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


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


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.  :)