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Wow.  WOW!!  What a day … and while it has been a few weeks since the race, I can honestly say that I am still very happy with how the day unfolded.  It wasn’t perfect, but I stuck with it and got the job done… and was rewarded tremendously!

Bassman 72.4 – I think that’s what we determined the distance to be – turned out to be a tremendous success.  And the icing on the cake?  I finally – after 9 years of racing – got the monkey off my back and won a race (at my favorite distance, nonetheless).  My first 1st, ever!  Boy did it feel good.   I couldn’t have picked a better race or setup for it to happen;  I was surrounded by my athletes (old and new), QT2 teammates and my good friend/training buddy/partner-in-crime for the weekend, Jonathan!  Thank you – everyone – for making it such a special day!!

Sooo… who wants details?  I know Stacy does 🙂

Pre-race:   We arrive at 6:30am and pick up our registration packets on-site.  [side note: I LOVE being able to do pick up registration packets on race morning and not have to deal with the stress of driving to the race site the day before to pick everything up – thank you CityTri Racing for making it such a hassle free process!] and then proceed to transition to get our bikes set-up.  Easy peasy, no hassle at all!  And there was still plenty of time to stand around and dilly dally, which I did a ton of… while managing to get called out by QT2 pro and fellow coffee lover + cookie aficionado Logan Franks – yes, that was me walking around with a giant 20oz cup o’ joe on race morning.  Me thinks it may have to become a pre-race tradition 🙂

The Swim.  1.2(ish) miles.  37:53. 

This swim split gets a big ol’ WTF.  Seriously … unacceptable!  I swam a 33:50 at this race last year … and can only wonder (hope??) that it was a little longer this year.  As it turns out, I had the 3rd fastest swim split of the day – just behind fellow QT2 teammate Mariana and my friend Maria (the wife of John Jenkins – if you follow my blog you’ll recognize that name as my rockstar athlete who qualified for Kona at IM Cozumel in November.  click here for the link to Maria’s Bassman race report, I just love her spark and enthusiasm for the sport, it is infectious!  and thank you Maria for your kind words!)…  I’ll be seeing Maria and John at Rev3 Quassy, I can’t wait – and I am totally going to hop on Maria’s feet for the swim!

That aside, I have no one but myself to blame for the slow swim – and if I am brutally honest with myself – it is reflective of the effort I had put in the pool over the course of the last 6 weeks leading up to the race.  Ever since San Juan I just haven’t had much focus or desire to hit the tank, and a 37:53 certainly reflects that.  Now we all know I am not one to accept mediocrity (and this falls well below that line) – so you better believe I will be hitting the tank hard and putting 100% focus into my swim workouts over the course of the next training block.  I can feel my gills forming already…

  T1.  1:31.

Pretty uneventful.  And if you don’t recall my little mishap last time I raced Bassman, read here.  Yes, I remembered to lay out my bike shoes this time around – in fact, it was the first thing I did!

The Bike. 58(ish) miles.  2:46:43.  20.9mph avg.

I cannot fully explain it, but for some reason this season I have re-discovered my love for cycling.  I absolutely love it and enjoy every single minute of it!  I caught myself smiling on the bike a number of times during the race, I just can’t help it!!

In terms of my feelings towards my bike split … well, it was the best I could muster.  My legs didn’t have the same spunk as they had in San Juan, I had a hard time pushing gears that would hit my target cadence of 90-92rpm (or so I thought – post race bike power analysis with Cait told a different story … I had a better ride than I did in San Juan!), I kept finding myself easing up a gear and hovering in the 96rpm range … as soon as I dropped below that my quads would literally ache.  This is one instance where it benefits to have done 20 half ironmans – I knew that if I tried to fight my legs and push a lower cadence it would end up in a disastrous run.  So I went with the flow, listened to my legs and tried to appease them as much as possible, and just kept my HR where it should be and kept my eye on my power numbers (the end result:  an average cadence exactly where we wanted it, go figure!).  There was a pretty stiff headwind which was likely playing games with my head (and legs) as well – much stronger than we had on this course last year.

The bike course is a relatively flat (note:  this does NOT mean fast or easy) 2 loop course shaped like the Big Dipper … it wasn’t until I hit the turnaround at the halfway point that I realized that I had taken the lead in the race – and Jonathan confirmed it as he flew past me (like I was standing still) and shouted that I indeed was in 1st.  Whoa.  That was a first … and strangely enough, the first thought that went through my mind was:

this race is yours to lose.  <– not exactly positive thinking!

I quickly dismissed it, realized that I – for the first time ever – was being hunted.  Challenge set.  Bring it ON!  I love a good challenge.  I put my head down, took control of my emotions (I was admittedly pretty giddy), and focused on turning the pedals over and pushing my legs and lungs to their absolute limit (obviously within my pacing parameters).  I realized that Mariana (a fellow QT2 teammate) was right behind me and, well, it is no secret that QT2 can run off the bike.  I had no idea what kind of runner she was, but I knew she’d give me a run for my money – quite literally!

T2. 1:08.

Again, uneventful.  Just how I like it!

The Run. 13.2 miles.  1:36:59.  7:21 avg pace.

Time to rrrrrrun!  I know, I know … I just said that I absolutely love cycling … but nothing feels better than hopping off the bike and hitting the ground running.  I’m not sure how many people would agree with me, but I just love those first (sometimes wobbly) steps off the bike, and then slowly easing into that comfortably uncomfortable pace for the next hour and a half(ish).  My Achilles is 100% healed, I’ve been able to log some pretty serious base miles under my belt over the course of the last 6 weeks – and while I haven’t quite gotten my speed back to where it was before my Achilles injury – it is getting there and I was confident going into the race knowing that I could run at least a 1:38.  I was hard set on beating that, of course.

I had no idea what to expect with the run course – when I raced Bassman last year I had just raced Galveston 70.3 and opted to do the Bassman aquabike … so the run course was uncharted territory.  Let me just say:  I absolutely LOVED the run course!!  It was partly on sandy/dirt paths (so much nicer on the legs than hard pavement), some trails (think twigs, leaves, a few stray branches), a decent amount of pavement running and even some (deep) sand running.  <– my least favorite part … it aggravated my Achilles and scared the bejeezus out of me, thankfully it was only a tiny part of the run course.  I honestly don’t know where we ran … it was 2 loops through the woods – sort of – and there were a lot of out & backs (great for seeing how close your “enemies” are) and twists and turns.  It was a ton of fun!  And thank you so much Logan,  Steve and Jonathan for the cheers on the course, and Melissa for the cheers on the sidelines!

My run plan was to go out at a 7:30 pace and then let my HR dictate the pace after that.  As soon as I started turning my legs over I knew I was going to have a solid run – they felt pretty darn good.  (“good” is a relative term – they were stiff and sore and tired from 58 hard miles on the bike – but they know what to do when I ask them to push the pace for 13+ miles off the bike).  Once again I took myself to that comfortably uncomfortable place … my breathing was labored and I couldn’t have gotten more than a word out if I had to, my HR was hovering around 170, and my legs were on the verge of collapsing.  Yep, that’s what I like to call my happy place.   I was being hunted (I had a hard time figuring out how close Mariana was, but it seemed way too close for comfort and had me running scared) and I loved it.  Around mile 6 I felt a surge of energy and decided to drop the hammer … which is really a relative term because I swear I picked up the pace :30 seconds a mile but in reality it was more like :10, if that.  My breathing was extremely labored and I was beyond the point of being uncomfortable … but just like the bike, I put my head down and kept turning my legs over and took things one step (and one mile) at a time.

The end result:  a run split that is :01 seconds/mile shy of my fastest 70.3 run split, EVER.  I hadn’t run a single mile faster than a 7:50 since January!  That is a true testament to the effectiveness of the QT2 training protocol combined with good ol’ fashioned hard work.

As soon as I saw the mile 13 marker I got choked up … it took a lot to keep it together for the final .2 miles of the race.  I was ecstatic!!  I’ve never won a race before!!!

Official Finish Time:  5:04:11. 

First female overall.  Fastest bike and run splits of the day (for the ladies, of course – I can’t keep up with those fast fellas).  Results here.

QT2 goes 1 & 2, and QT2-by-marriage rounds out the podium.  Congrats Mariana and Maria!

QT2 goes 1 & 2, and QT2-by-marriage rounds out the podium. Congrats Mariana and Maria!

Congratulations also go out to John Jenkins for his 2nd place aquabike finish, Jonathan for winning his age group, Steve Soba for taking the Clydesdale division (which also equates to 3rd in his age group), Logan for kicking ass  … and anyone else that I am missing (there were a TON of podium finishes amongst us)!

And I simply cannot say it enough:  THANK YOU everyone for the phone calls, texts, emails, facebook & twitter posts … your support truly means the world to me!  I cannot and would not do it without your support.  And the undying love and support of my family!

So, what’s next?  I am in the midst of a big bad build block (say that 5 times fast) that has me begging for mercy after 3 solid weeks of training … just need to survive this long weekend and then I have an easy recovery week leading into Rev3 Quassy half ironman on June 3rd.  I’ve got some unfinished business to take care of at Quassy!

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Whoa … it’s been a while.  My sincerest apologies for the blog hiatus; I’m not a fan of excuses so I’ll skip those and get straight to the details.  What in the world has happened since my last blog post on February 17th?  Well, to put it simply:  a LOT!  Let’s see how quickly I can cover everything (with a little backtracking as well), shall we?

January 29th:  I ran the Miami half marathon in 1:35.  I was not thrilled with this race result, it most definitely was not indicative of my run fitness leading into the race.  The course just did not lend itself to a PR, and by that I mean it was over-crowded, the aid stations were complete mayhem (read: having to completely stop, many times), and there was a lot of construction on the roads and some pretty narrow bottle-neck areas.  It was still a solid effort and I had an absolute BLAST in Miami, so no complaints here!

…less than a week later, a sore Achilles … which led to some PT and a brief resolution of the soreness and tightness …

February 9-12th:  QT2 Camp in Clermont, Florida!!  Holy moly, this was a TON of fun – and a lot of hard work!  Tons of miles, tons of laughs and smiles, and a happily exhausted body upon my return to NYC.  I’ll let Coach Mary fill in the details (here, here, and here)!

…immediately following my final long run at camp: a tight, painful Achilles.  Urgh.  Back for more PT…

February 17-20th:  back to the Sunshine State, this time to Indian Rocks Beach (right next to Clearwater)!!  Deja vu … holy moly, this trip was a TON of fun!  I joined fellow I Will Foundation teammates and founder, Matt Long, for our first annual 5k in Tampa.  What a tremendous success!  Not only was the race incredibly inspiring, but I also set a 5k PR with a 20:59!  This allowed me to check off yet another “little victory” of sorts … one of my mini goals this season was to break 21:00 for a 5k (talk about doing it by the skin of my teeth).  The 5k kicked off a long weekend full of riding, running and sunning … it was great catching up with good friends 🙂

Things I am thankful for:  sunsets and long weekends with good friends!

Things I am thankful for: sunsets and long weekends with good friends!

…and sadly, my final run in Florida (which would be my final run until San Juan) led to complete utter Achilles pain…pain so severe that I ended up in the office of my good friend Dr. Jordan Metzl who sent me for an MRI for what we both thought was a partial Achilles tear…

February 21st-March 17th was spent swimming, cycling and deep water running… upwards of 24 hours/week to prepare for San Juan 70.3 – all while questioning/wondering if I’d even be able to toe the start line.   My awful insurance took 2 weeks to approve the MRI and I wasn’t about to sit around and feel sorry for myself, so Cait and I were in touch on a daily basis tweaking my training plan to take advantage of everything I COULD do (and not dwell on what I couldn’t do) while I was also visiting my home away from home – Finish Line Physical Therapy – where the great Doc Conlon tortured me 3x a week with ASTYM, ART and massage treatments.  I also had the opportunity to hop on the Alter-G treadmill to get in a few runs – including a 15 miler on a cold, rainy Saturday morning with an ipod that quit on me 5 miles into the run … holy mental torture, Batman!  In the end, it was all worth it.  I was approved for the MRI on March 5th, met with Jordan on the 7th and got the green light to race (no running until the race though – the very thought of it scared the bejeezus out of me, but we both knew the extra rest would help).  I was beyond excited!

Fast forward to March 18th … RACE DAY!

My lil’ sis and her husband flew down for the race and we met up in San Juan on Friday afternoon.  I need to give them a HUGE shout out to say THANK YOU for your support and for 6 days of sun, fun and bottomless coladas!!

And for the San Juan Race Report of Sorts … here are the nitty gritty details:

The Swim.  1.2 miles.  34:41  (1:38/100y).

The swim itself was totally uneventful and about as basic as it gets.  (although we did get to swim under a pretty low bridge which was both bizarre and totally cool!)  But no one wants to hear about uneventful occurrences, do they?  Let’s backtrack a bit and I’ll get to the “eventful” part of my morning … about 40 minutes before the swim start I decide it is time to get ready.  I grab my skinsuit out of my dry clothes bag and proceed to put it on.  And then …. RRRRIIIIPPPP!

Are you f*cking kidding me?  My skinsuit did NOT just rip from the knee all the way up to the crotch, did it?

Affirmative.  Fan-freaking-tastic.  I’m pretty sure the normal reaction is to panic, but for some odd reason all I could do was laugh at the absurdity of the situation.

Okay MacGyver, how are you going to get yourself out of THIS one?

Simple:  rip the other side from the knee to the crotch, creating a tennis dress skinsuit.  Tuck the bottom half into my shorts, leaving the top half where it should be (doing what it should be doing:  compressing my chest).  This way, I could just slip it up and over my head when I got out of the water.  Easy peasy!  And goodbye $300 skinsuit that I wore exactly ONE time in Cozumel… 

And that sums up the first part of the day.  So as I mentioned earlier, the swim itself was rather uneventful!  I was hardly touched, because as per usual, I wasn’t quite fast enough to hang on to the lead group but I was faster than the trail group … leaving me in the empty abyss all by my lonesome.

T1. 4:58.

Approximately a half mile of running on pavement to get from the swim exit to the stadium where our bikes were located.  On a normal day, I wouldn’t think twice about it … but when recovering from an Achilles injury, well, a half mile of barefoot running is rather, well, stressful.  I’ve never been happier to see my bike in T1!

The Bike.  56 glorious miles.  2:35:47 (21.6mph avg).

Hello cycling legs, so nice to have you back!  I couldn’t be happier with this bike split – especially this early in the season.  While 2:35 isn’t my fastest bike split, it is without question the best I have ever felt racing 56 miles and for me, a tremendous cycling breakthrough.  I felt fantastic the ENTIRE ride, couldn’t stop myself from smiling the ENTIRE ride, and had a blast the ENTIRE time.  My nutrition was spot on (consumables: 2 bottles of IMP, 2 bottles of Gatorade, 2 salt stick tabs, 1/2 Powerbar, 1 caffeinated Powergel, 6 caffeinated Cliff Bloks), I kept my core body temperature down (by means of multiple bottles of water over my head and body), and focused on hitting my target power and HR numbers.

So what lead to this breakthrough?  I attribute it to the combination of 3 things … #1 – some pretty big changes in my bike fit with Jesse back in December (thank you Jesse!).  #2 – a solid game plan laid out with Coach Caitlin Snow (thank you Cait!) that incorporated tempo intervals, low cadence tempo intervals, threshold intervals and my favorites:  BSTs and PPTs. #3 – good ol’ fashioned hard work and determination to be a better cyclist this season.

T2. 1:47.

Totally uneventful.  Just how I like it.  The highlight of T2 was seeing Jenilee and Greg as I headed out for the run!!

The Run.  13.1 hot, hilly and incredibly scenic miles.  1:45:14 (8:01 min/mi avg).

The run, aka The Big Unknown.  Was I nervous about the run?  Hell yes!  Scared sh!tless is more like it…

I had NO idea what to expect.  I hadn’t run in over a month.  I was confident that I had done everything possible to let the Achilles heal, but the mental demons nevertheless still creeped in …

What if ….. ??  What if I hit the first hill and feel pain?  What if this thing snaps?  What if I feel a little bit of tightness, do I pull out of the race or keep pushing through it?  What if ….. ???

I did all I could to push the negative thoughts out of my head and focused on the HERE AND NOW.  And what did I feel?  Absolute elation!  Zero pain, zero discomfort, just pure joy in knowing that for the first time since January I could run pain-free.  Every single step was pure bliss.  Now don’t get me wrong – I was suffering out there – it was hot (temps were in the mid/upper 80’s), humid, windy, and ridiculously hilly.  But none of that mattered … I was running!  And it felt oh so good.

The run is a 2 loop course, and all I could think about as I headed back into town was that I’d be seeing Jenilee and Greg.  Having them there to support me meant the world to me!!  I was all smiles when I saw them, and couldn’t wait to see them at the finish line (knowing full well that multiple coladas were on the docket for the remainder of the afternoon…)!

Halfway there and all smiles!  And THANK YOU Pearl Izumi for making a racing flat that not only provides support, but also allows me to run sockless!

Halfway there and all smiles! And THANK YOU Pearl Izumi for making a racing flat that not only provides support, but also allows me to run sockless!

The second loop of the run course felt a lot hillier than the first (I swear they must have increased the grade on the two doozy hills) but honestly, I couldn’t have cared less, I was running.  Every muscle in my body was being pushed to the limit, my quads felt like they were about to collapse at any minute – my breathing was labored and I couldn’t have spoken more than 2 words if my life depended on it – yeah, I was in my happy place.  As I approached the finish line I couldn’t help but fight back tears of joy.  I reflected on hours upon hours on the trainer, back to back 100 milers in FL, thousands of yards in the pool, hours of mind-numbing deep water running and Alter-G running, countless torture sessions of PT and the sheer mental torture of having to deal with an injury … yeah, in the end, it was all worth it.

Official Finish Time = 5:02:27.

4th F30-34.  7th age group female overall.  My best 70.3 finish ever.  And a Vegas slot to boot.  To say that I was ecstatic would be an immense understatement!!

I was asked a few weeks ago if there was anything I would have done differently during the race.  The simple answer to that is NO.  I have zero regrets about that race.  Every time I toe the line I give my all – some days have better results than others – but I will always race in the moment and give it all I have on that given day with the challenges dealt to me.  No regrets.  Would it have been nice to have been able to build on my run fitness leading into the race?  Of course!  But who wants to think about the shoulda, coulda, wouldas?  Not I.  As I mentioned earlier, I’m not one for excuses.  I don’t want to hear them and I certainly am not going to provide them!

As promised, the post race celebrations involved a heck of a lot of colada consumption with Jenilee and Greg whilst relaxing beach side enjoying the sun, sand and beauty that Puerto Rico has to offer.  Add to that a day trip to the beautiful island of Vieques, and well, the one word that comes to mind is this:  PARADISE.

See what I mean?  Paradise.

See what I mean? Paradise.

So now what?  Well, the week following San Juan 70.3 was chock full of rest and relaxation.  Read:  zero training.  And no, I didn’t feel guilty about it.  I needed the break!  After that, it was back to base work – 4 weeks of drills in the pool, aerobic miles on the bike, and blissful runs in Central Park.  I have a big weekend of workouts ahead and then it is time to taper again … next stop for this train is the Bassman half IM on May 6th!

And finally, I’m going to leave you with a little something that I read the other day, something that I believe hits the nail on the head … the title of the blog post is 12 Things You Should Be Able To Say About Yourself:

#12 –  I have no regrets.

Follow your heart.  Be true to yourself.  Do what makes you happy.  Be with who makes you smile.  Laugh as much as you breathe.  Love as long as you live.  Say what you need to say.  Offer a helping hand when you’re able.  Appreciate all the things you do have.  Smile.  Celebrate your small victories.  Learn from your mistakes.  Realize that everything is a lesson in disguise.  Forgive.  And let go of the things you can’t control.

Hmmm … sound familiar?  Live.  Laugh.  Love.  Little victories.  No regrets.

It has been a while since I last posted a Little Victory and I think it is quite a shame, there is so much happiness to be found in the little things in life! This Little Victory post comes in the form of emails/messages from my athletes, past and present … just quick notes that instantly brightened my day and made me feel good. Happiness = Little Victory, ergo it should be celebrated and shared with everyone! 🙂

The first feel good moment came earlier this week when my athlete John emailed me a photo of him finishing IM Cozumel in November, along with a sweet thank you for helping make his dreams come true. Not only did John set an Ironman PR, but he also qualified for Kona. John is a workhorse and so very deserving of his tremendous accomplishment! The look on his face in the photo says it all … absolute elation and satisfaction in knowing that he gave it his all and was rewarded with the ultimate prize. CONGRATS again John, and thank YOU so much for brightening up my day and inspiring me to be a better coach!

The next feel good moment happened yesterday when my athlete Susan emailed me to let me know that she had nominated me for Travlete’s “The Women Who Inspire Us” article. I am humbled and honored to be included with such an incredibly talented group of women! Thank you so much Susan!

And finally, today’s feel good moment came in the form of an email from one of the runners I coached at the JackRabbit beginner run class last summer. Basically, she came to class straight from the couch (ie having zero run fitness) and over the course of 20 weeks (meeting twice a week) we progressed from walking to walk-running to running. She “graduated” class last summer by completing a 5k, and I couldn’t have been happier or more proud of her! Well, guess what? She emailed me today to tell me that she is running a half marathon in Disney next weekend and was incredibly thankful for providing her the support and inspiration she needed to get off the couch and get in shape. And now she is running a half marathon! I couldn’t be more excited or proud of her!

So there you have it… TGIF! Life is too short to waste being miserable or always looking at things with a glass half empty approach. Even the most dire situations have a silver lining, sometimes you just need to be patient or look for it. Always remember to celebrate the little things, or as I call them, Little Victories … I promise you it will put a smile on your face and brighten up your day!

Howdy! And a rather belated Happy New Year!!

Apologies for the blog hiatus … I have NO idea where the time went. And seriously – is it 2012 already?! How did that happen?? That means I am super tardy on my 2011 Year In Review post … so let’s wrap that up in a jiffy and get down ‘n dirty with the numbers:

total training time: 736 hours 55 minutes
total bike miles: 7,142 miles
total run miles: 1,150 miles
total swim yards: 358,799 yards = 203.9 miles

Which produced the following race results:

1/23: Freehold 5k – NJ [22:05], 2nd female overall
2/19: Chili Bowl 5K – Cleveland OH [21:48], 6th AG
3/19: Prospect Park Duathlon – [1:28:08], 3rd female overall
4/10: Texas 70.3 – Galveston, TX [5:13:34], 9th F30-34
5/1: Bassman Half (aquabike) – NJ – [3:27:39], 1st female overall
6/5: Rev3 Quassy Half – CT – [5:31:34], 5th F30-34
7/17: Vineman 70.3 – CA – [5:04:52], 10th F30-34
8/28: Ironman Canada – Penticton, British Columbia – [11:03:05], 10th F30-34
9/11: Ironman 70.3 World Championship – Las Vegas, NV
10/2: Poconos 70.3 – PA, DNF

That last one still hurts. Fuel for the fire…

2011 was a fun season, and once again included a good amount of travel:

International: Penticton & Vancouver, BC – Canada
US of A: Texas, Ohio, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California, NY – Lake Placid.

And there you have it! Yet another season full of blood, sweat and tears … miles, smiles, laughs and memories that will last a lifetime!

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So what have I been up to recently? Hard to believe, but I have 8 weeks of base training under my belt and I am in the midst of a challenging build phase and getting excited for my first big challenge of the 2012 season: the Miami half marathon. It has been about 5 years since I last “raced” a half marathon, so I am pretty stoked to test my fitness and see what happens. And really, who wouldn’t want to spend a long weekend relaxing on the beach? As most of you already know, I am all about destination races! The Miami trip actually kicks off a series of travel adventures, I will be spending 3 out of 4 weekends in Florida between Jan & Feb! The next two Florida adventures will take place at the QT2 Training Camp in Clermont, FL and the following weekend in Tampa at the first annual I WILL INSPIRE 5k. Good times and tons of sunshine ahead!

As for 2012 race plans … here is what I have on the docket so far:

1/29: ING Miami Half Marathon – Miami, FL
2/18: I WILL Inspire 5k – Tampa, FL
3/18: San Juan 70.3 – Puerto Rico
April: TBD
5/6: Bassman Half Ironman – NJ [I am seriously contemplating switching this to St. Croix 70.3 … we shall see]
6/3: Rev3 Quassy Half Ironman – CT
July: TBD
8/11: Ironman NYC

Clearly I still have a few races to fill in, but this is the gist of the schedule and I couldn’t be more excited about it!

And that’s about it from this end! Time to put my head back down and work my tail off!

Things I Am Thankful For…

Happy Thanksgiving!

Finally … a blog post that isn’t a race report. And I won’t even give an update on training (we’ll save that for another post) – I simply want to share with you a few … okay, more like 20 … of the things I am thankful for today, and every day!

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1.) I am thankful that I am home spending the Thanksgiving holiday with my family … and even more thankful to have their undying love and support day-in and day-out.

My nephew Jackson ... love, love, love this guy!

2.) I am thankful that in less than a year, Mom will be considered “cancer free”. Thank you Cleveland Clinic and Dr. Lorenz for saving her life!

Mom and I cruising the Rhine River during our awesome European vacation.

3.) I am thankful for true friends. You know who you are. Your friendship and support mean the world to me!

Stacy, Bethany and I ... totally sober. I swear.

#1 training buddy and always-there-for-me friend ... Vicky!

4.) I am thankful for a healthy body and the ability to challenge it on a daily basis and achieve goals I never thought physically possible … be it racing a marathon or finishing an Ironman … or just chasing my nephew around the house!

That's me suffering. I'm pretty sure I couldn't feel my hands, face or legs at that point. Totally normal end-of-race feeling.

5.) I am thankful for my QT2 family and all of the knowledge they have provided me to make me a better coach and athlete.

Hardware for everyone. That's how we roll.

6.) I am thankful for the 7 incredibly awesome athletes that I coach and for all of the athletes that I mentor. You all bring so much happiness and purpose to my life, and to be able to have an impact on your life and help you achieve your goals and dreams means more to me than accomplishing my own.

Poconos race morning ... John and I are ready to rock. And yes, it was cold enough to warrant down jackets and hats.

Susan and I after Syracuse 70.3. We're pretty bad-ass.

7.) I am thankful that my family and friends support my crazy triathlon lifestyle – and as long as they keep supporting me I will keep picking great destination races (yes, that is a blatant bribe … anyone else up for San Juan in March?).

The best part about destination races? The post-race drinking, of course!

8.) I am thankful for my “real” job … which yes, has its moments … but provides me with the means that make it possible to enjoy the things I am passionate about and enjoy, not to mention the ability to challenge my brain on a daily basis and utilize a very expensive education. I am also thankful that I work with such a great group of guys who treat me like a daughter and are incredibly supportive of my “other” career (triathlon).

9.) I am thankful for a super cool pup who always welcomes me with a wagging tail and tons of love and kisses. Nothing beats Marley’s unconditional love and companionship!

Long rides make Marley tired. Me too. Although I would NEVER use one of my cycling shoes as a pillow...

10.) I am thankful for morning runs and rides in beautiful Central Park … hard to imagine, but there really IS silence in NYC (you just have to be up and at ’em pretty early in the morning).

Central Park in the fall = pure heaven

11.) I am thankful for long rides and runs, as they give me time to ponder some of life’s biggest decisions and problems.

12.) I am thankful for warm blankets on cold days and snuggling on the couch. And really big don’t-wanna-let-you-go bear hugs!

13.) I am thankful for sports … nothing beats watching great football and hoops on a chilly fall/winter day! [bonus: #12 + #13 = a perfect fall/winter afternoon, if you ask me] GO BUCKEYES!

14.) I am thankful for sponsor deals, schwag, goodie bags and well, pretty much anything sporty and free!

Free stuff? Why yes, don't mind if I do!

15.) I am thankful for the 2 major food groups: homemade cookies and frozen margaritas. Those are food groups, right?

16.) I am thankful for quality time with my big brother. And by quality time I mean drunken debauchery. I wasn’t nearly as thankful when I woke up and had to run a Turkey Trot 5k this morning … but that quickly changed when I ran a (21:15) 5k PR!

Thanksgiving Eve with Jon (aka my drinking coach)

17.) I am thankful for gossip magazines, websites and reality tv – especially Bachelor, Bachelorette and Bachelor Pad – I am pretty sure it has the same effect on my brain as sniffing paint, but I really do enjoy watching and reading it… it makes my life seem so, well, normal.

18.) I am thankful that in just a few weeks it will be Christmas … and then my birthday … and then New Years Eve. Trifecta!

19.) I am thankful that it is finally time to bust out my favorite Christmas movies: Love Actually, The Holiday, and what I consider the classics: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Elf. Don’t judge me (the first two are the only girly movies I will ever admit to liking, for the record).

20.) I am thankful for the simple things in life like sunrises and sunsets, they really are beautiful and worth stopping to take in… and never get old.

See what I mean?

Poconos 70.3 Race Report

perspective (pəˈspɛktɪv)— noun
1. a way of regarding situations, facts, etc, and judging their relative importance
2. the proper or accurate point of view or the ability to see it; objectivity: try to get some perspective on your troubles

This is probably the shortest race report I will ever put together. I apologize to the folks I promised a detailed report to – unfortunately I was only able to see about 30 miles of the bike course. That is it. Nada mas.

What happened?

To start, the swim was canceled on Friday afternoon due to unsafe water conditions. I was pretty bummed to hear this news, but as we discovered on race morning, it was likely for the better. Race morning temps were pretty chilly (45 degrees and a “real feel” of 40 degrees) and the large amount of rain that fell early in the week and the night before the race meant a lot of run-off (read: contamination) in the river and a pretty hefty current to boot.

The race would still go off, but as a bike + run with a TT start on the bike. Athletes were sent off by bib #, and as it happens (this is what I get for signing up so late) I drew lucky number 2004 … out of about 2050 athletes. This meant I had to stand around in transition for over an hour and a half until my start, and I would have to deal with a lot of athletes on the roads ahead of me. My age group was in the 1300’s, so odds were that I wouldn’t see any of them out there – essentially, I was racing the clock. No big deal. I loved the idea of the challenge and welcomed it with open arms. And you better believe I was still going to try to hunt down girls from my age group!

The first 5 miles of the bike were mentally TOUGH. I was freezing cold and was literally shivering, just doing what I could to warm up and get around the mess of athletes struggling to make it up the first few hills. Simply put: it was a complete shit show. Athletes 3-wide sitting up and chatting, athletes riding on the wrong side of the road and a mess of wet leaves and sticks in the road from the heavy rain the night before. It took a good 10 miles, but I finally worked my way through the riff-raff and settled into a nice groove. And just as I passed the mile 10 mark, it hit me: I was in my happy place – my legs were ON and I felt fantastic. I was smiling and I was happy, it was my day. Giddy up! The course itself was incredibly beautiful and scenic, and it was challenging. Hills galore!

And then it happened. Mile 32. The dreaded flat. NOOOOOO! I just had a new tubular put on for IMC, it can’t be flat. Yep, sure enough, it was – a huge puncture in the rear tubular. Okay, no big deal, I’ll change it and be on my merry way. I rip the rear tubular off and pop the spare on … go to fill it up … and the valve rips apart from the tubular. Shit! 2 flats, no more spares. I wait (im)patiently on the side of the road for bike support for well over an hour. Unfortunately, most of the “meat” has already passed through – so despite my begging and pleading with passing athletes, no one has a spare tubular that I can borrow. Bike support finally arrives – I was a freezing shivering mess by then – and they tell me they do not have a spare tubular or even a spare wheel. I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. Game over. Checkmate. I refuse to give in, I tell them I will wait on the side of the road in hopes of a generous athlete with a spare tubular. After another half hour of waiting, I see it: the sweeper van. Fuck. It is the end of the line, I do not have another option. They force me into the van (I obviously did not go willingly) and I hear the dreaded 3 letters that NO athlete wants to hear:

athlete number 2004: DNF

For the second time, I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I literally wanted to throw up and my head was spinning. I buried my head in my arms and broke down in tears. I didn’t know what else to do, I was completely overwhelmed.

After what felt like an eternity, I arrived back to T2 and was able to finally catch up with my good friend and race sherpa MaryBeth. I felt awful for her, she had been waiting for me for well over 2 hours, worried sick! She was quick to grab my bike and my stuff, get me some warm & dry clothes, and offer up a huge hug which I desperately needed. I can’t say it enough: thank you MB for your support, it means the world to me!!

The drive back to NYC was a long and quiet one. I was devastated. MB was a saint (especially for letting me put Coldplay’s new song “Paradise” on repeat pretty much the entire time) and I spoke to my #1 fan on the phone (MOM!) and it certainly helped, but I needed some time to just think things though, and honestly, to sulk. I spent a good portion of the evening feeling sorry for myself … but also realizing just how lucky I am to have so many kind, generous, caring and supportive friends & family. I am, without question, the luckiest girl in the world. SO many people were quick to reach out and cheer me up, and it really put things into perspective. Seriously – if the worst thing in my life right now is the fact that I DNF’d a race because of mechanical issues, then LIFE IS GOOD.

Life is really REALLY freaking good. I am happier now than I have been in years and I couldn’t be more thankful for everything and everyone I am blessed with. I survived that race in one piece yesterday and got to spend time with MB and my athlete John (who once again kicked ass!) and his wife Maria – we had a blast laughing together Saturday night about the absurdity of the weather, and really, the entire race. At the end of the day, it is all about the process – and what I will remember about Poconos weekend is the fun I had with MB, John & Maria, hanging with Brad before the race while freezing our asses off, meeting new friends in the sweeper van during the dreaded ride back to T2 (and joking about the “walk of shame” back to T2 with our broken bikes and broken egos), and most importantly the realization that – in the grand scheme of things – I lucked out and survived that day in one piece. It could have been a lot worse!

I may have been down yesterday, but I am not out. Not even close. My season may be over, and it may not have ended on a high note – but it was a great one and I am not going to allow Poconos 70.3 (or 69.1, whatever you want to call it) to put a damper on it. I couldn’t be happier with my results this season, I worked hard for them! And you better believe that I held on to the spare tubulars as a reminder that I should never, ever take anything for granted – especially not a race finish. I am a fighter, and I will be back next season with a vengeance like none other – and you better believe I am going to unleash it on the next 70.3 course I race! And I have the motivation and drive I need to get through the tough winter months of base training. The fire in my belly is burning stronger than ever!

But for now … it is FINALLY fat & happy season! It is time to take a much-needed break from everything swim, bike and run. Time to enjoy life and all of the love, laughter and good times it has to offer. Time to spend with the people who mean the most to me, you all know who you are!

Ironman Canada Race Report

So, where to begin? Simply put, Ironman Canada (which I will refer to as IMC from here on out) 2011 was epic. In every sense of the term. I absolutely LOVE this race – the course is challenging and incredibly beautiful, and the people in Penticton (and Summerland) are really down to earth and sincerely good-hearted people. Having grown up in a small town, I really miss that friendly small town aspect – NYC just doesn’t have it!

One downside to the race is the travel involved … it wasn’t terribly bad, just really long. The journey began with a 4am pickup on Thursday morning; on the way to Newark airport I swung by the West Side and picked up my travel pals Betsy & Allison (thanks so much for keeping me company ladies!). We made it with plenty of time to spare and enjoyed a nice breakfast while waiting for our flight to depart. And that’s when the long journey began! 7am flight … delayed an hour on the tarmac … 6 hours later we landed in Vancouver (love the direct flights! and $30 bike box fee with Air Canada!!). Another hour or two to grab lunch and get our rental cars worked out and then we were off for a 4.5 hour drive from Vancouver to Penticton. The drive was beautiful, but after a 6 hour flight it really started taking its toll on me… until we made the turn off the highway and onto BC-97, which is the highway that takes you straight into Penticton … and I am graced with this view:

an entire day worth of travel exhaustion eliminated as soon as I see this view! totally worth it!

WOW! And yes, I took that photo while driving 70+mph … I was so taken back by the view that I couldn’t help myself! A few miles later I peeled off in Summerland, which is a tiny town about 15 minutes north of Penticton. I was delinquent on booking a room for the race, and as a result, couldn’t get anything in town. And this is where Bryan came to the rescue! He found a cute little B&B in Summerland with two rooms, I took a room and he & Jill took the other room. The B&B is called Red Barn Ranch, and is part of a horse farm – if you ever find yourself doing IMC or just in the area, definitely check this place out! We literally had a “home” for the long weekend, it was AWESOME! I don’t think I could ever stay in a hotel before an IM again. One of my favorite parts of the house was the back yard – complete with rocking chairs on the porch. We definitely took advantage of them! On top of everything, Gwen (the woman who runs the B&B) cooked us a delicious breakfast every day. And let me tell you, that woman can make a mean pancake! I’m not sure what the final tally was, but I’m pretty sure Bryan, Jill and I each put down 4-5 pancakes for the Saturday morning breakfast carbo load. Each. BIG pancakes. With real maple syrup.

view from our B&B. pretty incredible, right?

The days leading into the race consisted of carbo loading, relaxing on the rocking chairs & reading, and just chilling out – I can’t remember the last time I was so relaxed! That being said … as race day approached, the anticipation grew – I was getting more and more excited to get out on the course and RACE. I arrived in Penticton feeling fantastic; stronger, faster and leaner than ever before, and ready to tackle the course. I had some unfinished business to take care of…

You see, this was not my first time racing IMC … IMC was actually the first IM I did, in 2006. The day, in short, was a complete disaster. Nothing went right and I left Penticton utterly disappointed. And when I left, I made a promise to myself that I would return to that course 5 years later and give it hell. The name of the game for IMC 2011? Redemption.

Race morning: I arrive to transition at 5am and quickly get everything set up. Minutes later I run into Vicky and Lowell, and we hang out until they call us into the water. We go for a nice little warm-up swim and comment on how great the water feels – not too warm, not too cold – perfect temperature for a wetsuit swim! I really love the IMC swim start, it’s a wide beach start and really allows for a large number of athletes to start without getting pummeled (a la IMLP). Vic, Lowell and I stood in the waist deep water wide left and a row back and waited for the gun to go off.

IMC swim start ... plenty of real estate!

[photo borrowed from Slowtwitch]

Swim = 2.4 miles = 1:08:06 (1:48/100m)
goal swim time 1:06-1:08 … close enough …

Ahhhh, the swim. Why do I have such a love/hate relationship with it? Really, I’m pretty happy with my swim. It wasn’t picture perfect, but I got the job done and didn’t get pummeled too much. No black and blue eyes or a broken nose or a dislocated finger = Bonus. As soon as the gun went off, I dove in and got to work. The plan was to hit the first 400 hard, then settle in and find a fast set of toes. Easy enough, eh? [insert Canadian accent on the eh] Not so much. Not more than 50m in to the swim, for reasons unknown to me, the guy in front of me slows down and flips onto his back. Seriously dude? Now is not the time for the backstroke! You lined up at the front of the pack, ergo you should swim FAST! Of course I don’t realize this and proceed to swim up & on top of him (good thing for neoprene…), which immediately pisses him off (clearly I’m not his type). His reaction? He literally tosses me like a rag doll into the air and I land on my side, on top of another swimmer – he literally put a hand on my shoulder and another hand on my hip and tossed me. Thanks, buddy. I really needed that. I actually laughed at the absurdity of it … and did what I could to steer clear of Mr. Backstroke and find some open water. The rest of the swim was pretty mellow, I found a pack and hung with them – every now and then it got a little crowded and we had to jostle for position, but it really wasn’t too bad. The entire time I just pictured myself in my own little box and focused on staying in that box. It worked really well! And really, the swim flew by pretty fast – I was shocked to look up and see the exit so soon.

T1 = 2:35

Not too much to report here. I flew through T1 in a jiffy – I had a 112 mile date with my noble steed!

Bike = 112 miles = 5:56:28 (18.9mph avg)
target avg HR = 140, target avg power = 165W (I raced at 131#, for anyone who cares to do the math)
Actual Garmin splits, taken at 28mi intervals:
#1: HR = 154, power = 164, speed = 21.9mph (tailwind + fastest section of the course)
#2: HR = 155, power = 171, speed = 17.3mph (headwind + Richter Pass)
#3: HR = 149, power = 171, speed = 18.4mph (headwind + 7 bitches, as named by Slowtwitch … or as I refer to them, 7 rollers)
#4: HR = 146, power = 163, speed = 17.8mph (out & back + Yellow Lake climb + stupid windy descent back into Penticton)

As you can see, my HR just would not come down. My HR is typically elevated for the first few miles on the bike, but for some reason, it just wouldn’t settle. After about 15 miles (and a screaming downhill that didn’t even see a drop in HR), I came to the conclusion that my HR monitor wasn’t working and I had to stick with power and cadence. Easy enough. Plus, this wasn’t my first time around the block, I’ve covered thousands of miles on the bike this season alone and I know how my body feels at certain efforts … and I know what I need to do to stay within my limits. I look back at this data and it tells me that I rode too hard, but NEVER did I feel like I was pushing it – most of the time I felt like I was holding back way too much. I floated through this ride, I kept a close eye on my power and made a solid effort to see the 165W – allowing for a +50W increase (max) on the climbs. The problem was, the climbs really pulled the average up – so riding at 165W when not climbing would still leave me with an average well over what I should have been at. What also contributed to the high wattage was the wind – it was relentless. I’m talking about a headwind going downhill … having to push 200W at 10mph going DOWNhill! It was really unbelievable. The temperatures were also climbing, and as predicted, race day temps soared into the 90’s. I didn’t notice it on the bike, but made sure to stay hydrated and keep myself cool by taking a water bottle at every station and dousing myself with cold water.

The ride really flew by quickly, I was shocked when I arrived at the out & back portion of the ride (I believe around mile 80). Took a quick inventory “all good? how are the legs feeling? yup, feeling fantastic! legs are spunky!” Then again at the base of the Yellow Lake climb, around mile 90 “still good? yup! legs? ready to climb, bring it on! watch that power – nice ‘n steady” … and again at the top of Yellow Lake “how’s it going? great! that was a doozy of a climb, but holy cow the spectators lining the course were awesome!”. Up until mile 100 I was feeling on top of the world, wondering if I had pushed the bike hard enough. And then it hit. The headwind. On the final 12 mile descent back into town, we got slammed with a headwind. Not cool! There should really be some sort of rule with Mother Nature … downhill = no wind (or even better, a tailwind). Last time I rode that 12 mile stretch I screamed back into town with a tailwind … but not this time – we had to work to get back to T2. That last 12 miles took forrrrrever. And I really felt it in my legs. Clearly it’s a cumulative effect from the 100 miles leading up to that point, but for some reason, it hit me like a brick wall at the beginning of the descent.

Consumables, for those who asked:
9 bottles of IMPerform (I’m not sure what flavor the orange bottle was, but it was disgusting!)
2 Powerbars (cookies n cream)
6 Powergels (1 raspberry, 2 chocolate, 3 cafe latte)
*the bars and gels were taken on 35min intervals

T2 = 2:32

Again, an uneventful transition. I quickly change, down a banana, get lathered up with sunscreen and I am off for the marathon!

Run = 26.2 miles = 3:53:25 (8:55 avg pace)
goal time, before realizing it was going to be 93 degrees = 3:40-3:48
actual splits from my Garmin:
first 13 miles = 1:48:41, avg pace = 8:17
final 13.2 miles = 2:04:44, avg pace = 9:27 … ouch…

The ironman marathon is by far my favorite part of the race. It hurts. It’s hard. And it’ll test your will and bring out an inner strength you never knew you had. I thought I understood the pain and suffering involved with the IM marathon, but I have once again been humbled and discovered a whole new lever of pain and suffering. And yes, I loved every.single.minute of it.

I knew from the get-go that it was going to be a tough day. My legs didn’t have their normal spunk – they didn’t feel terrible – just not spunky. I eased into an 8:10 pace and fought hard to just keep it there for as long as I possibly could. I immediately felt the heat, and knew that I would be contending with some pretty tough conditions out on the course. I slowed at every aid station and treated it like a buffet – ice-cold sponges tucked into my top, ice water over my head, IMPerform in my belly. Shot bloks every other mile, 3 cafe latte Powergels with thermotabs (at miles 1, 5, 11). 10 second walk breaks every other aid station up until the 14 mile mark.

And then the hurt miles began. I LOVE the hurt miles, I live for them and love to push through them. Mentally I had the strength to push through them, physically my legs were able to push through them … but unfortunately the heat took its toll and my stomach just couldn’t handle it – I couldn’t keep down anything sugary from mile 14 on. I tried IMPerform, threw it up. Gels – same thing. Bloks – no dice. The only thing I could keep down was Coke and orange slices. All righty … let’s roll with that and see what happens … good thing you got in a ton of calories early! From mile 14 on it was pretty much damage control. I would run between aid stations, then walk through them trying to cool off as much as possible and take in some Coke + oranges. Then run to the next. I was SO frustrated, my legs wanted to move but every time I picked up the pace I would get nauseous and have to back down. This is crazy … it’s hotter in Canada than it was in Cozumel!

Thankfully, I was able to hold it together for the final miles of the run … there were times that I thought I’d be a goner and join the carnage on the side of the road (I watched one guy literally try to walk down into Skaha Lake – which is adjacent to the run course – so that he could jump in and cool off, I really don’t think he was coherent especially given the glazed look in his eyes). It took everything I had to finish that run, I’ve never hurt so bad in my life.

Official Finish Time = 140.6 miles = 11:03:05, 10th F30-34, 304th OA
Did I finish as fast as I had hoped? Nope. Am I disappointed at all? Absolutely not! I am psyched with this finish, it’s my second fastest IM and the hardest I’ve ever worked to earn that medal. I gave that course hell, it put up a damn good fight, but I put up an even tougher fight. Redemption. I left Penticton on Cloud 9, my business there was complete. IM #7 is in the books!

Now what? I recover and re-assess the final part of my 2011 season. I really, really wanted to do the 70.3 World Championship in Las Vegas on 9/11 … but I know my body won’t be recovered enough to put forward the effort my heart would want, and I just cannot half-ass a race. Especially that race. So sadly, Vegas is a no-go this year. All is not lost though, I am registered for Poconos 70.3 on October 2nd – I will finish my season off with a hilly half IM in the Poconos Mountains and I couldn’t be more excited!

And finally … I am going to leave you with a link to Jordan Rapp’s IMC victory speech, which I think hits the nail on the head. Especially the final paragraph. Jordan is a class act and one BAMF.