Thursday, October 13, 2016

Ironman Wisconsin 2016

This is the longest I have ever gone without writing a race report after one of my IM races.  I am not sure why it has taken so long for me to write this other than this was not the race I had hoped for and I still am not really sure why.  My 3 possible goals for this race were: a) To PR (isn't that always a goal?),   b) to go sub 15 hour on the course, or  c) beat my IMMT time.    I ended up beating my IMMT time, but barely.

The decision to race IMWI was actually made about a year ago.  My friends Jen, Pete and Tim were planning their next race, and after racing IMMT together in 2014, they put the idea in my head to consider IMWI for 2016.  Then I chatted with my friend Ron and he was also interested.  Everything I had always heard about IMWI has been very positive, but I had always been a little cautious about doing it as I have also heard it is one of the toughest of the US Ironman's.   After sitting down and discussing possible race options with my Mom, she approved of IMWI, so I signed up.   Once signed up,  I really started thinking about how it would be cool to race for a cause, to do something more than just race.  Enter Lisa Ruth and ROI.   As I was contemplating this, Lisa is posting about the team she is a part of and trying to recruit others to join the team.   As I learned more about them, I decided to go ahead and join and do some additional fundraising for this race.   The team is a combination of T1 (type 1 diabetes) athletes and T3 (supporters of T1) athletes.  So, just like that, I am racing as part of a bigger cause as a T3 athlete for ROI.  The money we raised is to help send kids with T1 to sports related camps across the US.   There are approximately 40 of us signed up for the team, 19 of which have T1 diabetes.   Much respect for these athletes, Ironman is hard enough as it is, to have to monitor blood sugar levels and everything that goes a long with it just adds to the complexity of racing.

Me, Ron, Tim, Pete, and Jen at the athlete dinner

Fast forward to race weekend.   Mom and I traveled up by ourselves and stayed at a really cool BNB on one of the lakes.  Was a nice change in pace from staying in one of the hotels like I normally do.  We were pretty busy leading up to the race between meeting up with the ROI team for a welcome dinner on Thursday,  practice swim, expo, and athlete dinner on Friday, and race check-in on Saturday.    Met so many new people, and saw some old friends as well...I would love to mention everyone, but too many to name!    It is possible that I was too active prior to the race, but I wouldn't have done it differently as I really enjoyed meeting and seeing so many people there for the race. 

Race morning came way too early, as it always does.  We had gotten my Mom VIP status for the race and as a result, we were able to park right at the convention center, which was a bonus.  But parking there was first come first serve, so we opted to go really early to assure she had a spot there.   We split up at that point so I could get ready for the race.  I headed to the bike first to drop off my nutrition and pump up the tires.  Much to my delight, Lisa Ruth was there, shared her pump and a hug and some kind words for race morning.  Seeing her in the morning helped more than she probably realized.  And because of her, I was able to be part of something bigger for this race. 

Race selfie with Lisa Ruth 

Next stop was to the bathroom, opted to go into the convention center as it was warmer and also had real bathrooms (vs the port o johns outdoors).   Had plenty of time after that and ended up finding my friend Christopher and we hung out for a bit and tried to calm each other down.  Eventually we split so each of us could go to the bathroom.   At this point I started putting on my wetsuit to get ready to go down to the water.   Randomly, Ron and his wife Holly walk by me.  Bonus!  I get to start the race with one of my Columbus peeps!    From this point on we stay together until we can get into the water, which ends up being about 3 minutes prior to the gun start.   Took forever as all 2,500 athletes go down the helix and have to enter the water under the "swim in/out" arch.   

Ron and I waiting to get in the water

IMWI is one of the few races that still does a mass start.  I am a pretty strong swimmer, but I hate mass starts.  To me they are very frightening and it really is like a washing machine with people all over the place, you get punched, pulled on, pushed, and generally just pulverized as you try to move forward.  My friend Kristen had done IMWI a few years ago and she gave me the brilliant advice to wait 30 sec after the gun goes off to start swimming.   So, I am thinking about this as I am swimming in the water to get over to the start line in the lake.  By the time I get to the back of the group in the spot I want to start in, the gun goes off.  At this point I am a little ways off the back of the big group, but I still wait 30 seconds, which seems like it takes forever.   But, it worked.  I am able to easily swim and find a line and not feel like I am fighting 2,500 people to get there.   Off to a good start and I do pretty well until the first turn, which is initially fun, as everyone moo's as you go around the buoy.   But, I got a little caught up behind a woman who is freaking out.  Fortunately myself and another athlete are able to get her to move forward a bit and flag down a kayaker to help her.   On my way again and starting to feel good, when all of the sudden I inhale a huge amount of water and start choking.   I have to tread water and move myself out of the path of the athletes to regain my composure.  A kayaker also flags me down but I waved him off and eventually got control of things, but it took a few minutes.   From that point on though, the rest of my swim went pretty well.   I exited the water at just over 1:22, which I was really pleased with given the swim conditions and it is the fastest of my mass starts thus far!  

Out of the water we have to run up a helix several floors to get to the convention center, which is where T1 is located.  This is by far the longest I have ever had to run after getting out of the water and I was nervous about it, but it goes fine and I actually have a quicker transition than I thought I would.  

My plan for the bike is to try to take it easy on the first loop.   IMWI has a hillier course and it is fairly technical because there are a shit ton of turns on the course, effectively making it hard to gain any momentum at all from the hills.  Coming out of town was really slow as you are on a path for a bit, in a parking lot, and on a lot of rough roads and also lots of turns.  The bike is a double lollipop, so you go out "the stick," do two hilly loops and then return on "the stick."  

My first loop actually goes by fairly quickly, although my pace isn't really very fast.  But, before I know it I am coming through the half way point and am really pleased and surprised to see my Mom out in Verona cheering for me!   Gave me a nice little boost as I head back out to the second loop.   Overall the bike course is really pretty and there are some nice hills.  But there is one section on the bottom of the loop that is more flat and to me, boring.  It isn't a section I like and as I am on it the second loop on that section, I realize that I feel really tired.   It isn't supposed to be a windy day, but I feel like I am slugging along at a snail's pace and the effort I feel like I am putting forth isn't matching my pace.   It is at that time that I see a flag and realize it is sticking straight out...headwind and not a light one.  No wonder I am feeling worn out.  And from then on it seemed like it just continued to get worse.  By the time I get to the stick to go back, I feel plain worn out and I am starting to worry about the run, hoping I will have the energy to run once I get done.  

The last 10 miles was pretty tough, unfortunately besides being tired, my undercarriage is really chafed.  So I feel every single bump and all of them hurt.  So, I ended up bracing with my legs quite a bit, which continues to slow me down, so although this section isn't as hilly, I can't make up any speed either.   But, eventually I get through it, and man am I glad to see that helix and convention center which also marks the finish.    Quick T2 and I am out on the run. 

I am pleasantly surprised how good my legs feel given how tired I felt on the bike.  And my first 12 miles go really well.  During this time I am also able to see my Mom again and also most of my friends and teammates which is pretty cool.  The course has a lot of little out and backs so it makes it easy to see people at different points.   I also really like the run course in general, you run by the capital, through campus, into the football stadium of University of Wisconsin and also along a path on one of the lakes which is absolutely beautiful.  

Inside the stadium, I loved this the first time through

Just after mile 12, I started to have some trouble.  There is one section going back toward the turn around that is a false flat and near the end of it I start to get really short of breath and end up slowing to a walk.  It doesn't take me long to recover, so by 13 I am running again and on my way out to the second loop.   Around mile 14 I had a sense that something didn't feel right, but I couldn't figure out why I didn't feel right.  Just after that there is a short ramp before we head into the stadium for a second time.  I opt to walk up it as my HR seems high based on the way I am feeling (no strap on today, forgot it at home).  By the time I am to the top of it I am really short of breath.  So much so, that I slow down to barely a walk.  Since I did my inhaler in T2 (just a few hours prior), I am thinking it might be a panic attack, which I sometimes get.  So, I stop to try and gain control, but the shortness of breath continues to get worse, I realize I am dizzy and am wheezing.  At that point one of my ROI teammates stops and asks if I am ok.  I try to shake my head yes and he asks if I have asthma.  Again I shake my head yes.  Do you have your inhaler?  Yes, but I can't get any words out to tell him where it is and I can't seem to figure out how to get my hands to move to get it.  After what seems like an eternity, I finally figure out how to get the inhaler out, and manage to get a couple of pumps in me.   The dizziness gets almost overwhelming at that point and I have to hold onto something for a minute or two to regain my composure. This really frightened me and I realize this is possibly the worst asthma attack I have ever had.  

  Nathan, the name of my angel that day, stays with me.   And after a few minutes I start to feel better and can get some one word answers out.  At this point I thank him and start to finally walk and we go around the stadium together.  I try to tell him to run, but he stays with me.  I kept apologizing as I still can't really move very fast and he is conversing with me, but I also know I am still not focusing very well.  I am not really sure how long we walk but he continues to talk (I learn his wife Kim is also racing and it is her first, his second, and they just got married a year ago, also he is from Cinci, which is great, an Ohio boy!) and I am just trying to focus on moving forward, not falling over and breathing.   Eventually I feel better and we start to do a combo of walking and running.  And as we start running, I also realize my hands are really swollen, which is unusual for me.  Around this time we come up on the Base Nutrition tent and Tony is there, looks a little concerned and reminds me to keep drinking rocket fuel.  But I am worried about more sodium as my body already seems to retaining it.   At this point he suggests that I need potassium and magically a banana appears.  I hate bananas.  So, I tell him no, I won't eat it.  We bicker a bit and finally I relent to eating a third of it, mainly because I know Tony is right and that I need the potassium.  I never did get to properly thank Tony, but he helped, almost as much as Nathan did that day. I will be eternally grateful for these two. 

  From then on, I also make sure I am drinking water at each stop, continue to sip on my rocket fuel and I start drinking coke...glorious coke.  Coke also has potassium in it, something I had forgotten, and I think this, combined with the banana, really helped me.   By mile 20, I finally am starting to feel back to normal and my hands are no longer swollen.  I am also realizing that the better I am feeling, the worse Nathan as doing.  He has been struggling most of the day with keeping his blood sugars stable, did I mention he is one of the T1D athletes?   We also talk about his wife and he is pretty sure she is catching up to us, and I think he is hoping they can finish together.   I also realize that if I can speed up, despite all the walking we have done, that I might still be able to beat my IMMT time (which if you remember was my "c" goal).    Unfortunately at this point, Nathan can't keep the same pace as I can.  But he tells me to go on without him.  I am torn.  Here, he selflessly slowed down to help a fellow teammate in need, and now that I am feeling better, I am just gonna leave him.  But, I am also ready to be done.  And his wife is coming to run with him...don't know how I know this, but in my heart, I believe and know she is coming.    After a great internal debate, I decide to just keep moving forward.  My desire to be finished is just too great, and I know I will get there faster if I can run.   And I do just that, with the exception of the water stops, I run most of the last 6 miles to the finish where my Mom is waiting.   And what a cool finish, I have to admit, the capital building really was something to behold as you are going down toward that finish line!  

 My IMMT time was 15:07 and you can see in the picture below that I finished IMWI in just over 15:04!    

You can see the relief in my face to be done with that race.

Nathan and his wife, Kim finishing together as I knew they would! 

By the time I finished, my buddy Ron found me, since we started together, figured a picture at the end was worthwhile as well. 

In reflection on the race I am still not sure what happened, but I think I may have been dehydrated.  Nothing that would land me in the medical tent, but enough that I didn't really notice it and enough that it affected my performance.  The weather was almost ideal, low humidity, low dew point, high temps in the low 70's...we couldn't have asked for better weather.  But I think the result is that I didn't realize how much I was sweating as it was evaporating as soon as it hit my skin.  I remember being really thirsty during the middle of the swim, but never was again after that.  And despite being on the bike for nearly 8 hours, I only drank 4 bottles of electrolytes and about 2 bottles of water.  I did stop to pee 3 different times on the bike, but I only went small amounts the last two times.   And then I didn't go again until I got back to the BNB after the race (which would easily have been close to 8 hours without peeing).   I had forgotten both my bike computer and heart rate monitor at home.   My bike computer normally beeps every 10 minutes reminding me to drink, so I didn't have that reminder during the race.  And I think if I would have noticed my HR going up, it may have alerted me to things sooner.  I know an increase HR affects the asthma.   But other questions I have...1) did I go out too conservatively on the bike?  2) Did the inhaled water affect my lung capacity/breathing during the race?  3) Was I still tired from racing (and PR'ing) Ohio 70.3 only 3 weeks prior. 4) Could I have raced the bike course faster on my road bike?     At this point I really don't know and I am not sure I ever will.  

 Overall, I am glad I did this race and I really liked the race bling, the race venue, the town, all the people I met, and having the honor of racing with ROI.  I loved the run especially, probably my favorite of all the races I have done.   And I am still trying to convince myself that I did what I could that day and should be happy with my overall performance.  Maybe in time, I will be okay with that.   For everyone else though, IMWI is definitely a race I would suggest if you don't mind a little tougher course.   And I can't say enough good things about racing with ROI...both my team members racing and out on the course cheering, were spectacular!  

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Ironman Chattanooga 2015

Not even sure where to start with this race except to say that overall Ironman #6 was another amazing experience.   And unlike my Flying Pig experience earlier in the year, this one was done with family and friends surrounding me the entire time.  Close to 50 athletes went down and raced Ironman Chattanooga this year from the Columbus area  and we had these shirts made, a navy one for the supporters and teal for the athletes.   Pretty cool to see people sporting these the entire weekend!  In addition to my Columbus friends, there was also a number of other friends racing that I know through various other IM groups, primarily via FB, so was also fun to actually meet some of these athletes while I was in town for the race and then see them again during the race and after the race as well.

 Chattanooga is a cool town, that I have really come to love in the past year.  The people are wonderful and so welcoming, lots of outdoor activities, beautiful area, and tons of great eating places.  Part of the charm of this race definitely lies in the community that surrounds it.   And although it is probably a little boring, as part of my race report, I am just going to include a little account of each day there.

Day 1:  Pretty much can be summarized by driving down from Columbus to Chattanooga with my friend Amy.  I made her leave early, stop for coffee before we were even out of Columbus, stop again for coffee half way into the trip and then eventually make it in town early enough for dinner with our friends Becky, Bruce, and Erin,  but just late enough that we couldn't check into the race that night.  And prior to dinner, I did a quick spin on the bike to make sure everything was working.   Glad I did, got to see the one part of the course I hadn't ridden.

Day 2:   Slept in and woke up to pouring rain.   Picked up Jeanne from across the hall and went down to check in, get the official IM "blue bracelets" and hit one of the mandatory athlete meetings.

Jeanne, checking into her first IM!

After check-in, I drug Amy to a pretty awesome local restaurant, The Feed Table and Tavern,  and met up with some more friends that I had met through IM training groups.   Fun to see Catherine (who lives in Chattanooga) and Dash (who lives in Florida) and catch up for a bit! 
Dash, Catherine, and I just after lunch

Returned to the hotel in time to get ready for The Underwear Run. For those not familiar with the Underwear Run, they originated at IM Kona 18 years ago and is a short,fun run that takes place a few days prior to the race event.  People show up in undies, run a few miles, and donate money to a local charity.     Not all of the IM's have an Underwear Run, but fortunately, IM Chattanooga had one this year, and fortunately, it also stopped raining in time for the run and we had almost perfect weather and a great turn out.    Only 5 from our group went, but we had a blast!

Greg, Jeanne, Patrick, myself and Ken

After the run Jeanne and I hit the opening ceremony for the race.   In other races they will have a sit down dinner and a welcome ceremony and it can last 2-3 hours.  In Chattanooga, the dinner was replaced with a $25 voucher we could use in town at participating restaurants  and the ceremony was condensed into an hour.  I love going to them because they will introduce special interest stories, stats about the race, etc.   From there we went to the Big River Brewing Company and met up with several of our group and our supporters from Columbus.  

Michelle, Lynne, Jeanne, Will, Brian, Ken (back row)
Stephen, myself, Wendy, and Amy (front row)

Day 3:   Slept in again, got up and took our bikes down to the waterfront, where we also set up our club tents for the race supporters.   Big thanks to Chet from Bikesource for coming down to help support the racers.   He actually bought tools and set up "shop" for a few hours for us all to bring bikes down and have him look over for any last adjustments.  Pretty awesome that we were able to have that personal attention at the race.   

Jacque, Todd, Dawn, Carrie, Wendy, Anne, and Karen of Just Tri

Tent set up

Chet, working hard on the bikes

After getting the bike worked on and making sure it was working well, I headed over to transition and dropped it off, looked at my spot, and then headed to eat before going back to the room and getting my bags ready to drop off for bike and run.    Then went  back to transition to drop those off and walk through to make sure I would know the flow of things for race day.    So generally after I drop the bike off and look for landmarks, then do the same with the bags, I will then walk back through and really pay attention to the flow of the race.   Where do I exit the water, then enter transition, to the point where the bags are, etc.  Where is the bike out, then bike back in, then run out?   I like to visualize how I will come through and go over the process in my head?   I feel like if I can do that, it is one less thing I have to worry about on race day.   I also found my friend Katrina and walked with her through the transition as well, helped me too, to do it a 3rd time.  
Run bags, took a picture to help capture where mine was, notice the double yellow line on the ground?  My bag was next to that, yellow tape on the bag...

Found Katrina! 

Down at transition I ran into more friends, including my highschool Geometry teacher, Mr. Kevin Guilfoyle!   I knew he had been doing triathlons, but had no idea he had signed up for IMChoo, so was pretty fun to see him down there! Found out later that Kevin actually placed in the top 3 of his AG, but missed a Kona spot by a few sounds like he had a great race!

Club member and VP of COTC, Patrick

Found a matching shirt!  Karen of Just Tri 

Last stop before heading back to my room to rest a bit before dinner was meeting up with another friend, Claudia, who had traveled to town to spectate and cheer at IMChoo, from Atlanta...she would be going on to complete her first IM in a few weeks at IMLou
Claudia and I

Dinner was spent with my Mom and Aunt Debbie, who had just arrived in town that day.  We headed out to a fantastic place called 1885, also the same owners as Feed Table and Tavern.    My friend Nathan had suggested both places, as his sister Leslie and brother-n-law, Miguel were the owners.  Leslie and I had been texting and talking on the phone prior to the race and I finally got to meet her when we went for dinner.   All I can say was the food was delicious (would highly recommend to anyone visiting or living in Chattanooga) and the company was great as well.  Definitely a great place for a pre-race dinner! 

Leslie and I at 1885

Day 4:  Race Day  -  I had two primary goals for the race going into it.  #1 was to get through the race without any GI problems, especially on the run.  #2 was to break the 14:00 mark, which would be a PR for me (up to that point my PR was set at IMAZ 2009 with a 14:11:26)

Alarm clock always comes early on race day, and this was no exception.  3 athletes up, ready and down to transition by 6am where we added nutrition to the bikes, checked on our bags, made some pit stops, and then reconnected to head over to the swim.  At Chattanooga they actually bus you out to the swim start, which is 2.4 miles upstream.  Once there, everyone gets into to line, which is first come, first serve, to wait until the race starts.   This one is a time trial start, which basically means you start on land in one big line and then run out to a dock and jump in one right after another.   Was nice to have a posse to hand with prior to the start of the race, and also to see some of our sherpas/supporters out there to cheer us on and give last minute tips.  We got there a little later, electing to sleep in longer vs be at the front of the line.  The best I can estimate is that it took us about 20 min from the start of the race to actually get into the water...
Chattanooga's swim is by far the easiest I have done. It was wetsuit optional, but I elected to go without one as the water temps were in the 77 degree range and I was afraid I would roast!   Almost no contact getting started and everyone spreads out pretty quickly, after all, we have the whole river to swim in!   Also, the buoys are pretty visible, and it is downstream...both of which made a huge difference.  I went at a moderately easy pace and overall felt pretty good in the water.  And when I finished, I had a 1:07:24, PR for the swim by about 11 minutes!  

Long run from the water to transition, but much to my surprise I was able to run most of it..most of the time I am fairly SOB when I get done swimming and it can be hard for me to get my breathing under control initially.  For some reason I didn't have this problem during this race.   Once into transition, I wasn't able to get a volunteer so was trying to do things on my own.  Fumbled around, but finally got everything on and headed out to the bike.   Spotted my new friends Leslie and Miguel as soon as I came out, so stopped to hug them, then moved into transition.   My one mistake was not practicing a portable GPS unit that I had rented in order for my family to be able to track me easier.   I had never used one before and thinking it would be easy to figure out, hadn't practiced turning it on prior to the race.   Well, for some odd reason, I couldn't get the darn thing to turn on, even though I know I charged it the day before.  But I probably stood there several minutes trying to figure the thing out, prior to finally giving up and hoping I had gotten it on by accident somehow (which I didn't).   So my transition ended up being almost 11 minutes long.   Longer than I would have liked, but not terrible considering I felt like I had been in there forever.  

Next up was the bike.  My plan was an easy pace for the first loop, then moderately easy until mile 80 and then increase to moderate pace at that point if I was feeling good.  I opted not to use HR for the race and to go by feel instead.  Through the years, I have trained with HR and have really tried to focus on how I feel at the same time.   So this year, I have slowly gone away from HR and wanted to see what I could do with RPE.  The other reason I stopped HR training is because I was getting tired of constantly chafing from the strap, no matter what I tried.  The other was just to race a little more free and and see what I could do...

Chattanooga's bike course starts in town then heads out into an area of rolling hills, churches and some flats.   Very pretty land and I very much enjoyed the course.   I also loved seeing so many of my friends out on they all passed me.  But I kept with my plan and focused on consistent eating/drinking on the bike.   Switched my nutrition up on the bike this year and used osmo for electrolytes and then used picky bars and power bar wafers for calories and water whenever I ate.    Had an alarm set for every 10 minutes and tried to make sure I either drank or ate something every time it went off.   By then end of the first loop, I was feeling pretty good, so I picked up the pace just slightly.   By the time I finished the second loop, I had caught back up to and passed 5 people that I knew from Columbus that had passed me in the first loop.    I had also finished off 4 bottles of osmo, 2-3 bottles of water, 2 picky bars and 2 wafer bars and the stomach was feeling good, although I had to pee like a race horse!   Bike time:  6:56:03 (Technically, not a PR, IMAZ still holds that at a 6:50, however IMAZ course is 112 and IMChoo is you be the judge)

Got to ride with my friend Ken for a little bit before we eventually split up

Once off the bike, I changed shoes quickly in the tent, re-applied sun screen (where I quickly realized my neck had chafed at some point from the intense burning sensation I felt right after the sunscreen hit my neck), hit the bathroom and then finally found my Mom and Aunt for a quick hug and update. Then it was off onto the run course.   T2 was about 8 minutes.   Again, longer than I would have liked, but taking the time for sunscreen, my family and the loo...I wouldn't change.   

Chattanooga's run is a  hilly, 2 loop course.  It is probably the hilliest and toughest of the races I have done.   Elevation gain on the run is close to 1,300 ft and most of it is on the back portion of the first loop.   There is also a huge hill in the first mile as you are coming out of transition.   My plan for this race was a moderately easy pace for the first loop and then see how I feel.  I also planned to walk all the water stops and the hills so my HR wouldn't get too high.   Nutrition was osmo in my hand held bottle, cliff shot blocks (one every aid station), water with cliff shots, base salts (one lick every mile), and coke starting the second half or when I felt like my energy levels needed it.   2 miles into the run, I randomly met Eric, who recognized me from a FB group we are both in on-line.   Eric is from New York, so I found it hysterical that he recognized me during the middle of a race, especially never having met him before!   Eric is on his second loop and I my first,  I quickly realized I could not keep up with him and let him go, although I appreciated the company for a bit.    Not long after that my friend Bruce catches up with me...which totally confuses me as he had passed me on the bike and I couldn't recall passing him again.   But either way, he somehow ended up behind me.   We ended up running together for a few miles, which was really nice and helped me take my mind off things for a bit.   Bruce is looking for his wife Becky, who had also passed me on the bike, and hoping that they can finish the race together.   At this point it is looking like Becky has a different idea.   Bruce, did not train for the run, which is evident by the fact that he even ran with me for a bit.   But eventually we separated at a water stop...I kept running and Bruce walked a bit longer at that point and I never saw him again until the finish.   Shortly after I left Bruce I saw his wife and over the next half mile proceeded to catch up to her, let her know Bruce wasn't far behind, and then moved on...Becky hadn't trained much for the run as well.   And Bruce eventually caught her, and they did finish together!
Bruce and I on the run,  thanks IM for capturing that!

Hit the hills and kept up with my run/walk plan.  One great thing at this point is that many of our friends that came down to support us on the course, spread out across the toughest part of the run.  So not only did I get to see many more of my friends that were racing in passing on the out and back sections, but I also had friends cheering me on and shouting encouragement from the sidelines.    Around mile 12, climbing yet another hill, I hear "I hate you" all the sudden.   I look over and I am passing my friend Will.   He is struggling , but I know he will finish at this point.   I keep up with my pace and lose him as well.  Shortly after this, I spot his wife on the sidelines and she is asking where he is.  I tell her "behind me"  and she then asks "you caught him?"  and shaking my head yes, she just says "excellent" and I keep moving.    Second loop comes and I am feeling decent as far as energy and legs overall feel good except my right knee has been hurting, right where the IT band attaches.  An old injury, but one that hasn't bothered me in almost 2 years. I am not limping, but almost every aid station from about 6 miles on, I have to stop and stretch to keep it from getting worse. But, still was able to chug along at a pretty consistent  pace despite this.  

Just a sampling of the great support system we had out on course...they were awesome!!!

  About the time the sun is starting to set  I catch up to my friend Stephen.   He also is struggling on the run, but we end up running a few miles together.   Fun talking to Stephen as he is planning on proposing to his girlfriend at the finish...has it planned so that she has VIP access and is the one to give him his medal.   He tells me about how they met, the proposal plan, etc.  Definitely helps to pass the time.  Can tell my energy is starting to dip a little, but so far no GI problems!  Coke started at this point and  by about mile 20 I have dropped Stephen as well.  Felt bad about it but at this point  I can almost start to taste the finish line, so I keep moving, at what ever pace I can.   At about mile 24 I catch my friend Barb.   Barb, who had blown past me on the first loop of the run, is now doing a fairly steady walk.  Her first IM and she is kicking butt, but hurting.   We talk a bit as I slow down my jog to see how she is doing.   And I know she will finish, so wish her luck and keep moving.  One more big hill and I know I will be good to go.   Last mile I pick up the pace as much as I can.  And I am smiling the whole way.  And crying.   Thinking about my Dad and what a year it has been.  And I know at this point that I will have not only a PR, but also a sub 14 hour race.   All the hard work, the long hours, the belief in myself this year, paying off.   And even though he isn't physically there, I know my Dad is there with me, guiding me, looking out for me.   And I finally reach the finish-line!   #6 complete!   Run time:  5:27:27 (not a PR, but only 4 minutes slower than my IMAZ run PR at 5:23) and an overall time of 13:50:08!! 

Me knowing I have a PR and spotting my Mom and Aunt Debbie just before crossing the finish line

#6, how sweet it is!  

And crossing the finish line I spot a group of my friends that have traveled down to Columbus and cheer us on...they have also signed up as volunteers so they can "catch" us at the finish line!   Pretty sweet to have my medal placed around me by my friend Dawn and get a hug from a group of women that I know and love, making the end of my race even more special than it already had been!   Finished out the evening by staying at the finish line and seeing all my friends (except 2) finish, including Stephen (who did propose to his GF), Becky and Bruce and my mentor an inspiration, Jeanne (complete #1).   All and all, I wonderful race, made even more special by having my Mom, Aunt Debbie, and multitude of friends there for the event! 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

2015 Race and Self Report....Long overdue

Last year after IMMT I made the decision self coach for this year's race/triathlon season.   It was not an easy decision to make, as I truly like having a coach and have enjoyed all of the different coaches I have worked with through the years.    However, for my own health and fitness, I really felt that I needed to work harder on strengthening and nutrition.   So I opted to put the money I would spend towards a tri coach towards a program to help me gain muscle mass and also help improve nutrition.   I have been working with Rick Rick III  since October and have been loving every minute of it.   I do strength workouts with him 1 x week and have had a few nutrition consults.   When we last checked things about a month ago I weighed the same as I did in October, I had lost 5% body fat and gained 5 lbs. of muscle!   And this was despite an almost 12 lb weight gain over the winter  and a roller coaster of challenges both physical  and emotional surrounding my father's battle with Parkinson's and then subsequent death.     I wasn't sure if these changes would help with my racing, but so far this season I have been really pleased.   And I have realized that as much as testing some of my physical capabilities this year, these events have also been a huge emotional help as well.

Each of these races probably could use their own blog entry, but out of sheer laziness, I am lumping them all into prepared for a long entry if you continue to read this!

Key West Half Marathon 2015

First up was a half marathon in January.   I traveled down to Key West, FL and met up with a group of wonderful women that I actually met through an on-line FB triathlon group.   This race was the first time I met any of them and the whole weekend ended up being a blast.   I wasn't sure what I could do with the half marathon but I did want to see if I could push myself.   Race morning started with 70 degree temps and high humidity...something I wasn't used to coming from the Ohio winter season.   It also was one of the first races that I had some GI issues prior to the start of the race and I was actually in the bathroom 4 minutes prior to starting the race.   Fortunately, I didn't have any GI issues during the race...but I did have some trouble with dehydration/bonking later in the race.   First 9 miles I actually felt great, but by mile 10, I definitely was having energy issues and it was everything I could do to try to keep a 10 min pace  and finish the race.   My goal had been to race between 2:10-2:15 and I finished with a 2:11.  Met my goal, but was a little disappointed because I think if I could have kept the pace I had prior to bonking I would have gone sub 2:10.    So, still need to work on hydration/nutrition, but overall a good start to the year.   And a great race, would highly recommend it and also a wonderful time spent with my Angels!

Last Chance for Boston 2015

Next up was Last Chance for Boston 10k.   This was not a race on my agenda at all.  I literally decided at 10pm the night before to do the race.   We had decided the day before this race to put my Dad in Hospice Care and I felt the need to get out and run.   And I didn't feel like the treadmill would be adequate.   So, my friend Jeanne reminded me of Last Chance, so I went that morning and signed up for the race and ran it.  I had absolutely no goals for this race.  I needed it from a therapy perspective so I just went out and ran.  I didn't have a watch, music or anything.   Ran with Jeanne for part of the race and then was feeling good so went ahead on the second lap.   Finished with a 10k PR and a sub  1 hour time...definitely faster than I ever thought I could do for this distance.   And surprising giving the lack of sleep, planning, and prep I had for this.   Something to be said for a therapeutic run!

Riptide Indoor Tri 2015

This is the second time I have done this race.   It is a local fundraiser for a YMCA swim club.  A couple of friends have kids on the team, so I feel it is for a great cause.   Basically you swim in the pool for a certain amount of time, ride a spin bike for a time, and run around a track for time and try to go as far in those time frames as you can.     Placed 2nd in my AG group this year!   Fun little race and I will likely continue to do it to support the local community. 

After the Riptide Triathlon weekend I got off track a bit with my nutrition and coping mechanisms.    I was having a very hard time actually grieving for the loss of my Dad, for my family, for me.   The result was some self destructive behaviors that weren't the healthiest for me, which included increased alcohol consumption to help "feel better."    Despite this though, I continued to do my strength workouts and training, but nutrition, sleep, and emotional health were definitely suffering.   The depression I had worked so hard to overcome was starting to almost overwhelm me.   I didn't recognize this though,  until I hit rock bottom Easter weekend.    I am fortunate that a good friend helped me to figure this out...a hard lesson for me, but an eye opener.   And since that time I have taken steps to work on myself, to grieve, to re-adjust my goals and my approach to my emotional and physical health.  And I have to thank my friends and family for helping me with this...some know the role they have played and others don't,  but I thank each and every one of you from the depths of my heart.     I also realized around this time that I wanted to try and do another full marathon.   I was already signed up for the Flying Pig Half and I figured if I kept up with the training and focused on a healthy lifestyle for the next month, that I could give the race a good shot.   And I set a pretty steep goal for myself.   PR the marathon at The Flying PR prior to this race was at Columbus and was a 4:47.   

Flying Pig Marathon 2015

I purposely didn't tell a lot of people I was going to do this race.   This was something I needed to do for myself...hard to explain, but I didn't want a lot of fuss surrounding it, for me it was therapy and I needed to keep it that way.   I worked hard the month prior to this race and used my workouts as times to reflect on my life, to grieve, to come up with some plans.    Also experimented with some different nutrition all of the marathons I had done in the past (IM and stand alone) I have had stomach/GI problems.   So, I knew I had to be on top of that if I wanted to PR this race for sure.   I incorporated more speed work as well...something I hadn't done a ton of with prior IM training.   My last really tough run workout I did Yasso's to test myself.   It was after a pretty brutal strength workout and one of the few hot days we had in April.   I was likely dehydrated by the end of the workout, but I was able to hit most of my 800s between 4:35-4:45 pace, which was a good mental boost for me.   It also cemented in my mind that I was ready for this marathon.

The weekend of the Flying Pig is also the Columbus Cap City Half Marathon.   I actually got up early on Saturday and went down and volunteered at the race for about 4 hours.   I also had been battling a head/chest cold for the days leading up to the race.    So, when I drove down to Cinci for the race I was actually on the fence as to if I should do the marathon, wasn't sure how good of a race it could be going into it sick and also tired.   But, I decided to go ahead and do it since I had put forth the effort and  training.   I stayed by myself the night prior to the race.   This is the first time I have done a race like this solo and it was actually pretty nice.   

Race morning I woke up still stuffed up and coughing, I didn't do any cold medicine though as I was afraid it would raise my HR too much and/or dehydrate me.   But I did have some tea and also Emergen-C....nervous as I have never done either of these prior to a run, let alone the morning of a race.   And it is probably also why I was in the loo again at the start of the race!    Lines were long and I was determined to use the bathroom prior to starting the race.   As a result I didn't end up starting with the corral I originally wanted.   My plan had been to start with the 4:45 pace group and stay with them at least through the first half of the race and then speed up if I felt good in the second half.     Unfortunately, by the time I got out of the bathroom, though, that group had already left and I got stopped and had to wait with the next corral.   

My back up plan was just to go at a moderately comfortable pace and see what I could do.   With the goal of a negative split for the second half of the marathon.   So, I did this and was surprised when this "moderately comfortable" pace put me closer to a 10:45 pace for the first half of the race.  Oddly, my cough/cold didn't bother me at all for most of the race and my running actually felt pretty comfortable.  I never really felt like I struggled at all the first half of the race, even with the hills.   And when I hit 16 mile mark, I knew I had enough in me to press the pace more.   I only struggled a little at about mile 22, but I expected it and pushed through it. I also didn't have any GI issues or bonking issues this race, which was great.   And at about mile 24 I caught the 4:45 group and passed them...and at this point I knew that as long as I didn't walk the rest of the race, I would have a pretty significant PR.     And I did....finished with a 4:36, an 11 min PR for me!  

 One other thing I did during this race was to utilize my "Power of One" which is something my former coach Tim Barrett  is very passionate about.     I knew I would need something to help focus on when I would struggle, so I purposely dressed for the race to honor the memory of my Dad and a couple of running friends.  This race was as much for them as it was for me.   The orange throwback  race singlet was worn in memory of Jeff Glaze who is largely responsible for MIT,   the black hat was one of Jeff Skilling's, one of the most encouraging runners I had the pleasure of meeting at MIT.  For my Dad,  I didn't carry anything  because I knew he would be in my heart.   I thought a lot about the 3 of them several times during the race, grieved for them and asked them to give me the strength to keep pushing.   People ask, do you think they know?   And I think they did and they helped.    They were all with me when I crossed that finish line and it was definitely one of the most emotional finishes I have ever had.  I sobbed after I got my medal and was walking through the finishing area.   But, it was an emotional release that was much needed and I felt a million times better after that.    And to make it even better, I got to ring the PR bell before I left town!  

As I have reflected on each of these races, I am reminded again as to how much exercise has played a role in my health, my well being, my life.   Without exercise I would be overwhelmed by depression.  It has truly been one of the things in my life that has helped the most with this.   Exercise helps me to think things through, it helps me to plan, it helps me to feel better and it has provided me with a support network that has been vital to who I have become today.   I also realize now how much exercise has helped me to live, to experience new things, meet new people, and realize my full potential.   Thankful for each day that I can continue to do these things.   

Friday, February 20, 2015

My Exercise Addiction

Am I addicted to exercise?   Has it become an obsession?   These are some thoughts that I have been pondering as I sit here at 3:00 am in a hospital room with my Dad.   I have been very torn lately between the need to be helping out my family, the need for balancing work/life  and the need to get in a daily dose of exercise.   Often, I feel that these  things are battling each other.   I feel guilty for taking the time to exercise when I feel I should be using that time to help my family or friends. I know my family, dating, and social life have been affected by the amount of training that I do.    Yet I also feel a sense of guilt or if I don't exercise...but that feeling comes from within, as if I am letting myself down when I don't do my workouts.   I almost feel like I go through a withdrawal if I don't do something.   And I feel very selfish sometimes when I put this first.     

My Dad has Parkinson's disease.   A disease he has been fighting the past 10 years.   And it is getting progressively worse, more advanced.    This is not something I openly talk about, but my close friends know that this has been happening.   He is now to the point that he needs almost total care.   It is challenging to see the progression of this disease and how it affects those you love,  both my father who is disabled physically and mentally because of it, and my mother who has lost her independence in having to care for him.   Both of them are shells of their former selves.   And I try to help them as much as I can.   But I have noticed that the harder things become, the more I want to run.  Or bike. Or swim.   I need to do something to disengage for a bit and reset myself, something to feel more free, to feel better mentally and to think more clearly.    But at what cost?   I know my family and their friends don't always understand this.   I often feel guilty for trying to get a workout done before going to console my mother, or help assist my father.   But I know deep inside that this is also what helps to keep me sane.   And I know that I need to stay strong both mentally and physically the more my father declines.    It helps me to think more clearly and maintain a better attitude when faced with some difficult decisions our family has to make.  

  I think all of us that can consider ourselves endurance athletes, train for a variety of reasons.   To be healthier, to race, to get away from something, to go towards something, for mental health and well-being,  to prove a point,  to full fill a bucket list item...I am sure the list could go on and on.    I know for me it is for continued health - both mind and body.   Exercise is truly something that makes me happy.   I discovered this in my 20's quite by accident.    In fact, if someone would have told me 20 years ago that I would be a 5 x Ironman, I would have laughed in their face and told them they were crazy.    But, yet, here I am.   

In my early 20's I was diagnosed with SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and clinical depression.   It didn't help that I lacked self confidence and was extremely shy as well.    During that time I tried many treatments to try to deal with this:  counseling, anti-depression medicines, journaling, lots of alcohol, surrounding myself with friends,staying as active as possible with intramural sport and also getting a dog.    Each of these things helped some, but nothing really seemed to  "fix" me.   Then a strange thing happened, I started running 2-3 mile distances to keep fit for soccer, but also to exercise my dog in the hopes that it would keep him from chewing up things and destroying the apartment I lived in at the time.   And it worked, my dog was much better behaved when he was exhausted after a run with me.    I also started to notice that I was feeling better as well after these runs.   I was exhausted too and really "hated" how I felt while running,  but I was starting to find I felt happier.   And I was able to wean off the medicine I was taking for the depression and continued to do okay.   The self confidence issues remained, but the feelings of despair, sadness, and just general indifference about life were much improved.  So as much as I hated those runs with my dog, I started to realize that they were essential for me and for him and I kept them as part of my life.   

In time, my friends convinced me to try some longer distances.   Which of course I said was impossible.   But with their support and training, I was able to pull off a half marathon.    And guess what,  my self confidence started to improve as I realized that I was so much more capable of doing something if I just focused on it.    This eventually led to triathlons, then a marathon, and finally the IM distance.   And with each new distance, I have found a little more clarity on who I am and what I need to keep myself happy and mentally clear to tackle life events.

 When I first started racing I used to get discouraged very easily because I had an ideal of where I thought I should be and I wasn't there.   Over the past year or so, though, my attitude has changed.  I now look at my ability to exercise as a gift.    I am now to the point where I look forward to my workouts.   Some think it is because of the races I sign up for that I feel this need to do my workouts.    But it is so much more than that.   It is now a part of me.  I look forward to each new workout as I know I feel better physically and I am enjoying trying to push my limits and see what I can accomplish.   Through exercise I have found a way to finally be more confident in myself and that is a really good feeling. It has allowed me to become much less shy in social settings and even become a mentor of sorts to others.   I have also found a way to keep myself happy and mentally clear without the use of medicines or other artificial means (including alcohol) that really just covered up how I truly felt.  When I workout it gives me time to organize my thoughts, analyze my feelings about things  and plan ahead for what is coming next.   It also helps me maintain a positive attitude...even when there are really shitty things going on in my life.  

  I have an addictive personality.   This is something I know.   And I think if I didn't exercise as much as I do, I would turn to alcohol, food, or recreational drugs to "deal" with all of my problems.    So, in answer to my I addicted to exercise?  I would have to say yes.   But, I do have to make sure that this addiction is not getting in the way of my life.   That it is keeping me more balanced.   As long as it allows me to handle with work, friends and family in a healthy and positive way, then I am on the right track.     And hopefully me being a more happy, positive, and balanced person because of it, that should be okay.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

2015 New Year's Resolutions

One question a lot of people ask at the beginning of each year is what are your New Year's Resolutions?    I have always been very hesitant to say or even make resolutions in the past because I wasn't sure what that meant exactly, or how to measure them.   Resolutions are commitments that we make to ourselves or others  and I guess that isn't something I have taken too seriously in the past.    There really aren't any good ways to measure commitments or any plans to follow.   I mean you commit to marriage but how do you measure that?   What kind of plan do you make to get there?  It is very ambiguous and hard  to make that a measurable thing.   So, I guess I have always been more prone to making goals.   These I understand and I know how to measure.   I can make a plan to get to an end result.  I need that measurement or objectivity in my life.  

 One of the definitions of commitment is:  the act of binding yourself (intellectually or emotionally) to a course of action.   To me, this implies something ongoing, long-term, something that you have made a promise to see through.   After reflecting a bit on this,  I do have a few of these already:  I have committed to the life of a triathlete,   I have committed to being a physical therapist,   I have committed to being a good daughter/family member,  I have committed to being a good friend and I have commited to being the President of the Central Ohio Triathlon Club.     I have not, as of yet, committed to being married or being a parent.   Both scare the shit out of me,to be honest,  and those are both commitments I am not ready to make yet.    I think the biggest commitment I need to make this year is to myself.    I need to work on finding balance in myself both physically and mentally.   And to do that, I need to commit to myself, because if I don't learn to find that balance, it is going to be difficult to continue to uphold those other commitments I have already made.  I think too many times I put everything else first before my own needs  and I have fallen into some bad habbits... not enough sleep,  poor diet,  not managing my stress very well, poor financial management, disappointment in myself, and guilt for not doing the right things.    I haven't quite figured out how do this yet, but am definitely open to suggestions.     I do think this is a pretty good summary though, of some things I need to do more of in the coming year (I also think these are common for many people):

In order to make these more of a reality,  I have developed a few goals for these (and am still working on goals for the others).   I think that is one of the problems with many people's resolutions is that they don't make them measurable or set up a way to be accountable to their resolutions.   My hope is that by establishing some goals, that it will help me to be more accountable and thereby actually stay on course with these resolutions.  

1)  Drink Less -   drink less what?   This really could mean anything.   Most probably mean alcohol.   But I think this could also apply to artificial, sugar laden drinks as well.    In my case, there are two I need to consume less of...alcohol and mocha's.    Both are full of extra "empty"  calories and are probably both contributing to the weight gain I have had since IMMT (at the start of January I topped the scale at 152 lbs, which is the heaviest I have ever been).    My long term goal would be to eliminate mocha's entirely from my diet, or at the very least have only a very occasional one.   And alcohol I would like to decrease to minimal to moderate consumption (for women this means 1-2 servings of a beverage on a daily basis).   So here is what my plan would look like:
  • Decrease mocha's: 
    •  LTG:  in the next year, decrease consumption to 1-2 per month 
    • STG:  in the next 10 weeks, decrease to 1 mocha per week
  • Decrease alcohol:  
    • LTG:   in the next year decrease consumption to less than 2-3 drinks per week.
    • STG: in the next 10 weeks decrease consumption to less than 3 drinks per week.

2) Exercise:    This one is easy for me, as I actually like to exercise.   It is rare for me to miss a workout.   But, I think in my case I need to include strength training in the exercise regime.   
  • Incorporate strength training into exercise:
    • LTG:  1-2 strength training workouts each week for the entire year (this will ebb and flow depending on where I am in Ironman training - during the peak phase of this training I would ideally shoot for at least 1 per week,   during all other phases 1-2 x week). 
    • STG:  incorporate 2 strength training sessions per week over the next 10 weeks
  • Train for and complete the following races:
    • Key West Half Marathon (1/18/2015)
    • OSU Indoor Tri (2/1/2015 - possible)
    • Flying Pig Half Marathon (5/3/2015)
    • Olympic Triathlon (Deer Creek - 1/7/2015 - tentative)
    • Garrett County Gran Fondo (6/27/2015 - tentative)
    • Half Ironman/70.3 distance (Muncie 7/11/2015 tentative)
    • Ironman Chattanooga (9/27/2015)
3)  Be more organized -  this is a work in progress,  I have no idea how to even start writing a goal for this one...will have to come back to it.   

4) Lose weight - this can be a tough one as I think a heavier weight is ok as long as the mix of fat/muscle is a good ratio.    I am unsure exactly what this best mix is for me, but I am meeting with my strength/nutrition coach this week to determine that more for me.    But I do know at the end of last year, my fat was at 30% body weight,   ideally I would like to reduce this by 10%.    Muscle mass/bone mass I would like to increase, but no idea what is good for this goal will be a work in progress as well.    

5) Be more positive -  This can be a challenging one, but I know I need to do something about this.   Although everything may seem like my life is perfect and really happy on FB and other public sites, it isn't.   I am definitely one that internalizes my negative thoughts (and I have a lot of them) rather than shout them out to the world.   Self confidence has been a challenge for me, most of my life.   And over time this wears me down for sure.    I have already made some steps in trying to be more positive in my life.   I don't have these broken down into short and long term goals, but with the help of a friend, I have come up with 3 things I need to write down and/or identify on a daily basis:
  • List out at least one good thing that has happened that day.
  • List out one thing that I am looking forward to the next day. 
  • Identify any negative self talk/negative thoughts and share them with a friend/family member so that I don't continue to internalize these (mostly) irrational thoughts.  
Right now, I have a few people that will help me to be accountable to these statements.   And vice versa, I think this is something we can all do for each other.   I believe most people have their own "self demons"  and being able to talk about these with at least one other trusted person to help rationalize things is likely more helpful than internalizing and letting the thoughts grow and become self destructive.   Also, looking for more good/positive things in life can help to balance the more negative ones.    

6) Spend Less Money -  this is another one that will be a work in progress.   But I do have a large amount of debt that I need to get rid of this year.    First step will be meeting with my financial advisor to come up with a plan.   So no short term/long term goals yet....right now my goal is to set up a meeting, ASAP.     But I know I can start with some small things, which will also help out with my weight and drink less goals as well... eat out less (right now goal is no more than 1 x week unless I am traveling),  limit mocha/coffee drinks,   limit alcohol.     I also know that I only have about 6 car payments left, so that should help as well.   

I think this year I have my work cut out for me.   But I feel good that I am starting to get some planning into place.   Overall, I hope that by the end of the year I can feel more balanced in my life overall.   In doing so, I hope that I will feel healthier in both mind and body.    Only time will tell if I am on the right track this year...