Thursday, October 1, 2015

Finishing What I Started

This past Sunday I swam, biked and ran my way through Chattanooga, TN during my 10th Ironman. As I was treading water (more like holding onto a rope, trying not to get swept down the Tennessee River) waiting for the canon to go off, I sincerely believed I could win the race.  This was the first time in my career that I truly, with all my heart, thought I could make this happen.  Not necessarily because my training had been so great or that I had the results all year to suggest as such.  But rather simply because I believed that I belonged and that if someone had to win, I was as good as any to be that person.

I didn't win.  In fact, I didn't even come close.  As in the winner of the race, Carrie Lester, was done, showered, had eaten and was taking a nap by the time I found my way to the finish line.  Not only did I not win, I didn't make it onto the podium at all and in fact, for much of the marathon, just finishing was in question.

So what happened?  Well a multitude of things happened.  I made some execution errors on the bike.  Some caffeine errors, perhaps.  I definitely forgot how long an Ironman is and possibly didn't give the distance the respect it deserves.  My body didn't want to cooperate physically and then I let the disappointment of not having the day I wanted, take over me mentally.  So in other words, nothing really happened.  I just didn't have the day that I imagined and there were many women that were faster and that beat me.  And that's okay.  This is sport and sport doesn't always go the way we hoped.  But despite what turned into one of my slowest IMs (as a pro), the fact remains, for the first time I BELIEVED.  And that is pretty big.  Pretty darn big.

My day started to go south on the back half of the bike and the marathon was a struggle pretty much from the first step.  26.2 miles is a LOOOOONG way to feel bad.  It's especially long when you are running a good 1:30-2 minutes/mile slower than you want to be.  I waffled between dropping out or sticking it out for much of the first half.  I didn't need to prove to myself that I could do an IM and I have more races this year so why slog this one out?  But then it dawned on me that quitting really isn't an option and so I accepted that, as slow as it might be, as poorly as the results would look, as damaging to the ego that it would be, I was going to finish what I started.  So I thanked the volunteers (you have a lot of time to chat when you are trotting along), I made friends with age groupers on their first loop, I ate all the good stuff at the aid stations that I usually skip, I cheered for each pro lady and each of my teammates as they ran past me, I thought a lot about how racing is a privilege and, well, I just kept plugging along.

The bike went well until it didn't.  On a positive note, the course was awesome and there were lots of pigs, horses, goats and sheep to look at.
That's my "let's hope for the best" smile when starting the run.  Well, one can always hope...
The best part of the day?  This one right here CRUSHED IT.  And we toasted her great day with Little Debbies afterwards.  I highly recommend peanut butter cream pies.

I am very happy that I made the decision to finish.  I'm not criticizing the pros that drop out to save it for "another day" but that really just isn't me.  Plus I got to see a side of Ironman racing that I don't normally get to see.  It brought a lot of perspective to my experience as an athlete.  So onward and upward - luckily I get another shot soon in Arizona!

Huge thank yous to the village that it takes to get me to the starting line each race:  A great group of sponsors.  The homestay families that take me in all over the country (Hal and Cheryl - you were AWESOME!).  My own family that has seen me through every up and every down since I first put on a pair of running shoes and decided racing was a fun way to pass the time.  To a wonderful group of QT2 teammates and friends that make me laugh and help me keep it all in perspective.  And finally, to Tim, Kristen, John and the entire 441, for seeing me through the hardest time in my life and for helping me learn how to live, REALLY live, again.  Maybe one of these days I really will win one of these things to make you all proud.  In the mean time, let's keep having fun.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

You ARE a Pumpkin-woman!

One of my absolute favorite things to do is race.  Like I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY like it.  Like really.  So when, a few weeks back, my coach asked me if I wanted to race Pumpkinman Half in Maine, he didn't even get the full sentence out before I was signed up.  Yes sir!

Pumpkinman is a pretty awesome race.  Kat, the race director, takes care of all the details as if it's a big WTC affair, yet it still very much has a local, low key feel to it.  The best of both worlds!

Plus, this is the post race meal.  No lies.  Full on Thanksgiving dinner that was SO FREAKING GOOD.  I legitimately  would have done the race all over again if it meant I got to get back in line for seconds.  Don't lie, you all want to do the race now too.
I swam well (for me) and finally got myself under 30 minutes again.  The swim might have been a bit short, but at the very least, I felt like myself again in the water.  Wing is coming around just in time.  Then I rode really hard.  I was given the go ahead to go at it on the bike and, trust me, you don't have to tell me that twice!  At one point I thought to myself "you DO still have to run after this, so maybe we need to back it down a notch".  Still, I felt good and strong.  The cycling legs are coming around.  And finally, I got to really enjoy the run which was the best part.  I cheered for people, I thanked volunteers and I smiled.  It was a fun day.

You do have to run up this into T1.  There are actually prizes for the fastest times.  Let it be known, I was in NO danger of winning one of these prizes.

It was a wet, chilly day but New Englanders are tough and I didn't hear any complaints.  I kinda couldn't feel my feet at this point on the bike.
When I was finishing I heard a woman scream "You ARE a Pumpkin-woman!".  Not sure how I feel about that.
You might notice that I'm wearing the race shirt on the day of the race.  In general this is a no-no, but when one doesn't bring enough warm clothes, one is very, very thankful for the awesome long sleeve, hooded race shirt and will break all the rules to keep warm.
I really hope I get to return to Pumpkinman next year!  I highly recommend it as a nice end of the season half or in preparation for a fall IM.  Indeed, that's what I used it for.  IM Chattanooga here we come!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Tiiiiiiiiiiimberman 70.3 (Plus More)

I really need to stop waiting 3-4 weeks in between each blog post.

Let's see, in the last few weeks, I raced twice.  YES!  I didn't get to race much at the beginning of the season so I'm making up for lost time now!

First, I did a local sprint triathlon.  I haven't raced that short or that close to home in 3 or 4 years.  It was awesome.  Also, I out split my coach on the bike.  Goal accomplished.

I did NOT out split anyone in the swim though.  Shoulder is getting stronger but we still got a ways to go.  Also, I'd like it to be known that I did not steal this picture (I have a pet peeve about that), but that each athlete got their choice of one free one!  Cool.

1:13 isn't a very long time to race but oh man was there a lot of pain packed into that 1:13.

It was a good, fun day with my teammates and friends.

And then we rode our bikes for 3 hours after the race because Ironman is stupid.

But then we got to the post-race BBQ and all was right in the world again.

The same week/weekend of the sprint race, Kim, my sister from another mother, was visiting me.  Kim and I have been friends for the majority of my life and so it was great to have her in town and be able to hang out like old times.  She has seen me through thick and thin and been there for me every step of the way.  Super cheesy and cliche, but good, true friends really are like gold.

And of course we ate ice cream.  Duh.
The following weekend after the sprint, Kait, Matt and I loaded up the minivan and headed north to New Hampshire for Timberman 70.3.

If these two ever get sick of their third wheel, I'm in serious trouble.

I was pleased with my race in Timberman.  I don't quite know what to expect from myself these days, other than a good, hard effort.  But what I've found is that letting go of the expectations can be a very good thing.  My swim at Timberman was improved (still bad, but improved).  I biked better than I ever have and rode my way into 3rd/4th into T2.  And then, after falling to 5th on the run, I clawed my way back into 4th at mile 12 and held it to the end.  It was a strong field and I was pleased.  And most of all, it was just fun to RACE.  When the WTC restructured the pro races this year, removing pro fields from some races and thereby concentrating the fields at other races, I wasn't sure how I felt about it.  I knew it would likely mean less prize money for me.  But in reality, I absolutely love it.  Each time I've raced this year, it's been a big, strong women's field and it has been AWESOME.  Each race has felt like a RACE with people to go after and chase or try and hold off.  That is why we do this!  I race triathlon because I love to race other people and see where I stack up, not because I like to see how fast I can go in a TT effort.  Anyway, I've gotten a bit off topic, but suffice it to say, I have really enjoyed racing some great gals this season, thus far!

And if you ever get the chance to go to Timberman, do it.  Because this is where you get to race.

Post race we went to an OAR concert in Portsmouth, NH.  I had so much caffeine in my system from racing, I never skipped a beat.

After Timberman it was back home and back to work.  This past week I swam the most yards I have since breaking my shoulder - 16,200.  Yup, that's pretty pathetic!  HA!  But I also can't express how amazed I am at how well the body can heal itself.  It wasn't long ago that I could barely swim a 100 with FINS!  And this past week I did one 6K swim and also a set of 50s with ankle bands.  The amount of pain that would have caused just a few weeks ago is absolutely off the charts.  But this week my shoulder handled it with barely a squawk.  Thank you, body.  You rock.

Riding bikes in the summer.  Not a bad gig.

Also, you should know that I've become a bit obsessed with goats.  Because look how cute this is.

So when we were in Hartford, CT yesterday to speak at a QT2 continuing ed seminar, and I saw that they have a baseball team called the Yard Goats?  Well, let's just say I know who I'm rooting for from now on...

And yes, every blog post should end with a watermelon picture.  #fact

Monday, July 27, 2015

Since We Last Spoke...

...I RACED!  Not going to lie, it was a bit of a rough experience (including the $263 speeding ticket I got on the drive from the airport PLUS 4 more points on my license...oh man...).  I was the last pro out of the water.  I flatted on the bike.  But the real issue is, my legs flatted too!  Ooooops!  I felt out of shape and NOT race ready.  But you know what?  It was so awesome to race again, I didn't care.  I may have a long way to go but at least I'm moving in the right direction.  And any race, even when you don't perform like you want, is better than sitting at home on the couch with a broken shoulder.

Plus, we had fun.

When in Wisconsin, one obviously wears a cheesehead.

Racine, you were rough.  But we got 'er done.

I might have drank a fruit salad in the airport on the way home.

I also went to a few concerts since last time I wrote.  I highly recommend Billy Joel at Fenway Park.

And Slightly Stoopid at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion.  Pretty sure I was high from second hand smoke.

And then there was the trip to Lake Placid that I just returned from.  It was my first time in Lake Placid.  First time watching an Ironman.  Many firsts.  And it was awesome.

Mirror Lake.  Not a shabby place to do all your swimming for a week.

I worked The Core Diet booth at the IMLP expo.  I've never answered so many questions about beet juice in my life.

Found a picture of myself at the expo at the NormaTec booth.  And then Michelle made me take my picture by it.

Did a bunch of training, including climbing to the clouds up Whiteface Mountain.

Did an absolutely awesome ride with the boys.  Although at the time I'm not sure "awesome" is the word I would have used to describe what was happening.

And then there was just the normal every days.  Smiling.  Feeling alive.

And eating watermelon.  Duh.

Until next time.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Starting Over

This year has, thus far, been a year of "starting over", in many different ways.  At times it's been disheartening.  At times thrilling.  At times very scary.  At times extremely frustrating.  Through it all I've tried to keep an open mind, an open heart and the cursing to a minimum.  I've failed miserably.  I've seen some success.  I've laughed hysterically.  I've cried (a lot).  I've been overwhelmed with gratefulness for the true friends and family that have seen me through it all (and continue to do so).  And I've tried to remember that life is pretty damn awesome every single day.  And that even when it hurts, it still feels really GOOD to feel so alive.  I've got a lifetime to live yet.  The only way to do it is with happiness.

In a few weeks I'm going to Racine, WI to race.  My shoulder has been slow to heal.  I've only swam a handful of times and my bike/run fitness is lacking too.  But I don't really care.  What I've learned with each re-start is this: you have to start somewhere.  And starting over ain't so bad, after all.

The past few months...

There have been some bad days.

But also some amazingly good days.

I rode my bike to the Atlantic Ocean.

And around Lake Cayuga in upstate, NY.

And up the Kanc (x2!) in New Hampshire.

I highly recommend stopping for pie mid-ride.

I got to swim in the beautiful facility at Ithaca College.

But most of my swimming (as limited as it's been) has taken place in this beauty of a "pool".

If you're ever in Boston, go to see Joshua Tree, awesome U2 cover band.

A little reminder from a very wise friend.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Highs And Lows

There exists a tradition in my family called “The Highs and Lows”.  Every year around New Years we are each responsible for listing what we’d consider our “highs” for the previous year, as well as our “lows”.  It’s a good way to reflect on the year and I’m always interested in hearing what my family members perceive as their best and worst moments.  The year I was 2nd at Ironman Wisconsin, my father listed one of his “highs” as watching me cross the finish line.  It was one of the most touching things anyone has ever said to me.

I must admit, most years I struggle to come up with my list of lows.  Because my life is very, very good and, well, I just haven’t suffered a ton of lows along the way.  This is what I was thinking, last night, when I was sitting on a bench in The Woodlands, TX, eating ice cream.  I had just heard back from the doctor that my MRI showed a fracture in my humerus and that I couldn’t race IM Texas.  I decided I needed calcium to heal my bone and the best way to get it was ice cream.  So I got a big dish of it, sat on a bench on a beautiful Friday night, and thought “well, at least I won’t have trouble coming up with lows for this year’s “Highs and Lows” game.”

Life seems to be kicking me in the teeth lately.  A foot injury in Jan/Feb kept me out of IM South Africa in March.  Some ongoing personal issues have left me heartbroken for most of the winter/spring.  Some personal health issues kept me up at night for most of March and April.  I came down to Texas torn and unsure if I even wanted to race but then I did the Galveston 70.3 and surprised myself with a strong performance.  I was 6th in a tough field and rode better than I had every ridden before.  A high!  Finally!  Galveston got me hugely excited to race IM Texas and really give it a go.  I felt like I had some momentum and positivity for the first time in a while.  But then, two days later, I was riding my bike on the IMTX course and crashed.  Everything felt okay but my shoulder.  I thought (hoped!) it was just really bruised up, but an MRI on Friday showed a fracture in the humerus.  No activity for 3 weeks.  A sling.  And definitely no IMTX. 

To say I’m disappointed is a huge understatement.  But you know what?  Life goes on.  And ultimately, my “problems” are of little significance in the grand scheme of things. 
If there is one (huge) positive that has come from the disappointments I’ve had over the past several months, it is this: I’ve noticed now more than ever how many kind and generous people there are in this world.  I’ve relied largely on this generosity and kindness to get me through my tough spots and I want to point out just a few. 

To the Yorks (Aeri, Skip, Stuart, Charles and Sonja): you were absolutely amazing to me and I so appreciate your kindness.  I very much regret not being able to stay and race but I am DETERMINED to do IMTX so keep my room ready for next year!  Thank you for your hospitality.  It was second to none.

To Amy, the good Samaritan who stopped (and ultimately took me & my banged up bike home) after I crashed: thank you for reminding me that there are VERY good people in this world!

To Dr. Keith Johnson and his staff at Sterling Ridge Orthopedics: WOW – JUST WOW!!  I am truly amazed and so, so grateful for what you did for me.  Within a day of calling his office I was in for a visit, saw a physical therapist, had an MRI, a diagnosis and a treatment plan.  All at no cost.  It happened so fast, I’m not even sure what happened!  You likely saved my season by setting me on a path to recovery faster than I could even say “humerus”!  And I will never be able to repay your generosity.  Go kick some ass at IMTX on May 16th.  I, for one, will be tracking and cheering for you all day!  You have a lifelong fan, for sure.

To QR: your bikes are awesome.  But your service and the way you treat your athletes is even better.  Thanks for over-nighting a new stem so that I could get my beautiful PRsix ride-ready again!  Unfortunately my shoulder had other ideas.  But once that puppy heals, I’ll be back on task and ready to rock!  THANK YOU for doing everything you possibly could to get me on the start line in TX.

To Bike Lane of Houston: HUGE thanks for putting me on the top of your priority list and getting my bike ready to go!  So grateful for your service and generosity.

To my QT2 family, most especially Kait, Matt, and Pat: you guys rock.  All there is to it.  Thanks for keeping me laughing and for making memories with me.  Special thanks to Pat, who was with me when I crashed, for sitting in the ER with me, taking my bike to the shop, and wiping away a ton of tears.

To my own family: oy vey!  You put up with a lot.  Sorry for all the worry.  I’ll get my act together here soon, I promise!!  Thanks for loving me, no matter what.

And finally to the Snow family: I simply have no words.  No words for what you have done for me.  Know that your kindness will never, ever be forgotten.  And know also the huge impact you've had on me and my life. 

I’m getting a bit teary eyed thinking of all the wonderful people in my life.  Even just this morning, as I struggled to get a huge bike box, a wheel bag, 2 suitcases and a backpack through the airport with a broken shoulder in a sling, I can’t even recount how many kind strangers offered to help me.  This world has a lot of really good people!!!  And right now, that’s my take away from all that is happening in my own little world.  Despite the struggle I feel, there are people who care and who will help.  And when I’m finally in the position to be of help to someone else, it will be at the top of my priority list. 

So three weeks of no activity and this @@#V$ sling (that I already hate and have sworn at relentlessly) – here we go!  Oh, and lots of ice cream.  You know, for the calcium...!!

Just a TEENY bit of road rash - not bad!  But the real trouble is the cracked wing...

I really need to stop hanging out in ERs.

Happy days in Galveston!  Two @couersports gals and one honorary @couersports guy!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Oh boy, it's been a while.

If you've ever had a blog and at some point failed to update that blog for a significant period of time, you'll understand my current conundrum.  You want to write and update but you don't know where to start.  A lot of time has passed and a lot of things have happened.  Because this seems like such a daunting task, you choose instead to watch tv.  Or take a nap.  Or walk the dog.  Then more time passes and more things happen.  At which point the task becomes even more daunting.  The blog goes silent.  Then you start getting emails asking if you are okay.  Yup, I'm getting the emails.

So here is the abridged version!

I raced Kona in October.

I came home and took a month off of training.  There was weeping and gnashing of teeth.  I survived.  My coach nearly did not.

I started training again.  The holidays happened.  Life moved forward.

In January I cursed the weather.  My foot started to hurt.

In February I went to Florida.  Weather much better.  Foot not so much.  I spent a month in FL, first helping out with the QT2 AG training camps (which are awesome, by the way, check them out here) and then at the QT2 Pro camp.  I swam and biked a ton.  I did not run so much.

Then it was March and I had an Ironman coming up in South Africa.  But my foot was still not right and at the same time, I was going through a very hard time personally.  All signs pointed towards NOT racing in South Africa.  It was heartbreaking, but life moves on.

And indeed, life did move on.  By mid March I was running again with much less pain (Hokas to the rescue - seriously).  I made a tentative plan of racing IM Texas.

In early April I ran a running race.  It was painful.  But the good kind of pain.  And my foot was okay.  I bought plane tickets to Texas.

And now here we are in late April and this Friday, I'm about to board a plane for my first race of the year (Galveston 70.3).  I haven't raced for over 6 months.  I hope I remember how this goes!  After Galveston, I'm staying in Texas until IMTX where I will (if all goes according to plan!) race my 10th Ironman.  Hard to believe.  My Mom will be there as always.  I'm looking forward to it.

There you have it in a nutshell - the last 6 months of my life!  I know you've just all been dying to know.  :)  And because I know pictures are really the only thing people look at anyway...

I got me a new bike and she is faaaaaaast and purty!
And I got me a new racing kit too!  Many thanks to an amazing group of supporters again in 2015.

I've been training in Boston for a bit now and I have to say, I really like it here.  It's mostly the people of Boston I love.  Because they say things like this, with a straight face, and expect you to understand them.

I've picked up a bad habit, or two.

House 1717 from camp.  We were, by far, the most awesome.  (of course)

I blame this on you, Corbin.  I never even HAD gelato before...