Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fall Cross Country

Growing up, fall was always my favorite season of the year because it meant CROSS COUNTRY SEASON!! And cross country season is the best season of them all. Some of my best high school and college memories are of running and racing with my best friends over hill and dale all over the country.

My season might now be the summer triathlon circuit but fall cross country will always hold a special place in my heart. Today I am at the high school district cross country championships (and blogging from my phone!) to watch Oscar's team try to qualify for the state meet. It is pouring down rain, about 38 degrees and the course is sloppier than sloppy can be. Sounds like a perfect day for a cross country race to me!

Happy fall! :-)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Do you remember writing those little essays when you were in elementary school, always around Thanksgiving, where you detailed what you were thankful for?

Well here is my (pre-Thanksgiving) version!

1) I'm so thankful for all the encouragement and support that I received in regards to my decision to turn pro.  You guys know how to make a girl feel good!  HA!  Seriously though, I do really appreciate every little note, text, FB comment, email, blog comment, etc...  It will be a fun journey!  I'm glad you all are along for the ride!

2) On that same note, I'm SOOO thankful for the current pros that I asked advice from.  GEEZ!  Such a great group of women that gave such great advice and some very good things to keep in mind as I go through my first year.  If condensed into a single sentence, their thoughts can be summarized with something like this: There will be growing pains but with perspective and a positive attitude, it will be a great experience!  YEEEHAW - can't wait!  (and I'm really just excited about something I already knew - there are so many wonderful people in our sport that genuinely want to see everyone do well :)

3) Completely unrelated - I'm thankful that it's Taco-tastic Tuesday at Qdoba!  Seriously - $1 tacos?! 

4) I'm also really thankful for off-season training!  YAHOO!  I'm feeling great but definitely still limiting myself so as not to go overboard before the "real" training starts.  Mostly what I like about this whole scenario is that I do what I want to do when I want to do it.  This means MASTERS!  And running with Oscar!  (did someone mention a bike?)  I love masters swimming so much.  On Monday it was long course and that just made me even more happy.  And on Sunday I got to run with Oscar (okay, only 8 of his 20 miles were with me :) and tomorrow morning I get to run AGAIN with him!  YEAH! 

5) Believe it or not, I'm also really thankful for my job!  Ha!  I really like the people I work with and although a hospital can be a depressing place (like when families have to make the decision to withdrawal support or just cancer in general), mostly I think it can be very uplifting to see people fight like hell for their lives...and WIN!  And I know I say this all the time but I'm thankful for the perspective my job gives me.  It's hard to feel sorry for yourself when you are surrounded by people who would be thrilled by the thought of getting out of bed, or breathing on their own, or eating solid food.  :)

Of course I'm thankful for 10 gazillion other things (gazillion is a real number you know!) but I won't bore you any longer.  Have a great night everyone!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

No Regrets

I think one of the best gifts you can give yourself is to try and live your life with "no regrets".  To live life in such a way that you treat people as they should be treated, you love others as they should be loved, and you follow your passions without apology.  People who successfully accomplish this and keep their heads about them, are usually people that I greatly admire. 

Of course I haven't made it through 32 years of life without some regrets!  I've definitely made mistakes, and I'm sure I will make more.  But with the concept of "no regrets" in mind, I've decided to race professionally next triathlon season. 


I've been looking forward to this for a very long time.  Although when I first started into triathlon I had no concept of what "going pro" meant, it didn't take long for me to start to wonder if perhaps I'd ever be able to do such a thing!  The idea fascinated me and as I got a little faster each year it was easier and easier to envision myself making the leap.  But then at the end of the season each year, it just didn't feel quite right.  I would finish a season and start to dream of goals the next year and those goals would almost always center around staying amateur.  In 2009 the goal was to finish on the podium at 70.3 Worlds.  In 2010 the goal was Kona.  In 2011 the goal was to do well at Kona.  I kept coming up with excuses to remain an age grouper!

Without a doubt 2011 was a breakthrough year for me.  It may not have looked like it from the outside but in my own mind, I made a lot of gains.  I set PRs for sure.  I was able to compete with people I've never even been close to before.  I was able to win a few races.  But probably my biggest breakthrough came in training - in being able to handle a much larger work load both physically and mentally and ENJOY it (um...most of the time... :).  I got a little peek into what it would take on a day to day basis to compete at a higher level and I realized that I enjoyed that challenge just as much if not more so than the actual racing itself.  And that's when racing pro really started to feel right for 2012.  I was not just in love with the idea of racing pro like in years past, I was also starting to really love the idea of putting in all that work to see how good I could really be.  (and lets make no bones about it, it truly is A LOT of work)

When I started to think of goals for 2012, what REALLY excited me most was the challenge of racing against some of the best women triathletes in the world.  How would I measure up?  I may not like the answer to that question!!!  :)  But it's exciting to have the opportunity to at least find that answer and live with no regrets or no "what ifs".  I can't tell you how big my smile gets when I think of this!  Like I said in this article, we all need something that gets us out of bed each morning to train and this new challenge will undoubtedly serve as excellent motivation for me!  Nothing like knowing you will be starting races with Julie Dibens to get thy butt to thy pool to learn how to swim STAT!  :)

I reached out to several other pro women who have taken similiar paths and they all provided extremely candid and helpful advice in making the transition, of which I am so thankful for.  So after a lot of thought and discussion with Oscar and a (very) long chat with Dirk, who really emphasized some key ideas (like PATIENCE), I've decided to do this thing!  I have no idea where this next part of my journey is going to take me but I'm very excited to find out!  Here we go!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Puffins And Such

I haven't done a list for a while!  :)

1) Today I took Roxy to the vet for her annual checkup and some shots (she was due for a rabies vaccine).  Clean bill of health!

Cute.  Also, you may notice the pink "bandaid" on her front paw that she immediately tried to eat on the ride home.
2) This past Saturday I got to be cheerleader while Oscar raced!  Because he was just getting back into his routine and recovering from Kona (the support crew has more recovering to do than the athlete I think!), he used the race as more of a "tempo" than all out racing.  He still ran a 1:18:59 half marathon.  He ran with one of my Ballou Skies teammates who was also using the race as a harder tempo in preparation for ITU Long Course Worlds.  Being the awesome spectathlete that I am, I cheered hard and took this awesome picture!  (seriously, I wasn't trying to be artistic, I really just suck that much at taking pictures :)

3) The Kona sun did something crazy to my back and now I look spotted.  I think if you lived in Kona you'd have to take a bath in sun block daily!

4) I GOT TO SWIM TODAY!  I've been hankering to do a little light training but the big bad blister on my foot needed some time to heal.  Today I finally felt that it was healed enough to push off the pool wall so to the chlorine I went.  :)  Happy day!  I will bike a bit tomorrow and go to masters on Thursday.  Dirk has given me a total of 4 weeks to do as I please before we get back to a structured plan so I plan on taking advantage of it and go as I feel.  I do feel pretty darn good though.  Compare this to last year when at this point in the game I wanted NOTHING to do with my bike for a good 2 months.  :)  I guess I really learned to like my bike after all this year!  What I'm really excited for though is running.  Fall in Pittsburgh is THE best time to run.  Awesome temps and beautiful fall leaves.  Can.  Not.  Wait.  :)

5) I bought my first box of Puffins at the grocery store on Sunday.  There are so many people that praise the Puffin!  And indeed, I now understand why.  Too bad they are $5+ per (small) box! 

Hope everyone has been having a great week thus far!  Happy fall!

Friday, October 14, 2011

More Kona


Ballou Skies at the Underpants Run!  :)

The flowers in Kona are more beautiful than anywhere else I've ever been!

You also see stuff like this at the UP Run - two older gentleman in "adult diapers"!

The beautiful church on Ali'i.
The Mdot poster with everyone's name on it!  :)
My grandfather.  :)  You could find him most days lounging by the pool in his jeans.  :)
My mom and I at the pier.  My mom is one of my biggest supporters and has been to all 6 World Championship races I've done including Clearwater x 2, Vegas x 1, Kona x 2 and even Short Course ITU AG Worlds in Hamburg, Germany!

My mom found this guy outside of the house we were staying in.  He agreed to a picture.  :)

My dad helping me put my bike together.  This involved a hand drill and plyers.  Serious stuff!

My race wrist band and my hospital wrist band!  I took a visit to the Kona Community Hospital on Monday before we left to get my foot patched up and make sure it wasn't going to rot with infection.  :)

Hope everyone has a great weekend!  :)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

2011 Ironman World Championships

The short story:

I finished my second Ironman!  I think the look on my face in this picture tells it all.  Pure joy.  In my experience there is no greater feeling in sport than running down Ali'i Drive, running up that carpeted chute and hearing Mike Reily say that "YOU ARE AN IRONMAN"!  I was 11th in my AG, 20th amateur, 40th female overall and my time was 10:11:16. 

The nitty gritty:

Race morning I was surprisingly calm.  The hardest part of any race day is leaving Oscar (and in this case my mom) to get in the water.  I almost get teary eyed!  Especially for Ironman, I know I have a long, hard day ahead of me and although I get to see my family out on the course, much of that day would be spent alone, inside my own head.  (scary!)

Still though, I was glad to get in the water with Chad and several other triathlon friends and then spend the next 20-25 minutes trying not to drown before the race even started.  This is definitely my least favorite part of the race - everyone jockeying for position, the paddleboarders pushing you BACK behind the start line, trying desperately to find some space and meanwhile the time is ticking by SOOOOO slowly.  ARGH - can't we go already?!?!  :)

And then finally BOOM!  The cannon goes off and the REAL melee begins!

Last year I think I totally lucked out and stayed out of major traffic and got hit maybe once during the swim.  I knew that wasn't likely going to happen again and sure enough, this year I got totally pummelled.  I started in roughly the same place as last year (far left) although this year I think I (unknowingly) cut over to the right WAY sooner and got in the mass of swimmers much earlier.  Before I knew it, I looked up and I was pretty much right on the buoy line which was just chaos.  AHHHHH!

All I have to say is, I hate age group men.

HA!  Just kidding.  :)  But seriously, as aggressive as I tried to be, I just really struggled to out muscle and win water space when I was up against men twice my size.  And I swear there were NO women around me!  It was just a sea of blue caps (AG men) with a pink cap (AG women) every once in a blue moon.

At the turn around I started to fear I was going to have a swim time of 1:20.  Although I felt great swimming truth was, most of the time I felt stuck in a big mass of people swimming too slow.  Occasionally I'd get some open water and go for it but then I'd catch the back of another group and be in the same situation all over again.  And it was like that the entire way.  Not even on my last swim stroke did I feel like I had some space.  Welcome to the Ironman swim right?!  :)

Getting out of the water, I was so relieved, mostly to be out alive!  But also because I saw the clock just turning to 1:02 which calmed my fears of having swam a 1:20.  :)  My final swim time was 1:02:07 a HUGE 13 second PR!  HA!  :)  Certainly not the type of improvement I'd hope to see with how much more swimming I put in this year, but still, 5th in my AG and somewhat respectable.  I know I have a sub hour IM swim in me.  As always, the work continues...

Onto my bike I was loving life.  I had to keep reminding myself that this is 112 miles!  EASY does it.  I'm used to getting on my bike and GOING for it.  I reminded myself over and over again, keep the HR in the 150s on the way out to Hawi.  Let's not get crazy here.

As I remembered from last year, on the way out to Hawi, it was crowded.  I focused on my HR and nutrition.  And overall, I just felt good.  I felt comfortable.  I felt happy that all was going well.  I was also keeping an eye on who was around me.  I had been passed by two women, one in my AG and one not, neither of whom I felt comfortable going with at that point.  The effort would have been too high and I was determined to stick to the "conservative to Hawi" plan that Dirk gave me.

Before I knew it, we were climbing to Hawi.  This was going by fast!  We had a pretty persistent head/crosswind up to Hawi but I still felt strong and was still getting the nutrition in.  We made the turnaround and then finally I was able to up the effort a little.  I pedaled hard down the other side to stay upright in the crosswind and then again, before I knew it, we were back on the Queen K!  Yes, this was going by REALLY fast!

Turning onto the Queen K towards home was my crumbling point last year.  From that point on (which is about 30 miles!) I struggled.  Many people passed me.  I cursed my bike.  I felt hot.  I wanted to get to T2 NOW!  THIS year though, whole different story.  Holy cow.  The headwind was definitely present but I just felt sooooo much stronger.  Instead of getting passed by everyone, I was actually doing some passing!  The heat was there but I felt like I was managing it well.  And time was moving so quickly.  Before I knew it, I was at 85 miles and then 90 and then 95...

I did have one low point on the bike where my stomach was incredibly unhappy.  It had sort of been building throughout the bike but I kept eating because I knew I had to to be able to finish the bike and run.  Finally it all came to a head and I had an episode of retching/throwing up.  That's a new one - I usually wait until the run to do that!  :)  I felt SOOO much better though after it was done and instantly my stomach was happy again and much more accepting of my gels.  The unfortunate part about it though was that this was right when Sarah passed me.  Had I been feeling a bit better it would have been the perfect opportunity to chase hard but at that point I was feeling rotten.  Bad timing on my part but what can you do?

After I got through that little low though (mile 90ish), I started to fly.  I FELT SO GOOD.  The field gets very strung out during that last 30 miles but I just kept on focusing on the person in front of me and pulling them in.  My stomach was happy, my legs were happy and I was picking up some serious speed.

If Dirk were standing on the side of the road, I think I would have gotten off my bike and hugged him.  THANK YOU DIRK!  Thank you for making me ride all those miles all year.  For those 5 hour rides on Saturday followed by a 6:30 ride on Sunday.  I wasn't loving you at the time but I was truly thankful at mile 100 on Saturday!  And when I really started to calculate just what my bike time might be, I got REALLY excited!  At first it was..."I just might break 5:30!" and then "wait, maybe I can break 5:25!" and then "holy cats, I think I might break 5:20!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Happy day!

I got off my bike in 5:19:10 - over 20 minutes faster than last year and in a much better place mentally and physically.  Yes indeed, thank you Dirk.  :)

I got through T2 well and started the marathon feeling good.  I was just so excited to see Oscar and my mom and my friends after not seeing them for the last 5 hours while I was on the bike.  When I passed Oscar around 2 miles in he told me he thought I was in 4th or 5th place in my AG.  HOLY CATS! 

Starting the run, still with a smile!  :)
Keep it together Shutt!  I wanted to try to run 8 minute pace throughout the marathon because I believe I have a 3:30 marathon off the bike in me.  And for the first 10 miles I was doing pretty good!  Too bad there are still 16 miles to go...  HA!  :)  While my legs were cooperating pretty well I was having two issues: (1) sour stomach/throwing up and (2) painful feet that felt like they were melting with each step of the Queen K.  I was doing my best to manage both issues but as the miles wore on, the lack of nutrition (due to throwing up and switching to coke only) started to slow my pace quite a bit.  I was still in good spirits and got through the Energy Lab much better than last year (no walking this year!) but coming back out onto the Queen K when you still have 7+ miles to go...ouch. 

One foot in front of the other.

I finally made my way up closer to town and was SO happy to see Oscar.  At that point I had been passed by 5-6 others in my AG putting me in 11th place.  I was sad to have fallen out of the top 10 which was one of my big goals but I knew I was still going to have a big PR and that kept me pushing, pushing.  Oscar knows how my brain works so when I saw him before making the turn onto Palani he told me "HUGE PR - you are having a GREAT race!"  No mention of my place.  He knew that I knew.  But I was still having a big day and darn it, let's finish this thing!  Oscar told me with less than 2 miles left that we were 9:55 into the race.  COME ON SHUTT, let's break 10:10!

I was on such a mission then.  I was seriously moving soooo slow but I was trying to will my legs to move as fast as possible.  And then I made the turn back into town and the fans were cheering so loud.  I was in such a world of hurt but so determined to see 10:0x on that clock!

Coming down Palani for the last time.  Thanks to the Cathy and Kerry for the awesome photos out on the course and at the finish!
What can I say about coming down Ali'i?  It's just magical.  And when I did finally see the clock and that I wasn't going to quite break 10:10, I didn't even care.  I was so overcome with happiness and joy and thankfulness.  It was an amazing day and although I wanted it to end, I also wanted to savor the feeling forever.

In the end I had a 33:14 PR and a PR in all three sports.  Never did I imagine that my day would have a 10:11 in store!  And furthermore, never did I imagine that if I did go 10:11, I'd finish 11th in my AG!  HA!  (my competitors are awesome and the 30-34 AG is the bomb!  :) 

Am I disappointed that I didn't run faster?  Well of course.  It was hard to taste the podium ever so slightly and then get passed by 5-6 people!  My final marathon time was 3:44:33, a 10 minute improvement over last year but still not what I think I'm capable of.  I believed I was ready to run 3:30 off the bike and to truly be competitive I know I need to run more in the range of 3:20.  But it's all about the baby steps.  It took me a long time to learn to run well off the bike at the half distance so I know running a great marathon isn't going to come overnight either.  The fact is, I'm just not strong enough yet to put it all together.  But I'm really, really excited to keep working to get strong enough.  I finished so, so happy to have gone 10:11.  But even more so, happy in knowing that there is much room for improvement and some of the times that I dare not even dream about, may be a reality for me after all.

Kona was a dream come true yet again.  It was such a hard day.  But the reward was more than adequate!  And I'm already thinking about the next one.  YAHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  :)

HUGE thanks for all your cheers, encouragement and prayers.  I again get teary eyed thinking of all the support I've received for this race and all season long.  I'm truly thankful and humbled.  This year and this race were great journeys with even finer destinations.

Now for some more photos with more to come in the next few days!

It was so great to have Ty and Ryan Ballou out on the course - true inspiration!  And of course to see so many of my teammates out there crushing it.  I'm one lucky gal.

Getting free stuff and swimming with some AWESOME ladies is one of my favorite parts of Kona!

Underpants run with the Pittsburgh Crew.  AWESOMENESS!
Going back to the finish line for the final 2 hours of the race with my friends is one of my favorite parts.  So inspirational.  So amazing what the human spirit is capable of.

See!  I told you my feet hurt on the run!  The aftermath of Ironman isn't pretty!
Getting to swim out here the day after the race made everything better though!  LOVE!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


I think anyone who has ever done a long distance triathlon knows that it takes a village to raise an Ironman. Although I will be the only one on my "team" who gets to cross the finish line Saturday, I certainly owe many thanks to many people for getting me to this point! I always feel so blessed to be able to do this sport!

So HUGE thanks to...

My competitors - I've been so lucky to be a part of a fantastic group of women, both in my age group and younger/older, who have really helped me raise my game. We are friends and that makes the sport so much more fun. But on race day, you have pushed me to greater things than I thought possible. I think of you when I train. Thanks for getting me out of bed on many mornings!

BallouSkies - For a greater purpose and for the inspiration.

Dr. Brad - For keeping me healthy week in and week out. Those magic hands kept all the little niggles at bay all year!

Dirk - This year you gave me a tiny glimpse of what it takes to compete on a higher level. I'm not so certain I liked what I saw!! :-) I came to you to be challenged and that is exactly what you did. There were days I thought you were crazy. But you've delivered me to the start line of the biggest race of the year healthy and happy and fitter than I've ever been. Thanks for putting up with me!

My training partners - To my lane mates at Masters - thanks for making me hurt and laugh all at the same time! And to Ben - thanks for dragging me all around Pittsburgh on your wheel. Your enthusiasm for the sport is contagious and your strength on the bike is inspiring!

The Pittsburgh crew - Your hunger for the sport drives me. I am so honored to share the race course with so many of you on Saturday.

My blogger/FB/twitter/real friends - What amazing support you've given! Your encouragement puts the winds in my sails more than you probably can imagine.

My family - Holy cow - you put up with so much!! :-) I am so blessed to have your support on this crazy journey. Thanks for coming to so many races and always encouraging me to pursue my dreams.

Oscar - What can I say? I would never be where I am today without you. You have been with me every step of the way, through all the good but also through all the very bad. I think of you so much when I am out on the race course. The sacrifices you have made for me to chase these dreams motivates me in ways that nothing else could. You are everywhere on race day but it's the 4 am wakeup calls on those cold winter months that mean even more. What a ride it's been! Very much looking forward to seeing where our journey takes us next.

Race day is almost here! I am fit and healthy and ready to go. And no matter what race day brings, I am so thankful for the opportunity I've been given. Here we go!!!!!!

Monday, October 3, 2011

More Kona

I feel so spoiled and blessed to be here!  LOVE!

Yesterday Libby was so kind to ride/run with me on the Queen K!  She had just gotten off a plane very late the night before so I definitely appreciated her willingness to train together early the next morning.  And it only took us about 10 tries before we got BOTH our heads in the picture (ahh...the self portrait... :)

My family and I went out to dinner last night.  After dinner we found a banana tree and a beautiful sunset.  Kona really is paradise.

And then this morning I swam the swim course with a MOST AWESOME group of women!  One of my favorite parts of Kona is seeing all the triathlon friends I've made through the years.  I was in swimming heaven!  I am so lucky to get to compete with some amazing women.  Wish I could train with them every day!

Then Katie and Libby and I found our names on the M-dot poster.  And then of course we ate at Lava Java.  Mmmm...pancakes...  :)

I never want to leave!  :)

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Kona is just as awesome as I remember it!

We arrived yesterday afternoon (Kona time) after a long day of travel.  First a 4 hour flight to Phoenix and then a 6 hour flight to Kona.  Needless to say, I was tired of sitting on a plane! 

Of course the first thing we did when we got here was...go to Lava Java!  :)

Then (after my food digested that is) I went swimming.  I needed to MOVE!  It was already dark so I went to the Kona Aquatics Center (vs the ocean) which is AWESOME and free.  I can't believe it's free.  It was such a beautiful night and I already felt like I was in heaven!

This morning I woke up excited to swim in the beautiful blue waters of the Pacific with Sarah.  We met bright and early and again, it was AWESOME.  (warning - very likely overuse of the word awesome until I'm back home in Pittsburgh :)  I just love, love, LOVE swimming in the ocean here.  I could literally do it all day long.

I also had a little double brick on the schedule which I did on the hot and windy Queen K.  Yep, it's still hot and windy out there in lava-land!  I felt good though and it was just great to be out on the course.  Race day is almost here!  YESSSSSSSS!!  My excitement is most definitely building!

The view from our VERY awesome house.  My parents can just watch the swim from our lanai!  :)
Now all we need is Oscar!  Unfortunately he is still stuck at home in the 45 degree and raining weather.  This morning he sent me a picture from the cross country meet he was coaching at.  Soaking wet and muddy as can be.  Pittsburgh weather isn't quite like Kona's...  ;)