Friday, October 31, 2014

My New Long Run...

Change tends to be hard, I think we can all agree on that. When I started working with Katie last November, I would start training using the Maffetone Method. Training this way would mean getting back to the basics, and building my aerobic capacity from the ground up. For me, it translated into SLOWING THE HELL DOWN when running. And when I thought I had slowed down enough? Slow down even more. The first six months of MAF training required a tremendous amount of patience from myself, and trust in the process. I struggled a lot (and still do a little) with the judgment piece; the paces my watch were spitting at me, how "slow" I felt I am now compared to when I used to do all my runs at X min/mile pace, etc. In time, however, I was finally able to see progress. My pace at MAF started to come down, first my seconds, then by minutes.

I chose to close out my 2014 season with a marathon, so Katie and I have been working closely together to allow for both proper recovery from Lake Placid, and a solid marathon build (This is the part that those who know me well just fell off their chairs seeing the word "recovery" in a post written by ME. Miracles do happen, my friends...).

When my first long runs started popping on the schedule, I couldn't help but laugh a little, while simultaneously scratching my head. It was a lot of "wait - you don't want me to just go out and run at a steady pace for 2+ hours?" mixed with "I have to start off at what pace, and do how many 15 minute repeats, and then end up with a FAST mile? You DO know that I own fly and die method, right?". I have been running marathons since 2004, and I would guess 95% of my long runs have always gone like this: Run hard, scream to the world how awesome I feel at mile 10, sit on the side of the road and throw my shoes somewhere around Mile 16, and walk home. I looked a whole lot like this. Always.

And today, my long run looked like this:
60mins building to/hanging out around MAF
4 x 15mins at MAF+10/5 mins easy
20 mins building down to X:XX min/miles
10 mins FAST
10mins easy/cool down

Wouldn't you know, I finished the run feeling like I could keep on running. It's amazing what happens when embrace change, trust in a process, and 100% believe in your coach's plan.

While I don't know what's going to happen in terms of time when I go after that finish line in December, I do know that despite the finish time on the clock, I have made more progress this year as a runner and athlete than ever before. And as long as I'm patient, and maintain vision of the long term plan, I will continue to grow and mature as an athlete.

Its that time of year where athletes are building their 2015 schedule, and searching for a coach. My advice to those athletes? Find someone who you can trust, one million percent. You must believe in the philosophy and the plan, if you ever expect that athlete/coaching relationship to work. Find someone who you click well with on a personal level. Having that coach know you and your life inside and out is essential to success. Transparency is key - feel comfortable over communicating with your coach. Think long term - can you BE patient? Are you willing to take 1-2-3 years to achieve your goals?

Change is hard, absolutely. However, I believe that some of the best things can come from closing your eyes, and taking a gigantic leap outside your comfort zone.

Happy training or off-seasoning!

Obligatory picture of Caitlyn and I, because why not?!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ironman Lake Placid - The Run

In short, the run was amazing. I left that changing tent, a smile plastered on my face, bursting with happiness.

As I left town, I smiled at everyone, but also knew I had to reign it in. A marathon is a long way, and I hadn't run the distance in a long time. I focused on getting in my nutrition, and just moving from mile marker to mile marker. I looked my watch when I crossed mile 3, just to be sure I hadn't gone out too fast. That would be the last time of the day I looked at my watch.

Around mile 7, my belly felt super bloated, and although I attempted to manage the issue while running, I eventually needed to pull over to the porta-potty (mile 9). I jogged in, spent a couple minutes have a conversation with my belly, jogged out and continued on. I stopped eating for a little while, just to let everything settle. Knowing my body was simply done with the chews I had been using, I ditched them and tried the food at the aid stations. Orange slices become the best thing to ever cross my lips, and seemed to agree with my body, so that became the fuel of choice.

As I came around mile 13, I could hear Mike Reilly announcing people finishing. I practiced for this moment, smiled and said to myself "lets do this one more time". There was never the "poor me" moment, just a deep breath, a smile, and the will do execute one more loop.

When I descended out of the town the second time, I set myself a goal - I wasn't going to walk one single step of the marathon. I had run the whole first half without walking (minus the porta-potty stop), and I was feeling awesome. I knew I had it in me, but setting the goal helped motivate me even further.

There's not a whole lot to say about the run, other than that I am extremely proud of the way I executed my plan. I had another porta-potty stop at mile 19, but other than that, I run every step of that damn marathon. Every person I saw walking, I thought to myself "that person is a cyclist. I'm a runner. Runners run. Runners don't walk." Sounds crazy, but in the moment, it worked to convince myself to keep shuffling forward.

Similar to mile 100 on the bike, I fist pumped crossing mile 20 of the run. That was the first time of the day I thought "as long as I can hold it together, I WILL be an Ironman today". It made me insanely happy, and motivated me to get through that next 10K.

Miles 20-24 I found fatigue (shocking, right?). There isn't one particular thing that stood out, and it wasn't the wall I've hit in marathons before, it was just deep fatigue.

I trudged up the steep climb that is Mile 24, and finally let myself soak it all in. The crowds, the energy, the music the cheers. I lifted my visor a little bit, and high fived everyone I could find. I put a little more pep in my step, and tried to remember every moment of those last 2 miles. I patted Caitlyn's barrette, which I had fastened inside my sports bra at 4am that morning, and smiled. I thought of all the early mornings, the shuffling of schedules, the patience of my family and friends, and the tireless efforts of my coach. All for this very moment, when I get to hear Mike Reilly tell me that I am an Ironman.

I entered the oval and was overcome with emotion; I smiled so hard my cheeks hurt, and was trying to get to that finish line as quickly as I can. A friend captured this video, which shows my trip around the oval to the finish line.

That moment is one I will never forget.

July 27, 2014.. the day I became an Ironman.

Ironman Lake Placid - The Bike..

The bike... Ohhhhh the bike... My weakest discipline in triathlon, and something I have worked so hard on since starting with Katie in November. I'm fortunate enough to have a lot of growth ahead of me on the bike, and I'm excited to see the type of cyclist I can become.

I came out of the changing tent, grabbed my bike, and went to the mount line. And there I stood, far over to the right in my own little world. I watched the rain coming down, and listened to the rumbles of thunder. I stood there for probably 3 or 4 minutes, and I don't know what finally made me go, but I started turning the pedals. Ever so slowly, and my hands securely fastened on my brakes. In all of my scenarios that I came up with, "rain while descending into Keene" was among the "worst case scenarios". I rode by Scott and Lisa, and yelled "this is my worst nightmare coming true". Dramatic maybe, but it's how I felt at the moment.

Off I went, spinning up the big hills leaving town, watching as everyone passed me at 150 miles per hour. I saw the sign that marks the descent into Keene, and took each portion of the descent as it came. I went slowly, in an effort to stay in control the entire time. I watched as people around me flew down the descent, wishing I could steal their confidence and bike handling skills. I stayed far to the right, out of everyone's way, and just burned through my brakes.

Once at the bottom, my teeth were chattering, and my hands white. This was the only time of the entire day that I thought about quitting. I was freezing, it was still pouring, and I was miserable. Then I thought about all of the work I had done, all the people who had sent all of their love, the people who got me to that starting line, and then fact that there was nothing "truly" wrong with me. I was scared and miserable, but physically, I was fine. There is a long out and back section after Keene, so I told myself that I had 30 minutes to take in food, try to get the heart rate back up, and if after those 30 minutes I was still miserable, I could re-consider. I decided to solider on, and in those next 30 minutes, I came back around. The rain had let up a bit, I was finally warming up, nailing my heart rate, and cruising right along.

The rest of the bike was pretty uneventful; I executed my plan, never looking at my speed. I didn't want to know how fast or slow I was going, everything was driven by my heart rate numbers. I spun up the hills, smiled a lot (even when the thunder and lightening made a re-appearance!), and fist pumped when I rolled over the 100 mile marker. This was now the furthest I had ever ridden on my bike, and oh my God I was doing it!  I chatted to a few people, took in all of the energy from the spectators, and joked about how beautiful the scenery would be if we could actually see it!

I rolled back into transition, apologized to the volunteer for the amount of pee that was on my bike, and clack clack clacked into T2. I changed out of my tri shorts, and into my Coeur run shorts, which was one of the best decisions of the day. It was so worth the 30 seconds to peel off those soaking wet tri shorts, and into a dry pair of my favorite run shorts. As I was about to head out of T2, I heard them announcing Amber as the women's winner. What the what? She was WINNING, and I still had to run a MARATHON? I only sat with that thought for a few moments, and then remembered that I now got to do my favorite part of the race - the run!

With that, I headed out to the roads, with a huge smile on my face. I had conquered my biggest fear in Ironman, and executed my plan beuatifully!

Ironman Lake Placid - The Swim

When I signed up for Ironman last year, I knew I needed someone by my side every step of the way. I needed someone who would put me on the line healthy and strong. I needed someone who would be my personal cheerleader, but also kick me in the ass when I needed it most. Someone who would save me from myself when I wanted to do more more MORE. I needed someone who would work with my crazy life schedule, and most importantly understand that I wasn't willing to be a crappy mom, just to satisfy the selfish desire of completing an Ironman.

I reached out to so many coaches, as the "fit" was so incredibly important to me. There are a lot of GREAT coaches out there, and I was fortunate enough to speak with many of them. When I found Katie, however, something just clicked (yes, fully aware I sound like I'm recapping a first date here...). I was able to check off of the boxes, and knew I could completely trust her. I tell everyone who asks that hiring a coach was the best thing I could have ever done for Ironman, and that is 100% the truth. I was fortunate enough to get a really great friend out of it too; a win/win!

All that said, Katie put me on that line happy, healthy, and prepared. It was that calmness and confidence that helped me to execute an amazing first Ironman.

I am going to skip over the days leading up to Placid, because I don't think anyone necessarily cares about what I ate, how terrified I was, and how intimidating being in a sea of 3000 ridiculously fit people can be.


I lined up a few steps in front of the 1:20 sign, and ran into Amanda in the corral. It was so nice to see a familiar face, and if I remember correctly we sang along loudly to "Call Me Maybe" while waiting for the cannon to sound. When it finally was time, this face came out. Holy shit.

I happily bounced into the water, but I immediately got tangled up in a mess of people. I tried to swim just off the line, and ended up swimming WAY too far out. Once I realized how far out I was, I would head back towards the line, get my butt kicked, move back out again, repeat. I know many people who have had calm peaceful Ironman swims at Placid, but that definitely wasn't me this year. I adore swimming, but I never felt like I could get in a good groove. I was either surging forward, pulling back, sitting up, or changing direction. I believe the fix to this is simply more open water experience, and overall, it was a good swim. I tried to smile as much as I could, reminding myself that I was swimming in my first Ironman!

I don't wear a watch when I swim, and therefore had no idea of my time. It wasn't until I was on my bike that I heard people had gotten pulled from the swim due to the lightening around Mirror Lake. I was fortunate enough to be able to complete the 2 loops, and for that, I am grateful.

I hopped out of the lake to downpours, hit up the wetsuit strippers, and made my way towards T1. I absolutely took my time, as it was slippery, and I wasn't willing to end my day due to a faceplant on the way to the changing tent.

Once there, I found an open seat, ate my snack, and let the volunteer do most of the work (minus the chamois cream... I spared her that responsibility). I took the extra minute to make sure I had everything I needed, and clack clack clacked my way out of the changing tent. I could hear the rain coming down, and truth be told, I was absolutely terrified....

Monday, April 7, 2014

Galveston 70.3 Race Report!

When I talked to Katie about my race schedule for 2014, I of course, wanted to throw an early season marathon into the mix. It's no secret that I love to run, but when Katie suggested an early 70.3 instead, I started researching. Galveston seemed to fit into my schedule, made sense financially, and I could convince Sara to come race with me. Being away from the triathlon scene for so long, I was super nervous for such a long race, so early in the season. Katie decided not to taper me much, and I could feel I was carrying some fatigue into this race. This is a GOOD thing; peaking in early April certainly wouldn't be ideal! 

Sara and I arrived at the race site early Sunday morning, secured a parking spot that would make for an easy exit at the end of the day, and made our way into transition. I forgot how much more "stuff" there is to do when playing in the world of triathlon, as compared to running! I did my best to remember everything, slipped on my wetsuit, and started the walk to the pier. 

The water was M-A-D Sunday morning; many moments during that swim I was thankful I'm so comfortable in the water. The current was against us going out, we then swam with the current for a bit, and the last part of the swim was right back into the current, which was tough! I got tossed around, kicked a bit, but it was FUN! My swim has been in a fabulous place, and my pool times have been great. That did not translate to Sunday morning, and I have a bunch of stuff I need to work on (i.e try swimming ON the course perhaps, and not swimming all the way to Mexico and back?).Its all good though - I exerted very little energy, took a few gulps of salt water (tasted that for hours!), and smiled. A lot! 

Came out of the water, hit the wetsuit strippers (best.thing.ever!), and ran into transition. Helmet, wet bike shoes (it had rained while we were swimming), and off I went! 

The bike... ohhhhhhhhh, the bike... The bike is the leg of triathlon where I'm least confident, and really need to stay on top of my mental game. The bike course in Galveston was perfect for me, especially this time of the year. I was able to just spin my legs, watch my heartrate, and go. It's a lonnnngg out and back, along the Gulf Coast, and flat as a pancake. Yesterday was windy (although not as bad as I feared) and rainy. This gave me a lot of opportunity to really keep my head in check; race my own race, let everyone pass me, and just keep pedaling. I felt great, nutrition was going down just fine. I was smiling the whole time. Around my 35ish, my adductors started screaming and cramping. I think it's a combination of not having ridden outside much, and being in aero for so much of the course yesterday. Whatever the reason, I didn't know how to "fix" it, other than just get my butt to T2 as fast as I could! 

T2 was tough, only because the adductors were so painful. I didn't think though, just kept moving forward. Threw on the run shoes, my headband, and off I went, shuffling out to the run course. 

I absolutely love to run. I wanted to CRUSH this run course, and I knew I had a good time in me. When I started to run, my run legs just weren't there. I flipped my watch over, decided not to look at it for a little bit, and waited a couple miles for my run legs to show up. They never did. At mile 5ish, I started to get VERY frustrated when I realized my miles weren't the 8:xx I was really hoping to see, and realized I had a choice. I could pout, and allow for the mental spiral to define the run, or put my head down, and do what I could to get to the finish line. I started looking for shoes in front of me. "okay, go get the pink shoes, and pass her. Done. Now go get those yellow shoes, pass him." I repeated this for literally the last 6/7 miles. It worked to keep me moving forward and focused. So much so that I caught 123 women and 570 total athletes on the run! While NOT the run I was looking for, I kept my head together, smiled, and focused. Had I let myself fall apart emotionally, the outcome of the day would've been VERY different. 

I learned so much yesterday; I have some new goals for my next 70.3 in June, and a lot of things I want to work on in training. I have so much more in me, and am capable of being a lot faster. However, the time of the clock isn't always what defines the day (for me - I'm also not doing this for a living); it's how I managed myself throughout the day. I smiled so much yesterday, got to see some great people, and got to spend the day doing something I absolutely love. 

A huge thanks to Katie, for putting up with my shenanigans every day. She saves me from myself on a regular basis, and I'm so thankful to have her in my life. 

Thanks to Coeur for putting me in a kit where I have zero (yes, z-e-r-o) chafing, and a headband (not a visor girl!) that withstood the entire run. Not to mention the hoodie that I basically lived in all weekend! I'm so very thankful! 

Until next time.... 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Me Versus Me..

I was a total bitch to my coach yesterday. She sent me my race plan for Sunday, and I immediately wrote back some childish response about the race taking me 16 days to complete. There was no excuse for my temper tantrum, and I spent a lot of my run yesterday thinking about where that response even came from.

Social media is fascinating to me; it can be such a wonderful platform for so many things, but can also be a place of "hey - look at me!". As an athlete, my Facebook and Twitter feeds are often filled with reports of how many hours people swam/biked/ran, at what pace/how many watts/wearing a Superman cape, etc. Its so damn hard not to compare yourself to what everyone else is doing, even when you know it's not possible that so many people are training 65 hours a week while juggling 86 children, 3 jobs, and no baby-sitters. Ever.

This journey to Ironman is one that I chose to take for my own reasons. I chose a coach who I fully believe will get me to that starting line healthy, happy, and ready to slay the Ironman dragon. I have put in a ton of work, and the confidence in myself grows each week. There is no room for me to be worrying about what everyone else is doing, how everyone else is training, or at what races other people are peaking.

All of this "noise", ironically, was at the root of my meltdown yesterday. "What if it takes me XX hours to finish this race? What will so and so think of me if it takes me 9 hours to ride my bike 56 miles? Will I be a total loser if I run a XX half marathon? Why am I not faster?" And it left with me with a choice - choose to follow the race plan, trust my coach (and myself!), and execute my own race, or spend the next 4 days  (and the entire race) worrying about what "everyone" will think of my if I don't finish in under XX hours.  I will never be the fastest athlete out there (spoiler alert: I'm not winning Sunday!), but I train and race with my heart, and this sport is something I absolutely love adore.

I made my choice - I have spent the past 5 months ensuring all of my "life buckets" are equally full. When I'm with Caitlyn, she gets 100%. Family and friends - I make phone calls, and make the time. I'm fortunate that I love my job, and when I'm there, they get 100%.  And when I get in that pool, on my bike, or in my running shoes, I give 100%. It's a way that I have chosen to live my life, and I rarely compare my day to day life to anyone else's. In which case, why the hell would I care to compare my training/race times to anyone else?

On Sunday, I am going to follow that race plan as close to the letter as I can. I'm going to smile often, and make it a point to give out as many "thank yous" to the volunteers that I can. I'm going to be thankful that I have the opportunity to race, and be proud of this journey that I have chosen.

While being a bitch to your coach is never a great idea, that moment gave me the huge kick in the pants reminder I needed. It's me versus me, and nobody else.

"Courage starts with showing up, and letting ourselves be seen."
-Brene Brown

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Whats Your Why?

It's February in Massachusetts, which means we'll inevitably be slapped with a few more snow storms, just to remind us how long a nasty winter really can last in New England. We'll also get 40+ degree days, where you'll see people out running in shorty shorts, almost willing spring to come more quickly. 

I decided to play chicken with this morning's snowstorm, and head to the gym as soon as it opened. I knew the storm would start getting bad about 8am, but also knew if I was efficient, I could bang out my swim/run and get home before my little car got stuck under a foot of snow. 

When I slipped into the pool, the only other guy in the chlorinated paradise turned to me and said "whats the reason YOU'RE here so early on this snowy morning"? I smiled, turned, and got my workout underway. His words stayed with me through my entire warm-up set; it dawned on me that I never thought of it as an "option". I set my alarm, and as long as the ground wasn't already covered with 3++ inches of snow, I was swimming. Of course, I had asked coach for a contingency trainer plan, but that was truly worst case scenario. 

Similarly, on the weeks I have Caitlyn, I train early, before she wakes up. My alarm goes off at a time that either starts with a 3 or 4, I roll into my bike shorts, and execute my workout before she gets up for school. No lights or TV, simply because I want to be able to hear her in the event she wakes up. It's me, and the sound of my trainer, for a couple hours before sunrise. It's never a thought to not do the workout, or even hit the snooze button (full disclaimer - I'm a total morning person. I'm usually out cold by 9pm, making it easier to get up early!). 

This was clearly NOT a dark-thirty ride!
Do I tell you this because I'm trying to sound like a super hero, or being all bragadocious on you? Nope. 

I truly believe the reason my training is consistent is because I know my "why". I never question why I'm hopping in the pool that happens to look a little extra slimy, or jumping on my trainer super early in the morning. I don't hit the snooze button, because I know I'll be much more productive spending those 5 minutes slipping on bike shorts (sometimes backwards), putting on the swimsuit that's still a little damp from yesterday's swim rendezvous, or lacing up my favorite pair of trainers. And even when coach again makes me run a prescribed low heart rate, instead of letting me off the leash to be a screaming running banshee, I listen, because I know my why. 

Gorgeous winter day for a run! 
Everyone's reasons for exercising, training, or even getting up to go to work in the morning, is different. Maybe you're motivated by money, to lose that last 5 pounds, or to fit into your favorite pair of skinny jeans. Or maybe on certain days, you're motivated because you can eat a Thin Mint girl scout cookie as fuel on your bike (uhhhh, theoretically of course..). I think the reason people stop being consistent in certain areas of life is because it can be easy to forget the "why" that was the motivation at the start. 

I challenge you to figure out your why; write it down, post it on your fridge, or tape it to your forehead. Then when your alarm goes off, remember that very reason your feet are hitting the floor in the morning. 

Happy Training!