30 July 2012

The Post-Ironman Bender

Ocean View from my bike ride
There are few things in life that are better than the post-Ironman bender... until you are so stuffed with doughnuts, caramel corn, homemade hot fudge, ice cream, and chocolate cake and suddenly find yourself at a bar taking shots, drinking sangria and wonder if you've suddenly reverted back to your college ways and all that's needed is a packet of Easy Mac and chopped up hot dogs to complete the picture - and you hope that fruits, veggies, exercise start calling your name so you can return to a semblance of your regularly scheduled routine.

But everyone needs a departure from routine once in awhile, especially after a hard effort, and an opportunity to indulge in treats.  It's departures like these that rejuvenate and refresh and recharge your batteries so you feel ready to get back to your usual training.  I figure if you eat Dunkin' Dounuts munchkins to the point of never wanting to see another one again, it's a successful bender and you won't mind going back to fruits and veggies.

After loading up the car with multiple bags of kettle cooked chips, a 1.5 foot long hoagie, and a giant bag of Mini Eggs, we were on our way to Cape Cod for a few days to visit my Uncle Charlie and Aunt Karen.  When I was a kid, they would have all of the cousins down for a week at their house every summer.  It was every child's dream - right on a lake, next to a bike path that led directly to a general store with penny candy, multiple trips to the beach, etc, etc, etc. Mr. Sweetie and I had a great trip to "Camp Beggs" as adults - complete with bike rides, trips to the beach, Four Seas ice cream, and visits with family.  And lobster.  Lots of lobster.  I slept a ton and slept hard - probably the result of a combination of post-IM fatigue and fresh ocean air.  It was perfect.  I read books (need to catch up if I have any hope of reading the goal 50 books this year).  I baked.  Charlie and I demolished the bag of Mini Eggs.  We took the boat out towards Nauset beach and I had my eyes peeled for sharks since Great Whites have been hanging out in the area (I opted NOT to go swimming at this beach since there were seals.  Don't want to be mistaken for a seal).  THANK YOU Charlie and Karen for an awesome vacation, we can't wait to come back next year!  I'll be sure to bring more Mini Eggs for you Charlie!

See that shark bait right there??

Pushing off, hoping not to get swamped.  Always an adventure boating with Charlie.
We made a little tour of our favorite places on Cape Cod during our stay.  Mr. Sweetie and I got married in Centerville almost 6 years ago, at the church right down the street from my grandmother's house, so we stopped by to wave hello to the church on our way to visit my grandma and go to lunch with her.  And teach her how to use her brand new cell phone (can I tell you I almost fell off my chair when Grandma told me she bought a cell phone).  My next goal is to get her to text.  

Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church in Centerville

I slyly took this picture of Grandma and I
 We stopped by Four Seas Ice Cream shop (otherwise known as: Home of the Best Ice Cream and Hot Fudge on Earth).  Four Seas ice cream was the very first stop we made as a newly-married couple (much to my mother's chagrin and worry that I'd spill ice cream on my wedding dress).  Four Seas is a Cape Cod staple - everything is homemade, from the hot fudge to the multiple flavors of ice cream.

After Cape Cod, I spent the weekend in NYC with my friend from high school, Kim.  We had a fantastic time catching up and she showed me a good time in the city.  Oh lord, I even found myself doing shots at a bar (tame, girly shots, of course - and I drank plenty of water to combat any of the effects).  Sunday morning I was brought back to reality by a Training Peaks e-mail letting me know that Monday was back to the grind with my regularly scheduled swimbikerun workouts.

Hehe, speaking of workouts, prior to today, the only sweating I did was an easy bike ride around Harwich and Chatham on the Cape and a two mile run that had a quick jump into the ocean thrown in the middle of it.

Bender is mostly over.  There are still remnants of chocolate (hey, I can't leave a container of chocolate frosting to rot in the fridge, that would be a crime), but at least there's some swimming and biking and running mixed back in as a counterbalance.

26 July 2012

Race Report: Ironman Lake Placid 2012

Take a seat and pop open a cold one - this is long.  I was full of anticipation and excitement for Ironman #6.  I went into the race feeling well-rested, well-fed, and tapered as all heck.  I'd had the most fun ever in my training this season because I had so many fantastic training partners.  The notes and facebook messages and e-mails were overwhelming in such a good way.  I've never ever felt more excited and ready to race an Ironman.  I was also looking forward to see how I did on the Lake Placid course this year compared to last year since this was the first time I've done the same course more than once.

View of the Adirondacks from Vermont 

My parents were awesome and watched their grandpuppy Miles for us while we were up in Lake Placid.  This meant a bit of a detour into the Motherland (New Hampshire) on our drive up to Lake Placid; while this added a bit of extra time to the drive, it afforded us the opportunity to drive through some rural roads of Vermont and take in some beautiful scenery.  Thanks to some wonderful friends, Kate and Nelson, Mark and I had the chance to stay right in town, mere steps from Transition.  This has converted us for future races, never again will we stay far from the race site, the convenience factor is just too great.
Snow!  In July!  It's almost like Christmas!

Stacey and I ready for some fun!

Friday and Saturday were spent soaking up the Ironman atmosphere.  On Friday I did packet pick-up with Mindy and Bart and then we drove the bike course.  We took a refreshing dip in Mirror Lake and I took my bike out for a spin on the run course (the hills were just as big as last year).  I chatted for awhile with Jen on the race execution plan.  Both days I stuffed my face with pasta and pancakes in a valiant effort to top off the energy tank for Sunday.  I was also sleeping a bunch.  Saturday I got my pre-race brick over with first thing in the AM.  Then I headed over to the high school to sign up for Ironman Lake Placid 2013 (why not?!)  Saturday afternoon I had a chance to catch up with Melanie for a few hours and then suddenly it was time for dinner.  Mr. Sweetie and I grabbed some ice cream from Ben and Jerry's after an early dinner (because ice cream = good luck) and I met up with Stacey from tri camp for a little bit.  She was going to be volunteering in the women's transition tent the next day because she planned on signing up for IMLP 2013 too (hooray!).  All of the time I was able to spend with my friends up at the race really put me at ease and helped get me excited for the race.  It was such a boost to know I'd be seeing them throughout race day and Sunday couldn't get here fast enough.
Driving the Bike Course!

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I'd spent much of the last week before the race reading motivational race reports, thinking back to positive race experiences I've had, re-reading letters and notes and e-mails from friends (like you, Sarah Shaulis and Julia Weisbecker!!) to get mentally ready for the race.  On Saturday afternoon Mindy stopped by my hotel and dropped off a card she'd made for me (because she is the sweetest person EVER!!).  Mindy - I read that card over and over for the rest of the day.  And I thought about some of the quotes in it during the race when things were NOT going the way I'd hoped.
YES to putting in the miles while the rest of the world is asleep.
To doing what I want, when I want to do it.
To pushing through the pain because giving up hurts more.
YES to not being afraid to fail.
YES to self-belief, knowing that I'm good but I can always be better." (Thank you Mindy and Nike for the inspiration, you have no idea how helpful some of these quotes were).

Transition Before the Storm
Race morning finally, FINALLY arrived and would you believe that I leapt right out of bed when the alarm went off at 4:15 and jumped on Mr. Sweetie yelling It's race morning, it's almost like Christmas!!!  Poor Mr. Sweetie, he puts up with alot.  I dressed quickly and thanks to the Justin's Hazelnut Chocolate nut butter, I was able to stuff down both of my bagels (this never happens - any other day of the year I can eat two bagels no problem but race morning I suddenly lose my appetite and the loss of appetite is proportionate to the size of the race).  My stomach had been bothering me since we arrived in Lake Placid so two Immodium went down the hatch as well as a precaution.  Our hotel was super close to transition so I took my sweet time getting ready.  This was great until I realized it was 5:45 and transition would be closing in 45 minutes and I was paranoid that it would take me all 45 minutes to hook my bento box to my bike, add my water bottles, and drop off a few more items in my gear bag.  This was when the pre-race nerves made themselves known.  I don't like the last hour or two before the start gun goes off - too much nervous energy and nowhere good to channel it.  As I walked back from dropping off my special needs bags, I saw Melanie and gave her a good luck hug.  When I wandered into the water after putting on my wetsuit, I was desperately searching the pink caps looking for Mindy since I hadn't seen her yet that morning.  I finally saw her and Bart and our friend John, hugs and good lucks all around, and then Mindy split off from the rest of us and went out front since she is a super speedy swimmer.  The rest of us floated around a little to the right, a few rows back from the front, waiting for the cannon to go off.  And then... BOOM.

The Swim: 1:07:02
It was a washing machine for the first 400m per usual.  My stomach was also feeling unsettled, but I figured it was remnants of race-morning nerves.  There were a few moments where I was thinking, wow this is NOT fun at all but as I made my way a little more to the right, I was able to find clear water and I started bridging the gaps between groups of swimmers, constantly in search of clear water.  I wore a wetsuit this year and hoped this would help me get a better time than last year's dismal 1:17.  I'm not a swimmer and ALL of my Ironman swims (except for Beach2Battleship which doesn't count because we had a current) have been between 1:15-1:17 so I was prepared to be thrilled with anything below 1:15.  Anything below 1:10 was a pipe dream.  Once I found clear water I also fell into a rhythm with my stroke.  One of my big issues during the Ironman swim is the fact that I lose focus because 2.4 miles is simply a long time to stay totally plugged in to my stroke, my breathing, my pull, etc.  I've gotten better at focusing in the past year and this time around I REALLY wanted to break the 1:15 barrier because I haven't been swimming 90 minutes multiple days a week, getting up at 4:30AM to bike to the pool, for nothing.  I could feel the "aha" moment during my pull when it felt like I was moving easily through the water, especially when I had clear water.  Once I reached the turn buoys things got crowded again, just as they always do, but they thinned out again once we were headed back to shore.  During the first loop I drafted off of feet here and there, but nothing serious.  I didn't look at my watch at all during the swim - don't want to waste any time - and I was a little worried my first loop was a bit slow because of the crowds at the beginning and around the turn buoys.  You can't imagine my elation when I got onto the sand after my first loop, looked at my watch and saw a 32:xx staring me in the face.  HOLY COW!!  I could completely implode on the second loop and still probably come in under 1:15 (not that I wanted that to happen, but at least I had a huge cushion of time).  This was faster than any of the half Ironman swims I've done and I couldn't have been more thrilled as I jumped back into the water and was sucked out into the water for the second loop (the draft at LP is pretty awesome).  The second loop was FULL of clear water and I was able to swim without any impediments.  Nobody bumped into me, nobody jostled me, nobody grabbed my feet.  I did minimal sighting, just to make sure I was still headed in a straight line, and pulled like my life depended on it - a sub-1:10 was suddenly in the realm of possibilities and why not go for broke?  After the turn buoy (much less crowded the second time around), I found a pair of award-winning feet to draft off of.  She was just a smidgeon faster than I was so I had to work to stay in her draft, but this meant I was definitely going faster than I would've been able to go alone.  She was sighting every so often and never went off course.  Believe me, I would've fought tooth and nail if anyone tried to steal these feet.  I followed them all the way back into shore, coming out of the water in 1:07.  As a non-swimmer, I was flabbergasted with my time.  I never, EVER thought I'd be going under 1:10.  Ever.  This was a ten minute improvement over last year.  Swimming is finally less of a liability (and even when it's a liability, I still love it and see it as one of the most enjoyable parts of triathlon).

T1: 6:21
It's a decent run from the lake to transition.  After a brief foray with the wetsuit strippers, you run off the beach onto the street and down the road into the speed skating oval.  The whole way is lined with spectators and this is such an awesome part of the race (especially if you are over-the-moon thrilled with your swim time, like I was).  I grabbed my bike bag, ran towards the changing tent, waved at Mr. Sweetie, and Stacey and I squealed like a pair of sorority girls when we saw each other.  I gave her a giant hug at least twice, still gushing about my swim time.  She brought me over to a chair, dumped out my bike bag, and I yammered on and on while putting on my bike shoes, helmet, and stuffing my bra with various bags of NUUN, salt tabs, and Hammer Gels.  I ran out of the tent, around the transition area, grabbed my bike from a nice volunteer, and jumped on my bike.

The Bike: 6:15:45
Oh the bike.  I love the bike, but I love it more when things go my way.  My plan for the bike was to pay attention to my cadence (thank you Mr. Sweetie for installing my cadence monitor, it worked like a charm on race day!) and my heart rate (Zone 2 - low Zone 3).  I didn't want to destroy my legs and leave nothing for the run so I planned on shamelessly using my easy gears to spin my way up the hills.  As I headed out of town on the bike, I was getting passed left and right by guys on fast bikes and a few fast girls.  The first four miles were fast and easy - wow, look at me, I'm making 19mph look and feel easy!!  Then I hit the first hill and had my first reality check as my speed dropped dramatically.  I kept my cadence within the 85-100 range and the legs felt pretty good going up the hill.  Then again, it was just the first few miles of the race and it would be a bad, bad sign if the legs were not feeling pretty good - that sign would be pointing to LONG DAY AHEAD.  I started right in on my nutrition plan.  A gel every 15 minutes for the first two hours, a sip of water with NUUN every 10 minutes and a salt tab every 30 minutes.  Unfortunately, by minute 45 of the first hour, my stomach wanted NOTHING to do with another gel.  Or a PowerBar.  The thought of any nutrition was making my stomach turn.  I decided to give it a few more minutes and just have a gel every 20 minutes instead, listen to my body and try to work with it as much as possible.  Up until race day, I've never had an aversion to gels.  I gagged down more gels every 20 minutes, I tried to take in small amounts at a time because the gag reflex was worse when I tried to down larger quantities of gel.  I wasn't feeling super nauseous, per se, but my stomach just felt off.  The rest of me felt good during the first loop, the descent into Keene was fun, though I did tap my brakes a few times and kept a hawk eye out for potholes.  Once I hit the bottom I settled into my aerobars and enjoyed the 15+ miles of flat.  If there was ever a part of the Lake Placid Ironman that was a confidence booster, this out and back past Jay would be it.  I watched my speed creep up and started doing the mental math, thinking that a sub-6 hour bike ride was a possibility if I continued to feel as good as I was feeling 1.5 hours into the race (HAHAHA).  I kept an eye out and yelled hello to Melanie and Mindy who had already gone past the turnaround.  I made it around the turnaround unscathed (in fact, I made it around all 4 turnarounds unscathed, proof there is a God).  I hit Jay and the first major hill back into town, spinning up it in an easy gear to save my legs.  My stomach still wasn't feeling super happy but the rest of me was, so all was right in the world.  There was more climbing than I remembered to get into Wilmington, but we were rewarded with some downhill and flats before going into the final 10 miles of the loop, which were mainly uphill into town.  These last ten miles are the hardest part of the loop, in my opinion.  It's a steady uphill - nothing steep but it doesn't need to be steep to be soul-sucking.  There were some great volunteers and spectators out there cheering us on.  I saw Mindy at this point and we exchanged a few words of encouragement as we continued forward.  The highlight of this section is hitting the last of the three bears - the uphill is lined with people Tour de France style, and you feel like a rockstar as you spin up the hill.  As I came through town in just a hair under three hours, I saw Mark and other friends and waved and smiled my way through the streets.

I started the second loop with high hopes that I could negative split the ride and end up with a sub-6 hour time.  As I climbed up the first hill of my second loop, I felt noticeably more fatigued than I did three hours before (I don't know why I was surprised seeing as I'd had 56 more miles on my legs at that point).  I think I was sweating more than I realized because the elbow pads on my aerobars were soaked with sweat and I felt like my right elbow was getting chafed.  Lovely.  I saw Melanie at this point in the race and it was nice to exchange a few encouraging words on the course.  As I hit the flats down in Keene, I was quickly aware of how hot it had become.  The forecast had called for low to mid-80s, but I had heard a number of people saying it was closer to the high 80s - there wasn't any humidity so the heat simply crept up on me.  My stomach was still feeling sour and I was forcing the gels down.  NUUN was no longer appealing so I stuck with straight water.  As I hit the third turnaround, I was becoming a little less certain that a sub-6 hour bike split was going to happen.  I was feeling significantly less fresh, even though I'd been keeping my heart rate and cadence under control, a little bonky perhaps because eating was so unappealing, and I was facing the uphill part of the loop.  Oh and let's not forget about the fact that the wind had picked up.  Significantly.  Making the last 15 miles of the second loop last forever.  My average pace for the last 26 miles was a dismal 14.6mph.  Talk about soul crushing.  The headwind on the second loop made this year's bike leg more challenging and slower than last year's bike leg.  The bonky feeling was getting worse at this point and I was sucking down water and trying to cram down gels in an effort to stave off trouble.  At this point I was counting down the miles to the end of the bike.  I felt more tired and spent and I don't think I could've gone much faster on the bike course.

T2: 4:41
I was thrilled to both hand off my bike as I entered transition and see Stacey as I switched over to my run gear.  I swapped out a visor for my helmet and run shoes for my bike shoes. Even though gels were ridiculously unappealing, I stuffed five gels in my back pocket.  I made sure my arms had Aquaphor in strategic places (thank you Melody for the lifetime supply!!).   Some very nice volunteers smeared sunblock on my shoulders, neck, and arms as I headed out of transition.  I saw Mr. Sweetie on my way out and gave him a thumbs up, trying to stay positive about the run.

The Run: 4:39:04
The run is where it can either all come together or all fall apart.  Or its where things don't go quite as planned but you figure out how to do some damage control and still salvage some semblance of a respectable finish.  My plan (which always seems easier when writing it down than when executing it) was to start with nine minute miles and try to maintain that until I hit mile 18 and then I'd try to pick up the pace.  Sounds easy and this usually is easy if I haven't biked 112 miles beforehand.  Sigh.  The first mile ticked by at 8:44, which was surprising because I felt like I was moving at a glacial pace.  Must've been all that downhill out of town.  My stomach was still feeling off, but there wasn't much I could do but move forward.  I grabbed a little water at the second aid station and kept trucking along.  Right before the mile 3 marker I took in a little gel.  And right after the mile 3 marker, I was suddenly on the side of the road, dry heaving like never before and hoping SOMETHING would come out so I would feel better.  I wanted to hit the reset button and hopefully get a do-over with my sour stomach.  It was about this time that my friend Tom came by and he nicely waited for me to finish my date with the side of the road.  I'd walk a few steps, retch on the side of the road, jog a few steps, retch on the side of the road, repeat.  You get the point.  This went on for about a quarter mile or so.  By the end, I was feeling better and got back to running.  The thought of gels made my stomach curl so those were out of the contention for consumption.  I was in damage control mode - I didn't know exactly what was causing my stomach issues (maybe dehydration?) but I knew I needed to keep drinking and somehow get calories down or the marathon was going to be an ugly event to behold.  I opted for coke and water and I started taking some at almost every water stop.  Walking the waterstops was not part of the plan, but neither was my nutrition fail or getting sick on the side of the road.  Ironman is all about flexibility and figuring out alternative plans.  I wasn't very chatty at this point, but Tom kept up a good stream of conversation and it was a good distraction from the sour stomach.  Around mile 7 one of the aid stations had chicken broth.  This stuff is like crack.  I grabbed a cup and a few minutes later, I felt a surge of energy, my stomach felt more cooperative, and I settled into a slightly faster pace for a few miles.  I suddenly felt more positive about my run - maybe this wouldn't be a total loss, I might not make sub-4 but maybe I won't be that far off.  I was feeling proud of myself for not giving up, for realizing that Ironman is a long day and the peaks and valleys are an inevitable part of the race.  I reached the first big hill on the loop back into town and managed to continue the Ironman shuffle up it.  I kept grabbing water and coke at waterstops, knowing that the run was not quite halfway done.  The hill back into the center of town looked ridiculously huge and steep and I just focused my eyes on a point just ahead of my feet and kept trucking forward.  I saw Stacey at the top of the hill and it was the boost I needed to keep going forward.  I saw Mark and told him to text Jen and tell her I was doing OK.  I saw some of the pro women finishing their marathon and enter the speedskating oval as I was reaching the halfway point.  I headed back out of town, feeling as decent as could be expected.

I took the marathon one mile at a time.  Thinking about all 26 miles at once was overwhelming.  After I left town again, I just tried to stay positive.  There was no walking, except here and there at the aid stations.  I desperately wanted grapes but I didn't know how well they would sit in my stomach.  I was also craving more chicken broth - the energy from the first cup a number of miles back had worn off but, sadly, no other aid stations were carrying it yet, so I stuck with coke and water.  I saw Mindy and Melanie a bit after the turnaround, giving encouraging words and hugs.  At this point I knew I would magically need to run substantially faster if I was going to go even close to 4 hours.  Suddenly at mile 20, the sour stomach struck again and I was on the side of the road again, getting sick (one way to make you NOT feel better: hearing people going the other way say, "what is that sound" as you are hunched over, making awful noises.  Lovely).  After this episode, I felt a little better again and decided that I only had 6 miles left and I was done taking in any water or calories - I didn't want to risk getting sick on the side of the road again, especially once I got back in the town swarming with spectators. Just 10k left, I can do 10k in my sleep.  I kept running (though at this point it probably looked like an old lady doing the Ironman Shuffle), back to the beginning of River Road, up that first big hill, past the aid stations, with each step just retreating more and more inside myself and focusing on points just ahead on the road.  By this point my legs were feeling the cumulative effect of the day and walking sounded so, so tempting.  Fortunately my stomach was holding itself together at this point.  As I crested the big hill back into town, Stacey suddenly appeared next to me, waving a purple bag of Mini Eggs like a carrot in front of me.  Just two more miles and these are yours.  Stacey is awesome and even though all I could do was point and huff out "Mini Eggs", I was so, so thrilled to see Stacey out there cheering for me.  I saw Mr. Sweetie again as I made the turn to do the small out and back before the finish.  The last two miles were all grit, no pleasure, and an exercise in mental toughness.  All I could think of were grapes and how much I couldn't wait to eat grapes at the finish.  I entered the speedskating oval utterly spent.  I had nothing left as I crossed the finish line, my race coming to an end 12:12:53 after the cannon went off that morning. I came in 23rd in my age group and 555 overall (out of men and women).  The very nice volunteers draped me over the fencing where Mark was standing and I eventually wandered over to the food area in search of grapes.  I walked out with grapes and four containers of drinks - chocolate milk, water, and soda.  I settled on the hill by the oval, slowly sipping my drinks and eating grapes, hoping my stomach would hold out.

Final Thoughts.
Am I disappointed in my final time of the race?  Yes, a little bit.  I went 12:12 this year, six minutes faster than last year's 12:18 - all due to my faster swim time this year.  My bike and run were both slightly slower.  It's difficult to compare two races, even though they were on the same course, because there are so many different factors at play - weather, nutrition, wind, heat, etc.  I feel like this year's race was much more difficult for last year's - it was warmer and the wind on the second loop of the bike was brutal.  I've never had the stomach problems on the run that I had on Sunday - gels have never bothered me before and I've never felt the way I did at mile 3 and mile 20.  Looking at the fact that I didn't need to go to the bathroom until that evening (I didn't pee on my bike even once, Uncle Charlie!!), I think dehydration could've played a role in my stomach issues.  I thought I was pretty well-hydrated, but I think it was warmer than I realized.

BUT - the final race time isn't everything.  While I wish it had been faster (who doesn't feel that way about their race time), I'm happy with the way I handled myself on the bike and run, constantly listening to my body, enacting a backup plan, implementing successful damage control, and NEVER GIVING UP.  I never considered walking the marathon.  I never considered backing off my effort on the bike.  And as someone who hates anything having to do with stomach issues and I've done my best to avoid those like the plague in races, opting to walk instead of risking the effects of nausea, it was good to see that I can bounce back from stomach issues and they don't spell instant doom for my race. Two years ago, feeling the way I did during the marathon, I would've walked the whole thing (in fact I did just that in France and Wisconsin).  I'm proud of the fact that I sucked it up, toughed it out, and ran instead of walked.  It's the little things. I finished the race feeling more spent and exhausted than I've ever felt after an Ironman, leading me to believe that I could not have swam, biked, or ran faster than I did.  In the middle miles of the marathon, I found myself cursing the fact that I had signed up for Ironman Lake Placid 2013.  What was I thinking??  But a few hours removed from the race, I was glad for the chance to have redemption next year, especially since so many of my fantastic training partners are signed up as well!

IM Finisher Cake!

Post-race I hobbled back to the hotel (thank you Mr. Sweetie for grabbing my bike and gear bags and hoofing them back to the hotel earlier in the evening!), laid face-down on the yoga mat because I was far too tired to do much else, and finally mustered up the energy (or was simply tired of feeling stinky and gross) to take a shower.  Grand plans were in the works to meet at the speedskating oval to watch the midnight finish.  I got dressed in warm clothes (after the hot, hot summer in DC, I was taking advantage of every opportunity to wear a sweatshirt), grabbed the chocolate finisher cake Mr. Sweetie ordered for us finishers (yet another reason he is the best Iron-Sherpa ever), and headed over to the oval.  There's nothing like the Ironman finish line in the last hour of the race, especially when you are surrounded by amazing friends who raced with you and cheered for you and made your race unforgettable.
IMLP Racers at the Midnight Finish

I wanted to say thank you to everyone who sent good luck vibes my way.  The notes, messages, letters, e-mails, EVERYTHING were such confidence boosters and it meant so much to me that so many people were thinking of me and rooting for me.  Thank you to Mr. Sweetie for being a fantastic partner all race weekend, making sure I was full of pancakes and pasta and, post-race: chocolate.  Thank you to my parents for watching Miles for us.  Thank you to my fellow racers and training partners - Mindy, Melanie, Bart, Kristin - seeing you guys out there, knowing we were all racing together, made the difficult parts of this race bearable and the fun parts more enjoyable.  And thank you to all the spectators and volunteers for making this race an amazing event.  Thank you to Stacey for your cheers and THE MINI EGGS.  I can't wait to race with you at IMLP 2013!!  And finally, thank you to Jen for being an awesome coach and helping me reach race day more fit and ready and confident than I've ever been.

18 July 2012

How am I going to keep up... with the appetite?

I'm still not packed yet, so this is going to be short and sweet.

After Ironman I'm heading down to Cape Cod for a few days of relaxation, Four Seas Ice Cream eating, Nauset Beach shark sighting, catching up with family time.  We're staying at my Aunt Karen and Uncle Charlie's (they happen to be some of the coolest extended family out there - every summer they would have their four nieces and nephews down for a visit for a week when we were kids - BRAVE!).  I eat alot of food, that's a fact.  And I'm usually even hungrier after an Ironman and the hunger lasts for DAYS (think: waking up at 4am STARVING, even though I had a huge snack before bed).  Poor Aunt Karen, she was talking to Aunt Amy last week - What am I going to feed her, am I going to be able to... keep up?  Bwhahahaaaa, crack me up!

Sadly Aunt Karen - probably not.  Unless you buy out the daily ice cream supply of Four Seas.  Though I did like Charlie's comment to my FB post on the matter - 10 pounds of peanut butter... 12 pounds of bluefin tuna and a pizza guy who knows my name.

I think I'm in good hands.  Just throw a can of frosting in there for good measure.  Can't wait to see you Charlie and Karen!!!

15 July 2012

Many Thank You's

Ironman Lake Placid is still a week away and regardless of the outcome, whether it's the type of race where I don't want to cross the finish line because it will mean the perfect day is ending OR if it's the type of race where the finish can't get here fast enough, it doesn't change the fact that getting to the start line wasn't a solo expedition.

Thank you to all of my spandex-clad, bike-riding, own-too-many-running-shoes-to-count girlfriends for keeping me company during long rides and motivated to work hard during all of our training sessions.  Katie, Sarah, and Mindy - I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to spend this spring and summer riding bikes together, filling up each other's inboxes with emails and texts on a daily basis - know that every sweaty mile was made 10x more fun because of your company!  Kristin, it's always inspiring to see how all of your hard work unfolds into awesome races and I've loved having the chance to do some training with you (and you were very sweet for not dropping me and instead making me feel like a rockstar for keeping up :) ).  Melanie, I'm so excited that Lake Placid isn't our last race together this summer, it will be so fun to race with you in Vegas as well.  I've loved running into you on the running trails, at the pool, and riding Skyline with you and can't wait to keep it up this summer!  Karen, we didn't get to ride nearly enough together this spring, but whenever we do get together, you always push me to work harder and your company makes rides with names like Diabolical Double feel much less painful and actually enjoyable.  Here's to many more strawberry muffins in our future!  To Dawn and Kendra, all of your encouraging words, via FB and text and e-mail, have really kept my motivation high this summer.  I'm so excited for both of you and what the rest of the season has in store for you!  And to my Tucson tri camp friends, especially Julia and Sarah, the best camp roommates ever, I can't thank you enough for all of your e-mails and messages.  They truly mean the world to me (Sarah, I keep the card you wrote on my nightstand and it's making the trip up to Placid with me - and Julia, those salty nut rolls are coming to Placid too!).  Because of you both, I really am starting to believe in myself.

And of course there is Jen - coach, mentor, and sports psychologist extraordinaire.  Jen, you have absolutely molded me into a different, stronger athlete, both physically and mentally, since I began working with you.  Thank you for patiently answering my panicked e-mails, for putting up with the fact that I stink at updating Training Peaks, for being my sounding board when it comes to making up a race schedule, setting goals, and dissecting my race performance.  Thank you for giving me challenging workouts, for noting in TP "Do Not Skip This T-Run" because you know that sometimes that's the only way I'll actually do it.  You are a fantastic coach and friend and you've definitely helped push me to believe that sometimes my abilities far exceed my expectations.  And a thank you to my friends and family who have put up with me being MIA, being lame on weekends by missing out on fun in favor of going to bed at 9pm on a Saturday night.  Thank you for not giving me a hard time about doing what I really enjoy - instead you encourage me and fully support my decisions; you have no idea how much I appreciate that.

Lastly, thank you to my husband.  You make it easy for me to be able to pursue triathlon guilt-free.  Thank you for all the times you've cooked dinner for me while I've been out on my bike or swimming, thank you for putting up with my bike perpetually being set up on the trainer and half-blocking the television because I am too lazy to put it away after I use it.  Thank you for making me smoothies and picking up bags of ice for that ice bath you know I will need after a long run.  Thank you for doing so much around the house - it's pretty much every girl's dream to be on the trainer at 7am on a Saturday and have her husband come downstairs and say I've already vacuumed the upstairs, downstairs, and basement, I've cleaned the kitchen, and I've started the laundry - you won't have much to do after your ride.  And you pretty much make that dream a reality every weekend (without you, our house would be a hovel).  Post-Ironman, I will bake you whatever dessert you want and you can have the car anytime to play golf to your heart's content.  I love you. 

13 July 2012

Random Friday Facts

- I think mustaches look sketchy

- I wasn't a big fan of pizza or Chinese food growing up.  Then I worked at Dominos Pizza and waitressed at a Chinese food restaurant and had no choice but to eat the food there.

- I'm still not a big fan of soda (except at mile 20 of the Ironman marathon).

- I had to take my driver's test four times before I finally passed it when I was 16.

- My almost-three year old goddaughter learned how to say the Pledge of Allegiance recently - cutest thing ever.

- We have almost no tupperware left because I've ruined it all, letting them turn into science experiments in my bag.

- I haven't bike commuted in WEEKS!

- I used to want to be an Olympic gymnast.  Too bad I quit gymnastics when I was six - gave up on that dream pretty early.

- We got cable back for July and August only: Tour de France and the Olympics.  I've yet to actually watch the TdF though...

- I am so far behind on my 50-books-in-a-year goal it isn't even funny.

- I bought a new pair of tri shorts today.  First new pair in about 4 years.  Gross.

- I also bought a new bikini last week when I dropped a nutrition money bomb at REI.  First new bikini in more years than I can count.  Sad.

11 July 2012

Bubble wrap and positive attitude

Today was one of those days where it seemed like the world woke up on the wrong side of the bed, including me.  I have no idea why - the weather was much better than it has been in the past few weeks (read: not an oven with added humidity).  Taper has been going OK, my appetite is finally calming down and the workouts are getting done.  I have plenty of time to pack, plenty of time to make sure I have all my i's dotted and t's crossed.  It was just one of those days.

With the race being a little over a week away, this is the time I start to get paranoid.  And when I get paranoid, I get cranky.  So maybe today's crankiness was early-onset paranoia.  I've been hand-sanitizing myself every five seconds or every time I touch a doornob, wall, refrigerator, anything in a public bathroom, anything on metro, anytime before I eat, anytime before I touch my food, anytime before I cook my food, anytime after I cook my food.  Life would be easier if I could just live in a vat of hand sanitizer until race day.  And don't tell me that hand sanitizer doesn't really work.  I don't need to hear that right now (hands covering my ears - lalalaallalalalaaaaaaa).  There will be no make-out sessions with Mr. Sweetie in the near future (he knows this is coming).  I've also been known to sleep in a separate bedroom leading up to races so I'm not disturbed by our menagerie of animals (I swear, I go to bed and it's like that scene from Ace Ventura when all of the pets flock to him from out of the woodwork).

Then there is biking outdoors.  I'm so freaked out that I'll have some sort of bike accident in these last few days before Placid.  It hasn't happened to me leading up to any of my past races, but there is always a first time.  This is about the time I start to spend more quality time with the trainer and push bike commuting aside, especially if there is no biking on my schedule for a particular day.  I'm also worried about twisting my ankle on a run, irritating my shoulder in swimming.  Basically, I feel like I should bubble-wrap myself for the next 10 days.

OR, I could just have a positive attitude, realize that the hard work is done and sometimes things happen that are out of your control and the only thing you CAN control is your attitude and how you choose to handle a situation.  One of my friends doing Placid with me this year had a run in on her bike with a car today.  BOTH she and the bike are in one piece, a little bumped and bruised, but they will be at the start line.  She has one of the most positive attitudes ever.  EVER.  And she's handled this crummy, bad day with a smile to balance out any tears and an upbeat outlook on everything - we could all benefit by looking on the bright side of things and finding the silver lining in a pile of poop sometimes.  I know I'm going to be trying to channel her positive attitude at mile 20 of the Ironman marathon.

08 July 2012

Cadence matters... who knew?!

It's Sunday and we're nearing the tail-end of this heat wave that's been sitting over us for at least the past week.  If nothing else, I'll be well-prepared if the weather in Lake Placid decides to be 100+ on race day (let's hope that doesn't happen though).  Saturday was my last long-ish ride before Placid and having great company in Mindy and AJ made the four hour ride in hot weather much more bearable.  When we started at 7am, it was already clothes-sticking-to-your-back-because-of-too-much-sweat hot.

During the ride we had an interesting conversation about cadence on the bike.  One of my goals this year for Ironman Lake Placid is to have a solid run.  In order for that to happen, I need my legs to feel as good as they possibly can after 112 miles on the bike.  I do most of my biking in the big ring, both in training and in racing.  I also don't have a bike computer or cadence monitor, so in my head I am convinced that I am doing the ideal 90rpms when in reality, as I found out yesterday when AJ got behind me and mimicked my cadence and told me the readings on her computer, I'm doing more like 60-70 on hills and 80ish on flats (thank you for pointing this out to me AJ!!).  After this wake-up call, I did the second half of the bike using a smaller gear and going into my little ring for some of the uphills. I think the ride back to the cars was a net downhill so that probably helped, but the second half of the bike was substantially faster than the first half AND my legs didn't feel like they were working as hard. Even better, when we got off the bike after 70 miles and did a 4.5 mile run, my legs felt much fresher than they usually do and I managed to hit the intervals Jen had laid out in Training Peaks, even though it was close to 104 degrees by the time we were in our running shoes.  I'm sure running along the shaded C&O Canal also really helped the run feel as good as it did (thanks for your brilliant thinking Mindy!!)

In light of all this, I just ordered a cadence sensor to go with my Garmin.  I will do just about anything to make sure I set myself up to have a good run.  I'm sure knowing my cadence will force me to change the way I bike, at least a little bit, but if it means being more aware of how hard my legs are working and will help me keep them as fresh as possible, I am all for changes.

Oh, and can we talk about how fantastic this current moment of taper is?  This morning I had a 45 minute run.  THAT IS IT.  We had time to fold the laundry, unload the dishwasher, have a nice brunch in the kitchen together, take the dog to a dog beach in Maryland, make dinner, eat dinner, write on this blog and it's not even 7pm.  What a world of difference compared to the Sundays where I am out running or riding for alot longer.  And the other thing I like about the beginning of taper - you still have to feed the appetite.  It's like reaping the rewards of hard training, ummmmm without the hard training :)

06 July 2012

4th of July

Do you know what I learned on the 4th of July?  I learned that it pays to look closely at your training schedule in Training Peaks.  Open up each of the individual boxes on each day and see EXACTLY what is written so you know EXACTLY what you are in for.  Think of it as being like those Advent calendars during the holidays, open up each window and see what's inside (though a cute puppy decked out in a wreath of holly and Christmas-colored bows is infinitely cuter than a workout containing any combination of Zone 4, intervals, 6 hours, run-off-the-bike).

Early in the week I merely glanced at my Training Peaks schedule.  Wednesday was a medium-length ride with a run off the bike.  I'd made it through weekend relatively unscathed (minus a sufferfest in the heat).  I should've known something was amiss when my long run last weekend was only 90 minutes.  Look at how nice Jen is being, I thought, starting my taper off nice and early by reducing my long run.  Tuesday evening I opened up the Training Peaks block for Wednesday to see the details.  And I did a double take.  The 80 minute ride makes sense.  But, a 2:30 hour run off the bike?  Maybe it's a typo and actually 23 minutes.  No.  No, it's definitely two-and-a-half hours.  Sadly, Independence Day was not an independence day from a long, hot run.  Sneaky, sneaky.

I'm a master procrastinator so by the time I made it out on the run, it was almost 10am and exponentially warmer than it had been during my bike ride just a short time before.  I broke the run up in my mind into 5 mile segments: the first five miles for settling in, the second five miles for picking up the pace, the next five miles let up a little bit, but still work hard, and the last few miles just hang on until my watch beeps.  The first bit wasn't too bad.  Even when I went by a bank at mile 8 and it was 11am and the bank sign said it was 87 degrees, it really didn't feel all that bad.  The wheels stayed on and intact until about mile 14.  Then they came off and the rest of the run was finished using pure grit.

I was absolutely spent the rest of the day.  Did all the recovery things right (took an ice bath, drank a recovery smoothie, ate a REALLY good egg sandwich, drank alot of water and Gatorade).  We made it out to a couple of bbqs but we were home by 7:30 and in bed around 9:30, and asleep at 10.  The foam roller has become my new best friend (this is what happens when you do TRX 12 hours before going for a long run).  I've taken care to look closely at my training schedule for the next week and I don't see any more super long runs on it.  I think I can say with confidence that taper has begun and my legs are ridiculously thankful.

04 July 2012

Be better than 12:18

I've had the above scene from Crazy, Stupid Love in my head today.

But instead of "Be better than the Gap" running repeatedly across my mind, it's Be better than 12:18.  You see, 12:18 was my finish time at Ironman Lake Placid last year.  The big victories of the day last year were getting through the race with no nutrition fails and not completing imploding on the run and mentally giving up (please see IM France and IM Wisconsin of the previous year where I basically did the opposite).  After a rough year in 2010 and trying to get the hang of the whole racing thing in 2011, I did see last year's IMLP performance as a bit of a victory for those aforementioned reasons.

But this year in 2012, I want more.  Please don't get me wrong - even if I don't get the result I want this year at Lake Placid, all of the hard work and training wasn't wasted.  I've met and trained with so many great friends this year, I've enjoyed every sweaty mile in the pool and on the bike and in my running shoes.  I'm putting forth the effort to make better food choices, to sleep more, to recovery better (I bought a foam roller, yeeee-haw!) and all of these things will serve me well after the race is over, regardless of the result.  I don't know what I am capable of, but when you work hard at something for another 365 days, you do want to see an improvement over the previous year.

So.  Be better than 12:18.  Be better than 12:18.  Be better than 12:18.

01 July 2012

Peak Weekend and Mother Nature

Mother Nature had a bit of a hissy fit this weekend out here in the mid-Atlantic.  Not only was it hot (temperatures over 100+ degrees and humid - kind of like being back in Burkina, except it's not humid there), but on Friday night a fast-moving, destructive storm blew through the area, knocking down trees, powerlines, etc with its high winds.  Mindy and I had originally planned to do our last 100 mile ride pre-Placid down on Skyline Drive, but with recent reports of fires and a quick call to the ranger station confirming that the air quality was expected to be smoky and not ideal for biking, we changed our plans at the last minute to bike out in Poolesville, MD instead.

Besides some power outages along the Columbia Pike and seeing an overturned port-o-potty somewhere as we drove out to the highway on our way to Poolesville, we didn't see too much damage and destruction in the Arlington area.  Things looked a bit worse as we got closer to Poolesville, more downed trees and lots of debris in the roads (though, it should be mentioned that clean-up crews did a really impressive job at clearing the big stuff out of the roads really quickly).  We joked, it'll be like doing cyclocross on our tri bikes, not really thinking that would actually happen.

Be careful what you say (and let it be noted, we were 85+ miles into our ride and turning around would've added alot more mileage and we were desperate to be done).

Ha, the irony - we were on a road called "Big Woods Road."  And there wasn't any warning that the road was shut down, we just came around the corner and saw this:

Fortunately this was the only major downed-trees crossing we had to do, the rest of the roads were relatively clear of the big stuff.  And the roads were actually in very decent shape well outside of Poolesville where it was more fields than woods.  So besides the stifling heat (which really manifested itself on our T-run) and the debris-dodging, we had a good ride.  Even better was the fact that our legs felt A-OK afterwards.  We didn't get started on the ride as early as we wanted (thanks to yours truly running late, per usual), so by the time we were partway through the ride, it felt like we were biking in an oven heated to at least 100 degrees.  Ick.  We planned out our route so every 15-20 miles we rolled by the only store in the area that had power and was selling cold Gatorade.

After we crossed through the above forest in the road, we continued on a few miles before we came upon this:

The power was shut down and the wires weren't live, but they weren't letting any cars through.  Bikes are smaller and more nimble though, so they let us through.

I slept in to 7 this morning and moved really slowly eating my breakfast, getting my running stuff together.  I only had a 90 minute run on the schedule, my legs felt pretty good, but it was SO HOT outside.  I opened the door at 7:45 to look for the morning paper and it was like a hot, humid hair dryer got turned on in my face.  I finally got out the door around 9am.  This was an easy run, so I had no shame in running close to 9 minute miles the whole time.  I can call today's run good for heat acclimatization but I hope, hope, HOPE Placid will not be as hot as today.  By mile 6 I was dreaming of slushies.  By mile 7, I decided that we needed to go to Williams-Sonoma STAT to buy some overpriced-popsicle makers that I scoffed at two weeks ago saying we didn't have room in the kitchen for them.  Oh, nevermind, we will FIND room.  I thought about texting Mark when I got home to see if he could just get the popsicle makers on his way home, but figured that once I had something cold to drink, and maybe a smoothie, I would change my mind.

Nope.  We're going out to get the popsicle makers this afternoon.  It's going to be a long, hot summer and I planned to be fully prepared when it comes to frozen treats.