Saturday, October 25, 2014

Time for a Change

I've always been a person that has loved change. I embrace the exhilarating feeling that you get from trying new things and adventuring into the unknown. This change, however, is a little tougher to embrace. For the past several years, I committed to being the best triathlete that I could be. I had so much fun embracing this lifestyle and pushing myself to the limit. I went to some really cool places, met some amazing people, and had a few decent race results. Overall, I made a commitment to try to be the best athlete I could be, and I turned myself inside and out in my quest to reach for the moon.

Unfortunately my body had other ideas!

For most of the past two years, I would be thrown obstacle after obstacle, setback after setback. That was OK though, because I thought overcoming them would make me tougher. In a way it did. I reached new fitness levels that I never knew I could. Over the summer and into the fall, I hit power numbers that I only dreamed I could hit. In the short periods of time that I could run, I was running paces that even my stud runner husband could barely keep up (although he would argue with that). These challenges made me channel inner mental strength. There were times that I could barely contain my excitement for the possibilities in front of me. Unfortunately, I have not been able to put together the race that I believe I am capable of doing. I can't help but be a little frustrated. Part of me feels like I am leaving at a time when I may feel unfulfilled. But the bigger part of me knows that I gave triathlon every ounce of energy that I could. I spent every waking second doing what I was supposed to do. I followed training plans to a T, ate well, slept 7-9 hours a night, took all of my vitamins, strength trained, etc. etc. I really cannot look back with doubts, or 'what ifs' because I gave it my all everyday for years.

Where does this leave me now? The rest of this year is done for sure. I could take time off and start again for next year, but I think it is time for a big change. I think it is time to live a more balanced lifestyle. For the past several years, I have had daily 4:45 wake up calls to fit in a swim before work. Rallied through an 8 hour day chasing little kids around, and then hopped on a bike and sometimes run until it was time for dinner and bed. I have loved training for a triathlon at this level, but I am pretty certain that my body is telling me this isn't good for me. My work and financial situation will not change, and unfortunately this sport is not designed for people like me to give it a real go, so I think I need to put all of my focus into healing and finding a healthy balance. I am so incredibly lucky to have amazing family and friends, and I want to spend time with them. I want to cross a bunch of things off of my bucket list. It's time for change. I'm pretty emotional with this decision, but know that it is right for me right now.  I hope that one day I will find my way back to triathlon. Jeremy and I got married in Kona, so one day we will have to make it back to celebrate an anniversary....

I set goals that would send me reaching for the moon and I think I landed somewhere in the stars.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Ironman Texas, (0-2-1)

The Texas Story:
I have been to Texas exactly 3 times all specifically for athletic competitions. The first time was Track Nationals 2002. Leading up to that race, I was having my best season ever. To make a long story short, I had my absolute worst race (time wise) of the season, missing out at all-american by one spot and less than a second. Needless to say - Texas beat me down and broke my heart.

This past year, I went to Austin to race a half marathon. To make a long story short, I had my worse open half marathon race (time wise) in years and years. Again, Texas beat me.

Going into Ironman Texas - I really really wanted to beat Texas!

Going into the race:
Going into and after competing in Florida 70.3, I began struggling with big time fatigue. I went right into 2 of my heaviest weeks of training, immediately followed by 3 weeks of trying to dig myself out of the hole that I put myself in. I'm not going to lie, I considered not lining up in Texas at all, because I just wasn't rebounding and recovering. My numbers were only barely starting to climb going into race week. I was a little nervous going into the race and totally unsure of what would come out of it, but decided to use this race as a stepping stone.

*Highlight of my race*
During the winter, I started hitting the best swim numbers of my life. But again after putting myself in the hole, I wasn't hitting those numbers, so didn't know what to expect. I was actually excited to swim with the men professional field, because I thought it increased the chance to draft off of someone. I lined up in the second line and luckily got right on Matt's toes right from the gun, and that is where I stayed for 2.4 miles. At one point I thought the effort seemed a little easy, so I tried to pull around, but immediately realized that there was a nice pack that I would have spent too much effort trying to get around. So figuring that it is a long day, I got right back on Matt's toes for the rest of the swim. I didn't sight bouy's one time, and I felt totally comfortable the entire time. I didn't see my time when I exited the water, but learned at the end of the race that I had finally gone sub 1 hour and that made me SO excited, because that was a goal that I had for a while. I enjoyed this swim, and especially liked swimming in the canal along crowds of spectators. I did however feel bad for the mass start for age group athletes. I kept thinking they must be experiencing full body contact throughout the entire narrow canal section.

Hhhmmppff! Not exactly what I had hoped for. I had a goal wattage, and I know what I have biked this season so far. I started off at lower than my goal watts, and I didn't feel terrible at the time. I just kept hoping and hoping that I would have some pick up. Unfortunately I did exactly the opposite and went downward. I had a steady decline throughout the entire bike course. The weather this year was pretty mild according to the locals (still warm for this northerner) but overall weather or wind did not play a factor during my bike. I started taking in drink and gels to front-load my nutrition, until I spit up a little. At that point I backed off a little until my belly settled down. If I had to describe how I felt on the bike, I would say flat. I never felt terrible terrible, but I never felt good either. The most frustrating thing about this bike was that I didn't even match the power numbers that I did for a 7 hour ride a few weeks earlier.

Now the temperatures were starting to heat up! The run course is a 3 loop run course on 100% concrete. I like 3 loop run courses and I also really like that it is so spectator friendly. This was a fun course to run, and the cheering sections were so fun! I did not, however like the concrete. I think that my lack of running (for 3+ weeks due to injury in March/April) plus running on concrete beat the crap out of my legs. My first two laps I would say I had some pep in my step, but the last lap, was spent trying so hard to not trip over my own feet. I actually ended up with a swollen inner ankle bone and some bloody, fairly deep cuts due to the shuffling that was going on. During the bike section - I had counted that six girls passed me on the bike, so my goal was to pass six on the run, and that is exactly what I did. My run time was certainly not spectacular, and probably one of my slower in recent years, but not too terrible either. I knew I was going to be in bad shape when I started to get sore so quickly after the race, and let me tell you that work on Monday may have been worse than the Ironman!

Photos by Henry Posamentier - my homestay - is also an amazing photographer

I called this a tie. That is why the score is "0-2-1". I am happy with my swim, and an overall 19 minute Ironman PR, but I am pretty disappointed with my bike, and I would consider my run so-so. One of my bigger weaknesses in triathlon is recovering. I find this SO difficult to find the balance. I know a huge part of it is because (like most triathletes) I hate to miss workouts. But waking up at 4:45AM for a swim - then going to work as a full time elementary teacher (always go go go on my feet) and then coming home for bike/run more days than not is tough. I have to learn to listen to my body when it is telling me to sleep in or take a day off if I am beat up. Triathlon is a challenging sport. It's not just swim. or bike. or run. It's nutrition, and recovery, and mental fitness, and balance. Its tough! But it keeps me coming back for more! Maybe one of these days I will get it right ; )

Lucky Girl:
I am so grateful to have had the absolute nicest host family. They made my week so comfortable and fun that I felt spoiled! After the race, they even had a little cookout while we spectated the Ironman! Also, I am so lucky to have some great support in coach Jesse and QT2 systems. I am thankful that Vesla 360 kept me strong, and Top Gear Bicycle Shop kept me moving. And finally grateful to for being a part of Ballou Skies.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Florida 70.3

First race of the season...not the start I had been hoping for, but nevertheless, another racing experience. I think after last season, I have so much motivation for racing and racing well. I really don't think anyone knows that things don't always work out as planned better than I do, but part of the game is rolling with the punches. My training throughout up until about 3 weeks ago (aside from the calf strain) has been awesome. My swim, bike, and run (before calf) has been the best ever. So of course I was excited for racing to start.....

Then there was my calf issue, which really truly did not upset me too much. I knew it was something that happens and I knew it wouldn't last forever. Then my calf started to feel better, but I started to feel...not so great. A little more tired and exhausted than I should have been. Being the type A- triathlete that I think I am - I kept pushing through. You really think I would have learned by now, but it is so tough when you want something so bad. One thing that I don't think about too much is how much stress I put on my body. Training is one thing, but work is another. Working full time as an elementary school PE teacher is draining! And couple that with lots and lots of training - it can be dangerous. I think I do everything that I should do (eat very healthy, get 8 hours of sleep, etc.) but sometimes it can be do much. I have finally realized that I. can't. do. it. all!

The race:
I flew into Florida friday night after working all day, and my great friend Amy picked me up for the airport. We went strait to the hotel and went right to bed. I skipped a yummy gluten free QT2 team breakfast in order to try to sleep in and put together my bike. Everything went well Saturday for check in, race meeting, and finding food. Race morning came way too soon. As the alarm went off at 3:45, I felt like I could have slept for another 6 solid hours. Usually I feel awake and buzzing with excitement. We made it to the race smooth sailing and before I knew it, into the water for warm up. I have to say I loved that I could see the entire swim course right from the beach. The gun went off, and almost immediately I was on my own. I almost always find feet, but looking at the results, I was in no man's land. There wasn't anyone within 2 minutes before or after me. The first half of the swim was uneventful, but the second half seemed really really hard. That was only a sign of what was to come. I got out of the water and wanted to flop onto the beach and nap. Although my time was OK - I didn't feel great.

Onto the bike. I was super confident going into the bike. I had been putting in lots of time and really knew what kind of wattages I could hold. My body just had a different idea than my head. My heart rate was super sky high right away with really low wattages. I also felt very hungry, which is an odd feeling while racing. I kept telling myself to 'settle in, things will come around'. At this point three girls caught me and that kept me pushing and engaged for a while, but soon I didn't have the energy to keep pushing. That is when things got really tough. The whole time, I just wanted to pull my bike over and lay in the grass and eat an orange from one of the orange trees. I was in damage control mode at this point. I was truly soft pedaling and my wattages were that of a recovery ride. I have never felt this crappy during a triathlon before. I was going mile to mile...on the bike! I finally made it into transition and for the first time in my triathlon career thought about dropping out. But then the only thing I could think of was my students and how I always tell them to never give up. I thought I couldn't possibly go into work tomorrow and tell my students that I did a triathlon and I didn't finish.

The run. At this point it was hot, and I haven't seen the sun since I was in Cozumel in November. I knew right away that I was just going to have to tough it out. A really bad sign was when I looked at my watch when I thought something was wrong when it didn't automatically lap at a mile. I realized I had only been running 3 minutes and 18 seconds. And that was pretty much how the run went. It felt like long, hot, hilly, painful miles.

In summary, I was very disappointed with the race. I know I am capable of more. I am proud that I didn't give up though, and I really don't take for granted every opportunity that I get to race. I also finally realized this week that I dug myself into a little exhaustion hole. I finally listened to my body this weekend and took some days off. I slept for 12 hours two nights in a row, which tells me that my body is trying to say relax!

As endurance athletes - we push our bodies to the limit and sometimes we ignore the signals because we want to see how far, how fast, how deep we can get. Training in general is so physically and mentally demanding. I have so much respect for the people that train and work full time. And/or for the people that train and have kids that have managed to figure it out. I clearly have not succeeded in this, but I will keep at it!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

2014 Triathlon Season

YA! I am so excited it is finally here! I pretty much missed most of last season - so I am beyond excited to get this season started this weekend at Florida 70.3. I am also super excited that I managed to make it through the worst winter weather I have ever experienced. MANY long trainer rides, runs with (seriously) 3+ layers, and frigid morning swims, no escapes. I did it! Only one little bump in the road. After running all winter on snowy and icy roads, the last big snowfall did me in. I started what was to be a 12ish mile run, when 3 miles in, the snow started piling up. Of course I kept going and ended up 6 miles out with a little tweak to my calf from all of the sliding in the snow. Of course if I am 6 miles out, 15 degrees, and 2 inches of snow - I have to keep running, right? Silly me! Anyways - my tweaked calf turned into almost 4 weeks of no running because of a very deep soleus strain. I did try to look at the bright side, I spent extra time working on my swim and bike and even did a road race (which i loved!)

Spent many hours right here!

Huge thank you to Amy at Vesla 360 for getting me up and going just in the nick of time. I will go into Florida with all of 5 runs under my belt, but I will be there! Also, I have been keeping up with my strength training 1/wk with Frank and the rest of the crew, and I feel stronger than ever. Since I spend so many hours training by myself, Vesla 360 has provided me with the encouragement and support that I so definitely needed and I can't thank them enough!

I am not going to lie, this winter was tough training hour after hour, almost all by myself. But I have to thank Jesse for getting me back to where I was pre - injury last year. I also have to thank QT2 teammates for inspiring me from afar. I don't know many of them, and I never train with them, but there is still a sense of community that makes you want to be the best you can be.

Finally this year I will again be racing in support and awareness of Ballou Skies. I am eternally grateful to have a healthy heart, and I hope and pray that one day, we all can experience this.

2014 goals:

Florida 70.3
Texas IM
Challenge AC
Timberman 70.3

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Whirl Magazine

I think an update as to what has been going on since December is definitely overdue. I do promise to do that very soon! It is just that having a full time job, training many hours, and spending time with family and friends are my priority. So things such as computer time, cleaning our bathroom, and doing my nails definitely fall to the wayside. So I am leaving you with an article written in Whirl Magazine. I was very honored to be approached about doing this. In my opinion, triathlon is a sport that is filled with passionate, dedicated, motivated athletes and hopefully more people will understand what truly goes into competing in one...and maybe even tri it! 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Ironman Cozumel

Well, I don't even really know where to begin with this race summary. I definitely have more to say about the week leading up to the race than the actual race itself - so I will start there.

It didn't really sink in until the week of the race that I was actually competing in an Ironman. I was trying to stay as confident as humanly possible, but I spent some time dwelling on the fact that my numbers were simply not where I had wanted them to be. I really hoped that my bike power and run pace would be where they were before my injury in April. But after so much time of absolutely zero training, they just weren't there. That fact sort of bummed me out, but in the back of my mind - I had the motto that anything can happen, it's such a long day and such extreme conditions.  I was also very confident that I had done everything I could possibly do to get in the best shape. In the 11 weeks of training that I did complete, I did come a long way. Coach Jesse set me up with a great plan, I did strength training once/week, and I totally stayed on top of my nutrition. 

Travel to Mexico:
This is where the adventure begins...

I traveled with my good friend Amy to Cancun/bus to Playa del Carmen/ferry to Cozumel on Wednesday morning before the snowstorm hit Pittsburgh. Just traveling internationally with a huge bike case is an adventure in itself. When we got to Cozumel, however, our transportation for the week was delivered to us.

After a quick lesson on how to drive this thing, we were soon on the streets of Mexico to find some food. I am very proud of the fact that I only stalled one time. The locals were SO incredibly nice to us. We ended up getting lost a handful of times, when people would pull up on their scooters to give us directions to our destination. I have to say that I still don't understand their traffic laws, but we managed to make it through with only two run-ins with the police.

The weather during the first few days of our trip was relatively chilly and the wind was pretty wicked. The water was so rough that IM cancelled the practice swims, and we were only able to get in the water the day before the race, and this is where the next little adventure comes in. So as I was trying to put my speedskin on, my zipper totally popped off it's track. Luckily as soon as I got home, I emailed Jessie to see if she had an extra skin, which she did. A little bit later, we drove to a place called Papa Hogs to meet some QT2 teammates for breakfast, and after a delicious breakfast we came out to a smashed windshield on our car.

Don't know why I look so happy - cost us $80

Then we made it to the ocean to practice our first open water swim, when Amy's swimskin totally ripped in 2 huge areas. At this point our only option was to try to find a seamstress to fix my zipper. This took us to the backstreets of Mexico in a smashed up car at 4pm the day before the race. Somehow we found a place that said they could do it in an hour. After 5USD, both Amy and I were giddy with relief. Now time to go home and finally get our stuff together for the next day.
Race: Somehow we made it to race day without any more mishaps. At some point over the week, I accepted the fact that my fitness was were it was, and they only thing I could do was control the things that I could control. I felt very rusty in my pre-race preparation and almost a little foggy. Amy and I joked that we each had half a brain all week, but luckily we were together to help each other out.

Swim course was shorted to 1.90 miles due to the rough water. So race morning, we got a taxi to T1 to set up our stuff, and before I knew it, a lady said I had to leave NOW to get on the bus that takes us to the new swim start. We did manage to get there in plenty of time before lining up. I was a little unsure of the race course, because I had not been able to actually see the buoy's, but fortunately I hopped on a girls feet for most of the swim until I turned after the first yellow buoy and she did not. She was right, and I tried like hell to catch up with her, but couldn't close the gap and ended up getting out about 20 seconds after her. I really am not sure if my swim time was good or not, but I didn't come out first and I didn't come out last, which is usually where I am.

In the weeks leading up to the race, I was least confident in my biking abilities. I wasn't hitting numbers that I used to, I wasn't able to ride outside since September, and I just have not been able to put much time in the saddle. I decided that I would get all of those negative thoughts out of my head prior to the race and focus on trying to stick to my plan. Immediately I realized that my heart rate strap was not working at all, I messed up my Garmin watch, and I also sprayed my sunglasses with sunscreen.
Photo pretty much sums up the hot mess I started the bike with: sunglasses down/messing with my watch

 Anyways I managed to somewhat pull myself together. The bike is 3 loops around the island (crosswind/headwind/crosswind/tailwind x3). I felt totally in control and fine in the crosswind and tailwind sections. But when I turned into the long headwind section, I felt like I simply didn't have the power to keep it up. I know I lost lots of time on this section. Also, I refused to participate in the huge drafting sessions that were going on all around me. The only negative thing that I have to say about this race is that the drafting was by far the worse I have ever seen. I do realized with this sort of course, sometimes it can't be avoided. But there were huge pelotons of 25+ people that were blatantly drafting with course marshalls riding right beside them. I do hope that officials control this in the future to protect the integrity of the race.

Anyways, focusing on what I could control, I drank about 15 bottles of fluid and peed about 10 times, so I know I was hydrated for the run. I never felt awful during the bike, just more so weak in the headwind.

Beautiful scenery

This run course has now become my favorite run course of any triathlon that I have ever completed. It is 3 loops down and back on the same street. People are everywhere singing and dancing and cheering. It is just SO fun! By this time the sun was out in full effect and it was hot! I am glad I hydrated and stayed cool the way I did on the bike, because I do believe that helps in hot running races. I didn't know what to expect as far as pace/time. My heart rate monitor still wasn't working, so this was going to be all perceived effort. I pretty much stayed about the same pace for the entire run, and was pleasantly surprised with how my form was holding up. At about mile 20, it went from hot and sunny to a heavy downpour. At first the rain was a welcome relief from the heat, but it soon turned into trying to dodge ankle deep puddles for the last 6 miles. Every step I took felt like my feet and legs were so heavy. I was motivated by my time, I kept looking at my watch thinking that if I can keep up this pace, I can do 3:2?. That thought kept me moving as fast as I possibly could. Running that last mile, I had to hold back tears. I was so incredibly grateful for everything that I have been through the past few months. It has been such a tough year, and I kept thinking about all of the support my family and friends have given me over the past few months - that my heart was tugging with gratitude. There are a handful of people that believed in me more than I believed in myself and I feel like they were all with me crossing the finish line.

A hot mess again

Heartfelt thank you to Aimee and Frank at RevSports. They were probably my #1 supporters my entire recovery. I said I wanted to do an Ironman after less than 3 months of training, and they said 'We will get you there'.

Jesse gave me the plan that probably would have allowed me to PR at the distance (if the swim wasn't shortened) after less than 3 short months of training. Another example of why they call him the 'Wizard'!

Dr. Moira Davenport (my doctor and good friend who bent over backwards to get me the medical care that I needed. 

My family and friends who put up with me being a total psycho basket case much of the year. Many of whom sent me wonderful texts, emails, and cheers.

Ryan Ballou and the Ballou Skies Triathlon Team. So grateful to know someone as strong and as courageous as Ryan. He inspires me in more ways than I would ever be able to express. 
Finally, Jeremy. My rock! Thank you!

My favorite photo! Amy (who had an awesome breakthrough race in her first Pro Ironman) and I in our helmets because our car didn't have seat belts or windows!           

 Adios 2013!!!





Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Back at it!

It has definitely been a while since I have updated - but that is because I am actually finally training again, which makes my life totally crazy busy! In addition to training again, the school year is always nuts, plus Jeremy and I adopted our totally wild and super sweet puppy Gigi, which has been the funnest part of the past  few months...and a whole other training experience. Gigi is a rescue mix originally surviving the streets of Puerto Rico. Unfortunately abandoned and abused dogs are rampant in Puerto Rico, and lucky for us - there are phenomenal organizations that rescue those dogs, give them the care they need, and send them to partner shelters so that they can be adopted to loving and caring families.

In the triathlon world, I started exercising about mid August with a VERY slow build up. I mean one minute run/one minute walk for about a total of 5 minutes running. And my first bike ride was 7 minutes long! It was SO hard for me to hold back, but I knew it was what I needed to do. Over the past month - I have built up to a pretty full schedule (some 20+ hour weeks) which is both very exciting and a little frustrating at times. I am up to about 4.5 hour long rides and 13 mile long runs. Where am I performing right now? My watts and paces aren't fantastic because my cardiovascular fitness and durability is still lacking, but my strength training sessions/intervals are pretty decent. I feel like I am at an all time strongest muscularly which I attribute to all of the strength training that I do now as a regular part of my training schedule.

My new strength training takes place once a week with the absolute best and most knowledgeable trainers around. Rev Sports in Cranberry is 100% the key to my training schedule reaching the volume that it has in less than 2 full months without a single setback. They keep all of my trouble muscles (core/hamstrings/stabilizers) strong and balanced. I have to tell the world that if you live in the Pittsburgh area - you should totally check them out. They have both PT, and a strength training programs - so you can go to them if you want to just strength train. Frank and Aimee REALLY know their stuff, care about you, and help you reach your goals in specific sports.

Other than that - my new goals for the rest of the season....fingers crossed...Ironman Cozumel! Who knows if I will be ready physically??? But I feel like mentally this is the thing I need to do! After so many training sessions last winter by  myself both at 5 am and way into the darkness of the night in 7 degree weather - and so many setbacks - I feel like I need an end of season race to justify all of that early season training. The few people that I have told that I am doing the race think I am either absolutely nuts or they are worried that I am doing too much too soon. The only thing that I am certain of - is that I am in the right hands. I know that Frank and Aimee will keep me as strong as possible and Coach Jesse will give me the best possible plan to have me as ready as I am going to be. Super excited!