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)