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my life

iron life.

More often than ever before, I’m being asked: why do you train for such an extreme event like the Ironman? And then race 140.6 miles? How is this possible and how do you fit it into your life?!

All good questions.

Yesterday, when trying to figure out my Asthma/breathing troubles, my MD said to me: what’s wrong with just running 3 miles every day? He then proceeded to tell me that my Asthma and allergies probably wouldn’t be this bad if I wasn’t an ‘elite athlete.’  Granted, I’m not ‘elite’, but in his eyes, I am.  Compared to the majority of his patients, I guess I could be considered elite:)

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Well you see doc, running 3 miles every day, just isn’t enough for me… I have bigger fish to fry:) (I didn’t say this by the way, but it did get me thinking…)

I laughed…. sure there is nothing wrong with running 3 miles a day, and that’s not why I laughed ( I think as long as you are exercising in some form or another, you are doing something great for your body). I laughed because deep down I know I’ll never be that person who runs 3 miles a day… but can you imagine all of the free time I would have if I was?

It can be easy to get caught in the triathlon bubble, specifically the Ironman bubble. What once seemed like an absolutely insane feat to me, all of a sudden seems normal?  This is my way of life, this is part of who I am, my identity. How the heck did this happen? I was doing sprint triathlons just 4 years ago.

Recently, more than before, I’ve been thinking a lot about WHY I do this.  Why would someone in their right mind want to train up to 20 hours a week, while working full time with a long commute… leaving little time for anything else… heck, I forget what having free time even feels like.

Or… maybe it’s because all my friends are having (second) babies and I’m getting ready for my (second) Ironman. It has me wondering, am I doing the right thing? I know in my heart I’m doing what I want, but it’s certainly not normal.  Then again, I don’t want to be normal. Normal isn’t fun.

And there are times when my mind rambles about all of this…. Should I be traveling and exploring new places with Todd instead of training my face off? Will I regret this when I’m older?  Should I be having kids now instead of waiting? What’s the point of all this, I’m not going to be a Pro? IS this healthy, for me?  Is it too extreme? I would have so much more free time if I were just a runner… I would have so much more money if I were just a runner…. or a gym-goer… full disclosure: most of the money I make funds my habit. I would be able to hike so many mountains, camp every weekend in the summer… Our home would be decorated to the nines if I didn’t do triathlons… I WISH I had the time or the energy to decorate. I have so many great ideas… I guess I could go on… What I do know is, it’s all worth it.

This morning, I was tired… so tired that I could barely open my eyes.  Sure, I could have slept in, but that would mean doing my hour of intervals after work/commuting… and then figuring out when to get my run in.  I got out of bed (slowly) and crept into my ‘courage cave.’  All that stood before me was my bike and my bike shoes… I just had to put them on… easy, right? My body felt stiff and tight… I was not feeling this ride at all. Tried to do some dynamic stretching, but then just got on the bike, hoping it would warm me up. And then it happened. Usually after the warm-up, I start to feel my groove and settle in. I had 4 sets of 7 minutes at Z4 HR (my threshold i.e. not being able to talk pace) with a 1 min at Z1 easy in between sets.  For the 4th set I had to go EXTRA hard!! After the first one, I didn’t think I could finish the workout.

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But I did it… I finished. It got dark and dreary at times, but I did it. I was a sweaty freaking mess afterwards and it felt amazing.

And suddenly, there was the answer I was looking for….

Ironman training challenges me, it changes me, and it makes me into a person I never thought I was capable of being.  It takes a lot of GUTS and sacrifice to train for a 140.6 and it sure takes a special person to live this lifestyle.  No one is making me do this, I love this lifestyle. I need to remember this, I hope you do too.

Trust your own {iron} madness 🙂

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my life

Currently

I’ve enjoyed reading both Erin and Abby’s recent Currently posts, and thought I would do my own today 🙂

Most of my posts lately have been about the marathon and my IM training. While there is so.much.training, there is also this thing called life and I’m trying to stay above water find a way to balance it all…

“Wherever you are, and whatever you do, be in love.”
― Rumi

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A view of the Boston skyline taken on a lunch walk

 

Bike commuting

This week I made a BIG change in my commute. Tired of sitting in a traffic jam to get to the train station (and paying $7 every day) I figured out an alternative. My friend/ lovely neighbor had an old bike she was no longer using and offered it to me for my commute. It has worked out perfectly and today was my third day in a row riding to the train station. It’s about 7 miles one-way and there’s a locked parking garage for bikes at the station. It takes the same amount of time as sitting in traffic (sometimes less). Not to mention, I’m MUCH happier! Talk about a win-win!

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Loving

My new job at InsideTracker has been awesome so far! Getting to talk to athletes every day doesn’t feel like work:) Also, knowing that I’m helping others reach their best potential is a great feeling.  The best things I can hear are, ‘I’m sleeping better’ ‘I’m recovering faster.’ Love having a job that makes a difference. I’m looking forward to my second blood test next month to see how I’ve improved from the last test!

Slacking 

I’m haven’t been sleeping enough lately. Tisk tisk. I know, I know… One of my goals has been to improve my sleeping habits and I’m finding I’m still not getting enough. I need ‘wind down’ time before bed, and lately that has been spent foam rolling and streching:)

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Trying

The art of balance. Per the above comments, I am figuring out how to balance a new job, longer commute and Ironman Training. Not easy! I’m always up for a challenge, but I’m not going to lie, I’m feeling more stressed out lately. Dinners have been boring (think frozen veggies, grilled chicken, brown rice) and I’m no longer eating before 8:00 PM at night. Most days I train before and after work, hence the late dinner time.  Food prep on the weekends is tough because of long training days… hopefully I get the hang of it soon!

Monitoring

I recently jumped on the  HRV (Heart Rate Variability) bandwaggon and started testing my HRV daily.  I use the ithlete iPhone app and the finger sensor to test. It has been fascinating so far!

Heart rate variability (HRV) is a relatively new method for assessing the effects of stress on your body. It is measured as the time gap between your heart beats that varies as you breathe in and out. Research evidence increasingly links high HRV to good health and a high level of fitness, whilst decreased HRV is linked to stress, fatigue and even burnout.

ithlete measures your HRV, as well as your resting heart rate, every morning during a one minute test. After you have built up a baseline over a few days, the ithletesoftware algorithms compare your daily readings with baseline to determine if any significant changes have taken place. These are reflected in traffic lights for  the day’s training and in a chart to help you track trends. {source: ithlete}

How does HRV help with my training? It’s a way to optimize performance and avoid over training. For example, I took my HRV levels the day after the Boston Marathon and they were SUPER low (55) but two days later, I was back up 84, a sign that I was starting to recover.  The higher the number, the more recovered you are! Looking forward to monitoring these levels throughout IM training.

 

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Feeling

My legs are finally back to normal again, post Boston Marathon. It took a good 10 days to feel like they were ready to work hard again. My body has not wanted to go faster than a 9:00 ish min/mile pace, so I’m listening to it. I did my first trail run of the season on Sunday and it felt fantastic! #trailove

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Suffering

My pollen allergies are killingggg me!! Spring is pretty, but it sure packs a punch when you have allergies. Plus,  allergies coupled with my Asthma have made me a mess… coughing, sneezing, runny nose, etc… enough already! I know you are supposed to ‘limit time outdoors’ and ‘close the windows’ when you have allergies, but I like fresh air too much! You win some, you lose some:)

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Enjoying

The warm weather is finally here in Boston and it feels so good! I forgot how good it feels to wear a sundress and sandals… amazing. With the warm temps (70’s), I’ve starting riding Sydney (my bike) outdoors again FINALLY. I did my first outdoor ride of the season this past weekend and wow did that fresh air feel good!

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Looking

I’m now looking ahead to TRI SEASON and I’m getting pumped up! First race is June 14th, Eagleman 70.3 in Maryland.  I have a feeling it’s going to be here before I know it.  Can’t wait to see what this season has in store for me #DREAMBIG

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Would love to hear about what you’ve been up to, training and otherwise! 

 

my life, tri life

kristin, you have asthma.

wait.. so you’re telling me it’s not exercise-induced asthma… it’s ASTHMA Asthma?! Like the type of asthma I could potentially have for the rest of my life?

I wanted to cry in the doctor’s office.  I never thought I would actually be diagnosed with asthma. The truth is, I’ve been in denial for about a year now, thinking that my lungs weren’t that bad.

Let me back up a bit here…

Last june I had a scary breathing episode at the Patriot Half Ironman.  I was on my way to setting a PR and going under 5 hours, when I got to the run and literally could not inhale (what the doctor called bronchospasms). I had to slow down, walk a bit… almost stopped entirely.  I got it together somehow, worked through the spasms in my lungs and finished, still placing 2nd AG.  When I crossed that finish line, it was a scary couple minutes before I got an inhaler. I was more frustrated that I didn’t PR and I didn’t even think something was seriously wrong with me.

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At Ironman Mont-Tremblant, during the run, the same episode happened again! Prior to the race I received a new type of inhaler, thinking it would help me. I was feeling great on the run (my legs at least) but my lungs could not inhale. I was wheezing and coughing the entire marathon of IMMT. How frustrating!! I think I could have had a better run, had I not had the breathing issues. I wanted to cry out of frustration during the marathon, I was so pissed off at my lungs and even said a few times ‘F you lungs, my legs trained hard for this race!’ The wheezing was horrendous, even WITH my inhaler. I recall taking it, and taking it again, it did nothing.  It also didn’t help that it was a chilly day in Tremblant that day. When I crossed the Ironman finish line, I couldn’t inhale and was wheezing beyond belief.. it was awful.

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my life

Misson: Get More Sleep

I’m on a mission… to get more SLEEP.

Sleep has never been my friend and I’m on a mission to make a change!

While training for IMMT last year, I averaged 6 hours of sleep a night…. sometimes 5.5 or less. Not kidding. A typical day would look like this: Wake up at 5:00 (or earlier), train, go to work all day, train, go to sleep at 10:30/11, wake up at 5:00 the next day.

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The truth is … sleep has always been a struggle for me

According to my mom, I never slept much as baby

As a young child (around age 5) I was taken by my parents to a SLEEP DOCTOR because I would NOT sleep… like ever. Needless to say that therapy did nothing.

I remember being in Elementary school and telling my friends that I didn’t sleep at night (partially due to worrying about EVERYTHING… ha, what’s changed?!)

In college I struggled going to sleep especially living in a shoe box of a dorm room and having a loud roomate.

I am a night owl and a morning person.  I like to stay up late and wake up early.  I don’t require a lot of rest… or at least I thought…

I’m a light sleeper, to the extreme.. this might come in handy when we possibly have a child one day… but it sucks right now. Good thing my husband doesn’t snore.

Up until recently, I didn’t think sleep was that big of a deal.  I always had the mentality ‘You’ll sleep when your dead.’

Well this kind of mentality isn’t the smartest thing to have when training as much as I do… the thing is, I NEED sleep to recover!

f6861b0b9bc058186896f28e2baa61f8From the Sleep Foundation:

Some research suggests that sleep deprivation increases levels of stress hormone, cortisol. Sleep deprivation has also been seen to decrease production of glycogen and carbohydrates that are stored for energy use during physical activity. In short, less sleep increases the possibility of fatigue, low energy, and poor focus at game time. It may also slow recovery post-game

Speaking of cortisol

About a month ago, I had my blood tested via the Ultimate Panel from InsideTracker (my new employer!). One of the biomarkers included on the blood test is Cortisol.  I will continue to write about my other results after today, but this was the most concerning.

Why is cortisol an important biomarker to measure?

Your cortisol levels can be a direct reflection of how much or how little you’re sleeping….

Chronic lack of sleep is now regarded as a health hazard and has been associated with several possible health consequences. These include lowered immunity with increased susceptibility to infections, impaired glucose tolerance, low morning cortisol levels, and increased carbohydrate cravings.* Lack of sleep can also elevate circulating estrogen levels, upset hormonal balance, and slow healing and prolong the recovery period.* These are in addition to the decreased alertness and concentration that most people experience when missing an inordinate amount of sleep. {source}

A few weeks ago, my InsideTracker results showed that my CORTISOL levels were high… very high in fact… yikes.

As you can see from the below image, my levels are in the RED zone i.e. HIGH

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When I saw the results, I sort of freaked out… but then I realized I’m not alone. 

I did some research after getting my test results and it turns out, high cortisol is a common problem among endurance athletes (I had no idea).

There can be too much of any good thing. Just as cortisol turns from good to bad when chronically produced in excess, endurance training turns from healthful to unhealthful when an athlete over-trains. In the over-trained athlete, high cortisol levels may have negative health effects, but even then high cortisol levels are just one of many imbalances seen in endurance athletes who work too hard and don’t rest enough. {source}

Does this mean I’m over trained? Not necessarily. But I am training A LOT and I’m probably not sleeping enough.

So, how do I plan to ‘fix’ my issue with sleep and decrease my cortisol levels?

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By working on the following:

Currently, I can’t seem to get to bed before 10:00 PM. I’m trying to change that to 9:30/9:45

Turning off TV, iPhone, iPad, Computer well before 10:00 PM

Reading before bed? (but I don’t really like reading…)

Listening to relaxing music before bed?

I struggle with going to bed before Todd, since I am a light sleeper and I don’t want to get woken up… I need to get over this!

Trying meditation? yoga? before bed

Oliver sleeps with us, which does disrupt my sleep at times, but I’m not kicking him out of the bed:) #crazydogmom

Eat more avocado, as this can help decrease cortisol levels (piece of cake for this avo lover)

Retest with InsideTracker in a few months, after I’ve been getting more rest (after all, I could have chronically high cortisol levels…)

 

Are you a good sleeper?

Any tips on getting 8+ hours of sleep?

 

 

 

my life

Dear Oliver

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Our furbaby Oliver turned five on March 3rd, and I wanted to dedicate this post to him.

Oliver is like a child to Todd and I, and we definitely treat him like a human.  This little fluff ball rules the household! 

 

Dear Oliver,

I know you’ll never get to read this letter (like a human baby would when they grow up), but you know quite well how much you are loved.

I am blessed that you came into World five years ago… and into our lives (almost) five years ago.  At the time I wasn’t sure I wanted a small dog, since I always wanted a dog I could run or hike with.  Since we were living in a apartment at the time, we couldn’t get a big dog, so we started looking for ‘cool’ little dogs.  Dogs that were small in size, but big in personality.  When we started to look at Westies, boy were we right about that personality!

I’ll never forget the day Todd came home with an advertisement in the Boston Herald for Westie puppies.  Your Dad was crazy thinking we could go look at puppies without wanting to take one home.. who was he kidding?! That weekend we drove up to New Hampshire and saw you for the first time… of course we fell in love instantly. You were the only boy left, with your two sisters, and you were so darn curious! I remember you were the one wandering off and smelling everything in sight.  I loved your spunky, curious nature. We didn’t take you home that day, because Todd wanted to think about it (he’s the rational one). Fast forward to the following weekend, and we drove back up to NH and brought you home.. you were just 10 weeks old!

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Since that day in May of 2010, you have forever changed our lives. I never thought I could love an animal so much, but you are everything to us. You have hiked over 30 of New Hampshire’s highest mountains.  We started hiking with you when you were a puppy and you have loved the trails ever since. Oliver, you are one determined little guy!

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You took part in our wedding day, and we now have photos that we will cherish forever…

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You are always there for me when I need you… my little shadow following me around the house, room to room.  When I am sick, you lay with me on the couch.  You sleep at my feet every night in bed, keeping me warm.

You love barking at airplanes, squirrels and bunnies… your dream is to one day catch a bunny, but I hate to break it to you, they are super fast!

Did I mention you love watching TV? Not only to you watch TV (seriously) but you bark at any animal that comes on the screen, silly pup!

You’ve been to most of my Triathlons, cheering me on with your Dad!

I know you won’t live forever, and it makes me sick just thinking about it. They say dogs are put on Earth to teach us what love really is… and I think that’s right. Thank you, Oliver for showing me and your Dad unconditional love… love is all you know:)

Love,

mom:)

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Forget wearing the bday hat... Oliver would rather chew on it at least he loves his new toys! Happy 5th birthday to our best friend, Oliver @thigden #westie #westiegram #westietude #westhighlandterrier #westiesofinstagram #dogmom #westiemom #bestfriend #dogsareagirlsbestfriend