Monday, January 19, 2015

Challenge Team Summit and race planning

Last weekend I went to Jacksonville for the Challenge Team Triathlon Summit. I didn't get to go last year because of when it fell on the calendar and a work commitment the week after. I didn't know what it would be like this year, but I was looking forward to it with a little nervousness. Because I had met a lot of people and talk to them throughout the year I was excited to see them, but anytime I go to a big social gathering with people who I don't know all that well I get a little nervous. Maybe that's a little strange, but oh well!

I got there on Friday night and headed straight to Maggiano's, where the team dinner was, and sat down at a table with a whole bunch of people I hadn't met before. And instantly, all the nervousness melted away! I had a great conversation with some teammates from Minnesota, Maine, Georgia, Massachusetts, etc. Already I knew it was going to be a fun weekend.

The goal of Summit is for everyone to get to know each other and also to tell us all about the season and what the races are going to be like! After hanging out and talking for a little bit back at the hotel, it was an early bed time! We volunteered at Best Damn Race Jacksonville starting at 6:45 on Saturday morning. We had to get up at 5:15 to hit the road. 
I ended up at an aid station that fell about a mile before the end of the race, so we got to see the 5k, 10k, and half marathoners run by. It was so cold, but it was a lot of fun yelling for the runners and having fun with teammates. There's nothing like boding over frozen hands while pouring water and cheering. I enjoyed volunteering and seeing a race from the other side. Though I've gone to races to cheer before, I've never volunteered. I definitely will smile and thank volunteers more as I'm running; it made a difference in our spirit at the aid station. 

After our aid station was done we had a quick lunch and then went back to the hotel to learn for the afternoon. There was a lot to talk about, but it was good to understand the Rev3/Challenge merger and what the goals for this racing season are. The Challenge races are going to keep the quality of the Rev3 races, and they're going to do a great job combining the "big race" feel with the family friendly atmosphere that Rev3 has always been known for. I was glad to learn that the spirit of the races will remain, though we're racing under a new name and company.

I also picked up some swag from our sponsors for the year. I'm looking forward to another year being fueled by PowerBar and not stinking like chlorine because of SBR.

After we were a done a few of us went to dinner and hung out. I had fun talking to Sarah and Nicole, whom I had talked to a little bit at Rev3 Williamsburg and Rev3 Florida last year. I look forward to seeing them as some races this year. The best part of being on the team is knowing that I'll always know people at the races I go to. Saturday night was a lot of fun, but I still got up and got in a run on Sunday morning!

I had been back in the groove with Camp Gladiator and a little but of running, but when one of the girls that I shared a room with woke up Sunday and wanted to go for a run, I really think that helped me get back into my normal routine even more. Sarah and I ran 6 miles in really perfect running weather, and since then I've gotten my groove back.

I left Jacksonville after some more meeting on Sunday ready to have a fun triathlon season this year. I don't have any goals meant to surpass last year, as I still am ready for a bit of fun versus focus. I can't wait to race some great Challenge races this year and have fun along the way!

It also got me thinking about what my race calendar would look like, and I think I've got some ideas penciled in. As far as Challenge races, I'm definitely going to do Challenge Florida, and I'm thinking I'll do Challenge Atlantic City and Challenge St. Andrew's as a whole trip. I'll talk more about that as I piece it together, but I have some really great ideas if they work out.

I'm also really excited for a 5k I'm running in February. I'm so so excited that Tim has signed up to run his first 5k, and I'm running it with him! I have been waiting for this to happen since I started running, and I can't wait to do it together! We're doing Best Damn Race Safety Harbor, which has free race photos, so I'll have plenty of photos to share! It's going to be so much fun!

If you're planning to race a Challenge race this year, leave me a comment and your email address and I'll email you my discount code for 10% off the registration price. I'm so excited for this season!

Have you ever volunteered at a race?
What races do you have on your schedule already?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Stitch Fix January Review

Over my break from work I did some blogging catching up and playing around on Pinterest, and I ran into a couple of posts on with Stitch Fix reviews. Between that and re-organizing my closet and seeing some areas that needed a few more pieces, I scheduled a fix in the middle of December and it was supposed to come January 7th. Much to my excitement, it came early, and with great pieces!
I wanted to share my actual items with you before I tell you why I think this fix improved for me over ones I had gotten before. Though my fix card said this was my fifth fix, I can't for the life of me remember more than two I have gotten before. 

What is Stitch Fix?

It's a styling service! You pay $20 to have a box of 5 items shipped to you. The items are selected based on a style profile you fill out, notes you give your stylist, and a Pinterest board of your style (if you want to leave that link). You can pick what items you don't want to receive (I pick no jewelry or outerwear) and also what price ranges you're comfortable with (there are less expensive and more expensive options, based on your clothing budget).

When the box arrives, you try the items on and decide what you want to keep and what you want to send back. For whatever you keep, the $20 styling fee is applied to your total, and then you pay for the rest in online checkout. If you keep it all, you get 25% off the total cost of the box. If you keep nothing, you do lose that $20 styling fee.

What did I get?

In my notes to my stylist I mentioned that I wanted something bright and was hoping for a long sleeve shirt of some kind. I didn't want any accessories or outerwear (because, hello, it's 75* in Florida right now). I explained what I didn't want, and then I left it up to her. And she did great!

Item 1: Pixley Kathy Striped Fit & Flare Dress, Small, $68
I had pinned this dress to my style board, and when I saw that it was coming, I was super excited and just knew that it would be a keeper. I put it on and suddenly wasn't nearly as sure. The scarf I put on to accessorize; the dress is more of a boat neck of sorts. 
The fit and flare is generally something that I like, but the thick material of this dress flared out a little more than I was expecting. I think because I have curvy hips it made the material go straight out instead of falling down to the side like it should have. I don't hate it at all; I just questioned it a little.
At first I was going to think about it a little, but after uploading these pictures I just decided no. I am only going to keep items if I'm sure about them and feel great in them. I don't want something else hanging in my closet that I like the idea of but don't feel good in it when I put it on.

Verdict: RETURNED!

Items 2 & 3: Loveappella Oliver Faux Leather Trim Striped Top, Small, $58
Liverpool Rizzo Pull-On Skinny Ponte Pants, Medium, $98
When I saw this shirt coming, I hated it immediately. I didn't like the wide stripes and I knew it wouldn't look good. I don't like 3/4 sleeves, so, yeah. The pants I had seen some positive reviews of, so I was hoping to like them as I like skinny or straight legged pants.
But then, I put the pants and the top on together, and I liked them both. I immediately loved the thick material of the pants that would be great for work or wearing out when I pulled them out of the box. I can wear them with heels, tuck them into boots, or wear them with flats. I mentioned in my style profile that I'm curvy on the bottom compared to the top, so I was happy that she picked pants that fit me so well. 

It was the top that surprised me the most! I don't know how to explain the material, as it isn't cotton. The trim is a faux leather detail, and I think it can be dressed up if I put a blazer over it or worn comfortably to a lunch with friends. It just fit me well, and I really like clothes that fit me well.

Verdict: KEPT BOTH!

Skies are Blue Devon Lace Back Blouse, Small, $48
This shirt has a really cut lace detail in the back, and I really liked the blue color when I took it out of the box. I was hoping to really love it when I put it on, because it was a good price for the material and unique detail. 
Unfortunately it was a big no once I put it on. It was a bit short, and I hate short shirts. It ended up looking a little boxy on me, and the collar detail was sort of sailor-ish. I tried to take a photo of the back detail, but after a few failed attempts and photos of my hair, just take my word that though the back is cute, it doesn't make up for the front.

Verdict: RETURNED!

Honey Punch Layla Striped Elbow Patch Detail Cardigan, Small, $48
This is the one that I struggled with the most. I put it on without being in front of a mirror and instantly didn't like it. SO. MUCH. FABRIC! When I asked Tim to take photos, he said it was fine and didn't hate it as much as I thought I did. Even in the mirror I thought I didn't like it.
The elbow-patch detail is cute, but it didn't make up for all the fabric for me. I just felt wide. But then when I saw this next picture I thought it was kind of cute from the front if you stand the right way. I thought maybe I should keep it just for casual outings or to add a cute detail to a simple outfit. 
 Ultimately, though, I went back to the thought that I had no reason to buy something that I sometimes thought was cute. I decided to just quickly checkout on the Stitch Fix Website and pick the pants and striped top and hurry on with it so that I didn't change my mind.

Verdict: RETURNED!

All my items are packed in the pre-paid shipping envelope that is sent with the box of clothes, and I'll drop it in the mail tomorrow to make it's way back to the Stitch Fix HQ!

What would you have kept and sent back?

I will say I was A LOT more pleased with this fix than my last one. And I know why I was...
I read a few blog posts about how to improve your Stitch Fixes, and I followed their advice. So here's my translation of that advice and what I think worked for me!
  • Be detailed in your Stitch Fix requests: Don't leave it blank or just write a sentence or two. Tell your stylist what you're looking for and what you're not. I said things like "no jeans" "I'd like a bright colored top" "I want a long sleeve shirt". I got everything that I asked for!
  • Keep your Style Pinterest board updated: I had been pinning outfits throughout December that I saw other people wearing. I searched for Stitch Fix Reviews and pinned outfits from those that I liked. I wrote little notes like, "Stitch Fix Stylist, I like this color but not the cut," etc. I know my Stylist saw it because she included in her note to me that she had seen a pinned a lot of skinny black pants. She also mentioned that I had the same dress pinned. 
  • Update your Style Profile and add a note: Go back and check it every once in a while to see if it still applies. Your style changes over time, and so does what you wear, so keep it updated when you schedule a fix. Also, add a note there too. I noted here where I normally shop and what I look for in clothes in general. This is where I noted that I like quality clothes that fit well and look tailored. 
  • If you want something specific, ask for it: If you really need a dress for a special occasion or a wedding, explain what you're looking for. Ask for options. They don't care if you send items back, so if you want multiple dresses to try, ask. If you want all tops, note that. They listen to the notes in the fix requests.
  • Give feedback on what you keep and send back: When you checkout online, it asks for feedback on why you kept what you kept and why you didn't keep what you sent back. I was especially specific in these notes, and I look forward to seeing how that helps with the next items I get sent.
I went ahead and scheduled my next fix to come at the end of this month, and I asked for a critter print top in this one. I can't wait to see what I get sent!


Have you tried Stitch Fix? If you haven't and are interested, I'd love for you to use my referral link to sign up!

Let me know your thoughts on Stitch Fix in the comments, too. How has it gone for you in the past?

Friday, January 2, 2015

What motivates you?

Before I start, I'm looking to update my blog design but don't want to spend a fortune. I've been out of the blogging world for a while now, and it seems like all the prices I'm seeing are outrageous. Anyone have any recommendations for blog designers in the $100-$150 range? I'm looking for clean and simple. Thanks in advance! I'm working on this now!

Okay...

As I mentioned in my 2014 wrap up, I didn't really make any big goals or resolutions for 2015. That said, I of course want to stay active. Since I spent a lot of December thinking about working out and only a little time actually working out, I decided I needed to start January on the right foot. After lazing (is that a word?) around and having breakfast and coffee, I decided I couldn't just skip a workout again on the first day of the new year, so I put my running clothes on.

On days where I don't feel like running (which are sometimes more frequent than days I do), it's easier to pretend I'm just going to put on running clothes and think about it. Once the running clothes are on it's easier to get out the door because I already feel more motivated by wearing workout clothes. Just a thought...

I had heard about Serial, the podcast, and needed something to listen to, so I started that with the intention of running 4 miles. The first episode was 53 minutes long, so I thought if things got good with it I might run 5 miles. And things got good indeed. If you've heard about Serial but not started it, just listen to episode 1 and decide. It's a true story told week to week of a man who was convicted of murder and is in prison but the only thing the jury made the decision based on was another man's word; there was no evidence. A former journalist is telling the story because she did a lot of investigation into the details. I'm only on episode one so I don't know how it continues or how the story unfolds, but I'm looking forward to getting there...

I ended up running 5.25 miles at a pace I was pleased with considering my time off. I'd like to thank Serial for the motivation.

And it got me to thinking...what are some things that keep me motivated or make me workout when I don't necessarily want to? 
  • Having something that I want to listen to on a run or watch on the trainer                                                                                                                           
  • Making a commitment to a friend to be somewhere to workout with them                                                                                              
  • Wearing new workout clothes (I bought some from Fabletics yesterday and will do a review once I get them...)                                                                                                                                                                                    
  • Trying a new workout (I'm getting ready to start Camp Gladiator Bootcamp on Monday)                                                                                                                      
  • Sometimes it's just getting on the scale after a few days of eating badly (hello holidays!)     
And now I'm going through these motions all over again today...

I'm also enjoying my last weekday off before heading back to school on Monday! Happy last Friday of vacation to those of you that had extended holidays!

What motivates you when it's hard to get out the door or get your workout started?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 in Review

2014 has been a memorable year that paid dividends on a lot of hard work. Though the last month and a half has been filled with rest and relaxation, for most of the year I was constantly working my tail off training for the race that I knew would take up my life for 2014

In the first post for 2014 I listed a lot of goals, like I have done consistently for the life of this blog, and I accomplished most of them or was close enough that I'm willing to check it off the list. My biggest goal was, of course, crossing the finish line of Ironman Chattanooga, and that I did. The year fell into place around it, but it was much of a blur. 
My numbers for 2014 are:
41.76 swimming miles
3349 biking miles
1220 running miles

I'm pleased with these in every way. Though my swimming numbers are far lower than the goal of 150 for the year I set, I've come to accept that I will never go to the pool as much as I "should". I'd rather spend my time on my bike or running.

This was the first year I maintained injury-free status for the whole year, and it's the first time I got over 100 miles for the year. I'm really excited about that. And for the bike? I don't want to even think about how much time that is in the saddle. My butt hurts just thinking about it.
Pictures tell the story better than words and numbers, so here's a little year in review photo overload:
I couldn't be happier. I don't plan to post specific goals or resolutions this year, which will be different for me, because I'm taking this year as a "come as you may" year. I plan to continue swimming, biking, and running at my own rate. I'd like to lost some of my Ironman weight. And I want to keep working hard and being happy. 

Happy New Year, friends! I can't wait to see what 2015 brings for us all!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Oh, hey!

It has been a very long while since I've even logged into blogger to begin thinking about writing a post, but as this year is coming to an end, I've realized that I do miss it and do want to keep it up. Taking a mini and unscheduled break from blogging was quite nice, and it helped me take some of the pressure off that I put on myself--blogging for me had somehow become about writing because I was supposed to and thinking of things to write about just to get a post up instead of writing because I felt inspired or genuinely had something to share. I will continue blogging more in 2015 with thoughts on fitness, life, and style. It will be more balanced as I again find more balance.

In reflection, 2014 was quite the year for me. I grew in a lot of ways and learned a lot about myself in training for and completing my first full Ironman distance triathlon; I also had three good months of reflection post-race to really focus on what is important to me.

After the race I did partially train until the beginning of November for Rev3 Florida where I raced the Olympic distance triathlon and got second in my age group and sixth female overall. It was a great way to cap off the year of triathlon for me. After that, all bets were off. I did some nothing, a little running, some workout DVDing, and a lot of trying to think about what I like to do.

I have since found more interest in things that I used to enjoy and didn't get to do much this year (Ironman training does not allow for life balance). I have started hanging out with Tim a lot more, I've spent more time reading, we've gone out to eat more, and I've had time to enjoy being with friends. I have started reading life and style blogs again while also trying to figure out what new goal I'm going to put in front of myself in the workout world. 2015 will be the year of working out by doing the things I like to do; that will entail (of course) swimming, biking, and running, but it will also entail classes and group fitness and sometimes just missing a workout because I won't have the same tunnel vision on one goal. If anything, my one goal right now is to drop a little weight and better manage my eating habits. 

But, to recap the last few months I've been missing from the blogging world, here's what I've been up to:

I was named to the Challenge Triathlon Age Group Team
I'll be picking my 2015 Challenge races soon and would love to meet up at one of them. If you want to do a Challenge race and want to get 10% off, email me and I'll share a code with you!

I've been cooking once again and really enjoying it!
I'm working on cleaning up our eating, but the holidays proved so hard! 

Tim and I visited my family in Chattanooga for Christmas.
It's always so nice to go home, but to be there when my sister and her boyfriend and Tim were also there made it even better.

I got my hair cut short.
I have always had a hard time with my hair because it's so thin and breaks off, so when I went to go get my hair cut (something I do very rarely because I hate dealing with it), I just decided to have Amber cut it off. I love the outcome, and I've decided that one of my only stated goals for 2015 is going to be to do my hair everyday. I normally wear it up and not fixed nicely 95% of the time and hate how it looks.

We've watched movies, tried new restaurants, hung out with friends. I've read a book or two and spent a lot of time working. My job changed this year, and I'm really finding my way in it. I love that it's different every single day that I go to work. I hate when things stay the same. 

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season with your family and loved ones and are ready for the new year! I cannot believe how quickly this year passed!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Ironman Chattanooga Race Recap

I am an IRONMAN! Last Sunday I completed the race that I had been focusing on for over a year, and it was everything I could have hoped it would be and more. Instead of writing it out in sections, I'm just going to post one post with all of my thoughts and reflections. It won't be short, but then again, neither was the race. I'd like to add here, after having finished this whole post, that it defines the word 'lengthy'. If you read it all, thank you. If you're looking to skim, just be sure to read the last half of the run section. It's my favorite.

Heading to Chattanooga
The weekend before the race Tim and I drove up to Johnson City for one of my high school best friend's weddings. I took my bike up then so that I knew it was safe and could stay at my parents' house in Chattanooga for the week. It proved to be a smart idea, as I was able to drive a lot of stuff up then that I wouldn't have been able to carry when I flew back up to Chattanooga on Thursday.
The week before the race was spend being nervous about anything and everything. From twinges in my foot to sneezes to nutrition to liquids, I stressed about it all. When Thursday came I couldn't have been more thrilled. My school did such an awesome send off and called me up to the stage in front of all my students and gave me a bunch of school stuff to wish me luck. I did tear up, and I felt really special.

My flight was on time, and my mom and dad picked me up in Birmingham for the drive up to Chattanooga. We just missed athlete check in on Thursday, so we just went home and hung out and ate dinner and sat around. I went to bed early to prepare for an exciting day on Friday.

Pre-Race Preparations
On Friday morning, Tim and I went down to athlete check in at 8:30 to get in line early. If you ever plan on doing an Ironman, one thing I'd like to note here is that you should always expect a line everywhere. When they opened at 9 I suddenly realized I had forgotten my ID! I had my insurance and USAT card, but I had to panic and solve the ID card situation before I could get checked in. When I did get checked in I read a waver far too long for comfort. And when I say I read it, I really mean that I looked at it and assumed that it meant if I died they wouldn't take the blame. I knew I was going to have to sign it, so I just took photos of the paper in case I needed to refer back to it later.
I waited in line for my bib and swim cap, and I saw a family friend Carolyn, who was volunteering for the race. It was so nice to see so many familiar faces all weekend, and I think it really helped this race feel even more special than it already was to me. 

After that I waited in another line for the backpack and then grabbed some non-finisher's stuff to purchase. If I hadn't finished I still would have worn the gear, because I trained my butt off for it and would have been a competitor in it. That was all the rationalizing I was doing in buying some early.
I then met up with Beth and Nick and met a few new faces here. We walked around the tents, got some free stuff, and then I made the biggest and best decision of that day: I bought an aero bottle for my bike. That will be mentioned time and time again later, but I thought it was worth noting here that, though they say not to do anything new on race day, I knew this was going to be a good decision.
Beth and I walked over to a tent where a pro was signing autographs, and we asked him every question under the sun. As he was finishing writing out his mile by mile nutrition strategy (kidding...but not my much) we decided it was time to give other people a chance to accost talk to him. 

It was time for the athlete meeting! We heard from one of the announcers all about cut offs and rules and times and information, and we each had our own freak outs about the things we were nervous about. Beth noted bike cut off times, I noted run cut off times, and we assured each other that we really did definitely want to get to the race at 4:15 before transition opened so that we could be in line early for the swim start. 
After that we were off to drive the bike course. The course was nicely marked so we didn't miss any turns, and I was glad we took the opportunity see (for me the second time) what we were facing on race day. It was just like I remembered it; the hills were rolling, and there wasn't anything that was any worse than hills we trained on in San Antonio. I knew we were well prepared, and Beth didn't get more nervous, which she says is a good thing and shows that her mind was in the right place.

I dropped Beth at her hotel and Tim and I headed back to my parents house to get dinner. I also spent a lot of time eating over the course of those two days. I ate lots of carbs and salt, and I drank a lot of water. I  ate my biggest meal on Friday night, because I knew I wouldn't want much sitting in my stomach Saturday night. I went to bed early again because I've also heard two nights before race day is even more important sleep-wise than the night before.

On Saturday I went down to ride my bike before bike check in and make sure all my gears were working. I went for a little 1 mile run in my neighborhood, and then Beth and I checked our bikes in. I had strapped my aero bottle on, and it was ready to go. I put it in transition, said goodbye, and knew the next time I would see it would be when I was running out of the swim and onto it for a long 116 mile ride. Beth and I went and had our last big lunch and then headed over to the practice swim to hop in and see how the river felt. We had to walk .25 mile up river to jump in and swim, and once we jumped in the water felt great! It wasn't wetsuit legal at the time, and I was starting to feel like it wasn't going to be for raceday either. The swim was quick, and I was hearing everyone chatter about a strong current. Good news for everyone!
After that we parted ways and I headed home to relax, panic, and make sure everything was in order. My gear bags were check in with my bike, but I still had access to them on Sunday morning, so I double and triple checked that there wasn't something I was missing. I also packed my special needs bags with more than anyone could have possibly wanted! I ate dinner of pasta around 4:45 and went to bed at 8. I knew 3:00 am would come early.

I woke up in the middle of the night with stomach cramps, and that made me nervous for what the morning would be like

Race Day!
When I woke up on Sunday at 3, I spent a lot of time in the bathroom. I never get a nervous stomach, but I was having all the nervous stomachs from past races catch up to me all at once here. I was so panicked about it. I took Immodium and Advil and hoped and prayed that it would go away. I only ate a piece of sourdough bread that I brought with me in the car and finished waiting outside of transition. Luckily, my stomach started to settle with the second Immodium, and I hoped that would be it for the day.

Setting up Transition
Beth and I did meet at 4:15 as agreed, and we were early enough to be some of the first 100 or so people into transition. We got our arms and legs marked, and it felt real. I teared up a few times, as that was the theme of the weeks preceding the race, and then I high tailed it to my bike to setup my water bottles and nutrition for the race. I taped two PowerGels to my bike tube, crammed more stuff than necessary into my bento box, and dropped the rest of my stuff into my bike gear bag. I setup my aero bottle with skratch/carbopro and had three other water bottles, one each of skratch/carbopro, gatorade, and plain water.
I asked a man to borrow his pump, and he came and helped me make sure my tires were okay. I asked him if this was his first, because I had told him it was mine. He said it wasn't and that he had done 27 other ones. I asked if he was excited for Inaugural Chattanooga, and he paused. Because there was so much controversy surrounding the race's long bike course, late swim start, and sub-17 hour cutoff, I was waiting to hear him mention something about that. But instead, he told me that his wife had passed away six weeks prior and that this was his first one without her there by his side. I bit my cheeks to keep from crying, but as soon as he walked away the floodgates opened. I walked over to Tim and Beth to prepare to board the shuttle to the swim start and hugged Tim and cried. They didn't know what was going on, but I told them and they understood. Tim and I said our final goodbyes before I started my journey, and Beth and I boarded the shuttle.

It was a 10 or 15 minute ride up 2.4 miles to get to the swim start, and I got teary part of the way just thinking about the man, the fact that we were about to do what we had spent an entire year preparing for, and because of nervousness from the day. When we got off we found that we weren't too terribly far from the beginning of the line, but we weren't as close to the front as you'd think we would have been considering that it was 5 am and the race didn't start until 7:30. We spent the time chatting (not about the race...we had done enough of that), using the bathroom, and meeting people around us. Everyone was excited, and as the line inched forward as they consolidated us it became more and more and more real. Before we knew it we were taking off our outer clothing to put into morning clothes bags, putting on our cap and goggles and heading down the ramp to jump off a dock and get our day started.

I kept looking at Beth and squealing and squeezing her arm and saying "This is it! Good luck!" The line moved very quickly, and right as I was about to jump in I looked back one last time and said, "Bye Beth!" Then, I started my 144.6 mile journey (I'm tearing up just writing this).

Swim
The swim was the part of the race that I was the least nervous about leading into race day. It's my strongest discipline, and this swim had very little to be nervous about. It was straight down river for 2.4 miles, and there were no sharks, which for some reason still make me nervous when swimming in the ocean. I knew I'd just be going straight for a very long time and wouldn't have to worry about too much besides keeping the buoys on my left.

So, I swam. And swam. And swam. And then I looked up and was a little far to the right. So I swam left. And swam left. And swam left...and then, magic happened. I was right back in the pack and a girl swam up next to me going not too much faster than I was. For the most part the swim was well spread out and I was able to find paths around people really easily. When this girl came up and we swam next to each other for 15 or 20 strokes, I thought to myself, "Alright! This is your chance to take it a little easier." So I eased up for a few strokes, let her get in front of me, and then drafted for the next ten or so minutes. I never touched her feet and did my best not to annoy her, but she never kicked too hard or turned around and clocked me, so she either didn't know I was there or didn't care because I wasn't bothering her. Eventually she got a little too far ahead and I let off and kept swimming at my pace. We were going under bridges pretty quickly, but I always resisted the urge to look at my watch and see my pace or overall time. I didn't want it to affect how I was swimming. We passed by the dock we had used for the Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon I did in June, so I knew I was .9 from the finish. It seemed to come pretty quickly at that point. 

There is one turn to the left to head to the swim exit, and when I got there I saw a clock that said 58 minutes on it. I didn't know if it was started when the pros started ten minutes before age groupers or when age groupers started. I also didn't know how far back I was from when the first age grouper got in the water, so I picked it up a little bit hoping to make it to the swim exit in under 1 hour. That had been my goal for the swim. Much to my shock I was very far under one hour. I swam the swim in 46 minutes. Thank you current, you made me feel like a rock star!
Swim Time: 46:34 Division Rank: 3/35

Transition 1
I ran a bit to transition along the Riverfront Path and saw SO many spectators. That part was awesome. The whole run there was lined with people, and they were three of four rows deep. I saw Beth's boyfriend Nick, my family, and everyone I was looking for. It was exciting to get to see them all through so many people. I then ran past the gear bags and grabbed my bike bag and ran to the transition tent. Because I had lined up in the front part of the line and swam past a number of people, there weren't a lot of people in the transition tent, and I had two volunteers all to myself! They were incredibly helpful. They helped get my swimsuit off, get sunscreen off, get socks on, get all my junk shoved in pockets, and before I knew it I was on my way. 

I called out my number, but 803 was coming through at the same time, so the volunteer thought that the initial number had been a mistake calling out 813. I ran past my bike a little and backtracked. Someone helped me grab it off the rack and I was on my way. I ran down a chute and saw Tim and my mom at the end, turned the corner, jumped on the bike past the mount line, and I was off!
Transition 1 Time: 7:06

Bike:
After starting on the bike I immediately felt fantastic. My legs felt so fresh, and the weather was perfection. There was a small hill coming out of transition to wake the legs up, and then I hunkered down and got in aero. There weren't a lot of people near me, but I knew the normal game was about to begin. Because I'm a stronger swimmer I always get passed on the bike for the first 20 or so miles of a half distance triathlon. Well, this was a world of difference. I pretty much spent the entire bike ride getting passed. I may have passed 5-10 people total over the course of the whole day that would be a permanent pass. I passed people going up hills, but they'd soon repass me on the way down, as the descents aren't my strong suit. The people that passed me at first were riding monster bikes with insane wheels and helmets; I was waiting for someone with a motor to come by. People were flying!

I was really glad that those passes didn't start happening in big numbers until I got out of the city, though. The roads in Chattanooga on our way down to the loop was a little technical, so I was happy to have clearance to slow a little for turns. When I finally got out to the loop (about 12 miles in), bigger and bigger packs of people were passing. I felt like I must have been going so slowly, but I wasn't going to let it change my goals or how I was riding. I was averaging around 18 or 18.5 at that time, so I didn't get discouraged. I did, though, get a little annoyed with some of the packs that were forming. That was helping a lot of people! I just sang "I'm a speed bump! Speed bump!" for 10 or so miles to myself. Occasionally someone would say "On your left!" and occasionally I'd feel witty and would respond "You and everyone else!" I meant it to be funny, and the two or three times I said it the person got a laugh out of it. People complimented me on my swim, because they knew that must have been why I was out in the front early.
I ate a Gu in the first 5 miles of the bike to make up for swim hunger, and then I drank my aero bottle full of Skratch and Carbopro. I didn't dilute it enough, so it was a little strong for my liking. As I passed the first bike aid station on the loop, I added a bunch of water to my aero bottle, and I was immediately thankful for having purchased that bottle. I won't mention it again, but I pretty much refilled it at every aid station. I drank A LOT on the bike. I also ate quite a bit. 

The first loop was moderately uneventful until I got down to the bottom of the loop. I started seeing a lot of people flatting in one area, and I didn't think it was normal for that many people to get flats in one place. I wanted to ask someone, but I wasn't really close to anyone so just watched carefully where I was going in case there was something wrong with the road. I got down to the Hog Jowl turn that was really sharp on a down hill; I had been worried about that turn for a full year since driving that course, but luckily I yelled "Slowing!!" and the lady behind me yelled "We're clear! Take it easy! I'm not trying to run over anyone today!" It worked out perfectly, and I was so glad to be around that. 
The hills were never anything bigger than what I rode in San Antonio, and I felt like it was much more rolling. The back half of the loop felt like we were going downhill a lot of the time. I loved the feeling of going fast and the wind blowing onto my face. I knew special needs was going to come up around mile 52, and I didn't know what that was going to be like. As I got closer it made me a little nervous, because it was just on the side of the road. Someone told me "813 you're in the front!" But I didn't know what she meant by the "front", so I went to what I thought would be the front like a car's front, furthest down the road. I guess I was wrong. I had to wait 20 or 30 seconds on my bag, and my watch autopaused (this will come back later). I grabbed a few things and made it on my merry way. The climb out of Chicamauga wasn't too terrible, and the descent was FAST! I made the turn onto the second loop, and I was still feeling pretty good!

I knew now what to expect, so when hills or turns came they didn't surprise me. They did seem to take a little extra push this time, though. I was getting close to what I thought would be the Hog Jowl turn again, when all of the sudden a different turn popped up in front of me, and I realized I was about 10 miles behind where I thought I was. Crap! I didn't want to be there. And that was when I started getting a little tired of being on the bike and also a little nauseous. At the next aid station a girl that I went to high school with shouted out to me, and I took a banana and a water, and it started to settle my stomach again. I rode the rest of the second loop and made the final turn to head back to transition.

It was about mile 80 when I was really really tired of being on the bike. I kept telling myself things that were longer that I had done than what I had left. "This is shorter than Anderson Snow and back!" "This 20 miles is the same as a weekday ride." Etc. But when I got on the flat stretch back to the final hills in Chattanooga, I realized that my eyes were really burning. I hadn't worn sunglasses the whole time, and I was worried that I had windburned my eyes. I don't usually wear them during training because they made my vision a little messed up, so I didn't think it would effect me any. I put them on for the last stretch in hopes that covering my eyes would stop the burn and I wouldn't be effected on my run. I guess they were just dried out, because by the time I got back to transition they felt better.

The last bit through St. Elmo was really fantastic. Though hilly and dragged out, the people were energetic and fun. It made me nervous when I passed a girl who had crashed at mile 112 of the bike and was face down on the road not moving. Medics were there and people were helping, so I didn't stop or do anything. I found out later that she had run into a telephone pole after losing control of her bike going over railroad tracks. She is okay now. I had four miles left, and I knew that if anything happened in those last 4 miles I'd just run back or ride my bike on flats back. 116 miles is a long way!

As I made my way down the hill back to the dismount line, I saw my family. They were waving and taking pictures. I hate the dismount line, so I dismounted a little early. A volunteer came running and asking if I was okay and said I needed to go a little further. I wasn't riding my bike any further (I stopped maybe 15 feet before the dismount line because it was crowded), so I just got off and ran it to the volunteer who took it. I was not sad to see it go.

Bike Time: 6:28:41 Division Rank: 13/35
Transition 2:
Transition 2 was more crowded and a bit different than transition 1. I had run in with my bag and found a spot, and I had heard a volunteer yell, "Holler if you need some help." All the volunteers were busy helping other people, so I just dumped out my bag and starting doing my thing by myself. For some reason I also got a little sad that no one was helping me. It was an odd moment. Eventually someone came and helped me. I also am now thinking I was a bit looney because I actually put my socks and shoes on before changing from bike to run shorts. I can't explain that, and it was awkward making that change. Soon enough I was done changing and was heading out onto the run course, but first I had to stop at the port o potty. I was hoping this was going to be the only time. 

Uh. Yea. It wasn't.

Transition 2 Time: 5:23

Run:
Shortly after exiting transition we went down a ramp to the riverwalk that was the same ramp (I think) we had come up from when exiting the swim. I was worried about slipping, and my parents said they saw a few people slip. I saw them cheering there, and they told me not to fall and to be careful. Then they cheered me on. Soon I saw one of my best friends from high school cheering on the Riverwalk. I was so bummed that I had shoved a water bottle in my sports bra and was doing my hair, but it did make for some funny pictures. I then saw her husband a few people down. 
The first mile out of transition went by so quickly! I couldn't believe it, because we also had to run up a hill (the first of many). I turned left at the first aid station to stay on the Riverwalk, and then I ran the first half the two loop course. The first 8 miles of the course were fairly flat, though even they had some slight inclines and declines compared to what we Floridians define as flat. I talked to a guy for a few minutes about his favorite triathlons, and he told me that though Chattanooga was fast, the Hudson River was a lot faster. That got me through mile 3, I think. Then we drifter our separate ways after an aid station. I was keeping my friend Hugo's advice; he told me not to make friends on the run course--it could slow me down.

I kept running along the Riverwalk and took salt tabs every mile or two, and I drank water at every aid station. I was running right around 10:00/mile for the first 5 or 6 miles, and I felt really great. Running the back half of that first loop on a highway wasn't fun, as there wasn't much scenery to look at. I ate some grapes and kept running and focusing on just keeping everything steady. I don't remember what I was thinking through this period of time, but I think I was getting to the point where I was having to go to the bathroom again, because somewhere around mile 6 I stopped again to pee. 

At this port o potty I ripped the hole of my bib from my race belt, so it was flapping; and true to form, I was so concerned that I was going to lose my bib, not for legal or race purposes, but for sentimental purposes later. I kept tucking it into the race belt and hoping it would stay. Soon enough I was turning onto the Veteran's Bridge and saw my parents, sister, and Tim for the first time. That was uplifting! They cheered and took photos, and I kept running. I met a Rev3 teammate, Susan, as I was running over the bridge, and that was nice! I also saw my cousin Matt while I was crossing the bridge too. Seeing people was so helpful!
The next five miles were really hard. It was the massive climb up and down Barton Avenue and then through the Riverview neighborhood. I had run a 17 miler in training through some of it, so I knew what to expect. That was beneficial. I also started talking to another guy during this period that was running at a pace close to mine. I yelled over to someone cheering asking if they had a safety pin (to fix my bib) and they said they didn't. The guy said he'd stop at the next aid station to give me the one he had on his timing chip, which was really nice of him, so I picked up my pace a little to stay with him, because I really wanted that chip. He was trying to hold a 9:30, but he said he was fine with the 9:45-10:00 we were at. The next aid station came, he stopped and got the pin, then I said thanks and sent him on his way; I knew I couldn't keep his pace. 

Running through Riverview was cool, because we ran past the pool where I learned to swim and the swim team I had been on from the ages of 6-18. I also ran past one of my mom's best friends who was cheering and also my middle school swim coach. That was uplifting. A guy said to me, "Are you from here? You know a lot of people." So that sparked another short conversation that lasted a mile or two. He was from NC, but he had lived in Tampa before, so we talked about that. He said he was going to go ahead when we got to the hills, but I kept up with him and he complimented me on being good on the hills for running all the flats in Florida. I then explained to him the bridge loop that Beth and I did every weekend. We were prepared!
I split with that guy when he stopped at special needs and I kept going. I soon came upon my safety pin friend and chatted with him again for a mile or two. I learned that he is a preacher from MS and all about his training with working on Sunday mornings. That helped keep my mind off of running. By this point I was at mile 14 or 15. I was starting to feel a little less comfort in my legs, so I told my new friend that I needed to slow a little to keep from walking. I had still been around 10:00-10:30 for most of the first 15 miles. From that point on, though, the pace felt just as hard, but it was slower.

I walked through my first aid stations on the Riverwalk, and I also stopped to pee again. It was here that it hit me that I had been drinking too much on the bike and on the run. Still, though, I took water at every aid station. I made the turn onto the highway, kept running, and I saw a girl with a 29 on her leg! I love chasing people down that are in my age group, so I just focused on that number and picked it up EVER so slightly. Eventually I caught her, but as soon as I passed her she picked it up, dropped the person that she had been talking with, and caught me again. I decided not to be competitive and instead decided to just chit chat with her. We talked about our training for a bit and that it was both of our firsts. Then, because I wanted to just enjoy the day, and also because I had to pee again, I stopped at a port o potty and wished her luck. 

It was then that I made a decision not to worry about being under 12 hours. I thought I'd have to push too hard to make it, because I didn't know how long my watch had been autopaused at bike special needs, and also my math wasn't happening correctly at this time. I thought I'd have to hold 10:30s, which was a push at the time.

I saw my family again in the same place, and I mentally readied myself for the last 5 miles of serious hills. I hadn't walked anything besides aid stations to this point, and I said I wasn't going to walk any of the hills on the back side either. I took shorter steps and put my head down and ran slowly up the hills. I got to an aid station at mile 22 and saw a girl hold a foil pack of kettle chips, and I said, "THOSE!", grabbed a handful, and went on my merry way. They tasted amazing. By the time I got back around to go over Barton for the last time, I just really wanted to be done. I started thinking maybe I'd just walk a little bit of it, but as I started up it, after seeing two friends from high school Rachel and Blaes, I heard Eye of the Tiger, which was my high school's pump up song. It inspired me to keep running. It was the last hill!!
So, I made it to the "summit" (it felt like that because it was that big of a hill), headed down, made the turn onto Frazier, made my way over the walking bridge, and I turned left. This was where the split for second loop or finish line was, and this was when I started beaming! I turned left at the split to head down the hill to become an Ironman! Everyone was cheering and shouting my name, and I felt famous. I had half a mile or so to go, and there were so many people cheering along the way. It was my favorite moment of the whole day; it made the hundreds of hours of training worth it. Adults were high fiving and telling me they loved the smile on my face. Kids were high fiving, and parents were sticking their kids' hands out shaking them so that we would give them high fives. I hope some of those kids know they can do this one day. I hope we inspired them. 

I got to the chute to head to the finish, and I was overjoyed. Everything around me was silenced, and I just high fived and ran to the bright lights and the red Ironman finish carpet. I didn't hear anything; I looked around to make sure I was going to be able to finish by myself, but I couldn't hear much besides my thoughts. It was surreal. This was my moment. I have watched so many people have theirs on the live stream. This was my time! I raised my hands up and was so thrilled. I shouted "YESS!!" as I crossed the finish line. I had done it! I was an Ironman. I am an Ironman. And then Erik, my friend Emily's husband, was there as my catcher. 
That was weird. After rushing forward as fast as physically possible for 12 hours, having someone come up to you and stop you is strange. It took me a minute to realize what was going on. I looked and stopped my watch and saw 11:59. I was excited but also nervous for a minute, because I knew that it had autopaused during bike special needs, and I also didn't know I was going to be this close to 12 hours. I got my finisher's shirt and hat, got some chocolate milk, and got a piece of pizza.

I made my way to the end of the finisher's area and saw Tim and my family, and I went and immediately started crying and hugged Tim. I said, "I did it! I did it!!" I saw my family, and they were so thrilled for me. In a little bit I asked, "What was my time?!" and they were so excited for me; they knew I beat my goal by a lot. They said, 12:00:36! I was insanely happy; I had wanted to go under 13 hours and I had just gone 12 hours. For a second, I still thought, "All those port o potty stops! Those darn 36 seconds!" Ha!
Run Time: 4:32:52 Division Rank: 13/35
And I guess this is where it ends. It seems strange that after months of training, over a year after signing up, days of counting down, hours of anxiety, tears, nerves, panic, and excitement that this is it. It all just stops. The sun rose on September 29th, and I didn't have this monumental life event in front of me. I drove home; I returned to work; I continued living. I am an Ironman.
Total Time: 12:00:36 Division Rank: 13/35
I'm going to post separately with the things I learned, what surprised me, and what my biggest tips and takeaways are. If you have questions, let me know and I'll include them.

Thank yous
Tim, I love you for "letting" me sign up for this and go through this whole experience. I'm sorry that I loved it as much as I did and that I want to do it again. I know it was tough. I know that the long hours on weekends that I was gone made it difficult to spend time together, and I know that I wasn't always carefree and upbeat when I was home. Thank you for putting up with me (most of the time) and also for not ever taking me too seriously when I would panic and ridiculous things. I'm very lucky to have you as my partner, and I appreciate your patience with me and also your support. You're a tireless cheerleader and my number one supporter; I love you.
There are so many people that helped me get to where I did. I can't say thank you enough for the support I got from the blogging community and from friends and family. Though I didn't blog through most of the training, I tweeted and posted photos, and I got such great support. Thank you!

To all the people that I trained with through this mess, thank you. 
Chris and Heather, thank you for coming to San Antonio for so many training rides and providing fun stories and camaraderie along the way. 
Hugo, Kari, Pete, and Teresa, thank you for planning rides and bringing some fun to some fairly miserable weekends. And thanks for the advice along the way. Teresa, thanks also for the several bridge runs. Sorry about that light incident.
Stephanie, thanks for texting non-stop anti-panic messages after you completed IMMD with pictures included. And thanks for meeting us to run or bike or both. Congratulations to you on an amazing race at Maryland! I'm looking forward to training together more, but first to sharing our experiences.

Tori, thanks for being a constant source of calm through this training. Though I know you went through a lot this summer, you were always the first one with positive words of encouragement and a voice of calm when I was freaking out or worrying about one of any number of things. I wouldn't be a triathlete without you. I remember when you took me to the mock triathlon in Dunedin last year and had to essentially teach me everything about how to do anything with triathlon. Thanks for helping me get to that start line and finish line in Chattanooga. I am so excited for you for IMAZ so soon. You're going to blow your expectations out of the water. I'm glad to have you as a friend.
Beth, I could write a book of jokes and events from our training. I have never gone through an experience like this with anyone before. Thank you for not killing me any number of times. I'm so glad to have experienced everything we did together. I am glad we mutually hate bridges in Clearwater and hills in San Antonio; I still do want to go drive them though. You have been a constant motivator to me, and I couldn't have done this without you. I'm thankful that we signed up for this race, trained together, and became such good friends. You are such a strong person, and I'm so glad that you demolished your goals. I look forward to seeing this next marathon training cycle and the end result. It will be great.
And that. Is it. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ironman Training Reflections

I have been incredibly absent from the blogging and social media world in the last three months. After racing Rev3 Williamsburg, I did go up to Chattanooga and race the Chattanooga Riverfront Triathlon (to get a sense of what I'd be facing when the Ironman came around) with Tori. I didn't get a chance to write that up, because, in truth, I was ready for a break after Williamsburg. I came home from that event and I was tired and was having a hard time stomaching the thoughts of the months to come.
July, August, and September were quite a whirlwind for me. Before I do any kind of goals or thoughts post for the pre-race, I thought it would be only fair to give some idea of the past three months that I've been so absent from here. Instead of the workout recaps that I became so good at posting in the past, I'm going to share more generalizations, thoughts, and experiences. It won't necessarily be organized, but it'll be better than nothing for my own memories.

I'll break it into four categories: swimming, biking, running, and life.

Swimming(31 miles from May 1 to today)
True to form, I didn't swim as much as my training plan suggested I should. I did, however, swim at least once every single week from July to now. For me, that is a win. I did a lot of longer swims, and I did an occasional 10 x 100 to check my paces. I swam a 4400 for time at my coach's insistence. I didn't do any open water swims.
And how do I feel? I feel fine about the swim. It's not something I'm overly concerned about come race day. I normally felt pretty good in the water, and I think that the swimming I did is enough to keep my swim fitness in line with where it needs to be. The long sets I did have prepared me mentally to swim 2.4 miles, and I'm looking forward to that part of the race.

Biking (2,093 miles from May 1 to today)
I biked like a crazy woman in my training. Chattanooga is sounding like it will have around 4000 feet of elevation gain on the bike, so I knew I needed to prepare for it. And prepare I did! I rode 100 miles four times, and I rode 80 miles quite a few times as well.
The 100 milers weren't ever fun all the way through, and I was always glad to be done; I did, though, generally enjoy much of each of those rides. 100 miles is a long way. 116 is going to be even longer (in case you haven't heard, they extended the Chattanooga course).

I did a July 4th century ride that scared the life out of me. It was my first 100 miler, and I was riding in a group I didn't know that well. We only stopped twice, and after drafting in a pack of 40 cyclists going around 20 miles per hour, I didn't know if I could do it for the whole day. I shed a tear in the bathroom, but luckily Stacey was there to make me feel better. And I did do it. I rode 100 miles for the first time that day throughout Tampa, and it was a confidence booster.
The second 100 miler was half on the roads and half on a trainer. It had started pouring, as it did on every 100 mile ride I did this summer, and none of us wanted to continue. So, at mile 60 I head home and jumped on the trainer for the last bit. That's when I started having some knee issues that lasted me a couple of weeks and a new bike fit.

The third 100 miler was in San Antonio with Beth. San Antonio is 45 minutes Northeast of Tampa, and it's really the only hilly place near us. We spent far too many weekends biking those roads. We had a loop that had around 2500 feet of elevation gain in 56 miles, and we did that more times than I can count. Sometimes we added sections on a flat trail for part of the ride if we needed to extend it, and sometimes we just rode more hills. Ultimately, though, we're sure we know the roads of San Antonio, FL well enough to offer weekend tours, not that anyone would take them. I will say, though, that it's because of these weekends that I feel confidence in my race.
The fourth 100 miler was in Sebring, and it was a supported ride. I enjoyed it the most of all of them, because it was also a little getaway. It was also the ride I felt the strongest on. There's not much to say about it, because there wasn't a lot of drama, but we got it done.

And how do I feel? Pretty darn good! I feel that I am at least as strong on the bike as I am on the run, if not a little stronger. I am confident in what I can do on the bike as long as I ride smart. I'm looking forward to seeing what this training has done for me. I just need to remember not to cook my legs.

Running (592.5 from May 1 to today)
This will be my favorite part to talk about, because even though I spent a lot more time biking than running, it's the running that sticks out in my head. Beth and I ran bridges every weekend to prepare for a marathon course that has 900-1200 feet of elevation gain. We got to know gas station attendants, Beth had a drink thrown on her, and we even saw the police investigate a man parked on a bike trail. There was never a dull moment. I told Beth that we laughed, we cried, and we're better off for it.
There were good days and bad days; there were restaurant owners yelling at us that his restaurant wasn't open, even though the door was unlocked; there were port o potties and locked toilets; there were sprints up bridges and bridges we were close to walking. But, we did it. It is done.

I ran 20 miles three times, I ran 18 miles at least five times, and from July 5th to September 13th, I never ran less than 15 miles in any weekend. I'm ready to run.

And how do I feel? Ready. No way around it.

Life
This is the part of the story where things get less upbeat. Maintaining a life while training for an Ironman is impossible. My husband is amazing and supportive, and he's incredibly sick of this training. I was gone for hours and hours of Saturdays and Sundays to long rides and runs, and after long running 20 miles or long riding 80-100 miles, the last thing I wanted to do was anything productive or exciting. I would sometimes attempt to go be social or do things to be productive, but between this training and working full time, I had a really hard time managing anything else.
This was a strain on my friendships and my family. I started going to bed between 8-9 most nights a couple of months ago, and by 7 I was beat. I didn't go out with friends or make an effort to hang out with people. There was ALWAYS a workout to think of. I took Mondays as a rest day, and I needed every single one of them for my mental state. The two-a-days and long training sessions wore on me. Ironman training is hard. And it isn't just hard on the athlete; it's hard on all those around you as well.

 I always thought about how our water bill must have doubled. Between the laundry, the showers, and the hydration, I was using double what I normally do. 

Thoughts
If I could go back, I wouldn't change anything. I missed some weekday runs or rides here or there, but I think my training is right on point. I didn't miss a single long ride or long run. When I get to that starting line on Sunday, I will know that I did everything necessary to get to the finish. If something goes wrong or things fall apart on race day, I will smile and stay positive and know that it isn't for lack of preparation.

I will post one more post before race day with my thoughts and plans going into the race. Thank you all for your tweets and comments on Instagram. I have really appreciated and enjoyed this community.
 
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