Thursday, August 1, 2013

Ironman Lake Placid 2013 Race Report

Long story short, I am an Ironman!  For the past year, I waited for that title and it was worth every bit of work I have done.  It wasn't easy.  I had highs and lows in the race but for the most part, I spent every second on that course moving forward to finally cross that finish line.

I could talk forever about the days and moments leading up to the race, but I will lose you all as this will be a long report.  So have a seat and here I go...


I got to the race venue, early on Sunday morning.  I got to my bike which I racked the night before.  I pumped up the tires, put my Garmin on it and turned it on, and got all my bottles in their racks which were full of EFS.  I still had over an hour to go before the cannon went off so my husband, the kids and I all walked over to the swim start.  Once I saw the swim start, my anxiety was way too high.  Up until that point, I had been calm, the entire weekend.  I wasn't scared until that moment.  I knew with 45 minutes to go that I was about to start my 12+ hour day and there would be no stopping until I crossed that finish line.  That thought alone caused me to start crying as I finally let my nerves show.  I didn't want my kids to think I was scared so after they questioned why I was crying, I quickly brushed away the tears and had Eric take a quick before picture before I headed to the grass where all the racers were hanging out before they let us into the coral.

Just after my minor freakout.

The back of my amazing race kit from VOMax.

On the way into the starting area, I ran into Michele which was a huge blessing.  Michele and I went to the athlete's dinner on Friday and she was a source of calm for me.  She is incredibly inspiring so to have spent so much time with her talking made for a an even better experience.  We chatted before the start about how nervous we were and how neither of us could eat anything.  (I got up at 2am to eat 500 calories and consumed another 400 calories at coach advised me to try Ensure as it was a easy was to get calories in.  While it tasted gross, I knew that I had my calories I needed to race and the right amount of carbs and protein to get me through the day.)

Once they let us into the corals, Michele and I said our goodbyes and good luck wishes.  The new Ironman start had us lining up in corals based on the swim times we thought we would swim.  My coach wanted me in the 1:00-1:10 group as she figured I would be swimming between a 1:08-1:12.  I lined up at the very back of that coral and got ready for the canon.

All the swimmers lined up.  Green caps were the men, not many of us pink caps in there.

The swim start was very calm and peaceful.  They flowed people into the water but would stop us in order to not crowd up the water.  Luckily, I got stopped just after a group had gone in so I would be entering the water with no one in front of me.  When they finally let my group go, I started my watch and dove into the water.

The Swim

I am the pink cap in the middle of this picture...Notice no one in front of me.

As easy as a 2.4 mile swim can be, it was.  Every time I tried swimming near the wire in the water, I got clobbered or swam over so I swam pretty wide.  This was not in the race plan.  This would cause me to swim more than the 2.4 miles, but I wanted to remain calm for the entire swim.  The first 1.2 mile loop went pretty quick and very easy.  I sighted and just kept swimming.  Every once in a while I would hop on someone's feet and draft a bit until they went back into a group and I just continued along.  I made it to shore where we would get out, run over the timing mat and run back in.  When I exited I felt good, but if I had more time to think I may not have wanted to get  back in.  I quickly dove back in for my second lap.  This time, I did try swimming closer to the wire, as the kayaks were closing us into a smaller space.  Within the first 1/4 of a mile of that lap I got elbowed in the lip.  Flustered, I stopped, made sure I wasn't bleeding and then continued on. My plan to shut out pain for the day had already begun.  This lap was definitely more crowded than the first lap because we had caught up to the people that were still on their first lap.  I pushed and pushed and was finally to the final stretch and when my fingers touched sand, I stood up and started running.

Swim Time:  1:10:11  (Exactly what I had hoped for though I was still surprised I was able to swim that fast.)  22nd in my age group


Once I exited the water I saw the lineup of wetsuit strippers so I ran to an open group and was trying to get my wetsuit off my arms.  They saw no problem that I wasn't ready for them as they quickly pulled my wetsuit down to my waist, told me to lay down, and ripped my wetsuit off my feet.  My goggles went flying so I had to turn back and get my goggles and start my run into transition.  And this is when I noticed it had started to rain.  UGH!

Just left the wetsuit strippers and headed to transition.

The run to transition was all on a carpet (about a half mile run total) but I still took it easy as it was slippery and I was barefoot.  I made it to my bike bag, grabbed it, and ran to the women's changing tent.

I quickly realized I must have been in a large group of swimmers as I had no volunteers to help me but no worries.  I knew to I was to get dressed and throw all my stuff on my bag for a volunteer to pack up and get back to my rack.  I threw on socks, my shoes, helmet, and gloves.  I sprayed myself with some sunscreen and put my fuel in my back pockets as well as my sunglasses as the rain took away our sun, but I had hope that it would eventually come out.  I stood up and ran out to find my bike.  The bikes were all lined up and you just yelled out your number as you ran to your rack so that they would have your bike ready to go.  I got my bike and ran to bike out where I mounted the bike and headed out for a fun little bike ride.

T1 Time:  7:13


You all know me from the blog as a runner, but this past summer, I fell in love with my bike.  A short summary of my bike is that I had a blast out there and felt like I could go forever.  But, I also have to admit, the only time in 140.6 miles that I thought about quitting was on the bike...

Not a great picture on bike out as it was raining and Eric had to use his cell phone.

Leaving bike out my heart rate was so fast.  It was pouring rain and we had turns and some steep short hills to get out of town on.  There were riders all around me and I was scared.  I got to the right and went slow.  (The first 5 miles of my bike took 22 minutes!  This is super slow for me but I needed to be slow in order to gain some composure and get ready for my day.)

Once I calmed a bit, I settled in and started the climb out of town.  Now let me tell you, Lake Placid is a tough bike course.  Everyone talks about the 3 Bears at the end of the course, but the climb out of town was in my opinion one of the tougher hills.  Climbing out of town, I kept my legs spinning and began passing people who weren't as good as climbers.  I started to have fun and finally started calming down.

I was calming down but my anxiety was building.  Not long after the climb out of town there is a screaming descent into the town of Keene.  I never rode this course before nor would I let myself ride it in a car.  I was scared for this part of the course so didn't want to make my nerves worse.  Unfortunately, it was still raining going into the downhill and the roads were wet and slippery.  This was my worst nightmare coming true.

When I saw the first "Truck Low-gear Sign" I braced myself and began the descent.  The downhill was steep and fast.  Not only did I not get into aero for the descent but I white knuckled the brakes down those 9 miles.  It sucked like you wouldn't believe.  People were flying by me and I was squeezing and petrified.  And this, my friends, is when I thought about quitting.  Yes, 10 miles into the bike of my Ironman I was ready to be done.  There was NO way I could do that downhill again.  My hands hurt and my heart was beating too fast.  Curving and down I went.  I finally made it down to the bottom and saw a sign that displayed your speed.  I was going 18 MPH at that point.  Ha!  18 at the bottom of a hill, my brakes were probably going to have to be replaced after I finished the race.

And then, my day got better.  We made a turn out of Keene and started the rolling hills and out-and-back portion.  I flew at this point and saw my speed increasing.  I was getting comfortable passing people and grabbing water at the water stops.  I was taking in my nutrition and felt great.  And so I just rode.  At around mile 30 you go over a timing mat and turn around and head back the other way.

A short time later you make a right turn and begin your exit from the the town of Jay and the hills began.  (If you track anyone doing Lake Placid you will notice two totally different splits for the first 30 miles and second 26 of each lap.  The second 26 are obviously loaded with hills.  This hills started much sooner than I had anticipated.)

The hills began and I got into a small gear and spun and spun.  I didn't want my heart rate to get too high during those climb so I focused on staying calm and not pushing too hard.  I passed a lot of people on the hills.  My little road bike seems to climb much better than all those tri bikes around me.  I may not be as light as those other bikes but I was a climber.

While I was going up and down those 26 miles, I really started to enjoy my ride at that point.  The scenery was beautiful and the rain had finally stopped.  You could finally appreciate the beauty of the Lake Placid course.  You do one more short out and back just before Wilmington and then you start the 11 mile climb back into Lake Placid.

I stayed at the campground in Wilmington so had driven the hills back into town for the past few days.  I never thought they looked bad, but had heard stories, so mentally I was prepared for a tough ride.  You would climb and then it would level out and descend a little.  Then you would climb again.  Nothing was steep at this point.  Just gradual, easy climbing.  That morning I had seen where the 3 Bears began and I was ready.

With only a few miles left to get into town, I finally hit Mama Bear.  I thought to myself, let's do this and started climbing.  Well that short little thought was all I needed to push me up that short little hill.  Baby Bear was next and I don't know if you can really call it a hill but rather a bump in the road.  I flew over that one.  And then it was time for Papa Bear.  You saw it coming because it was lined with people.  It was amazing and fun!  :)  I again passed so many men on the hill and enjoyed all the cheers and waves and clapping I got.  I got up the hill and made a turn to head into town.  There were a few more little hills after this climbing into town, but nothing worth noting.  (I am guessing they were the Cherries--but I have no idea where the official Cherries hills are so I will just say you climb a little bit more.)  At this time the streets are lined with people.  I have no idea how far I was from the halfway point but I just soaked in my ride into town with people all around me.

After a few turns, I made it to the Bike Special Needs area but rode on by as I didn't feel like I needed to switch out anything.  I rode around the high school and made it to the split for the second lap and headed on my way for loop 2.

Loop 2 was just as fun and easy as the first lap.  If anything it was better because the roads were dry.  I headed out of town and the climb out of town was slightly harder than the first time.  I expected this but took it easy and started getting prepared for the descent into Keene.  Since it had stopped raining, I knew the road was dry and hoped that I would be calmer on the downhill, and thankfully I was fine.  I hit the downhill and rode it pretty well with minimal braking.  At one 5 mile increment I had averaged 30 MPH so not as fast as some people on that downhill but I was proud of myself for remaining calm.

After the downhill was over I did a fist bump in my mind.  I still had 40 miles to go, but I knew I was done with the hard part of the bike.  I hit the rolling hills hard.  I tried my hardest to get into aero as much as possible on Sunday, but at mile 70 my back was starting to get mad at me.  I knew I wasn't really hurting my time much by riding up on the bike, but some jerk decided that my non-aero riding wasn't ok with him.  He made a rude comment to me but I brushed it off as I was riding quite well even if he didn't agree with how I was riding.  (I passed him on the uphills on the way back and didn't see him again, ha!)

The rest of the bike literally flew by.  I couldn't believe how six hours could go by so quickly.  I did start getting a stomach ache at one point and took some pepto bismol.  The stomach ache did go away pretty quickly, but unfortunately that was only the beginning.  After climbing back into town, I did my final celebrations on the bike and headed to the bike finish line.

Bike Time:  6:12:18  (18.05 MPH)  19th in my age group


T2 was much faster than T1.  I got off the bike and someone immediately grabbed it from me.  I saw some people bending over taking off their bike shoes and I thought, what a great idea.  For me, it wasn't a great idea.  As soon as I started running my feet felt cramped up.  I immediately thought about how I was going to run with cramped up feet.  I ran/shuffled to get my run bag and headed to the change tent.

The change tent was much less crowded than T1 so I got 2 volunteers to help me out.  They took my bag and emptied it out.  I started removing my socks to dry my feet and put Body Glide on.  The volunteers put my race number on me, filled my pockets with more fuel, and got my hat on my head.  Before I knew it, I was throwing my stuff in a pile and heading for run out.

T2 Time:  4:09

The Run

And so it began, the marathon that just about kicked my butt.  I ran out of transition and took off.  My feet and legs felt so good.  I immediately got excited and looked to my Garmin for my pace to make sure I wasn't going out too fast.

My goal was to hit mile 1 in 8:15 and then slow it down.  Mile 1 came in just under that and I felt amazing.  I ran to the first water stop and had them fill up my handheld water bottle for me and kept on moving at a pretty good pace, around 8:25.  When I went to drink my water, it was already gone.  The darn thing wouldn't stop leaking.  I kept moving along and would fill up more and grab water to drink just incase.  I took my first sip of my gel shot at mile 4 and thought I was doing great.

Mile 4...Still feeling ok.

Mile 4...

Mile 4...

And then mile 6 hit and my stomach was done playing for the day.  I started getting nauseous and slowed it down because I kept remembering "stomach hurt, slow down and drink".  So I did, but it wasn't working.  The only think that kept the stomach cramps away was walking.  But walking at mile 6?!  That was not in the plan at all.

Mile 8 and beginning to not feel good...

So the next 14 miles were all about trying to fuel and make it to the next porta potty.  I had more gels.  I drank a lot of water.  I walked when I was in pain.  Nothing was calming my stomach down.  I would go to the bathroom but nothing was happening.  It was so frustrating as I knew if something would just come out I would feel better, and maybe avoid some stops, but it was all for nothing.  I stopped at least 9 porta potties throughout my entire marathon.  Probably more.  Coming back into town was mentally a little bit better as there were crowds but I was just feeling like crap.  I tried smiling and just kept moving.  You do an out-and-back to run by Run Special needs, where again I skipped because the candy in that bag did not sound at all appetizing at that point.  At around mile 12.5 I had a porta potty success and I was in the clear, at least for a short time.  I ran out, grabbed some water and an orange and took off with a little bit more of a smile on my face.

My relief only lasted about 2 or 3 miles.  By mile 15-16 I wasn't feeling great again.  I literally would run hard, get sick and walk and talk to the other runners.  Then repeat.  Every time I ran, I felt great.  My legs felt amazing.  I was so mad at my stomach as I knew I had so much more in me.

Mile 18...

Mile 18...

This part of the race is normally when I would have thought about quitting.  Fortunately, quitting didn't cross my mind once during the marathon.  I used the energy and kindness of the other runners to keep me moving.  A few times, rather than go to a porta potty, I went to the side of the road to dry heave and try and make myself throw up.  I had runners stopping to rub my back and make sure I was OK.  The people out there were AMAZING and made my day so much better than it could have been.

At mile 18ish I ran into a Massachusetts man and we talked a lot.  I never make it a point to run with someone because I don't want someone to walk for me and vice versa.  We were both on about the same pace with our walk breaks because we kept running into each other.  At mile 20 I made my final stop at a porta potty and I had another success.  It was definitely a long stop and I saw my time ticking away but I finally felt ok after leaving that stinky thing.  I ran into my friend and he talked me into drinking Perform.  (Perform is like Gatorade and I did not practice drinking before the race.  I tasted it at the beginning of the marathon and I didn't like it so avoided it.)  I didn't want to drink it but figured, what the heck, I was already dying, maybe that would help.

And, by mile 21, I started to finally come back to life.  The first few miles were still slow once I started feeling better but I was just completely exhausted.  I knew I was so close to that finish line.  With 4 miles to go I looked at my watch and saw I had 44 minutes to go sub-12:30.  I knew I had been well over an 11 minute mile at that point so was a little worried.  I wanted to be under 12:30.  I walked through a water stop and looked up and saw a friend from my gym.  I hadn't seen her the entire race and here she was at the same point of the race as me.  She had been running a pretty steady marathon so I thought I would try to latch on and hold on for as long as I could.

She told me she was walking through water stops and running the rest of the time.  She was planning on running up the final hill into town.  Yeah, I wasn't running up that hill, but I told her I would hold on for as long as I can.  Well, I did hold on and those final 4 miles were amazing.  We chatted until the crowds got large distracting me from any stomach pain that wanted to slow me down.  We hit the crowds and I started smiling.  I was in the homestretch.

We got into town and we ran up the hill.  People were cheering for us as we weren't just running, we were killing that final hill.  We got up the hill and she saw her family and told me to go ahead.  I had 2 miles to go and I had begun my victory celebration.  People were cheering and I just kept moving.  I made it to my final water stop with 1.5 miles to go and I walked to take in my final drink of Perform and my friend caught back up to me.  We were ready to finish.  After the turn around I knew I had less than a mile to go.  I was at mile 139 of my day.  I could not believe it.  And so I got a bit faster.  My friend told me to just go as she could tell I was ready to run fast.  (My final 1.2 miles were at a 8:38 pace, so not fast but my legs obviously felt good.)

I am the one next to the yellow flag with my arms in the air.

Blurry one headed to the was raining again thus the cell phone pictures.

Heading into the finish line.

I got to the entrance of the arena and I was ecstatic.  I was cheering, screaming, and so so so happy.  I was almost done.  I entered the arena and people were yelling for me.  I ran, I cheered, I headed toward the finish line.  With less than 100 meters to go I heard Mike Reilly:

"And another first timer, Robin Nichols from Westford, Massachusetts.  You are an Ironman, Robin!"

The words I had been waiting for.  The word that had pushed me through 14 miles of stomach cramps. I was an Ironman.  I crossed the finish line and got my medal.  My day was over.  My year-long journey was done.  I made it.  Ironman.  140.6 miles in under 12 hours and 30 minutes.

Run Time:  4:49:29 (11:02 pace) 26th in my age group

Overall Time:  12:23:20
Overall Rank: 783/2536
Gender Rank: 129/644
Age group Rank:  26/102

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Ironman Week & VOMax Sponsored Athlete

Seriously, how did this year fly by so fast?!  I signed up for Ironman Lake Placid just over a year ago and guess what is this weekend?  Oh my goodness I am going to be racing an Ironman in five days!

For the first time in a long time, I am enjoying taper like you wouldn't believe.  I am feeling rested and ready to race.  I have quite a bit of anxiety, but I think I am handling the stress of an upcoming race quite well.  Yesterday, I spent the day cleaning my house.  I called it nesting, and my husband informed me that I should be resting not nesting so today I am sitting.  I have my lists written for all my bags and will get my packing done tomorrow.  Emails have been sent to my coach and texts have been flying to my friend doing the race.  So lots of nervous energy, but I think I am finally getting excited.

Something that really helped my excitement was that I got to race this past weekend!  I received an entry for the Iron Girl sprint triathlon through my work as Athleta was a sponsor of the event.  When I received the entry I wasn't sure if I would actually do the race.  After a rough final month of training, I was so excited to hear that I could race the Iron Girl.

I will do a race report after my Ironman, but I will say that it went pretty well.  I wasn't as fast as I was last year at the same race, but I did still grab 1st in my age group.  I wasn't expecting a fast race as my runs lately have been slow.  My run was by far my worst part of the day, but this was expected.  I am trained to do a long distance triathlon, not a sprint triathlon.  It was a great warmup for next week and gave me the confidence that I am getting rested and am in great shape for a good race next week.

The Iron Girl also gave me a chance to represent my new sponsor for the first time.  I am now a sponsored athlete for VOMax.  VOMax makes custom cycling, triathlon, running, and nordic gear. Their products remain like-new after washing and are made of an anti-microbial performance technology that prevents offensive odors.  You can fully customize your VOMax performance apparel with your own artwork for team and event use.

I spent a few months this summer searching for triathlon gear as this runner had nothing but running clothes.  I wanted a triathlon kit that was both comfortable and looked great for Lake Placid.  When I received my VOMax tri kit in June, I was so excited to feel how lightweight it was and couldn't wait to try it out.

My initial thought when trying on my kit was how comfortable it was.  The top was a perfect fit for my body and the bottoms were not the low-rise that I am so used to when looking for triathlon bottoms.  I really loved the colors and pattern and really hoped that my initial thoughts would hold true when testing out the kit on the road.

Sunday, was obviously not my first time wearing my VOMax kit.  I have worn it on many long rides.  Things I have loved about my VOMax kit compared to other triathlon gear that I have are:

  • The shorts stay in place during my ride.  I HATE shorts where one leg starts moving up in the middle of the ride.  This causes unnecessary chafing and I will spend the whole ride moving it down.  My VOMax shorts stay in place and are really lightweight so they don't feel heavy when I am sweating like a crazy person.
  • The padding in the shorts is the right amount.  This is huge for me as the long miles add up on the road and that padding can make a huge difference.  The chamois is the correct size and the stitching isn't raised at all which was nice as other shorts have caused a lot of irritation from the placement and rise of the stitches.  
  • The top doesn't ride, at all.  This was a huge determining factor for me when choosing my triathlon top for Lake Placid.  I HATE seeing my stomach hang out of my tops in race pictures.  It is inevitable.  I will spend an entire race adjusting my top so that no camera person will catch my stomach hanging out.  So far, I have not had any issues with my shirt riding, so HOPEFULLY this won't be an issue at Lake Placid.
  • I love the pockets in the back of the top.  There are two large pockets on the back of the top and they have elastic on them.  This makes for easy access to my gel flasks and salt tablets and also I don't have to worry about losing things when I put it back there.
  • My kit didn't move during my swim, at all.  I did not test out my kit in the water before Sunday.  I was hoping for a wetsuit swim but decided to go without a wetsuit just incase Lake Placid was not wetsuit legal.  I could have been wearing a swimsuit as my kit was so comfortable and stayed perfectly in place during the swim.  I was worried about a shirt riding up during the my swim or being annoyed by the shorts but had no such problem.  I wore my heart rate strap under my top and the top seemed to keep that in place which was a relief because I have read stories of the strap dropping to people's stomachs during the swim.
So obviously, I am in love with my new triathlon kit from VOMax.  What I am most excited about is that I got to design my kit for Lake Placid.  When they sent me the design forms, I kind of freaked out.  I have no artistic/graphic design abilities at all.  So, I sent the graphic designer a few photos of what I would love to see in my tri kit and he went to work.  I got the proof back and somehow he put my vision into a kit.  I don't want to show you all the proof as I can't wait to show you the real thing when I get it back, so you will all have to come back to check out what I will be racing in on Sunday. 

If you are looking for a triathlon kit for your upcoming race or even a cycling jersey, please check out VOMax, I promise you will be very happy with your experience with them.

**I am a sponsored athlete of VOMax.  They have provided me with the triathlon kit in my review but all opinions are my own.  I have not been compensated for this post.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Mechanical Problems & Injuries

Please pull me out of my training abyss!  I obviously have been totally missing these past few months, and I can list a ton of excuses.  But it all comes down to my normal extra blogging hours were dedicated to training and recovery.

So what have I been up to?  A lot!  Ironman Lake Placid is less than 3 weeks away and I have been busy getting ready for the day.  I will fill you in on some of my mishaps.

Back in June, I was having an amazing 100+ mile training ride.  I was at about mile 80 and feeling really good.  Suddenly I couldn't shift any of my back gears.  Hmmm, I was doing some heavy climbing so continued to try and cycle through the gears thinking they were just stuck.  In the middle of a big climb, pop a cable goes flying up.  Oh my goodness, my heart rate skyrocketed.  I should have immediately thought about my gears, but all I could think was that it was a brake cable.  How in the world was I going to get home with no brakes?  Then my mind came back down to reality and I realized it was my shifter cable.  I pulled over to the side of the road and had a look.  The wire was frayed.  I called my husband, quite frustrated.  He basically told me that I could still ride but that I was stuck only being able to use the front rings to shift which meant I had a heavy climbing ring (I was stuck in the hardest gear in the back) and the big ring which was good for coasting.

So I pedaled my ass off for the next 30 miles.  And just as luck would have it when shifting back into the small ring after a huge descent, my chain fell off.  AHHH!!!  I was not smart and didn't pull over immediately.  Many times, I had been able to push my chain back into place with the derailleur.  Well today was not my day and when I finally did pull over my chain was a mess.  All tangled and around 18 miles from home.  And hot!  I called my husband, again, crying.  I was hating life.  Another biker rode on by not even asking if I was ok.  (I had stopped at about hour 2 of that ride for another rider who needed help, so karma was surely not on my side.)  Eric decided to come get me because I thought my day was over.  Finally, after calming down a bit, and full of grease, I placed my bike on the ground and got my chain back on.  HUGE sigh of relief.  I was going to get to finish my long ride.

I hopped back on my bike and took off and vowed to not touch the shifter and stayed in the big ring the rest of the ride.  BIG mistake #2 of the day.  I worked my butt off to get home in that big ring.  I had to stand on the climbs and flew on the downhills in order to get momentum to get back up the other side of the hills.  My average pace was awesome for those final miles, but I knew I was trashing my legs in order to get there.

I rolled into my driveway, about 30 minutes later than I had planned but finishing 109 miles in 6:00.  I was so excited as this was a distance PR.  I ran inside to switch into my running shoes and go for my run.  And, this is when mistake #2 came to bite me in the ass.  As soon as I started running, I knew something wasn't right.  My achilles was screaming within a few steps.  (During my long run, 2 days prior, my calves were incredibly tight and pushing the big ring made my calves even worse.)  I should have called it a day immediately, but there was no way I was not going to complete my 7 hour workout after working my butt off to get that bike done.

And, so I ran for 40 minutes.  I wasn't in pain during those 40 minutes, but I know my body and I knew my achilles was not happy with this run.  I finished up, proud of my day.  But, by the end of the night my achilles was swollen and I was in pain.  Less than 2 months to go until the Ironman and I knew I was injured...

I can promise you, I am not normally a cautious person when it comes to injuries.  I have many times run through injuries and made things sooooo much worse.  I knew with the amount of time I had to go, I couldn't take any chances and took two days off.  After the second day off, I went for a bike ride and it felt fine.  So I figured, we were good to go and went for my long run on Friday.  Again, no pain on my run, but it didn't feel right.  I stopped every 2 miles to walk and see if it was in my head and I had no pain.  But my ankle tendons felt weird, not in pain.  Post-run, I was much more miserable than I was during the run.  UGH, this was so not what I was hoping for.

So, I swam the next day and headed out for a shorter long bike on Sunday.  Again no pain while riding.  When it came time for my brick run, I promised myself, no funny feelings.  If I felt even a twinge, that was it.  I put on my running shoes and took off.  17 seconds later, I stopped.  I was not running, it was time to rest.

I went home and emailed my coach and told her I was taking the week off from running.  I wanted her to load me up with swim and bike workouts because I knew I could handle those, but no running.  Mentally, this killed me.  I knew I was approaching taper and my longest run was only 17 miles.  But, I knew if I wanted any chance of running any of the marathon that I needed to let my leg heal.  Physically, I knew the increase in bike miles would help as the bike is my weakness.  I could feel tightness while on the bike, but I never was in pain during or post-ride, just tight.  That week, I also did a lot of strength exercises for my ankle.  I wanted to get the muscles around the tendons to be strong so that I could allow the tendons to have less stress while running.

One week later, I attempted a brick run after a 90 mile ride and I made it!  :)  No pain.  I got home with tears of joy, knowing that my self control to rest when I didn't want to helped me to heal much faster than I was used to.

Has my running suffered from my little hiatus?  I think so.  Unfortunately, my return to running coincided with a heat wave, so who knows if my slower pace is due to the heat, tired legs, or lack of running.  But, I am still running strong a few weeks later and all ankle pain seems to be gone.  But, I have to admit, Ironman training has really worn down my body.  I can alter my gait for a short time and another tendon flares up, and my immune system seems down.  I have been really focusing on getting extra sleep, drinking water, and avoiding all injuries at this point as I know my body is ready to give up on me.

And if you made it this far, learn from me.....Know your bike and know your body.  Apparently, shifting cables should be replaced every year.  They don't normally snap like mine but get your bike checked out.  My chain was also stretched out way too much thus had been dropping a lot.  Chains should also be replaced annually.  And, if you know something doesn't feel right with your body, you are probably right.  All the miles on your legs have taught you what is right and what is wrong.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Have You Made it to Your "One-derland"?

In my early 20's I was incredibly overweight and thought, poor me, I just don't have the right genes.  I weighed over 200 pounds (much more, but we won't go there today) and just assumed that I would always have a 2 in front of my weight.  When I joined Weight Watchers in 2007, it wasn't my first time.  I knew I would be successful, at least temporarily, but making it to the "One-derland' of weight loss was not even a possibility.  Well that summer, the weight melted off and I made it below 200 pounds and it was a celebration to finally make that goal that I never thought possible.

My Weight Watcher anniversary coincidentally was this past week.  Six years ago I started my weight loss journey that will hopefully be my last journey of losing weight.  This past weekend, I made it to a new "One-derland" for me.  This was another place that I never in a million years thought that I would reach, and I did it again.  You bet there were celebrations going on in my head that day.

On Sunday, I had a 5 1/2 hour bike ride on my schedule.  I knew these long rides were coming, but I still hadn't grasped what that meant.  Based on my past rides, I knew that if I could maintain an 18ish MPH pace that I would be close to making 100 miles in that ride.  100 miles!!  'Are you kidding me?' is all I could think about when thinking of hitting that number.

The first 80 miles actually went really well minus the terrible wind and cold that decided to roll in for the day.  And while, the final 20 miles were really tough, I felt amazing.  I was hitting that bump in my training that I knew was coming but didn't know how I would get there.  From 90 miles on, I counted down the miles to this huge milestone.  (My longest bike ride before this was 74, so I had PR'd the distance, but 100 still seemed so far off.)  95 miles in and I had tears in my eyes and was pumping my fist.  You would think I was about to cross a finish line.  I had to pass my house to get the distance in, but when my Garmin finally clicked over, I just smiled.  I made it to a new "One-derland".  I am a cyclist and had just finished my first century ride.

And, I know this won't be my final Wonderland.  This just proved to me that I can reach that much further to accomplish things I didn't think I had in myself.  Do you have a goal that is so huge that the day you hit it, you will be in your own Wonderland?

***And an FYI, I will have a race entry give away coming up that I am really excited about, so please check back.  And for the local Massachusetts runners, Steph has a giveaway going on right now for a local race!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Where Do Triathletes Live?

Everywhere, right?  But, that is not what I am asking.  I want to know where is the best place to live in the United States that makes for one fun year of training for triathlons.  Why do I ask?  Let me back up a bit...

I am starting PT school in August.  I am so so so excited.  I am going to be a Physical Therapist in three years.  When I graduated from undergrad 10 years ago, I never pictured myself going to graduate school and here I am about to start.  Starting school is a huge step in my life and my family's life.  I will be busy for 2 1/2 years and then ready to start my career.  Three years may seem like a long time to people, but I know it can go very fast.  Eric and I were talking this weekend about where we want to be after I graduate and the "where" really did mean "WHERE?".

I love the town I live in.  We moved here when my oldest daughter was 3 months old.  But, when we bought our house it was under the assumption that we would upgrade in 7-10 years.

Here we are, 8 years later and our house is only worth what our mortgage is sitting at.  Thank you housing market crash for ruining our plans.  The schools are great here and we live in a good location for training.  I have a nice rail trail 5 miles away from my house that I can bike to.  I have run so many runs on this trail that I know it like the back of my hand.

I can go on a bike ride from my house that will be full of hills and little traffic.  I love all this for training.  But, what I do not love is that it is cold and snowy way too long in Massachusetts.  I was on my bike trainer into March this year and did one too many long runs on my treadmill.

That was about 5 months of being on the trainer.  UGH!  I know it could be worse, but I also know it can be better!

So now, the conversations have started.  Where should we move after I graduate?  I am LOVING training for the Ironman so know this is only my beginning.  Where can I live that I can train closer to year round outside?  Here in Massachusetts, we have run clubs everywhere.  There are only a few triathlon clubs.  I have read blogs about others having large triathlon clubs where they live, where are you located?  Where can I find good running trails and fun bike rides with limited traffic?  Hills, no snow, training partners, and miles of beautiful trails.  I know you exist somewhere!  Oh, and I can't forget good races.  I can tell you about all the great local Massachusetts races so I am sure you all have great local races that make living in your community that much more fun.

And, training is obviously, not my only priority when looking for a new place to call home.  Where can I find a this type of  community combined with good schools and jobs?  I know I may not find the best of everything, but I would love to hear about where you live and why I would want to live there.  Share with everyone why you live in the perfect place for endurance training.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Massachusett's Iron Girl 2013

One of my favorite parts of working at Athleta is speaking to all the women that come in talking about their sports that they enjoy.  If someone mentions triathlon, I get even more excited to share experiences with them.  If we talk about triathlons, I am quick to mention the Athleta Iron Girl which will be taking place in Massachusetts in July this year.

Last year I participated in my first sprint triathlon and this year I will be headed back to the same event, which has now become the Iron Girl.  The Masscahusett's Iron Girl event is July 21st in Webster, Massachusetts.

If you have ever thought about trying out a triathlon, I highly recommend an all women's triathlon such as this event.  All types of women show up for this race.  Competitive, non-competitive, mothers, sisters, daughters, grandmothers....You will feel comfortable here!  The swim is incredibly relaxing including swim angels floating around encouraging you and giving you a friendly hand if needed.  The bike and run are FAST, they were over before I even knew it.  The finish line is AMAZING and one I smile every time I think about it.

A little bit of information about the event:

Iron Girl’s Mission is to Empower Women Toward a Healthy Lifestyle!

Launched in 2004 with just two events, the Iron Girl brand has grown to now include 18 events nationwide, varying in distance from 5K, 10K, 1/2 marathon to duathlon and triathlon.

Iron Girl's mission is to empower women toward a healthy lifestyle. The Iron Girl event experience provides women with a competitive platform and amenities such as: a post-race catered Breakfast Café, performance shirts sized just for women, professional timing, personalized race bibs, custom finisher medals, post-race giveaways and much more. The Web site is filled with training tips, guest columnists and nutrition information. Iron Girl has also furthered its offerings with the addition of with items such as hydration and nutrition products, jewelry and sports bags. The Iron Girl brand has been featured in a range of media outlets to include USA Today, The New York Times, Runner's World, Family Circle, Ok! Magazine and Women's Health.

Event Details:
Date: Sunday, July 21, 2013
Location: Lake Chaubunagungamaug
Entry fees:  Sprint Distance Triathlon   1/2 mile swim/12 mile bike/3 mile run
     $95.00 until June 21
     $105.00 until July 20
     (you must be 18 years old to participate in the sprint distance event)
**Note there is an additional $12.00 fee for non-USAT members to cover your one-day permit through USAT)

Read more:

To receive a discount to the Iron Girl event please enter WESTFORDMOMMY as your Coupon Code.  You will receive $10 off your entry.  This expires June 1st.

Please let me know if you decide to sign up for the event as I would love to share training stories as we get ready for our goal races.  My sister is also competing this year and I hope to share some of her training as she gets ready for her third sprint triathlon.

**I was given a free entry from Iron Girl for this year's event.  All opinions are my own.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Tales from my Long Ride

Yesterday I spent my Mother's Day on my bike.  Besides the time I spent with my kids, I wouldn't have want to spend my day any other way.  I rode for four hours followed by a 40 minute brick run.  Four hours of alone time leaves you with a lot of time to think and so I will bring you along on some of my thoughts...

Last week I completed 14 hours of training in preparation for Ironman Lake Placid.  This was around 6 1/2 hours biking, 4 hours running, and over 3 hours swimming plus 30 minutes of core...14 hours!  It was my third week of building so luckily I will have a rest week this week.  As for how my body is responding to training, it is doing amazing.  My mid-week rides are in the mid-19 MPH.  My runs are still averaging low 8's.  My swimming is showing improvement on times and I feel strong in the pool.  The most notable is while I am tired at the end of the day, I am not overly sore nor feeling burnt out, YET!  Do I feel ready for Ironman?  I can only answer that with a big, ehhhhh.  :)  I know I can do it and feel more confident than I did last year.  But, I am afraid of the long ride.  My back starts aching at the end of my rides.  It starts aching further into each ride so hopefully with many long rides I can reach the 6 hour mark before it starts hurting.  In 2 weeks I have a 5 1/2 hour bike ride on my schedule.  I am scared of this one.  I know I will be approaching 100 miles with that ride.  And I am only 2 weeks away from it.  SCARY!

This long ride was full of climbs.  Miles and miles of elevation gains.

Those small blips at the beginning and the end were hard hills for me last week.  This week they were just blips as I felt like I was climbing a mountain out there.  The whole ride I wondered what my elevation gain would be and how it would compare to Lake Placid.  Climbing for 10+ miles with really no breaks was really really hard, more so mentally than anything.

My plan for the day was to make it to my new school's main campus and turn around.  (This was around 35 miles from my house.)  I had every intention of taking a short break there and taking a picture.  Well, I didn't make it there.  This was very hard mentally as I looked at my average pace and saw 16.5 MPH.  This was really slow compared to what I have been riding lately.  In hindsight, I probably could have made it all the way there as I had to add on a lot of miles at the end due to my faster speed on the way back down the hills.  But, I stopped on a downhill as I wasn't ready to climb that hill on the way back.

The way back was much more eventful than the way out.  I FLEW down the hills.  I had one 5 mile stretch average over 24 MPH.  While riding downhill was physically easier, mentally I freak out.  One of my biggest fears for Lake Placid are the steep downhills, so I just got in aero and focused on being steady and calm.

After completing the downhills, I got back into the busier roads.  And this is when my day turned not so good.  I was riding along at around 19 MPH and I see a dog dart out from across the road into the street to run after me and hear its owner yell at it.  Immediately I heard a car hit the dog.  I turned around and saw the poor dog.  My heart dropped.  Why oh why wasn't that dog on a leash?  This was a very very busy road.  I spent the rest of the ride thinking about that poor dog.  I am not a dog person at all, but I love my pets.  The thought of losing one's pet hurts me so much.

When I first started running, I got chased by 3 dogs and was bitten by one of them.  The owner denied it was his dog that bit me so I had to get rabies shots just in case.

I was bitten at around 8am on a Sunday morning, but again on a busy road.  Why wasn't that dog fenced in or on a leash?  Why do owners think they can just yell at a dog and expect that it will listen.  I run on a quiet trail and often times someone's dog will chase me as I am running because the owner doesn't have it on its leash.  It drives me crazy because I am afraid of getting bitten again.  I know these owners feel comfortable with their dogs being off the leash, but I wish they would take into thought that some people may not be as comfortable.

My heart rate rose so quickly after this.  My adrenaline was flowing and I used that adrenaline to bring home my ride.  I picked up my pace and rode fast and actually enjoyed the end of my ride.  I had to add on extra miles as my average pace on the way back was so much faster.  (My overall pace for the day was 18 MPH, so I must have been well over 19.5 MPH on the way back.)

And 72 miles later, I made it home.  I was full of adrenaline and proud of my day.  I am ready for the next long ride and to see what challenges are ahead.

Monday, May 6, 2013

My Boston Marathon Thoughts

It has taken me 3 weeks to return to my blog to write.  Not because I haven't had time.  Yeah, I have been busy, but I have wasted a lot of time.  It took me this long to write, because I needed to process my thoughts before putting them into words.  I look forward to getting back to normal writing and talking about triathlon training, but I know a bridge has to be made between then and now.

I don't plan on writing a race report for the Boston Marathon this year.  I still haven't looked at any of my photos.  The joy of a race was ripped from the runners and spectators on April 15th.  I will bullet point a few things about my race as I know some people were wondering what happened during my race.

  • I was incredibly relaxed going into this race.  I didn't set my expectations high and felt no nerves at the starting line.
  • I knew in mile 1 that my legs weren't fresh.  I did a two hour workout three days before.  Boston wasn't my goal race and I was OK with this.
  • Even though I knew I wasn't going to hit a PR, I still went out at a PR pace and held a 7:30 pace through 15 miles.  This wasn't easy, but it wasn't terribly hard.
  • Mile 15, I went to take my salt tablet so that I could take a gel and my salt was gone.  My heart dropped and I lost all normal thinking.  My last gel for the entire day was at 90 minutes.  My stomach was hurting and my legs started cramping on the hills because of the lack of salt and electrolytes.
  • I ran with a friend from mile 18 on.  She kept me moving, along with my co-workers who were waiting for me at mile 24.  These ladies kept me moving to finish my race faster than I could have hoped considering I had given up mentally at mile 16.

  • I visited two medical tents.  Miles 21 and 23.  They didn't have salt tablets but they did have bouillon.  It was cold and gross, but within minutes of taking it my head cleared a little bit and the cramps started going away.  I thought about stopping for the day at both these medical tents.
  • I finished in 3:44.  I don't know the seconds because I haven't looked up official results.
I really don't feel right talking about post-race.  I will just leave it with this, I went through so many emotions that day that it took me over two weeks to even begin to rest.  I am finally sleeping through the night.  All the victims and families have been in my thoughts non-stop these past 3 weeks and will continue to be.  The strength that I have seen emerge from such a tragedy is so incredible.  

I will be back for the Boston Marathon in 2014.  When I crossed the finish line, I said absolutely never again.  The Boston Marathon is a tough race and I wasn't sure I wanted to do it again.  But, I will be there in 2014 as this city takes back their race and their day.  

And, thank you all for listening to my rambling.  It is a relief to finally get it out of my head into words. I have so much to share and be excited about but I had no idea how to move on without making a mention of something I wasn't ready to talk about.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Goals for the Boston Marathon

It is my favorite time of year in Massachusetts!!  Boston Marathon weekend starts in a few days and I am soooo ready for it!

I have been MIA from the blog these past few months.  I somehow thought having my grad school acceptance would mean more time to relax, but this semester has been even crazier.  School, work, training, kids.....So much going on, but I am ready for this weekend.

Training for Boston has been different than last year and than a normal marathon training cycle.  But I still feel pretty strong.  My mileage is WAY down compared to the past.  I only averaged 30 miles a week.  Before I started triathlons, I averaged 55-60 miles a week, so this was a big change.  But my cross training is up there bringing my total work out time to 25%-50% more than a normal marathon training cycle.

Boston's start line before the crowds hit it.

I ran 3-20+ mile runs.  Two of those runs had quite a few marathon pace miles in them and were completed on Heartbreak Hill.  I know the Boston Marathon course.  This could be a bad thing as I know the part that mentally messes with me, but the hills don't scare me.  I don't think I could be more ready for this race.

Goals.  Ahhh!  I have goals for Boston.  I have more than one goal for Monday, and I haven't quite decided what my A goal is.

My PR at Boston is 4:29.  Unless something goes really wrong, I am pretty sure I will PR Boston, so this is Goal #1.

I would love to earn a Boston qualifying time at Boston.  This is a sub-3:35.  I am already qualified for Boston next year, but I think a Boston BQ sounds cool.  So, qualifying for Boston is Goal #2.

Sub-3:30 keeps floating around in my head.  I am afraid of setting my goals too high for Boston, so sub-3:30 is Goal #3.

PR.  Wow, I don't know if I have it in me to PR at Boston, but you can bet I would love to go under 3:24 at Boston.  I was on pace for much faster than 3:24 at Disney when the heat hit and I slowed. I know I had a faster time in me.  Sub 3:24 is Goal #4.

Sub-3:20.  3:20 is just a crazy fast time in my head.  I know I am capable of this time on a great day and on the perfect course.  Do I think Boston is THAT race?  I don't know.  I know the course well enough as well as my body so I know where I will slow down.  I will say this goal out loud, as I would love a sub-3:20, but it is a FAR goal and I won't be at all disappointed if I don't get there.  I know I will get my sub-3:20 in the near future, so I put that goal out there without high expectations.  Goal #5.

So, did I confuse you?  I have lots of goals and have yet to decide the time I am shooting for.  But, I am pretty much OK with that because I will be happy with a well run race even if it doesn't mean meeting all of my goals.  I have a race plan for Boston, and honestly, I have no idea what time my race plan will equate to.  :)  I plan on executing my race plan which is to hit marathon pace for many miles and then to hold on to a conservative pace on the hills and then see where it leaves me at the top.  See, no time, just a plan.  This is a plan that I am really comfortable with and one that I think will leave me with the confidence to get up the hills and hammer the last few miles at whatever pace my legs are ready for.

And there you have it, the infamous goals post.  I am so excited to share with you about my upcoming weekend which includes an invite to the exclusive Runner's World Boston Marathon party.  Marathon weekend, I am ready for you!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Athleta Giftcard Winner!!

Sorry, sorry, sorry, I have been a non-existent blogger.  I have been so busy with school, training, work, and kids, that I really put the blog on a back seat for a while to alleviate stress.  Unfortunately, that also meant that I didn't draw my Athleta gift card winner.

Thank you again to all who donated to my store's TNT fundraising.  I really appreciate your generosity.  With that, I did a drawing and my winner is:

Brenna, please send me an address where I can send your gift card to.  

And with that, I need to get back to studying.  Boston is in 2 weeks, and training has gone as good as I can hope while training for an Ironman at the same time.  I hope to do a training update before the big day.  Here is a picture of me at the top of Heartbreak Hill and mile 21 of my amazing training run on Saturday.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Grad School Update & Training for Boston

First off, I got into Grad School!!!!!

My wait is finally over and I know where I will be next year.  I start the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Franklin Pierce University in Concord, New Hampshire, in August and couldn't be more excited.  I know my life is going to be totally different as I trade my running shoes for studying, but in three years I will finally have a career that I can be excited about.  My sister even got me a sweatshirt to celebrate!

AND the Boston Marathon is next month!  :)  Yeah, I haven't spoken much about Boston on here because my focus has been on Lake Placid.  But, I am still training and running Boston.  On Saturday, I headed down to Wellesley for my first training run on the course.

Saturday morning was beautiful out.  It was cold, but no snow finally.  My longest runs since Disney have only been 12.5 miles and have all been on the treadmill.  My plan for Saturday was to warmup for 3 miles and then do 3x2 miles at 7:35-7:40 pace.  By starting in Wellesley, I would be doing my 2 mile intervals on the Newton Hills.  No big deal right?

I started running with some girls in my run club who said they were going to run 8:15ish pace.  Within the first 1/2 mile I noticed we were under 8's so I decided to stay with that for my warmup and just run by feel even if it meant leaving the company of other runners.  I turned onto Comm Ave and headed up the hills and ran my first fast mile in 7:20.  

(Don't know what my right foot is doing in this picture)

With the hills, I was able to hold onto a 7:40 average for those faster miles.  At the end, I did slow it down above the 8 minute mark.  I knew I could push it but I also knew I had a long ride ahead of me the next day.  

I absolutely love training on the Boston course and am so thankful to have the opportunity to do it.  I feel comfortable out there and hope that that comfort will transfer to feeling comfortable at Boston on April 15th.

My Athleta gift card give away ends this week and I don't have many entries.  You have a great chance of winning a $100 gift card to spend at Athleta or online for a simple donation of $10 to our store's Team in Training.  Please see this post for more details.