Sunday, December 1, 2013

Off Season Whereabouts

I've read many athlete's accounts of their super productive off season wherein they redid entire rooms, cooked meals for all of 2014, got caught up on work for weeks to come and cleaned every last closet in their house.  Here is the account of my super UNproductive off season.  :)

These past two weeks I've:

1) Slept.  A lot.

2) Went to the movies with Oscar.  And ate lots of popcorn.

3) Missed running.

4) Missed swimming.

5) Kind of missed riding.

6) Bought a dress.  This was somewhat productive.  For most women this would be a routine task, yet it was quite an undertaking for me.  It required outside help (my friend Kristen) and there was some weeping and gnashing of teeth.  I dislike shopping but we got 'er done.

7) Learned how to butterfly!  This is perhaps the most exciting development of the past 2 weeks.  I've been going to masters and even attempted the Tuesday "off stroke" workout.  My lanemates quickly grew tired of me substituting free for fly so they gave me a fly lesson after practice.  It's not nearly as complex a stroke as I thought and I kind of like it! 

8) Bought a minivan.  Not sure how this one happened!  Oscar has wanted a minivan since we got married.  I brazenly declared that I would NEVER own a minivan.  At first it was not a real problem because we could not afford one.  Then, as the financial issue became less of an issue, gas prices soared and I was able to reason that such an inefficient vehicle didn't make sense.  But Oscar was starting to wear me down.  Every time I struggled to get all my luggage or my bike into our tiny car, Oscar pointed out how nice a minivan would be.  While I was in Arizona (before he joined us), Oscar went minivan shopping.  (sneaky!)  And when I got back, I somehow got talked into joining in the minivan search.  On Saturday we drove one home.  I'm probably going to love it and it's cavernous interior.  But right now I kind of feel like a soccer mom without any soccer kids.

9) Dreamed big dreams for 2014.

Here's to getting back in the groove of "on season"!  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ironman Arizona Race Report

First, I must start with the thank yous.  I know this might not be the part many people want to read but upon finishing a race and, in this case, an entire season, what I am mostly left with is a heart full of thanks for all the people that make living my dream possible.  I feel overwhelming gratitude to so many who have selflessly helped me on my path.

To SOAS, Brooks, PowerBar, Rudy Project, CompuTrainer and Xterra: Your support is so appreciated.  I love working with companies that I believe in and that believe in me.

To Dr. Brad (ART) and Greg (massage): Without your weekly (okay, sometimes more than weekly...) treatment, I'd never make it to the starting line in one piece.

To Casey at CID Associates: We met at the YMCA about a year ago.  Never could I have imagined the friendship that would come of that brief chat!  Your support has transformed my ability to compete at the professional level as an athlete.  THANK YOU.  And, WE ARE!

To my amazing friends (both in and out of the sport): Your encouragement means the world to me.  Thank you.

To my friend and long-time teammate Kim: We have been chasing dreams together for a long time.  Thank you for always setting the bar so high for me.

To QT2 Systems: You guys have it figured out.  Thank you for welcoming me to your family.

To Tim: Your patience is never ending.  Thank you so much for teaching me how to do this sport.  Most of all, thank you for believing in me enough for the both of us because I certainly didn't believe enough on my own.

To my family: Thank you for putting up with me!  Without you guys, none of this would be possible.  Your support is so appreciated and I know I'm so blessed to have you.  Thank you for your love no matter if I race a 9:15 or 17:15 Ironman.

To Oscar: I don't even have words!  You are the love of my life and my very best friend.  You are an amazing man and I thank God every day for you.  Thank you for allowing me to pursue my passion and for being the best partner ever on this journey.

Okay, I'm cutting myself off.  I could go on forever with the thanks...  :)

I did Ironman Arizona in 2012 so I was very excited to see what kind of improvements would result from the many changes I've made since then.  Coming into the race, I really had no excuses.  I told Tim that I had possibly never felt so prepared for a race - both physically and mentally.  Time to get the job done!

Swim: 1:02:37 (:50 faster than 2012)

Oh swimming.  I like you, but not so much on race day.  I have faith that one day we will get along.  I also have faith that one day I will swim under 60 minutes.  But apparently that time has not come!  

I got dropped from the pack that I wanted (NEEDED) to swim with pretty early on.  My penalty for this was a solo swim around Tempe Town Lake.  I obviously have some work to do (not a surprise)!  But this has happened enough times that I know not to let it affect the rest of my race.  Ironman is a long day.  Onward.

Pre race with my dad.  My parents come to just about all my Ironman races.  They are clearly gluttons for punishment.

Bike: 5:01:55 (2:07 faster than 2012)

I hopped on my bike and was quite excited to be riding!  But I'll admit, my excitement quickly turned into a bit of discouragement.  Why discouraged so early on, you might ask?  Well because I was getting passed like I wasn't even pedaling!  And also because my first time check on Sarah P at the turnaround did not bode well.  Sarah and I had gotten on our bikes at the same time but not even 20 miles (20 miles!) into the bike, she had put close to 5 minutes on me.  CRAP!  Now obviously Sarah is a SUPER cyclist and I did not expect to ride with her.  But 5 minutes in 20 miles?  I'm no mathematician but even I know, that's not good.

I tell this story so that we can all learn from my mistakes.  I had no business worrying about other people, ESPECIALLY just 2 hours into a 9-10 hour race!  I know this.  I KNOW THIS!  Yet I let myself get wrapped up in it anyway.  Bad Beth.  Focus on the things I can control and don't worry about the rest.  After I gave myself a stern talking to I got back on track.  And I spent the next 3.5-4 hours focusing on my nutrition, my power, my HR and sticking to MY plan.  This made the ride go by very fast.  I felt very good.  I felt very excited about the marathon.  

Leaving for the bike.  Here we go!

Other points of interest related to the bike:

*It's very hard to pee on the bike on flat courses.  There is no place to coast!  And I had to pee multiple times.  I'm pretty sure you're all very glad I told you that.  :)

*I had to pee so many times because I was eating and drinking like a CHAMP.  QT2 does not let the major detail of nutrition slide and so I've worked just as much on my nutrition as I have my fitness.  My gut is just as well trained as my legs!  (and probably better than my arms...stupid swimming... :)  If you can't tell, I'm pretty proud of this because nutrition used to be a major limiter for me.  I certainly don't have it all figured out but I've made BIG improvements here thanks to Tim and Cait!

*I like the 3 loop course at IMAZ because it's a very easy way to break 112 miles down in your head but man does it get busy out there on the 3rd loop.  Between other riders and the media/course marshal/race support motos, there sometimes isn't anywhere to go.  Add in an aid station and pandemonium ensues.  Word on the street is, next year the course is going to be 2 loops.  That will be a nice change.

Run: 3:06:39 (35:05 faster than last year)

If someone would have told me in January of this year that I would run a 3:06 IM marathon (EVER, let alone this season) I would have laughed in their face.  Actually, maybe I would have slapped them for being so absurd.  After all, my OPEN marathon PR was 3:11.  So to say I didn't expect a 3:06 is a bit of an understatement.  After running 3:15 at IM Wisconsin in September, I was thrilled but also a little worried I might never be able to replicate it!  HA!  My run training in between the two races certainly suggested I could run faster but my ability to wrap my mind around these types of things isn't especially good.  

Nevertheless, I have learned that executing the race plan is the only real measure of success so when I hit the run course, that was my only goal.  I ran 6:55-7:05 miles for the first loop (the run course is now just 2 loops at Arizona) and I felt good and the nutrition was still going down well and my HR was right where it was supposed to be.  Of course I knew it was going to start to feel REALLY hard and soon enough it did.  By mile 15 I was telling myself "just one more mile at this pace and you can relax."  But then I'd get to the next mile and tell myself the same thing.  Again and again.  Until mile 20 when I ran a 7:15.  Shoot!  Luckily by this point I was also fully engaged in the RACE (this is a race after all!) and trying to track girls down.  Mile 20 on the bike is not the time to be thinking about where the other girls are (bad Beth!).  Mile 20 of the run, however, is definitely the time to start thinking of these things.  This distracted me from thinking about my legs.  Oscar was all over the course and letting me know there were 4-5 girls only 1-5 minutes up.  I couldn't see them but the promise of eventually seeing them kept me pushing very hard.  At this point, I think I also started talking to myself out loud.  So if you raced IMAZ on Sunday and a crazy girl who was repeatedly chanting "you can do this, you can do this, you can do this" ran by, that was probably me.  I was in my own little world.

In the end, I caught one of those girls but 4 of them I did not.  Not for lack of trying though!  I crossed the finish line confident that I had run as hard as I possibly could.  And that's all that you can really ask of yourself.  Was I at least a little mad at myself for the fact that 8th place (the last $$ spot) was only 38 seconds ahead and that 5th place was only 3 minutes up?  Sure.  That's a lot of money and a lot of points!  But mostly I was elated for a race well run and honestly, for the opportunity to even be in that position at all.

Usually pizza makes me smile.  Apparently after a race, not so much.  :)
Overall: 9:15:38 (38:02 faster than last year)

It was a great result for me and one I'm very thankful for.  Obviously a very big PR in part thanks to very good conditions on a fast course but mostly thanks to a hugely improved understanding of how to do this distance thanks to QT2.  My fitness has improved for sure.  My nutrition and pacing has VERY much improved.  And slowly but surely my belief is improving.  It amazing how much more your body is capable of than you think.  Not to say I don't have a long way to go and much learning to do!  Lord knows I continue to make many mistakes!  But that's the fun part of the journey.  Here's to much more fun in the future!

Congrats to all who raced and finished!  Twas a spectacular day to become an Ironman.  

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Is This Thing Still On?

Oh boy, it's been a while, hasn't it?  I've turned into one of *those* bloggers that only writes race reports!  YIKES!  And to think, when I first started my blog (loooooong before blogs became popular and then became unpopular), I used to post almost every single day!

Well the good news is, you didn't miss much!  I last wrote just a few weeks after IM Wisconsin as I was getting back into training.  Since then, yep, you guessed it, I've done more training!  There have been some lows (had a rough week of fatigue right around the time of Kona) but many, many more highs.  It's hard to believe that I will be lining up for Ironman #2 of the season and #6 of my life in just one week's time!

Doing a "late season" Ironman is always interesting.  Especially when you don't live in a particularly warm climate.  I also did IMAZ in 2012 but last year the weather cooperated a bit better.  This year there were several VERY cold and windy outdoor long rides that helped toughen me up.  One such ride was 7 hours, solo, on a day when the windchill never got above 35.  I'm going to tuck that one in my back pocket for the next time I think I can't do something.  Interspersed with the cold outdoor rides have been some good indoor heat acclimatization riding on the trainer.  Although IMAZ isn't usually a terribly hot race (like a Kona or a Cozumel), it's certainly warmer than 35!

Nevertheless, I've really enjoyed my training this fall and feel quite blessed to be healthy and happy and in the position to work hard and see some really good results!  My last big day was yesterday so from here on in it will be resting up, relaxing and, my favorite - PACKING!!  :)

Some fall photos:

Roxy made it onto Slowtwitch before me.  Helps to be as cute as her.

My least favorite set of paddles (PT paddles) and I got into a fight at the pool.  No worries, I MacGyver-ed that baby right up and it's as good as new!

Some days I wish I was her.

The 7 hour ride where I apparently tired out my Garmin.  The file refused to download after I was done.  If you ride 7 hours but the Garmin file doesn't exist - did you really ride 7 hours?

One of Oscar and my favorite fall activities - filling our Operation Christmas Child box.  Check it out here if you want to get involved!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Back To Work

The week after Ironman Wisconsin, I slept a lot, got my life organized again, trained for a grand total of 5 hours and ate a lot of ice cream.  It was nice.  The ice cream eating had a purpose, by the way.  I was trying to put a little weight back on.  I know there are smarter ways to gain weight.  But eating ice cream is more fun.

At the start of week #2 after Ironman (last week) I got a text from my coach inquiring if I "felt the fire".  Ummmm...YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I AM REARING TO GO!!!!!!!!  GIVE ME SOME 30 HOUR WEEKS!!!!!!!!!!!!  YAHOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is the reply of someone with too much energy.  Needless to say, I was giddy with excitement to start working hard again.  And my eyes filled with wonder as I surveyed the week of workouts on my schedule.  It's fairly accurate to say though, that I *might* have forgotten that working hard is, well, hard work.

By day #3 or 4 of last week, reality had hit!  I was sore (darn TRX and swim cords) and feeling the dull ache of training.  Lucky for me, I'm pretty much in love with this reality and I felt very much in my element.  It feels very good to feel like my tired self again!

So here we go again!  This week and next are two more weeks of good work, followed by a rest/race week (running a half marathon in Ohio) and then the two BIG weeks known as overload.  I very much look forward to those big weeks with both excitement and fear.  Overload will be followed by the taper into IMAZ!  A lot of work lies ahead but I know November will be here before I know it so I'm trying to savor each day.

Back to training means back to mixing bottles!
I do this surprisingly often when I run.  I can't be the only one, can I?
A picture of Roxy.  Because she's super cute.
And finally, a picture of PNC Park, home of the Pirates.  As you might have heard, the Buccos clinched a playoff berth last night for the first time in 21 years.  Oscar is a HUGE (I mean REALLY HUGE) Pirate fan and has therefore endured a lot of disappointment over the last few decades.  Couldn't be more happy for him to feel the excitement of WINNING!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Ironman Wisconsin - A Day To Erase The Doubts

The night before Ironman Wisconsin I was scrolling through twitter when I read this tweet from Jesse Thomas: "To friends chasing big dreams tomorrow - doubts are like birds in your brain, ok to hover, just don't let them nest!"

Thanks @jessethomas. I'm sure you weren't talking to me because you have no idea who I am. But your words were exactly what I needed, at exactly the right time.

I've been an athlete for a long time. And for just as long, I've battled with doubt and a lack of confidence. I know every athlete deals with this, from the most elite to those just out there for fun. And I have no way of knowing if the doubts that swirl in my head are any worse or any better than anyone else. But what I do know is this, the mountain of doubt that I had built up around being able to run well in an Ironman seemed almost insurmountable at times. So much so, that I had pretty much convinced myself that Ironman wasn't my thing and that I probably shouldn't go down that path again.

My history with Ironman is this: my very first was Kona 2010 which I qualified for at Eagleman 70.3. I ran almost 4 hours that day for the marathon but I didn't even care - I was now an Ironman! My next IM was Kona 2011 (again, qualified at Eagleman) and there I biked a ton faster but didn't run much faster at all: 3:44. Next up I raced IMCdA, my first as a pro. I ran 3:37 there which was better but woefully inadequate in the pro women's field. My frustration with not being able to run off a 112 mile bike was growing. In Arizona last year, things took a turn for the worse and I was back up into the 3:40s. Yep, Ironman isn't my thing.

But then I started with QT2. In one of my very first conversations with Tim, he told me that Ironman was my distance and that running would be my strength at that distance. Um...did he fail to notice my past results? Did he not hear me say I can't run a marathon off the bike well AT ALL? But I've learned not to question him because he's (almost) always right.

So we started to train for Ironman again and truthfully, the training went better than it ever has 100 times over. I was definitely running much better than I ever had and I PRed at the 70.3 distance and I felt great and I was healthy...but still, the doubts remained.

I went to Wisconsin with the sole goal of erasing those doubts in my mind. Of proving to nobody but myself that I could run a respectable marathon. I didn't care about my place or my overall time, those things were all secondary. I just wanted to run well. I NEEDED to run well.

And I'm so thankful that that is exactly what I did. No, it wasn't perfect. I made a ton of mistakes throughout the race including my execution of the marathon (like going out at 6:30 pace - not good). BUT, but, I finally put together a run that is much more indicative of my training and ability level and one that has helped me believe that with time, work and some more experience, I can be competitive at this distance in the pro field.

I feel such relief to be honest. I also feel like I can finally move on. Now that I can actually wrap my head around running a 3:15 marathon off the bike, I can look forward and believe in a 3:10 or a 3:05. It's like a whole different ballgame for me now!

As I was running toward the finish line on Sunday I felt 10 pounds lighter to have finally shed the weight of all those doubts. But more than anything I felt simply overwhelmed with gratitude. My heart swelled with thankfulness to so many:

  • Gratitude to my sponsors PowerBar, Brooks, Rudy Project, SOAS, CompuTrainer, Xterra and a small company in Pittsburgh called CID Associates that took a big chance on me - thank you for the support that allows me to pursue my dreams.
  • Gratitude to the AWESOME people of Madison who make Ironman Wisconsin one of THE best races I've ever done. Seriously, the spectators and volunteers are like nothing I have ever seen.
  • Gratitude to my fellow competitors. I chased Jackie as hard as I could and although I didn't catch her, she brought out the best in me.
  • Gratitude to my friends and family for their never ending encouragement!
  • Gratitude for my amazing parents who never blink an eye when I ask them to come watch me race. By now they may have wished for a "normal" daughter and some grandchildren! But you'd never know because they are too busy showing up at races and encouraging me to pursue my passion.
  • Gratitude to Tim and QT2 - without them I'd still be believing that Ironman wasn't for me.
  • And most of all, gratitude for Oscar who has been through it all with me from day 1. He has seen me fail so many times that his joy for my success on Sunday was perhaps greater than mine. I wish everyone had an Oscar in their lives.
And so that was that. I've soaked it in and enjoyed it. And now it's time to move on. More work to be done and races to be run!

The water was really choppy.  I threw up twice DURING the swim (sorry to those swimming behind me).  My tummy does not like choppy water.  (photo Jonathan Geair)

But when you are finished with the swim, you get to run up the Helix to transition.  Having (literally) thousands of people cheer me on up the Helix was one of the most thrilling moment of my sporting life. (photo Jonathan Geair)

I've never been so happy to be out of the water.  Even more so when I saw that it was actually an IM PR! (photo Becki Gazda)

The bike spectators are beyond awesome!  Ryan (a PowerBar employee!) is helping me up one of the steeper hills with a drum escort.  I can't keep from laughing!  (photo Erin Klegstad)

The bike course is rolly.  I loved it!  (photo Ali Engin)

One of my favorite bike aid stations involved men in pink speedos.  (I'm not in this picture, I just stole it from the Ironman FB page)
Making my way through the run course.  (photo Becki Gazda)

Erasing the doubts.  (photo Ali Engin)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I Will Survive

I ran cross country for Penn State (GO STATE!).  Every year at the start of the season, each girl on the team would contribute one song to the "team CD".  Yes, that's right, I went to college so long ago that I actually listened to CDs on my "Walkman".  

For you young-ins that don't know what a "Walkman" is, I present to you Exhibit A.  I had both a Discman for CDs (top left) and an original Walkman for audio tapes (top right).  I.  Am.  Old.
ANYWAY, once all the songs were collected, someone would compile them and put them on a CD for each girl on the team.  One year this person was actually Oscar if I remember correctly.  (yes, we've been together for that long).  This CD would then serve as the soundtrack to our season.

As you can imagine, the songs were of all sorts of variety due to the many different personalities on the team.  I REALLY wish I had kept some of these soundtracks but I can't seem to find them.  I do remember songs like CAKE's Going The Distance and Chumbawamba's I Get Knocked Down.  (am I dating myself here?)  But one year, someone (who I *think* was my BFF Krista) contributed Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive (I highly recommend watching the video, there are people dancing around in leisure suits). 

Brilliant song choice for getting through some of the toughest years of running that I ever experienced.

Also brilliant song choice for these past 2 weeks, some of the toughest weeks of Ironman training I've ever experienced.  

Of course I'm not trying to compare the awesomeness of Ironman training to something that is TRULY to be survived, like cancer or warfare or, as Gloria is singing about, a bad relationship.  But I'd also be lying if I didn't say I was humming this song in my head in jest, at least a time or two these past few weeks.  Just to remind myself that indeed, I would survive.  

Two weeks each of 7 bikes, 7 runs, 5 swims and 2 strength sessions for some of the highest volume I've ever done.  And definitely some of the best training I've ever done.  Add in some massage, ART, lots of eating and sleeping, a smattering of work (like the kind where I get a steady paycheck) and I was definitely a busy girl.  Little time for blogging, twitter or Facebook (which I've learned is a good thing).  

There were lots of highs and some lows.  Although I don't really consider any of the training to be a "low" if I was healthy and able to get it done.  I was on the verge of tears during my long run last Wednesday when my heart rate WOULD NOT GO UP.  True story.  I only really cry when I'm tired.  (I was really tired that day).  But a high also came that same session when (after I collected myself) I finished the last 6 miles of the run faster than I could race a 10K earlier in the year.  I was definitely humming I Will Survive that day.  There is always a silver lining.

One thing is for sure - I've enjoyed this round of training more than ever before and I feel TRULY blessed and lucky to be able to do this.  Even on the days when my HR insists on staying in the 130s, far from where it should be.  

I also feel incredibly blessed to have some amazing people to help me along the way.  For one, my coach Tim is pretty darn fantastic.  He's patient and encouraging and definitely helped me through this block a TON.  He sets me straight when I need it and makes me laugh at myself when I'm being "irrational".  (notice I put irrational in quotation marks, he probably would not)  

My friend Kim (who incidentally was on those same Penn State teams with me) has also helped me a ton.  She's "been there, done that" with these QT2 System overload weeks and encouraged me along the way.  And then she just went and kicked some major butt at IMMT on Sunday, providing me with ample inspiration!

And of course, most of all, none of this would be possible without the ultimate partner, Oscar.  He really lives through it all and is my biggest support and cheerleader.  He brought home flowers for me one day, just because.  He makes all the special runs to the grocery store for more ice for ice baths and chocolate milk for recovery.  And he kicks my butt out the door when I need it.  

So with that, I rest up a bit, do a bit more work and then line up with a bunch of awesome athletes for Ironman Wisconsin.  I couldn't be more thrilled! 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Steelhead 70.3 v5.0

Of course I can't write a race report about the Steelhead 70.3 without mentioning how much I love this race.  Sunday marked our 5th time in Benton Harbor.  I've had some highs here (my very first 70.3 finish line in 2007!) and some lows (dropping out in 2008, my only triathlon DNF).  I also raced in 2009 but sadly skipped the race the two years I did Kona (2010 and 2011).  Last year I raced as a pro at Steelhead for the very first time and actually led the race briefly (until everyone passed me on the run).

Steelhead v5.0 did not disappoint!  Lots of fun and good learning to be had.

Okay, this part wasn't so fun.  Lake Michigan can be a real jerk and on Sunday she was up to no good.  Plus, instead of swimming with the current (the Steelhead swim is point to point so they advertise that they will always set up the course to swim WITH the current), we swam against it.  For most of the swim I didn't know if I was going up or down or left or right.  I did a lot of praying that I was going in the right direction.  And when I FINALLY got out of the water, I had earned myself a personal worst 70.3 swim time.  Ooops.  I felt a bit better when I saw that all the times were pretty darn bad.  Still though, it would be helpful if I learned how to swim in rough water.

Here goes nothing!  (the water is also very shallow for a while so there is a lot of running/dolphin diving)
I can't explain to you why the water looks all nice and inviting in the background there.  Trust me, it was not.  I can say that this is possibly the happiest I have EVER been to get out of the water.
I was really happy to be on two wheels.  And it was a beautiful day to race!  However the swim had left me with a very, very unsettled and unhappy stomach.  Darn you Lake Michigan!!

For the next 35 miles on the bike, I tried to throw up.  I kept eating and drinking and pedaling.  But my body is stubborn and I couldn't find any relief from my overwhelming nausea.  My legs felt GREAT but when I feel sick like that, it's hard for me to focus on the task at hand (ie: pedaling hard).  My power wasn't horrible but it wasn't great either.  So I prayed for some relief.  At mile 35 that relief came in the form of me throwing up EVERYTHING.  And by everything I mean all that I had taken in thus far, including all the lake water I drank.  (in response to this story, my coach's advice was "next time don't drink the lake"...THANKS!  ;)

Ahhh...sweet relief!  I felt SO, so much better after I got all that wretched lake out of me.  And my HR came back up and my power came back up and I felt AWESOME!  Of course by then I only had 20 miles left on the bike but I reminded myself I still had almost 2.5 hours left of racing.  A lot can happen in 2.5 hours.

Somehow I still biked a 2:22 which was over a minute faster than my time here last year and a PR for that distance.

The beauty of dealing with nausea on the bike is that IF I can take care of things, I will usually feel pretty good for the run.  And that is exactly what happened.  I felt GREAT running.  Tim had given me a goal pace through 6 miles of the run and I stuck to it like glue and then just kept trucking along after that point (I actually negative split the run; something I've never done).  Somewhere along the way I moved into 5th place.  At mile 10, Oscar (running all over the place like a mad man) told me 4th was only 1:15 ahead and so I chased as hard as I possibly could.  I almost got there but just ran out of race.  For the first time EVER, I really wished the run was longer.  Who am I?!?!  :)

In the end my 1:26 was also a new run PR for the distance.  I finished feeling strong and happy and very excited for the progress I've made with Tim and QT2. I am truly excited for Ironman!  Now if only I could learn how to swim...

Sharing the stage with some awesome women!
Race winner, teammate, wife of my coach and all around awesome person, Cait Snow and I after the race.
So now I'm back home and back and in the midst of two BIG weeks of training for Wisconsin.  Big thanks for all the cheers!  I feel so lucky to have such an awesome team of support.  None of this would be even remotely possible without YOU!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

CompuTrainer = Awesome

About 6 weeks ago my trainer died.

*moment of silence*

If you know me, you know this was a very, very sad day.  Because I do A LOT of riding on my trainer and not just in the winter.  In fact I do pretty much all of my sessions other than my long rides on the trainer even when it's nice and sunny outside and the temps are a beautiful 80 degrees.


Well partly because there aren't a ton of great options around my house suitable for interval work (read: miles of uninterrupted roads with relatively low traffic) and also because it's too hilly where I live to get in a TRUE recovery ride (read: 75W or less).  But mostly I use the trainer so often because it's like the track for running - a place where you can get very repeatable results (read: conditions are always the same) and where you can just put your head down, close your eyes and GO!

So yes, when my trainer bit the dust a few weeks back, I was in mourning.  It was a Tacx and it basically had an electronic meltdown (read: there were sparks and I feared a house fire).  HOWEVER, once I got over my sadness (and dug out my old fluid trainer from the depths of our basement), I realized this was actually a great opportunity.  Because, you see, I've always REALLY wanted a CompuTrainer, but just could not justify getting a new trainer if I had a perfectly fine working one in my possession.


I immediately got in touch with the very awesome people of CompuTrainer and not too much after that, this showed up at my door step:

That was about 5 weeks ago.  I will say, it was love at first sight, but since then my love has only grown deeper.

Awesome things about the CompuTrainer (vs any other trainer on this planet):

1) There are SOOOO many options!  You can ride hundreds of different courses.  Or you can tell it how many watts you want to ride and that sucker will hold you to it (trust me, it cannot be swayed).  Or you can race your friends (haven't done that yet but it's only a matter of time) with the multi-rider option.  Or you can work on your pedal stroke with the spin scan.  It's really a very, very nice tool to help you improve your cycling in any number of ways.  So far I've done big gear work, high cadence work, ridden long intervals on a race course that I'm about to race on.  Really it doesn't get much better than that!

2) It was super easy to set up.  Really, even I could figure it out and I'm pretty much not smart in anything electronic or anything that requires tools.  No wait, it didn't even require any tools!  And look at this awesome cadence sensor - nothing to glue or tape to your bike, you simply place this "puck" under your pedal and it reads your cadence flawlessly!

The puck is the red thing sitting on the floor.  Pretty cool.
3) Being able to ride the course that you are about to race on is beyond awesome.  To me, this is truly one of the best features of the CompuTrainer.  On Saturday morning it was storming in Pittsburgh.  I had a long ride to do and any other day I would have been pretty darn sad that I was going to have to ride inside for over 5 hours.  However on THIS Saturday I was actually a bit giddy.  Why?  Because I was going to get to ride the Ironman Wisconsin course, a race I'm about to do in 7 weeks.  I have never done this race before and really had no idea what the bike course was like.  But guess what, now I definitely know!  (there are some stinker little hills in there, 'eh?)  What a huge benefit to be able to "see" the course before you even get to the race and be familiar with what you are about to face.  AND, there are now "real course" videos so that not only can you ride the course in terms of elevation changes but you can also SEE the real course on your computer/tv screen, as if you are really there!  I haven't gotten my hands on one of these real course videos yet, but they will be on my Christmas list for sure!

Of course there are a lot of other great benefits - if you don't already ride with power the CompuTrainer will obviously give you this feature (best tool to improve cycling in my opinion), I hear these babies last FOREVER (I think Jen Harrison has had her CompuTrainer for 10,000 years), they are actually very quiet while you are riding (making Oscar very happy when I'm riding at 5 in the morning)....  The list goes on and on.

So the moral of the story is - if you are in the market for a new trainer, I would HIGHLY recommend going with a CompuTrainer.  Heck, even if you AREN'T in the market, consider how much better a CompuTrainer would be than your current trainer (I really wish I would have got my hands on one earlier!)!!  And don't be surprised when it's snowing outside and you're actually kind of glad that you get to ride inside...  ;)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Muncie 70.3 Race Report

Awesome things about Muncie and it's 70.3:

1) Ball State University.  Nice little campus and lots of good places to eat surrounding it!  I think Oscar and I could definitely be converted Cardinal fans.  They are, after all, the "fiercest robin-sized bird."  #chirpchirp

2) The people.  I always say that the people in the south are the nicest around but the people of the midwest just might give them a run for their money! Muncie was such a nice community of awesome people, all of whom really seemed to support the race and welcome the athletes to their town.  Also, Oscar and I once again hit the homestay jackpot (you want an awesome homestay? stick with us) and really enjoyed staying with and getting to know James.  Plus, he got us started as BSU fans by getting us t-shirts.

3) The beauty of the area.  I'll admit, I'm a sucker for farmland.  Although I've done some really awesome big city races with big city finishes, the simplicity of a rural, countryside race is my absolute favorite.

I could ride on roads like this forever!
4) The race course itself.  Back to the beauty of the land - I was a fan of the course itself!  We swam in a beautiful reservoir and biked and ran through corn.  Lots of corn.  They totally shut down the roads and the volunteers were awesome.  Race day parking is about 10 steps away from transition.  The logistics of this race were a breathe of fresh air!

So yeah, I would highly recommend this race.  Muncie even brought out the nice weather for us!  The only thing I didn't totally love was that 16 mile stretch of road on the bike course that was a nice combo of chip and seal mixed with cracks in the road and a few potholes.  But hey, you can't have it all.  ;)

ANYWAY, going into this race, I was a bit nervous.  Having started with Tim and QT2 about 4 weeks ago and changing many things (like, oh, I don't methods, pacing plan, vastly different fueling plans, etc... HA!), everything felt like a bit of a wild card.  I certainly FELT good and ready and I very much trust Tim, but Muncie would be my first true test to see if I was on the right track.

Part of the new fueling plan involves pancakes.  I can definitely get on board with that!
Okay, onto the race.

Swim: 30:16

We were treated to yet another boiling hot wetsuit swim - the water temp was *just* under the legal 76 degrees at 75.6 degrees.  I felt like a hot lobster.  But it is what it is.

Tim and I have been doing some different things with my swimming so I was anxious to see how this would go.  I'm used to swimming a lot more and a lot harder in training than what I have been doing these past 3-4 weeks, but after years of doing that in training with little to no forward progress in my OWS times, it's time to try something different.  And although it might appear that yesterday wasn't any improvement (because I ALWAYS swim 30 minutes), I was hugely encouraged by the result and have a lot of confidence that with some more time and patience, Tim will get me there.  There IS hope for my swim!  

After just missing a small pack of girls (that went on to swim high 28), I spent the rest of the swim alone, trying desperately to bridge up to them.  It was not to be this race.  I came out of the water in 9th and excited to get on my bike (and REALLY excited to get my wetsuit off).  

Bike: 2:26:40

My focus on the bike was in (a) following my pacing plan and (b) following my fueling plan.  I think I did relatively well in both considering I'm usually pretty awful at following directions.  Although I averaged 20 watts higher than I did at Eagleman, I was definitely riding more conservatively than pretty much any other 70.3 I've done.  I passed 1 women on the bike to move into 8th but knew I was actually in 7th because I saw Dede soft pedaling back to transition as we were headed out.

I felt good pretty much the entire bike and enjoyed myself out there.  I got to see Oscar four times and that always lifts my spirits as well.

Run: 1:27:10

I'd first like to start by saying how happy that I am that I FINALLY broke the 1:30 curse!  I've run so, so, SOOOO many half marathons off the bike in 1:29-1:31 that I was beginning to think this was my destiny!

As I headed out on the run course, Oscar confirmed that I was in 7th and that Ashley and Nina were together about 45 seconds up the road.  I again had a pacing plan to follow and let me tell you, this took EXTREME discipline on my part because my gut instinct was to run AS HARD AS I COULD to go catch them.  I usually lack discipline but for some reason was able to find just a little and hold myself back.  And when, after 2 miles, I was "let loose" I took off and my legs felt GREAT!  I ran at or under 6:30 pace for the next 6 miles or so and was totally loving life.  My running has definitely been feeling very good as of late but I wasn't sure how that would translate to racing.  I was feeling very excited to be chugging along at a pace that I usually can't manage.

I moved myself into 6th around mile 5-6 and knew I needed to find at least one more person to pass.  Finishing in 6th in a race that pays to 5 isn't very fun!  So I set out to get "one more."  Oscar was out on the course yet again and gave me some splits - around mile 8 I was 1:30 down from the next girl up the road.  I told myself "you can do this!" and then repeated that over and over in my head.  But right about the time I first caught glimpse of 5th place, I felt my first twinge.  I didn't even realize what it was because I NEVER cramp, but after it happened a few more times, I knew.  My hamstring was not happy and it was cramping with twinges here and there.  Uh-oh!  It wasn't funny, but almost kind of was because Oscar has had such awful issues with cramping and I have never once cramped in my life.  It's almost as if I needed to know for myself how it felt so I could better empathize with him.  Except I really didn't want to know how it felt!  Nevertheless, for the next 5 miles I learned.  I took salt and hoped for the best and I never had a full on seizure type cramp but every time I really pushed the pace, the twinges let me know that was NOT a good idea.  I was still able to get myself into 5th and at one point even caught glimpse of 4th and gave chase for a bit, only to realize, that was probably not a great idea.  So 5th place it was!  HA!  A bummer, only because other than the cramping, my legs felt very, very good and strong and like I could push really hard.  Every athlete faces some sort of challenge in each race though and I definitely learned some valuable lessons on Saturday for future races to come!

Overall an effort that I was pleased with.  And I'm mostly just REALLY excited for the things to come.  Muncie was a huge step forward for me which was much appreciated after feeling like I had been stalling out for quite a while.  Very good stuff.

Of course I have so many people to thank - Tim and QT2, my awesome sponsors, our homestay James, the really cool people of Muncie, everyone who took the time to offer some encouragement or cheers - I am so, so thankful!  It truly takes a village.  But most of all, I wanted to thank Oscar for being the best sherpa ever.  He ran over 13 miles on Saturday, much of it at sub 7 minute pace to get to me on different places on the course to give splits and cheer me on.  I'm telling you - that's a tough gig!  Racing is definitely better when he is at my side.

So we are back home now and it's time to get back to work.  I'm not complaining!  ;)

Pittsburgh triathletes unite!  Jason had an awesome race!
Only Ashley and I showed up for awards so we get all the money right?  (no actually, Magali also came but was just caught up in traffic :)

Sunday, June 30, 2013


This year I tried to give up Ironman.  After 2 (somewhat) frustrating attempts at the distance last year, I wanted to take a year off.  Or I thought *maybe* one this fall.  But I wanted to focus on 70.3s for the most part and be done with that long training stuff for a bit.  I wanted to race a ton and get good experience going "fast".

But Ironman is tricky.  It pulls you back in no matter how hard you resist.  You can try to hide, but Ironman will find you.

It all started with IM Texas (in May) this year.  I started to get that little itch to give Ironman another shot after watching Texas online.  The feeling kept growing and growing and I started wondering how quickly I might be able to get ready to race one.  What can I say, I've clearly forgotten the pain of training for and (especially) of racing 140.6 miles!

One small problem though, was my goal of qualifying for and racing the 70.3 World Championships in Vegas.  If I did qualify for Vegas, Ironman would definitely have to be put on hold until the late fall.  So I let Ironman go for a little bit.

Then I changed coaches and a whole lot of things changed.  I (we) decided that when Ironman calls, one should answer.  And so, that's what I'm going to do.  Even if (and that's a big IF) I should qualify for Vegas, I've decided that I would turn the slot down because my new schedule includes IRONMAN WISCONSIN (which is on the same day as Vegas)!  There are a lot of reasons for that decision, which I won't bore you with, but suffice it to say, I'm REALLY excited to visit the land of cheese!  Yes that's right, I'm excited about Ironman!  :)

And so the training has begun.  So far so good.  I've had just two weeks of long(ish) stuff and I've really enjoyed both of them.  I'm learning a ton from QT2 and Tim and I feel all new and young and fresh in the sport.  Change is hard, but it is also turning out to be very, very good for me.

Now just remind me of these happy Ironman sentiments in a few weeks when I'm in the midst of all those BIG IM miles.  I may be cursing myself very soon...  ;)

remaining 2013 schedule:

Muncie 70.3
Steelhead 70.3
Ironman Wisconsin
Towpath Half Marathon
Ironman Arizona

Second half of the season calls for a new kit!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Typically, change isn't my thing.  I like routine and I like things the way they are.  Change makes my head hurt.

But every once in a while, change is needed and change is good.  And although I fought it for a while, I recently made a change that both broke my heart and, at the same time, invigorated my soul.

I recently changed coaches.

Dirk and I had a great run I truly appreciate all that he has done for me.  He took me from being a 4:50/11 hour type 70.3/IM athlete to being a 4:30/9:55 athlete.  He helped me get to the point where I could think about turning pro and then he successfully guided me through that tough first year of racing professionally.  And he kept me healthy and happy through it all which is truly amazing!  There is no doubt that Dirk knows his stuff and I would highly recommend his training as it obviously works and works well.  But in a joint decision, we came to the conclusion this spring that we would both move on in divergent directions.  It really broke my heart because, well, Dirk is awesome and change is hard.  But change is also good and I tried to keep that in mind.

Looking for a new coach isn't easy.  I spoke with many different people.  And it was definitely a decision I didn't take lightly.  In many ways, my coach really dictates how my life runs day to day!  I wanted someone who knows their stuff and has proven results.  I wanted someone with experience coaching other pros and keeping their athletes healthy.  And most of all, I wanted someone who pays attention to all the details that encompass being a good athlete.  I wanted someone who leaves no stone un-turned - a person that looks at stress as a whole, sleep, nutrition, all the little pieces beyond just swim/bike/run.  And in looking for that "someone" I found QT2 Systems.

So far I'm overwhelmed (in a GOOD way)!  My brain is swimming with all sorts of details and things to think about - new ways of looking at things, new workouts to tackle; new details to take care of that I never even considered before.  I've been doing triathlon for 7 years now so I wouldn't consider myself new to the sport but in the past couple weeks I've learned a ton!  Just today as Tim (my QT2 coach) went over my season plan with me, I had all these "oh, so THAT'S how that works" or "oh, so THAT'S why we do it that way" moments.

So while change is hard, change is also turning out to be exciting and invigorating.  And I think my body will respond nicely to some different physical challenges.  Can't wait to find out!

Next up - ch-ch-changes to my race schedule.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Weekend Away Sans Bike

Today ends a week of awesome recovery for me.  I worked out about 6-7 hours and never got my HR above 145.  I did swim workouts so short it's questionable whether or not it was worth getting wet!  It was amazing and very much needed.

In addition to sleeping a lot, I took the first part of the week to get my life organized.  I had only been away for about 2 weeks but it seemed like 2 months.  Once that was accomplished, O and I took the second part of the week to get away for a short trip to Florida.  Kind of a last minute idea, the trip was to celebrate O's birthday and our upcoming 11th anniversary - a trip for O to enjoy the things HE likes, none of which had anything to do with triathlon (not that he doesn't like triathlon but...)!  I took neither my bike NOR my computer.  Seriously.  It was my most favorite packing experience ever.

So when presented with the option to go ANYWHERE and do ANYTHING he wanted for a long weekend, what did O choose?  He picked Florida and LOTS of baseball watching of course!  It was tons of fun and just what the doctor ordered.  We are rested and recharged and ready to take summer on in full force!  (which I believe means lots of training for me :)

The first night we went to a Tampa Bay Rays game, one of O's favorites.  They play in a dome that doesn't have a retractable roof.  Inside baseball is a little weird but I wasn't complaining that we weren't sitting in 90+ degree heat!
Can you spot the photo bomb?  :)  (I was trying to take a picture of our new TB hats)
The ballpark also has a tank full of live stingrays that you can TOUCH!  I pet a stingray!  It was wet and slippery.
It's not a game without ballpark food (ie: neon cheese!). That's O's hand with a beignet.  I told him beignets aren't ballpark food but he didn't seem to care.
The next morning we ran along the bay front and saw this awesome tree. 
Don't see these guys too often in Pittsburgh!
There was also mini-golf...

Turns out I better stick to triathlon.
...and the driving range...
...and the batting cages.  (I definitely just served as cheerleader for this)
We also visited Clearwater beach (you might recognize this view if you ever did the 70.3 in Clearwater).
And finished the weekend off with more baseball, a minor league game (O's favorite) in Dunedin.
Gotta love minor league baseball.  They have mascot races!  :)