race reports

never settle: IM Vineman Race Report

Sharing thoughts of my heart and courage on saturday at IM Vineman. That 140.6 race I completed on July 30, 2016, my “A” race of this year.

Here’s how it all went down.

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Ever feel like you want something so badly that you can almost taste it? I believed I could do well at IM Vineman and have a PR and get  on the podium. I had never been in better condition to do this distance, mentally and physically. SO prepared.

Cue Race morning.

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It was chilly, foggy morning in Guerneville. At the race start, temps were reading in the high 50’s. We were staying a 10 minute walk from the swim start at Johnson’s Beach and it made logistics so much easier. It’s a point to point race and we did not have to worry about driving and getting to the start like so many people did. sweet! I highly recommend staying near Guerneville if you do this race, parking is kind of a nightmare on race morning.

THE SWIM

The 2.4 mile swim was in the Russian River, which was beautiful.  The backdrop on race morning was something I will will not soon forget… the redwood trees lining the river.. breathtaking.

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There aren’t many IM races where you can watch the swim from a bridge.

The amateur race start was at 6:45 AM, a rolling start.  let me just say, I am a HUGE fan of the Ironman rolling start (thank you Ironman!). I started with the wave that was 1:00-1:10 estimated swim finish, which was perfect.  It was the first time I’ve done an Ironman swim that was not chaotic.  It was what seemed like a ‘casual” entry, with me and thousands of my friends. I was not scared at all, no punches, no kicks, just SUPER calm. It was an out an back and also very shallow and some spots, where I had to adjust my stroke not to scrape the rocks at the  bottoms. This was by far the most calm IM swim I’ve ever had. The algae was a little gross.. chunks of it floating in the water, but I had to just get over it. At times, a lot of people were actually walking, I just kept swimming, despite how awkwardly shallow it was. I did a steady effort and felt comfortable and within my limits the entire time. When I got out of the water, I looked at my watch and was like holy s*it, 1:03!! I planned to do a 1:06, so I was so pumped! A 3:00 minute IM Swim PR!

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Being an AWA racer definitely has it’s perks. My bike bag was set up right after the pros, and it was easy to find exiting the water. I grabbed it quickly and ran into the changing tent.  I still  need to get faster at T2, ugh! I just find it’s hard to get my stuff together after swimming… one day!

I ran out of the changing tent, grabbed my bike in the 1st row (sweet!).  The bike mount was at the bottom of the hill, some people were walking their bikes , I chose to ride up the hill, making sure I was in a low gear for that ! It was there when I saw Brian cheering for me.

THE BIKE

As I started the bike ride, my first thought was “it’s COLD!” The air was still in the low 60’s and it felt really cold. I opted not to wear my arm warmers for aero reasons, but as a result I was very chilly for the first hour or so. The sun was not out in the beginning and there were some hills, going down them was freezing! After a mile or so, I noticed my power meter wasn’t working. I thought it might have something to do with the area (bad service, in the woods) but no…. the battery was dead. *note to self* check power meter battery before racing an ironman.. lo and behold. they don’t last forever. Mine decided that July 30th, the day of my biggest race of the year, it was going to die on me.

I had a choice, I could  get pissed off about the power meter not working, I could freak out and get all worried, or I could accept it and move on. I chose the later. This is where mental toughness and race experience comes into play. I knew what level I was supposed to be working at, I knew the watts, my legs knew what these watts felt like, so I went by feel and perceived rate of exertion.  I was supposed to ride at 70-75% effort, and I tried my best to accomplish that. I also looked at heart rate and made sure it was staying steady and not spiking on the hills.  I made sure not to go out too hard in that first loop, I was ok with a few girls passing me, knowing that I might have a chance on the run.  Brian had told me I was 6th after the swim, and this gave me the confidence in knowing if I had a strong bike, I could run some of the girls down in the Marathon later…

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The bike ride was GORGEOUS.  Albeit, I couldn’t enjoy most of it since I had to stay tucked in aero- turtle turtle turtle:) The Vineman bike is very undulating, lots of rollers and some sharp turns. It’s not like other races I’ve had where there’s long screaming downhills (think IMMT).  It was challenging, but fair.  There was one significant climb at mile 45 and again at mile 95 ish, Chalk Hill (the one hill of the course everyone talks about. Well it couldn’t even compare to what I’ve been training on in VT and NH, it was really no problem at all. Plus I LOVE climbing. I rode through hundreds of vineyards and enjoyed the sights on the climbs. People were out cheering in some of the sections, which was so fun! For most of the bike ride, I was riding alone, it was quite empty out there. I think with the rolling swim start, it really spreads people out – not complaining!  There were a few mishaps on the bike besides the power meter malfunction: I dropped my chain once and I took a wrong turn late in the race. I had my head down and missed a turn off – oops! I also hit something with my rear wheel at mile 107, later to find out that it was a nail in my tire. It decided to hang on until after the race (are you kidding me?!) and I didn’t get a flat during the ride. I heard a noise had had no idea what it was… thought I might have a flat but it never happened… until later.. Wow was I lucky.

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After the bike, I moved quickly to T2. I was almost the only female in the changing tent (a good sign?) and the volunteers were incredible.  I swear I had four women helping me all at once, it was awesome.

THE RUN

By the time the Marathon started it was hot and the sun was out.  I had no idea what to expect on the run course, since I had not driven it (like I did the bike course).  It was unexpectedly hilly and three loops. I loved the three loop course because you could really figure out where your competition was.  Run a steady marathon was the name of the game. Ironman races are won in the last 10 miles, this is where you are either hurting or thriving.  I have been in the hurt before during those last 10-13 miles, when I’ve gone out way too fast in the beginning. I did not want to make this mistake again and I would not do anything but “run easy” during those first 10 miles. I followed my heart rate, focused on drinking what I could pouring water all over my head and back.  
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I had worn the Coeur Zele top for the bike and also wore it on the run., wow what a game changer!! It was a hot day and I felt cool, amazing! The fabric makes you stay extra cool on the run when you pour cold water on yourself, like magic.

“Steady Eddy” was the name of the game.  I felt super smooth the entire run and some fellow racers even commented on how good I looked “you’re making this look easy” this one guy said.  Brian was back at the “hot corner” tracking me and the leaders of my AG. By lap 1 he told me I was in 4-5th place, by lap 2 I knew I was in 5th place, by the start of lap 3 I was 4th place.. and gaining on the 3rd place girl. I kept calm and focused step by step on what I was doing. I started to think I would be “ok” with 4th or 5th place, but who was I kidding, I really wanted top 3. During the third lap I was getting tired, but still was able to crank up the pace a bit, telling myself, I have waited all year for this day, I have worked too hard for this, I have busted my ass for this race, it’s supposed to hurt, it’s supposed to really hurt, everyone is hurting.. I have trained on hills just like this… I knew I was about to make something happen, it was just a matter of “when.” Mile 22 was the final turn around, I had 4.2 to go and I could tell the 3rd place girl was slowing down when saw her before I turned and I was gaining.  I continued up and down the hills I wasn’t seeing her anywhere. There was one really big hill at the last mile of every loop, wow that burned! After the hill it was a nice downhill towards the high school, where the finish line was.  I ran through “hot corner” and people were cheering loudly.  I knew I was in 4th place and I had begun to accept it… sort of..

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After I rounded the corner into the finish area, I could see a pink tri kit, the one of the girl I knew was in 3rd place. I figured I could catch her, I knew I could.  I sprinted my ass off to catch her.. I caught her.. and I kept on going…  running as fast as I could, I ran my heart out… I passed her and she wasn’t hanging on… down the finish chute I went, so proud!

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Final Results:

10:34:09

3rd Place Age Group: 30-34

4thh Place Amateur Female

8th Place Overall Female (including pros)

18 minute IM PR for me!

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At the awards ceremony the next day, I could have gotten the first roll down to Kona (#1 took her slot and #2 was already going).  I decided to pass it up (so hard!) since we had plans to go to Australia for 70.3 Worlds.  I will get back to Kona one day, I just know it!

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**A VERY Special thank you to Coeur Sports andE3 Triathlon Coaching for all that you did to get me to this podium at Vineman! **

life

on being mindful.

This post might come across as rambling thoughts… but I hope it helps you.

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If I could think of one potential drawback to being a long distance triathlete it would be, that I spend a lot of time in my own head. A lot of time.

Hours upon hours alone, with just me and my thoughts.  This can be both a blessing and a curse.  On the positive side, it allows me to work on mental toughness. On the negative side, if you are a worrier and have anxious tendencies like myself, it can be detrimental.

One thing you might know about me is I have a problem with worrying. I worry about the past, the present, the future – all the time. I worry about what’s next. I worry about what happened years ago. I make up stories in my head. I will spend my time in the pool swimming laps, going through negative spirals in my head, for example. I recognize this isn’t healthy nor is it fun, and I am committed to working on it. All this worrying and anxiety leads me into a tailspin and to be honest, it’s f*cking exhausting.

I realized I wasn’t being present. For example, in daily life it was all about “what’s next.” After work I have to do x, y, z and this and that.. and then it’s bed time aaaand then repeat the next day… and the next day… All of this worrying is not healthy and a lot of it as to do with not being able to “let it go” when it comes to a lot of things in my life. It was to the point where I got used to this way of living…. until I couldn’t take it anymore. Something had to be done.

So, why is it so freaking hard to just be PRESENT? To just let things go……….. to just breathe….

While I don’t have answer for you, as to why it’s so difficult to “live in the moment” … so cliche right? (I feel like so many people say this phrase but aren’t actually living it). I do know what has worked for me thus far, and it has made a difference in this little head of mine:

Mindful Meditation. 

I have committed to daily meditation and this has been a GAME CHANGER.

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At first I thought mediation was something only yogis did.  I thought it was kind of weird? I thought I didn’t have time for it, I was too busy.  Being an athlete, I have always been determined at everything I do.  I am in peak physical shape and proud of it. However, my mental health was starting to crumble and it wasn’t just affecting me, it was affecting those around me. I decided that in order to be happier, I had to work on my mental health too. I am now just as determined to work on my mental health as I am my physical health.

The thing with meditation is, you have to practice it, DAILY for it to actually work.  It’s can’t be a half ass thing that you do every once in a while. You have to work at it, you have to commit. The more you meditate, the better you get. It’s that simple. Or is it? Not so fast.

I meditate for 10 minutes a day. 

Funny how 10 minutes a day of meditation can seem like a lot of time. I used to think “I don’t have time for this” but it’s 10 minutes. That’s it.  If I can run for an hour AND swim after work, I can meditate for 10 minutes a day. What meditation teaches you is, to not shut out the thoughts in your head, but to let them come in, and then just go back to the breath. Anxiety is an emotion, it’s part of life, and shutting it out creates even more resistance. I am working on just letting my thoughts come in, and then letting them go……

What has helped me the most with my meditation practice is the headspace app.  It has been life changing. For anyone that is looking to get into meditation, I highly recommend it. It walks you through guided meditation and I have found it to be extremely helpful and the driving force in my mediation journey.

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Here’s a good example of how it’s helped with my racing:

At the Raleigh 70.3 a few weeks ago, my anxiety was at an all time low. Before the race start, I sat on a rock by myself, and just breathed. For the first time in a long time, I was not wheezing and having trouble with my asthma during a race… could it be? All of this time thinking it was my “asthma” that was the root of the problem, could it just be that I was really anxious? I think it’s a good possibility. I practically didn’t need my inhaler when i finished. Are you kidding me? This was awesome.

Recently, I have noticed a big shift.

all of a sudden the things that  used to bother me, bother me less

I process things differently in my mind

I have learned to just breathe.

The hardest part is “letting go” of certain stuff, but I am working on it. that’s all I can ask of myself. 

I used to care about what other people thought about me and place tons of value on it.

I used to care so much about what people thought about my decisions in life, especially those who are close to me, to the point where I wasn’t making decisions I should have been making.

I used to need reassurance for EVERYTHING.

I used to be anxious. all. the time. I’m getting better.

And I’ll leave you with this…


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race reports

Raleigh 70 point 3 {Recap}

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, or even a blog post for that matter.

Here we go…

Raleigh was kind of a beast, but I loved it.

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A few things about Raleigh 

  • It’s hot
  • It’s humid as f*ck
  • Point-to -point race
  • The people are really nice
  • The city is really clean
  • It’s SO GREEN everywhere, and so lush. Now I think I know why they call it the “city of oaks” ?
  • It’s a tough race
  • Rolling hills for dayssss..but not as bad as the course profile makes it out to be
  • No shade on the run – think Kona-like conditions
  • Pizza at the finish line!

Our adventure down to Raleigh started with a long road trip the Thursday before race day.  You know things are good with your significant other when you are still laughing after 11+ hours in the car… that’s all:)

Thursday night, after driving 7+ hours, we stayed in Fairfax VA . I got to see one of my best college gal pals in the AM on Friday, then we were on our way to Raleigh.  Four hours later, we made it to Raleigh, did all the check in stuff, registration, spent more than we needed to at the athlete expo. I talked to the head referee, who was way cool, and got my wrist brace officially approved. I had been emailing him to make sure it was OK to race with a wrist brace on my arm.

Thumbs up!

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Friday was all the typical pre-race stuff, including a carb load dinner , which I think we both got food poisoning from (awesome).  If it wasn’t the food, it was something we contracted during our travels, because we both spent all of Friday night and Saturday feel ill (I’ll spare the details). Grrrreat.  Because getting sick is great for staying hydrated before a hot race, not.

Saturday morning started with a pretty shake out bike ride on the Greenway and a short run… then is was off to carb load!  The only thing was, we didn’t feel like carb loading. In fact, we could barely eat our pancakes. I was so nauseous… way worse than my typical pre-race jitters nausea. The pancakes were a struggle, and to be honest, I wasn’t even that full for a carb load.  I spent the rest of the day hydrating like a champ and relaxing as much as I could. My carb loading faves are non-fiber and low fat foods such as: pretzels, fig newtons, sports drink, bread.. and more bread… basically nothing that’s healthy for you, but is great for loading up for race day.

Later that afternoon we drove out to Jordan Lake (40 min drive) to drop off our bikes at T1. We weren’t allowed to swim in the water at the lake, but I touched it with my hands and it was WARM. Kind of like sitting in a warm bath tub feels like… this mean’t no wet suit! A “small” detail I didn’t know about Raleigh until after I signed up: It’s a point-to-point race.  It makes for more details to tie up before the race and a little more confusion.  There were two transition areas, T1 at Jordan Lake and T2 in downtown Raleigh.

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The transition area in T1 was gorgeous! I got a money spot thanks to my AWA standings (thanks Ironman!)

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After sweating our butts off during transition set up, we drove on the bike course for about 30 miles (highly recommend this with any race) and it was cool to see what to expect the next day! Then is was back to the hotel for vegging out and trying not to be on our feet as much as possible.

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training posts

Training Lately

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Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve done a training post. I’m still actually training. Trust me. Well, minus the virus and respiratory infection I just got over, ugh! Luckily, it was good timing after a big training camp in Arizona and my muscles were probably grateful for the recovery time. Now, it’s full speed ahead to triathlon race season 2016! I also BEYOND pumped to be racing with Team Coeur for the second year in a row.

I have a few races on the horizon- cannot believe race season is almost here! Race #1 is just over one month away, crazy!

  • First race coming up is Ironman 70.3 Raleigh on June 5 (hoping to get a spot for Worlds in Australia!)
  • For fun I’ll be riding in the B2VT ride, A 140 Mile killer ride from Bedford, MA to Okemo Mountain, Vermont
  • If I don’t qualify for Worlds, I plan to race 70.3 Syracuse in late June. Sidenote: Brian is racing at IM 70.3 Worlds in Australia and I hope to race too! Even if I don’t race, I’ll still get a cool vacation out of it.
  • My “A” race is Ironman Vineman on July 30th, in Sonoma, CA.  This is the first year it’s an M Dot race, and I’m really looking forward to racing around beautiful wine country! This will be my 4th Ironman!2015-vineman-vineyards

So, how is training going?

swimming.

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This winter I made some big gains in the pool.  For the first time in five years, I have not been part of a Masters swim team. While I do really miss the social aspect of Masters, I have found that swimming alone allows me to focus more on my weaknesses and work on drills. I have spent hours in the pool with paddles, ankle lock, snorkel, etc. I feel like I have gotten faster and my times are looking quicker than last year.  A big breakthrough for me was timing my 200 yards all-out and finishing in 2:39.  I do not have a swimming background (i.e. did not grow up on swim teams) and I have had to work hard on getting fast in the water. Hopefully this all translates well into open water, which is always interesting to see!

biking. 

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Now this is where I’ve seen the biggest amount of change, cycling.  The decision not to run Boston this year was an easy one, especially after Kona. For the past three seasons, I’ve ran Boston , and for the last two, I’ve ran Boston and raced IMMT (and this year + Kona…oyy). Last year,  after doing Boston, IMMT and Kona, I was craving a break. I knew that if I focused on my bike fitness (my “weak spot”) this winter, it would potentially mean HUGE gains come race season. The focus of winter training became: build my POWER “atttic” on the bike, which meant working on lots of TOUGH (make you want to throw up) intervals on the trainer this winter.

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Instead of doing long training runs and breaking down my body like years past, all winter long, I did trainer rides and shorter runs.  And after all of this hard work, I feel stronger, leaner and more powerful than ever before on the bike.  According to my coach, I am three months ahead of my fitness from this time last year, when looking at data files, this is huge . With every pedal stroke I can tell I am stronger and things are just ‘clicking’ (no pun intended) .  I have also had the pleasure of traveling via plane for some training rides, including Florida and Arizona!  I will talk about my AZ trip in a separate post, but I did get down to Florida for a few weekends in a row in March and rode outside with Brian, which was a blast!

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running.

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The way I describe my running lately…. smart, in control and fast. I run frequently (4-5 days a week), mostly at endurance/steady pace i.e. not pushing it.  Once a week I do hill repeats and on weekends I add in a transition run on Saturday post bike ride and a long run on Sunday, typically no longer than 12 miles. I have kept injuries at bay with a focus on foam rolling , stretching, and dry needling. I feel like I am in a VERY good place with running and I look forward to ramping up my mileage and speed-work in the coming weeks. Running has felt super easy and pain free, often I feel like I’m flying.  This is a very good sign going into race season.  As mentioned before, i am so grateful I did not race Boston this year and I can go into the 2016 season with FRESH legs!

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I’m excited to see where my dreams take me this year… :)

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Kona

ONIPA’A: Finishing what I started in Kona

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In Hawaiian Onipa’a means “be steadfast, resilient and resolute.”

Each year they pick a theme word for the Ironman World Championships.  The theme word of Kona this year was: ONIPA’A. Given the day I had on the big island, this could not have been more fitting for my race.

And now I’m going to finish my story.  

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After the swim, I had a long day ahead of me.

The sun got hot, really, really hot.  I expected a tough day out on the Queen K , like everyone tells you about, but holy shit that was hard. The good news is, it’s hard for everyone. Everyone is struggling, everyone is hot, everyone is battling the wind… you aren’t alone.

I navigated the Queen K as best I could, while staying in Aero for the majority of the race. My biggest fear was the crazy ass crosswinds, rightfully so… I’d heard stories of athletes literally getting blown off their bikes, so needless to say, I was a little nervous.

I heard Andy Potts (Male Pro, Coach & 4th place at Kona) say after the race, the hardest thing about the bike course is that it’s mind numbing.  You literally look at the same scenery the ENTIRE time.  It’s lava fields, grass, and pavement.. that’s it.  Everyone thinks: “ohhh Hawaii , that must be a beautiful bike ride.”  Well, yes, I guess it is beautiful, but it’s like the freaking desert.  I saw the ocean in the distance, but could not look at it because of the strong winds. I had to keep my head down as much as possible.  To pass the time, the focus was on my watts and fueling. I stuck to my watts, but it was hard to get up to speed at times because of the wind. It was a constant fight out there.

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The course is an out and back and the turn around is at the top of the climb to Hawi, where it actually rained on me that day! For the majority of the ride, I had a GRUELING headwind. However, one positive to it being an out and back is, you get to see the pro men and women zipping by on the other side of the highway, helicopters watching up above, very cool!

The bike ride went by fast, despite how difficult it was.  I think I was so excited to be racing that course, I just tried to enjoy it.  I could tell I was getting a sunburn when I was a few hours in, and I knew it could be a bad situation later on. My quads were starting to get red, and I feared I did not  reapply enough sunscreen in transition.  Towards the end of the ride I was also getting very nauseous and I no longer wanted to eat or drink (bad news).  So, not only did I have a raging quad sunburn (that was now swollen), but I had a stomach ache… oh and 26.2 miles ahead of me..  The bad thing about the heat in Kona is, you actually can’t really tell you are sweating (well, at least for me personally).  I was really happy when the bike ride was over, but I knew that I had a long run ahead of me, and I wasn’t feeling well from the start. 
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Bike time: 6:32:14

( I had hoped to break 6… but I was ok with it)

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