Thursday, December 3, 2015

And So It Goes

So yea, turns out I didn't race Ironman Arizona.  Oops.  What happened is this: after my not-so-awesome race at Ironman Chattanooga, I was pretty pumped to get an opportunity in Arizona to redeem myself and put some of my fitness to use.  But then my body just didn't come around.  Or maybe it was my mind?  Training wasn't great but I hung in there.  Then training still wasn't great but I hung in there.  And then training STILL wasn't great and I found myself sitting outside the YMCA one morning in tears because I REALLY didn't want to swim.  Wow, not sure how I got there.

So I took a step back and bailed on Arizona and got off season off to an early start.  Not how I had it planned but this entire year hasn't exactly gone to plan, so, yea.  What I've learned is, you have to roll with the punches.

I recently watched a documentary about Team Foxcatcher (disturbing story of John DuPont's team of wrestlers) and in it, Mark Schultz comments about how, to reach your potential as an athlete, your life has to be extremely stable.  That resonated with me quite loudly.  My life has been anything BUT that for the past year.  And I think what happened in Chattanooga and following the race is, it finally all caught up with me.

I will admit that I worried that the fire to train and race wouldn't come back and that my body wouldn't ever come around again.  I spent a few weeks doing absolutely nothing.  Then a few weeks doing what I felt like and then last week, I decided to actually try to "train".  It went well.  I do indeed still love to swim, bike and run.  That's a relief!  But still, just taking it one step, one day at a time.  So far, so good.

In the mean time, I've been doing other stuff:

I met #mavicthedog.

This thing is evil and makes you really sore.

Turbo?  Yes please.

Great little spot.  To ride a bike or to watch other people ride bikes.

Fall in New England is really pretty.

Don't have to twist my arm!

There was a girls night (or two or three...).

I rode a mountain bike.

Like for real!  On hard trails!  Turns out, I'm not too good.

I went to the zoo in Greenville.  They have a giant anteater.  He is awesome.

Wait, another picture of coffee?  Patriots win, Dunks gives out free coffee.  Go Pats.  Maybe one of these days, you'll have one for the thumb, too.  

Seriously?  Heartbreaking.

I've been swimming with a great masters group and the day after Thanksgiving they did 100x100.  I did 50x100 which seemed like enough.  

I was trying to hold out to get to the cheap gas station (gas for $1.97/gallon!).  I was only sweating bullets for 15 or 20 minutes.

A nice little reminder.  I will need this.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Finishing What I Started

This past Sunday I swam, biked and ran my way through Chattanooga, TN during my 10th Ironman. As I was treading water (more like holding onto a rope, trying not to get swept down the Tennessee River) waiting for the canon to go off, I sincerely believed I could win the race.  This was the first time in my career that I truly, with all my heart, thought I could make this happen.  Not necessarily because my training had been so great or that I had the results all year to suggest as such.  But rather simply because I believed that I belonged and that if someone had to win, I was as good as any to be that person.

I didn't win.  In fact, I didn't even come close.  As in the winner of the race, Carrie Lester, was done, showered, had eaten and was taking a nap by the time I found my way to the finish line.  Not only did I not win, I didn't make it onto the podium at all and in fact, for much of the marathon, just finishing was in question.

So what happened?  Well a multitude of things happened.  I made some execution errors on the bike.  Some caffeine errors, perhaps.  I definitely forgot how long an Ironman is and possibly didn't give the distance the respect it deserves.  My body didn't want to cooperate physically and then I let the disappointment of not having the day I wanted, take over me mentally.  So in other words, nothing really happened.  I just didn't have the day that I imagined and there were many women that were faster and that beat me.  And that's okay.  This is sport and sport doesn't always go the way we hoped.  But despite what turned into one of my slowest IMs (as a pro), the fact remains, for the first time I BELIEVED.  And that is pretty big.  Pretty darn big.

My day started to go south on the back half of the bike and the marathon was a struggle pretty much from the first step.  26.2 miles is a LOOOOONG way to feel bad.  It's especially long when you are running a good 1:30-2 minutes/mile slower than you want to be.  I waffled between dropping out or sticking it out for much of the first half.  I didn't need to prove to myself that I could do an IM and I have more races this year so why slog this one out?  But then it dawned on me that quitting really isn't an option and so I accepted that, as slow as it might be, as poorly as the results would look, as damaging to the ego that it would be, I was going to finish what I started.  So I thanked the volunteers (you have a lot of time to chat when you are trotting along), I made friends with age groupers on their first loop, I ate all the good stuff at the aid stations that I usually skip, I cheered for each pro lady and each of my teammates as they ran past me, I thought a lot about how racing is a privilege and, well, I just kept plugging along.

The bike went well until it didn't.  On a positive note, the course was awesome and there were lots of pigs, horses, goats and sheep to look at.
That's my "let's hope for the best" smile when starting the run.  Well, one can always hope...
The best part of the day?  This one right here CRUSHED IT.  And we toasted her great day with Little Debbies afterwards.  I highly recommend peanut butter cream pies.

I am very happy that I made the decision to finish.  I'm not criticizing the pros that drop out to save it for "another day" but that really just isn't me.  Plus I got to see a side of Ironman racing that I don't normally get to see.  It brought a lot of perspective to my experience as an athlete.  So onward and upward - luckily I get another shot soon in Arizona!

Huge thank yous to the village that it takes to get me to the starting line each race:  A great group of sponsors.  The homestay families that take me in all over the country (Hal and Cheryl - you were AWESOME!).  My own family that has seen me through every up and every down since I first put on a pair of running shoes and decided racing was a fun way to pass the time.  To a wonderful group of QT2 teammates and friends that make me laugh and help me keep it all in perspective.  And finally, to Tim, Kristen, John and the entire 441, for seeing me through the hardest time in my life and for helping me learn how to live, REALLY live, again.  Maybe one of these days I really will win one of these things to make you all proud.  In the mean time, let's keep having fun.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

You ARE a Pumpkin-woman!

One of my absolute favorite things to do is race.  Like I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY like it.  Like really.  So when, a few weeks back, my coach asked me if I wanted to race Pumpkinman Half in Maine, he didn't even get the full sentence out before I was signed up.  Yes sir!

Pumpkinman is a pretty awesome race.  Kat, the race director, takes care of all the details as if it's a big WTC affair, yet it still very much has a local, low key feel to it.  The best of both worlds!

Plus, this is the post race meal.  No lies.  Full on Thanksgiving dinner that was SO FREAKING GOOD.  I legitimately  would have done the race all over again if it meant I got to get back in line for seconds.  Don't lie, you all want to do the race now too.
I swam well (for me) and finally got myself under 30 minutes again.  The swim might have been a bit short, but at the very least, I felt like myself again in the water.  Wing is coming around just in time.  Then I rode really hard.  I was given the go ahead to go at it on the bike and, trust me, you don't have to tell me that twice!  At one point I thought to myself "you DO still have to run after this, so maybe we need to back it down a notch".  Still, I felt good and strong.  The cycling legs are coming around.  And finally, I got to really enjoy the run which was the best part.  I cheered for people, I thanked volunteers and I smiled.  It was a fun day.

You do have to run up this into T1.  There are actually prizes for the fastest times.  Let it be known, I was in NO danger of winning one of these prizes.

It was a wet, chilly day but New Englanders are tough and I didn't hear any complaints.  I kinda couldn't feel my feet at this point on the bike.
When I was finishing I heard a woman scream "You ARE a Pumpkin-woman!".  Not sure how I feel about that.
You might notice that I'm wearing the race shirt on the day of the race.  In general this is a no-no, but when one doesn't bring enough warm clothes, one is very, very thankful for the awesome long sleeve, hooded race shirt and will break all the rules to keep warm.
I really hope I get to return to Pumpkinman next year!  I highly recommend it as a nice end of the season half or in preparation for a fall IM.  Indeed, that's what I used it for.  IM Chattanooga here we come!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Tiiiiiiiiiiimberman 70.3 (Plus More)

I really need to stop waiting 3-4 weeks in between each blog post.

Let's see, in the last few weeks, I raced twice.  YES!  I didn't get to race much at the beginning of the season so I'm making up for lost time now!

First, I did a local sprint triathlon.  I haven't raced that short or that close to home in 3 or 4 years.  It was awesome.  Also, I out split my coach on the bike.  Goal accomplished.

I did NOT out split anyone in the swim though.  Shoulder is getting stronger but we still got a ways to go.  Also, I'd like it to be known that I did not steal this picture (I have a pet peeve about that), but that each athlete got their choice of one free one!  Cool.

1:13 isn't a very long time to race but oh man was there a lot of pain packed into that 1:13.

It was a good, fun day with my teammates and friends.

And then we rode our bikes for 3 hours after the race because Ironman is stupid.

But then we got to the post-race BBQ and all was right in the world again.

The same week/weekend of the sprint race, Kim, my sister from another mother, was visiting me.  Kim and I have been friends for the majority of my life and so it was great to have her in town and be able to hang out like old times.  She has seen me through thick and thin and been there for me every step of the way.  Super cheesy and cliche, but good, true friends really are like gold.

And of course we ate ice cream.  Duh.
The following weekend after the sprint, Kait, Matt and I loaded up the minivan and headed north to New Hampshire for Timberman 70.3.

If these two ever get sick of their third wheel, I'm in serious trouble.

I was pleased with my race in Timberman.  I don't quite know what to expect from myself these days, other than a good, hard effort.  But what I've found is that letting go of the expectations can be a very good thing.  My swim at Timberman was improved (still bad, but improved).  I biked better than I ever have and rode my way into 3rd/4th into T2.  And then, after falling to 5th on the run, I clawed my way back into 4th at mile 12 and held it to the end.  It was a strong field and I was pleased.  And most of all, it was just fun to RACE.  When the WTC restructured the pro races this year, removing pro fields from some races and thereby concentrating the fields at other races, I wasn't sure how I felt about it.  I knew it would likely mean less prize money for me.  But in reality, I absolutely love it.  Each time I've raced this year, it's been a big, strong women's field and it has been AWESOME.  Each race has felt like a RACE with people to go after and chase or try and hold off.  That is why we do this!  I race triathlon because I love to race other people and see where I stack up, not because I like to see how fast I can go in a TT effort.  Anyway, I've gotten a bit off topic, but suffice it to say, I have really enjoyed racing some great gals this season, thus far!

And if you ever get the chance to go to Timberman, do it.  Because this is where you get to race.

Post race we went to an OAR concert in Portsmouth, NH.  I had so much caffeine in my system from racing, I never skipped a beat.

After Timberman it was back home and back to work.  This past week I swam the most yards I have since breaking my shoulder - 16,200.  Yup, that's pretty pathetic!  HA!  But I also can't express how amazed I am at how well the body can heal itself.  It wasn't long ago that I could barely swim a 100 with FINS!  And this past week I did one 6K swim and also a set of 50s with ankle bands.  The amount of pain that would have caused just a few weeks ago is absolutely off the charts.  But this week my shoulder handled it with barely a squawk.  Thank you, body.  You rock.

Riding bikes in the summer.  Not a bad gig.

Also, you should know that I've become a bit obsessed with goats.  Because look how cute this is.

So when we were in Hartford, CT yesterday to speak at a QT2 continuing ed seminar, and I saw that they have a baseball team called the Yard Goats?  Well, let's just say I know who I'm rooting for from now on...

And yes, every blog post should end with a watermelon picture.  #fact

Monday, July 27, 2015

Since We Last Spoke...

...I RACED!  Not going to lie, it was a bit of a rough experience (including the $263 speeding ticket I got on the drive from the airport PLUS 4 more points on my license...oh man...).  I was the last pro out of the water.  I flatted on the bike.  But the real issue is, my legs flatted too!  Ooooops!  I felt out of shape and NOT race ready.  But you know what?  It was so awesome to race again, I didn't care.  I may have a long way to go but at least I'm moving in the right direction.  And any race, even when you don't perform like you want, is better than sitting at home on the couch with a broken shoulder.

Plus, we had fun.

When in Wisconsin, one obviously wears a cheesehead.

Racine, you were rough.  But we got 'er done.

I might have drank a fruit salad in the airport on the way home.

I also went to a few concerts since last time I wrote.  I highly recommend Billy Joel at Fenway Park.

And Slightly Stoopid at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion.  Pretty sure I was high from second hand smoke.

And then there was the trip to Lake Placid that I just returned from.  It was my first time in Lake Placid.  First time watching an Ironman.  Many firsts.  And it was awesome.

Mirror Lake.  Not a shabby place to do all your swimming for a week.

I worked The Core Diet booth at the IMLP expo.  I've never answered so many questions about beet juice in my life.

Found a picture of myself at the expo at the NormaTec booth.  And then Michelle made me take my picture by it.

Did a bunch of training, including climbing to the clouds up Whiteface Mountain.

Did an absolutely awesome ride with the boys.  Although at the time I'm not sure "awesome" is the word I would have used to describe what was happening.

And then there was just the normal every days.  Smiling.  Feeling alive.

And eating watermelon.  Duh.

Until next time.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Starting Over

This year has, thus far, been a year of "starting over", in many different ways.  At times it's been disheartening.  At times thrilling.  At times very scary.  At times extremely frustrating.  Through it all I've tried to keep an open mind, an open heart and the cursing to a minimum.  I've failed miserably.  I've seen some success.  I've laughed hysterically.  I've cried (a lot).  I've been overwhelmed with gratefulness for the true friends and family that have seen me through it all (and continue to do so).  And I've tried to remember that life is pretty damn awesome every single day.  And that even when it hurts, it still feels really GOOD to feel so alive.  I've got a lifetime to live yet.  The only way to do it is with happiness.

In a few weeks I'm going to Racine, WI to race.  My shoulder has been slow to heal.  I've only swam a handful of times and my bike/run fitness is lacking too.  But I don't really care.  What I've learned with each re-start is this: you have to start somewhere.  And starting over ain't so bad, after all.

The past few months...

There have been some bad days.

But also some amazingly good days.

I rode my bike to the Atlantic Ocean.

And around Lake Cayuga in upstate, NY.

And up the Kanc (x2!) in New Hampshire.

I highly recommend stopping for pie mid-ride.

I got to swim in the beautiful facility at Ithaca College.

But most of my swimming (as limited as it's been) has taken place in this beauty of a "pool".

If you're ever in Boston, go to see Joshua Tree, awesome U2 cover band.

A little reminder from a very wise friend.