Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2011 in Review: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Since the end of 2011 is rapidly approaching, I figured I would do a post with the highlights and lowlights of the past year. A lot of people use this to post their "yearly numbers." I don't do that.. it's not my style and frankly, I don't know. I honestly couldn't even guess how many miles I've swam, biked, or run. A lot. End of story! So here is my year of memories, accomplishments, disappointments, and just plain stupidity! And a LOT of links to race reports and creepy blog friends (and some real life friends too). :)

The Good

I PRed in the half-marathon distance at the Flower City Challenge HM. Yes, it was only by 40 seconds, and it still didn't bring my PR to sub 1:40, but I was still excited.

I WON my first race at the Keuka Lake Sprint triathlon! It was a small race, but it was awesome to finally win something (I have been close before) and stand on the top of that podium.

I think I sprinted up there to get on that podium first!

I did 2 Ironmans in 3 months. 'Nuff said.

Not only did I meet Cait Snow, but I made it into her IMCDA race report (mention AND photo!!!!).

oh wait, you've seen this photo before? my bad :)

I added 5 states to the list of states I have been to which were: Washington, Idaho, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Obviously, the only two I spent any real time in (other than driving) were Idaho and Wisconsin. Wisconsin I'd visit again in a second - Idaho, not so much.

My family came to a whole bunch of my races. My parents were there when I won Keuka, and they were there at IM Coeur D'Alene to help me out with my medical tent disaster. They missed IM Wisconsin but only because I didn't want them to have to stand around for a whole day at IM #3.

I bought an iPhone 4 which has basically altered my existence.

I moved to a new apartment! It's cleaner, nicer, homier, quieter, and there is no squirrel taking up residence with me and Fiona. Even though it's small, I absolutely love it there, and I am no longer embarrassed to have people come over to my home!

I read a ton of books in the past 12 months, thanks to the Kindle I got for Christmas last year. Some of my favorites include: Water for Elephants, The Hunger Games trilogy, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, Pillars of the Earth, and World Without End. There are many, many more but those are some that I loved so much!

My friends have become an even more amazing part of my life this year. I actually maintained my social life (although it's not as exciting as some peoples' social lives I am sure) with trainer sessions/long rides with Kim, girls' nights with Ari and Sam, bar nights with Matthias, Amanda and Greg's wedding, and some fun outings with Solveig. I had a ridiculously fun race experience at mini-Mussel with Greg and Mary. I met a whole bunch of creepy internet friends: Jon, Mandy, Emily, Kevin, Anne-Marie, and Laurie. Also, 3 of my friends got engaged this year (Kerry, one of my long-time horse friends, Amelia, and Kim)!


I have begun to consistently ride Cherry again, which is something that has escaped me since this whole Ironman nonsense began in 2010. I am so much happier when I get to spend time at the barn and in the saddle, so I am going to try my hardest to make this work around my big training weeks in the summer. Plus, Cherry deserves the best care possible for as long as she's around! She has been such a great 4-legged companion for the past 17 years of my life. Really, she's the best horse I could ever ask for and I love her so much!

she is sooooooo awkward, just like ME!

The Bad

Despite my increased training, swimming more yards per week, more 6 hour bike rides, multiple 3 hour long runs, even with two attempts, I did not have the Ironman that I wanted. I wanted to PR, I wanted to go sub-12, and I wanted to run a good IM marathon. I was unable to do any of those things. I think I would have been happy if I had hit at least one of those goals, but I didn't. Regardless of the small victories that I had (the completion of two more Ironmans, figuring out long ride nutrition, the success of those 3 hour runs), my failure to meet my own goals has cast a shadow over much of the 2011 season. I know that is negative, and I know that people are not happy with my perspective on it, but that's the way it is. The best I can do is take what I have learned this year and apply it to the future.

Mary sold Train-This in the fall of 2011. Although this is definitely a personal achievement for Mary (she was invited to join the coaching staff of QT2 Systems, which she accept, and which we are ALL proud of her for), I am still sad about it. Train-This has become a family to me. We are so close; most of us are in Rochester so we raced together, went to training camp together, joked around on the google group, and saw each other in training hot spots like Mendon Ponds Park and Canandaigua Lake. Even though the friendships are still there, and I have followed Mary to QT2 (which I do believe will help me improve next season), it's different now. I loved that Train-This was a local, help-you-out kind of coaching service. It was affordable, it was flexible, there were no limits to how often I could text, tweet, facebook, email, or call Mary. You don't find service like that very often, where someone launches a business because they truly love it and aren't trying to make tons of money off of it. Since it has changed hands, the logo has been altered and the name has changed to T2 Multisport. Although I understand why the company has been madeover, it still bums me out that the Train-This that I have loved for 2 years is gone.

I spent all of my money on Ironman this year. Literally all of it. Between race entries, travel (flights to and from CDA and all that driving for IMOO), hotels, coaching, equipment (hello, Garmin 310XT), I came out of the race season with no extra money saved. I don't regret it because I believe that I should embrace opportunities that I may never get to experience again, but it has made things difficult for the past 3 months as I struggle to pay my regular bills. I didn't think I would be having this kind of trouble, but my coaching has increased in cost and I am now paying off a new laptop that I bought when I was forced to replace my Macbook that died in July. I am praying to the gods of triathlon that my year end bonus arrives both swiftly and plentifully!

The Ugly

I will be happy if I never have to see the inside of a medical tent again. Hours of my life were wasted inside the medical tent after IM Coeur D'Alene, begging for that sweet, sweet IV that fixed my dizziness and nausea when they finally gave it to me (hours after I first got carted into the tent). Between passing out in the changing tent and puking in the medical tent, my IMCDA post-race celebration was not very good. There was less dizziness at IMWI, but there was vomiting both during the run and after the race in my hotel room. Again, vomiting = NOT FUN.

dizziness FTW

I still hate wearing pants. Unfortunately, it's December, and even though it's been unseasonably warm, I can no longer lounge in my apartment sans pants because one thing I hate even more than pants? A high electric bill! I have moved on to the winter equivalent of no pant - giant sweatpants and/or a snuggie.

I am still single. (Which honestly, and I am really being totally honest here and not pretending in order to make myself feel better or to convince the world that I am "better off without men," is fine. I am happy enough with the way things are in my life). After last year, I swore I would swear off boys eternally (2010 was the year of two breakups). Which I sort of did. Because my choice in men is.. questionable. But then, you know, I get bored. Seriously. It's just boredom that makes me think I want to find a boyfriend. Oh yeah, and that looming deadline of being 30 that has been arbitrarily stuck in my head as the age to be married by (ummm.. I can tell you now.. that's definitely not going to be met). But.. I have nothing to show for my year except for a whole bunch of super awkward dates with a bunch of weirdos. Maybe I am ready for part 2 of this blog post? Luckily I have Matthias who is basically my pretend boyfriend because his girlfriend, Sabrina, lives in California, so he hangs out with me, which is perfect because I don't cross those kinds of lines, and I find him totally non-threatening because he's in a relationship!

In Conclusion..

I am (mostly) happy with my year. Meaning, I will look back on it fondly. It didn't have the ultimate highs that I got in 2010 (my big half-IM PR and my first Ironman), and it did have some disappointments, but at least I tried. I feel that most of the great parts of 2011 were actually NOT triathlon related, which is totally fine! Overall, I was more levelheaded, I felt like I knew more of what I was doing (training-wise), I handled working the night shift better, and I never had that post-Ironman depression that killed me in 2010!

On to 2012!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

winter is here, maybe?

Hey Winter,

6 days away from Christmas and you finally show your face! (Not that I am complaining about being able to wear my yoga capris and a hoodie to and from the gym in December). If I was actually running and had to acclimate to 20 degree weather straight from 60 degree weather, I would probably be bitching, but right now, all of my workouts take place in the comfort of my climate controlled apartment or the heated YMCA pool.

We actually saw some snow on Saturday!

I did some things this weekend. Some socializing in the form of dinner on Saturday with Matthias followed by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra's Christmas concert with Solveig. I rode Cherry. I rode my bike as well. I finished my Christmas shopping and once the final present arrives from Amazon.com, I will wrap them!

Week 2 of QT2 base phase is complete. I am done with my "adaptation lift" cycle and begin my "max phase lift" cycle tomorrow. Should be interesting! Gotta start building those leg muscles!

One huge difference between my training with QT2 and Train-This is that my rest weeks are no longer scheduled to fall on my first week of nights. Because my work schedule is on a 5 week rotation and QT2 has a pretty strict 4 week cycle with specific tapers and benchmark races along the way, I doubt it would even be possible to edit it to a 5 week rotation like Mary has done the past 2 years (Mary was a little more flexible with training cycles, races, etc in the Train-This days). Plus, if my work schedule changed, I'd be SOL. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, it's just going to be different and I hope I do OK with training weeks that fall on that first week of nights. It honestly just depends on whether or not I can sleep. Unfortunately, last week AND this weekend did not go well sleep-wise, which stinks because I had been doing pretty well for the past few months. Maybe it's time to pick the Ambien back up for a little while.

FYI: My 28th birthday is exactly one month from today. SO if anyone wants to start thinking about the awesome present they're going to buy for me OR plan a surprise party, here's your heads up! :) Actually, for all of my local friends, I will probably organize a fun outing the Saturday evening after my birthday so that I can enjoy the company of my friends! Especially in January when everyone stays inside and becomes reclusive due to the weather, it will be fun to go out and socialize!! If I am have to accept that I'm in my late 20s, I might as well have fun doing it. :)

Friday, December 16, 2011


I have had an issue for a while when I am cycling. I never can seem to "hit" my target HR zones. When I was with Train-This, we used Joe Friel HR zones for both the bike and the run (I believe, Mary can correct me if I'm wrong) with a Z1 (recovery), Z2 (endurance), Z3 (tempo) and Z4 (short races). There was an offset between bike zones and run zones, like usual, and I still have a hard time understanding WHY there is an offset, but I attempted to follow these HR zones to the best of my ability. When I am running, I have no problem dialing into the required zone. I can run all day at my endurance zone, and I can hit and run at tempo pace when it's scheduled.

But I just CANNOT seem to ride in my cycling zones. For instance, my Z2 for last year on the bike were (approximately, I can't remember exactly) 142-162. So, for the majority of my rides (all my long rides, all IM bike splits) should be ridden at a HR somewhere in there. But, where do I tend to average my HR for long rides? In the 120s (if I'm lucky). This happens on the trainer, outside, all the time. During IM Wisconsin, the only triathlon where I have worn my HR monitor, I actually averaged in my Z2 (on the high side even) but this was a race situation AND it was hot as balls on that bike.

Mary figured that part of my issue with this (because it was an ongoing issue over 2 seasons) was that I was just cooked from 2 Ironmans in one year. Personally, I felt like I was just being too lazy on the bike. I felt like I was riding at endurance pace, based off of perceived effort, but it's hard to tell sometimes!

When I made the switch to QT2 two weeks ago, my HR zones changed to the QT2 system. They are ZR (recovery), Z1 (endurance), and Z2 (tempo). I ran a 5K in October and Mary used that data to structure my new zones. They are smaller and lower than the previous ones I used, so I thought that I finally might have a chance to actually ride in my endurance zone. My first bike ride in, I was absolutely determined to hit my HR zone, and I did it, by sprinting my ass off for 75 minutes. My Z1 was 134 - 145, and my average HR was 134. So even riding above my BSE (best sustainable effort) for 75 minutes, I BARELY made it into Z1. And I don't think I could ride at that intensity for much longer than 75 minutes, so that is going to prove to be problematic for long rides.

By this point, I was super frustrated.

That same day, I had posted a photo on facebook that I had taken with my iPhone. The photo was of this index card I had decorated with my HR zones so that I could sit it in front of me and stare at it while on the trainer - just another safeguard against slacking (because that's what I thought was going on). A QT2 teammate, Keith, that I am friends with through Mary commented on the photo about how my HR zones are higher than his (my Z1 is his Z3) and he said that he also had trouble riding in his HR zones, and said that it is common for runners who are used to using our entire bodies when we work out, so when we have to use just our legs, we have a harder time because we lack leg strength.

I wanted to run this theory by Mary, so I hopped over to the QT2 forum and posted a question for Mary with some background (for other members who read the forum), my "conversation" with Keith, and asking what her thoughts were on the matter. Sidenote: because I am a QT2 Mission Plan Athlete, things have changed a little bit since being a Train-This athlete. Questions about training, races, switching workouts, and other questions in general are posted to Mary's QT2 forum instead of emailed to her directly (if you want that kind of communication, you have to be a 1:1 athlete, but I can't afford it). It works out fine because Mary is very diligent about checking the forum and answering questions, and you can also see what other people post and her answers to their questions. Also, since she is now one coach among other coaches, she can actually brainstorm problems her athletes are having with other knowledgeable people in search of answers. I believe this is what Mary did, since her and I had no idea what was going on last season.

 Long story short (ok actually it's long, sorry!) we think the problem is a lack of leg strength. It's kind of crazy when you think about it, because I don't look like I lack strength in my legs. I am pretty solid, my quads are pretty big, and I've done a LOT of training the past 3 years. But, this also does make sense to me. I might be strong endurance-wise but in terms of actual strength, I don't have a lot. I think this is why my quads blow up in marathons, IM marathons, and even at the end of a hilly long run.

To try to fix this, Mary is going to have me doing a lot of lower body max phase strengthening exercises (and I think my max strength phase is going to be extended) and a lot of low cadence, big ring trainer rides over the winter. I am just glad that this problem has been figured out, that it's not my fault, and that there is a solution that will hopefully make me a stronger, faster athlete!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

oh runner's knee

I ran for the first time in 13 days on Wednesday. I had posted about some knee pain after Running for the Diamonds on Thanksgiving Day, so I wanted to give my knee ample time off to heal. Turns out, 13 days is not enough. Two miles into my run, my knee started to twinge. As I turned around and headed back home (it was dark, cold, and I was wearing knickers and a long sleeved shirt so I ran) it continued to get worse. I kept hoping something would click into place and the pain would go away, but nope. 2 weeks, 2 runs, 2 encounters with knee pain, I don't like where this is going.

After walking in my apartment and kicking off my shoes, I immediately posted this concern on the QT2 forum (I guess I never published a post saying that I had started with QT2.. whoops) and Mary immediately put me on the run injury protocol, which is basically taking all of my run volume, and putting half of it on the bike (the other half gets eliminated). I iced and elevated my knee after running. When I woke yesterday morning, it was stiff. Not as bad as after the race, but it hurt to walk on and I basically gimped around work for the first 2 hours, then it slowly got better as I moved around more. I also made a doctors appointment for the afternoon to rule out any real damage.

Fast forward to 3:45 pm, I was in the doctors' office for literally 5 minutes. The doctor looked at my knee, had me crouch, had me stand on my tiptoes, and then deemed it Patella-Femoral Pain Syndrome AKA Runner's Knee.

The verdict is: no running for the rest of December. Pool running is ok, cycling is ok, swimming is ok. When I do ease back into running, I need to stay on flat, soft surfaces (such as a treadmill or the canal path).

I am annoyed that I put myself into this situation (running a hilly 9 mile race without the required training) but really, it's probably the best case scenario and hopefully I will be up and running (literally) in a few weeks!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Toronto Road Trip

A few weeks ago, I took a Saturday road trip to Toronto with my friend Ari. We really didn't have a specific reason for going other than a) Toronto is the 5th largest city in North America, b) there is an IKEA there, c) I have only been there once and I don't remember it because I was too young, and d) we both just wanted an adventure!

Ari modeling some IKEA
fashion wear
We headed out at 7 am, crossed the border in Niagara Falls (slightly nerve wracking), and stopped at IKEA (after getting slightly lost trying to find it) before heading into the city. I am a huge fan of furniture from IKEA. I have a few pieces from there (courtesy of my parents and the store in Philly) that look super classy but are affordable at the same time. We ate breakfast in the cafeteria (who knew that existed!) because we were famished, then enjoyed walking through the show room (except where some kid puked in the children's area and it smelled disgusting). Ari bought a few things; I (surprisingly) bought nothing, and we exited ~2 hours later to head into the city.

Traffic heading into the city wasn't bad at all, and we found a parking spot in a garage by the CN Tower. The garage was probably the scariest part of the drive, because it had construction going on, and the ramp was running traffic 2-ways, sometimes with a temporary traffic light, sometimes without. People are idiots and we almost got taken out in there!

We headed up the CN Tower, checked out the 360 view, walked on the glass floor (I did, Ari didn't!), and walked around the revolving restaurant.

view of the city from the tower
Fun Toronto fact - if it's a clear day, you can actually see Rochester on the other side of Lake Ontario! Unfortunately, it was too hazy the day we were there. :(

playing in some fun chairs in the Distillery District

pretty Christmas tree in the Distillery District
Then we spent some time walking around, checking out the public market, eating delicious pastries, and exploring the Distillery District. We eventually got hungry and headed off to this vegetarian restaurant that I had found online: Hibiscus. It was blocks and blocks away from where we were down by the water, so we walked for probably a good 45 minutes before we found the street that it was on. As we headed up the street, away from the busy part of the city, it grew more sketchy. The townhouses looked unkempt, with their window treatments skewed across the windows, people in the homes tapping on the windows at us, and no one on the street. We hurried up down the street which then came to a dead end. WHAT? (Because we couldn't use our cell phones, we were working off of a map of Toronto and an address I had written down at home). We took a left and got the hell out of that neighborhood, only to be relieved to see the lights of restaurants up ahead. We then found the street again (apparently, it ended and then started up again on the other side of a more "main" street) and after walking 10 more minutes, we found the restaurant, which, of course, was closing. Frustrated and starving, we backtracked to another vegetarian restaurant and ate some pretty good food! This whole neighborhood was very hippie, I kind of liked it! We rounded out the meal with churros for dessert and headed back to the car. It was a long walk and my legs were KILLING me (sheesh.. I can do an Ironman but I can't walk around for a day??).

my horn can pierce the sky!
(outside the market)
CN Tower at night
The drive home was much worse - I was soooo tired, but I managed and I think I made it home at 10:30 or so after dropping Ari off. It was a fun trip! One thing I noticed was the high amount of attractive, well-dressed, in shape men. Compare that with the guys you see walking around Rochester or even NYC, and it was a HUGE improvement. Good job, men of Canada! Keep it up and I will continue to cross the border and stimulate your economy just to stare at you. :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Run For the Diamonds Race Report

The Run For the Diamonds is a Thanksgiving morning 9 mile race in Berwick, PA that started in 1908. It draws an incredibly elite field (top 8 in both genders get a diamond, the next 8 get a beautiful plaque). I have been wanting to do this race since about 2007, but there was always some conflict: work, the Philadelphia Marathon, being too out of shape, etc. This year I was determined to make it happen, and ran *just* enough this off-season (i.e. probably not enough to sufficiently train for a 9 mile race) to be sure I would do ok and not die.

I made plans to carpool the 1.5 hours to Berwick with my high school cross country coach, Mike, and his wife, Rachel, who are both talented runners and have both *just* missed out on top 16 awards at this race. (Also, these two are both registered for Mooseman 70.3 and Ironman Lake Placid for 2012)! It was ~27 degrees when I woke up on race morning, but it was supposed to warm up to mid-50s during the day, so I wore shorts and brought a bunch of different running tops along, just in case.

hilariously awful race shirt!
I showed up at their house promptly at 7:45, and we arrived in Berwick at around 9:15. The car ride was full of stories of other races, tales from High School, and Mike scaring me to death with a description of the terrain of this race. We picked up our race packets, warmed up, hit the portapotties, got race-ready, and headed to the start which was set to go off at 10:30 am. I decided to run in shorts, a short sleeved tech shirt, arm warmers, and gloves. I started at the front of the middle.. in the midst of maybe 1500 runners? The gun went off and it took me about 12 seconds to cross the start line, which is when I started my Garmin. Rachel had asked me my goal for this race, and I said that I was shooting for 8 min/mile pace, which, once I heard of the terrain (after 2 miles, you run up a non-stop hill for at least a mile), thought that might be a little fast. An 8:00 min/mile pace would put me across the finish line at 1:12, so I tentatively aimed for that as a ballpark finish time.

Unsure of my fitness, and how fast I might actually be able to run a 9 mile race right now regardless of the hills, I took it out at 8 min/mile pace for the first 2 flat-ish miles. This race is a huge party in Berwick - tons of people were out on their porches and lining the streets - drinking beers, smoking cigarettes, etc. Gotta love Pennsylvania!

The first 2 miles felt a little fast and I was cramping a little and wondering how I was going to run 7 more miles at this pace (and 8 min/mile pace is not super intense fast for me.. it should be doable!). It's a testament to how of shape I really am right now. But once we hit the big uphill, I settled into a decent rhythm. It was slow going, but I actually felt better running up the hill than I did for the first 2 miles of that race. I ran up, up, up for what seemed like forever, and then it turned into a steep downhill, and then went back up! Once the downhills started was where I started to have some problems. I am not a great downhill runner, but I knew that if I wanted to make up the time I lost on the slow uphill sections, I would have to push it, so I was basically running as fast as I could down this huge, unrelenting hill. My right knee and leg seemed stiff but I didn't want to stop and stretch it so I just ignored it. It didn't hurt.. just felt weird and a little uncomfortable.

I hit the halfway point at about 38:45 (which was ok, both Mike and Rachel had assured me that it is impossible not to negative split this race, even if you started out like a maniac), rounded a hairpin turn, and saw some young guy puking on the side of the rode. Lovely. I continued to run downhill for most of the rest of the race (mixed in with some quick uphills). It finally flattened out as we started to approach the town, but after running downhill for so long, it actually felt like I was going uphill! I passed the 8 mile clock in about 1:06:xx and knew that there was no way I was going to run a 1:12, so just started hoping I could finish in less than 1:15. At about 8.2 miles, I ran out of steam (funny, this is about the length of all of the "long runs I have done since Ironman Wisconsin). The last mile of this race was the worst part.. it's the same as the first mile (more or less) and is a straight shot down a divided "boulevard" with grass in the middle, which I am assuming is one of the main drags in Berwick. It just kept going on, and on, and on at what felt like a slight uphill grade. I finally saw the finish line, crossed, and was DONE! My legs were jello from those hills and my right knee was bothering me. I tried to stretch it out and then found Mike and Rachel. We went over to where there was food so they could check results, unfortunately, neither of them had super great races so we left without waiting for the awards ceremony.

I ended up finishing in 1:14:36 (8:18 pace), 13 out of 83 in my age group, and 605 overall, out of 1579 total runners.

Garmin data.. at least I kept my heart rate stimulated!

mile splits

We headed out of town, hit up a Sheetz for some MTOs (LOVE SHEETZ!!) And then started the 90 min drive home. Mike decided to take a different route home than we took to the race, and we ended up driving over this mountain and in the "town" of Lopez in Sullivan County. Remember all of that terrible flooding that happened in PA in September? Well, the area that my parents live and the surrounding counties were hit hard. There are bridges closed all over the place. We got to Lopez, and the bridge we needed to take to get home was closed. So instead of turning around, we went straight (the bridge was to the right of us) into the PA State Gamelands hoping that we could go through them and emerge on the other side. 20 minutes later, we were driving up huge rocky ATV trails in a Subaru Outback, splashing through giant mud puddles, and Mike was getting frustrated. Meanwhile, Rachel and I were giggling because in reality, the situation was pretty hilarious. Mike was worried that we were going to pop a tire and be stranded miles into the wilderness with only some water and a Clif Bar. Rachel and I were facebooking back and forth in our iPhones (her in the front seat, me in the back).

the "A" marks Lopez, the green area is where we were driving around lost!
We finally just had to turn around and backtrack because we weren't finding any other way out. 40 minutes after we first entered the Gamelands, we exited in the same place we started, laughing about how there was probably mud all over the side of the car with branches sticking out of the roof rack. There was an older couple walking down the road just past the closed bridge, so Rachel asked them how to get to Wyalusing (which is where they live) and they gave us directions, with the warning that it was 10 - 12 miles and "part of it is a dirt road." Umm.. did you folks NOT see where we just emerged from? Dirt road is fine.

We made the turn onto the detour road, which eventually turned into the widest dirt road we had ever seen, complete with "do not pass" signs. Seriously, I can't believe that a dirt road in freakin' Lopez, PA gets enough traffic to warrant a "do not pass" sign! 20 minutes later, we turned onto a real road. Comments from the car included: "LOOK! a real road!" "it even has a painted line!" and "CIVILIZATION!!" We arrived back at Mike and Rachel's not long after our return to paved roads, and I thanked them for driving and headed home for Thanksgiving dinner with my family!

en-route Facebook conversation between the passengers
Unfortunately, after racing a hard, hilly 9 miles and then sitting in a car for over 2 hours, my right knee was not happy with me. It was stiff and painful to walk. Since the race, I have been taking ibuprofen and icing religiously in hopes that I didn't do any serious damages. Fingers are crossed!

I will DEFINITELY be returning to this race in future years - it was a blast!

Hope everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2011

accidental tapering

I have taken a sort-of "accidental" break from blogging - i.e. I keep forgetting that I have a blog. :) When the title of your blog is "Just Keep Swimming" and you have skipped both swims this week.. maybe you're not living up to the expectations of your blog? Whoops!

I am running a 9 mile race on Thanksgiving.. so I have 6 days to go until that race. Therefore, I am not skipping workouts, I am "tapering." :) Which I probably shouldn't be doing since the farthest I've run since IMWI is 8.5 miles.. Whoops again!

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It's chilly out but not freezing (normally), there is ALWAYS a race to run in the morning (there are like 5 billion Turkey Trots in the USA), there is delicious food to eat in the afternoon (which I love even though I don't eat turkey), you get to hang out with your family, you can get drunk in the middle of the day and no one cares, and it's the first day (in my opinion) that you can play Christmas music without judgement. There is also that whole Black Friday thing but I'm not into that. I do 95% of my Christmas shopping from the comfort of my house via Amazon.com.

Also, with the bad economy, rampant publicized child molestation, the obesity epidemic, plus a million more things going on in countries other than our own, there's a lot of horrible crap going on in the world. I think it is absolutely prudent to be thankful for what we do have. Not just one day a year (hello, Thanksgiving) but EVERY SINGLE DAY. Hey, I don't have any money, I am 27 and single - these are not things that I necessarily love, but if I die tomorrow with 15 pennies in my pocket, I will have been grateful for what I did have during my lifetime: my family and friends, the ability and drive to stay fit and active, Fiona and Cherry (I really, really love my pets), my independence, and the fact that I lived my life and was happy. Also, Harry Potter. :)

..Stepping down from the pedestal..

One more thing, Mandy AKA CaratunkGirl and I are striving to start a sort-of Kindle club where people we know who have Kindles can see lists of the books everyone has and then loan each other books. As much as I love, love, LOVE my Kindle, it does get expensive. I wind up buying books (because you just have to click a button on Amazon and I am compulsive like that) that I may not have purchased if I were wandering around Barnes and Noble. Kindle has had this lending thing going on for a while, so I checked it out last night. There are a few things that kind of stink: 1) The lending period is 14 days. That's it, so if you are a slower reader, or you are busy, or you borrow a huge book, you may not finish in time. And then once that 2 weeks is up, bye bye book. 2) Not all books are available for lending. This is determined by the publisher. 3) IF the book is available for lending, you can only lend that book out once. EVER. I understand why they don't want the lending to be a free-for-all, but couldn't they have made a limit of lending to 5 people per year, or something similar?

I feel as though if I spend my money and buy a book, it's my choice to lend it to as many or as few people as I want. If I bought a regular paperback, I could lend it to a string of 30 people - it's the same thing. If I borrow a book and I love it, usually I end up buying it anyways, or I buy a different book by that author, so I don't really think the publisher would be losing any money (any more than they already do by the mere existence of libraries). Anyways, I could go on and on about this, but I'll stop. However, even with these restrictions, if you're interested in this, let me know via a comment. I have listed the books on my Kindle on a page of my blog (although I have to update it to which of those books are actually available for lending).

Monday, November 14, 2011


Last post published on Oct. 24.. wow. Slacker alert!

It's late and I'm feeling not so great.. and tired.. so I think I will do a bullet list of updates to my life.

  • First things first, I won a week of vacation days to use next year in our company's United Way campaign raffle.. it was the grand prize! There are no words to describe how freakin' excited I am to have won this! Only ONE person out of everyone who works at our Rochester plant (there are 4 buildings in total) wins this grand prize (other prizes are 1 vacation day, gift cards, gift baskets, sometimes electronics such as ipods, etc.). The only other thing I have ever won in my lifetime was a set of limited edition collector's coins at a Chinese auction when I was like 10 years old. Needless to say.. I am PUMPED!
  • I am road tripping to Toronto on Saturday with my friend Ari.. a spontaneously planned trip as of last week that I am excited for, having never been to Toronto (at least not when I was old enough to remember it). Although I guess there ARE some things that I need to worry about, such as exchanging some money, how I am going to navigate/stay informed/exist without my cell phone (no way am I getting roaming charges!), what we are actually going to do when we get there, etc. Should be exciting!
  • I made a budget this past week and it was totally depressing. Turns out, I spend WAY more on monthly bills than any normal person should. I really don't think I have a lot of extra costs, other than of course, the horse, who is slowly but surely sucking my money away as fast as I can earn it. Other than that, I have cheap, 13 channel cable, the cheapest, slowest internet option that exists, I keep my apartment freezing cold all winter long to keep my heat bills down, I don't go out to dinner or drink a lot, and my main forms of entertainment are via Netflix/Hulu+ or occasionally a movie in the theatre. So it's a little frustrating when I am searching for ways to cut costs and there doesn't seem to be much there. My one really bad habit is buying stuff I don't need - so as of Friday, after buying the new (and final) Harry Potter movie on Blu Ray (come on.. I couldn't NOT buy it!), I effectively ended my extraneous spending completely. I have a feeling.. it's going to SUCK. 
  • I am plant-sitting for Matthias while he spends the next 2 months back and forth to different places. One is an orchid and the other I can't remember the name of, however it is not good for cats (i.e. poisonous) so I had to put that one way on the top of my bookshelf where she can't get to it. The orchid is on top of my fridge because he likes that one and doesn't want Fiona to eat it either. I hope to god I don't kill them.. I have never successfully taken care of a plant..
  • I sold my Garmin 305 this weekend with the help of Gretchen and the Moms in Motion message board (thanks Gretchen!). I also have a pair of hot pink Zensah compression socks, size S/M that I have never worn because they are too big for me. Seriously, please someone buy them. They are so pretty and pink! I will sell them for $35 which includes shipping!! PLEASE!!!!!! They are just sitting in the box they came in and are taking up space in my apartment (as well as money that could be in my bank account). Someones calves need to be loved by some pretty pink compression sleeves, right?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Johnny's Run Like Hell Race Report

On Saturday, I raced a 5K called "Johnny's Run Like Hell" that is one of my favorite local races. It starts at 3 pm at a bar (Johnny's Irish Pub), and ends at the same bar. Awards are given out in the bar. Prizes? Bottle of wine. Throw into the mix a fantastic long-sleeved, Halloween themed, t-shirt and I am sold.

Several people I knew were doing the race: Kim A., the Krazy Kellmans, K-Dub (our resident neurosurgeon who was on call during the race), Travis and his sister Jenna, along with some others.

Travis, Kim, me, Dave, Jennie, MK post-race

I met Kim and Travis at his sister's house (which was 1 or 2 blocks from Johnny's) at around 2 pm. We hung out as she got her family ready for the race (i.e. her husband donned his Willy Wonka costume and their 2 twins, their oompa loompa paint). It was hysterical and adorable! Kim, Travis and I then made our way to the race site, I did a brief warm up (because it was chilly out!) and we lined up.

Willy Wonka and 2 of his oompa loompas!

I had no expectations for this race, based on my fluctuating off-season training and lack of running any distance over 6 miles since Ironman Wisconsin. But, this would be a good test to see just how much fitness I had lost, how much slower had I gotten after an intense long course season of 2 Ironmans, and just a good race that I was planning on enjoying. I wore Gary the vibrating Garmin and my HR monitor to collect data for Mary.

I am never good at pacing 5Ks. I figured I would take the first mile out at 7 min. pace and go from there. My 5K PR is just under 22 minutes (21:48 or something like that) and it was actually at this race in 2009. That year my average pace was just under 7:00 min/mile. So I figured this was safe, as the first mile is always a little fast. Plus, at this race, the first mile has a significant downhill. I have always run 5Ks with this particular strategy: run your first mile conservatively, the 2nd mile steady, and then push the last mile. The last 0.1 is the kick into the finish. I think I picked that up running XC in high school and it has worked fairly well for me (although I never actually negative split anything anyways).

Anyways, the race started, and I was off and running! I hit 1 mile in 6:55. Oops, a little fast! Mile 2 had a medium sized hill to run up and then there were some twisty turns. Mile 2s pace was 7:15. I blame the hill. Mile 3 has this long, unfortunate hill to the finish (the same one you run down at the start) where you can hear the announcer but you can't see the finish, and then when you finally do see the stupid orange cones, it takes FOREVER to get there. By this point, I was tired and cramping and was ready to be done. My 3rd mile split slowed to 7:29.

Overall time: 22:56 (per my Garmin) with an average pace of 7:15. (Per the results: 22:57 gun time with an average pace of 7:24). Weird how they are so different.

So, while this was ~70 seconds slower than my 5K PR, I was THRILLED to go under 23 minutes. I haven't run a 5K in over a year, I have barely been running, and all of my run times in triathlons during the year have been crappy. I know it's ridiculous, but I was worried that any speed I had managed to develop over the past few years had been destroyed, so I am happy to know that it's still there somewhere!

And now, please be as amused as I am by this photo montage taken by Tim (big head in the hat) with his iPad 2 while we were hanging out after the race outside the bar. Who brings their IPAD to take photos with? This guy! But it was hilarious because as he was holding it up to take the panorama, we all saw ourselves in the screen and were giggling/trying to get into the shots.

I was 11th female and won my AG, so I took home a medal and a lovely bottle of red wine!

me (AG winner), Jennie (overall W winner), Matt K. (AG winner)

After the race, Kim, Travis and I went back to Jenna's house to change into warm clothes, and then headed back to the bar for post-race drinks, socializing, and award collecting. We hung out for a while with various friends, and then we went back to get our cars after everyone started to get cold. Travis and Kim left, and I went back into the bar to go to the bathroom, saw Matt Kellman still in there, and the next thing I knew I had a beer in my hand and I was having a conversation with John Tuttle, who ran in the 1984 Olympic Marathon. He's now a competitive Master's runner who was in town for some Master's championship in Perinton that I had no idea was happening. Anyways, it was pretty cool to meet a running legend! Even one that was very, very drunk and raced in the Olympics the year that I was born. I also made 2 new friends who were being entertained by Matt Kellman and Tim Dwyer's bar antics.
me and John Tuttle
'84 Olympic Trials - John Tuttle is the 2nd from the left (the tall guy in the back)

So to sum up, I ran a 5K, won some wine, got a sweet t-shirt, met an Olympian, drank 2 beers.. good way to spend a Saturday afternoon/evening!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Skipping Workouts

I find myself in a situation that I have never been in before. A sort of structured off-season.

I am not training for anything in particular. I am not being coached until January when I start with QT2. I have nothing really to work on, but I want to stay active to avoid a backslide.

Last year, after Syracuse 70.3, I went on the ultimate lazy girl streak for probably 1.5 months, where I ran twice in that entire length of time, and otherwise spent my free time eating, drinking, and on my couch streaming episodes of Dexter. I'm not going to say that it wasn't fun, but when I started back up with Mary in December, I had a terrible time getting back into a routine. I had gained weight, I had fallen incredibly out of shape, and it was hard to motivate myself to actually go outside in the cold weather when I had spent the past 45 days curled up in my Snuggie.

This year, I am trying to avoid that. I took 2 weeks completely off after Ironman Wisconsin (for recovery and sanity purposes). Then I started up my workout schedule again - the same schedule that I have been doing all year, minus the "long ride" and "long run" on weekends and with only two swims per week instead of three. This probably gets me around 10-12 hours per week, depending on how long I ride and run on weekends.

What I am not sure of is how strict to be with myself. Since this is technically the off-season, do I let myself feel guilty if I don't want to do a workout? Do I force myself to swim when I am tired (which is what I do when I am Ironman training)? Is it ok to substitute something else (yoga, riding Cherry, going for a long hike) for the typical swim, bike, run that I normally fill my time with?

I'm not talking about skipping tons of workouts. I am talking about a day here and there. When I am training for real, I try not to skip anything. The first year I trained with Mary, I think I skipped maybe 2 workouts altogether in the 6 months I was coached by her before IMLP. The second year (this year) I was a little worse, but not horrible. Sometimes it's hard with the work schedule I keep.

This week I am working overnights. My refrigerator died for the 2nd time over the weekend, so on Monday I called the landlord about it and she said that I would be getting a new one on Tuesday. Because I work nights, I asked if they could bring the fridge as late as possible so I could get sufficient sleep in. The guy showed up at 3:15, installed the fridge, and left by 4:15. At that point, I should have left for the pool but I felt like absolute garbage. I went back to bed, woke up at 6:15 pm, and that was it. No workouts. I could have run, or hopped on my trainer, but I just didn't feel like it.

And now, I am feeling immensely guilty about it.

Last Friday, I skipped a bike ride to nap before going to a haunted house with my friend. And let me tell you, that nap allowed me to have much more fun than if I were to have ridden my bike, not napped, and gone out feeling absolutely exhausted.

Last Wednesday, I skipped an hour bike ride to get my hair cut. However, I did run afterwards.

So, considering that it's the off-season, and I am maybe half-heartedly "training" for a Halloween 5K, at which I have absolutely ZERO aspirations of any kind of PR, is this behavior ok? Is it ok to want to sleep instead of workout (for once)? Or be social? Or run errands (i.e. get my hair cut for the first time since June???)? Or actually keep my apartment clean? Or try to cook meals instead of getting prepared food at Wegmans? Or read a book? Or stream Mad Men on Netflix to my new Blu Ray player that I love so much?

Am I the only one who feels massively guilt ridden when I don't get workouts in?

Is it ok to skip workouts in the Fall!?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Chrissie, and some other things, but mostly Chrissie

As everyone is well aware, Kona was this weekend. I had some friends racing (Travis and White Hot) as well as knowing some other people out there as well (Cait Snow as a USA Pro and Pat Wheeler from QT2). Add Chrissie Wellington in there and you have the 5 people for whom I was actively rooting.

I don't know why I am so emotionally tied to Chrissie Wellington. When she pulled out of Kona last year, I was devastated and lost my motivation to watch the race. This year, she crashed her bike 2 weeks before the race and (thankfully) only sustained minor injuries, but still, that's enough to ruin you for an upcoming Ironman. (I know, I am truly just happy that her injuries were not life-threatening, unlike what happened to Jordan Rapp a few years ago). As I sat in my apartment streaming the live feed on Saturday, and Chrissie came out of the water several minutes slower than usual, I started to worry. When she didn't make a big gain on the bike and as Julie Diebens continued to pull away from the field, I started to worry more. But when Chrissie hit the run, I started to believe that she could pull it off. (I never REALLY lost hope, but it wasn't looking so good for a while there - apparently I forgot how truly amazing of an athlete that she is). Her and Rinny were running through the field at almost the exact same pace, separated by ~3 minutes. Chrissie took the lead, and I was literally on the edge of my seat wondering if she could hold off Rinny.

And she did.

And as much as I love seeing Chrissie run away from the field, as she has done sooo many times, it was exciting to see her challenged, fight back, and win. ALL while feeling less than 100%.

It was also crazy to see her looking as shelled as she did after the race.

I truly believe that Chrissie is THE spokesperson for triathlon. She is always humble, she takes everything that happens to her in stride (flat tires, bike crashes, being sick, etc) and always comes back better, faster, and stronger. She is an amazing athlete and an amazing woman, and I truly admire her in all aspects. Which is perhaps why I am entering a race (Timberman) next year JUST for the chance to meet her (oh.. and race a 70.3 - no biggie).

Anyways, enough about Chrissie. I am very, very happy at the outcome of Kona, to say the least. Congrats are also in order to Crowie who obviously won the men's race and broke the 15 year old race record, and one of my other favorite pros, Cait Snow, who I met in Coeur D'Alene, landed myself on her blog, and who had a phenomenal race yesterday which I believe resulted in a PR for her and the only top 10 finish for the USA in both the men's and women's fields! Also to Travis, who had a great day on the lava fields and finished in 10:08 which is a PR for him I believe. His finish line video is truly inspiring (I wish I could share it with you all). Same goes to White Hot and Pat Wheeler - who we watched cross the line as well.

In other news..

On Friday night, I went to a haunted house in the city (The House of Pain) with my friend Ari. We were both excited to go, and we both view ourselves as.. not too girly. Ari is a hardcore mountain biker, I do Ironman, we're tough chicks! Yet, 5 minutes into the haunted house, we were shrieking our heads off, holding hands, and sprinting through the rooms, away from the creepy actors that were jumping out as us. I guess we are women after all!

Then on Saturday I was forced to clean in the morning for my Kona party (which was me, Solveig, and Matthias) that afternoon. The good news is: my apartment is the cleanest it has EVER been and I am loving it! I am going to make a huge effort to keep it this way AND get going on some organizational projects that need to be started!

I also drank almost an entire bottle of wine at the party and definitely felt the effects the next day, especially when I tried to run. I made it 57 minutes, but it was not pretty, and we'll leave it at that.

My god, I love life!

Monday, October 3, 2011

no post-IM blues for this girl!

Hello blog world, it's me, Alexa.

I am alive.

This is my attempt to catch everyone up with the things-that-have-been-going-on-now-that-IM-is-over part of my life!

I am now 3 weeks post IM Wisconsin and life has been grand. I took 2 weeks completely off to be fat and lazy, and then last Monday, I started training again. Swimming, cycling, running - you got it! Feels great! Fall is the best time of the year to be training for the sake of happiness, well being, and love of exercising. The weather is perfect and it's so beautiful outside!

I also have been riding Cherry every weekend and I love it. She has been very well behaved (minus her pasture shenanigans) and has not been lame at all, which means that her arthritis isn't bothering her! That makes me so happy - it's a relief knowing that she is not in pain during daily life and it makes me feel a lot less guilty when I ride her.

Saturday I went to Mary's yoga class. I hadn't gone since March-ish (it's expensive and it's in a hot room so I like to keep it for the off-season as a treat). Wow.. talk about being sore. My abs and my arms still hurt and the class was over 48 hours ago. Combine that with sore thighs from riding Cherry and sore legs from running again and I am feeling achy all over - but it's definitely a good achy feeling!

I bought a new Blu Ray player last weekend that has built in Wi-Fi. So while I build up my BR collection (I only own 2 as of right now) I can stream TV shows and movies from Netflix and HULU. Right now I am working my way through season 2 of Mad Men!

I've seen some new movies recently - I went to see The Lion King in 3D last weekend with my friend Ari. I must have watched TLK at least 20 times when it was released in 1994 (I was 10) and I have loved it ever since, so I jumped at the chance to see it again! And then I found out that the Blu Ray edition is being released tomorrow, so of course I pre-ordered it on Amazon! I also saw 50/50 on Friday with Matthias and it was fantastic!

I am also reading "The Pillars of the Earth" which I am barely able to put down. It is super long - usually I am through a book in 3-4 days if I really like it (i.e. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books, the Hunger Games books, The Help, etc) but this book is so long (900 pages-ish) that I've been reading it for over 2 weeks and I am only 71% of the way through (that's what the Kindle tells me, anways). Highly recommended!

This coming Saturday.. I'm sure everyone knows, is KONA! We have our very own Travis Earley heading to the Big Island to compete which is extra exciting. I am planning a Kona streaming/get drunk/board game playing party in my apartment for Saturday afternoon. Is there a better way to spend the day? I don't think so! Hopefully it will end up being more than just me and Matthias getting hammered on my couch.

Anyone who is local that is reading this and wants to hang out in my too small apartment and drink wine and play Cranium with a bunch of tri geeks is more than welcome to come by!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Syracuse 70.3 Spectator Report

I wrote this last week.. forgot to post it. WHOOPS! The pictures are not in order which is not typical but I just need to get this report posted.

A few Sundays ago, just one short week after Ironman Wisconsin, was spent cheering on friends at Syracuse 70.3. This had been the plan for a while, but I felt truly terrible all week after my race until about Thursday evening, which made me debate whether or not to actually go. Between the race, lack of sleep, driving 800 miles, and then having to go back to work on the night shift, my body was rebelling. It was a wonder I even made it through those nights at work (one morning my supervisor sent me home early - that's how bad I looked). Miraculously, I was finally able to sleep for ~11 hours on Thursday after I got home from work, and then I felt ok enough to make the commitment to spectating the race.

I spent Saturday doing a mix of errands, lounging and cleaning my apartment. Now that it's the off-season, I have absolutely NO excuse for having a messy apartment! (Right.. just keep telling myself that). Saturday night I went to my friend Ari's apartment for a "ladies night" with 2 other friends. Ladies night consisted of the usual: margaritas, wine, food, talking about boys, giggling, pillow fights, crawling around on the floor with her 2 dogs.. what?

Mary and Kelly
After making it to bed no earlier than 12:30 am, my alarm went off at 5:30 am - race morning wake up call. Lovely. Commence trip to Syracuse in the dark. I have about HAD it with the stupid I-90 after driving back and forth to Syracuse a whole bunch of times last year, and then driving all the way to freakin' Madison and back on it this year! I got to the race site at about 7:45 am, just in time to see Mary running through transition, Matt C. running to transition, and my high school XC coach Mike Murphy running to transition in a matter of 5 minutes. I then found Matthias' girlfriend, Sabrina, who had flown out from California to watch, and Kenny as well! We saw Matthias come out of the water and head into transition. Then.. we waited, ate some food, waited some more.
Matthias about halfway through the run..
can you tell that he is colorblind?
 A few hours later, we started to see friends and teammates come through transition: Matt, Mike, Mary, Don, Chris, etc. We were standing right before the transition line and cheering! Chris and Don came in together. Mary had her Garmin in her mouth (she's the only one that I missed with my camera). Matthias waved as he came by and then almost wiped out at the mount line. We saw everyone come through except for Tim, at which point we decided to walk out to the run loop and cheer from there.

Chris and his 2 daughters who came to cheer him on
The run course was set up as a lollipop, so we walked out the "stick" and then parked ourselves at the bottom of the loop so we could see everyone going by. After we saw everyone go by once (either just starting out, heading into loop number 2, or coming in for the finish) we walked by down to the finish line. I saw Murphy at the finish and I chatted with him - he had a great race, especially for his first half IM! His wife, Rachel, was also out there, however I did not see her at all. She had a great race too - as this was her first triathlon EVER! Check out her race report here.

Murph and I after the race
After everyone had made it in, we hung out at Matt Kellman's beer tent for some post-race food and chit chatting. I then headed back to Rochester since my job was done!
Tim going to town on a plate full of cookies!

GREAT weekend! I <3 the off-season!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ironman Wisconsin Race Report


Alarm went up at 3:45 am and I took a quick shower, and ate my breakfast of whey protein shake, plain bagel, banana, and Gatorade in my hotel room. I made sure to put sunscreen on all over myself in the hotel room to try to avoid what happened to me in June, where I was a fried, peeling, painful mess for 2 weeks after the race. I left my hotel at 4:45 am with two random hitchhikers in tow - two guys I met the day before that were looking for a ride to the race start so that their families could sleep a little later - I was happy to oblige. Found a spot in a parking garage ~1 block from Monona Terraca and dropped my special needs bags off at Starbucks. I then made my way to my transition bags and my bike to stash some last minute items. Hit the porta-potty, got body glided, got the wetsuit on, headed down the helix, dropped off my dry clothes bag and headed towards the water.

This being my 3rd go at Ironman, I was calm, not nervous at all, and even SLEPT the night before the race. By this point, it was all routine. And actually.. I was so nonchalant about the whole thing that I got a little sloppy on race morning.

Lake Monona was as smooth as glass and the water temperature was 70 or so - a wonderful change from the frigid waters of Lake Coeur D'Alene. We herded into the water like cattle and I found a spot to tread water, safely on the right side of the field and to the right of the ski jump which divided the very wide swim start in half. I was not going to fight for my life like I had to last time (if I could help it)!

The cannon went off, I hit "start" on my watch, and off I went. There was much less body contact in the first 10 minutes - thank god. I was able to actually swim and not panic, but then I found myself drifting towards the buoy line - exactly where I didn't want to be as my plan was to stay wide and away from the mayhem. Unfortunately, once I got sucked over to the buoys, there was no escaping it and my swim got a bit rougher, especially around the red turn buoys. It was also a bit warm and I was feeling slightly overheated in my long sleeved wetsuit.

The swim course is a long rectangle running parallel to the shore, and once I had made it around the two turn buoys and was heading back to finish loop one, I swam into a man who was floating face down in the water in the middle of everyone. I thought he was unconscious! I stopped mid swim, grabbed his shoulders and started shaking him while shrieking "oh my god! oh my god! are you ok?" (Hey, I never said I kept it together). He then lifted his head up and said "I'm fine." My response to that was "JESUS CHRIST DON'T DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT!" and then I started swimming again. Took me five minutes to get rid of the heart palpitations after that!

I was really, really tired after loop 1. My swimming has not been up to par lately and I just didn't feel like I got the yardage in that I had before IMCDA. During loop two, the field was much more spread out and there was almost no contact, but I could feel myself getting tired and my form unraveling. I was sooo happy to see the final turn buoy and make my way back to the shore. Again, I was aiming for about a 1:12 and couldn't pull it off, but the swim is so dependent on crowd, sighting, etc. that a few minutes didn't really bother me.

Swim: 1:14:09, 1:57/100m, 805 OA, 35 AG

The run to transition is really long. You have to run all the way from the swim exit to the helix, up and up and round and round the helix (which was cool because it was lined 3 deep with people) into the terrace to grab your T1 bag, into the changing tent to change, then back out to the parking garage to get your bike and get covered in sunscreen. My bike was WAY at the other end from the swim exit, so I heeded the advice of Travis E. and ran the entire way across the parking garage barefoot, carrying my bike shoes. Two volunteers had my bike waiting for me when I got to it, so I threw on my shoes, ran to the mount line, and coasted down the helix. Long transition times (especially T1) are very typical in this race because of how transition is set up.
the helix was PACKED with spectators!

T1: 7:35

After riding down the helix, the bike course goes along the bike path for a few miles which is a no passing zone. That was fine, because my heart rate shot up to 170+ during the mile-long run in T1 with all of the people screaming everywhere. The bike path spit us out in the Alliance Energy Center parking lot and then we were headed out on the 18 mile "stick" part of the course, then we would do two 40 miles loops, then ride the "stick" back to Monona Terrace. The stick is easy - there is one minor false flat but otherwise it was time to settle in, get the HR down, and start taking in nutrition. I've already said that my huge goal for this race was to nail the bike split and the nutrition, which was my primary focus for the next 6 or so hours. I have been practicing my "new and improved" bike nutrition plan for 2 months and I was confident that I would be fine. I noticed 30 minutes into the ride that I had forgotten to reset Gary the vibrating Garmin (I bought a Garmin 310XT the Wed. before the race because I don't trust my 305 to hack it for much longer) after a 30 min recovery ride on Friday, so my bike split was 30 mins off (and ~7 miles off). Crap. Oh well.

As usual, I spent the first half of the bike leg getting passed over and over and over again, mostly by men. This is fine, however the course is a bit technical with some screaming, twisty downhills and sharp corners, so I am always worried that someone is going to take me out when I am getting passed by packs of 180 lb men. I had driven the course on Friday but I had never ridden it, so I was a little apprehensive about how I was going to do on the hills. Turns out, I loved them! The first part of the loop is pretty boring, just some long, straight false flats. Then you start to hit the hills at the back half of the loop. The first section of hills are called the "woody hills" in Mt. Horeb because you make a left hand turn and start heading down this section much like going over the crest of the big plummet of an old wooden roller coaster. I would hammer down these hills and let my momentum carry me halfway up the other side, which was typically short and steep, and then I would shift accordingly and spin my way up the remainder of the hill. I was careful to ride these not too aggressively because I didn't want to wear myself out.

Then comes the three steep climbs that Kevin had warned me about. When I drove the course with Laurie - they looked rough. The first one was the longest but wasn't quite as steep and was shaded. The second one comes right after the first one. And the third one is a bit farther down the road. I believe these three hills were right around the town of Verona and there was a shuttle bus taking spectators from town out to these hills. So I saw all sorts of stuff - people in costumes, crazy signs, lots of beer, etc. These three hills are literally lined with people cheering for you like you're riding in the Tour de France. So even though they were steep (there was no spinning up them for me, I was grinding on the pedals trying to make it up) they are relatively short and there are SO many people screaming for you that they weren't bad. I was a bit worried about what they'd be like the 2nd time around!

love, love, LOVE the scenery!

I made it around the first loop feeling great, but the wind had picked up and it had gotten really hot by the time I was on the 2nd loop. I was grabbing both water and Ironman Perform at every aid station, putting the Perform in my bottle cage and dumping the entire bottle of water on my helmet and shoulders. I would stay cool for maybe 15 minutes and then I would be boiling again. As I was riding the false flats in the wind, I found myself leapfrogging with three other girls in my age group, which is pretty abnormal. Sometimes I see one or two girls out there once in a while, but never three and we continued changing positions for the better part of the 2nd half of the bike course. I hit mile 80 and felt great! My nutrition was perfect (1 bottle of Perform per hour, salt pill every 30 mins, 3 Shot Bloks every 45 mins). The hills the second time around were no worse than the first time which is NOT what I experienced in Coeur D'Alene. I don't really think I lost much speed at all on the second loop (except maybe due to the wind and the heat which are not factors I can control) and by the time I was rounding out the end of the loop, I was hauling ass and passing a LOT of people, which is not normal for me. By this point I usually feel like I am riding backwards through the field. I peed three different times during the 80 miles that I was on the loop - I just keep getting better and better at peeing on the bike! I felt great riding back into town - was still passing people, and some volunteers told me how strong I looked. Road the bike path back to the Terrace, rode up the helix (fun!), hopped off my bike and handed it to a volunteer! I was hoping for a split more in the 6:20-6:25 range, but I was just so happy that I didn't blow it on the bike that I was ok with this split.

Bike: 6:30:41, 17.2 mph, 1064 OA, 36 AG

Ran into the Terrace, grabbed my bag, ran into the changing tent, and got my sneakers on and my nutrition in hand. I did the same thing as in CDA where I put all of my nutrition in a ziplock bag and then stuffed everything into the pocket of my tri top as I was heading out on the run. I switched Gary the vibrating Garmin 310XT to run mode (already I was LOVING him). I also made sure to stop and get sunscreened again (third time that day) because it was HOT!

T2: 3:43

The run course is two loops through town and the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, with several small out and back sections, so it's very different than the other two Ironman courses I have done which have had very long stretches of out and backs. If you are looking to see other people out on the course (who are racing) it is hit or miss. I saw Kevin a few times very briefly throughout the run. I did not see Laurie at all.

seriously.. thumbs up for the camera!
I started off at a nice pace. I felt like I was running slowly but my pace was between 8 and 9 min/mile and I felt strong. People kept telling me I was running steady (hello, I had been running for 5 minutes.. of course I looked steady!). The plan was to do one shot blok every 2 miles and drink Ironman Perform at every aid station. The first six miles went well. I ran through the Badger Stadium and screamed "WE ARE PENN STATE" which I am pretty sure was heard by no one. Then my stomach started flipping right after the 7 mile mark and I got that nasty saliva feeling in my mouth that happens right before I get sick. I had to stop on the side of the run course to vomit. I felt slightly badass because I have NEVER puked in a race before, but I kept thinking about what happened to Greg at IMLP and I didn't want that to happen to me! And let me tell you, if you are like me and can barely stand the taste of Ironman Perform, it's even worse coming back up - so be forewarned! Puking made my stomach feel loads better so I picked back up and started running again along a dirt path that goes along the lake. Unfortunately, this was the end of my ability to eat Shot Bloks. I knew I needed to replace what I had puked up, so at the next aid station I tried to eat a Blok. I got it in my mouth and was chewing it, but I just could not swallow it without gagging, so I spit it out. Perform was having the same effect on me. None of the food looked appetizing - I tried bananas (too mushy), pretzels (my mouth was too dry to chew), and grapes, which is what I finally settled on. I switched from water to Coke at mile 12 but even the Coke wasn't appealing to me. (And that's when I know something is going wrong because Coke is basically my version of crack). At this point my run had slowed drastically and I had lost the will to "race." The first 13 miles are ok, the last 13 miles are a bitch.

 I headed out on the 2nd loop feeling a little refreshed after running through the crowds and around the capitol. And then.. I was done. Walk breaks got more frequent and longer. I could not find anything I wanted to eat and was basically just pounding ice water at aid stations. I was walking up AND down hills. I tried to keep myself running as much as possible because that's the fastest way to get to the finish line, but it wasn't fun and I was unhappy that I was falling apart AGAIN, even after fixing my nutrition issues from IMCDA. Even running through town at mile 25 wasn't fun. It was dark, I was heading in for my slowest finish time yet, and I was mad. I ran down the finish chute, gave a bunch of high fives to little kids, crossed the line, and didn't even hear Mike Reilly announce that I was an Ironman!!

Run: 4:49:08, 11:02 min/mi, 856 OA, 33 AG

Finish Time: 12:45:16

finishing Ironman #3!
Two volunteers grabbed me and got me my medal, my t-shirt, my hat, some water and some Sprite. They took me to the photo background and I forced a smile for the photo. They then sent me on my way, and at that point I started to cry as I was walking back to the Terrace, alone. Yes, I know, I am a giant baby. But I was disappointed with my day (mostly the run), I had no one to hug, I had no one to help me, and it was overwhelming. I got my dry clothes bag and my transition bags, and was sitting in the changing room by myself, texting profanities to Mary. Men kept walking through the deserted room so I had to go to the bathroom to change into my dry clothes. I then had to check my bike out of transition while carrying 3 bags, and a really nice guy helped me to get my bike out to street level.

I drove the mile to where Race Day Wheels was set up and returned my rental wheels. Then I drove to a grocery store to get some chocolate milk, because I didn't eat anything after the race. After I went through the checkout line, I got REALLY dizzy and had to sit down on the floor of the grocery store and put my head in between my knees. I sat like that for 5 minutes, no one even said a word to me! I drank some of the chocolate milk straight out of the jug and then felt ok enough to drive the 10 minutes back to the hotel. I had to enlist the help of the girl at the front desk to get my stuff up to my room (I was on the 2nd floor and there was no elevator). She also brought me an assortment of breakfast foods (what a nice girl!). However, when I went to brush the nasty post-Ironman gunk off my teeth, I started to feel sick, and I ended up throwing up a bunch of times in the hotel room toilet. Nice. At that point, I gave up on eating, took a quick shower, and went to bed where I was unable to sleep.

Quick Thoughts

Obviously, I am not thrilled with the results of my race. I can live with everything except the stupid run. AGAIN. I thought I had fixed the problems that I had in Coeur D'Alene, and this time, even with proper bike fueling and pacing, I ran EVEN SLOWER than last time. But that is another post for another day. The emotions are still there and I haven't really had a chance to talk to Mary; to tackle what went wrong. I am just glad that I am done with Ironman for not only this year, but next year as well. I need a break, for sure. I will be back, oh yes, but I need to go in a different direction for a little while.

I am very, very happy with my bike execution. I don't think it could have gone any better. I learned my lesson in June and applied it in September. I will never be a long course cycling speed demon and I know that. But now that I have figured out how to get through an Ironman bike leg properly, I can work on getting some more speed.

Also, I did love the course. I loved Madison, the swim venue was great (I saw no snakes!), I LOVED the bike course, and even the run was interesting rather than just a long, boring out and back. I would definitely a) recommend this Ironman in a heart beat and b) return to this venue to race again.

What I have to keep in mind is that the section of the course that I felt like I executed the best - the bike - is actually where I did the WORST when compared to the rest of the field. And where I felt like I did the worst - the run - I still managed to pass almost the same number of people that had passed me on the bike. Even with that super shitty, horrible, embarrassing run time. So, I guess we are all in the same boat out there.

I am not trying to be a whiny, spoiled brat. I totally understand that racing an Ironman is a privilege. I am among a very small percentage of people that can not only afford to do it, but can actually physically do it. AND I am consistently in the top 3rd of the field (and that field has a 25% female/75% male split). But it is hard.. so hard to fall short of your own expectations. Especially when those expectations are realistic. I had two main goals - they weren't time goals. One was to nail the bike nutrition. Check. The other was to have a solid run. Fail. But.. it took me three tries to get a good bike split.. so hopefully practice makes perfect!

WTF is going on here?!