December 28, 2011

Starting Over. Again.

It would be great to reach the end of an offseason and not be grossly out of shape, but the events of the last few months have once again left me this way. It's ok though, because after last season's burnout and my repeat PF injury I needed a break.

But that break is now over. On a chilly Christmas morning I laced up my shoes and headed out for my first run since early October. I walked 10 frigid minutes to warm up, then ran one minute and walked one minute, repeating five times. I ran five full minutes without foot pain, tightness or discomfort and felt overjoyed. It was the best Christmas gift I could have wished for.

The next day I got back into the pool for my first swim since Ironman Wisconsin. My suit barely fit and I wasn't sure I could even remember how to swim, but after a few awkward laps it started to come around and though I resembled a fish flopping around just prior to death, it really wasn't that bad. I may never love swimming, but after a three month break I at least don't detest it anymore.

Yesterday I ran again, this time for eight minutes. Once again it was successful, but I'll save the champagne for later since PF issues tend to creep up when you least expect it. So far so good though.

I have a pretty challenging road ahead but am really looking forward to it. The upcoming year will be busy with work and travel, and given the PF problems I'll be focusing more on cycling than running/triathlons, but I'm optimistic that 2012 will be a really good year.

December 21, 2011

Where in the World is...

My posting has been spotty at best this year, but I've never gone this long in between and there is good reason. I've pretty much been gone since November 2nd. Here's where I've been:
  • Nov 2-9: Vacation in London with friends
  • Nov 16-17: Drove my cat Otis to DC to live with my sister temporarily
  • Nov 18-27: Vacation in the Piedmont region of Italy with my boyfriend Mark
  • Nov 27-28: Short solo jaunt to Rome before heading back to London
  • Nov 29-Dec 8: Two different business trips to London
  • Dec 10-12: Back to DC to bring Otis home
  • Dec 16-18: Fun weekend in San Francisco with Mark
I can't tell you how many times I logged on and tried to post a little something but I either had no connection or was too busy and tired. The time zipped by so quickly and has left me in a horribly jet lagged haze. My body is beyond confused. But the personal parts of the travel were incredibly fun and I may someday post a few pics if I can catch up on life.

I have two suitcases and an overnight bag partially unpacked lying around my apartment, but it's time to pack up once again for a trip home for the holidays on Friday. I plan to sleep, eat and wear pajamas as much as possible all week. And maybe throw in a swim or jog here or there.

On that front, I'm ashamed to say I haven't swam a single stroke since Ironman Wisconsin. I just couldn't bear the thought of it and given how burned out I was last season I decided to just skip it for awhile. I was never a good swimmer anyway and it's not like I'll forget how. I haven't been able to run since the race with the exception of the Army 10 Miler on October 9. That was the last time I laced up my shoes and gave it a try. I've suffered from severe plantar fasciitis once again and now have achilles tendonitis issues to add to the mix. Just when I think it's improving I have a setback so I'm really being cautious. If all goes well the next several days I'll try a very easy, short jog. At least I can earn a few extra Christmas cookies.

Happy Holidays!

October 29, 2011

Ironman Wisconsin: Bike

"Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever." - Lance Armstrong

Most of us spend the majority of our day on the bike during Ironman. Even with cycling ranking as my favorite of the three sports, the bike is daunting. It's not necessarily the distance or time, but rather the nagging fear that mistakes or bad luck on the bike can lead to a miserable run or DNF. I truly enjoy the hours and hours spent biking in an Ironman, but breathe a huge sigh of relief when I reach a point I know I could walk if my bike were to absolutely fail me.

The Ironman Wisconsin bike course is one of my favorite rides. It's technical and hilly, isolated at times and packed with crowds at other times. The rolling hills and multiple turns keep your mind sharp and make the time go by more quickly. But they also sap your energy so you're likely to hit a lull at some point during the 112 miles.

I started out feeling great and the weather was nearly perfect. There was a change near the beginning of the course that added another small climb and what would end up being an extra mile... as if 112 weren't enough. But it wasn't that bad. The "stick" portion of the course leading out to the loop always feels like a long set-up to me, which makes that section fly by in what seems like minutes. I saw a few friends along the way which always helps. Even just minutes of chatting can be a boost. I reached the start of the loop in Verona in just under an hour, which was pretty fast for me. I wasn't trying to push, but was averaging around 18mph comfortably.

I don't approach the IMWI ride with a "first loop really easy" mentality. Instead I have an HR guideline and try stick to it. Since I know the course well, I know how to prepare for surprises, like a steep climb immediately after a turn. I use descents to my advantage when possible, but even with as much climbing as there is on this course the long, relaxing downhills are few and far between.

People always say you'll hate yourself at Mile 90 but my hate miles usually come sooner and have passed by Mile 90. Overall I was feeling pretty amazing and was pleasantly surprised. My long bike training was not what it should have been and I didn't have near the cycling fitness I had last season. But all was going well. The only time I stop during the bike is for a minute or so at special needs to reapply sunscreen and chamois cream and grab another gel flask. I made the quick stop and started the second loop, and that's when I began fading a bit. I also started to feel incredibly bloated and was worried about GI issues. In addition to the bloating I was nauseated so nothing sat well in my stomach. Several times after a sip of sports drink or a mouthful of gel, it came right back up after swallowing. Great. I tried not to let it get to me and powered through, forcing the nutrition down. I knew if I didn't I'd pay for it later with a miserable run. I rode nearly 30 miles like this and around the time I hit the 3 big hills on the second loop, right around Mile 90, I finally started to feel better. After that it was fantastic, thankfully.

My second loop was only slightly slower than the first and my ride back on the stick felt great. I wasn't going to meet my goal time of 7 hours and I was ok with that. I did the bike in just over 6:30 last year, but my bike training was beyond consistent then. I thought of all the training challenges and missed rides and just felt thankful to be there, finishing the bike feeling strong. I tried to file away all the experiences and moments I didn't want to forget, like the funny signs on one of the climbs - "Worst Parade Ever," and "Never Trust a Fart." The guys in speedos and ridiculous costumes who ran up the hills alongside us. Seeing my family and managing to get in a quick high five with my dad. I realized at one point early on the course that my face hurt from smiling. Even when no one was around I'd find myself smiling. I really loved this ride.

Time: 7:08:03

October 2, 2011

Making Time

Three weeks ago right now, I was somewhere in the first few miles of the Ironman Wisconsin marathon. After an incredible race I was looking forward to some much-needed rest. My coach put me on an unstructured schedule and encouraged me to do whatever I felt like - if anything. One thing was certain, my plantar fasciitis was near its worst and an extended break from running was mandatory. And despite how much I just love the pool (sarcasm) I would have done some swimming were it not for a minor surgical procedure on my toe (too disgusting for this blog). So the result was a three-week period of complete rest aside from one short bike ride two weeks ago that involved a lobster roll...

Connecticut Style From Red Hook Lobster Pound Truck

... and ice cream sandwich...

Snickerdoodles With Nutella Toasted Almond Ice Cream from Coolhaus Truck

... and a beautiful fall ride this morning that didn't involve a food break.

I really haven't missed the training, but have finally started yearning to be active. I thought I'd have heaps of free time to catch up on all those photos I never posted, write my race report, get my apartment in order, visit with friends I haven't seen for months. But what I discovered is that I'm just as busy now as I was before Ironman and it made me think a lot about the question I get asked the most: "How do you have the time for all that training?" I realized the answer is that I don't have it. You most likely don't have it. Almost nobody truly has it. The answer is that I make time for it. I squeeze it into the dark, early morning hours or late, lonely nights that bookend my already crazy-busy day.

That realization made me appreciate this sport that much more. At the end of the day it's just my hobby, but it's one that is truly satisfying and full of reward. It also made me appreciate this precious time that is the offseason. I plan to enjoy it fully.

In the spirit of applying some in-season discipline I will make my race report a top priority over the next week. I have the bike section half drafted and need to finish capturing the thoughts before too much time has passed. I'm also going to peel myself from the couch and get back to being active, but only for the pleasure of feeling my heart beat and working up a sweat. There will be no training going on here for a few months.

September 17, 2011

Ironman Wisconsin: Pre-Race and Swim

"Someday my body will not be able to do this. Today is not that day." - Unknown

Race Week

Race week in Madison is always a good time. I stay with my family just blocks from the athlete's village and always have friends racing or volunteering. I arrived Wednesday afternoon and spent time with my mom. At dinner my good friends Laura and Chris, also racing, joined us and then spent the night. Laura and I were gabbing until midnight while Chris wished we'd run out of things to talk about (Chris: it will never happen). There was a lot of excitement in the air.

I spent the next few days checking in and doing small workouts. I invited fellow blogger Kevin to join us for a practice swim Thursday, the lake was literally perfect.

I was feeling a little over stimulated and run down and wanted to keep all under control. I developed an infection on the toe of my already bad foot, the plantar fascias were hanging on by threads and I started feeling under the weather Friday after the athlete's dinner. I went to bed at 10 and slept until 8, missing the next group swim. I felt awful. I was feverish. I started thinking how hard it would be to race 140.6 miles while sick. I pushed it as far into the back of my mind as I could and hoped for the best.

I spent Saturday with my family laying low, resting and packing and checking everything in. I was out of sorts but excited. It felt like an incredible gift to be getting ready for my fourth

Dinner was so ridiculously early we arrived before the restaurant even opened! I was wearing a fashionable ensemble consisting of a sundress and compression tights. I was battling inflammation and not willing to sacrifice svelte ankles for fashion. Luckily most of the other folks dining at 5pm were also with an athlete and totally understood. Anyone else likely thought I had incredibly bad taste in leggings.

I was ready for bed at 8:30 and asleep by 9:30, by far the earliest ever before a race. I went to sleep unsettled, praying I'd wake up feeling better. A friend said at the athlete's dinner that some days you wake up more fit than others. I really wanted Sunday to be a fit day.

Race Morning

I was up promptly at 3:30am. I'm amazed how I shoot out of bed like a rocket on Ironman morning without even a lingering thought of hitting the snooze button. I ate breakfast within 10 minutes of waking - whole wheat English muffin with cashew butter, one banana and a cup of coffee. I have struggled with getting food down this early in the a.m., but on Sunday it worked. I ate everything and drank two large glasses of water. I mixed up my Gatorade bottles - two for the bike and one to drink throughout the morning before the start. Just before 5am we left for transition. My whole family walked with me this time, hoping for a better swim start viewing spot. Walking to the race with them in the dark was wonderful. I was surprisingly nervous and needed all the support and distraction I could get.

I ran into Laura on my way to my bike. We had arranged to wear special US tops for the anniversary of September 11. I was so happy to see her, she immediately eased my nerves.

I spent a little time in Monona Terrace, the location of the transition changing areas (everything is indoors at Ironman Wisconsin) before heading down to the start to find my family. I wanted to spend some time with them before getting into the water.

I got suited up, said my goodbyes and headed toward the water. They announced a moment of silence to honor the victims of 9-11 just as I neared the water. I was so overwhelmed with emotion. This day meant so much to me. While the national anthem was sung, I stepped into the water and started my Ironman journey.


I found a solid start position about 2/3 of the way over from the buoy line and about 6 swimmers back. I was taking a bit of contact during the treading and thought I was in for another brutal WI swim. But when the cannon went off and U2's "Perfect Day" filled the air, all went smoother than I expected. I had no panic whatsoever, minimal contact and relatively clear water. Sure there were people all around, but the contact was normal, not violent. It only got better. Even the turns were better this year. On the back side of the first loop I heard the fighter jets take off for the 9-11 flyover, but didn't see them. I knew it was roughly 7:30. I was doing pretty well.

I started the second loop still feeling great and thought, "I have to do that again?!" The first stretch felt long and included my only rough contact. I breathe only on my left and a guy swimming on my left punched me hard in my right cheek as I turned to breathe. It was a big impact, I had to stop and get my bearings before moving on. But the rest was uneventful. The most memorable moment happened on the back side of the second loop. The fighter jets I had heard earlier flew over Lake Monona, so low I felt I could reach out and touch them. I stopped and watched as they flew over hundreds of people swimming in the lake and hundreds more on the shore and the terrace. It was a sight I will never forget.

I didn't wear a watch in the swim because I didn't want to feel bad if my time on the first loop was disgraceful. I only swam 60,000 yards in training and I'm a weak swimmer in general, so my expectations were humble. I was aiming for a 1:45 or less and mostly wanted to feel good when I stepped out of the water. And it turned out that I felt amazing coming out of the water, especially when I saw my family. I was so overjoyed I didn't bother to look at the clock. I later found out I swam just two minutes slower than last year, which was far better than expected. I also felt the best I've ever felt coming out of an Ironman swim. The day was a fit day so far.

Time: 1:38:41

I Suck at Race Reports

In 2009, I wrote an epic race report after my Ironman Wisconsin journey that captured the day so beautifully and evoked more than a few tears, particularly when I documented my ill-fated "run" with a torn PF. I did another decent 3-part report for Ironman Lake Placid in 2010. But after setting a huge PR just 7 weeks later at Ironman Wisconsin 2010, I failed to do a report. I think I just forgot and every time I remembered it slipped my mind. It was by far my best day ever racing and I never put it on paper. I thought about doing it before the race this year but didn't have the time.

I also have a half-draft of my Escape From Alcatraz report from June. That's sad. So my realization is that I absolutely suck at writing race reports. I think they are good when I actually do them, but for some reason I have a hard time getting started.

I'm going to start my Wisconsin report this weekend with a goal of having it up by next week. And maybe when I'm done I'll finish Alcatraz and do a retrospective look at IMWI 2010. It was a race worth remembering and would be nice to reflect on.

In the meantime, I'll enjoy reading the reports of those who don't slack and wait so long people forgot you actually raced.

September 12, 2011

Short and Sweet - Fourth Ironman Finish

Yesterday was a really incredible day on the 2011 Ironman Wisconsin course. I finished my fourth Ironman in 24 months and loved every (painful) moment of it. Ironman is really hard, but nothing could make you feel more alive. It wasn't my best race from a time standpoint, but having to fight so hard for the finish made it so meaningful.

More details to come, but in the meantime, once again... I am an Ironman. And for that I am incredibly grateful.

September 10, 2011

Ironman Wisconsin: Go Time!

As always, race week has flown by and I'm now less than 24 hours from the start of my fourth Ironman. I've really enjoyed the time here in Madison and am looking forward to a great day tomorrow.

For anyone interested in tracking me on Sunday I'll be racing under number 517.

In honor of the 10th anniversary of September 11, I'll be wearing this race top all day on the course.

I have no doubt it will be a very emotional and significant day for me. A young firefighter racing IMWI spoke at the athlete's dinner last night. He said to ask ourselves on race morning what this day means to us and to carry the emotions of the day into the other parts of our lives. He'll be doing the marathon in his full firefighting gear. I can't wait to see him out there.

The week has been filled with activities and friends, all feeling like a celebration of what we've accomplished thus far. Just being here in Madison to start the race is a gift, regardless of the outcome.

I had the opportunity to meet up and swim with fellow blogger Kevin, racing his first Ironman and no doubt kicking some serious ass out there. Be sure to cheer him on as well.

See you on the other side, hopefully as a four-time Ironman!

September 5, 2011

Third Time's a Charm!

Those of us racing Ironman Wisconsin have reached that critical one week out point. All day yesterday I kept thinking, "where will I be at this time?" I had my final longer workout of a 45 mile ride with a 6 mile brick run and when I started the run I realized it was just about the time I'd be starting the marathon in 7 days. I certainly didn't feel like I had a marathon in me yesterday, but that's the magic of Ironman. Somehow I will have it in me when Sunday rolls around.

My cheering crew will be wearing this fun shirt:

It's my fourth Ironman, but my third time on the Wisconsin course. This race will always hold a special place in my heart.

So, how am I feeling? Definitely a little under-prepared, but essentially ready given the circumstances. My running took a positive turn over the past two weeks so if my feet hold up and I nail my bike nutrition, I may still be able to pull off a decent run this Sunday.

But I'm not placing any pressure on goals this time around. I have a race plan and will stick to the plan, but it's not about setting PRs or hitting time goals. It's about my approach, my nutrition and my attitude. For each segment of the race I have guessed a finish time, but really don't care about the number. A good friend has a quote on her training log: "You get what you train for." I trained for an Ironman for sure, but could have done better. But this is my third season of long course and my fourth Ironman, so that might count for something. My fitness is deeper even if it hasn't been my best season and I know the course, know what it feels like to be 130 miles into 140.6 and as my coach always says, I race a lot better than I train.

Sunday will be a celebration. It will be a poignant and memorable way for me to reflect on the past 10 years and the anniversary of September 11. Ironman after all is a celebration of life, of tackling challenges and overcoming them.

Jordan Rapp, in his recent speech after winning Ironman Canada said it best:

"Ironman is the sort of momentous – but terrestrial – experience that allows us, ever so briefly, to get close enough to the stars to reach out and touch the heavens... You do an Ironman because you want to reach the stars. And you want to do it the hard way. Because that is what makes it special."

August 26, 2011

Come on Irene

I can't seem to catch a break this season. Let's see, I had the treacherous winter that led to a slip on the ice groin pull, full on GI shut down during the monsoon that was the LA Marathon (fondly referred to as the Hell-A Marathon), extended marathon recovery that led to 8 pounds weight gain, slow start to the season due to work/travel, more work/travel followed by a deep chest cold and tear gassing, a lovely bout with the stomach flu... for 12 days, finally getting back in the saddle only to be constantly derailed by weather, generally in the form of rain. And that leads me to the present.

This is my final build week. The last long training sessions before the big day on September 11. I'd had a pretty remarkable week until today, nailing a long ride Monday, two solid rides Tuesday, my best long run yet Wednesday, and a decent recovery ride yesterday. We had plans to drive to Lake Placid today where I'd do my final long ride tomorrow and head back on Sunday. Only Hurricane Irene decide to mess with our plans. Early this morning over coffee and English muffins we decided it wasn't wise to leave town today and risk not getting back safely on Sunday, or even Monday.

The forecast starting late tonight is all rain all the time so I had to head out and attempt my final long ride today. Totally unprepared. I felt ok, but 9 miles in I realized I wasn't. I was weak, dizzy, loopy, not really all there. A 3% grade felt like 20% and I was exhausted. I really needed another day to rest, to recharge, and most importantly, to mentally prepare. Being thrown into this with no thought was not going to work. I texted my good friend Laura, who is also doing IMWI, Mark, and my coach, and waited for permission to quit. Laura's reply came quickly and I found myself standing in Riverside Park in Manhattan in tears. I wasn't necessarily upset, I was just so utterly exhausted. Mark told me to be safe and my coach told me to pull the plug. So I continued over the GW Bridge into New Jersey and did a very short 30 mile ride that included several pauses, a muffin and a coffee. I felt so flat at times it was as if I were floating on someone else's bike. But I still enjoyed being out in the sun, on a beautiful day, enjoying the last of the summer. I logged 60 very slow miles instead of the 100 I was aiming for.

Upon arriving home I was bombarded with news of evacuations and Irene preparedness plans. It occurred to me that I might not be taking the situation seriously so I went to the market and stocked up on non-perishables. Mark suggested I pack up myself and Otis and spend the weekend at his place and I decided it was a good idea. I live near the water and am therefore on the border of zone B, which is unlikely to evacuate, but means the storm will be worse here. He's further inland in a larger, more stable building, so Otis and I can tuck in for the weekend and ride out the storm.

So my final build has been cut short, but it's far beyond my control. I'm going to attempt a trip into Manhattan tomorrow morning before the mass transit shut down to get in a final long swim, and will try to fit in a trainer ride before rolling up the carpets, moving the furniture and evacuating my apartment. At least I finally get to sleep in on Sunday!

August 24, 2011

The Home Stretch

When you sign up for Ironman 12 months in advance it feels like the day will never come. This week marks my final build before taper yet the race still felt somewhat distant... until bib numbers were released today. On September 11 I'll be racing my third Ironman Wisconsin as athlete number 517. If the third time is really a charm, 517 will be my new lucky number.

This last build week is a beast, but I'm enjoying these final moments. With all my struggles for consistency and more missed training than I can count, it feels good to nail the final, huge workouts. Here's what I've done so far this week:

Monday - Biked 80.91 miles on what might have been the nicest day yet this summer. It was sunny, warm and absolutely beautiful. It felt like a gift to be on my bike all afternoon.

Tuesday - Biked 39.85 miles in two rides, one in the morning and one after work. Again, gorgeous day.

Today - Ran 17.19 miles before work, my final long run. I've really struggled with running this time around but this run was great. Despite the huge training load already on my tired legs I felt fantastic throughout.

Here's what's still to come:

Thursday - Bike 1-1.5 hours easy, definitely will not be pushing after the big run.

Friday - Bike 1.5 hours, swim 1.5 hours. Drive to Lake Placid!

Saturday - Bike 100 miles, run 30 minutes. Swim if I have time.

Sunday - I'm supposed to rest but will likely get one final LP ride in before heading home.

There is a lot less hay in the barn this year, but I feel relatively prepared and am starting to really look forward to race day. I can't turn back the clock and make up all the missed training, I can only focus on what I've been able to accomplish and enjoy the experience. Ironman Wisconsin hasn't let me down yet so I am anticipating a really great day out there.

August 22, 2011

My Sister: My Hero

For as long as I can remember, my sister, Jamie, has been my best friend. We share a lot - hair color, eye color, a love of cooking, food and wine. Over time we both took up running and we started doing races together. Then last year Jamie decided to learn how to swim. Like me she was comfortable in the water, but had not taken lessons. We talked about doing a tri together and thought the Columbia Iron Girl Sprint would be perfect. It was a little too close timing wise so the race came and went but the seed had been planted.

Last November we signed up for the race and with that Jamie's swim training kicked into high gear. Having just learned to swim myself in 2008, I know how challenging, frustrating and humbling it can be. She texted me updates along the way, some about progress and others about how hard it was. But she kept at it and eventually had her breakthrough.

After all the hard work and anticipation, yesterday was the race. We couldn't have asked for a better day, except for maybe skipping the torrential downpour just as we finished setting up transition. We were already soaked before even getting in the water!

A little rain aside, everything went incredibly well. I never got a chance to see her on the course because our waves were so far apart, but I quickly found her husband after I finished and we waited for her together. He let me know that she looked great after the swim and bike and was feeling good. Seeing her run down the finish chute was amazing because I know how hard she worked to be there. Triathlon is a daunting sport to dive into. It's scary. And in life it's so much easier to avoid the scary things even though tackling them is so rewarding. I've never started a tri and felt I was guaranteed to finish. So many things can go wrong and keep you from crossing that line, so every finish is a huge victory. But on that perfect Sunday, two sisters crossed the same line and were there to celebrate together. It was a really special day. Congrats to Jamie and welcome to the crazy world of triathlon!

August 18, 2011

Burn Out

If the first step to recovery is acceptance, I have a confession to make. I'm burned out - both physically and mentally. Those of you who know me or who have followed me for awhile know how hard it is for me to admit this. I went from couch potato to Ironman in about 18 months and have been at it guns blazing ever since. I was the girl who'd get on the trainer at 10pm after a long work day just to log those precious minutes that everyone loves to post and brag about. I never gave up. Even when I tore my plantar fascia just days before my first Ironman I refused to take no for an answer and somehow willed my body and mind to endure an agonizing 7+ hour marathon because I never quit. I hate the word "can't."

But I've slowly discovered that I've reached a temporary limit and my desire to suffer and sacrifice for something that is no longer new has diminished. I couldn't care less about the hours and miles I've logged and almost never share it here or elsewhere. I place more value on enjoying the time I spend training vs. giving everything up to cram it into an already busy life. I don't stress or feel guilt over the many missed workouts I've had. On one hand all of that is good, but on the other it's not, because the fire I had to push me through this grueling sport is just about extinguished and the only way to reignite it is to take a break.

I recently shared my decision to withdraw from Ironman Arizona in November. At the time I thought I'd do the New York City Marathon, but the last couple weeks of training have made it clear I won't be doing that race either. Beginning September 12, I will be a normal person with a normal workout schedule, resting and recharging for however long it takes.

I don't think this burn out is the result of simply doing too many long races. I think it's from a series of poor choices I've made that might not have been detrimental on their own, but bound together became bigger issues.

Bad Choice #1 - How I handled my offseason after Ironman Wisconsin last year. I was going through a difficult time personally and wanted to escape. I essentially went from full throttle to nothing on the training front and ended up having such an extended period off it required starting from scratch.

Bad Choice #2 - The Los Angeles Marathon. In theory this seemed like a great idea, but in execution it was a disaster. We had one of the worst winters on record so training for a March marathon was pure misery. A slip on the ice caused a nagging groin injury that still hurts occasionally. In the extended recovery I was forced to take, I gained 8 pounds that have not gone away and have crushed my running pace and caused a host of aches and pains.

Bad Choice #3 - Signing up for two Ironmans without really thinking through the scheduling. I know myself and should have known I'd never be motivated to train long during fall, my favorite season. Having IMAZ on the schedule caused my IMWI training to be different and now that I'm only doing IMWI, I'm not as well prepared and it's causing a last-minute training frenzy that is exhausting.

So there we have it. I admit I'm burned out. I admit I need a break. And I'm looking forward to taking it. I have 10 more hard training days ahead of me and will get through it knowing there is a beautiful, bright light at the end of the tunnel. Instead of the NYC Marathon I'll be going to London with really good friends. Instead of Ironman Arizona I'll be spending a week in Italy with my boyfriend. The training for these events should be much more enjoyable than my previous schedule.

August 5, 2011

Following Your Heart

After you've been racing for multiple hours and 120+ miles, the journey to continue isn't driven solely by the number of miles you logged training and how fit you may be. It's largely driven by your heart and your desire to push beyond limits and keep moving forward. I've completed three Ironmans since September 2009 and each was challenging and rewarding in its own way. My level of preparedness, fitness and health varied for each race, but the common denominator was that my heart was 100% in it and regardless of the obstacles each presented, I knew I wanted to be out there pushing to the finish.

After completing two Ironmans last year, I decided to do it again this season. I loved finishing Lake Placid knowing I had another incredible day around the corner at Wisconsin. The second race turned out to be my best yet so signing up for Wisconsin and Arizona seemed perfect. At the time I wasn't planning a 2012 Ironman so a late season race seemed ideal. But then I signed up for Ironman Mont-Tremblant and have experienced a change in the amount of time I have to dedicate to training. It's been a very difficult season and I'm struggling to fit it all in.

There has been a nagging thought in the back of my mind for weeks about how committed I am to Arizona. Fall is my favorite season, a time for long hikes, bike rides with no real purpose but the enjoyment of being outside and perhaps stopping for donuts, and cool-weather running. I started to worry about how I'd keep up the motivation to train while the days got shorter and everyone around me was enjoying the offseason. Several times I logged on to book a flight or sort out accommodations and couldn't pull the trigger. Then it hit me. Deep down I didn't want to race an Ironman in November, regardless of what year or race it was. It's just not the right race for how I want to live my life.

So while biking for seven hours last Friday I spent at least three of them thinking about my choice. I've never dropped out of a race unless I absolutely had to. I've run marathons with a broken arm or after being hit by a car, I did my first Ironman with a torn plantar fascia. Certainly I could and should do this.... right? But I finally allowed myself to admit the decision was already made. I love this sport and for some crazy reason I love the 140.6 distance. But I didn't love the idea of competing in Arizona and I don't want to risk burning out and not loving this anymore.

It was a hard decision, but the right one. It's caused a bit of last-minute cramming for Ironman Wisconsin since I was supposed to go in undertrained to build for the second race, but it's worth it and there is a finite end in sight. I'm going to use my guaranteed entry to the New York City Marathon instead and will spend a week in Italy for Thanksgiving. Feels like a great compromise to me.

July 31, 2011

More Progress and a Nice Break

I had a fairly good week from a consistency standpoint but still couldn't hit 100%. The nagging stomach issue I acquired last week has hung on with a vengeance and caused weakness, dehydration and exhaustion, which continuing heat and steadily increasing training load just added to. But overall it was a very good week with a solid medium run Monday, long run Wednesday and really nice ride on Long Island Thursday. I was feeling pretty beat up from the running and the tiredness lingered, but I had to prepare for Friday, my biggest day of the week.

I had a plan to drive up to Westchester County to ride 100 miles on the Toughman Half Iron course. I packed everything up on Thursday and set the alarm for 4:15, just 5.5 hours after my head hit the pillow. I got up, drank as much coffee as possible and did my final packing. It was raining lightly but the forecast called for it to clear so I wasn't too concerned... that is until I went to load up the car and a monsoon rolled in. I got soaked packing the car and prayed it would stop on the drive. An hour and a half later it had lightened up but showed no signs of stopping so I clipped in and headed out. Light rain and mist continued for about 3 hours but it kept the temperature down and the overcast sky was a dream. I was actually chilly at times. I was still sleepy and pretty exhausted and wondered if I'd make it two loops, but then miraculously felt better after about 4 hours. I ended up doing 106.7 miles and climbing just over 6,000 feet. It was my first long ride on the tri bike (and in tri shorts... ouch) this season and I couldn't have felt better.

I'm riding a lot slower this year and just have to accept that. I was out crushing myself with the peloton two days a week last year and was pushing a lot harder overall. I'm riding a ton and really enjoying it, but it hasn't been the hammerfest that 2010 was and my numbers show it. C'est la vie. I'm happy on my bike and that's all I can ask for.

I took a little break on Saturday and traded spandex for an evening gown to attend a wedding with Mark. It was a classic New York City afternoon: ceremony at St. Patrick's Cathedral, champagne at 21 Club and a Park Avenue reception with dancing, fun and friends. The perfect Saturday night.

Saturday's festivities led to a very leisurely Sunday morning with a 10:15 wake-up. Yes folks, 10:15. Usually by that hour I've logged two workouts and am heading back to bed! It was fairly amazing and so desperately needed. We did a 2-hour ride in the early afternoon and I headed to the pool for the first time in 3 weeks and swam an hour continuous. This, my friends, is the best money I have EVER spent.

This fully waterproof iPod Shuffle made a 3,000 yard continuous swim feel like nothing. I felt like I was in my own little universe and for the first time ever, wasn't bored out of my mind.

I have another big week ahead, but a step-down on the bike so I should feel a little fresher. I also have a major decision in the works and I'll share that in the coming days.

July 22, 2011

Killer Heat

It's hot outside. Scorching, boiling, miserable hot. It got into the upper 90s yesterday but didn't break the milestone 100 mark until today around noon. This meant bad luck for me for two reasons: (1) I had an 11-mile run on the schedule, and (2) I got some sort of food poisoning/stomach virus this week which is oh so fun in the heat. My plan was to be up at 4 and out the door by 5, but the stomach and general cruelness of the week didn't allow for that so instead I was up at 5:30 and didn't make it out the door until 7:30. It was already oppressively hot.

I took it super easy and was still reduced to a pool of sweat. I could feel the heat radiating off me. I drank 20 ounces of Cytomax, 8 ounces of ice water during my fluids refill stop, then 20 more ounces of water. I weighed myself before and after and was down 4 pounds. I did pretty well until about mile 9 where I had to stop and sit in the shade for a minute before powering through the final 2 miles. When I got inside, this was on

I stopped at a deli, bought 10 pounds of ice and retreated to the air conditioning. An ice bath has never felt better.

After a 2-hour nap and tons of fluids I feel pretty good, albeit still sleepy. It's so hot out there that my apartment is 80 degrees even with the AC on high and set at 68. I'm really looking forward to the sun going down, but for now this is what New Yorkers are dealing with.

July 17, 2011

Let's Get This Party Started... Again

Three months ago I enthusiastically posted about my return to Ironman training, which was started slightly later than usual due to my spring marathon and late-season second Ironman.

April was relatively consistent aside from a couple business trips and conflicts - two days without training while in Colorado for an Olympics meeting, a rest day after riding the IMLP loop and a day trip to Cincinnati that turned into two days due to a weather cancellation. Otherwise I hit just about everything on the calendar. I was feeling good.

May wasn't as consistent, but had some high points. I had seven training-free days: a few 14+ hour work days, another business trip and some planned rest days. But the high points included riding the Gran Fondo New York, riding the IMWI course after a wedding in Madison (albeit with a teeny tiny hangover) and a day of rock climbing in the Shawangunks. All in all a good month with solid effort.

Then the wheels came off in June. I knew going in it would be a difficult month, but I'm not sure I fully realized just how difficult it would be. It started with my first race of the season (swear to god, the report is coming!), followed by some decent training volume and my Horribly Hilly Hundreds ride, then fizzled away after traveling to Greece and getting sick. The two-week lapse had me feeling pretty discouraged and made me question my ability to race.

So where does this leave me? Three months into training I'm definitely not where I want to be or need to be. Lack of consistency is my biggest issue - it doesn't allow proper recovery, it leads to tightness and stiffness in just about every part of your body, it screws up your sleep patterns and leads to weight gain or inability to lose weight. Stress is my other issue. We put our bodies through an immense amount of physical stress, then I have life stress layered on top of that essentially turning me into a cortisol factory. It's not healthy and very difficult to manage.

Despite all that I've been talked off the "I can't do IMWI ledge" and feel back on track. I used vacation to ease in and stuck to my schedule pretty religiously this week aside from swimming. I had a mole removed Tuesday during my bi-annual skin cancer screening and that means 10 pool-free days. You know I don't mind that! I've been tired and struggling to roll out of bed at 4:45 or 5 every day, but it's getting easier and will keep getting easier.

I had a great weekend of training including a 9-mile run Friday that finally felt good and was close to my former long run pace range. Then yesterday I drove up to Harriman State Park and did a 60-mile ride with more than 5,415 feet of climbing, including two times to the top of Bear Mountain. This ended with a 30-minute run and my legs officially hate me. Today will either be rest or a short recovery ride, then back at it next week.

July 10, 2011

My Crazy June

I'm having a hard time believing it's not only July, but nearly halfway through it. A lot of bloggers posted a half-year summary and I thought about doing the same, but at the pace I'm moving these days I'd be lucky to get it up before November. So instead I'm reflecting on June, the month that passed by in a flash and left me utterly exhausted, but included some really incredible experiences:
  • Traveled more in one month than ever before
  • Did my first tri of the year
  • Celebrated my birthday three times
  • Joined friends in Wisconsin for a ride
  • Left the country
  • Got tear gassed
  • Departed for vacation (well technically I departed in July...)

June 3-6 - San Francisco/Escape From Alcatraz

Race finish... I promise someday the report will be posted

June 10 and 11 - My first two birthday celebrations!

Beer garden before birthday dinner June 10

Birthday dinner June 11

June 17-20 - Wisconsin/Horribly Hilly Hundreds/third birthday celebration

With Laura at HHH, first rest stop before the real misery

With my nephew for birthday celebration #3

June 23-29 - Athens, Greece (and the tear gassing)

With colleagues and bloggers at the Parthenon

My volume suffered terribly and I was essentially a shell of myself by the time I left for vacation, but I used the week off to get re-energized and prepared for the big volume July will bring. I'm a little concerned about how undertrained I'll be for Ironman Wisconsin, but I've done it under far worse circumstances so I'm sure I'll be ok. I'm not aiming for a PR and will be racing with my friends from IMWI 2009 so it will be great regardless. For now I'm just hoping July remains as tranquil as it began... a girl can dream, right?

July 8, 2011

Cape Coddin' It

Just two days after returning from Greece I left on another trip, but this one was for pleasure. I've spent the past week in Provincetown at the very tip of Cape Cod, by far one of my favorite places on Earth. All of the Cape is lovely, but there is something really special about the outer Cape that I've loved since the first time I came here in the Summer of 1998. I was joined by my family and we have a little condo at the end of a pier where the water is beneath us during high tide. To swim, I simply walk down a set of stairs and voila - open water heaven.

As you can imagine, a beach vacation at the outermost tip of the Cape involves eating a lot of seafood.

Going to the beach.

Relaxing on the deck.

And lucky for me, it also involves beautiful biking along dunes, salt marshes and the ocean. I've done two rides so far - a 42-mile out-and-back from Provincetown to Wellfleet and a 72-mile ride to Wellfleet and then to Dennis and back on the Cape Cod Rail Trail, a 22-mile paved path for cyclists, walkers and runners.

That ride ended with the perfect recovery meal.

I had a ride planned this morning but woke up to rain. It doesn't look like it will clear so my biking may be done here, but at least I got in the miles I did. After a two-week bike hiatus it felt good to be back in the saddle (well, actually the saddle part didn't feel so good but you get my point...) and should make it easier to dive back into the training when I get home.

July 3, 2011

My Big Fat Greek Trip

While you may have suspected I quit the sport of triathlon, moved to the North Pole or gave up my computer, I've actually been traveling like a maniac this entire month and my latest adventure was in Athens, Greece. I was there on business for the Special Olympics World Games and had some time to get out and explore as well. It was a tumultuous time to be in Athens given the civil unrest and protests, but also a very historical one. I had the opportunity to experience everything from this:

To this:

Riots Near Syntagma Square

My favorite part of Athens was the old neighborhood called The Plaka, just on the other side of the protests in Syntagma Square and creeping up the hill to the Acropolis. I wandered for hours, had lunch that lasted for hours and saw some incredible ancient ruins. The Acropolis is clearly the crown jewel of Athens sightseeing, with the Parthenon as the star. How often can you stroll past monuments built 2,500 years ago? And the views from Acropolis hill are breathtaking.

But just below it there is another area of ruins called the Ancient Agora, the former Roman center of the city containing the remains of temples and commercial structures. Everywhere you go there are dogs wandering around. They don't belong to anyone but aren't wild per se. They pretty much ignore you and go about their business. This was my favorite part of the Agora:

Temple of Hephaestus

And now for the best part... the food. You know that Mediterranean diet they talk about that's so healthy? Yeah, not in Athens. My favorite things were of course the heaviest, fattiest of all - garlicky tzatziki (a sheep's milk yogurt dip) with pita, saganaki (fried cheese... yes, fried), moussaka (a sort of eggplant lasagna-type dish) and Greek salad, which never had any greens but was loaded with cucumber and tomato in olive oil and a huge block of feta thrown on top. On the lighter side I ate tons of grilled octopus and the occasional squid. But I generally topped it off with baklava, or some other flaky, honey-drenched pastry. The wine was delicious and I gravitated toward minerally whites that tasted like the sea.


Grilled Octopus

Best Lunch Ever

My final two days were in the midst of the national transportation strike due to the austerity vote taking place in Parliament. I unfortunately got caught up in a riot while walking back to my hotel and the police shot tear gas into the crowd. I can honestly say it was one of the most unpleasant experiences I've had. It was jarring, uncomfortable and most of all, made me feel incredibly empathetic for the people living through this disruptive time. I don't think protests and riots are the answer, but I also don't know what it's like to feel helpless and concerned about a stable future. It was a reminder that our lives are pretty good here and our complaints seem petty in the face of the challenges of others.

I had a 16-hour trip home due to the strike, but I made it. Even without the delays the flight is so long (10.5 hours) I watched three movies, ate two meals and still had time to kill. I was happy to be back and am still trying to shake the jet lag.

On the training front things have come to a screeching halt. I had planned to run daily in Athens and managed to make it out the first day, but the head cold I left with swiftly turned into a chest cold and I spent the week with a deep, nasty cough that would not allow any running to happen. I'm still recovering and am planning to ease back in and pick up where I left off. I could let it bother me, but I won't. At this point in my tri life I know I can bounce back and I'm positive I will.


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