Friday, December 21, 2012

In Search Of Suffering

I think "suffer" is a weird word.  It always makes me think of Sylvester the Cat's "sufferin' succotash!" expression on the Looney Tunes.

This would be Sylvester, in case you didn't have the pleasure of watching Looney Tunes as a kid (or adult).
 
I've always been a little suspect of defining what we do in sport as "suffering" (and I'm especially suspect of the term "sufferfest").  Suffering, to me, is what the families of the Newtown shooting victims are doing.  Suffering is what I see at the hospital, when patients are in the midst of a bad diagnosis and they are very afraid to die.  Suffering is your 3rd or 4th round of chemo. 

Yet I will certainly admit to saying things like "I really suffered that last 10K of the race" or "those intervals on the trainer this morning really made me suffer!"  And I don't want to minimize the type of pain we all feel when we push our bodies to the brink.  So I think what we should do is categorize suffering into two groups - (Type 1) the kind we are forced to endure and (Type 2) the kind we willingly submit ourselves to.

This morning Oscar and I went on a run.  It was early and dark and very cold and windy.  It consisted of a warmup, a 30 minute "tempo" portion in which we aimed for a specific average pace, and then a cooldown.  Because a picture is worth a 1000 words:

Click on the picture to make it bigger so you can read my explanations.
 
 
As you can see, the tempo portion of the run started off downhill.  Maintaining my goal pace was quite easy.  Then we ran the majority of the tempo along the river.  This part was flat with only slight elevation gains.  It is here that I will admit to giving myself a little cushion to work with on the average pace because I knew what was to come.  What was to come you might ask?  Well, the last 7 minutes of the tempo were straight up a mile+ long hill that starts off some what tame but that is so steep at the top, my lungs (and legs!) were begging for mercy.  My breathing may or may not have sounded like I was going to lose one of those lungs.  I should also mention that turning to run up that hill also coincided with turning directly into a very strong (and cold!) wind.  Fun times.

So what is the moral of this story?  Perhaps to pick a better course for my tempo run next time!  :)  But really, what I want to say is this: I think we are really lucky to have the opportunity to struggle and do some Type 2 suffering in our endeavours to swim/bike/run faster.  I chose this route on purpose this morning because I wanted to make myself "suffer" and struggle up that last hill (and trust me, I sure did!).  Why?  Because I can!  Because Type 2 suffering is a luxury.  Because I'm healthy and strong and my body will take the beating I give to it.  And that is such an amazing thing that I am so very thankful for.  And I encourage you to do the same - to perhaps suffer a little more than you have to, just because.  Not all the time, but every once in a while, just because.  I think there are many people going through some Type 1 suffering that wish they could be so lucky.

Wishing a very Merry Christmas to you all!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Is This Thing On?

Holy lack of blogs Batman!  (and I have no excuses because I'm not that busy!)

1) I started back to training!  It is awesome.  I always have and always will love structure in my training and life.  I'm pretty sure it's how I'm wired.

2) I'm sore as heck.  3 weeks is plenty of time to get good and out of shape and that's exactly what I did!  One round of my core/strength routine and I was having trouble sitting up the next day.  Those core muscles get weak in a hurry don't they?  (or maybe that's just mine... :)

3) Kim and I (and Oscar too!) visited my college teammate over the weekend.  She has the cutest kids ever as evidenced by the picture below.  In just one afternoon I learned that (1) being a mom is likely THE hardest job that there ever was and (2) when we have kids I'm going to have to get used to a whole new level of loud.  My world is really quiet and most of my time is spend alone or with one other person.  4 kids = a whole lotta crazy!


4) Thanks to an early Christmas gift from my Mom and Dad, Oscar and I are officially owners of the cutest mutt ever! 

Who doesn't love a Christmas sweater?
 
5) I signed up to do my tri club's 100x100 swim workout this Saturday!  I'm pretty darn excited although slightly frightened that my arms might fall off around #75.  I did this workout last year but I wasn't coming off a a big break.  Oh well, it will be fun either way!

6) I've also been riding my road bike which is quite a funny little machine!  I feel like I'm lounging on a recliner.  And I tried to get down into the (non-existent) aerobars a good 20-30 times in the first hour I was on it.  It's pretty odd to me but I'm sure in no time at all I'll get the feel for it and my TT bike will feel foreign!

7) I had another root canal done by my favorite dentist ever and now my mouth is so happy I could do a jig!  Root canals are seriously the best procedure ever.  I no longer have to live on Motrin and I don't cringe in pain with every swig of cold water! 

Hope everyone is getting in the holiday spirit!  :)

Monday, December 3, 2012

What I Did On My Winter Vacation

Similiar to those essays you wrote when you were a kid about what you did while you were on summer vacation, triathletes should write about what they did in their "off season" or "down time" or whatever you call that period between the finish and restart of racing. 

1) I washed all the curtains in the house.  Don't even ask.  I have no idea what came over me.

2) We got both of our cars serviced and cleaned and all nice and spiffy.  And in doing so, the very kind mechanics at the VW dealership took the seat out of our Jetta and found my wedding band!  YEAH!  :)  Also, it's now safe to sit in our back seats because all dog hair has been removed (for at least a week...)

3) I've been reading a lot.  Well, a lot for me.  I finished Outliers and then I read The Art of Racing in the Rain and Gold.  I realized today I have nothing left to read in the house!  Might have to find where the library is in this town... (that we've lived in for 8 years :)

4) I've slept A LOT.  This might be my favorite thing about down time from training - time to sleep in, time to go to bed early, time to take naps.  Yes, please!

5) Family time.  The beauty of IMAZ is that it leads nicely right into Thanksgiving, which Oscar and I spent at my sister and brother-in-law's home in North Carolina.  My parents were also able to come.  It was awesome.

6) I thought about this past season, next season and I bugged the heck out of my coach with lots of emails and questions.  :)  Just kidding, he is very gracious and patient with me.

7) I put my bike back together and I even rode it once.  But that was it.  If there is one thing I need a break from during this time of year, it's my bike!

8) Speaking of bikes, I (by "I", I mean the guys at Big Bang Bikes :), re-habbed an old (but new to me!) road bike in preparation for the Coast Ride in January!  YES!  Some how I got talked into this ride that involves many miles and many, many feet of climbing down the California coast in January.  I'm pretty pumped for it, mostly to ride with some awesome friends and see the beautiful west coast via 2 wheels!

9) I worked on sponsor relationships and tried to figure out how to get Southwest to fly me free all year long.  No ideas on that one.  Let me know if you think of something.  :) 

10) O and I bought all our Christmas gifts and sent all our cards!  This has to be some kind of record (for us).  I didn't wrap anything yet.  Must save something for next week. 

11) I worked a few extra days at this place

12) I've taken Roxy on a few extra walks.  She liked it.  I know this because she told me so.  :)

13) I spent A LOT of time figuring out my responsibilities as an athlete who was selected for USADA's (United State Anti Doping Agency) registered testing pool.  I got notice that I've been added to the International Testing Pool which is the one where you have to file your whereabouts in ONE HOUR increments for 3 months at a time so that they can test you any where, any time.  Think about that for a second.  Can you tell me right now where you're going to be on February 9th at 4:30 pm?  That's essentially what we have to do.  And it's not a joke and it's something that is to be taken very seriously (obviously!).  But I'm definitely not complaining about it and I WANT to be a part of it because this is what it takes for clean sport right?  I very much want to do my part.  (but I will say, the online whereabouts filing form makes me go cross-eyed...ha!)  So it is time well spent and I have to say, I have a much better understanding of how this whole process works (after the tutorial) and now a very, very healthy fear of taking ANY supplement!

So that's what I've been up to!  And my down time isn't over quite yet!  I'm still looking forward to a trip to visit my college roommate next weekend, some Christmas parties and a movie or two with Oscar.  When that first schedule shows up in my inbox I'm certainly going to be well rested and rearing to go!  :)  Hope everyone else is enjoying their down time too! 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Rookie Pro Season In Review

To tell you the truth, I'm not a very thoughtful person.  I don't mean thoughtful in the sense of "wow is she thoughtful to have brought over some chicken soup when I was sick."  But I mean I *literally* don't think too much on any one thing.  I don't dwell, I don't stew.  I was that person in school that took a test in 20 minutes because once I answered a question, I moved right on and NEVER went back to have a 2nd look. 

As an athlete, I can see both a benefit and a down side to this character trait.  I could probably learn a lot more from my mistakes if I ever really gave them pause.  But at the very least, I live a relatively un-tormented life in that I don't weigh myself down with OVER-thinking.  Let it be known - I've never not been able to sleep because I was thinking on something too much!  :)

Having said all that, I will say I've thought through this past season of being a rookie pro more than any other previous season.  Not sure why other than the fact that it was a very unique year for me, not just as an athlete but as a PERSON.  Below are some of my thoughts on the year. 

1) Racing pro is certainly different than racing as an age grouper and comparing times from the two isn't really fair.  There are benefits to racing as a pro and there are benefits to racing as an AGer.  In my opinion, the biggest difference BY FAR is the swim.  Even to swim the same times I did as an AGer, I need to totally remodel HOW I swim by having the ability to go WAY, WAY over threshold at the start to maintain any sort of contact before things calm down.  Um...still a work in progress.  :)  I do have this theory though that if you are a superstar fishy swimmer, your transition to being a pro and your experience as a whole is very different than someone like myself who was an "okay" AG swimmer.  And this is all because HOW the race plays out is totally dictated by where you come out of the water.  The swim can't win it for you nor can it totally lose it for you but it truly sets the course of how the day unfolds.

2) Having said all that, I TRULY loved racing as a pro this year!  I maintained a very high level of motivation through the entire year to both train and race, despite a very long season.  And I attribute this soley to the fact that the challenge of being a pro totally captivated me.

3) There is more to being a pro than one might think and I had (and still have) a lot to learn about being a professional athlete.  It's obviously not football or baseball or any other of the mainstream sports but it's still a business.  I will ALWAYS do sport because I love it and because it's something that challenges me to be a better person.  But competing as a professional adds a whole new dimension of being able to make (a little) money while doing what you love and that can change your strategies a little!  ;)  I raced a lot more this year (LOVE!) and traveled quite a bit more.  I went to many more races by myself.  These seem like small things but it was definitely an adjustment for me.

4) I was really quite pleased with my year.  I'm ever an optimist (both a good and a bad thing) and so as I think over my races and training from 2012, I have a tendency to highlight only the positives.  I am most happy about (1) staying healthy the entire year (2) being able to maintain a higher level of training AND racing and learning how to recover enough to make it through the season (3) setting PRs at Olympic, 70.3 and IM distances and (4) my consistency throughout the entire year.  If there is one thing I can claim, it's consistency.  I never really have those breakthrough type races but instead I (very) slowly chip away race after race until one day I look up and see that I'm faster than the previous year.  :)

5) Although I am incredibly pleased with season #1, I do know that my one major fault this year (and truthfully in much of my athletic career to date) was a lack of faith and having major doubts about myself and my ability to race at this level.  Friend and fellow rookie pro, Beth Walsh, said it perfectly in her own blog written just a few days ago:

"I'll be the first to admit it. At the start of this season, I did not believe in my heart that I had what it takes to be competitive as a professional triathlete. I knew I could be "ok" and get by and just prayed I didn't get beat by too many amateurs. But knowing, and truly believing in yourself, may be half the battle. Maybe that's the extra 1% I've been missing..." (Beth goes on to say that after 8 months of racing pro her mindset has changed and she now has belief in her ability to be a top IM athlete)

Ditto.  At the start of the year I felt like I was just trying to prove that letting me race as a pro wasn't a mistake.  I was simply trying not to embarrass myself.  But if you are racing with that in mind, you are doing yourself a disservice.  I see that now and can definitely say that I am a very different athlete than I was in March of this year.  Physically different a little bit but mentally different by a ton.  And like Beth said, that little bit of belief can go a long way.

This year taught me many, many things.  But mostly it taught me where I stand and it's now much clearer as to what I need to do to bridge the gap to where I want to be.  This year has taught me that I love the 70.3 distance and that I need to find 8-10 extra minutes at this distance to CONSISTENTLY be in the mix and on the podium.  I do believe God has given me the ability to get those extra 8-10 minutes (even though fins and gills REALLY would help me out here...  :).  And although I know those 8-10 minutes won't come fast, nor will they come easy, I have never in my life been more excited by a challenge.  Season #2 will be dedicated to taking that next step physically.  Thankfully my heart and my head are already there.

One million thanks over and over to all those that made this first year as a rookie pro possible and so very special: a wonderful group of sponsors, an amazing coach, fellow competitors that pushed me beyond belief and in the process have become great friends, an amazing group of friends in and out of the sport that have provided much needed support, and a family that loves me unconditionally.  Without any one piece, I would be lost!

So pro season #2....HERE WE GO!  (but first, I still have some lazy time, sleeping in and eating bon bons to do...  :)

              

Friday, November 23, 2012

More Arizona

But first, a picture from today:

Lingering turkey coma!
Hope everyone had an awesome Thanksgiving and has much to be thankful for!

More Arizona pictures:

On the Friday before the race I got to meet (in person!) one of my SOAS teammates Karleen and her husband Rich (and Kim is to my left).  FUN!!
Also on Friday, I got to attend the Tribe Multisport Slowtwitch gathering.  I had so much fun!  Great shop if you ever need one in the Phoenix area.  Pictured are the self proclaimed Baby Pros: Jess, myself and Kim.  :)
I was so lucky to have a great cheering crew in the form of Oscar and my Mom and Dad AND so many friends out on the course!
The day after the race my Mom and I went to the Desert Botanical Gardens.  There were lots of cacti.  :)
As much as I like to try new races, IMAZ was one that I would love to return to next year.  Good luck to all those doing IMCoz this weekend!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Ironman Arizona Race Report

I feel like I have so much to say about this race!  The entire week we've been in Arizona has been awesome.  But for this first blog entry, I'll try to keep it to race details only.  More "vacation" and fun pictures/reports to come...  :)

My main goals for this race were to (1) break 10 hours and (2) run under 3:30 for the marathon, with a lot of little process goals along the way designed to help me reach the big goals.  Long story short, I accomplished one goal but not the other.  Darn IM keeps pulling me back in for more in search of that "perfect" race.  (I know, such a thing doesn't exist)

Swim: 1:03:27

In filling in my training/racing log tonight I noticed that I swam the EXACT same time (down to the second) yesterday as I did at IMCdA in June.  That doesn't say much for my swim yesterday because CdA is a much tougher (colder, way choppier, etc...) swim.  However there was one big difference between the two races.  Yesterday I (LITERALLY) swam the entire swim by myself.  As in one lone shark.  All by my lonesome.  From about 50 meters in until I climbed up the steps to get out of the water.  I liked it better when we started with the male pros because more bodies in the water = higher probability that I will find a buddy!  But I know this is a reality for many pro females so it is what it is.  It made for a long swim but honestly, I felt pretty good.  I longed a little for the mass start of the AG swim where you don't even have to move your arms that much but rather just get sucked along in the masses (even if you do get clobbered 10,000 times :).  I did really like the swim at IMAZ though.  Other than the sun being in your eyes on the way out, it's easy to navigate, the water seems to be just the right temperature and the bridges you swim under are pretty.  :)

Didn't have to ask Andy to zip up my wetsuit this time!  :)

I believe this is the pro men's start.

The bridges are pretty.  :)
Bike: 5:04:02

I was really excited for this bike course and it did not disappoint!  I got out of the water in 14th place and (I think) off the bike in 13th place but there were MANY shifts in position over the course of the bike.  This kept it interesting and fun.  I also entertained myself during the bike by trying to keep my power average as even as possible (which I failed at during the 3rd loop) and of course, paying attention to fluid and nutrition intake.  As many people told me, the winds did shift throughout the bike.  We had a headwind on the way out on the 1st loop but by the 3rd loop, the headwind was on the way home instead.  The bike course is certainly very fast and that helped me to a 15 minute IM bike PR. 

Big thanks to Kerry and Cathy Yndestad for some awesome pictures!
Run: 3:41:44

Ugh.  That is all I have to say.  As you can tell from the time, I had a rough run and didn't reach my sub 3:30 goal.  Although the run course is flat at Arizona, I would suggest that it's deceptively slow due to all the turns, curbs, varying terrain (concrete, gravel, carpet, grass, hard packed dirt, etc...) and just lots of twists!  I liked the course and I liked the fact that I saw my family a gazillion times (also 3 loops like the bike).  But IM marathons and I just don't seem to get along.  Although I had high hopes at the start of the run (I felt GOOD off the bike), I struggled mightily over the last 10 miles.  Some of it is nutrition (it's just really hard for me to keep calories/fluid down in these long races).  Some of it is my inability to focus over such a long haul.  But I also think some of it is the fact that some athletes are built for shorter races and some are built for longer races.  I'm starting to believe I'm the former!  Nevertheless, I'm not going to let the IM marathon beat me (just yet!).  We shall meet again some day!  :)

Photo from Kerry Yndestad.

Proof that I did smile at least once on the run.  Yes, it's because at this point, I can see the finish line!  :)

Overall: 9:54:01

What kept me going during the run (especially at mile 23 when I *really* wanted to sit down on the side of the road and cry) was the fact that I knew, as slow as I was moving, I could still break 10 hours.  It was a very powerful motivator to JUST KEEP MOVING FORWARD.  And in all honesty, I am very excited to have finally broke 10 hours.  It's a huge monkey off my back, just like when I first broke 4:40 in a half.  Now I hope to make it a habit.  :)

And so continues my love/hate relationship with the Ironman distance.  I think it's an amazing race and I truly feel a wonderful sense of accomplishment upon crossing an IM finish line.  I have never crossed a better finish line in all my years of racing as the 4 different IM finishes I've been fortunate to have had.  BUT, I just don't know if it's *my* distance.  I much prefer the 70.3 distance at this point.  The only thing that gives me a little hope is the fact that I felt the same exact way about 70.3s when I moved up from Olympics but I grew to love them as I learned to race them.  Although many of you have not read my blog long enough to remember this, I did indeed think 70.3s were evil and really long and one year (after dropping out of Steelhead), I swore them off forever.  So maybe I'll eventually come around to IM too.  :)  And I certainly haven't sworn them off.  Although I'm pretty sure I'll focus on 70.3s next year, I'm sure I'll also sneak a full IM in 2013 too.  After all, I still have to prove to myself that I can run a decent marathon off the bike...

Of course as athletes we always want MORE.  But overall, I have to say, yesterday was a step forward and showed progress in my ability to race at this level and at this distance (both physically and mentally).  As disappointing as my run was, there was much more positive on the day as a whole.  And most importantly, I learned a ton about myself, about racing, about being a pro, and about going 140.6 miles. 

I have so many people to thank, first and foremost my parents and Oscar who came to watch and stood out in the hot sun all day cheering me on.  I feel so blessed to have a family that supports my dreams, not just in words but in their actions as well!  I'm also very thankful to my awesome coach Dirk, who has guided me through the past 2 years and has helped transform me as an athlete in a million different ways.  When I came to him 2 years ago, my IM PR was 10:44.  I'm 50 minutes faster now.  This obviously means after 2 more years with Dirk I'll be a 9:04 IMer...right?  :)  Seriously though, his guidance has been awesome and his patience has been key and I'm very lucky to have him.  And finally, for all the support and encouragement from everyone via FB, blog comments, texts, calls, twitter, etc..., I am TRULY thankful.  It overwhelms me (in a good way!) how awesome people are.  I think of it often during racing and training and it is so very much appreciated.

With that, my rookie pro season comes to an end!  Although I don't usually do "year reviews" I think I just may this year (in a separate entry of course!) because this year was a little different than most.  This season was more than I could have imagined and leaves me so very excited for 2013!  First though, a nice off season and LOTS of turkey on Thursday.  :)  Happy Thanksgiving to all and congrats to all IMAZ racers!!  :)


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Taper Crazies, Wedding Bands, Warm Weather and More...

Today it's 70 degrees in Pittsburgh.  In mid November!  This is unheard of but very much appreciated.  I figure one day of heat acclimization is better than none.  Bring on the Arizona desert heat!  :)  Seriously though, I think the warm weather is making Roxy crazy.  She was racing around the house like a wild dog this morning.  Either that or Roxy has the taper crazies.  :)

I, on the other hand, don't have the taper crazies.  Unlike a lot of athletes, I like to taper.  My body starts to feel better, I get lots of sleep, and I have time in my day to get things done.  Take yesterday for example.  I had a bike and a swim but was done by 10 am with the rest of my day free for what may be.  It was awesome!  It's not often that I'm finished with workouts by 10 am on a Saturday.

And in other news, I lost my wedding band.  "Lost" really isn't the correct word because I know where it is.  It's just that I can't get to it.  I dropped it in a hard to reach place in my car (in between the passenger seat and the cupholders).  When I went to grab it, it fell deeper, this time under the track that the car seat runs on to go back and forth.  And when I went at it with a hanger to get underneath the track, it fell even deeper, underneath the entire seat floor into the belly of the car (AKA it's gone for good).  I'm sure if we took it to the shop, they could take the seat/floor of the car out and get it, but that's likely a more expensive prospect than just getting a new wedding band.  This is exactly why I don't wear my engagement ring.  I'm a liability!  But in all honesty, I'm really pretty proud of the fact that this is the first replacement I've needed in almost 11 years of marriage!  :)  I feel surprisingly weird and self-concious without my wedding band on.  I'm sure nobody would even notice but I feel as if I missing a part of myself!  Need to order new one STAT!

So with that, I have a few more workouts to do, one more day of work and then I'm off to Tempe, AZ on Wednesday.  It's hard to believe this is my last race of the season.  It really does feel like just yesterday that I was standing nervously on the Oceanside pier for my first race of the season, wondering how this whole "pro" thing was going to go.  I guess it really is like they say, time flys when you're having fun. 

I go into Arizona with little to no pressure.  It's a stacked field at a race distance that I still am very "green" at.  Most of the other pro women in the field have an IM PR 45-60+ minutes faster than mine.  My goal next Sunday is to decrease that gap, to really run an IM marathon and to prove to myself that this IS a distance I can be competitive at.  Definitely a tall order but one I'm excited to get after.  I feel blessed to have gotten this far into the year feeling healthy both mentally and physically and I plan on putting that fitness to good use.  Here.  We.  GOOOOOOOOOOOO!  :) 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Track

Today after work I jogged over to the local high school track as the sun was setting for some 1000 repeats.  As I was doing a bit of a dynamic stretching routine to get ready to go, I had a deja vu moment to earlier in the year, February actually, when I was doing the same exact thing on a very similar evening.  It occurred to me how much has happened in the interim 9 months.  I've come a far way in terms of athletic maturity and although I have a long way to go, I couldn't help but smile a little and be thankful for the progress I've made. 

And then I thought back to all the 100s (perhaps 1000s) of track workouts I've done through the years.  20+ years of being a runner means I've run a lot of circles in my life.  I can still remember in great detail so many workouts and races on that simple oval track.  It's not a bad way to spend your days.  I hope I can continue for many, many years to come.

Greensburg Salem High School track team in 1996ish (?).  I'm the one in the black shirt with short hair.  And yes, I have shorts on but they just happen to be the same color as my shirt apparently.
Here's hoping you also enjoy a track workout or two in your lifetime!  :)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Prayer

When I was little, my idea of prayer consisted of kneeling at my bedside and asking God to forgive me for feeding our dog my vegetables instead of eating them myself (I can neither confirm nor deny if this is an *actual* example or just a hypothetical :).

I didn't really grow up in the church per se (more like in and out) but as a high schooler, I started to go back to church at which point I started to understand a little better the purpose of prayer and how it should be done (which is, there are no rules and there is no "correct" way).  Yet I still had a very ritualistic way of praying, perhaps a bit rehearsed and maybe not straight from the heart.  I remember my Mom gave me a little book of prayers around this time and I picked a few of my favorites out and I said them over and over again, just hoping that God might be listening. 

In college my relationship with God grew quite a bit and I started to really see prayer for what it is - a chance to communicate openly and freely with God - not just about the good things but about the sin in my life, the fears I had, the frustration I felt when things didn't go as planned. 

As with most things in life, my prayer matured with age.  Now my prayers aren't said kneeling at my bedside (kneeling makes my knees hurt...  ;) and they aren't prayers that I read in a book (not that there is anything wrong with that!).  But rather I pray all the time - a lot when I'm running or on my bike on those long 6 hour rides.  I pray in the car and in the shower.  I pray right when my alarm goes off in the morning, that God will give me strength to make the most of this new day.  I pray when I'm making dinner.  I pray in church.  I pray before the gun goes off for a race and I pray during races too.  Really, I pray any time I think to pray.  The good thing about God is, He is always willing to listen.



What do I pray for?  Well I definitely pray for my family all the time.  I pray for Oscar and our marriage, for his very important daily job of shaping the lives of kids.  I pray for my friends, whether they know it or like it.  :)  Sometimes I tell people I'm praying for them but I'll admit that sometimes I pray for people and don't tell them because I don't know how well it will be received.  I've had people ask me NOT to pray for them because they don't believe it makes a difference and they don't believe in God but I still pray for them anyway (because I'm sneaky like that :).  Chances are, if you've met me, I've prayed for you.  :)

I pray for all the people involved when I see or hear an ambulance go past.  I pray for a lot of the patients that I see.  I pray for the doctors that I work with because their jobs are very hard and pressure filled and people's lives literally depend on them.  I pray for my church, for our country, for our goverment.

And of course I pray for myself.  I thank God over and over for all that He has blessed me with, which I'll admit is sometimes hard when things aren't going the way I had hoped, but really is an exercise in perspective.  I ask forgiveness for my lack of humility, the selfishness that creeps into my life, and all the other sin that I fight but give in to.  I ask for strength and guidance in making good decisions (all the little ones for that day and all the big "life" decisions as well).  I pray for help in making sure that I do not squander the opportunities I've been given or the gift of Jesus' death on the cross.  I pray when I'm scared, uncertain, happy and angry. 

It sounds like a lot but it's really not.  It's just a bunch of little mini conversations with God throughout the day.  :)  It's a way to keep in touch with God and to keep myself grounded.  And prayer always helps me rest in the knowledge that God's got my back.  He is always listening and always caring and always loving.

A quick story about prayer.  This year right as the pro men were getting in the water at the Oceanside 70.3 and all the pro women were standing on the pier waiting to go, fellow pro Kristen Andrews turned to me and said "I'll be praying for you out there."  She knew it was my first pro race and that I was likely scared out of my mind (I was) and that simple, small promise just meant the world to me.  I almost started crying (seriously) but instead I think I joked something like "I'll definitely need it!"  In all honesty though, her gesture just helped me to breathe and know that everything was going to be all right.  She reminded me that God was there with us and no matter the outcome, He'd still be there.

So that's my take on prayer.  :)  And one other thing that I'll definitely be praying for - that after reading this, someone who never prayed before or perhaps hasn't prayed for a while, might strike up a conversation with God.  I promise, He's listening.  :)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Austin 70.3 Race Report

Well, thanks to Sandy, I'll be spending an extra day (or 2...or 3...) in Austin so I now have ample time to get caught up on emails, phone calls and...blog entries!  :)

Austin is awesome.  Really cool little town that in a way reminds me a bit of Boulder.  I guess the people that are from either city might not agree with me there but that is just my outsider opinion!  Great people, great race and great BBQ! 

The weekend was a bit of a whirlwind with a long travel day Friday and then getting everything prepared on Saturday.  Having driven to my past few races I forgot how time consuming the flying/rebuilding bike process is.  I'm all practiced up now for IMAZ in a couple weeks!

Race morning came around fast and...COLD!  Yes, Texas is cold.  I wouldn't have believed it unless I felt it myself.  And I definitely didn't give it enough respect.  Mental note, when the weather is in the low 40s and it's windy, I *might* need to put a jacket, gloves and/or arm warmers on for the bike...

Okay, I'll make this quick!

Swim: 29:41

Holy cow - I CAN actually still swim under 30 minutes!  YAHOO!  (not by much but hey, I'll take what I can get).  I'm pretty sure I swam better than I have been because Andy Potts zipped up my wetsuit.  Yep, nobody else was around and I can't do it by myself so I asked Andy, knowing that he would definitely know how to do it right!  :)  Seriously though, I'm a big Andy Potts fan.  Very down to earth and nice and funny too.  Anyway, the swim was a pretty standard swim for me.  Sprint at the start, feel like I might be dying, try desperately to find some feet, try desperately to see a buoy...ANY buoy...you know the drill.  I was actually successful with the "finding feet" part but then my feet started to go REALLY off course on the far end of the triangle so I went off on my own.  I think I started my own little pack which I lead for a bit but then eventually they passed me and I hopped on back for the ride in.  I got up out of the water with Charisa and counted it a good day.  Off to the wetsuit strippers and then my bike in 14th place.



Bike: 2:28:55

Even though 14th out of the water wasn't the best (20 female pros started I think), the good news was, there was a whole bunch of people still in transition when I got there.  It was at this point that I made my most stupid decision of the day - which was to NOT put on any extra clothes for the bike ride.  Oh Beth.  Silly, silly Beth.

I got off to a good start and, as mentioned, there were several girls riding just up ahead for me to chase down within the first 5 miles.  This was fun.  But after I passed a few people and got settled in for the long haul, I started to notice how REALLY, REALLY cold I was.  Like really cold.  From mile 5 to about mile 40 I was miserable.  I'm just going to tell it like it was.  I was just so, so cold and beating myself up for being so stupid for not putting any extra clothes on.  I was having trouble controlling my bike and taking my nutrition and well, thinking straight.  After about 75 minutes on the bike I was seriously starting to consider stopping at one of the intersections where there was a police car and asking if I could just sit in the car for a while with the heat blasted on HIGH.  Yeah, I was miserable and it was only my own fault!

But I pedaled on.  I just kept telling myself, IT WILL GET BETTER.  The sun will eventually warm up the air and YOU WILL BE OKAY.  And finally, around mile 40, that is just what happened.  It was almost like a flip of the switch.  I went from fearing the loss of fingers to thinking "okay...it's time to race!"  :) 

As you might imagine, my 35 mile pity party from mile 5 to 40 didn't really help with my power numbers or keeping my HR up.  Yep, the numbers for this race weren't too pretty.  BUT with a strong last 15 miles or so, I did somehow manage to have one of the faster bike splits and pull myself from 14th out of the water to 6th place out of T2.  I will call that a success!

Run: 1:30:03

I started the run off like blazes - for one just because I think I was so happy to be off my bike and some what warm!  :)  I was also really excited to see my sister Becky and brother in law Doug who I knew were out on the run course.  First mile 6:23...whoa there sister...dial 'er back in!  I did just that and settled into 6:45 pace for the next couple miles.  I didn't feel great but I was doing okay and then, my nausea started full force.  Yep, it was just going to be one of those races - the kind where you are forced to work through some issues and learn how to keep calm and carry on.  :)  I feel like I did a really good job of managing my nausea this time around though (I learn a little more each race as to how to deal best with it) and although I suffered a bit for the middle 4 miles and my pace slowed to 7:00-7:10, by the end of the 2nd loop and for most of the 3rd (final) run loop, I was back to feeling pretty strong. 

In the those middle 4 miles I got passed, first by Elizabeth Lyles (I have to say, she would have passed me either way as she went on to run a 1:22) and then by Jess Smith.  Once I started to feel better I tried desperately to reel Jess back in but she was running very strong and tough and was not going to let me!  In the end, she finished about 35 seconds up on me.  Close but no cigar!



Final: 4:32:32

I finished 8th overall and honestly was pretty pleased with the effort and result.  It wasn't perfect but I did the best I could and once again came away with some good lessons learned.  I didn't feel great but I also knew I wouldn't.  Honestly, who does feel great 3 weeks out from an Ironman?  Nobody, I don't think!  Still though, I'm so happy that I came to race and picked up some extra fitness for IMAZ in 3 weeks time.

And the entire weekend was so fun!  My homestay Vicki was absolutely amazing - she has hosted a ton of athletes through the years and she totally knows the drill.  She invited me into her beautiful home, gave me the most comfortable bed EVER to sleep on, fed me and amazed me with her stories from her experience doing RAAM last year.  She cheered like crazy out on the course on race day.  I truly couldn't wait to get to her spot on the run course each loop!  :)  And then she had an awesome BBQ at her house on Sunday after the race and I got to meet a lot of great people from the Austin triathlon community.  Very good stuff.

I'm pretty sure one of my homestay requirements now is that a cute dog is available for pets and playing ball.  Izzy definitely met that requirement this weekend!!  :)

It was also just so, so, sooooo awesome to have Becky and Doug there.  They came all the way from North Carolina and also cheered like crazy on the run course.  Let's be honest, watching a long distance triathlon isn't the most fun thing in the world unless you are a triathlete!  But they were great and it meant the world to me that they came.  After not having any family at the last race I did, it was really pretty awesome to get a big hug from Becky and Doug at the finish line yesterday.

Becky and Doug on the UT campus.  Although short, we had a fun weekend together!  (and they fed me real Texas BBQ after the race! :)

And finally, I really enjoyed this race because I got to see and race with a lot of great friends!  There is something very fun about getting to warm up with Charisa and put my wetsuit on with Jess and get the post race run down with Beth, etc...  We are all just doing what we love and are so lucky to be doing it together!

So onward we go!  More racing experience under my belt and just 3 weeks to go until my final big one!  I've been gaining confidence all season long and it's time to finally put that to good use for my 4th attempt at this crazy IM distance. 

That is...if Sandy ever lets me get back home from Austin!  (next option...fly straight to Phoenix!  :)

Thanks for all the cheers and congrats to all those that raced this weekend!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hook 'Em Horns!

On Friday I am going to Texas for the 2nd time in my life. 

The first time that I went to Texas, I also went to for a triathlon - the US Open Championships in Dallas.  Here is what I remember from that race: my mom went with me and we got lost in some really shady part of town.  This was pre smart phone GPS goodness (holy cow that makes me feel old - it was only 4 or 5 years ago though!) so we stopped at a scary looking gas station.  Then neither one of us wanted to get out!  As you might be able to surmise, we made it out alive but it was frightening!  I also remember that you could qualify for Dallas from 4 different races (NYC, LA, Chicago and Life Time Fitness in Minnesota) and if you finished in the top 5 (or was it top 3?) in one of those races, they paid for your hotel in Dallas.  It was the nicest hotel I've ever stayed at.  And the night after the race my mom and I ate dinner (Mexican) in the hotel and sat near Greg and Laura Bennett.  :)  Oddly enough I don't remember much about the race itself other than I finished somewhere in the top 10 which was my goal.  It was a point to point race so we swam somewhere 25 miles out of town and then you rode straight into downtown.  It was cool.  Oh and Andy Potts talked to my mom and I in the parking lot of the hotel after the race too.  Funny the things you recall...

Although blurry, here is a picture of a group of us after the race.  I raced against these girls quite a bit my first few years in triathlon when I did all short course racing.  Absolutely awesome bunch.  Although I could be wrong, of the 8 in this picture, I believe 6 eventually raced pro at some point (and some still do).  Most of them race short course.  Ah yes, most of them can actually swim.  :)

Bonus points for anyone who can pick out which one I am.
THIS time I'm going to Austin, Texas (also for a race as you may have guessed), home of the University of Texas Longhorns.  I'm pretty excited to see campus (and my homestay lives quite close by as I understand it) and to see Austin in general!  I've heard great things about the city.  Oh, and if I had to pick another team to root for (other than PSU of course) UT isn't a bad choice.  When I was in college they had a stranglehold on the Sears Cup (don't think it's called the Sears Cup anymore - but it's the award for best overall athletic department) and I have to respect a school that knows how to do ALL collegiate sports right (not just football and basketball).  Plus, if you don't think "hook 'em horns" is a catchy enough saying, something is wrong with you!

 
Another cool thing about this race?  My sister and brother-in-law are coming!!!!  I don't think either have ever seen me race a triathlon (my sister *may* have been at my very first triathlon ever but now I can't remember for sure because it was about 10,000 years ago).  How fun is that?! 

And of course, the final awesome thing about this trip to Austin is...I GET TO RACE!  Holy cow, the Poconos 70.3 seems like 5 months ago and my itch to race has been getting so strong I feel like some sort of junkie.  :)  So excited I will be on another starting line soon enough! 

Best of luck to all those racing this weekend!  And to those of you who are in your off season already - enjoy!  :)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Columbus Marathon - Sherpa Report

What, you thought sherpas couldn't write reports too?  :)

As mentioned in my last post, this weekend O and I travelled to Columbus, OH for him to run the Columbus Marathon (a rather large affair - by the way - close to 20,000 runners between the half and full marathon!). 

It was an awesome weekend.  We stayed with the same homestay family that hosted me when I did the Columbus 5i50 in July, the Kennedys.  It was great to see them again!  Michelle is doing her first Ironman next summer and just got her first tri bike and Robert was doing his first half marathon on Sunday.  They fed us dinner and then we watched The Lorax on their crazy do-everything-but-the-dishes TV that is 3D capable.  The Lorax in 3D is pretty fantastic!

Race day came quick and before I knew it, I was kissing O goodbye as he wiggled his way into his assigned corral with 10 gazillion other people.  Holy cow.  20,000 runners is A LOT of bodies!

And then the hard part of being a sherpa began.  You see the "easy" part of being a sherpa is the driving, the carrying of bags, the hunting down of Gatorade, the scouting of the course, the helping up and down stairs after the race, and all other associated jobs.  The HARD part, on the other hand, is the waiting and hoping and praying and wondering how the athlete is doing.  The athlete doesn't have to worry about this part.  They are, after all, the one racing!  They know how they feel, how they are doing and whether or not it's going to be a good day.  The sherpa, though wants just as badly for the athlete to succeed, but has absolutely no control over how it will all go down.  I'm glad O was just doing a 3 hour race and not a 10 hour one!  :)

After his race started, I started my own long run so as to occupy myself and not sit around worrying.  I timed my run as such so that I could catch O as he ran through downtown again at the halfway point.  He looked great.  This buoyed my spirits for the 2nd half of my own run.  The last 20 minutes of my workout was at a fast pace and as I struggled to maintain the numbers I was aiming for, I thought of O struggling through those tough miles from 20-23.  It definitely inspired me to finish strong.

I finished and changed in time to see the tail end of the elite runners finishing and wait for that magical 3 hour marker (and hopefully see O BEFORE it came).  As many of you know, O has been trying to break 3 hours for the better part of 3 years and he's had a lot of heartbreak in process.  Multiple times he has been on pace through 20 miles, 22 miles, even 25 miles at one race, but has actually never run faster than 3:14 due to some bad cramping issues (that seriously debilitate him to the point of not even being able to walk!). 

I waited and prayed and cheered for others and saw the 3 hour pace group run by and...no O.  AHHHHH!!!  I wanted this sooooo badly for him!  This sherpa was seriously sweating it out!  And then...then I saw him.  I SAW HIM!  He was obviously in a world of hurt but sooooo close to breaking 3 hours.  I knew he had started about 1-2 minutes behind the start clock (so many runners...chip times really make a big difference in this race!) but didn't know by exactly how much.  OOHHHHHH!

After much searching (and perhaps knocking over a few small children in my rush to find him), O actually saw me first and I finally got to give him a (nasty and salty) hug.  And he showed me his watch - 3:00:46.  PAINFUL!  But I was so darn thrilled for him.  And I knew he was thrilled too.  It was a HUGE breakthrough, a 14 minute PR and most importantly, a day where he didn't cramp and wasn't reduced to walking.  I know he'll get those 46 seconds and many more in the future but first he had to get the cramping monkey off his back.  Whew.  The hardest part of being a sherpa was over!  I could spend the rest of the day beaming with pride over how well he had done.  My delight for him felt just as bright as the delight I have when I have a great race myself!

All in all a wonderful weekend.  After the race we headed towards home, stopped at a Y in Ohio for me to get my swim in and for O to get a shower ('cause he *really* stunk) and then we ate burgers, fries and...TIMBITS!  O had been dreaming of Timbits for all 26 miles of the marathon.  :)  He was one happy camper.

What 46 seconds?  :)  Close enough!
Oscar and our friend (and my Ballou Skies teammate) Billy.  Bill ran 3:01:xx last year at Columbus and came back with a vengeance to run 2:58 this year.  Oscar will have to follow in his footsteps next year to make that sub 3 official!  :)

Oh yes, Timbit goodness!

 
P.S.  Oscar will actually write his own race report on his blog in case you are interested (but don't hold your breath because blogging is never top on his list of priorities...  :)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ironman Makes Me A Delinquent Blogger

I know, I know -- I have no excuses!  But to make my case for why I've been a delinquent blogger/FBer/twitter-er, I've created some very sophisticated graphs.  I figure a picture is worth a thousand words.  Indeed, these works of art explain it all:



I rest my case! 

In all seriousness, life is good, training is good, work is good -- ALL IS GOOD!  But every time I train for an Ironman, I'm reminded how hard it is.  And how I don't have time for much else.  :)

All this time spent training does give me ample time to think of blog topics though so you just wait until the "off-season" - I'll blog so often you won't be able to keep up (yeah, probably not...)!  In the mean time, you can probably find me swimming, running, biking (oh the biking...), sleeping, eating, working (occasionally) or hanging out with Roxy and Oscar. 

Speaking of Oscar, we are headed to Columbus, OH this weekend for him to run his 7th (?) marathon and once again attempt to break that 3 hour barrier.  I'm really excited for him.  He has been on an incredible journey to run 2:59:59 and along the way has inspired me with his unwillingness to quit or give in. 

And with that...I'm off to the pool...AGAIN!  :) 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Day By Day

As many of my friends are packing their bags and boarding planes for hot and humid Hawaii this weekend, I'll be scouring my drawers for all the warm cycling clothes I can find.  The Pittsburgh forecast for Saturday and Sunday = 40 degrees and raining.  BAH!  Anyone going to Kona with some extra room in their suitcase?  Anyone?  (I'm not that big... :)

I might not be racing Kona this year, but I still do have my eye on a big prize with two races left this season - Austin 70.3 at the end of October and IMAZ in mid November.  It's hard to believe that I really only have 3-4 more big weeks of training left this year.  I'm feeling good and my motivation is high right now so I'm just going to keep riding this wave as long as it lasts!  Day by day I get closer to another opportunity to try and crack the Ironman nut and that's very exciting to me.

In the mean time, if I have any Kona blues, I can cheer myself up with thoughts of this:


My bike shop ordered me one, it's in and as I type the tire is being glued on!  What can I say, my prize money burns a hole in my pocket...FAST!  :)

Best of luck to all those racing on the Big Island!  It's an amazing race, in an amazing place with amazing people.  GO GET IT!  :)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Poconos 70.3 Race Report

Ahh racing.  Oh how I missed you!  You are my very favorite thing to do!

Swim:

Standing on shore prior to the swim start it was relatively easy to see the buoys and the layout of the course.  When the race director let us into the water (start was a bit delayed due to some shuttle problems) the announcer told us "4 minutes until the pro start" and then about 22 seconds later he was yelling "everyone back to the line, 90 seconds until the start!"  And everyone looked out into the lake (large pond) and saw...lots and lots of fog.  Where did the buoys go?  I guess we would soon find out!  :)

The horn sounded and off we were and I felt pretty darn good!  The pro men and women started together which I thought I was going to NOT like but it turned out I really DID like because there were just that many more bodies around and people to swim with.  And in fact, I DID swim with people!  This might be a first this year!  About 2/3rds of the way through, I pulled through the little pack that I was in and gunned off on my own (or at least tried) so I swam the rest of the way by myself.  Overall I felt great and strong and I was pretty excited to see my swim time.  As I got out of the water and ran up the road a little bit I looked down and saw a "26" on my watch.  UGHHHHH!  Totally short swim.  I would love to think I really did swim a 26 (actual split was 25:5x!) but I know that just isn't the case.  You don't go from swimming 30 minutes to 26 minutes in a matter of weeks!  Nevertheless, I was very much encouraged by my swim, how good I felt and also happy for the experience of swimming in a group.  Had it been a legit 1.2 miles, I feel confident it would have been a good time for me which means my swimming might be headed in the right direction?  Maybe?  Ah...who knows...  :)

Bike:

I had decided to put on a vest (and I already had arm warmers on under my wetsuit) in transition, no matter how long it would take.  This race had very similar conditions (water and air temp) to Oceanside earlier in the year PLUS the Poconos bike starts off with a 4 mile screaming descent down the mountain.  BRRR.  I chose not to put any extra clothes on at Oceanside and really regretted it so this time I figured I'd be smart(er).  In the end I think it was a good call so I'm sticking with my decision!

As I exited transition with bike in tow, someone told me I was the 5th female.  I'll take it!  I set about trying to hunt that first person down.  Of course I didn't see anyone for about 13 miles and only then did I see the other women because there was a turnaround at about 14 miles and I saw them as they were heading back (while I was still heading out).  FORTUNATELY, there were 3 women all together (with Tenille way out in front by herself).  Oh yeah! 

It took me another 10 miles or so to catch them.  As mentioned, the bike course starts with a big 4 mile descent.  The next 20 miles are on an out and back section that is only VERY slightly rolling (ie: it's pretty flat).  And then from there you get up into the constant up and down that you would expect of this region.  My Garmin told me there was about 2800 feet of climbing but it all came in the last 30 miles.  I finally caught up to 2nd-4th place right as the flat was ending and we were starting into the hills.  There was a race official on motorcycle making sure those 3 were riding legally so when I did finally get myself to them, I sat back for a bit trying to decide what to do.  I figured I was going to have to put on a massive effort to just pass all three at once which didn't seem smart but was really my only option unless I just wanted to latch onto the back.  Latching onto the back was also not a good option because there were some FAST runners behind me and I wanted to distance myself as much as possible.  So after a little self pep talk I went for it.   

OUCH!

It did indeed take a massive effort and my Garmin would later show that I rode close to 320W for a while to get around all 3 of them legally.  Um, that's a lot for me.  And I'm sure it burned a few extra matches that I probably shouldn't have burned.  BUT to me it was the way to go because this is a RACE after all!

Of course after I passed them I tried to ride really hard to get away.  This worked for 2 of the 3 but I did not shake Amber!  I relaxed for a bit to eat, drink and compose myself at which point Amber passed me back.  I tried several more times to shake her but she was always right there behind me.  At some point I conceded that we'd be riding the rest of the way in together.  Which is exactly what we did.  Sometimes I led, sometimes she led.  We got a little confused together through town when there were SO MANY CONES and we had no idea where we were supposed to be (which we eventually figured out and got a good laugh out of).  It was a good, hard ride and I really enjoyed it.  But don't get me wrong, I was also glad when we finally rolled into T2!  Final bike time was 2:31:26.

Run:

I've raced with Amber a few times this year and I know she is a good runner.  I came into T2 telling myself not to let her get ahead of me because once she did, it would be really hard to catch back up.  Oh now wouldn't that prove to be VERY true!

We came into transition together but of course it took me FOREVER to get anything done.  I wrestled with my vest, fought with my shoes.  And then out of the corner of my eye I saw Amber darting across towards "run out."  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  I got all flustered (like seriously, have I NEVER done this before?) and in my haste forgot my Garmin (I put it on my bike for the ride and hadn't remembered to re-attach it to my wrist).  I ran back to get it and just like that, Amber was gone.  It really is silly little things like that that add up!

Here is the elevation map of the run course from the Ironman Poconos website:


It should be noted that this map is ALL LIES!  I really don't understand what this map means.  I kid you not that to the turnaround was a downhill and then once you started heading back it was uphill.  Seriously, all lies.

Here is the elevation map of the run course per my experience:


Yes, that's right - it was hilly.  Okay, no big hills and in all fairness it did finish on a downhill...but still, it was up and down, up and down...not all up on the way out and then all downhill to the finish!

Okay, back to the race report.  :)  When I did finally get out onto the course I could still see Amber, perhaps 45-60 seconds up the road.  I didn't feel great at first and was just trying to let my stomach settle and my legs come back to me.  But as we got out of the neighborhoods and onto the long road that would be the majority of the run, I started to feel quite a bit better.  The volunteers encouraged me through each aid station that I should "go get her" and I started to really come around to the idea that maybe I could!  Although I will admit (and this is the biggest lesson I learned yesterday), at this point of the race (miles 4-9) I was still thinking BEHIND me instead of IN FRONT of me.  What I mean by that is, I was thinking only of the FAST runners behind me (and there were quite a few!) instead of focusing on catching Amber.  It was a mistake and I know that now. Lesson learned.

When we got to the far turnaround at about mile 7ish I could finally get a look to see who was coming behind and let me tell you, it wasn't very reassuring!  They were all together and they weren't too far back. 

RUN BETH RUN!

Somewhere around mile 9 I got my head in the game.  It occurred to me that nobody had caught me yet AND furthermore, I was getting ALL kinds of encouraging comments from the AGers coming the other way to "go catch her", "she's right there", "you got this."  AHHH!!  I pray every morning for God to help me not waste the opportunities that He gives me and here I was, almost about to waste this VERY great opportunity to give it my all and GET AFTER IT!

So I went about running as hard as I possibly could to try and catch Amber over the next 4 miles (not like I wasn't already running hard but now at least I was thinking in the right direction!).  And I REALLY, REALLY tried.  I was so, so thankful for every passing comment I got from the athletes running the other way.  I couldn't acknowledge them all but they really lifted my spirits!  But try as I might, I was making up very, very, VERY little ground (if any at all).  Hats off to Amber.  She was in the MUCH tougher position of being the chased vs the chaser and she held up to that pressure wonderfully. 

In the end I came up 22 seconds short.  I would love to say I just needed a few more miles but honestly, I don't think that would have done it either!  Amber is a tough athlete and she gutted it out!

Our final run times were almost exactly the same.  I had let the gap grow and then I shrunk it some but the time that she put on me in transition was what it came down to!

Nevertheless, I was absolutely THRILLED with the outcome.  Honestly, probably just as thrilled if I had caught her.  Because yesterday was all that I love about racing - a real, honest to goodness RACE!  I truly enjoyed it and I was so happy to feel strong and like I could really go for it.  This is what all the training is for and I really got my reward yesterday!!  To say I felt very thankful and blessed is quite the understatement!

Amber definitely pulled out of me one of the best runs that I've had in a half (not my fastest time but also not the easiest course) and for that, I'm really thankful to her!  Focusing on her also kept those fast runners behind at bay.  Just goes to show - if you take care of business up front, you don't have to worry so much about what is behind.

(in telling this story, I should remind you that this was the race for 2nd place as Tenille had 1st all wrapped up about 7-8 minutes ahead of us!)

Yesterday was a really good day for me.  I love the 70.3 distance and this race just confirmed that!  I was happy with the result but also learned a lot of lessons throughout the day.  I just missed breaking 4:30 again so I still have my eye on that barrier too!

Overall a most wonderful weekend!  Although I had my moments, I also survived travelling to my first race by myself which was a victory in and of itself!  It is a somewhat logistically challenging race with two different transitions and a whole bunch of shuttles in between, but the course itself is awesome and I highly recommend it to anyone that is thinking about doing it next year!  The foliage is beautiful this time of year!


This is Otis.  He is my homestay family's dog and he was awesome!  He apparently keeps the bears away... (Also, I did get a picture of my actual homestay family (the people) but am waiting for it to get emailed to me.  Monica, Jason and Sophia were awesome and I really enjoyed staying with them!)

From right to left, Tenille, Amber, me, Heather (4th place Jessie is missing).  Honored to share the podium with these women!
Thanks to everyone for all the cheers and good luck wishes!  How much longer until I get to race again??  :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Poke-a-nose!

This weekend I am racing in the Poconos 70.3.  If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, I don't think I have to mention how happy and excited this makes me!

YEAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!  Race timeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!  (finally! :)

My last race was 5 weeks ago.  Far too long in my opinion but apparently to gain any fitness you occasionally have to train hard instead of taper, race, recover, taper, race, recover!  Who knew?  :)  Anyway, I did the training part for the past 5 weeks and it was great.  I'm feeling healthy, strong and like I'm getting read for an Ironman!  And now my reward, a little break in the training for a RACE!

I'm leaving for the Poconos on Friday.  Unfortunately I must travel to this race by myself because all the usual suspects (Oscar and my mom) are busy living their lives.  The nerve!  (of course I'm kidding!)  I have been so spoiled over the years to almost never have to travel to races alone so this weekend should be interesting.  If I show up at the start line in one piece with all my equipment in one piece AND on time, I'll consider the weekend a success.

There is also a matter of the drive to the race.  The Poconos, although in Pennsylvania, the state I live in, are quite far away.  I live in the southwest corner of PA and the Poconos happen to be in the mountains of northeast PA.  And PA is a looooooooong state. Steelhead 70.3, which is in Michigan, is almost closer for us.  Did I mention that I tend to fall asleep when I drive longer than 1 hour?  Hmmm...like I said, if I make it to the start line in one piece I will be thrilled!  :)

Kidding aside, I'm really excited for this weekend.  And although I'm traveling alone, there are several Pittsburghers racing and I have a wonderful homestay family to take me in!  I've already invited myself (see I told you, I'm really good at inviting myself to places!) to be a 3rd wheel for several meals with others.  All is good. 

Now just keep your fingers crossed it doesn't snow!  It almost did last year at this race.  And while I like chillier weather, 40s and raining isn't the best option when one is riding one's bike up and down mountains really fast.  I'll definitely be packing the arm warmers!  But it will all be worth it when I get to see stuff like this on the bike course!

 
Hope everyone has a fantastic rest of the week and weekend!  And to all those racing - yeee-haw and giddy up!  :)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Thankful

I'm very thankful for many, many things.  Way too many things to list in one blog.  God has blessed me beyond belief.  But I thought I'd list the things I was especially thankful for today.

1) The lifestyle and ability to ride my bike for 6 hours and then run an hour after that on a Friday.  My legs were tired, I was hungry and my butt hurt.  But I couldn't have been more happy to be where I was, when I was.  I don't necessarily think I have an "easy" life (of course it's all relative) but I do know that I have a very, very good life.

2) A body that will do more than I think it will and one that is healthy and strong.

3) A pup that greets me at the door when I get home from my training and that licks my salty legs while I lay on the kitchen floor.

"Yes, I'm cute.  Now let me lick your salty legs!"

4) Absolutely AWESOME weather.  It was a cracker of a day!

5) A coach that believes in me enough to really challenge me.

6) Rising to a challenge, even when I thought I couldn't.

7) A super, awesome friend to ride with.  Kim totally got me out of bed this morning.  If I hadn't been meeting her to ride, I still might be hiding under the covers.  Plus, Kim tells really funny stories.

The self portrait always lends to very good photography.  (I'm laughing...not crying :)

8) A tailwind for the last hour of my ride.

I'm sure tomorrow will bring a whole new list of things to be thankful for.  God is good.  All the time.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

All Systems On Go

I had a good training week this week.  Training for Ironman #2 = so far so good!  Of course one would expect this after only 2 or 3 weeks.  Talk to me in another 5 or 6 weeks and I might be crying uncle (I'm sure I will be). 

It helps that our weather is amazing right now.  Running in 55 or 60 degree temps automatically gives you 20-30 seconds per mile without working any harder when compared to running in the 80s or 90s.  At least for me.  I love it.  I didn't even mind that I was shivering a bit on my ride this morning!  :)  I do feel as if fall is the reward us Pittsburghers get for enduring the stifling heat and humidity in the summer and then the ice/wind/snow/frigid temps in the winter.  Fall will always be my favorite.

I did have a little blip this week when I had to go to the dentist for more mouth "stuff".  If only I knew that what started as needing 2 little crowns would turn into root canals, crown lengthenings and skin grafts on my gums - I never would have started the process in the first place!  (or at least would have waited until the end of the season :)  Anyway, on Tuesday I got 2 crown lengthening procedures (they essentially expose more tooth so that a crown will actually have something to grab onto) and 2 skin grafts on my gums (something about a receding gum line...I stopped listening after a while).  All I have to say is - OUCH!  I'm not someone who gets anxious or scared at the dentist but let me tell you - I had to go to my happy place a couple times on Tuesday.  I kept my eyes closed for much of it.  And then the one thing I did want to watch - when the dentist was stitching the grafts in - I was told I needed to keep my eyes shut!  I kept sneaking peaks.  He looked like a seamstress.  :) 

When he was done, the dentist told me no training the next day because he was worried the grafts would bleed.  (I didn't tell him I was a triathlete, by the way, but my t-shirt gave me away - doh!)  I was all set to ignore him and carry on with my normal training plan but Dirk stopped me in my tracks.  Double doh!  Dirk was actually trained as a dentist (little known fact!) and told me an easy spin only.  Bummer.  But it was fine and actually a very good call because I woke up very, very sore, very swollen and a little black and blue.  And really hungry because it was too hard to get my mouth open wide enough for eating the night before.  :)

By Thursday morning I was back on track though.  The mouth is still sore but workable.  I get my stitches out on Tuesday (maybe the dentist will let me watch this time! :)  The part that hurts the worst is the roof of my mouth where they took the skin for the grafts.  It's like a big open wound in your mouth and sort of feels like a really bad pizza burn x 10,000.  :)

Otherwise, life is good.  Oscar's training for the Columbus Marathon is going quite well and I'm humming along too.  This morning we even got to run together.  Of all the amazing training partners I've had through the years, he is definitely my favorite.  He talks about the Pirates, I sometimes listen, and we run stride for stride.  Perfect.  :)

And because everybody knows a post without pictures is boring, here are two.

She never fails to find a sunny spot.  (she looks dead but she's fine)

My friend after Tuesday's visit to the dentist.  He gave me a script for Vicodin and I filled it but I never take it.  For this reason alone, I have a bunch of bottles of Vicodin in our medicine box.  This is probably not a good thing.
Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!  :)