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!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Dare to Dream

I started off the year with a carefully laid out plan, lots of goals, and a few dreams. I am not going to write the specifics out, but they included fun workout adventures, plenty of races, time goals, and dreams of finishing toward the top of some races. Well, life doesn't always work out as planned, sometimes you don't reach those goals, and dreams slip through your fingers. I went through all kinds of emotional stages, but finally got to a point where I have to focus on the things I can do. The only exercising I could do was work out my arms with a resistance band which I did every day for 2 months (Hoping that my arms will one day look like my friend Kim's!). And really just hang out, which I don't get to do very often, but I did have fun going to many movies (I loved The Heat), having leisurely dinners, lots of pool time, and many mojito's with friends and family.

Hanging out with my mom on bike taxi before Pirate Game - Let's Go Bucs!

Now I am at the point where I am thinking about the rest of this season and next year. I am finally cleared to long as I don't do flip turns, use my right leg to kick off the wall, or kick my legs while I am swimming. I am not sure if I even consider what I am doing swimming, but it is progress. I also imagine that I must look like an arm wailing, leg sinking, dork. I almost want to scream out loud that I really do know how to swim!

Anyways, part of me wants to start planning, wants to put that next race on the calendar, start imagining training and racing again, but another part of me is scared that I will get hurt again. Thinking about next year, I already have races in mind, a travel/training adventure planned in my head, and dreams of doing well, but I am afraid of being heart broken again. When it comes down to it, I know it took dreaming big, lots of hard work and sacrifices to get where I am today, and I wouldn't change it for the world. About two years ago, I made a commitment to do what it takes to try to reach my potential. I put in big miles, made training one of my big priorities, and unfortunately had some freak, pretty rare, super slow healing injury. Despite occasionally wanting to at a few points, I will not give up. I also feel like I have lots of unfinished business to get to and sitting around thinking about it, isn't going to get me there. So when my doctor clears me to start running and biking again, I will definitely have to tackle some fears and get back on my horse (or bike). I have my fingers crossed that it will be in time to train for a late season race, but only time will tell.

I am traveling up to Lake Placid to cheer for Jeremy next week, and I know it will be bittersweet. Lake Placid was one of the races where I had specific goals, and I had a dream. There is no way of accomplishing it this year, so I have to let it go. I also know it will be fun, because I get to cheer for Jeremy and lots of friends. I have a handful of races and places that I have put on my 'revenge list' because I either had a horrible race experience or I just wasn't able to compete because of injury and Lake Placid will be I know I will be back : )

Hanging out with Jeremy - Good Luck at LP!!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Starting Over

Having sports hernia plus a 'pre' stress fractrue for an injury has really been very frustrating. It took a little while to figure out what exactly was wrong with me, because for the longest time I thought it was just a groin/adductor strain. After about a month of the pain getting worse and worse - I knew it was something other than just a strain. An MRI revealed that I had a tear in my abdominal wall. As a result of trying to train through this hernia, I put too much stress on my pelvis, so that created a stress reaction in my bone as well. I want to write a little bit about my experience with sports hernia though, because as far as I can tell, it is a very uncommon injury especially among female athletes.

So the symptoms included pain in my groin area mostly, but some pain and tightness into my adductor and up through my lower left abdomen. From what I understand, this injury is most prevalent in hockey players and football players and people that move aggressively from side to side. My injury presented itself when I was doing flip turns off of the wall while swimming and using a pull buoy at the same time. I guess I can see how this may have happened. My pain did progress up to my abdominal area especially one night in the middle of my sleep, I awoke with dull achy pain in my lower left abdominal. This was scary because it hurt so bad for a few days until I could get in to see a specialist. I walked with a big limp. Also, it terribly hurt to cough, sneeze, laugh, and cry, and that made me cry even more. This was the absolute worse pain that I have experienced compared to any other injury that I have had in the past. (Clavicle break/tendonitis/ITBand/etc.) During this time, I did a lot of crying, because it would hurt every time I would try to move. I felt like I couldn't escape pain for a good month of time. You don't realize how much you use your abdominal muscles in everything you do until you have a tear in them, and it hurts every time you move. When I did get in to see the doctor, he gave me a nerve block that helped almost immediately and got even better over a few days.  At this time, the Doctor told me that these injuries rarely heal on their own, so I decided that surgery would be my only option. For the first time in about 6 weeks, I felt like I could finally get over this injury now that I knew exactly what I had to do. I had laprascopic surgery to repair my tear on Monday and the doctor said the tear was actually a lot bigger than he expected to see. The surgeon inserted mesh into my lower abdomen/groin area under my lowest layer of transverse abdominal muscle layer. A few days post surgery my lower abdominal/groin area is swollen and it hurts a little more than I expected, but I am just happy that I am moving forward hopefully.
Definitely bloated and swollen - Looking like a marshmallow.

So now I am at the point where I am starting over completely. At this point, I think I have lost all of my fitness, strength, durability, everything fitness wise. I was really sad and very frustrated for a little while during this whole ordeal, but I finally got to a point where I accepted this injury and put everything into perspective that this injury is not that bad. I would read articles about the Boston Bombing Survivors and how they plan to move on. These people inspired me more than they will ever know. I was touched deeply with their perseverance and determination to get better. I can't even imagine being in that situation and then rebounding with the positive mind set that they have. But each and everyone of those survivors serve as inspiration to stay positive and take challenges and face them head on, and that is what I plan to do.

So now while I am healing and recovering, I have taken up knitting, painting our whole house, and spending lots of time with family and friends. I am lucky to have great support and a plan to get moving again. I have my heart set on doing a race late fall, but I have to listen to my body. Until then, I might become a pro-knitter (just kidding - I am pretty awful!)

Not very good knitter! Xtra skinny scarf maybe?

Jeremy starting our painting/laying down floor project that we have been putting off for 3 years!

Saturday, June 1, 2013


The last 6 weeks have been a little bit of a rough ride for me dealing with this injury. My emotions would range from irritated to hopeful to depressed to optimistic to bitchy to determined to frustrated until finally I accepted that I have to deal with this injury head on. So it turns out that this groin/adductor issue that I have taken so much time off is actually a couple of different things. The most serious is a stress reaction of my pelvis. This means that it is not quite a stress fracture, but it is trying to be. The only cure for it is total rest. I also have a boatload of inflammation, tightness, and muscular imbalance in my core area causing all sorts of problems. And finally I have sports hernia (tears in my abdominal wall). When my doctor read my MRI results to me, my immediate reaction was to start crying, because it sounded like there was a lot going on in my pelvic region that I just wasn't expecting.  But after thinking about all of my symptoms (pain while sneezing/unable to sit on saddle or run for even a minute/pain while sleeping and walking up steps) the diagnosis made total sense.

I am not really sure how this injury started. I tend to think it is because I got tired and sloppy.  A typical day for me is a morning swim, work on my feet all day, bike, run, sleep. I think I just got exhausted and let my posture slip during the workday and came home and worked out on tired muscles with bad form. Plus I would fake my functional strength workouts, by not concentrating on using proper form. Strength training was a total afterthought, usually fit in between eating dinner, packing lunch, brushing my teeth, and showering. I definitely did not make core work/strength training a priority when I should have. Who knows if this would have happened anyways? But the one thing that I do know is that I need to figure out what to do now...

I went to ART therapy for the first 3 weeks of this injury, which usually helps with all of my soft tissue tightness, but it was not working for this. Then the past 3 weeks, I have been going to PT almost every day with deep tissue massage weekly and it still hasn't improved. My strength and mobility is great, but I just can't seem to get rid of this pain in my groin area. I plan to continue down the road of more PT, but I am afraid that the sports hernia could simply not heal and that scares the crap out of me. Surgery is another option at some point, but if I decide that surgery is the road that I need to take - I am scared that my pelvic bone issues might not heal all the way. I know I just need to have patience, but it is so much easier said than done.

This is not really the way I had envisioned my first pro season. I get pretty upset when I think of all of the freezing mornings that I woke up at 5a.m. to swim by myself, and all of the hours I put on the trainer after work with t-runs in the snow late at night. I have been looking forward to summer training for a long time, and now that it is here, it is driving me bananas to not be out there! I feel like I was on the road to a fun season, and I really didn't get anything out of all of those sacrifices. It honestly has been a struggle to stay positive sometimes, but I just have to remember that I can't always plan life, and I need to roll with the punches. In my heart, I do know that I will recover and be back out there, sometimes it is just a tough pill to swallow when you are going through it.

I am really trying to focus on the positives that I have in my life and keep an honest perspective of what is truly important. I have been spending lots of time with my family. I am grateful to have really good insurance in a time when many people do not. I know that my health will come around (even though I don't feel very healthy now). Finally I am incredibly grateful to have such wonderful support. I have Dr. Davenport that has been so helpful in helping me figure all of this out. Aimee, the absolute best PT that I can imagine. Coach Jesse, that has been a rock for me, keeping me positive even during my dark days of wanting to eat only brownies. And finally Jeremy - who I am honestly surprised that he has not asked for a divorce after all of my mood swings!!

Hopefully sooner than later, I will be out there enjoying what I love to do...Until then, I will be doing LOTS and LOTS of core work...and trying to stay sane!!!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sidelined and Mental Fitness...

Injuries are something that most endurance athletes have to go through at one point or another. I have had my fair share of injuries, which is what led me to the sport of triathlon in the first place. I battled IT Band off and on for many years and achilles tendonitis a few times. Other than that, I was sidelined for one big bike crash and a few little ones. Throughout all of these injuries, however, I could always do a different sport injury free. For example, when I broke my collarbone, I was on the recumbant bike a few days later. That is the nice thing about our sport - there are three to train, so you pretty much always have one to choose from if you can't do the others. Well my latest injury is a first for me. The day after I competed in NOLA 70.3 - I pulled my groin muscle during a recovery swim. I honestly thought that this injury would last a few days at most. I stretched, iced, compressed, but was still feeling it every time I would swim/bike/walk/etc. Running was a no go. Now over two weeks later, it is still bothering me. I generally am fairly calm when I first get injured, but as the time passes, I find it a little bit more challenging to stay relaxed - which leads me to my next train of thought...The mental effects of an injury. 

Earlier this week, I was commiserating with my fellow master's swim teammate Jim, who is currently dealing with a shoulder injury himself. Jim is a top USMS master's swimmer and also a feature writer for several magazines including Men's Health and Swimmer. So Jim and I began discussing how we both have a tendency to lean toward the anxious/nutty side of sports mentality and questioned: could this effect or elongate our injury. I have 100% been a believer that mentality will effect injuries and performance. (Maybe I have read the secret one too many times.) But in college, I completed my master's thesis studying Physical Exercise and it's Effects on Women's Mental Health, so I have spent alot of time studying and thinking about about this topic.

Currently in the midst of an injury, I can't help but wonder: Is this a mental or physical injury? Or both? How do we prevent phsyical injuries from turning into mental injuries?

Why is it that injuries effect us endurance athletes as they do? Is it because we are generally type A people that hate to lose control? Is it because we are so dang afraid of losing fitness? Getting fat? Not being able to check that box that we swam/biked/ran XX amount of miles this week? Are we getting too far off track from our season plan? Are we afraid that we will never be that fast again or swim/bike/run again?

Jim brought up another question on my mind. How does having an injury effect our self - identity? If I can't get up and swim in the morning before work, can  I no longer a identify myself as a triathlete working as hard as possible to get better?

Anyways, I always try to keep my eye on the bigger picture. Obviously I know that in the scheme of things, this injury IS NOT THAT BAD! I know that I am very lucky to be able to do what I get the opportunity to do every single day.

For the past two weeks, I have been pretty calm most of the time, but it seems like when I would have an especially hard, exhausting day at work - my groin would be worse than usual. I would send a spastic email to my coach, and lucky for me, he would calm me down, by basically telling me to relax - exactly what I needed to hear. I think it is good to have a voice of reason when sometimes I can't hear my own. It also makes me realize that maybe I am making my injury worse mentally on an otherwise rough day.

So the question is what to do to stay mentally positive during a down period? I decided to give myself a break. Always keep the mindset that tomorrow is a fresh new day and anything is possible with a positive outlook. Really focus on the things that I can control, and this little annoying setback can fuel my desire to train hard when the time comes.

Anyways, these are just a few of my totally unprofessional thoughts on this very interesting topic.

Monday, April 22, 2013

New Orleans 2013

Going into NOLA, I was supposed to be a little bit more rested than I was for Oceanside three weeks prior, but it just so happened that I had a crazy busy week at work and wasn't quite as rested as I would have liked to have been, but was looking forward to putting myself out there with a few new goals in mind. This was going to be a super quick trip for me, arriving in the early hours of Saturday morning and flying out Sunday evening right after the race, but I still had plenty of time to hang out with the Pittsburgh crew and other great friends!

Onto the race....
Swim - 30:13 - The past couple of years, the swim has been cancelled because of the rough waters of Lake Pontchartrain, but this year, the race directors did a fabulous job organizing a swim venue in the shape of an N in a protected harbor. To be honest, I was really confused as to what buoy's to follow. The race director told us to just look for the yellow buoy's as turns. I was a little bit nervous, because my vision isn't really that great. I wear glasses most of the time, but HATE wearing contacts, so I just go about my business not really seeing very clearly. So I just crossed my fingers that I would be able to stay with a group and let them be my eyes. I know this is a gamble, but it turned out in my favor, because I was able to latch on and follow. I got out of the water and looked around at the girls that I swam with and was pretty excited about my swim.

Transitions - AWFUL! So I came out of the water with a pretty big group of girls, and of course - every single girl was gone while I was still fumbling around trying to get my wetsuit over my calves. I did provide some entertainment for the spectators as I was dropping my helmet and sunglasses everywhere, swearing a bit, and then laughing at myself for being so ridiculously slow. The people standing at the fence actually clapped for me when I finally made my way out of T1.

Bike - 2:29 - My #1 goal for this race was to be aggressive on the bike. I failed miserably in this department in Oceanside, so I wanted to prove to myself that I could have a bike result in the same time zone as the other pro girls. Over the past two weeks, I was able to bike outside a fair amount and really get in some quality workouts, so I had my wattage goals and I worked to keep it there. The bike course is an out and back, mostly flat ride. On the way out we had a headwind that turned into a nice tailwind on the way back. I was working harder than I have ever worked on the bike in half iron distance race, but I know that I have to take these risks racing in this field. I was happy with my mentality during the race, but I would have liked for it to be a little bit of an easier effort to get this result. I know that this is a step in the right direction though, but also the area where I really want to improve.

Run - 1:28 - UGHHHH!!! I have never felt so horrible in the opening miles of a run. I am guessing that I am not quite used to really working hard on the bike. But I felt awful the entire run. I suppose that if I wanted to look at the bright side - I was still able to run a fairly respectable time feeling so dang bad, because I honestly thought that when I saw my final run time it would be much slower than it actually was. I just felt clumsy and sluggish - so my new goal is to learn how to run off the bike after working hard.

Overall - I am happy to have taken a step in the right direction, with a new 14 minute PR. I still know that I have plenty of improvements to make, and look forward to working toward new goals. Also, summer is right around the corner, where I will have much more time to get outside and train, and have lots of time to recover.

Final thoughts:
This race happened less than a week after the Boston Marathon bombings. I had a heavy heart all week long thinking about all of the victims. I know there was some justice when they caught both of the suspects, but that doesn't change how the victim's lives will never be the same, and they are in my prayers. During the race, I looked around at all of the competitors, spectators, volunteers, and families, and felt all of the love that surrounds us. I tried to smile and thank everyone that I saw, but if I didn't, I am putting it out there right now for this race and all races - Thank you for the love and the support!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Oceanside 2013

Being a teacher, Live and Learn is one of my favorite motto's simply because it is so true! So I decided to race Oceanside about two weeks prior to the race for two main reasons:

1 - Pittsburgh winter has been never-ending and I don't think I could have taken one more long trainer ride.
2 - I had off Thursday - Monday for spring break. For some reason when I originally planned my schedule for the year, I totally missed the detail that Oceanside fell over my spring break. So when I got the go ahead from Jesse, I was super excited to head to one of my favorite places, sunny Southern California!

The bad part about doing this race, was I was flying solo to compete for the first time. Because of the last minute decision, Jeremy (my husband and bike builder) couldn't make it. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to have a homestay with Monika, who is one amazing woman. Not only is she so warm and funny, her family reminds me of my crazy cool family. Hanging out with Monika felt like being at home, which made me so calm and happy.

Upon arrival, I had to assemble my bike on my own for the first time in my life. Luckily I had a day to ride it to make sure it was working, and also to make sure that I remembered how to ride outside. Race morning came and I felt remarkably relaxed given that I was lining up with some of the strongest women in the sport. I made the decision to race in the pro field this year, mostly because I love a challenge and an adventure. I also love venturing into the unknown. This race would be a little bit of all of that!

Swim - My only goals for this swim were to go out HARD and to hang onto feet. When the gun went off, I stayed with a huge group of girls for about the first 100 meters, then a group of about 4 women (me included) formed our own little group. I was so excited that I was swimming with people, that the time went by so fast. When I got out of the water and saw 28, I had the biggest smile on my face because this would be a big PR for me....but after making it to transition and seeing only a couple bikes, I knew the course was fast and/or short. I am very happy that I did go out hard, although I would have liked to have stayed with the really big group for longer, but I did draft the entire way, which is a first. Onto transition and this is where lesson #1 comes in: Learn to transition faster! It won't help my bike split if I lose the girls before I even get onto the bike! They were in and out in the blink of an eye - while I was still fumbling around with my wetsuit. Starting the bike, I would be in no man's land!

Bike - I knew this super hilly course was going to be challenging because I have not had the chance to ride my bike outside for months, aside from an easy spin the day before, but I was also super excited because this course is stunning. This is also where lessons number 2 and 3 come in. Heading out on the bike, I was prepared to be alone, but I didn't think to learn the course very well. Even though you cannot drive the course because most of it is within Camp Pendelton, I still should have generally known the turns. Oops! Anyways, in the first few miles of the race, a road came to a Y, and I made a right hand turn. There were markings, but they were going in the opposite direction for when you rode back into town, so I was confused. After soft pedaling and looking over my shoulder for a bit, I finally saw a motor vehicle going in the opposite direction, so I turned around. This made me pretty timid every time I came to a turn in the road. Also, mistake number 3 is because I didn't know the course. At the end of the ride, you roll past T1 before heading 1.5 miles to T2. I got confused again and took my feet out of the shoes only to realize that I had 1.5 miles left (and a steep little hill) to ride with my feet like this. These stupid mistakes didn't really change anything for me on the bike, I knew I would be bringing up the rear, I just simply need to become stronger, smarter, and more aggressive on the bike!

Run - Can be summed up by looking at my garmin. I ran almost the exact same pace all day. I didn't get faster or slower, just steady 6:40 pace! At one point, Kendra (who had an amazing race and won the amateur race) came out onto the run right beside me and started cheering and pushing me to move along, so that helped a bit, but generally, I just kept right at my boring pace. I would have liked to have had some more spark in my legs, but dealt with what I had for the day. 

Overall, I am happy that I jumped into this race and learned some very valuable lessons. I also had time to hang out on the beach, go out to dinner at a great Mexican restaurant with good friends, and to meet some really nice new people.

I do have one last lesson #4: Learn how to use a torque wrench without stripping the screws! In a frantic disassembly of my bike, I stripped 3 screws so bad, that I had to take my bike to NYTRO so that I could get my headset off my bike. Lucky for me, Rocky (who is the best), drilled them out of my bike just in time to make my flight back to I said, I love an adventure!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Crazy...or Not Crazy?

Hmmm...well the last 6 weeks have been a little bit of a rough start to the new year. Not really the way I would have planned for things to happen. As I said in my last post, I was having sinus issues, and was put on some different medication that I had never been on before. I ended up having some serious adverse reactions to these medicines that included insomnia, and in turn made me crazy. Seriously Crazy! In my whole life, I have probably had just a handful of restless nights. Usually I am a very good sleeper. Actually my friends are jealous that I can fall asleep in very uncomfortable positions on airplanes, or airport floors, or sitting up in a chair. So when I couldn't sleep for a few nights in a row (like not even a wink), I didn't know what was wrong with me. I would actually wake my husband up at 3 a.m. asking him what is wrong with me? Lucky for me, I have a very sweet husband that would tell me nothing was wrong with me and would give me a massage in the middle of the night to try to relax me. I actually got to the point where I went to see a therapist for the first time in my life. I really thought I was losing my mind. I found out that insomnia can make you feel like you are depressed and anxious and all kinds of crazy stuff. After a few more nights of this and experimentation with OTC sleeping aids, I ended up having convulsions that led me to the emergency room. I honestly have never experienced anything like this, but I did learn that my bout of insomnia was due to the medication that I had taken (which by the way did absolutely nothing to help with my sinus issues!) Anyways I finally did get my sleep cycle on track and started to have a few good workouts and thought I was in the clear until I caught the dreaded stomach bug that everyone I know seems to have. So that is what I am getting over now, and although I could be frustrated, I am thinking of it as getting my immune system all built up so that the rest of the year will be smooth sailing!

On a more exciting note, I have found out through experimenting with the elimination diet, that I have sensitivities to gluten, dairy, and nuts. Although the medication DID NOT clear up my sinus issues, cleaning up my diet did according to my most recent visit to my ENT. So basically, I had to eliminate all of these allergens from my diet for about a week at a time, and then when I introduced them back into my diet, I had to monitor my body's reaction to that food. I noticed immediately with the gluten and the dairy, that I would feel nasal congestion. This is the exact sort of thing that can lead to the polyp growths that I had experienced, and only disappeared after a few weeks of a super clean diet. When I reintroduced nuts into my diet, my belly felt wildly uncomfortable, leading me to believe that I don't process nuts very easily. I still have to experiment with eliminating soy and corn. I find that these are the most difficult to eliminate because they seem to be in lots of stuff. So now my diet is mostly free of dairy, gluten, and nuts, although I couldn't resist a few bites of chocolate covered almonds and a mini-muffin after a five hour workout day. I am mostly finding it difficult to maintain this diet after long workouts when I am used to eating whatever I see first. Other than that, we are very lucky to be living in an age where there are lots of options at the grocery store.

I am hoping that having a clean diet and getting good sleep will pay off and I can get back on track. Basically I am trying to control the things that I can control. I know that I cannot control that 700 little kids come into contact and hug me every week (which is something that I love about my job). Or I know that I can't control that my school seems to gather an obscene amount of dust that could agitate my sinuses. Learning to be OK with the fact that I can't control everything is a learning process and will hopefully prepare me for races, where the best mental preparation is to control the things that you can control and be prepared to adapt for the unknown. Is that crazy? I hope not!!