Monday, January 9, 2017

Farewell Triathlon, Until We Meet Again

I have decided to stop doing triathlons. Not quit, just stop. I just don’t want to do it anymore. This feeling has been building up since 2014. I felt it coming, like an inevitable process of life I would just have to accept.  I hung on just long enough to meet my sub 14-hour goal at Ironman Louisville 2015.

 It was a few months ago, July of 2016. I was doing another sprint triathlon in Wichita. On this particular morning, after driving through farmland for over two hours at a ridiculously early time in the morning, I was met with a despairing feeling of not wanting to be there. Now, at every other triathlon in 2016, I felt that way, the feeling of not wanting to be there, but I finished all my races, collected my age group awards, and went home. But on this morning, I finally asked myself “then why are you here?” Standing in the swim start line I thought about the $70 I had spent registering for this race, this race I didn’t even want to do, and the gas it took to drive the 100 miles to get here. How much I wish I would have just skipped the race and had a nice date night with Joel instead.  How much triathlon had changed in the six years since I did my first race. How much I was tired of the NOISE. That day I raced, not to my potential, not giving it my best, and finished first in my age group. Once again, collecting my age group award, and taking the long drive home with a lot to think about.

I tried to keep up the immense love I had for the sport, but it just left me, slowly. I no longer had the desire I once had. I tried. I bought all the latest gadgets, another new bike, and Zipp wheels. I tried. I signed up for lots of races, and even registered for Age Group Nationals, which I have qualified for every year since I started triathlon but was never able to go. I ended up not going after spending $175 registering. After that race in July, I decided to stop doing triathlons until the love and desire came back.

So, what brought me to this point? A lot of things. There is no one experience or factor that brought me here, it has been a culmination of many. I could feel my triathlon fire dying down in 2014. So what do I do? Sign up for my third Ironman in 2015, that should do it. That was the Ironman I trained the least for. I rode my bike on hills more than anything and that’s how I finally got my sub 14 at Ironman Louisville. I capped out at a 12 hour training week and still managed to finish in 13:26. In that training cycle, I decided that I wanted to be home for my family in the evenings instead of trying to squeeze in another run or swim, and I did just that. Seeing how much it meant to my family that I was home in the evenings instead of out training was an eye opener. I was happier and they were happier

I had planned on doing a 70.3 in 2016, it would have been my 8th 70.3. With the race entry fee in hand and my Ironman All World Athlete status I started looking for a potential race, but I wasn’t excited. I thought about how much I didn’t want to train for a 70.3, how much I hated swimming, how many more lonely hours I would be on the road training. I was about to pay $300 to enter a race I knew deep down inside I didn’t even want to do. Joel had to go to a service school in Virginia April-May. Instead of registering for another 70.3, I purchased a plane ticket so I would be able to visit him in Virginia while he was at school. It was such an empowering feeling to buy that plane ticket. I broke free from the chains of triathlon I felt were holding me down. The chains labeled “this is what you do” and “you can’t stop now” and “we own you”. That weekend I visited Joel in Virginia ended up being amazing quality time together, and it really rejuvenated us as a couple. Had I done the 70.3 instead, I would have just ended up broken, blistered, sunburned, and disappointed.

Early in 2016, I decided to give finishing my bachelor’s one more honest try after quitting in 2015. So many years I could have finished my bachelor’s and I didn’t because I was taking triathlon too serious. Triathlon is a hobby, school is not. In 2016, I let training take a back seat and made my family and my school work my priority. Between January and December, I became 31 credits closer to my bachelor’s at Kansas State University. Ever since I was younger, I was told I was one of those people “not meant for college”. This has always been something I wanted to prove I could do, and I’m that much closer.

About the NOISE I mentioned earlier. Triathlon is now filled with so much NOISE. Today, you are not serious if you don’t have a coach. You are not serious if you enjoy drinks on the weekend. You are not serious if you don’t have a power meter. You are not serious if you are a crappy swimmer and don’t hire a swim coach. You are not serious if you eat meat. You are not serious if you don’t like Brooks. You are not serious if you eat gluten. I personally have been told I am not serious since I refuse to lose 20 pounds. SO MUCH NOISE.

In this process I learned something about myself that went against what I had always thought to be true. I always thought I needed to be registered for a race to exercise. Not true, I still exercise every morning. In December I ran 102 miles. I’m enjoying weightlifting just because I like to do it. I played 1 on 1 basketball with my oldest daughter yesterday. After weight loss surgery, exercise became so routine I just do it now, without any dread, it’s a part of my day. It has been for the past 7 years. I drop the girls off at school and I go to the gym without hesitation. It has actually been awesome for my mental health to not be doing triathlons. I don’t have to stress over when to swim, what kind of run to do, how much time I need to spend on the trainer. It has made me feel so great, to just exercise the way I feel like it to stay healthy. To have the chance to try new things instead of worrying I’ll injure myself for triathlon.  I have 2 big surgeries coming up between February and April, but after I recover from those, I have a list of sports and activities I plan on trying. I will still be doing running races, but I will not kill myself to try to win. I would like to run another ultra, as well as try mountain bike racing.

In closing, I say farewell to triathlon for now. I’m sure at some point I’ll return. I just don’t want to do it anymore. Without desire it is just a chore and I can’t pretend anymore. If I am not having fun than there is no point in putting myself through all this. Triathlon was not making me happy, it was making me miserable, and its time to leave. I want to run, I want to ride my bikes, I never want to swim. I want more weekend trips with my husband, more trips to the waterpark with my children. I want to exercise for the day and be done with it, not go back out later for mindless laps in a pool. I want to stay up late with my husband on the weekends watching movies, and not turn in early because I have to wake up early to mindlessly ride my bike for 7 hours. I want to take my children to every sport practice and game. I want to take that $70 race entry fee and go to the Japanese Steakhouse on a nice date with my husband. I want to walk across the graduation stage at Kansas State University and show that I was meant to go to college.

Triathlon, you taught me many things, but it’s time to say farewell for now. Until we meet again

Monday, September 12, 2016

Cut and Sewn

On August 22nd, nearly 7 years after my gastric bypass surgery, I had my first cosmetic surgery. I had  an abdominoplasty, also known as a tummy tuck. In talking/writing about it I don't like referring to it as a tummy tuck, because I'm afraid it makes it sound like I did this for vanity, which I did not. The thing is, 6 years ago, in the very beginning of my new life as an averaged sized person, the skin didn't bother me. After I had maintained my nearly 140 pound weight loss for a few months I saw where my abdominal skin sat and though "ok, I can live with this". Weight loss surgery (WLS) patients are recommended to undergo cosmetic procedures after maintaining a healthy weight range for 6 months to a year. That time period came and went for me and I decided not to pursue cosmetics. At the time, the extra skin wasn't very bothersome, and the thought of cosmetic surgery terrified me. Yes, I was scared to do it. It looked painful, and I was scared of the sedentary lifestyle that is needed for recovery.

Fast forward 6 years, my life has been the opposite of sedentary. in the span of 6 years I finished 3 ironmans and 7 half ironmans, plus more smaller triathlons and running races than I can count. I am 35 credits away from my bachelor's degree. I have been go go go for the past 6 years. In February I went to see my new primary care doctor for my yearly checkup and labs pertaining to my gastric bypass surgery. When it came time for the routine check for hernias, she asked right away why I hadn't had the excess abdominal skin removed yet, because there was so much of it. I was honest with her and told her I couldn't afford it. She held up the large flap of skin and told me a surgeon at the army hospital could do it and asked me if I had lower back pain. I told her yes, it just recently started developing and I didn't know why, but I assumed it was from riding my bicycle. After 6 years I had recently noticed my abdominal skin had started protruding instead of hanging. The now protruding, heavy skin made sense as the cause of my lower back pain. I knew it was time. The skin made it look like I had a gut, it stuck out more than my chest, and I was putting biofreeze on my lower back twice daily because of the pain. I couldn't hide behind the fear anymore. I had to go through with this.

A week before surgery, abdominal skin protrudes after losing 140 pounds and keeping it off for 6 years

When I was finished racing for the year I went to see the surgeon at the army hospital. She insisted I go to a plastic surgeon and assured me everything would be approved by my insurance as this looked more reconstructive than cosmetic. Sure enough, after I met with the plastic surgeon for the first time, my insurance approved the procedure quickly, and 10 days later I had a surgery date.

Originally I wasn't going to share much about this. I learned there are huge misconceptions out there about this procedure, and many still believe that diet and exercise will tighten skin. As a former personal trainer who can tell you that there is no such thing as toning, many still believe that toning exists, when it doesn't. You can only build and strengthen what is under the skin, building a larger muscle will cause it to press up against the skin, but the skin itself does not tighten. I knew this before WLS. In the days leading up to my surgery I watched YouTube videos of the procedure because I wanted to know what was being done to me. The comments section floored me by the sheer number of people who commented "why go through all this, just diet and exercise" or "if they would have just done some sit-ups" and similar comments.

As a WLSer who waited 6 years to have the first cosmetic procedure done, and has held a strict exercise/training regiment for 6+ years, I felt I owed it to the WLS community to share my story. I could not find any WLSers who have waited as long as I have, nor could I find any who had been as terrified as I had been.

I have quite a few WLSers who follow me on Instagram. Last week I posted my 2 week post op picture, along with a before picture. Even though the post surgery pic is fairly rough, as I still have a drain in my hip because of a draining hematoma, and as my kids say my incision line looks like I was sawed in half, I found it harder to reveal the pre surgery pic. Up until I posted that pic, I can count on one hand the people who I have allowed to see my extra skin in all its glory. For some reason it has always been a source of shame, and I'm not sure why. I was 300 pounds, the skin stretched, I lost 140, the skin stayed. Such a simple anatomical concept but one that brought me shame and embarrassment. I can admit that the protruding skin brought down my self esteem. I sit at 20% bodyfat with a resting heart rate of 65, yet I looked like I had a big gut and I had to buy pants a size larger in order to tuck in my extra skin. 

With all that being said I'm talking (well writing) about it now, in hopes that it will help others. There are so many "before and afters" out there that make this seem so wonderful, but the recovery has been pure hell. Today I am 3 weeks post op, and I am so sore and tired. I have been dealing with draining a large hematoma since day 3 post op, and because of it I still have a drain coming out of my right hip, which has been the bain of my currant existence. The swelling is unreal, hitting its peak in the evenings. I have to wear an abdominal binder 24/7. I have a high pain tolerance, and I'm trying to be a "tough girl" and not complain at all since I chose to do this, but it hurts, it just plain hurts. Hematomas are not common when "regular" people get tummy tucks, but they are a common complication in massive weight loss people. Through all this I still realize how fortunate I am, I got a tummy tuck from a board certified plastic surgeon and didn't pay a dime. I am grateful

Not a long of training and racing will be going on in the next few months, so I'll keep progress updates here. Its been years since I have written anything WLS related, and I consider this to fall into that category. Through the pain I have to keep faith that the hematoma will resolve, I will recover, and this will all be worth it, I just have to be patient.

The Instagram pic, revealing to the world the reality of what it looks like to lose 140 pounds. The right is 16 days post op

Monday, August 1, 2016

My Medal Collection Part 1-Running

Over the past 6 years I have raced a lot. My medal collection is massive. They all tell a story, whether an interesting one or a boring one. This is going to be a 3 part series where I tell a summary behind some the stories behind the medals. Today I'm going to start with my running medals.

October 2, 2010- Jacksonville Marine Corps Half Marathon

My first half marathon. 10 months after having gastric bypass surgery running a half marathon sounded like a great idea. It was a big race, but not a huge race, perfect field size for a first. The course had a few hills, but they were all at the beginning so adrenaline got me up and over them. The finish line was fantastic with Marines putting finisher's medals around runner's necks. I learned on the day that finishing a half marathon wasn't too difficult, but if I was to try to race one it would be a tough distance to race. I ran a 2:05 that day. Joel was deployed to Iraq at the time. He was so proud, and impressed by the finisher's medal. When I got home from the race, I couldn't stop looking at this medal, I couldn't believe I ran the whole distance without stopping, just 10 months ago I had been 300 pounds and getting winded walking through a parking lot.

December 19, 2010- Jacksonville Bank Marathon

My first marathon. 13 months after gastric bypass surgery. After the Marine Corps Half Marathon, I had ran 2 more half marathons. After my 3rd half marathon, I decided to take on the marathon distance. I didn't train properly, I didn't know how to. I literally just went for it. Joel returned home from Iraq 6 days prior to race day. On this day I learned a full marathon is a completely different animal than a half marathon. I hurt like I had never hurt before, I felt pain like I had never felt before. I did not walk one step. I ran a 4:17. My support team at the finish line brought me to tears, it consisted of Joel, Loraine, my girls, and one of my Army buddies who lived nearby. It was at this moment that I realized for me personally, having people there for you make the difference between a good race and a great race.

November 24, 2011-Subaru Distance Classic Half Marathon, Jacksonville, FL

Though a plain looking medal, this one represents a big achievement. This race was a few weeks after my first Ironman, and for the first time, I actually trained to run a good half marathon. For the first time with running, my training was focused and dedicated. I wanted to run a sub 1:50 half marathon, and this course was completely flat so I felt I had a good chance. Joel ran this one too, it was his 2nd half marathon, I was so proud of him, his time was well under 2 hours. Our first half marathon together, we ran alongside each other the first 4 miles, on this day I took off and didn't see Joel until the finish line. I ran a 1:48, and was so happy I met my goal after training so hard. It taught me the lessons on working hard, and mental toughness. It was also at this race I was begin to realize my immense ability to suffer.

December 18, 2011-Jacksonville Bank Marathon

My second marathon, I bridged the gap from the Subaru Distance Classic to the Marathon the next month. My goal was lofty, sub 4 hours. I trained hard, mostly solo except for the few times Joel ran with me. Joel ran it too, as his first marathon. He was just trying to finish and I had a goal time so our training and paces were different. We ran our 16 and 18 milers together in training. Even though I had done an Ironman a few months prior, running a fast marathon is a different level of pain. I was in agony around mile 22. Mile 23 and 24 I walked the aid stations. I had to dig deep and just suffer, telling myself suffer now, you have the rest of the day to not run once this is over. I met my goal and finished in 3:56. Joel finished 36 minutes after me. After finishing, and seeing what a marathon is like, Joel was so impressed with my time. The greatest thing about Joel running this marathon, was from there on out, at tough endurance events, he knew about the pain, and the level of suffering to endure these things. I still have yet to run a 3rd stand-alone marathon.

February 9, 2013 Hilton Head Island Half Marathon

I know its a big time gap from the last picture. 2012 I did 4 half ironmans, and didn't do as many running races. The few I did were nothing spectacular and nothing to write home about. At this point I had several half marathon where my time was 1:48 and I was looking to break that. Joel had deployed to Afghanistan months before the race. I was emotionally hurting on the inside at this time in my life, and I used that internal turmoil to run this race. I was angry, I felt it in my stomach. I used that anger and pain to just run. I was hurting, teeth gritting, nearly in tears. I ran a 1:44, a huge PR, nearly puking at the finish line. I didn't feel any better, and I hated the way that I felt. I don't talk about this race much because it represents a dark time. If this is the only way I can run that fast, then I never want to run that fast again.

November 9, 2013 Savannah Rock n Roll Half Marathon

I had no business running this race. I had fallen into a deep depression after 2013's Ironman Louisville, where I had worked so hard and fell dramatically short of my own expectations. Joel had returned home from Afghanistan a few month prior, and was running the full marathon. That race morning I didn't even want to do the race, I was still pissed off about Ironman. This is a huge race, roughly 20,000 people. Joel started several waves behind me, I was in wave 3. I had an uneventful run in 1:47 and just wanted it to be over. Here's is why I included this medal here, it was the day I never felt so alone at a race, ironically a big race. I waited 3 hours for Joel to finish after me, all alone, 20,000 people plus spectators and I had never felt so alone in my life. This is where I got my disdain for huge races. This is also the race where I decided to not be a part of Team RWB anymore.

January 11, 2014-Savannah Rails to Trails 50k

My first, and so far only, ultra. I have discussed this day many times, as it nearly caused my demise. I had my best run training cycle ever leading up to this race. I managed to let go of the disdain I carried from Rock n Roll to focus on this race. I ran four 20 milers in training, 2 of them being mostly on trail. I felt so ready, and excited, for race day. I loved the race, the scenery was beautiful and it was so well put together. I thought during the race "I want to do more ultras". Joel was there for support, and it meant the world to me. This is one of those race that strengthened our bond, I still smiles at the memories together from this race. I ran a 5:09. Five days later I nearly died as my intestine ruptured during the race and I didn't know, I had emergency surgery and it was a long road back to recovery.

March 15, 2014-Hilton Head Shamrock 5k

My first race after my intestine rupture. I just wanted to get back out there, I wasn't looking to get a podium spot. After surgery I had a big-time attitude adjustment (much needed I might add) and started to realize what is important in life. I had given so much of myself to racing it nearly killed me. My PRs will not be on my headstone. What I remember about this race, Hugs from Joel at the start and finish line, and our breakfast date at Cracker Barrel on the way home. This medal was for second place age group after running a 23:55. To me, this medal represents a new chapter in my life.

May 3, 2014-Crimestopper Azalea Run 10k Savannah, GA

I have never been a fan of the 10k distance, why, because I never knew how to race it. I know how to race a 5k, I know how to race a half marathon, but the 10k had always been a big mystery. This was the day I learned how to race a 10k. I ran a 47:52 and this medal is for 1st place age group. It hurt, a lot, but I felt a huge sense of accomplishment. The race was nearby the bike shop where Joel went on his group rides, so we rode together, he went on his group ride and I ran my race. He made it back in time for the awards ceremony, I love the way he looks in his cycling kit. We showered at the gym after that and went on a lunch date out in Savannah.

September 21, 2014-Konquer the Konza 25k Manhattan, KS

My first running race in Kansas. The Konza Prairie is the most beautiful place I've ever had the chance to run at besides the beach. The race taught me about Kansas hills, and what was in store for my running life in my new home. I finished in 2:23, a tough race but a rewarding one. A woman I had been coaching for years ran this race too, and I stayed for her finish and ran her in. The race was sponsored by Tallgrass Brewery, Joel absolutely loves all their beers. Runners could have all the post race beers they wanted. People were starting to leave but the coolers were still overflowing with cans of their beer. I starting stuffing my backpack with as many as I felt I could get away with for Joel.

November 15, 2014-Longview Half Marathon, Kansas City, MO

My first half marathon after my intestine rupture, as well at my first half marathon in Kansas. Another first, it was my first half marathon in sub freezing temperatures. It was 14 degree that morning, I had on all the gear. It was a hilly course but I learned that since I have short legs, I can run down the hills quickly to make up for time lost on the climbs. Joel was out there to support me, he was at mile 7 cheering and again waiting for me at the finish line. After all I had been through the months prior with emergency surgery and moving halfway across the county, I was so happy to run a 1:48 that day.

December 6, 2014-Alternate Chili 10 Miler Kansas City, KS

Another below freezing race. This race taught me that not all trails are created equal. This was on a bridle trail, very slick and muddy, it was a 10 mile fight to stay upright. I fell down some hills, fell going around corners, and struggled on the rope climbs, but I never felt so alive. My shoes and legs were completely covered in mud at the finish. I finished in 2:15

May 23, 2015-Bill Snyder Highway Half Marathon Manhattan, KS

It was neat to run the inaugural race, and the medal is awesome, but this race made me realize I don't care much for the road running crowd around here. I had a lot more fun at Konquer the Konza and at the Alternate Chili 10 miler. I have always felt the people really make the race. Joel ran this race too but I got ahead and lost him around mile 2. I ran a 1:49

April 9th, 2016-Rock the Parkway Half Marathon Kansas City, MO

The largest medal in my collect. During this time, I had returned to Kansas State University to finish my bachelors. I was serious this time around, and was in full on school fatigue. After Ironman Louisville 2015, which was the race of my life, I really started buckling down on the other aspects of my life. Being the best wife I could be, being the best mom I could be, being a good friend, finishing what I started many years ago (school). I didn't train for this race, I just showed up, literally. It was another freezing day, I couldn't even feel my feet until close to mile 3. I ran a 1:54 and I wasn't even mad. For me, this large medal represents balance, the start of another new chapter. I'm no longer obsessed with training, my training and racing never comes before my family, I put school over training and racing. Right now I'm just running, and I fit that in where I can. Looking at just doing cyclocross and running next year, and finishing my degree and joining the work force again

Friday, July 22, 2016

Freedom from Pressure

I'm not sure when, or exactly how it happened, but I have come to terms with it, my tri fire has fizzled. The past six years of my life could be a monotonous story of swim, bike, run, race, repeat. Missed family vacations, missed date nights, miss opportunities, all for the sake of triathlon.

I could feel it building early in this year's tri season. Every race morning I woke up not wanting to go. I raced on Sunday, I groaned when my alarm went off at 2:30 a.m. What used to be mornings filled with excitement and anticipation, were now mornings filled with dread and the feeling of "lets get this over with." On the drive to Wichita for the early morning sprint triathlon, I looked over at Joel, who woke up at that horrendous hour and offered to drive us. He didn't know I had been feeling this way, I have been in denial so I have not told anyone. He was doing his best to support me in my race, waking up with me, doing the long boring drive in the country. I felt a sadness, as this was his last weekend home before going to the California desert for 30 days for Army training, and he had to wake up at a time we used to go to bed in our dating days, to take me to a race I didn't even want to do. My sadness was because I could have just realized these feelings, and not do the race, and we could have had a wonderful date night the night before, making more memories together.

Over the past few months I am getting progressively slower. I'm not sure if its because of my extra 10 pounds, the fact that I sit at a desk doing schoolwork anywhere from 4-9 hours every day (but hey, I'll be able to graduate from Kansas State University next year), or the stress of my husbands new job since because of it I have to do a little more at home and don't have as much time to train. I consider those factors, but I honestly feel it is this: the pressure is getting to me. When you are fast, there is pressure to stay fast, and sometimes that pressure becomes overwhelming. When you have an average time, or you don't win, you are asked "what happened?" Because when you are fast, just finishing isn't enough.

I've taken the time this week to think about what I want for the time being. I came to the conclusion I hate swimming, I'm ready to run long distance again, and I want to try different cycling disciplines. This week I decided to just run, no pressure on myself, no time goal, just run for the sake of running, and I have loved it.

I'm not quitting triathlon, I think there is still a fire within that could be sparked and ignited again, I'm simply taking a sabbatical from it, however long that may be. During this sabbatical I'll be doing long distance running races, cyclocross, gravel races, time trials, and mountain bike races. All the things I have wanted to do over the years, but didn't in pursuit of triathlon. Those are part of my missed opportunities. I'm a natural runner and I love cycling, I want to see what else the cycling world has to offer besides triathlon. I still want to race, just not triathlon.

I want to run and ride on my own terms, not to be fast, not to meet any time goals, but simply for the enjoyment of the run and the ride. I need to enjoy this again, not dread it.

I'll be undergoing surgery in a few week to get the extra skin off my abdomen removed, after that I start the long healing process. I'll have my cyclocross bike by then, and when cleared to ride I'll be able to explore the miles of gravel and dirt roads around here at a gentle pace, it will be fall in the Midwest at that time. Cool temperatures and changing leaves will be greeting me in that new chapter, and I'll actually be moving slow enough to take it all in and enjoy it, with no pressure. I'm allowing myself freedom from pressure.

Tomorrow morning I am doing a 5 mile running race on my Army post. Its actually on one of my favorite running routes. Its a very small field, maybe 30 people at the most, After writing this and getting all out, I'm looking forward to tomorrow's race, I don't feel pressure. I just get to go run a route I love without having to worry about vehicle traffic.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Two Years Ago, My Turning Point

This blog post has been a few months coming. I meant to write it in January at the anniversary of my near demise, but honestly, I have burnt out on writing. I have been back at K-State since January (will cover that in a later blog post) and had to take a fast track English course requiring me to write five multi-page papers in an eight week time span. Needless to say, I was burnt out on writing. I feel that this is important to write about at it has been the one event that has changed everything, not just the way I go about racing. Like the title suggests, it has been my turning point.

As I have mentioned, January 11th, 2014, I ran my first 50k and unbeknownst to me I ruptured my intestine. My body let me know on January 17th, 2014, it was the most agonizing pain I have ever felt. Joel is the only one who knows this because he was there, but while in the exam room waiting for a diagnosis I was screaming out that I wanted to die. The pain was that intense. The pain was so excruciating and it took so long to get a diagnosis, at that moment in time I felt that death was the only escape. After the diagnosis I was rushed into surgery, which was a success. Waking up I knew I had a long road to recovery.

After a few boring days in the hospital, being visited by the girls and some of my friends, it was time to go home. Joel had been at my side since I woke up in the middle of the night screaming days prior. As I was standing at the bathroom mirror in my hospital room getting ready to leave, Joel handed me my wedding ring. I had given it to him right before I went into surgery. I was in the hospital for four days, Loraine would come sit with me for a few hours so Joel could go home and shower and change clothes. We never knew when I was going to be able to leave, so Joel must have carried my ring with him every day. I couldn't wear it while I was there as I had an I.V. attached to me bloating up my arm and fingers. On the day I was discharged and he handed me my ring, I put it on my finger and smiled at him. Neither one of us said a word, and have never talked about it. It just felt like a moment where no words were needed.

Being in the hospital, the pure shock of what had happened sort of consumed my thoughts. Going home, having to take it easy for two weeks, is where I really had to think of everything and let it sink in. I had to come to terms with the fact that running almost killed me. Triathlon, running, had become my identity, I had allowed my hobby to completely consume me. Because of running, my girls were close to using the answer "I don't know, she died when I was really young" when asked about there mom when they get older.

This experience was truly the toughest life lesson I have ever had to learn. Thanks to Facebook's "on this day" I see how everything I did before this was never enough. I was never fast enough, I was never happy with my race, after every race I would beat myself up for not running faster, getting dropped in the swim, not surging the hills on the bike. I had set absolutely impossible standards for myself that were unreachable for someone of my athletic ability, and since I always fell short I couldn't even be happy with "I tried my best and gave it my all".

Looking back, I see that 2013, and everything that happened that year, led up to the disaster. Coming off a great 2012, I had high hopes for 2013. Joe was deployed to Afghanistan, and even though we stay close even with distance between us, he is my rock and not having him home was demoralizing. In February of that year I got a half marathon PR of 1:44 (which I haven't come close to ever since) so I started off with a false sense of encouragement for the race year. After that February race everything went downhill, fast. A few decent sprint tri finishes, and then Florida 70.3. My worst day at a 70.3 ever, my only time going over 6 hours. Many people had a bad day at that race so even though I wasn't happy with it, I managed to move on because Ironman Louisville, my second Ironman, was in August. Joel came home in late June, just in time for my really long bike rides for Ironman training.

2013's Ironman Louisville was sort of a prologue to the disaster. I had the worst race day ever, and I went home feeling broken and defeated. I trained so hard for that race. I finished my Associate's degree in late 2012 and put off starting my Bachelor's to train for Ironman, I missed out on time with my kids to train for Ironman. All for what? I let it affect my everyday life for about 3 months after the race. I was angry and frustrated, all because of a race. I couldn't shake it. It was about this time I had a falling out with my team, Team RWB, a team I cared about and dedicated a lot of time to. In my anger I vowed to absolutely crush 2014, I would train harder, put in more hours, I was a woman obsessed. I was heading toward a path of athletic self destruction. The universe had other plans for me. The universe was about to show me the errors of my way.

Although it was painful, very painful, I am thankful for what happened. Last year I had my best Ironman ever. I PRed by almost an hour, and I didn't train nearly as hard as I did for the first 2 Ironmans, and I raced 16 pounds heavier. I made it a point to not train in the evenings and to take Saturdays off occasionally to spend time with my family. Throughout the whole training cycle, I felt so much better physically and mentally, and didn't get the feeling that I was living to train. I finally found a good balance between my hobby and the rest of my life, and my family didn't feel like they came second to triathlon.

2015 Ironman Louisville, I still can't believe I did so well with so little training
Up until 2014, I had raced long course every year since I started triathlon. Because triathlon had become my identity, I felt obligated to race long course. In 2014 I had so much fun racing only short course I decided to do it again this year. I will not being doing an Ironman next year as I have a good chance of graduating from Kansas State University in the fall of next year if I stay focused.

I love triathlon, that will never change. For the past six years it has been my passion, and it still is my passion. I vow to allow it to continue to be my passion, but never again will I let it become my obsession. I will continue to train hard, but sensibly, not self destructive. This life lesson taught me that, and for that I will forever be thankful. I learned how to be kind to myself, to cut myself some slack and not expect perfection, and to be happy to live to race another day, no matter the race results of that day. I learned to listen to my body and not take risks in training and racing. My family is so precious, and I always want them to know that they are my whole world and to show it I must always give them the love and priority they deserve.

On Monday I turned 33. Writing this has me thinking about my girls when they are my age, and what they will remember of their childhood. The girl aren't going to remember all my podium finishes, or my 13:26 Ironman, or my 1:44 half marathon, but they will remember that I ran and I raced triathlons. What the girls will remember, standing next to me in Bramlage Coliseum cheering on the Kansas State Lady Wildcats basketball team hoping for another win, sharing a big bucket of popcorn, jumping up and down as they score a last-minute basket. They will remember I bought them memberships to the Junior Wildcats Club, and getting the chance to line up in the tunnel to cheer on the team as they run out to the court. They will remember Friday night pizza and candy movie night as a family. They will remember doing the kid's fun run at my races, and taking home a really cool medal. Laci will remember me taking her to swim team practice 5 nights a week without a groan or complaint, and always telling her I'm proud of her. She will remember me being her biggest cheerleader at her swim meets. They will remember Christmas morning and the tasty breakfast after presents, and the ham dinner later that night. They will remember me taking them to Starbucks and then to Varsity Donuts for the best donuts in the world. They will remember trips to the lake and family bike rides.

Cheering on the Lady WIldcats
There is so much more to life than training and racing, I just had to nearly lose it to realize it. My turning point. Thanks for reading

Breakfast out with my family on one of my Saturdays off from training

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Race Report-Ironman Louisville

Third time’s a charm


In August 2011 I finished my first Ironman, Ironman Louisville. The race absolutely broke me, but it was my first Ironman and I was truly happy I finished (finished in 14:17). After that I said to myself “I really think I can finish that race in under 14 hours”. In 2012 I took the year off 140.6 to focus on the 70.3 distance and I had a great race year. In 2013 I decided to go back to Louisville in pursuit of sub 14.

My intentions were there and I trained hard, but I was still living in coastal Georgia, a very flat area, Louisville is a hilly bike course. Once again, I trained hard with what I had. I did hill repeats on overpass bridges. I ran in the heat of day, I started working with a swim coach. I had a bad day at Florida 70.3 but put it behind me in preparation for Ironman Louisville. I showed up to the start line in Louisville trained and ready for a sub 14. The day did not go as planned; I had issues from the start of the race. I started the run absolutely annihilated and by mile 2 I was walking. I was crushed, I knew sub 14 was out the window and since I was dry heaving at this point, I would be lucky just to finish. I finished in 14:16 and I was devastated. I worked so hard, I wanted that sub 14. I felt I did everything right and I still crumbled. I went home feeling absolutely defeated. I told myself I was done with this race, next Ironman I do will be a different course.

In January 2014 I ran my first 50k. I had not planned 2014 in terms of big races yet, I was going to choose my long distance triathlons after the 50k. At this point I didn’t know if I wanted to try another Ironman or focus on 70.3 again. I finished the 50k in 5:09 and place 2nd female. With the 50k over and done with I began planning my 2014 tri season. Little did I know my season, and my life, was about to change. On January 17th 2014 I woke up at 2 a.m. in excruciating abdominal pain. Joel rushed me to the hospital where we learned I had a hole in my small intestine, and I was dying. During the 50k, I had become so dehydration an ulcer in my small intestine ruptured and fluid, food, air, and blood had been leaking into my body cavity for almost a week. I went into surgery right away where the hole was repair and my body cavity was cleaned out as much as possible. Antibiotics would do the rest. My life was saved.

I spent the next 4 days in the hospital. Initially I was told I will never be able to do anything more than a sprint triathlon for the rest of my life. A few days later I was told I could go back to long distance, I would just have to stay on top of hydration. That was an answer I could accept. I honestly didn’t know when I would see 140.6 again. After I recovered, I slowly went back to training. 2014’s tri season was all sprints and one Olympic. I had registered for Augusta 70.3 in late September, but once again my world was about to be turned upside down.

In mid June 2014, while he was away as a service school, Joel notified me that we were moving, soon. We had to be in Northeast Kansas at the beginning of September, only 3 weeks before Augusta 70.3. At this point Augusta 70.3 was out the window and I was devastated, not to mention being out $375 for a race I wouldn’t be doing. I tried hard to stay positive but I was mad and upset. In September 2014 I left my friends and my wonderful running and tri community, not to mention nice weather you can train outside year round in, for the Midwest.

Upon arriving to Kansas and realizing just how hilly it is, I had the thought that after training here I could probably do well at Ironman Louisville. The terrain was similar, rolling hills. Around this time Ironman announced that Ironman Louisville would be moved from August to October, causing the brutal August heat to not be a factor in the race anymore. Shortly before this time I was given a spot on the Swim Bike Mom Ambassador Team for 2015, and several of my new teammates were registered for Ironman Louisville. With my new training environment, and the race being moved to October, I got the spark back that I could finish Ironman Louisville in under 14 hours. I told Joel all this, his response was “register for it”. So that was that, I would return to Louisville for a third time in pursuit of the sub 14.

 The Build Up

After a rough winter (SNOW!!!!) where I was forced to do a lot of indoor training, it was time to put in the hours for Ironman Louisville. My first Ironman I focused on running, my second I focused on swimming. This time I was focusing on cycling. After all, it is the largest percent of an Ironman race. I put in a lot of time and miles on the bike on the road. I didn’t put a lot of time on the trainer. I needed time on the hills if I wanted to adapt and be able to run off the bike at Louisville. I admit, I didn’t swim as much as I should have, some weeks I only had one swim.  My longest run was 15 miles. A month before race day I sliced my ankle open with my chain ring while out on a training ride, so not only did I not get my mileage that day, but I lost a week of swimming because of the stitches. I ended up with two 85 mile rides and one 101 mile ride, all with lots and lots of climbing.

Since I’m getting older and have a few years into this triathlon thing, I did core work at the gym one day a week to keep injuries at bay. I managed to stay injury free the whole Ironman training cycling. I trained solo the whole cycle as well, not by choice. I haven’t managed to meet any training partners here.

In July I had a good 70.3 race at Muncie. This gave me confidence going into Ironman Louisville. I did a few fun sprint triathlons to keep myself from getting burnt out on training.

11 days before race day, Joel and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary. Wanting to save our money for the Ironman Louisville trip, we kept it simple. We went to the spot at the lake where we got married and exchanged hand written love letters. I carried those words in Joel’s letter in my heart to the Ironman Louisville course.

We arrived in Louisville the Thursday before the race. In the days leading up to the race I got the chance to go to lunch with some of my teammates, go to the YMCA with my friend Nikky that lives in Louisville, and have coffee with some tri buddies. I was feeling ready as ever.

At athlete check-in

Race Day

After the buildup of having to be in Louisville days before the race, I finally woke up at 3 a.m. on race day. I had been eerily calm in the days leading up to the race. Now I was feeling nervous. I had a good feeling about the day but I knew anything could happen. As I sat drinking my coffee I went over my race plan in my head again. Joel and I had a plan to get me toward the front of the swim start line. I have been at the back and the front of this line, and I prefer the front. Not because I was worried about meeting the time cut off, but because I like to be surround by a large crowd on the run to stay motivated. Not to mention I don’t burn a lot of nervous energy when I get in the water right away. Joel dropped me off near the line to get into transition. When it opened at 5:15 a.m. I quickly pumped my tires, put my bottles on my bike, and turned in my special needs bags. I left transition to look for Joel on the street. He had been circling the block waiting for me. I hopped in the car and he drove me to the swim start. Arriving close to the swim start I wasn’t the only one with this plan. There were several athletes jumping out of cars and heading to body marking.  After getting body mark I joined the swim start line. Just like in 2013, I was probably somewhere between 50-70th person in line. Already a good start to the day.

Joel parked and joined me for the long wait for the race to start. I was getting really nervous now. I was so nervous I couldn’t eat my pre race breakfast of a Monster Java Light and Clif Bar. I knew when my feet hit that water, I would be going all day long. It was cold, in the 40. After about an hour and a half I put my wetsuit on, the water temperature in the Ohio River was 69 degrees. So many thoughts rushing through my head at this point, all jumbled. My disappointing race in 2013, nearly dying last year, moving to Kansas, my love for Joel, Loraine’s mother who had passed away only a month prior, my girls at home with Joel’s mom, all the training time I put into this. All these thoughts were flashing through my mind as if someone was rapidly pushing the button on a projector. A bugle player played “My Old Kentucky Home” near the swim start dock and then the National Anthem. The start cannon went off. The line was starting to move. I kissed Joel goodbye and he gave me good luck wishes. I said good luck to those around me. I put my goggles on my eyes and marched down the dock like a MMA fighter entering the arena. This was my day.

The Swim

I hit the timing mat on the dock and jumped in, my race had started. I hurried to get away from the dock to keep someone from jumping off it and landing on me. I had learned a lot about open water swimming since the last Ironman. I stayed calm and went slow instead of being frantic. Wearing a wetsuit meant I didn’t need to kick as much. Its no secret I don’t enjoy the swim, I tolerate it as it is part of Ironman. But I will say, after the swim nearly being cancelled this year, I was happy to be in the water actually getting a swim and getting the full 140.6. I made it to the turn buoy not feeling as worn out as in the previous two times, but I still had a long way to go. I was keeping a steady pace throughout the swim. After all the efforts to flush the algae out of the river I was surprised there was no current, I would have figured they would have opened up the dam, but I’m no biologist. Every ten minutes or so I would glance at my watch to see where I was at and I was making great time (well, for me). At 1:20 I saw by my watch we had already surpassed the 2.4 mile point and we still had a ways to go to the swim exit.  Oh well, everyone had to do it so I just kept swimming, really tired of swimming at this point and I was anxious to get on my bike. Finally I passed the last swim buoy and made my way to the swim exit stairs where a volunteer in a wetsuit extended his hand to guide me to the steps. I climbed out of the water and hit the timing mat. Swim time was 1:26:56, a 2 minute PR for this swim

Finished with the swim


Unzipped the wetsuit and got the shoulders off and went to a wetsuit stripper who pulled it right off. Headed to transition to get ready for the bike.  A volunteer handed me my bike gear bag and at that moment I saw one of my teammates volunteering, I gave her a quick hug (covered in Ohio River yucky-ness) and headed into the changing tent. It was a sea of humanity. Being a slower swimmer at the front of the line the tent was very crowded at this point. Women from the front of the line who were slow swimmers like me, and all the good and average swimmers who were in line behind me were in the tent right now. An older woman came in holding her bag looking around frantically for a chair; I got her attention, and patted the empty chair next to mine. She thanked me for looking out.  It was in the low 50s at this point. Since it would warm up at the halfway point of the bike, I decided I would just go with a fleece headband, arm warmers, and toe warmers and just be cold for awhile. The pockets in my tri suit weren’t very big and whatever you take out on the course with you, you have to carry it. These few items I wore to stay warm would easily fit once I needed to take them off. For this race I decided to use my road helmet instead of my race day aero helmet. I made this choice because after doing this race twice, I knew I would realistically only be in the aerobars roughly 50% of the ride so any time savings would be diminished. For this reason I went with the comfort of the road helmet. I didn’t wear socks because of the time it would take for me feet to dry completely. After leaving the tent I made a porta potty stop and got sunscreened up before grabbing my bike. I was ready to ride. Hit the timing mat and then the mount line. I could hear Joel cheering for me. T1 time was 13:34

Ready to ride

Starting the bike

The Bike

I was anxious for the bike. This would be my first time doing this bike course being hill trained. The first 10 miles are flat. Many have a tendency to hammer this section as the adrenaline is pumping from getting out of the swim. I did that my first time in Louisville. Once the hills start at mile 10 they don’t let up until mile 102 when its flat again. The first 10 mile stretch I got comfortable and spun, going about 18 mph. I was cold but I could still feel my finger and toes. Around mile 14 I ate 2 Clif Shot Blocs, but while chewing I bit the inside of my mouth twice hard and had a bloody mouth. Interesting start to the bike. Once again the out and back section terrified me. Screaming downhills with riders flying down at 50+ mph. Only this time the climbs didn’t kill me. Twice before these hills zapped my legs early in the ride. I got up them and thought “what I ride at home is worse than this”. We had to make a U turn and I was overly cautious as that’s how I fell and ripped my ankle open a month ago. After we hit the timing mat at mile 22 we hit our first aid station. I refilled my water and grabbed a banana and ate it quickly before going down another screaming downhill.

On the bike
A long, somewhat steep climb was waiting for us. I got up it and was relieved that this out and back section was almost over, it’s the worst part of the bike course in my opinion. After this it was rollers lots of them, up and down. The way I felt at this year’s race during the bike was so dramatically different than how I felt my first two times here. I could handle it, the hills weren’t killing me. I didn’t want to cry, I felt adapted, like I was back home in Kansas on a ride, riding the same terrain I ride every day. I was going to be able to run, I just knew it. I had never ran past mile 2 here before, that’s when the race always turned into a death march, but today would be different. At mile 36 at the aid station I had to make a choice. I had to pee really bad (I can’t pee while riding a bike, I just can’t) as I had been hydrating like crazy, but doing so would eat into my bike split. I decided to go pee, comfort is important in a 112 mile bike ride. Visited the porta potty and felt worlds better. For some reason going pee gave me a boost and I was able to put more power to the pedals, but careful not to blow up my legs. I went into the small ring for the hills and got up and over them, one at a time. Around mile 40 the bike course rode through the spectator area at LaGrange but I didn’t see Joel and Nikky. Turns out they were out there, they saw me but I didn’t see them.

I had been occasionally eating shot blocs but felt the need for something solid. At the next aid station I grabbed a Clif Bar and a Banana. I wanted to set myself up for a good run, so throughout the bike I consumed as much calories as I could without overloading myself. I drank the on course Gatorade for electrolytes, much better than the Perform drink they used previously. I was having a good ride. I hit the halfway point of the ride still feeling good looking forward to special needs as I had a Starbucks espresso shot in a can in my special needs bag. Made it to special needs at mile 65, a volunteer was standing there with my special needs bag opened up. I grabbed the payday bar and put it in my tri suit pocket for later. I grabbed the Starbucks espresso shot, opened it, and chugged it. The volunteered laughed and said that’s a first for today, I laughed and told her its my secret weapon.  I had a can of spray sunscreen in there too and she sprayed my back, neck, and shoulders for me. I thanked her for all her help and before heading back out on to the bike course I joined the porta potty line. I knew if I went now I could probably get through the rest of the bike without going again, if I didn’t I would have to stop again later down the road. Since I had already stopped for special needs I figured it would be better just to go now. My first 2 Ironmans here I didn’t drink enough so I wouldn’t have to make potty stops, which I payed for on the run. I felt super hydrated at this point a little over halfway through the bike. My legs still felt good, I already had a feeling I would be able to run.

After the potty stop I got back on my bike to finish the ride. Once again going potty gave me a boost and I could put good power to the pedals again, not to mention the shot of espresso. I knew we would soon be rolling through LaGrange again and I hoped I would see Joel and Nikky. I ate half of my Payday bar around mile 68. I had been gradually eating the Shot Blocs I had brought with me. I felt I was doing good with nutrition. Hydration too, I never felt thirsty on the bike. The course rolled back into LaGrange to start the second LaGrange loop. I rolled through the spectator lined road looking for my people. I didn’t see them and the crowd of people was thinning out. Just as I was starting to get bummed they weren’t able to get out here, I saw them! They had set up about 30 feet from the end of the big crowd. Joel, Nikky, and some of my teammates who had made the trip to Louisville to support those of us doing the race. They were in their team kits and tutus. It was so great to see them. I gave them smiles, shouts, and fist bumps. Seeing them gave me the biggest boost of the day.  Time to get through the next 42 miles and back to transition.

Out at LaGrange

Joel out at LaGrange
Out of LaGrange I ate the second half of my Payday bar. Its fairly calorie dense so I told myself water and Gatorade only for the next hour to give my body a chance to process it. More hills, up and down, I made sure not to let my heart rate spike too much. I don’t wear a heart rate monitor, but I can tell if I am pushing too hard while climbing. I was encouraging the people around me, but several of the women seemed cranky. I didn’t take it personal. I was riding far on the right side of the road, almost touching the white line, and a woman yelled at me to get over. I wasn’t sure where she wanted me to go, if I got over any more I would be on the rumble strip. Finally the sign came into view, straight to finish, left for second lap. It was a nice feeling to go straight knowing the bike was almost over, and I still felt good. Yes, I was tired, but I still had plenty left in the tank.

Mile 90 came and went, I told myself “ok, only 12 more miles of hills, then its all flat”. As much as I wanted to hammer up the hills in the big ring these last few miles, I had to remind myself that I made it this far without blowing up or having a meltdown, stay patient. I took this time to load up on my remaining fluid to set myself up for the beginning of the run. Got up and over the last hill and smiled knowing the bike course didn’t destroy me this time. Rode the 10 miles on River Road back to transition between 17-18 mph, still fighting the urge to hammer. Approaching transition I could hear the music, I was getting excited. I was right where I hoped to be time wise. I felt like I would be able to run but was still apprehensive given my history. At the mount line I unclipped, dismount the bike on wobbly legs, and walked my bike over the timing mat. Bike time was 6:51:08

Finished with the bike


Walking down the path to T2 my legs felt tired and wobbly. After all, I did spend almost 7 hours riding a bike. A volunteer took my bike and I was able to pick up a bit of a jog (tough in cycling shoes) to where the run gear bags were. A volunteer handed me my run gear bag and I headed back into the changing tent. A sea of humanity again. Lots of women who only had a marathon to go on their way to becoming an Ironman. The tent wasn’t nearly as crowded at this point. A woman named Chris grabbed my bag for me and dumped it out to help me prepare for the run. She got my shoes and socks ready, grabbed me some pretzels and water, and put my bike gear into the bag. She truly was my T2 angel. After she saw me put anti chafe under my bra line, she suggested putting some on the bottom of my upper arms. Later on in the run I wish I could have hugged her for suggesting this. In the tent I didn’t even think about it, but when she suggested it I had flashbacks of Muncie 70.3 where I rubbed my under arms raw on the run. Put the anti chafe on my under arms, put on my shoes and socks, ate some pretzels (so yummy at this point), drank some water, put my running hat on, snapped on my race belt, thanked Chris and gave her a hug, and left the tent. Made a potty stop before getting suncreened up for the last time. Walked/jogged to the timing mat that started to run. Hit the mat and started the run. Run and done, just a marathon to go. T2 time was 11:54

In T2

The Run

Out of T2 the first .20 of the run was spectator lined. I couldn’t help but to smile. All these people, most of them here to support just one athlete, are cheering on every person starting the run. I spotted Joel on the left side of the road; I wasn’t just going to smile and wave this time. I stopped to give him a hug and a kiss. He said “I love you” I said it back, and continued onto the run. I’m a fan of Newton running shoes. A few months prior I had switched from the Gravity III model to the more forgiving Fate. In training I loved them for long distance, and I developed a strategy for this Ironman run. The rubber lugs on my shoes allowed me to bounce, and in training I learned that if I did this sort of bouncing running style, I can run for a really long period of time around a 9:30-10 minute per mile pace. I knew if I could hold this for at least half the run I could get that sub 14. I was excited so it was tough, I kept yelling at myself in my head to slow down. My plan was to walk through all the aid stations, and to run to the next one. I broke the run down in my head 1 mile at a time. Made it to the mile 1 timing mat in 9:55, right on pace. At the next aid station I ate some pretzels and drank some water. Solid food tasted so good right now. After walking the aid stations, I would start a slow gradual bounce into a run as opposed to taking off. So far it was working. I made it to mile 3 surprised I was still running. I was feeling surprisingly good, but I was on guard as feelings during an Ironman can change fast. Heading out to the lap one turn-around there were 2 large dips in the road. I ran up and down both inclines but made a mental not that on the way back, and on lap 2, to walk up the inclines to save energy. Other than the 2 dips the run was flat.

Hey Joel, give me a kiss!

At the lap 1 turn-around there was a timing mat for mile 7.3. I was still maintaining an under 10 minute pace, and surprised I was still running. To keep my mind off the pain I smiled at all the spectators, thanked the police officers keeping us safe, and encouraged my fellow competitors. I was feeling good for being on an Ironman run, but I was still hurting. Kind of hard to explain. I knew I felt much worse at this point in my first 2 Ironmans here. I was drinking 2-3 cups of water at every aid station, and 1 cup of Gatorade. I ate a few Shot Blocs occasionally. I felt like I hit my nutrition perfectly on the bike because my stomach felt fine at this point and I didn’t feel hungry. I was at mile 10 and I couldn’t believe I was still running, I was really surprising myself. I was hurting but the pain was manageable, I wanted that sub 14 so bad.  It was in the low 70s and I didn’t feel the need to dump water on myself or grab any of the cold sponges, so my feet stayed nice and dry and blister free. I wore my one piece tri suit so I wouldn’t waste all that energy constantly adjusting my clothes, and I could tell a big different. Typically, if I am wearing a 2 piece tri kit, I have to adjust my clothes 8-10 times a mile, in an Ironman that adds up to a lot of wasted energy. The extra time at the potty stops was worth it to not waste all that energy during the actual run.

Out on the run

At the half marathon point I glanced at my watch and saw I ran the first half in 2:15. I told myself if I can manage to not blow up or have a meltdown I may be able to run this marathon under 5 hours. Only a half marathon to go. Ran into the downtown area and saw Joel, gave him another kiss, and then saw my teammates cheering for me. I gave then lots of smiles and told them I felt pretty good. I came upon the sign that says “straight to finish, right to 2nd lap”. This sign pumped me up as I could see the finish line up ahead, but I had to turn right and just run a half marathon and then it would be my turn. At special needs I stopped briefly to grab my can of Monster Java Light. For a split second I didn’t know what to do. Special needs is just special needs, its not an aid station and there are no trash cans. I had a plan for special needs, but I honestly didn’t think I’d still be running at this point on the run.  I had planned on walking with my can of Monster and sipping it, but since I was still running I didn’t want to break the momentum. I grabbed my can of Monster in my left hand and ran with it all the way to the next aid station. At the aid station I popped it open and chugged half of it and threw it away, and then got in the potty line. I was staying hydrated and had to pee. After getting out of the porta potty I took off again to the next aid station down the road.

Halfway point of the run

I slowed my pace down a bit, I wasn’t cramping but my legs were aching, Ironman is a long day. At the 2 dips I walked up the inclines and kept on running after them. The volunteers at all the aid stations were amazing and encouraging. As this was my last lap I made sure to thank all the volunteers. At the mile 15 aid station I ate a Clif Bar to have something solid for the last few miles. At the mile 17 aid station I drank some coke which my stomach didn’t like, I ate some pretzels after that to combat it. I was taking in a lot of fluid at all the aid stations.  Hit the lap 2 turn-around, which is mile 20, feeling a bit loopy but relieved the race was almost over and I was still running. It was getting dark outside, and with a 10k to go and still running I got the chance to think about a lot of things. It was the projector effect I experienced before the swim. I was on triathlon mode on my Garmin 920xt, I pressed the button to see my total race time and saw that unless I had a total meltdown and stopped moving, I was safe for sub 14 hours. Mile 23, about a 5k to go. When I got to the mile 23 aid station, I decided to take in water only at this point. At mile 24 I was a few minutes into 13 hours. My hamstrings started to seize, so I took a longer walk break after leaving the aid station to rub them out a bit. At mile 25 I was exhausted, but 1 mile to go. I drank some water, and just went. I was hurting bad. I told myself don’t stop until you cross the finish line.

I could see downtown up ahead. This was my day; I couldn’t believe I pretty much ran the whole marathon. I was going to do it, I was going to finish well under 14 hours. I turned the last corner and started shaking and crying, yelling out loud “I did it! I did it!”. Four years of work, all came down to these few seconds in time. I followed the arrows “to finish line” and I lost it. Tear streaming down my face, at this point I didn’t care what my finish line pictures looked like, I achieved my goal that was so important to me, that meant so much, that I worked so hard toward. As I approached the finish line, I started yelling and shouting and pumping my fists, along with the tears. I cross the finish line and landed in the arms of two of my teammates, who were volunteering as finish line catchers. One of them donned a finisher’s medal around my neck. Run time was 4:43:14

Shouting and fist pumping, my moment

4 years of work summed up into a few seconds of time
I did it
I was a crying, wobbly, blubbering mess talking to my two teammates. Tears down my face I told them “I finally did sub 14!” They shared my happiness after seeing how much it meant to me. Joel was waiting at the finish line exit gate for me. As soon as we made eye contact he shouted “13:26!” I said “what?!” I couldn’t believe the time he said, he said it again and I lost it. Sub 13:30. I was in shock. I cried in his shoulder. I got a long hug from Nikky who told me how proud she was, she also know how much this meant to me, especially after seeing me fall short in 2013. After I got some chocolate milk, a massage, and chatted with some friends and buddies, it was time to go back to our hotel on the outskirts of town. I said a “see you later” to Nikky and took one last look at Fourth Street. Such an electric place on Ironman day. This was my third time crossing the finish line on Fourth Street, but it still captivated me. This place will always hold a special meaning in my heart. I finally got my sub 14, I know it will be awhile before I see this place again. I can now move on to a different Ironman course. I got my sub 14 I always felt I was capable of.

Can't describe how happy I am
On Fourth Street

I am still riding the high from race day. Instead of thinking about what’s next, I’m going to take a few days to appreciate what I did on Sunday.

Finishing time was 13:26:46

See you next time Nikky!

Me and Joel on Fourth Street

Friday, July 31, 2015

Five Years of Triathlon-10 things I have learned

Tomorrow is August 1st. Five years ago at this time I was heavy in training for my first sprint triathlon, which took place in September of 2010. Five years ago when I signed up for that first triathlon I never imagined what kind of influence the sport would have on my life. It changed me as a person, for the better, and gave me a method of staying active after my November 2009 gastric bypass surgery. Very active

In this blog I wanted to share 10 thing I have personally learned. This is not a general list, this is a personal list. My experiences in triathlon will greatly differ from another triathlete's experiences.

September 2010, my first ever triathlon
10. The best bike will not make you a better triathlete

This is something I admit to getting caught up in years ago. After I finished my first Ironman in 2011, I was convinced I needed a super bike. A few months after that, we received our income tax return and decided to buy new bikes with it. To my complete surprise, after spending months riding high mileage on a hybrid bike, Joel decided he wanted a road bike. We were planning on getting him a mid grade carbon road bike, and a mid grade carbon tri bike for myself. After going on and on and yada yada yada about super bikes and how much I needed one, Joel offered to let me get a super bike and he would just get a nicer aluminum road bike.

The offer was right there in front of me, but after stepping outside myself and looking at the big picture I just couldn't. My wonderful husband, who had supported this absolute tri crazy-ness, who stood outside supporting me all day long at Ironman Louisville in August when it was 100 degrees, deserved what he wanted. Joel had never had any interest in anything athletic, he used to be a heavy drinker and a pack a day smoker. When he returned home from his second tour in Iraq, he spectated my first tri of 2011, and shortly after wanted to buy a bike. We bought him a nice Cannondale Hybrid and riding that bike was the spark that ignited his passion. He put clip in pedals and slick road tires on it and rode 56 miles with me one day. He started planning all the things he would do once he had a road bike. I had never seen this side of him, and I knew it was because of me, I was so very proud of him. Joel getting a nice carbon road bike was more important to me than having a super bike.

Joel and his prized Felt AR4
My Cervelo P2 was my workhorse for 3 triathlon seasons
I ended up buying a Cervelo P2, which ended up being just as "fast" as a super bike. Although I must say bikes are not fast, its the people riding them (duh). I probably would have had identical bikes splits on my Equinox/P2/Slice than I would have on a super bike, my legs only turn over so fast depending on my current fitness level. I have passed plenty of people on super bikes on all three of the non super tri bikes I have owned. In no way does that mean they don't deserve to have such a nice piece of carbon goodness, which I will get to in #9 below.

The first time I ever won my age group I was on a Trek 1.1C with 8 speeds. It was a cheap junky bike with the worst components ever

June 2010 on my Trek 1.1C, such a newb!
9. You deserve the bike you can afford

Many years ago I got the idea that I would learn flying mounts and dismounts. I watched videos on youtube to learn how. I can upon a video from a sprint triathlon. It was a video about a minute long of a mount line. I wanted to see how people executed flying mounts while in an actual race. A guy came up to the line with a beautiful shiny super bike with a rear Zipp Disc and a front Zipp 808. He was getting a bit tripped up at the mount line and the guy taking the video said "this guys does not deserve that bike". I was very taken aback by that comment. As well as overhearing other competitor at races making negative comments about "slow people who are on super bikes" and why they would bother getting a bike like that when they are slow.

Here's how I feel about this. Its YOUR money, YOU deserve what YOU can afford! For all you know, that beautiful $6,000+ bike is what keeps them going, what gets them out the door everyday, what keep them riding, and that's great. Its no different than buying $6,000 rims for a car because you can afford them. We are a very "blue collar" family. I am currently not working, and my husband is enlisted in the Army. The bikes I have owned, they were the best bikes in our price range. Big race weekends we stay at Best Western instead of the high end hotel near the race site. No complaints at all, I am very fortunate and I love that I have a supportive spouse who does his absolute best to insure I have a great race. Maybe one day after I finish school our situation will change and I can get a super bike, but it will be because we can afford one, not because I met all the criteria on some elitist prick's list of "when you deserve a super bike"

8. Learn to suffer
Suffer, it a word that in our mind brings pain. Suffering isn't just for long course, short course brings it own amount of suffering. True, our life experiences give us a baseline for our ability to suffer, but in training we can learn how to suffer in a way that will pay off on race day no matter what the goal is.

7. The ability to suffer can sometimes outweigh athletic ability

Yes I train a lot, yes I train hard, but I attribute most of my racing success to my ability to sufferYou can get past the voices in your head begging you to stop if you can dig in deeper and suffer a little harder. Have confidence in your ability to suffer. Even today, as a short stocky woman who is borderline athena, I will look at the girls in my age group before the race, looking like fast little whippets, and make assumptions they are going to crush me, but you cannot just look at a person and know their ability to suffer.

6.  Training with partners is so fun, but the ability to train alone is also needed

Some of my best training sessions have been with training partners. I love training with training partners. I would pick training with a partner over training solo any day of the week. But the hard truth is, they won't always be there for every training session. As hard as it is and as much as it sucks, you need to learn how to train and be accountable to yourself

My best friend Loraine is my favorite person to ride with
5. Ironman is great, but the other distances deserve the same respect

Ironman is the pinnacle of triathlon. Most non triathletes at least know that Ironman is a traithlon. Training for any distance of triathlon take time. I've said on many occasions that I feel an olympic is tougher than a 70.3, and I still stand by that because the way I race, it is true. To me an olympic is not simply "half of a 70.3" to me its more of a "double sprint" and that means teetering between orange and red for 2.5 hours, which is very tough. Last year after my intestine rupture I only raced sprints and one olympic, and it really showed me how much emphasize is placed on Ironman. It felt almost as my year didn't matter because I was only racing short course, even though I had a successful racing year and bumped up several hundred positions on my USAT ranking. Sprints are so much fun, and tough! I love racing sprints, and since moving here I use the local sprints to meet new people. There is another aspect to discuss on this, but I will get to that on #2

4. Running is genetic, cycling is neutral, swimming is starting from a young age

On the run at Ironman Loisville 2011
Somehow I have the genetics to be a good runner. I run often and I train hard. But I am 5'6 160 pounds, science says I shouldn't be able to run a 1:44 half marathon or a sub 22 minute 5k, but my genetic do. I know lots and lots of people who run train much more than me, much harder than me, and don't post times like that. I saw it a lot when I was in the Army too, kids that never ran who could just run a 10-11 minute 2 mile with a hangover. Genetics are really a fascinating thing when it comes to athletics.

On the run at a sprint tri last year
Cycling seems to be neutral, you become a good cyclist with work. This is just my experience with triathlon and not actual bike racing.

On the bike at Ironman Louisville 2013
On the bike at an olympic last year

Swimming, the best swimmer are the ones who grew up on swim teams. "Swim team kids" I call the adults who just glide effortlessly through the water and are the first ones to T1. From a young age technique was drilled into their heads and it has always stuck with them. Seeing them training at the pool is sometimes frustrating because they make it look so easy but I just have to admire them. I started swim training for triathlon five years ago and have concluded there is not enough time left on earth for me to become a good swimmer.

Always trilled when the swim is over
3. Triathlon is a selfish sport, make sure those around you know how much you appreciate and love their support

In my triathlon journey I ask a lot of two people, my husband Joel and my best friend Loraine. They support me tremendously, and for all the support I feel that I will never truly be able to show my full gratitude for what they have done, and for what they continue to do. But I try my best, I do as much as I can for Joel and make sure he gets to do all the training he wants to do. I take Loraine out to dinner and get her small gifts to show my gratitude. The last thing I ever want is for either of them to feel unappreciated. I am the one crossing the finish line, but I could not have done it without them. Triathlon is a team sport contested by one.

My biggest fan and the love of my life

Crying in my best friend's shoulder after finishing Ironman Louisville 2013

2. No matter what, your floor is someone else's ceiling and vice versa

From #5, I don't like hearing the term "just a sprint". Everyone is different and you have no idea what they have gone through to get to that point. After I have finished my race I usually stay near the finish line to cheer my fellow competitors in. I have seen the last finisher in a sprint, tears streaming down their face, arms hoisted up in the air, with the same expression on their face as someone who is finishing an Ironman. You know what, maybe with their adversities in life, and the courage they had to build up to sign up and train for this sprint, this race was an Ironman TO THEM. What is simple to you may be this big monumental thing to someone else.

Finishing Ironman Louisville 2011
In training, running an easy pace to me could be a panting all out sprint to someone else. I have been on the other side of that at the pool. When a fast swimmer was laughing at how slow my half ironman swim pace was. This made me leave the pool with my head hung and discouraged. I have never done that, nor would I ever do that to another person in regard to running. The last person who finishes the race deserves the same respect as the first person who finishes. Your floor is someone's else's ceiling, what is easy to you is difficult to someone else, and what is difficult to you is easy to someone else. My "fast" 100 meter time is 2:07, I can't maintain that for longer than 100 meters, it is difficult for me. On the other hand, if I don't feel like running I can cruise a 24 minute 5k with minimal effort.

1. At the end of the day, triathlon is a hobby

I put this at #1 because this has been the most important thing I have learned. I am an age grouper, I will never be a professional. My livelihood does not depend on triathlon. If I don't do well at a race, my kids still have food on the table. I train as an outlet, I race because I love it. That's all there is to it, simple as that. It is a hobby and I treat it as such. I got really caught up in it back in 2011 when I was training for my first Ironman, and afterwards I had to learn balance and compromise. Today I have a healthy mix of family time, husband and wife time, training time, and how many weekends I choose to race. My whole family is behind me for my third Ironman, and that means the world to me.

I love having a shared love of riding with my hubby

Thanks for reading!

Muncie 70.3 a few weeks ago, could not have done it without my support system