Thursday, August 30, 2012

Top 10 Ironman Tips

My very good friend Ben is doing his first Ironman next weekend at Rev3 Cedar Point.  I wanted to come up with a list of advice to help him through the day so this morning I sat down and wrote up an email of my Top 10 Ironman Tips.  After reading through it, I thought it might be helpful to someone else, so I decided to share it on my blog.

Of course take everything written with a grain of salt.  I've only done 3 Ironmans which makes me largely inexperienced and "green".  I know I still have a lot to learn.  But nevertheless, what I've learned thus far:

10) When in doubt, eat.  Cramping?  Eat.  Tired?  Eat.  Grumpy?  Eat.  Bored?  Eat.  :)  The bike is your chance to take in the calories so DO NOT miss calories on the bike if you can help it.  Once you get to the run, your stomach will probably be much less happy with you and it will be exponentially harder to get calories in with each passing mile of the marathon.

9) Speaking of nutrition, coke on the run is the nectar of the Gods.  Once you start taking it at the aid stations, try not to stop because you might crash hard.  I survived two marathons in Kona on coke alone.  It can be done.

8) Ironman is a long training day.  With catered food stops and people cheering for you.  Especially for your first, don't "race" throughout the day but instead live in your own little world and execute YOUR race.  If you want to race, save it for the last 10K of the marathon!

7) It's a LONNNNNG day, so don't fret over little things.  Take your time through transition to THINK what you are doing.  Go through aid stations slow enough to make sure you get what you need.  Over the span of 10-11 hours, an extra few seconds doesn't hurt to make sure you get things done right.

6) You will inevitably have highs and lows.  Ride the highs when you can but when the lows come, know that your race is FAR from over and you will eventually come around.  I almost always feel awful around mile 80-90 of the bike.  To think I still have 5 hours of racing left when I'm feeling that bad would be devastating!  But you just have to remind yourself that a high is right around the corner!  Break the race down into little pieces.  No sense in thinking of mile 20 of the marathon when you are still on the bike.

5) Learn how to problem solve!  I think those that do well in Ironman are those that can figure out best how to handle the adversity that will undoubtedly arise.  Expect at least 2-3 things to go wrong and then use your problem solving skills to figure out how to manage those problems without panicking.

4) One more thing about nutrition - listen to what your body is telling you.  If it's telling you NO MORE, take a break for a little bit and try later.  If there is one thing I've learned it's that your body will NOT be forced to take something in if it doesn't want it.  Be patient.

3) Be thankful throughout the day.  Thankful that you are healthy enough to do this.  Thankful that your family and friends support you.  Thankful that you have the opportunity to even attempt, let alone finish such a feat.  I think this type of perspective and outlook helps get you through the lows.

2) The last hour of an Ironman is really, really, really hard and painful.  I say this not to scare you, but rather for you to know that this is how it's supposed to feel when that time comes.  Remember, one foot in front of the other.

1)  No matter the time on the clock, enjoy that finish line like you've never enjoyed it before!  You'll never have another first.  Live it up!!  The rule is - there is no crying in Ironman UNTIL the finish line at which point you are allowed to cry tears of joy.  :)  Unlike any other race you've done, finishing Ironman is an accomplishment of rather epic proportions.  I'm not trying to sound dramatic or corny, but after my first IM, I did feel like a bit of a different person.  Ironman has the ability to take away the concept of limits. 

That's all I've got.  :)  Perhaps I'll revisit this list after each IM I do and add on as I go! 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Racing Withdrawl

So the other day I looked at my calender and counted how many weeks it was until my next race.  SIX!  6 whole weeks (actually, only about 5.5 now...).  I got sad.  After my recent racing binge, the idea of having to wait 6 weeks until I could be on a starting line again felt so far away.  And then I sort of started to feel like a racing junkie.  Like I need some sort of weaning protocol.  Race-aholics Anonymous or something!  (As an aside, do you know that it's a relatively common practice to feed alcoholics beer, even via feeding tube if the patient is unable to eat, in the hospital setting?  Withdrawl is a serious problem!)

Of course I came to my senses eventually.  I do acknowledge that you need to train in order to race well.  And I do like to train!  (perhaps not quite as much as racing, but that's okay :).  So train I will.  Dirk gave me one last "vacation" week this week (which of course does still involve training, but all easy training) because come Monday 8/27, I'll have exactly 12 weeks until Ironman Arizona.  Bring on the miles baby!  Ironman Round #2 here we come!

So it's pretty darn good timing that I found this waiting on the doorstep when I got back from my swim this morning:

Ordered on Monday, arrived on Thursday - now THAT'S good service! 
Something tells me, these will get some really good use over the next 12 weeks!  I ripped into the box when I got it inside, but then told myself I couldn't put them together and try them out until I did my bike ride this afternoon.  Now that's some serious motivation!  Time to go ride!!

PS  In case you are looking for a great article about nutrition, pro triathlete Jesse Thomas wrote an excellect one for Triathlete Magazine.  Jesse pretty much sums up my entire philosphy on nutrition in few short paragraphs.  And he says it much better than I ever could because he's really funny.  :)  Balance and consistency are so key folks.  Trust me, at this point, I've seen it all and I've done it all myself.  Aim for that B+ because aiming for the A+ all the time almost always ends in disaster! 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Steelhead 70.3 Race Report - Racing For The Boots

Steelhead 70.3 - one of my favorites!  This was my 4th year doing the race and although I've had some not so great races on this course (including my one and only triathlon DNF at Steelhead 2008), I've also had some good races on the course including my very first 70.3 in 2007 AND, thankfully, Steelhead 2012! 

Oscar and I got into Benton Harbor, MI Friday evening after a long drive across Ohio and Indiana.  There was a lot of corn and many cows.  Thankfully we made good enough time to get in before packet pickup closed.  And we also had enough time to have a relaxing evening enjoying the cool lake breezes off Lake Michigan.  I really do love Benton Harbor!  (although Oscar assures me, I wouldn't love it nearly as much in the dead of winter when there is 10+ feet of snow - good point by him!)

We found a pirate in town and he had a...snow shovel?  Probably not a good indicator of the winters around these parts...  :)

 Our homestay was amazing and at a house right along the lake that was only a 1/2 mile walk from transition.  This is very key for this race because there is not a lot of parking and many shuttles involved on race morning.  Not so for us!  I just rode my bike over while Oscar walked.  Very, very nice.  (and as an aside, I really do love and am thankful for the homestay program - it is so cool to meet and get to stay with these very generous people from the different tri communities around the country!)

Mr. Campbell, our homestay host.  Thanks so much for your generosity!!
Lake Michigan is big, blue and beautiful!  Oscar was trying to convince me if I looked really hard, I could see the skyscrapers in Chicago on the other side of the lake.  ;) 
Race morning started inauspiciously enough with a small crash.  Yes, despite the fact that I've now been riding a bike for 6+ years, I apparently forgot how to unclip yesterday morning.  So as I rolled up to transition with all my gear on my back, I toppled over in front of a WHOLE lotta people and embarrassed myself greatly.  You can't take me anywhere!  ;)

Thankfully, things went better from there.  I got set up in transition, warmed up and stretched out and wetsuited up and then Oscar and I headed to the swim start.

Let's get this party started!

Big pro women's field - 9 total!  ;)  And why do I keep picking the races where you have to run and dolphin dive at the swim start?  :)
What to say about the swim?  It was pretty much how all my other swims have gone this year.  Try to find feet, no feet to be found, swim entire swim by myself.  I sense a theme!  Though as the swim splits would show, the entire women's pro field was pretty spread out and with the exception of maybe 2 girls, just about ALL the pro women swam by themselves!  I do like the Steelhead swim - it's point to point and pretty easy to navigate (although I did find myself weaving occasionally).  At times I thought I would NEVER see the final red turn buoy and at one point had myself convinced I was going to see 40+ minutes on my watch when I exited but thankfully my watch said 30:xx instead.  (the swim splits on the tracker include the run up the beach in DEEP sand)

As I was running up the beach gasping for air, Oscar told me I was in 5th place and 4th place was just a minute ahead.  Okay - I can work with that!

After I got settled on the bike (I was seriously gasping for air for a looooong time), I went about the task of hunting down 4th place.  I got my first glimpse of her at around mile 5.  Of course it took me about 10 miles to catch her.  One thing about racing pro - everyone is fast and passing someone is truly a major triumph.  I celebrated my move into 4th and then immediately started wondering where 3rd place was.  It took me another 5 miles or so to even get a glimpse and again, about another 5-10 miles to catch her!  Good thing this is a long race!  At this point we were on the back roads of Benton Harbor and some seriously pot-holed, oil and chipped bumpiness.  Luckily, the roads of Pittsburgh have prepared me well for this but still, I think my brain is still bumping around in my skull from those roads!  YIKES! 

After moving into 3rd I started to wonder if there was even a possibility of finding #2 and #1?  I knew Jess Jacobs (SUPER biker and SUPER runner) was lurking behind and likely to catch me at any moment.  So I made it my new goal to try and catch the front of the pack before Jess caught me.  Oh, what a fun game! 

Luckily I was feeling strong and fluid on the bike and around mile 35ish caught a glimpse of not only 2nd place but 1st place too!  I couldn't believe my good fortune!  They were riding together and I was giddy at the thought of trying to catch and pass them and...move into 1st place?!  It was around this point that I started to wonder if I had bitten off a little too much to chew.  I was definitely riding at a pretty high HR/wattage and although I definitely felt good, the half marathon that awaited started to weigh heavily on my mind.  I pondered this for a bit but it honestly didn't take me too long to decide that I wanted to just go for it.  Why not right?  Who knows when I will have another opportunity to take the lead in a race - might as well take advantage!  HERE WE GO!

Again it took me 5 miles to finally catch them but I when I did I tried to pass with authority and ride away HARD.  I had a moment of "NOW WHAT?" after I moved into 1st.  At this point I knew I wouldn't be seeing anyone up the road to key off of (the pro men were obviously very far ahead and Steelhead is a one loop bike so no AGers ahead either).  So I started a new game of "make it to mile 45 without Jess catching you"...then "make it to mile 50 without Jess catching you"...then "holy cow...make it into T2 in first place?!"  (unbelievable)

In the end I did make it all the way to T2 in first.  This was sort of a surreal feeling because (I'm just being honest here), I never really thought this would be a reality for me.  I rode a 2:23:35, a big PR for me (including the very fast and flat Eagleman course) and had the fastest bike split which garnered my first mention in an story.  In my heart, it made me really happy because I knew, somewhere, my bike-loving coach Dirk was smiling.  :)

I had NO idea how my legs were going to feel off that hard bike.  I kept telling myself I was going to be just fine but I definitely had my doubts!  Luckily when I started the run I felt okay.  Not GREAT but not bad either.  Okay - time to see how long we can hold this lead on the run!

I have to admit, it's a pretty cool thing leading a race.  Everyone gets so excited for you!  I was so thankful for the cheers and I could not wait to see Oscar at mile 3 (praying I'd still be in first place at that point).  He was calm and giving me the info I needed (like how far behind 2nd was, etc...) but I could also tell he was excited for me.  And that made me smile so much inside (and makes me a little teary eyed now!).  The run became a game of "hold on as long as possible!"  I was holding pretty steady at 6:40-6:50 pace but couldn't get the legs moving any faster.  And then, around mile 6.5, my party was over.  Jess came blazing past and was gone before I even knew what happened (she went on to run a 1:21!). 

I started giving myself a big pep talk at this point, telling myself I COULD get 2nd place.  I COULD hang on.  But around mile 8, Mandy came by.  I tried valiantly to hang onto her but my wheels were starting to come off a little.  Now my pace was creeping into the high 6-low 7 range.  COME ON LEGS!  And then, around mile 10+, Lesley (on her way to a 1:24 run!) passed too.  My head was still positive and I knew I was still having a great race so I didn't get down but I was definitely hurting!  When I saw that I had a shot of breaking 4:30 at mile 11, I *really* dug deep to bring it home.  The last mile felt like an eternity!  HA!  But finally, the sweet, sweet finish line.  4:29:xx was not to be - I finished in 4:30:47 - but that was still an 8+ minute PR for the distance.  I'll take it!

Move legs, MOVE!

Am I disappointed not to have held on a bit better?  Well of course!  I ran a 1:31 which certainly isn't "blowing up" by my standards (previous best on this course was a 1:35) but it's also not competitive in a pro field.  Still, I've always been a half cup full type of girl and I can really only take away positives from this race.  Sure, I didn't hang on on the run, but I put myself out there and realized that I CAN ride really hard and be pretty competitive on the bike.  And I have faith that my run will come around.  If I can learn to run a 1:25 off that kind of bike I will be A-okay!  And my swim?  Oy...that's a topic for another day!  Still, yesterday I went 20+ minutes faster than I ever have on this course.  It's been a long journey to get those 20 minutes but I have no reason to believe that with more hard work, time and PATIENCE, I can't continue to chip away... 

All in all a GREAT experience where I learned a lot.  And had a ton of fun.  And enjoyed a wonderful weekend with the best husband, superfan and sherpa in the world:

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to everyone for your notes of encouragement and cheers.  They really mean the world to me.  And I sometimes feel so overwhelmed (in a good way!!!) how many people reach out.  This is indeed, a wonderful sport that we are in.

Oh, and in case you are wondering about the title of this entry "Racing For The Boots", the story is this.  Quite a while back I asked Oscar about the possibility of buying Recovery Pump boots.  They are expensive and we didn't have the money for them but Oscar made me a deal - if I earned a certain amount of prize money throughout the year - I could purchase them.  When we found out we needed a new roof, I was disappointed because the prize money was definitely going to a new roof - not some fancy space aged boots for recovery!  But then our insurance company came through and paid for our new roof instead.  What a blessing!!!  Project Boots back on!!  Steelhead finally put me over the prize money goal and today I am going to be ordering some boots!  YAHOOOOOO!!!  (next on the prize money goal list - a disc wheel - might take me until 2014 to get there but I'm up for it!  :)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Race Weekend Extravaganza!

I have to say, I do like the double race weekend.  No time for training my friends - only time for racing!  Very fun and I hope I can do it again at some point next year.  Woot woot!

Race #1:

Race #1, as previously mentioned in my last blog entry, was a 5K open water swim on Saturday.  While I'd say I mostly wanted to do this event for more open water swim experience, I'm also a competitive person when the gun goes off.  The race was 4 laps in a little lake.  I stayed with the lead woman (totally drafting the entire time, I told myself to enjoy because this may never happen again!) for about 3 laps until inexplicably, she kept getting farther and farther away from me.  I can't say that my arms were incredibly tired or I was cardiovascularly spent - I just couldn't keep up any more!  It was probably a lack of focus (ie: the harder it was to stay on her feet, the harder I had to concentrate and after 60+ minutes of swimming, I was losing concentration!).  Mental note - must learn to CONCENTRATE! 

Anyway, I did end up 2nd female and fun was had by all.  Chad won the men's race and there were several other Pittsburgh Tri Club members there racing also!  Swimming 5K is always more fun with friends.  :)

Pittsburgh Tri Club.  If we look cold it's because we are - air temp in the upper 50s; water temp in the 80s!
After I got home from Race #1, I quickly got clean, stretched and rolled out and then got my gear packed up for Race #2.  Oscar and I then went to dinner and church with my father in law which left little time for thinking about Race #2.  This is always a good strategy for me!

Race #2:

The goal for Race #2 was to try and repeat my win from last year and break the course record I had set (also last year).  This was a tall order on both parts.  First off, because the race now has a nice little prize purse, it's attracting some fast people!  And in terms of going faster than last year, I wasn't quite certain where I might shave off any time.  This race is a short one - 700 meter swim/12ish mile bike/5K run - so there isn't much room for error! 

Fortunately I was able to achieve both goals.  I swam a bit slower than last year (story of my life!), ran pretty much the same exact time as last year.  BUT, biked quite a bit faster this year.  I have Kim to thank for this as I was biking like a mad women while trying desperately to get away from her.  I did NOT want to start the run with her!  :)  At one point on the bike I wasn't sure what was going to explode first - my legs or my head - but I was pretty sure SOMETHING was going to explode!  :)

All in all, another REALLY fun morning.  After the race I still had a 2 hour ride but thankfully so did Kim so I had a partner in crime!  Meanwhile, Oscar did his run, napped in the car, played on his phone...  That is really true love if you ask me.  :)

Top 4 ladies.  And no, my eye usually isn't quite that wonky.  :)
And so it goes.  2 of my 3 races in 9 days are complete and I think I'd call both a success!  Next up is the one I'm REALLY looking forward to - Steelhead 70.3 next Sunday.  Mostly I can't wait for that 7 hour drive straight across Ohio and then Indiana.  Some of the most fascinating scenery you'll ever see!  (that is if you *really* like corn :)

Have a great week everyone!

Friday, August 10, 2012

9 Days, 3 Races

I've been looking forward to this stretch of summer all year!  (well, not really all year since I didn't sign up for all these races until about a month ago...but you get the idea; I'm excited!!)

I kick off this racing extravaganza with a 5K open water swim tomorrow morning!  This seems like a good way to start.  I've got to admit, it's not really clear to me if it's 5000 yards or 5000 meters (does the "K" stand for thousand or kilometers?...always confusing to me) but that is neither here nor there.  The idea is this: get in the water and swim hard for a long time.  My race plan is this: try to stay with Tim and Chad as long as possible.  Pretty simple 'eh?  I'm looking forward to it.  Also, it should be noted that packing for a swim race is pretty awesome.  Goggles - check.  Swimsuit - check.  Snacks for after race - CHECK!  :)

Next on the racing agenda is the North Park Sprint Tri on Sunday.  Yipppppeeeee!  This is a super fun race that hurts like a dickens.  The swim is 700 meters in the outdoor pool.  The bike is ~5 laps around the upper part of the park that is roughly 12 miles.  And then the run is 3.1 miles of crazy hilly trails.  I distinctly remember laying on the ground for a long time after the race last year.  I think it was about 30-45 minutes later when I finally caught my breath again.  Hurts so good!  :)

I then have a 6 day break until the Steelhead 70.3 up in Michigan.  More on this one later but I *really* love this race.  It was my first 70.3 (5 years ago?) and holds a special place in my heart.  :)

So to the races we go!  Best of luck to everyone who is also racing this weekend.  Be great! 

P.S. I also wanted to thank you all for the very nice comments regarding my grandfather's passing.  His funeral Monday was beautiful and such a wonderful opportunity to see first hand how many lives he and my grandmother have touched in their community over the years.  It was almost funny how many people came and told stories of how their children and grandchildren grew up swinging on the old wooden swing Pappap and Gram had in their backyard.  It is a pretty awesome swing.  I gave it one more shot myself before we left.  I'm pretty sure Gram and Pappap were smiling as they watched from above.

Friday, August 3, 2012


This morning my grandfather passed away.  Today is very close to being 4 years from the day my grandmother, his beloved wife, passed away in 2008.  I will miss him (and still miss her) very much.

I have many wonderful memories of my grandfather.  He was a very hard working man and I like to think that I have his "work ethic" genes running in my blood.  I could sure use them.  He and my grandmother ran a very successful home-building business for many years.  He and my father built the home that we lived in when I was growing up.  In fact the home that Oscar and I live in now was rewired by my grandfather and my dad when we first moved in 7 years ago. 

My grandfather had been sick and not quite able to do the things he enjoyed most lately, like working in his garden or sitting out on his porch drinking a cold beer.  I think today he decided it was time to go be with Grandma again.  Although I'm infinitely sad for the loss our family feels, I'm also infinitely happy that my grandfather is now reunited in heaven with my grandma.  I know he missed her so much.  And although I don't know what heaven is like, I do know this: it's better than anything you or I could ever imagine. 

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.  Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."   1 Corinthians 15: 54-57

One thing that makes me so happy is the fact that my grandfather was well enough to go to Hawaii with my family and I the past 2 years when I raced in Kona.  I think it was a trip he really enjoyed.  After the first year we went, every time I talked with him he would ask when we were going again.  :)

My grandfather (in purple), dad and I at Lava Java!  :)

Who doesn't love a luau?
And just one more, a picture of my grandparents and Oscar and I on our wedding day.  We miss you guys!  May you both rest in peace and enjoy eternity together. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012


A list:

1) Last night Oscar and I went to listen to Amy Rudolph and Chris Solinsky speak.  It was awesome.  Amy, a now retired 2 time Olympian, was one of my idols back in the day.  She's originally from PA and then ran for Providence, the school I desperately wanted to run for when I was in high school.  Chris, of course, is still racing competitively and just coming back from hamstring surgery.  I've always admired him as he is known for this work ethic.  Anyone who runs 90+ miles a week while still in high school is most certainly a work horse.  He is also a bit famous for his body frame.  He is the heaviest (by 25 lbs) and tallest (by 2-3 inches) man to ever break 27 minutes in the 10K.  He has ignored the stereotypes his whole life.  LOVE it! 

Take away points from their talks:
  • In sport you must have a very short memory - both for good races/training days and for bad races/training days.  If it's good, celebrate and then move on.  If it's bad, sulk for a bit and then move on. 
  • Success results from working really, really hard over a really, really long time.  Consistency and patience are key.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to them both.  A very fun night!

2) Oscar taught Roxy how to "play dead" and it's simply hilarious.  Perhaps I need to make a video for all to see.

3) Steph and Kebby from SOAS Racing were interviewed on Competitor Radio.  They talk all about how and why they started SOAS.  Check it out here!  I honestly can't say enough good things about Kebby and Steph - they have been so amazingly supportive to me as I faced my rookie year of racing pro and they are also amazingly supportive to all women in triathlon!  They make a GREAT product but even more so, they are awesome people who really care about our sport.

4) I got a swim snorkel.  Today I tried it out.  Today I almost drowned.  I don't like that thing.  Not one bit.  I got enough water up my nose to drown 10,000 rats!  Tomorrow we try again...  ;)

Good night all!