Friday, June 12, 2015

Ironman 70.3 Texas

This is going to be long. The whole weekend was great, and race day was incredible. So many stories and memories. I'm so grateful for the experience.

I drove to Texas on Thursday. I stayed with Cindy- my training advisor- for the weekend. She and her husband have done all distance triathlons- she's even been to Kona! Amazing. They live close to Galveston and do home stays with athletes. I was so glad to be able to stay with them and pick their brains about last minute details.
Friday morning Cindy took me to the pool for a short swim and later I did my last easy 30 minute run through her neighborhood as followed me on her bike with her dog running along. After that there was no training left. Just resting.

Friday afternoon I drove down to Galveston to pick up my race packet and walk around the expo. I saw where we'd exit the water and then drove part of the bike course. I got there right when it opened at noon, so there weren't many people there yet. It was nice to have a calm start to the weekend.

Swim course
Back of the race shirt.
The Ironman logo was made out of our names.

Nathan flew into Houston late Friday night and we had a lazy Saturday morning. There were a lot of storms in the area- some tornado warnings further north- and luckily we only got a lot of rain and lightning.

Nathan and I drove down to the race site for the 12:00 athlete briefing (which was delayed due to a torrential downpour), then bike check in at 1. It was weird leaving Kally Jane in transition. I'm good at giving inanimate objects personalities so I felt bad for leaving her overnight with the storms (Nathan made me feel better by telling me she’d have company with all her new bike friends). It also just made what was about to happen seem that much more real. Race day was the next day! This was it! Final preparations were done. I wouldn't see Kally again until it was race time. Yikes.

The rest of the day was trying to relax. Besides going to Mass that night we just stayed at the house and sat around. I was a ball of nerves.

Got up at 4:15 Sunday and somehow took an hour to get out the door. I was moving pretty slowly. Got to transition at 5:45 and set up my gear. The TriDot tent was right outside of transition which was super convenient and I left my extra gear there with Nathan.

The water temperature that morning was over 77 degrees, so the race became Wetsuit Optional instead of Wetsuit Legal (which is what I had been expecting). If the temperature is less than 76.1 it is wetsuit legal and everyone can wear a wetsuit and start in their regular age group waves. If it's warmer than that and someone chooses to wear a wetsuit they can, but they start in the last wave after everyone else and are also no longer eligible for age group awards (although my ability made me ineligible for age group awards!).

When I first heard the water temperature it didn't cross my mind that I would choose to wear a wetsuit and I proceeded to get ready as planned- including taking in my 30 minute pre-race nutrition. After I did that I started thinking of the benefits of choosing the wetsuit wave- the buoyancy and getting to start last- therefore having fewer people around and fewer people passing me on the bike. My swim wave was smack dab in the middle of the field of >2000 athletes and I was nervous to be among them- so starting last sounded really good. But the wetsuit wave was starting a full hour after my wave and my fueling schedule would have been completely thrown off. I didn't think it was worth the risk, so by 7:10 I made my decision and started walking to the swim start.

Predict: 0:45
Actual: 0:55

The way they did the swim start was interesting. Each wave started 4 minutes apart, but we had to jump off the dock and swim to the start and tread water for those 4 minutes- that’s when I started regretting not having the buoyancy of the wetsuit. But the main problem I had was I felt my timing chip strap come loose when I jumped in. Every time I tried to reach my ankle to make it tighter I started sinking and getting a lot of salt water in my mouth. I tried not to panic- starting the race off with a Minor (or Major) Freak Out was not going to bode well! I yelled out that my strap was loose and a girl told me to float on my back and give her my foot. So I did and she fixed the strap! Crisis adverted.

The swim felt long. Too long. I didn’t have any concept of time, but I just knew the swim seemed to taking me longer than normal. I couldn’t figure out what was going wrong- I felt strong and I felt that my form was good. I hoped that my perception of time was skewed, but when I exited the water I saw that it had taken me 55 minutes- 10 minutes longer than planned.
But it’s a long day and I had to forget about it and focus on transition and the bike. One thing at a time. I’m impressed with myself that I was actually able to push the swim time out of my mind.
(After the race I discovered a lot of people were saying the swim course was long and that their times were longer than they should have been. This made me feel a lot better about the swim- if only I had known that during the race!)

I ran all the way to transition- which was good but also maybe a mistake in this case. I was still a little disoriented from being in the water for nearly an hour and my heart rate was really high by the time I got to my bike. I didn’t want to, but I let myself sit down to put my shoes and sunscreen on. I needed to let myself calm down a second. Transition took roughly 4 minutes because of that, and also it was a really long transition area so just running out of there with my bike took a while.

The bike
Predict: 3:10
Actual: 3:31

This is the part that scares me the most so I tried to calm down as much as possible. I hit the Lap button on my watch, which should have switched it to bike mode, but it stayed on “other” mode (which is used for the swim). All I could see was the time of day and my heart rate. I tried to cycle through the fields of the watch hoping I could see my pace or the distance, but nope. I’ve used the multisport setting on my watch in training and I never had that problem. I started getting frustrated, but made myself calm down. I didn’t want my Minor Freak Out to be at the beginning of the bike course. I was supposed to base my effort from heart rate and not speed, so I told myself only knowing my heart rate was a good thing.

I put this reminder on Kally. I needed it to get through the 56 miles.

It started raining roughly 5 miles into the course. It wasn’t supposed to rain so that was surprising. It was coming down pretty hard. I had a difficult time keeping my heart rate in the right zone. I think my nerves and the rain made it high. I was getting passed a lot but was also passing people. I had no idea how fast I was going.

I wore my camelbak so I wouldn’t have to worry about grabbing a water bottle. There were a lot of others doing the same thing so I didn’t feel too out of place. I skipped the first aide station but stopped at the second. I had my fuel in a water bottle so I pulled over to have half of that and some of the Nuun (electrolyte drink) I had in the other bottle. I chugged it as fast as I could and got back on the course. It was still raining.

After I stopped I started feeling better about the race. I started smiling because I knew I was going to make it through the race. One of my main fears was how the aide stations were set up and if I could safely pull over and start again. I wasn’t the only one stopping, and my plan worked. I knew I could finish the bike course and be okay.

The course has two “climbs” over the bridge to the other part of the island. There was a toll booth there and I laughed at the thought of all of us having to stop to pay the toll. Shortly after that was the turnaround- which was a tight turn that I managed to do without falling.

It was still raining… and the storm that blew in gave us a headwind… we never had a tailwind to counter that.

Around mile 30 my left inner thigh started hurting. This was new. I tried shifting around, changing gears, changing my cadence, but nothing made it better. Tried to stay calm, but the pain kept increasing and there were a lot of miles to go.

I stopped again at the 3rd aide station for the remainder of my fuel and Nuun. If I had known my camelbak was nearly empty I would have taken a water bottle from them. But I didn’t so I didn’t.

I ran out of water around mile 40 (the course was marked every 5 miles) and I was so thirsty! I could tell I was going slower (but still didn’t know my speed) because of the headwind and I tried to keep my heart rate down but was still having trouble with it.

The rain finally stopped at mile 50 (I think) and all I could think of was how much I wanted off my bike. I was thirsty and my leg hurt. And I knew the bike took me longer than planned. But just like the swim, I had to forget about that and focus on what was next.

When I got off my bike I knew I was in trouble- my inner thigh pain was lingering. It was going to be a long half marathon.

I let myself sit down in transition again. Cindy gave me a hard time about this, but I didn’t care. I knew my goal time was out of reach and my leg hurt. I still had over two hours- I needed a minute to calm myself down. One good thing- it never rained at transition, so my shoes were dry.

I checked my watch when I hit the lap button again and it was still stuck on “other” mode. As I ran/limped/walked out of transition I stopped it, reset it, and switched it to run mode. At least I had that going for me.

The Run
Predict: 2:04
Actual: 2:32

My leg hurt if I walked or ran so I tried to force myself to run as much as possible. I didn’t feel well, though. I thought I might throw up, and I became okay with that possibility. I might throw up, but I wasn’t going to die. Just keep running.

The weather kept changing on us. It would go from hot and sunny to cool, windy and cloudy. I went from sweating to goosebumps. When it was hot I poured water on my head. I drank water at each water station but I think I was still really dehydrated. I couldn’t tell if I was sweating anymore. I only had to pee once in over 7 hours. I think I took a salt tablet on the run, but I can’t remember for sure. I know I took one in T1.

The run was hard. I had been looking forward to running a half marathon, but my body was struggling. My allowed max heart rate for the run was 174, but it never got higher than 145. I knew I “should” have been able to push harder, but I was doing all that I could and it wasn’t “enough”. My leg hurt and I was light headed. Throwing up still felt like a possibility.

I knew early on that my goal of a 2:04 half marathon wasn’t going to happen so I just did what I could and let myself be okay with it.

Was I going to finish in under 6:30? Nope.

But was I going to finish a half Ironman? YES!

The run course was three laps around Moody Gardens. I liked the laps because the support along the route was great and I recognized people cheering us on (and they would recognize us) and I looked forward to seeing them again on the next lap.

There were a lot of other Tridot and Tri4Him athletes, and we all encouraged each other. We got a lot of cheers when we ran by the Tridot tent, too. It was helpful to have the boost.

I also liked the 3 lap course because I had no way of knowing where I was compared to anyone else. Was it their first lap? Second? Were they almost done? Some were struggling like me, others were flying.

At mile 9 I happily exclaimed that we had only 5K left. The guy next to me gave me a weird look and I redid the math. Oops. My brain wasn’t working too well. 
His name was Gary and we ran/walked a couple miles together. It was his 6th half Ironman and he was “woefully under-trained” (he still beat me). At mile 11 he told me to go on without him and to have a good race. I had enjoyed the distraction for the 2 miles, and I was excited I only had 2 left.

The finish
Tridot Predict: 5:59 (not counting transitions)
My goal: 6:30
Actual: 7:07

I crossed the finish line to the sound of Uprising by Muse (appropriate), and with tears in my eyes. I saw Nathan and as soon as I got my medal and finisher’s hat I ran over to him and gave him a big sweaty and stinky hug as I cried. I did it! It was so surreal.

To keep this long post from being even longer, I'm going to write a separate entry about my thoughts on the race, what I learned, and post-race events. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

8 Days!

8 days! Single digits!

I'm really surprised how well I'm feeling. This far out from the St. Jude half marathon I was really worn out and second guessing everything. But so far, so good! Thursday was my last long ride, and so now I'm in full taper mode.

Last Thursday I rode 25 miles out on the roads with a friend, then finished my race rehearsal ride by myself on a local trail (for a total of 48 miles). This was followed up with a 6 mile run. It was really windy and tough!  I'm lucky I don't have spring allergies because there was so much pollen that my bike and my skin were yellow by the time I was done.

Speaking of the wind- around mile 40 I heard trees above me cracking so I sprinted out of the way and this branch landed right behind me. I had enough of the wind and headed for home after this.

Tuesday was my last long run of just 7 miles which felt better than my 9 from the week before.
Then later I took my bike in for what I hope to be the last adjustment. My wrists were still achy and would tingle when I went into the drops, and my saddle has not been comfortable and I couldn't ignore it anymore with all of these long rides. He adjusted my handle bars a bit and swapped my saddle out for a women's saddle and ta-da! Instant relief. I had no problems at all Thursday during my ride, and I felt more stable and felt comfortable letting go of my handle bars. This is all very good.

Tuesday night, Anna and I went out to the lake for a short swim. I finally tried on my wetsuit, and it fit and I felt good in the water. I haven't done an open water swim since last year, and I still enjoy it.
I wasn't sure if I'd have to readjust to open water, so that's a relief, too. Not quite sure what to expect with the ocean swim, but I'm looking forward to it.

I still get nervous about the race, but mostly I'm excited. I had been worried about my projected finish time because it seems ambitious for my first HIM. I worried about what type of winds we'll have on the bike, and what if it slowed me down too much and my bike split was longer than expected. I've only told a few people my goal time, and I'm sticking to that to keep the pressure off, but I finally realized that my projected paces are based on perfect conditions. If I have a head wind for the first 28 miles, and then the winds shift and I have a head wind for the last 28 miles, too- then my bike split will be longer than planned- oh well. I need to focus on my heart rate rather than speed and stay in the right zone and save my energy for the run which is where I'm strongest.

Here are my worst to best case bike scenarios:
  • Headwind in both directions
  • Crosswind the entire course
  • Tailwind for first 28 with headwind for last 28
  • Headwind for first 28 with tailwind for last 28
  • No wind
  • Tailwind in both directions (come on, wind! shift for me!)
And who knows, rain might be in the equation. Any of those situations will result in vastly different speeds. The wind wouldn't be as much of a factor if I had been comfortable with my aero bars, but I wasn't yet. And that's okay. I won't be the only one without them. The more I've ridden with the group, the more I realized I'm not the only one who is nervous on the bike or riding in aero. For some reason I had it in my head that I'd be the only one and that I didn't belong doing this distance. But that's not true. Maybe it seems more intimidating because we'll be racing with the professionals and other hardcore amateur athletes- which is different than the local short triathlons I've raced.

But it's pretty darn cool that we race with the professionals on the same course. Not many sports can say that. I won't see them after the swim start- they'll be finishing when I'm still on my bike- but they'll be there, and that's exciting.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Summary of Countdown Days 28-18

Well... I'm crazy. Last week I signed up for the Memphis in May Sprint AND Olympic triathlons. The Sprint is on Saturday and the Olympic is on Sunday. And they are only 3 weeks after my 70.3!

The timing might not be ideal... I'm not sure. I'll be in good shape from just finishing the the Half Ironman, but the week after I'm guessing I'm going too be sore to do much, and then the next two weeks we'll be busy packing, having my last day of work, saying goodbyes, having family visit, and celebrating Nathan's graduation (woohoo!).

I have to do these races though- my plan for the last few years was to do both for the Amateur Challenge. I did the Sprint as my first triathlon in 2013, and I did the Olympic in 2014, so it's only logical that I'd do both in 2015! But that was my plan before I knew I'd be doing a half Ironman just 3 weeks earlier! So I had been on the fence about these races, but I'd regret it if I didn't do them. It'll be for fun, with no expectations.
And since we move back to Michigan the following Wednesday, this is kind of my little celebration of our time in Tennessee. One last hurrah!

And I'm even more crazy because I am seriously considering racing Ironman 70.3 Steelhead in Michigan this August.

Could one ever really be enough?

Okay, but priorities... let's focus on Texas first.

Last week's training was awesome. I felt so strong!

I nailed my bike ride on Monday and during my brick run I was supposed to run at my easy pace and when I looked at my watch I was going 2 minutes/mile faster than that. I was really excited that the faster pace felt easy to me.
Later on I swam and I swear that was the best swim I have had since I started training. I don't know what it was, but the water felt amazing. I felt so streamlined and I was going faster than I've been able to recently. Finally! My swim progress had stalled for a long time, so this was exciting.

Tuesday was my last long Long Run. The way my long runs work is that I have 8-12 sets of my easy pace for 9 minutes with a 1 minute walk break. Then I have varying sets either at my marathon or threshold pace. Tuesday I had 3 sets of 8 minutes at my marathon pace with 5 minutes at my easy pace in between. Sometimes it's 2 or 3 sets of 7 minutes at threshold, or this week it was 3 sets of 9 minutes at marathon pace. Every week is a little bit different, but the set up is the same- all the speed work is done at the end when my legs are tired.
This whole year I have struggled with the speed work at the end of my long runs. I've had to cut it short by a minute or two, slow the pace down, or eliminate one of the sets.
Tuesday? I did all 3! And at times I was going faster than my marathon pace.

I ended up running a total of 13.2 miles and I felt like I could have kept running. I won't be running this distance again until the race, which is making me even more excited for the race because I already miss it just knowing it'll be awhile since I do that again.

Wednesday was just a swim day so my legs got a break. And it was a repeat of Monday- I felt strong in the water and was faster than what's usual for me.

Last Thursday I got to ride out on the roads finally. Tonia took me around some quiet back roads for a bit. There were 20 mph winds with 30 mph gusts!

I was so nervous going into this ride. I was excited and relieved to finally be getting good experience, but the winds and potential thunderstorms were making me so nervous. I kept telling myself it was good practice for the race because the race is historically windy. But still, I would have preferred to have time to get comfortable before the wind tried to knock me over.

But, I'm happy to report I actually had fun! There were hills and debris and dogs and wind and some cars, and even a few wrong turns, but I had a lot of fun. That's promising! We rode for 1:45, so I finished my ride on the trainer when I got home... for a total of 3 hours and 55 minutes- 20 minutes more than I was scheduled for. (I even considered sticking it out for 5 more minutes for an even 4 hours but my butt wanted off!). And then I ran for 30 minutes. And then I ate a lot of food!

We survived the wind!

I just felt really good the whole week- it was amazing. After months of feeling horrible with my training, things have turned completely around.

This week hasn't been as great as last week, but it's still been good, so I'm trying to not let it get to me. I had to work on Monday and I was really worn out and skipped my swim, but really- that's all I've missed so far, so that's not bad.

Yesterday's (Tuesday) run was tough- and it was only 9 miles. It felt harder than my 13 from last week- probably due to the humidity... and the wind. I felt like I was being pushed backwards a few times. The wind here has been crazy lately.

Last night I met up with the Speedy Turtles group for a 12 mile ride. It was fun meeting new people, and I'm slowly getting more comfortable riding on the roads. I realized I really like climbing, so if I could just get comfortable descending, I might actually be okay at this bike riding thing. I just hate going so fast down those hills!

Today at some point is my final race rehearsal swim. Then tomorrow is my last long rehearsal bike and run. I'm a little anxious about tomorrow, but I know I'll feel better once it's over. Maybe one day I won't get so nervous about riding on the roads.

My bike needs to be adjusted again- it's so close to being right, but not quite there yet. It would have been best to get it adjusted before tomorrow's ride, but the timing didn't work out. I'm hoping to get it taken care of on Monday, though, so I'll still have plenty of time before the race to ride it and make sure it's comfortable.

And just like that the race is only 18 days away.

Seriously? I'm tapering already?

Monday, March 30, 2015

I'm doing it!

Just 27 days now!

Everything is starting to come together. Travel plans are set, I have my new trisuit and wetsuit, and I'm pretty sure I have my race day nutrition plan figured out.

Still the only thing that concerns me is my bike. I took my aero bars off last week because I knew I didn't have enough time to get comfortable with them and it made bike handling trickier with the added weight. But I still didn't feel comfortable with them off. It felt twitchy- I had trouble riding in drops and my wrists and neck hurt during the whole ride. I went back to the bike shop and had my bike readjusted a little bit. It feels so much better, but I think something is still off. My wrists were hurting towards the end of my 3+ hour ride last week. I'm going to give it another ride or two before I go back for more tweaking just to make sure it's the bike and not just me needing to get used to a new position.

I emailed my training advisor last week asking how much of the training plan a typical/healthy athlete actually manages to finish each week. I haven't been able to complete everything and it was starting to mess with my mind. She said that most, including her, are happy with finishing 70% each week. What?! That's how much I manage! I'm normal! That was a huge relief.
I felt confident I was going to finish and I felt strong, but I was getting frustrated with myself just because I felt like I wasn't living up to what other athletes were doing. Skipping training sessions- or cutting them short- every week made me feel like I was failing at this. It was like- on paper- I was just lazy and slacking... even though I knew I was giving it everything I had.
So I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders when she said 70% was realistic.

She looked at what training I have completed each week and said:

You need to stop stressing.
Here are the facts:
1. you are going to finish this race
2. you are going to finish your first 70.3 quicker then I finished my first 70.3
3. when you cross that finish line you are going to be so happy and forget all about this stress you are putting on yourself
From the looks of the sessions you are are fine! so do not worry your overachieving mind!!!

This makes me feel so much better.

Last week and next week I have Race Rehearsal days. On the Wednesdays I have a 2400 yard continuous swim. Last week I hit the lap button on my watch after each 600 yard portion was complete, and my pace was pretty consistent- and my last 600 was faster than the two middle 600s. I'll do that again next week and time it again. The distance is slightly longer than race distance (2112 yards), so I feel pretty good about my swim time on race day.

Last Thursday and next Thursday I have the bike and run portion of the race rehearsal: 3.5 hours on the bike at race effort followed by a 1 hour race pace run. I struggled with this last week and I couldn't maintain my race pace. But I still hung in there and put in the effort and got to practice my hydration and nutrition plan. And I was okay with not performing up to race day standards. It wasn't race day! Even my training plan said:

Treat this workout exactly like race day. You may be a little fatigued for this workout. On race day you'll be tapered and totally stoked

I can't even believe that the race is less than 4 weeks away. Time is flying! Overall, I'm feeling pretty good about it.

My main hopes and goals for the next 27 days are to ride out on the roads with some friends as much as possible to get more comfortable, and to nail down my bike fit so I'm not sore after each ride, and to hopefully get at least one open water swim in to try out my wetsuit and just get practice.
Open water swimming is nothing like pool swimming! I won't be able to practice in the ocean before the race, so a lake swim here is my only open water option... but this weather needs to cooperate! Last I heard the lake was 41 degrees! That's chilly!

Physically I'm doing okay. I managed to rip half my big toenail off last week while taking my shoe off (seriously, how do I do these things?), but luckily it hasn't interfered with training and doesn't hurt anymore.
My back pain from January never actually went away, but it was more annoying than anything. Yesterday it starting hurting a lot again and I'm not sure what I did to aggravate it, but most of the pain had subsided by the time I woke up this morning, so I hopefully it doesn't give me any trouble in the pool today.
Energy-wise I'm tired. But I'm always tired. But it's okay because I can still manage at least 70% of my training, so I'm staying calm and not letting myself freak out about it. Progress!

Oh, and no big deal, but after this week... I start tapering. WHAT?!

This sums up this whole process.

Thursday, February 26, 2015



The last couple months have had set backs and gains. Freak outs and boosts of confidence. Worries and excitement.
It's been a couple months of learning and growth.

I suppose I should start at the beginning.

In the beginning... there was Christmas! We went home to Michigan for 10 days and had a really good time. There was a lot of family time but also enough downtime. Nathan and I got some good runs in along the miles of dirt roads surrounding my parent's house, and I managed to get in a couple of key bike rides on my trainer. That was my ultimate goal for our trip; do my key rides and runs and skip the rest. I had no pool access, but I was fine with that. I figured I'd start back fresh in January and not lose too much by taking a couple weeks off.

At the end of our trip I came down with strep throat and an ear infection, then bronchitis a few days later. So much for starting back fresh in January! I had no choice other than to rest. After a week and a half I was able to ease back into things.

Before I was healthy again, my mid back started hurting. I didn't think much of it- my muscles are often sore and knotty. But it started hurting to breathe or sit up straight- and especially to swim. It also felt like my mid-back needed to crack- something was off- so I went to my chiropractor. I had a few ribs out of place and he got them back to where they should be, but after that it still hurt to breathe in. He said it could be two things; a rib stress fracture or an intercostal muscle strain, and it probably wasn't a fracture since I tolerated the adjustment okay. Rest and ibuprofen. More rest? Oh no! But still- no stress fracture- things could have been worse. But all of this was brought on by my violent coughing. Of course I'd get injured from bronchitis!

I went to my massage therapist the next day and she spent the entire hour on just my back. The strain and the rib displacement had sent my entire back into spasm. She said rib injuries are tricky to treat and recover from. That I needed to rest. For a least a week I was not to swim or bike or do anything that involved having my arms in front of me with any amount of weight in them (including washing dishes- thanks, Nathan!) By this point I was freaking out. I couldn't swim! And I had no definite time line of when I could again. Luckily running didn't make it worse- it hurt to breathe in but it didn't aggravate my muscles. I needed a couple more adjustments for my ribs that stubbornly didn't want to stay in place, but after a week I did a test ride and felt good. Another week after that I did a test swim of easy un-timed pace, and again, aside from the painful inhalations I made it through without any issues.


It still hurts to breathe in, but the pain is isolated and not causing other issues. And my pace isn't slower after all that time off from swimming. No need to freak out, after all!

Last Monday I did my longest bike ride to date (3:05), and last Tuesday I did my longest run to date (13.5 miles!) I'm starting to feel strong.

Some of my early training freak outs involved not having any ideas of my race day hydration and nutrition needs. I was clueless! And my training sessions weren't long enough to figure it out.
But finally my durations and distances are long enough to where I can figure it out and that's getting really exciting!

Towards the end of my ride on Monday my quads started cramping and it felt like they were about to get really bad. I got off my bike and ate salt straight from the salt shaker and managed to finish the ride. But it hurt! After my ride I ate more salt and a banana and walked around and my quads started behaving again. So now I know- I must be a salty sweater and need to replace what I'm losing. Otherwise, my nutrition seemed perfect. Finally, I'm learning things and I'm getting somewhere!

On my long run a couple weeks ago I only brought my nutrition and one bottle of water. Mistake! I need more water. Apparently dehydration affects me just as bad-if not worse- as hitting the Wall of Glycogen Depletion.
I brought along 2 bottles of water last Tuesday and felt so much better by the end of my run. But that still wasn't enough; I kept trying in vain to get every drop out of my water bottles during those last 20 minutes. But my nutrition was perfect, and my hydration was close. So now I know.

This week is a step down recovery week and for some reason my body always takes full advantage of recovery weeks and basically refuses to do much of anything. I went from a few weeks of managing 11-12 hours/ week of training to barely making it to 5 hours. I still have two more days to go, though, so hopefully I can get a couple more hours in. But if not, oh well.

I had already decided not to run this week because I've been dealing with a posterior shin splint and I haven't rested long enough to let it fully heal. I was only schedule for a few easy runs this week so I didn't think missing a week would be detrimental. Look at me! Resting and not freaking out about it! I must be growing up or something. The rest has been helping- my calf barely hurts today- so hopefully by next week I'll be good to go.

Overall I'm feeling good. The swim and the run don't worry me. I'm not fast in the water, but I'm comfortable with the distance. And I'm routinely running 10-13 miles without issues- aside from the cranky shin splint.

My main concern is the bike. What if there is a head wind or a cross wind? Can I ride in aero? How am I going to eat or drink anything when I've never been good at doing that? What if a lot of things. Some I can control and others I can't. Strength and endurance wise- I'm fine with. It basically comes down to bike handling skills and that's where I'm shaky. I just need the weather to warm up so I can get Kally outside and practice!

So that's where I'm at now. I have a good estimate of how long the swim and run will take. The bike is the variable.

But finish times aside- I'm getting really excited to do this! I'm ready to start the countdown:


Friday, December 19, 2014

St. Jude Half Marathon Recap and a List of Positives

I didn't mean for the tone of my last post to be so negative. Yesterday was rough, and I just had to be honest about it. Ultimately I’m writing this to document my training journey, and I’m not going to lie and say everything is great and easy. No long distance training is easy for anybody- healthy or not. Everyone struggles with something. I might have some different circumstances to work around, but I’m doing just that- trying to work around them (by skipping the zoo event last night). I just need time to figure out a good way to balance everything. It’s possible- it has to be- and so I’m hopeful. And I'm grateful for what I can do. But sometimes it still scares me and I still get doubts.

The positive things about Week One of training: I've ran a total of 20 miles this week so far, spent ~2.5 hours in the pool, and 2.5 hours on my bike. I have another hour on my bike tomorrow morning, and- time permitting- 20 minutes of running before work. So really, I might be struggling against myself, but I’m still doing it. I’m making it work. Week 1 of training won’t be 100% completed but it’s pretty darn close, and that’s all I can really ask for.

This morning I actually got myself out of bed at 6 and ran 7 miles before work! A victory! Honestly, I am not a morning person so that's huge. I’m really tired now, but I’m proud of myself. I probably would have been tired anyway, so at least this way I have a good reason to be.

Yesterday I rode Kally (my bike) outside for the first time since I got my aero bars readjusted. I spent the first 15 minutes with one arm in aero and the other hand still holding onto my handle bar. But I finally mustered up enough courage and let go and had both arms in. Yippee! That was a huge hurdle. I've ridden in the aero position once before the adjustment and it was terrifying. This time I felt more stable and was actually able to stay there for a while (for 5 Hail Mary’s!).

Progress and little victories! 

The St. Jude half marathon!

I love Memphis and St. Jude and this whole community. It seems all of Memphis supports this race and these kids and it's such a great thing to experience. There were 18,000 runners (12,000 were Heroes) and we raised over $8 million for the hospital!!

There were only two times I got choked up during the race- the first was when a St. Jude patient sang the National Anthem, and at mile 7 when a woman on the side cheering us on said “Thank you, Heroes. My daughter is alive because of you!” (So a HUGE thank you to everyone who has donated to St. Jude! It really does make a difference!). Running through the campus is always overwhelming, too. Even though I work there and am on campus all the time, it's a whole different place during the race.
The race support and volunteers were awesome. There were so many Spirit Stations along the route with all sorts of live music and patients and families were lining the whole course.

The taper week was uneventful- almost TOO uneventful as in… I only ran one time! But I was so tired and seemingly everyone in Tennessee was sick with some kind of something and I think my body was worn out trying to fight off all the germs. Whatever it was- it was a relaxing week and I didn't let myself get upset for too much couch time and not enough swim/bike/run time.
The night before the race we went to stay at a friend’s apartment that was about a block from the start. We ate our carb-y dinner and started getting ready to go to sleep and I commented on how weird it was that nothing had gone wrong yet. I wasn't sick or injured, no one was in the hospital, we made it to Nick’s safely... smooth sailing. So I joked around because something has to go wrong in every race- or at least it has up until that point.

We woke up on time- still uninjured and still not sick, the rain from the night before had stopped, there wasn't an ice storm like last year... I ate my 2 bananas and peanut butter and went down to the start line. I found Jess in corral 4 (I started in corral 10 last time... big improvement) and we talked and tried to stay warm until it was our turn to go. We ran the first couple miles together before she took off and ran an awesome marathon.

I'm going to miss my running buddy!

My ultimate ambitious goal was 1:53, but realistically I just wanted a sub-2 finish. I was coming right up to mile 13 and tried to really push because that two hours was getting too close for comfort. Apparently I pushed too hard and tripped myself and landed on my hands and knees. Some runners helped me up, and aside from my bloody knee and bruised hands I was fine. But as I went down I started laughing… there it was! The one thing to go wrong! My one minor freak out! It hid from me until the very end. I’m oddly glad it happened just to keep the streak alive.

My official time was 2:00:51, but my watch read the course as being 13.3 miles. So really, according to my watch, I ran 13.1 in 1:59:07 and made my sub-2 goal! I had a 25 minute PR!!!

After I finished I walked around a bit then stayed next to the finish line to watch Nathan finish his first half marathon! And although he claims he "hates running" (whatever that means) and that he’s a retired half marathoner, he did great and so I don't really believe him. 

Will I do this race again? I hope so!!! This is one event that is worth the drive from Michigan every year. So whether I'll be running or volunteering, I want to come down and be involved. Plus... if I ever decide to do a full marathon (oh, boy), I want it to be the St. Jude marathon.

Woohoo! Cold and sore but happy!
PRs for both of us!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Coming to Terms with My Own Civil War

The half marathon race recap is coming, but first I need to talk about my training freak outs.

Monday was the first day of my 19 week training plan. I successfully completed my swim and ride. Tuesday I successfully completed my long run (10 miles already? Seriously?) and my recovery ride, and Wednesday I completed my swim. Three solid days. It's a good way to start.

But I've been uneasy lately. Anxious. The anxiety from my summer meltdown never fully left me as it is (that alone is aggravating) and so this is magnifying it a bit. My favorite way to describe bipolar is that everything is amplified. Something good happens? Then it's extremely good. If something is sad, then it is extremely sad. If something is a bit stressful, then it is extremely stressful. If anything causes a little bit of anxiety, then it's full blown anxiety and panic and I shut down. Everything is amplified.

I like to pretend I'm healthy. I laugh about my caffeine intake like it's a joke, but really, it's the only way I can function. I like to think I'm fine and healthy. I have a full time job that I love and spend time with friends, I go for some runs. You know, normal things.

I hate to blame triathlon or my training for the anxiety, because it really isn't that. What it's doing is making me face reality. My reality. This training isn't allowing me to pretend I'm healthy. This training is finally forcing me to accept my reality for what it is and learn how to live with it. My body and I are waged in a civil war and I never know who will win. I can't hide from myself. I can't deny it anymore.

I feel like I need to stand up and say, "I'm Andi, and I have a chronic illness", not "I'm Andi, and I'm a triathlete". How do I reconcile the two? How do I do this?

I'm Andi and I'm a triathlete with a chronic illness. Isn't acceptance the first step or something?

I was assuming my half Ironman training would start out easy and gradually build up over the course of the 19 weeks. But my training hours per week are already longer than my longest week of half marathon training and I'm only in week one. I'm not dreading the training itself- I like doing these sports- if I didn't I wouldn't have signed myself up for 70.3 miles.
So it's more of a struggle to figure out how to fit in my training. It's a struggle to come to terms with the fact it's a struggle. It's hard to admit that I'm not healthy, that I have limitations, that I can't do everything, that I need to ask for and accept help. It's a struggle to fit in training and my responsibilities.

So as I said- I already have this underlying current of anxiety from August. Anything can overwhelm me and I just shut down. Simple errands, simple decisions, simple phone calls- anything that the average adult should be able to do can some days become too much and just paralyze me. That's been frustrating as it is- it's stuff I've been able to manage for all of my life and suddenly it becomes too much. It's been hard just to accept that I can't control my anxiety and feel like I'm failing at being an adult. I can't help but think I should be over this by now- that if I just tried harder I'd be fine. But that's now how any of this works.

I only have a certain amount of energy on any given day, so now running errands- grocery shopping, taking my car in for maintenance, simple things- scare me because if I do them before my training I risk wearing myself out to the point I've become too tired to train. Or if things are time sensitive I have to either wake up earlier to squeeze in my workout before I might feel physically ready to do it, or rush to fit it in between certain hours that may or may not be the best time of day for me.
Or I'm nervous that doing things at night will wear me out too much for the next day. It's not always errands- for example- tonight my work is hosting an after hours event at the zoo from 5:30-9. That's potentially 3.5 hours of walking around (well, 2.5 because I could easily sit in the bat exhibit for at least an hour), and I worry how much energy that will take. I know we don't have to stay the whole time (or maybe I could watch the bats for 3 hours...), but it's another limitation I have to accept. It's another limitation I have to impose on others- I have to accept that 3.5 hours (with an hour of bats) might be too much for me and ask for them to accommodate that. But I'd rather pretend that I'm healthy and just do everything.

And today my schedule is even more thrown off because I couldn't fall asleep until 2:30 last night and I didn't wake up until 10 instead of 7:30 like I had planned. So now I have to wait for my body to wake up and try to fit in all of my training for today before the zoo tonight and I'm feeling overwhelmed by that. Because I'm not ready for my bike ride yet but it's already almost noon. And my worry is amplified. And my anxiety is amplified. Logically I know this isn't a big deal, that I have plenty of time, but I can't seem to make my brain chill out.

I've been trying to figure out ways to rest more. To maximize recovery between sessions. To somehow streamline life and eliminate unnecessarily spending energy. And to control what I can because there is a lot that I can't control.

What I can control:

  • Nutrition
  • Hydration
  • Medication
  • Rest

What I can't control:
  • My body's response to those 4 things
  • My energy levels
  • My moods and anxiety

So that's where I'm at right now- stubbornly refusing to admit I'm sick but admitting it anyway, and easily being overwhelmed by every threat to my precious energy reserves. 

But I guess all I can do is do what I can, and hope I win the civil war each day.