overcame it, I had climbed over the wall. And it just goes to show, even though I did all of this great prep during the week I still need to take into account that this doesn't prevent me from still having a rough run.

Transition Time

I have to admit transitioning from IM training to marathon training was not something I was crazy enthusiastic about. Let me be clear, I love everything about training for endurance sports, the build up and break down of the workouts and my body...but after having such a mixed experience with the marathon last year I was a little stand-offish. Not to mention my charity group, PAWs, had already been training for over a month now while I was doing IM training. So I had kind of missed that window of opportunity (in my mind) to meet everyone and mesh with the group. I probably could have met up with them at 6am mid-training season but I opted not to. I wanted to train more on my own anyways but I love everything about raising money for an amazing organization....and I was not about to switch up my long run days from Sunday to Saturday....maybe that makes me something of a brat :P

So I waited two-ish weeks before actually hitting the running full on. My coach told me to do some active recovery in the pool, and I did some upper body weights as well. But the time had come for me to eventually drag out my training notebook and start breaking down the remainder of my training months and how I was going to appraoch it. I'm following the Hal Higdon Intermediate I schedule (http://halhigdon.com/training/51139/Marathon-Intermediate-1-Training-Program). I thought I would be jumping in on a recovery week when I started....NOPE! I was picking up on the week when I was scheduled for 17 miles. GREAT! As much as I was trying to come up with an excuse to wait another week I quickly realized that the next week would only up another mile.

Sunday morning arrives and I had prepared myself mentally for this run for the past two days. I hadn't done 17 miles in a while and the trick to them is that it's all mental. Granted I had just gotten off work at the bar at 3am but I hydrated well and didn't join in on the fried food fest with my co-workers and slept in until about 10:30. I had my ipod playlist, my honey stingers and a little caffeine kick to get me going. All I had to do was step out the door.

I have to say, the run itself took me up to Chicago Avenue, downtown. I loved everything about the run up there, because it had been a while since I'd run that far north on the path. And I made sure to run next to the lake, watching the swimmers in Oak Street beach and occasionally catching a wave splash up on the cement.

The run back was a little challenging, I had to stop once to do a quick stretch out but I have learned from past long runs not to sit down! A quick quad and ham stretch and move on. Only 4 more miles to go, push through it!


Coming up to the 53rd street entrance I was growing more and more excited. I was about to finish the longest run I'd done in a while....I picked up my pace and raced to the water fountain....where I collapsed next to as soon as I reached it. I grabbed a quick drink and threw myself down on the ground for a quick stretch. I laid there long enough to realize there were tiny bugs crawling on me before I jumped up and began my walk back. Normally I jog home to get back faster, it's only a few blocks but I would be lying if I said I wasn't in pain a bit and decided not to be a hero on this one.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Half of an Ironman

Crossing the finish line was one of those moments I'll remember forever. I'll remember how I felt, the voice of the announcer and the lady chasing me down to grab my chip....and me telling her to hold on because I didn't want to stop and vom on her! It was a hell of an experience! But even more satisfying was walking down to the beach to find Alivia and Brian. I had my medal and hat in one hand and some water in the other. Every part of my body hurt and I just wanted to sit down but I knew that if I did I wouldn't get back up. I looked for the balloons, because I forgot to grab them for transition but B and Liv said they would bring them to the beach so I could find them. There ahead of me was my sparkly purple balloon. I saw Alivia get up and run towards me. It took everything in me to yell out, "No no! Don't touch me, I'm disgusting!" She looked confused but smiled none the less and I made a B-Line for the lake...where I promptly sat my sweaty self down in and just basked in all of the glory of being half of an ironman. Brian came and sat by me, and I started to take them through my 70.3 miles. It felt really good to have them there with me, knowing that they had spent the whole weekend there with me, for me, meant the world to me.

I went for a quick swim in the lake just to rinse off completely before we made our way back to the car. Actually, Brian being the gentleman he was walked to go get the car, while Alivia and I went to go retrieve my stuff out of transition. It was funny seeing everyone clearing out there stuff. With nearly nothing left, I looked at the faces of all the proud finishers, it was a great day.

Alivia and I made our way up and out of the race area, waiting for Brian to pack everything. Did I mention how amazing my friends were? I mean on top of everything else they also managed to pack up all of my stuff out of the hotel room and even put together a recovery drink for me...I was so spoiled! So we began the drive back to Chicago, I was curled up in my spandex and a hoody returning all of the calls/texts I had gotten. 

We probably hadn't made it even 15 miles before my bladder was about to explode. So we pulled off into a gas station. As I got out of the car half of the beach we were on fell out. Whoops! Two hours later I found myself back at my dads house, showering, ordering pizza and throwing all of my reeking clothes in the laundry before passing out for a long nights rest. And the thought of how I can't wait to do it again next year!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Run, Run as Fast as you Can!!!





Hot damn did it feel good to get off that bike!!!! I ran back over to my transition spot and mounted that bad boy. Time for the run! I threw off my jersey and kicked off my shoes. "What do I need", I thought. Well my race belt for one and maybe some more body glide...chafing is probably worse than body fatigue when it comes to pain. As I was lacing up my gym shoes I looked down and noticed the little 5 hour energy bottle I added in with my stuff. I hadn't really raced with caffeine before, and I wasn't completely toasted but a nice little caffeine kick wouldn't hurt. I threw back half of the bottle and was on my way. On the way out toward the transition I came across a guy who already had his medal and finished. I congratulated him and he offered me some ice. I took it gladly because at this point the temps had risen a lot and I needed to cool off my core temps....so I threw it down my sport bra.

Running out on the course I told myself, "This is the last part of the race and it's only 13 miles....you've done 13 miles over and over again, this will be nothing!" It's a good thing I had that motivation and mindset because within the first mile of the run I was going down a steep hill only to go back up on the other side. Shit, and I have to do this twice!? No matter, I kept on going. Seeing the photographers at the top of the hill made me hustle...had to look "pretty for the camera"....right! Pretty after 60ish miles, good one Sam! Either way I kept a good pace for the first six miles and developed a pretty good system where I would run every mile and then walk at the aid station to throw back water, eat a few pretzels (even though at this point the last thing I wanted to do was eat) followed by another cup of water and come ice down the front and back of my sports bra.

I got to the half way point, which ironically enough is also where the finish line is. The sucky part? You had to do two laps before you could cross it....so you literally have to run past the finish line and mentally overcome the fact that you have another 6 miles until you will get to see it again. Womp, womp, WOMP! But I ran past it, and I ran hard! Some of the people watching along the way held hands out for high fives and I just yell back, "Hell yea! Six more miles!!" Their faces dropped and one of them goes, "You're nuts!" I had a good laugh and mid-laugh I ran past Liv and Brian! What luck! I didn't stop though, just slowed down fast enough to yell, "See you guys soon, six more!" I was ready to go!

That damn hill. The second time around my hips were crying and I decided to not be a hero and I walked up it. I walked next to this guy and we shared a few words. He and I would play tag for the remainder of the race....but I would beat him out....significantly :P The hardest mile for me was between 9 and 10. I'm still not sure why this happens but when I was on the bike I started to feel the need to burp. From there on I was burping every few minutes and every time felt AMAZING! But for some reason I couldn't burp! I'm sure you're all enjoying reading about this right now and are thoroughly grossed out but I was miserable. This was the first time I walked since the hill and as I walked I tried "burping" myself....pats on the back. Let me tell you, when I got it, I was THRILLED and just took off!

Miles 10-13 were great! Besides the fact that it was hotter than hell and I felt the need to pee on myself (which means I guess I was doing a decent job hydrating) I ran well. Despite all that I had gone through I tried to pass as many people as possible on my way in and when that finish line was in site you bet I was upping my pace....in the distance on the beach I heard the LMFAO song 'Sexi and I know it' and I rocked out all the way to the narrow strip that was the finish line.....

I want to ride my Biiiiicycle....Biiiiicylce!!


Running into transition I was feeling great! One third of the race out of the way! I looked down at my watch and it said 27 minutes. I was on cloud 9 because I thought I had done the swim in that time....I would realize later that I must have stopped and started my watch on accident while swimming. Either way it gave me a boost to push harder. I ran past a few people as I entered into transition and immediately started stripping off the wet suit. My coach told me to take my time, but not too much, in between the swim and the bike since I'd probably take in a fair amount of water. But I was fixated on getting out and on my bike. So I grabbed the section I made for the bike, threw on my spandex, a sports bra over my swim top and zipped my jersey over that. 'Don't forget your helmet', I thought to myself. Honestly that would be one thing that any biker probably wouldn't forget but in that moment my mind wasn't really in transition, it had already beaten me out onto the road. Shoes on, helmet on, grabbed the sun glasses and started running my bike to the 'out' end of transition.

You aren't allowed to mount the bike until you get passed a certain part, and go figure when you can mount it, the first thing you're doing is going up hill. No matter, I had my fuel and was ready to take on 56 miles. As I got maybe 3 miles out people were whizzing by me with their fancy bikes and airo helmets. I'd be lying if I said this didn't bother me but I did my best to remind myself of the last bit of advice my coach gave me at coffee a few days earlier, "Race your race." Simple yet so true! My bike was definitely not up to these people's standards but it was going to get me through 56 miles if I put my mind to it. Six miles in and I was fumbling in my jersey. Should of left well enough alone because I dropped my pack of gummy chews, and once those bad boys fell there was no going back for them. As I looked down at my loss I realized something else, "Mother fu.....I forgot my race belt with my number!!" I spent the rest of my ride freaking out about getting a penalty for this, and every time the officials road past me on the motorcycle to look for drafting I would repeat over and over in my head, "Please don't penalize me, please don't penalize me!!!!" I didn't get a penalty :)

I'd say the hardest part of this bike was knowing when to fuel. I started putting in some of my honey stinger waffles, since I didn't have the chews, early in on the ride. I was nervous by how warm it was getting and having not taken anything in since 30 minutes before my swim. This was not a good idea. At about 20 miles my stomach was hurting so badly that there were a few times I had strongly considered pulling off and stopping. And having people pass me didn't help my ego. But there were a few kind strangers that would say things to me, while passing me of course, like "I see a lot of character on that bike, keep it up girl!" or "I love the color of your bike, so awesome!" (Yes, thank you for the compliment but I am well aware that I look like I am struggling and that my bike is just a plane-jane road bike). Despite my negativity, these moments were enough to keep me pushing. I told myself that I needed to go until at least mile 28, there's no way I couldn't do at least half!

Before I got there though I witnessed a wicked wipe out! This guy, who was honestly riding a little too cocky for his own good, tried to cut in between this lady, and despite passing her correctly, he still took her out! He was able to catch himself to the point where he didn't go down.....but she did! She was laying in the fetal position yelling out in pain. This is definitely one of those situations where you have no idea what to do. It's kind of like when the smoke detector goes off in your work building....you know/your instinct should be to get out yet you don't really move because you're not sure if it's a real fire or not....Ok maybe not the best idea but I thought to myself, 'Do I stop and help? And if I do, what could I do?' I ended up riding past her but at every corner after a long straight, there were cops/meds. I heard the sirens going off which means someone in front of me had already notified them that there was a rider down.

I made it to mile 28. I could have quit, but something in my mind was like, "Are you kidding?" I don't think I could have lived with myself had I just stopped so I pressed on. the next 28 miles were challenging....my butt was killing me, and there were quite a few "hills" I had to take on. They call Racine a "flat ride"....right. Note to self, do more hill rides! By the time I got to the last aid station, around mile 46 I had grabbed for an Ironman Perform. I never drink gaterade on a course because it's too unpredictable. But at this point my stomach was starting to get angry again and I knew I needed some kind of electrolytes.

Coming into the final 5 miles you begin biking past the run course. I flipped out seeing how many people were already running. Thinking I was going to be kicked off the course I kicked it into high gear and actually started chasing after a guy on a tri bike with an aero helmet!

Side note!: At dinner the night before we talked about the game guys play while on the bike: If you pass a person with aero tires: 15 points, aero helmet: 15 points, If they have an ironman tatto: 50 points....if you get "chicked" minus 25! So in my ride, I chicked 4 guys, I was proud of that :P

Ok the transition is in site and down hill!!!! But actually I was going too fast to enter into transition so the officials were hollering at me to slow down. I unclipped and hopped off the bike.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Wash it down with some lake water

"Next up we have our 18-24 year old wave. How many of you this is your first time? Good! You will remember this day for the rest of your life! We'll go at the sound of the air horn." Those were the last words I heard before running into Lake Michigan. My heart was pounding and I was starting to regret ever thinking I could do this. I positioned myself on the outer left side, near the back. My lovely coach gave me the helpful hint to assume this position because it would give me the best chance of not getting kicked in the face. It would have me swim an extra quarter of a mile but it was worth not getting a face lift. I glanced over at the clock. About a minute left until I was about to take on 70.3 miles. In my head I knew that I could do it but at this moment every doubt in the world crossed my mind. Probably because there was no backing out now, now I wait.

"Everyone have a good race!" One of the guys at the front of the pack yells back at everyone. This theme of empathy would follow suit through the rest of the race.....because triathletes are amazing people :) A few seconds left, I saw the official raise the horn. My goggles are on my face and instantly the surroundings become a dark shade of blue. I was ready. But waiting for that horn was kind of like that game you would play in grade school, we called it brownies and elves, where you had to sneak up on the elves while they're backs are turned and you're waiting anxiously for the gym teach to say "GO!" so you can run like hell to the other side of the gym before that person in front of you whips around and grabs you. Ok that sounded really dramatic for a game that a 3rd grader would play but I was pretty anxious. And just as I tapped into that anxiety it was turned into adrenaline because the horn had come off.

Because I don't half-ass much of anything, my crazy self, along with everyone else, did high knees into the water. There wasn't really a point where it became "too deep" where you'd NEED to start swimming but as soon as I saw the people in front of me go in I decided to follow. The course for this swim went about straight out for a short while (maybe 0.1) and then hooked a left. I was more nervous in the 0.1 part of the mile than I was for the duration of the race. For someone who has swam most of her life I was instantly struck by both the person ahead of me's foot and the thought of "what if I drown!?" Well that wasn't going to be the case because I actually did a pretty good job on the swim. As I hooked my left around the bouy I found a comfortable spot and went at it. The only real problem that began to develop was my ability to stay within the bouys. I kept going outside of them so I would occasionally take my face out of the water to see where I was and then end up having to swim a sharp right to put myself back within them. Before long I had worked myself into the wave before me. This made me feel really good, except that it was comprised of older women, something like 50-56 haha. I can say that I never got hit in the face but that I may or may not have kicked someone behind me....my bad yo!

Seeing the bouy color go from white to red was a good sign, half way done!!! Soon enough I could even see the beach, YES! As it became too shallow to swim I stood up and started to unzip my wet suit as I half walked/ran towards the beach. I will admit that I was pretty proud of myself at this point and was even more motivated to hustle my ass out of the water because the outrageously handsome guy in my age group that I saw before the take off was right in front of me :P I didn't see him any more for the race but you bet I chased him out of that water! Anyways, I ran from the beach into transition, passing a few people on the way and hoping in-and-out of a kiddie pool to get some of the sand off. I did a little self check in, I was feeling pretty good and ready to ride for 56 miles!

Just Keep Swimmin'


Transition is kind of like your locker in high school; you have this tiny space to put your stuff and the person next to you is all up on you and really your bubble of personal space is invaded. You have the little room underneath where your bike is racked to put everything you need for the bike and run. I like to think that I'm low maintenance but hot damn if the person next to me would have showed up I'm not fully convinced all of my stuff would have fit! It wasn't even that much but with that many people racing there really is no personal space.

So as I set up I had air put in my tires and laid out everything I would need. My coach told me "Don't spend any more than 5 minutes in there" Apparently there are people that will spend 30 minutes in their transition place setting things up. So as I'm placing my running shoes next to my clip ins I couldn't help but hear her voice in my head "Really though, there are people who bring buckets of water into transition to wipe off their feet, what is this a spa?!" haha I chuckled to myself and it eased the anxiety. Once I had emptied my gym bag of the necessities I decided to leave and not look back. I needed to get into my swim suit/wet suit anyways.

It was still early, the sun was just coming up, but nearly everyone had arrived. The line for the porta-johns was ridiculous but I wanted to make sure I peed one more time before putting the wet suit on. Before I could do that though there was a woman who demanded I give her my arms and left calf...she was writing my number on my arm and my age on the back of my leg. I was officially branded. Wow that's exciting.

Alivia and Brian were so unbelievably patient. Besides the fact that neither of them was really that awake they were really helpful carrying things for me and easing my tension. We began the mile walk out to the beach where I would be starting. It was probably only 6:15 or 6:30 at the latest, yet the beach was packed with people. We found a nice spot to sit and veg out, waiting to watch the pros take off. It really was an amazing experience being able to sit on the beach early in the morning with so many people who were all going to attempt to take on 170.3 miles. A little before 7am they did the national anthem and lined up the pros. This was the part I was waiting for, the start of the Ironman. My wave start wasn't until 7:44am but once that gun went off there was no going back, it would only be a short time before I would be next.

I loved watching the racers run, high knees out in the water...and boy did they fly! Wave by wave the racers took off. At about 7:15 I was getting ready--Putting on my age group white cap and doing a walk into the water. As I went to put my goggles on I felt a sharp snap on my wrist. SHIT. My goggles broke in half at the center piece. I do a quick freak out, followed by a mental note, not to freak out and walk over to the aid station. I asked the volunteers if they had any tape because my goggles had just snapped and I had a 7:44am wave start. They felt badly for me and took out some of their med tape. The problem quickly became known that the little plastic piece that would connect the center to the eye piece had completely fallen off. The two did their best to tape it together but when I put it over my head the goggles broke again. They both looked at me apologetically and said there wasn't anything else they could do. In the heat of a panic I crazily asked them if they would consider taping them to my face. One of them laughed, but then tried to pull it back and told me she couldn't do that because it might rip my skin off.

Ok now would be the time to panic! I ran over to Alivia and Brian, take a deep breathe and just say, "Now what?!" Brian takes a moment to think and goes, "I'll run to Walgreens and try to get another pair." I look at my watch, it's 7:21 "There's no way you'll make it" I tell him. He didn't really hear me because he had already taken off to the car. (He never actually made it out of the race area anyways, everything was blocked off). Meanwhile, Alivia was running around asking people if they had extra goggles, god I love that girl! So then there was me arguing with myself in my head, could I swim the 1.2 without goggles? Well yea, but it would suck and I could potentially lose a contact in the process. So I walked up to the last resort and asked one of the volunteers if they knew if anyone had an extra pair of goggles. She told me to go over to the announcer and ask him to ask over the mic.

Things have a funny way of working out. As luck would have it, the announcer saved me, and had an extra pair sitting on the side. I could have squealed! I thanked him, told him I owed him my race and went to go line up with my wave start. It was 7:37.