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...

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2014 A Year in Review

 This year was a year of "firsts" for me and a chance to explore some different types of races and in general explore and have fun with my fitness.   Looking back, I had some pretty cool experiences and am glad I was able to have the opportunities to do this.    The injury I sustained, I think, opened some options for me and allowed for some training I may never have even tried.   For this I am grateful!

 I will be honest, at the beginning of 2014 I had no idea what the year would have in store for me or what my goals would be.    My main focus was on trying to get healthy again, as I had sustained an avulsion fracture of the right ankle in November 2013 and I started the year in a walking boot.   Worst injury I have ever had and I wasn't sure what I would be capable of doing over the coming year.    Fortunately I hadn't signed up for any races except Ironman Mont Tremblant, which wasn't until August.    However, the type of injury I have can sometimes result in surgery, so I really wasn't sure what would happen.  

My ankle after the injury

But I wore the boot,  did my PT and really tried to listen to the physician and be careful with my recovery.   Incidentally, I used no pain medicine during this process and really did let pain be my guide.   I iced daily and used omega 3's and also compression socks under my boot, and then my brace throughout the healing process.    Fortunately, I was able to heal almost completely and no surgery was required.   I was also able to swim and ride my trainer through the process as long as it didn't create more pain.         By February I was able to get back into running, although much slower, but I was able to do it.    During this time, I also opted to not sign up for anything until I knew what my ankle was capable of and to see how it healed.    Again, fortunately,  I was able to get back to running on level ground with very little pain.    Once I knew I could run 2-3 miles I decided to sign up for my first ever indoor triathlon.    Friends of mine have children that swim at the Delaware YMCA and their team had created an indoor triathlon as a fundraiser.   I thought it was a great way to try something new and give back to the community in the process.     My goal for this one was simply to finish and to test out my ankle for a run.   And I was able to do just that and had a lot of fun doing it!  
Happy Finishers! 

A few weeks later I got a text from a friend who had signed up for her first indoor triathlon and she was freaking out because she was totally intimidated by the people in her wave (you could look up the roster on-line) and was also one of the only females.   She asked if I would consider doing it with her.   This was the day prior to the race, and I thought "what the hell, why not."   It was double the distance as the other and I had absolutely no training for it.   But, Jess has been such an inspiration to watch as she has lost weight, become more active, and embraced a more healthy lifestyle, that I went ahead and signed up.    And again, I had a blast!    And ended up being able to run much faster than I thought, given the injury that I had.  

Action shot of Jessica and I on the treadmill

The Great Race/Agoura Hills 10k was up next.   This was a redemption race.   I had signed up with my sister a few years prior and had to DNS the race secondary to a stress fracture.    I really wanted to go back and try it again and had the opportunity to do it again.   So flew out to see my sister and was able to do the race!   Not a PR, but I was very happy with the race, especially as it was pretty hilly and I was able to do it without any ankle pain!

At the finish line!  

Next up was the Miami Triathlon,  a mini tri with an indoor swim.   Signed up with my Aunt Debbie.   The plan was to go down and stay the night,  visit with my cousin who is a student at the university and do the triathlon.     It was an indoor swim and then the rest was outdoors.    Another first for me.   I thought the race was great, but was definitely disappointed with my bike and I realized at this time that I had a lot more work to do on my bike before I was ready for IM Mont Tremblant.   I also loved the entire time that I was able to spend with my aunt and cousin.   Memories to cherish as we all grow older!

My Aunt Debbie and I, at the finish

Next couple of races were some more "firsts."  I signed up for two different Gran Fondo's, which are cycling races.   I had never done one of these before.   The first of these was the Winston Salem Classic.   A fantastic  little race down in North Carolina.  It was a great experience and I had fun visiting with friends that lived in the area and meeting some cycling celebrities including Robbie Ventura and Bob Roll!    Sadly though, I am pretty sure I was one of the last people to finish.   But I did finish, so there was that!   

Robbie Ventura in the middle
Bob Roll on the left.

New York Gran Fondo was up next.   This was really a cool experience.   5,000 riders all starting at the same time on the George Washington Bridge,  8,000+ feet of climbing on tough but hilly course, meeting people from all over the world and a  4 day weekend in NYC exploring with friends,   Fantastic experience and so fortunate I was able to do it.  Still not fast, but gaining confidence in my cycling abilities and had some really good runs around the city that felt "easy" but completely surprised me by my pace.    

About half our group at the finish of the race
Next up was the Mohican 70.3 distance triathlon.    Hands down the hardest 70.3 distance I have done, but also really surprised myself with this again.   Had no expectation for this race.   Just wanted to do something super hilly in anticipation of IMMT, and it was.   And I did so much better than I ever expected.   Great local race for anyone that would want a challenge!

Race morning photo for all of us crazy enough to do this race!

At this point in my training, I was actually feeling pretty good.   IMMT was up next on my agenda and I had a few months to train.   I hit the hills, ran more, and in general just tried to enjoy solo and training with my friends.      Finally race weekend came, and I can honestly say the entire race experience was one of the best I have had (see my last blog entry for full details).    I had 4 goals for this race:  A)  To finish  B) To beat my IMKY time  C) to go sub 15 hours and  D) To roll across the finishline, "Blazeman style".      I was a little disappointed with my overall time, however I was able to meet all goals except C.   And given the state of my ankle 10 months prior, I have to be thankful that I was able to do this race at all.  

IMMT 2014 Finisher! 

CLunger Beats 5000 (5k) was up next.   This is the second year of this race and it is very near and dear to my heart.   I wouldn't have missed it for the world.   Last year I walked it as it was a week after IMLT.   This year I was actually able to run it, but I chose to run it with my friend Jessica again.  It poured the entire time, so we don't have any pics from the race.   But it was meaningful as once again I was able to spend time with someone I admire and help to push her a little in her experiences, plus I was able to give back more to the community.   This race was created by Cory Lunger, a friend who passed away in 2013 from cancer.   The proceeds go toward The James Cancer Hospital which researches and cares for those with cancer.   An honor to run this race and it will continue to be an honor each year and I will do it in memory of Cory and those who have and will battle cancer.

Another race I did this year was the Honor Our Heroes Quarter Marathon.   Another local fundraiser and one I did to help the local community.    The weather was wicked and I had no idea what I could do as I hadn't run any speedwork this year at all, instead focusing on just recovery after my injury and getting time on my feet.   Pleasantly surprised myself yet again and if not a PR, was within seconds of what I had run the year before.   Given the cold and 15 mph winds, I was pretty pleased with this! 

Happy and finished! 

Last race I participated in was the Salt Fork 10 miler.   This is the first trail race I have ever participated in and I loved it.   It was really hard for me and I had to walk several of the hills, but I really thought it was a cool race.    One negative during the race was that I did experience an asthma attack and had to use my inhaler, but fortunately I was ok.  Anyway, loved the race and would definitely do one again in the future, but will probably wait until after my IM career to do any more.  As much fun as I had during the race, the risk for injury is really quite a bit more than a typical "road race."    

Midway through the race, had to stop and take a pic with my friends.  

As the year has come to a close, I have to say I am pretty pleased and fortunate with all of the races and experiences I was able to have in 2014.    As far as overall "fitness" goes though,  I am not sure I did all that well.   I think from an exercise perspective, I did great, and couldn't have asked for a better year given the injury I sustained in 2013.   However,  overall fitness, I think also includes mental fitness, nutrition, and sleep.   And I don't think I did the best in these areas.  

Shortly after IMMT I got a bug in my head and decided to stop all medicines I was taking.   This included my asthma medicine,  birth control, and vitamins.    I think, I was just tired of it and wanted to see how I would do/feel without them.   My asthma has come a really long way since I was diagnosed and I really did wonder how I would do without my maintenance inhaler.    In that time, I have gotten another bone scan to check on bone density, and a breathing test to follow up on my asthma.    The good news is that the bone loss I have experienced in the forearm and spine has slowed down since the last scan I had, but the femur (leg bone) is still losing density at an alarming rate.   It was suggested at this time, that perhaps I should rethink doing long course triathlon, as it could definitely be impacting this, and maybe only focus on short course or running instead.    My asthma test actually was worse this last time and has dropped from 90% to 72%.    The result?    I have gone back on my maintenance inhaler  for asthma, per my physician suggestion and I have had to really look at my goals for long course triathlon.     I could tell that my lung volumes had dropped, as I was having to use my rescue inhaler more and slow down on my swimming and some of  my running secondary to shortness of breath.   So, really no surprise when my physician told me my results.   Frustrating, but I have to accept my body is what it is.  

As far as the bone density results...I have decided I have am not yet ready to give up long course triathlon.   I love it and it truly has become part of my life.   But I am approaching the next year differently.    I decided I need to focus more on strengthening and nutrition this year to see if it will impact my overall results.   I started with a strength training coach this year and am loving it.   Next step will be a nutrition coach and some changes in my overall eating habits.   I will do some more blog entries to explore this in the future.   But this is an area I know I didn't do very well with this past year.    

Other areas I know I didn't focus on enough are mental health and sleep.   I think I put so much focus on my training and also social obligations that I lost some perspective on the other "balancing" areas of my overall total fitness.    The result is that even though I am pretty proud of my races and my "exercise" health for the year,  I know I have a bit to work on for overall health.     I have decided to try to start and blog more in 2015 to help with overall fitness and accountability for myself.   In doing so,  perhaps I can inspire and start to help others in focusing on theirs as well.