IRONMAN FLORIDA - PART 2

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IRONMAN FLORIDA - PART 2

We all woke up at about 3:00am on Sunday. We put on our spandex, body-marked each other, gathered the last of our belongings and were in the car at 4:30am. I was edgy. I was frustrated that I couldn’t get my music to work in the car on the way there and I’d started to worry if we were going to find a parking space, if I had remembered my shades, if I should stop at special needs on the bike.

PRE-START

I love the hours before the race start. There is an electric blanket of quiet that settles over the site despite the music and announcements and buzz of conversation. We all moved through the maze of special needs bag drop-off to our bikes. Jen and I were three spaces away from each other and Tonya’s bike was just across the aisle. We pumped tires and I put my nutrition on Lucinda. I was still a little edgy and couldn’t quite shake it.

We listened to an interview of a woman nearby who was on her quest for the IRONMAN legacy spot. A few years ago she had a strange pain on a training ride, went to the ER and learned she had ovarian cancer. With treatment and surgery behind her, she was back on her quest to finish 12 MDOT races to get to Hawaii. I may have cried hearing it. The edges softened.

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The space between my bike prep and the swim start is sort of a blur. We made base camp at a picnic table in the playground but may have walked over a mile as we dropped off gear bags, made last minute port-a-potty visits and made our way to the beach.

After I put on my brand-new-never-been-swum-in wetsuit, Honey and I walked a few feet away from everyone and I said a quiet good-bye to him. He hugged me and lifted me off the ground and off I went to join the crowd.

The best thing I did on that walk to the beach was splash my face with cold water from a bottle and stand under the showers for a 20 seconds and let the water creep into my wetsuit. Jen, Maria and I went to the 1:10 corral and chatted nervously while we waited. Suddenly, the first few notes of U2’s BEAUTIFUL DAY echoed across the beach and Jen and I started dancing. Even Mike Reilly joined us. It was our only warm-up.

THE SWIM

The swim was in Lake Eva; yes, a Lake in Florida. This is how my friend Angela Leonard described it:

This particular lake was full of grass and lily pads (and probably gators, too, but this is not a story about gators!). The swim was shaped like a giant pair of pants. We started at the waist, swam down the leg, turned to swim across the foot opening, turned to swim up the inner leg, through the crotch, down the inside of the other pant leg, across the foot opening, up the outside of the pants leg back to the waistband where we had to get out, run onto the beach and over a timing mat and then run back into the lake to do it again!

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The “crotch” was a timing chute - two barrel shaped floats about 40 feet apart - that all the athletes had to swim through to capture proof that they were staying on course. It was a crazy whirl of arms and legs and bodies! The best thing about it was that all these swimmers created a current and I was SWOOSHED through in about three strokes.

Many people have commented on the fact that it was a crowded swim, but it didn’t feel that crazy to me. It did feel that everyone was practicing the CLOSED FIST DRILL, but I didn’t lose my goggles or get scratched and kicked. There were just so….many…..turns. I felt a little off-course in the first 200 yards - mainly because I think I was aiming toward a volunteer in a yellow shirt instead of the yellow buoy, but I found my way back on track and had a great swim. I finished in 1:13:ish. I was eighth in my age-group!

My favorite part was seeing Jen on the second loop. All of a sudden I hear, HI! I answered back: what are you doing? Which is our normal call-and-response-greeting. She responded: swimming! I said: ME, TOO! Wanna be friends? And were off again.

THE TRANSITION

Right out of the water I plopped my butt down on the ground for the wetsuit strippers. We had a hard time getting my left arm loose because of my watch, but otherwise it came right off and for the first time EVER, I did not have a wetsuit hickey on my neck!

I showered and jogged through transition to the tennis courts to grab my bike bag up the path and into the rec center building to the changing room. I ditched the swim gear and donned my helmet, shades and grabbed my shoes. I ran barefoot out of the building down the sidewalk, through a parking lot, between building and to the multi-level bike park. I grabbed Lucinda, ran another 100 yards, out of T1 up a hill and finally onto the bike. All-in-all a half mile transition!

BIKE

This one was a challenge and I’d love to do it again. But, as Angela said:

For those of you who are under the delusion that Florida is flat, Haines City is here to laugh in your face, smack you around, and steal your lunch money.

As strong as I felt at my White Lake bike and in Chatty on the hills, I wasn’t feeling great on this ride. My legs were tired from the start. [Maybe a second-floor suite was not the right choice. Maybe all the walking in transition the past few days didn’t help.] In the first 10 miles, before we even reached the loop, a woman passed me, cut in front of me, ran off the road, recovered back onto the road, but launched a bottle which I hit. Somehow I saw it coming and was able to sit up out of aero, yell, BOTTLE DOWN and hold my line. Way to go! I yelled as she sped on. #redneckrevealed

Somewhere near Lake Marian I had another near miss when a guy passed me and then STOPPED! C’mon, Man! I looked down for a split second and then almost cyclo-crossed over him. I was able to manuever around him for a pass.

The road conditions were pretty good (better than Santa Rosa, but not as good as Chatty) and the scenery was nice - a few lakes, a quarry, ferny swamplands with wax myrtles, orange groves and lemon groves, llamas, emus and a mile of spectators to start the second loop. I liked that the hills in and around Haines City gave me something to think about. Shifting gears, determining how to safely take turns at the bottom of a downhill and how to smoothly pass on an uphill engaged my brain.

Otherwise, I obsessed about the grains of sand that were left on my tri kit and the ONE grain of sand that was lodged in my watch band and ate a hole in my wrist. I sang the Florida Orange Blossom song and a few hymns based on the church signs I passed. [And if you’ve never heard Jen Young sing the Orange Blossom song, please check out THIS cheesy version. It is a close rendition.]

My favorite parts of the ride:

  • Seeing Maria’s dad all over the bike course. He used the pool skimmer as a giant sign. It was draped with a tee shirt with Maria’s head blown up and text that said: Go, Maria, Go! in Michigan colors

  • Seeing Maria within the first 15 miles. She passed me and we greeted each other with HI!WHATAREYOUDOING?RIDINGBIKES.ILIKEBIKES.WANNABEFRIENDS? Another woman near said: I like bikes, Yes! We met again later at an aid station where we both took a break.

  • The fan zone at the start of the second loop. Ace and the rest of the gang were cheering and screaming as I rode by to start the loop again. The energy was high and I was so thankful for our tribe of fans who were there for us all.

  • SIGNS. I know that sounds weird, but I liked looking at all the signs for the 55+ neighborhoods, the church marquees [Rejoice in the Lord. Always], Jenni St., Hartmann St., Miss Mary Anne (I sure do) Drive and the G-Spot biker bar (#4Gracing).

  • VOLUNTEERS The fact that Haines City pulled together for such an amazing race was a testament to the Ironman motto that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. All the aid stations were packed with people passing out food and water, cleaning up after all the athlete trash and directing tired bikers through feeding zones. There was a crazy out-and-back section near the quarry and on the first pass, one woman had made up a song and dance to help us slow down on the downhill, round a cone in the middle of the street and get back to speed on an uphill. At that nearby aid station I noticed a guy raking all the empty bottles and cups and singing a song on both time I passed through and I handed one of my red volunteer bracelets to him.

Tactically, I had a good ride. My nutrition was even better than it was in Chatty. I had only one gel all day. A root beer GU at mile 90. The rest of the day I drank NBS Pineapple Hydration, ate PEZ candy and glucose tabs, bananas and one NUUN tablet at mile 105. I felt great on the bike and felt great coming off the bike despite 85+ degree temps and high humidity.

I paced myself well. I knew right off that I wasn’t feeling it and worked with the wind to set myself up for a strong run. I started easier than I usually do on a training ride and built into power zone 2 and 3 in the second loop. I finished the bike in 6:39:ish.

TRANSITION TWO

Again, the volunteers were great. We even had bike catchers to grab our bikes as we dismounted. It was another half-mile run to the tennis courts, into the building, out of the building and onto the run course, but it was a half-mile lined with spectators, volunteers and tri club tents. The women in the changing room were miracles. One emptied my run gear bag and the other helped me undress. I warned them to ignore my nakedness and they laughed and said they’d seen it all already. I had one of the gals read a few lines from my bag as the second one sprayed me down with sunscreen. Done in less than 10 minutes. I bet Ace wishes I got ready that fast when we’re going out to dinner.

THE RUN

My goal was to finish the run faster than my IM Chattanooga run. I wanted to catch Maria and Jen. It didn’t happen. But, I had a great run. I had decided on the Sunday before that I was going to turn off my metronome and turn off my run/walk alerts. I had been doing 6-and-1s in training most of the season, but I decided my objective was going to be run as fast as you can, as often as you can for as long as you can. It was FREEING! I can’t wait to do it again. I didn’t have walker’s guilt and every time I did run, I think I ran for longer than six minutes.

Have you ever been to Disney and snaked through the lines at every ride? That is the feeling I got on this run. The first section was an out-and-back. We ran to a nearby high school and back to the transition area. I liked it because it was along the last mile of the bike and I got to see a bunch of riders come into Lake Eva. It also engaged my brain. There was a decent steep hill and a indescribable Disney-like maze that involved two inner lanes on the first pass, two outer lanes on the second pass, an aid station and two cul de sac out and backs. It was crazy, but I like it. I didn’t love that the sun was out and that the humidity threatened rain that didn’t materialize until later.

The main part of the run course was a three loop maze around Lake Eva that snaked in and out of nearby neighborhoods and through IRONMAN Village. It was fantastic for spectators. Our gang posted up in a spot where they could cheer each of us on three times per loop. I spotted Maria on the first loop and Tonya and Maria on the second loop. Other highlights:

A RAINBOW on the second loop. There was an aid station decked out as a beach party. The music was pumping and the volunteers were super energetic. I looked forward to this aid station each time and on the second loop they arranged a bright rainbow to appear. It was visible over Lake Eva for nearly 30 minutes. Perhaps a promise of a finish because on the other side of us there was…….

A LIGHTNING STORM Before the race, our team had talked about the possibility of a pause in race action due to a thunderstorm. We all agreed that we would swimbikerun until we saw an actual lightning bolt or got pulled from the course. I think we were all counting the seconds between the lightning and thunder as the storm got closer. Seven miles. Five miles. Three miles. And then miraculously electricity moved on. But then……

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THE RAIN As Angela described:

The real excitement of the run started after dark. Florida storms are spectacular, and the one that started during the run did not disappoint. We had every type of rain—mist, drizzle, soft rain, downpour, and deluge. We had lightning and thunder. We had wind. And once all the rain stopped, we had puddles, and what one volunteer warned me was “fast moving water” to wade through.

I said aloud to another runner, Is it TURN AROUND DON’T DROWN? Or do we finish? We finish! she exclaimed. We held hands and jumped over the river of water. It was an amazing closing theme for our last few months of training. We had weathered Hurricane Florence and done several brick runs in rain exactly like this.

A FIRE ALARM at the elementary school. On the last loop, in the pouring rain, the alarm sounded inside, the strobe lights flashed inside and multiple emergency vehicles surrounded the school. For some reason this cracked me up. It was loud and lasted forever. You could hear it throughout the next few miles as we ran in and around the streets of the surrounding neighborhoods.

THE FINISH

It was still pouring rain when I finished. I rounded the corner to the finish chute. I heard the roar of our crowd near the palm tree and in the blinding lights of the finish arch, I watched as volunteers tried to either keep the red carpet from floating away or were searching for a drain. Regardless, the water in the finish lane was shin deep. I pretended I was swimming it in. I high stepped and added a little breast stroke and then a little freestyle as Mike Reilly proclaimed: ELIZABETH ANDREW. YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!




IF You have Facebook, you may want to watch THIS VIDEO. The interview with the cancer survivor is at the 0:20 point, I am dancing with Mike Reilly at 3:26 and I swim across the finish at the 11:46 mark.

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IRONMAN FLORIDA 2018

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IRONMAN FLORIDA 2018

I did it! I’m an IRONMAN…..AGAIN! Wait, didn’t I just say that? Just five weeks after IRONMAN CHATTY, here I am with another shiny medal and a finisher’s hoodie and an awesome finish line dance. I finished my eighth iron-distance race and my sixth MDOT race.

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This one was a doozy! It was so EXTRA. I know that IRONMAN ain’t easy on a good day, but this one gets bonus points (demerits?). Despite its wacky-ness, it will go down as one of my favorites of all time. Not because of my performance or the outcome. But because of the summer that preceded it, the adventure in the days before and after, the internal battles I fought and won and most importantly: JENNIFER, MARIA, TONYA, ACE, JULE, HAYLEIGH, CASSIE, SCOTT, CAROLYN, PAUL and WENDY. This tribe of amazing athletes, fans and family made it a jewel of a day.

QUICK SET-UP

I left Wilmington on Thursday with Tonya and her mom, Jule, following in her car behind me. I was looking forward to the nine-plus hour trip in Honey’s fancy Benz with heated seats and MASSAGE and Sirius XM. I’d planned out a few podcasts and had a coaching call with some new athletes. We stopped for coffee on the way out of town and hit the road. Things went smoothly until we hit South Carolina. Suddenly, Jen’s bike, Scarlet, decided I wasn’t driving fast enough! She tried to hop off the bike rack and pedal the rest of the way. Or maybe she wanted to go back to Pedro’s sombrero at South of the Border. I pulled in to the next exit off I-95 and realized one of the bungee/fasteners had a hole in it. I rearranged it and jumped back in. Two miles later - it happened AGAIN. This time, Scarlet’s front end bounced off the arm of the rack. At that point, I was talking to Jen, Tonya was calling to tell me to pull over and I was watching out of the rear view as the handlebars shook and bobbed. Right there on the side of I-95, T and J and I MacGyverred a new contraption with her belt and a pipe cleaner. That lasted an hour and proved to be too much for my nerves. I stopped somewhere in Georgia and took Scarlet off the bike rack! We figured out that the aerojacket disc wheel was catching so much wind that it was creating lift and tension on the bungee. I removed her front wheel and put it in the front seat next to me and placed the frame on top of the luggage and gear in the back. DRAMA!

 SCARLET’S WHEEL SAFE & SOUND

SCARLET’S WHEEL SAFE & SOUND

SHAKE-OUT SWIM

On Friday morning, Tonya, Maria and I set out on a mission to do a shake-out swim. Our first attempt was a hilarious fail at the neighborhood fitness center. We went to the front door and banged a bit on the glass to get the attention of the manager. No one answered. We walked back around to the fitness center door just as a man with a Boston tee shirt and an accent to match walked out. Could you please let us in? We asked sweetly. Do you live here? he asked in that heavy Boston brogue as he shut the door with emphasis behind him. Sorta. Yes. No. We all answered. That sealed the deal. He went on to tell us that they’d let in guests before that had stolen the weights out of the fitness center. You’ll have to check in up at the desk, he said gruffly.

We decided that our next best option was to visit the Omni Resort down the street. We zipped right on over, parked in the guest lot like we were the boss, walked in the side door, asked for the best way to the pool and found ourselves inside the “adult pool” complete with fountains and cabanas (which we used) and a hot tub (which we did not). Here we were at a swanky pool with our spandex and goggles practicing our open water swim starts and alligator avoidance tactics. We each spent a lap in the middle while the other two bumped us at the hip, tried to grab our leg or reached for our arm. We spent about 30 minutes playing and then headed back to our little neighborhood of rental homes and our six-room mansion in Davenport.

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PRE-RACE LEAD-IN

There is so much to do before a race. One of the challenges for this race: our accommodations were 30 minutes away from the race site. There are very few hotels in Haines City and with the change of venue from Panama City Beach we struggled to find what we did! In fact, we were bumped from our original spot and had to rebook to Championsgate in Davenport. The best news is that six-room house! Nine people, five bikes, three cars and a plethora of tri gear fit in this fantastic space. Ace and I had a sweet suite on the second floor with a king-sized bed and a king-sized shower.

Of course, when there are more than two people involved, it adds a new dimension to all you do before a race. We had a dozen people in our tribe! Remarkably, we all meshed. On Friday morning, Maria’s parents made breakfast and brought it over. Ten of us went out to dinner on Friday night. Tonya’s mom and Haleigh made breakfast on Saturday. Some folks went to Disney, others went to Ironman Village and Ace went to play golf. It was the most relaxed team effort!

This race had an added aspect for me. Not only was I racing, but I was also working. It’s not like I was steering the ship or even had to be the social director, but I was on call to answer questions. My team took care of themselves, but I am invested in them. I love them and wanted them to have the best experience ever.

With all that said, we packed a LOT into the few days leading up to the race!

FRIDAY

Shake-Out Swim

Breakfast

Pick-Up Haleigh, Ace and Jen at the Airport (40-minute drive there with tolls + 60-minute drive back because I got lost).

Meet for Lunch

Drive to Race Site for Packet Pick-Up (30 minute drive there). Shop the merch. Shop the expo. Lounge at NormaTech tent.

Tornado Warning! They closed down Ironman Village! Look! There’s a water spout!

Head Back to Davenport in a crazy storm that foreshadowed

Dinner Out

SATURDAY

Wake Up and Coffee

Prep Gear Bags

Shake-Out Ride. Why is it so cold? What is up with 15mph winds?

Breakfast

Team Meeting

Drive to Haines City (4 bikes, 8 people, 2 cars)

Drop Off Bikes and Gear Bags

Athlete Briefing

Look for Lost Merchandise at NormaTech tent, IM merch tent, bike shop, IM Info Booth and TheraGun tent (where the NormaTech guy was and said he found my lost gear!)

LUNCH at Big Tony’s PIzza

Back to Davenport

Nap

Grocery

Dinner

Team Meeting

Final Gear Prep

Bed at 8:00pm

TOMORROW IS RACE DAY!


























https://www.facebook.com/IronmanFlorida/videos/554089251687424/

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IRONMAN CHATTY - PART TWO

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IRONMAN CHATTY - PART TWO

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And suddenly, we were off! Essentially, I warmed up for 90 minutes. We headed out of downtown Chattanooga, through the industrial section, over some tracks and into Georgia. We hit the valley between Lookout Mountain and Chicamauga and the town turned into trees. I kept my heart rate and power low. It felt easy. For the first time ever, I was social and chatty (ha ha get it?) on the bike. I played leap frog with a few of the girls once we got out of town. It was actually fun - it felt like I was out on a training day with a bunch of my friends. Instead of Jen, Maria and Tonya, I made new friends. Kelly, Kimberly and Cathy were my new riding buddies.

At the 24-mile mark, I decided it was time to race. I put tension on the chain and pressed into the ride. I found a great rhythm and started passing women in my age group. I was pleased that it was overcast and cool. I could tell the humidity was high, but the terrain and the temps felt good.

A week before the big day, we had gotten together for a celebratory dinner and I had asked Erin G, for her advice on the race. She has done it several times as the 140.6 and 70.3 and I knew she’d have some tricks up her sleeve. Her main advice: Use the Course. The bike course is hilly: constant rollers with some false flats mixed in. Obi-Wan’s voice came to me just as I started to ease into my day. Use the Force, Luke. I did. I used the downhills to gain speed for the next uphill. I shifted. A lot. I used the downhills to pass. I used the uphills to pedal lightly and sometimes stretch. I watched my bike computer’s elevation grade screen most of the day. It was fun to see 9% or 14% and think: that felt great! I can’t wait to do that one again.

My other mantra/song became that kids tune: Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes. It reminded to me to do a constant body check: Head = Positive Thoughts. Shoulders = Posture. Knees = Cadence. Toes = Power. [Eyes = Look at What's in this Mile. Ears = Listen to your Body. Mouth = What are You Saying to Yourself? Nose = to the Grindstone/Get Work Done.]

I had three favorite spots on the course. There’s a section on Hwy 193 that is beautiful. Green hills and trees stretched and rolled for miles off to the right with mountains on the near horizon. I loved downtown Chickamauga. It was SO LOUD! The people seemed four deep and there were cheers and music and so many kids!

I felt strong and happy most of the day. I had one bad patch around mile 70 - just after Chickamauga and just before the start of the second loop - where it felt like the lactic acid had built up in my legs, my back hurt, my hamstring flared up, my feet were on fire! I climbed a steep hill and thought, well, I’m done. I must have screwed up and must be pushing too hard. But, I decided to take a pit stop and remembered I had a pickle pop in my bag of tricks. Game. Changer. I was able to take the same energy into that second loop as I had the first.

I was reenergized by Chickamauga and by seeing Ace at mile 90-ish. The sun came out right after that and I headed back to town. I even felt like I finished strong. Those last 16 miles had moments of getmeoffthisbike, but, I was also passing people after mile 100! The result: the bike of my life. It was close to an 18mph average and a 6:26:52 finish. Boom. Did it!

I hopped off the bike (and by hopped off mean very slowly slung my right leg over the back of Lucinda to dismount) while a volunteer caught Lucinda and took her to the rack. I clippity-clopped through the run bags with Ace running alongside on the other side of the barrier. I don’t know how he cheers, takes pictures, avoids people and curbs and keeps moving all at the same time.

I ducked into the women’s tent, changed shorts, put on my run hat and shoes and headed out. Right out of transition, you pass the finish line. There, headed into his finish was the male pro, Cody Beals. Plus, I got to watch Matt Russell run down Kirill Kotsegarov in the final meters to place second. [The Florida resident was nearly killed during last year's world championship after colliding with a van that pulled onto the course. Russell suffered lacerations to his neck and a severe concussion. Almost a year later, he was back on the podium of an Ironman! [per the Times Free Press]

Right after the finish chute, you head up a hill and onto Riverfront Parkway. That parkway was the bane of my existence. It was a blocked-off freeway that had no shade and no flats. My first mile was okay. I did my dynamics and walked the uphills as planned. On a downhill stretch, I heard Ace coming up behind me on his bike. He was cheering and taking photos and encouraging me.

Did I mention the sun had come out? Way back at mile 99, the sun peeped out from behind the clouds. It was now about 3:30 in the afternoon and it was almost 90 degrees and the humidity was…..humid. I don’t remember the exact stat because my brain was cooking. At the first aid station I drank water and dumped ice into my kit (shorts, bra top, hat) and started my shuffle.

I didn’t get very far. I felt barfy. Every time my heart rate got into the 135+ range, I got a sour stomach. I walked a bit and then ran again. Same thing. What is going on? Ace met me at the top of the hill near the next aid station. I gave him my report.

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I ended up walking a lot more than I had anticipated. But, I was strong and consistent. I walked more than I preferred - but when I did, I passed other walkers! The great news is that I wasn't grumpy and pissy like I was at my recent half iron at White Lake. I didn’t feel like quitting. I didn’t get angry. I just tried to figure out how to run a little more during every mile. I did question my triathlon life choices at mile 12 and wondered why I'm so bad at running off the bike and then, I had another pickle pop in my special needs bag. Guess what - it worked again! Which means I need more salt in my life! I used my salts for the next three miles and that probably led to feeling better at mile 16. Plus the sun set and I knew I only had 10 more miles to go. I was able to run a little more on the flats and downs and stride up hills. I passed 10 walkers on Barton on the second loop and 3 more on that dark section across the river.

This run was super challenging and I didn’t love the freeway that seemed to stretch on forever. I loved aid station number three - it was set up like a beach party. There was an emcee that welcomed every runner and encouraged his team to dance and scream and shout. Another one of the aid stations was tucked into a corner. I remember a wooden walkway, a yellow brick road and some Disney characters. On that second lap, it was getting dark and their enthusiasm was exactly what I needed. I headed over the veteran’s bridge for the last time and up the Barton hill. By that time, the fans on that hill were drunk and boisterous. They were high-fiving and knuckle bumping and dancing.

I shuffled down Barton and under the overpass. I passed through a few blocks of town and thought: I am going to run the entire bridge. It was my favorite moment of the run. Along the way, I saw a guitarist on a bench, strumming a bluesy tune I couldn’t recognize and looking out over the blue railing to the water. I got inspired and pretended I was at a concert. I could hear the announcer at the finish and pretended he was announcing me on stage. I had a moment of inspiration and took out my ROKA shades and held them through the loop off the bridge. I waved at James (whose wife Susan was racing) and zeroed in on a girl I had been chasing/leap frogging for HOURS. As we headed down the hill and into the chute, I passed her, threw on my aviators and played a little air guitar at the line!

I finished in 12:29:39. My bike was 6:26:16 and my run was 5:58:04. Despite it being my longest marathon ever, I am pleased that I was consistent through every timing mat. I averaged a 13:40/mile on the hilliest, hottest 26.2 I’ve ever done. Most of all, I maintained a great attitude and learned a lot.

Ironman Florida…….here I come!



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IRONMAN CHATTY - PART ONE

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IRONMAN CHATTY - PART ONE

CHATTAMOOOOOOOOOGA!

I am an IRONMAN - again! This makes number seven (number five for IronBrand). It was amazing, hard, fun, different, hilly and hot.

What a day. What a race! In short: I nailed this race. The outcome (my times) may not reflect it, but I nailed the process. I arrived fit and fresh. I had a great pre-race morning with Ace. I felt ready and calm and excited about the challenge.

As previously mentioned, the swim was canceled. By the time we arrived in Chatty, my attitude was adjusted and I prepared myself for the course that lay ahead - the longest bike I’ve ever done and the hardest marathon I’ve ever done.

I’ll back up a little and recap our few days before the race because there were some highlights that I want to mention. We arrived on Thursday and settled in to our hotel a few blocks away from the MDot Village. We went out to dinner and headed to bed fairly early. The next morning, I dropped Ace off at the Chattanooga Country Club for a round of golf and I headed out of town for a bike and run session. I headed to the Chicaumauga Battlefield Park (actually in Georgia) for what was touted to be a great place to ride - and it WAS! Many of the roads were newly paved. It was early in the day and most traffic cuts right through the middle of the park - leaving the outer roads clear of traffic. Plus, I felt safe riding alone.

I rode over a one-lane bridge, past several rushing streams, stopped to talk to a black and white cow (my theme for the weekend) and even saw two bovines trying to make baby bovines (Geez, oh man, that’s not something you see every day)! I ran past Confederate and Union monuments, down a red-clay path, through what felt like a cemetery/battlefield even though I saw no headstones (spooky) and through a grassy field as the sun peeked through the fog. I felt like I was in a Runner’s World rave run calendar.

After that, I headed back into town and to packet pick-up. It had been raining in Chatty for days and the village was muddy and wet. I waited in a short line for numbers, a souvenir swim cap, chip and of course, the bag - which was AWESOME! It was a duffel-slash-book-bag hybrid. I went shopping in the MDot store and found

My go-to souvenir - the micro-fiber towel with every participant’s name - was not my favorite, so I bought a cute tri top and matching trucker hat (my new thing). I stood in a long, but quickly-moving, line for gear and then headed out to fetch Ace on the golf course. The Chatty Country Club happened to be along the run course, so I was able to preview the famed Barton hill and the back side of the second loop in the light of day. Kinda wish I hadn’t done that. It intimidated me a little, but I let it go.

On Saturday, we woke up early and went for a shake out run. We ran down to the start/finish/transition area at Ross’ Landing then up the Riverfront Parkway to Veteran’s Bridge. It was fun to look down into the river that we wouldn’t be swimming in. The lights from the banks were sparkling in the dark water and you could tell that the water was running high and fast. The roads were already blocked off so it was quiet and cool.

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Later that day, I did my chores: packed my bags, dropped them off in T2, checked in my bike. I met Lisa for a picture at the MDot sign and asked her about the athlete meeting. That may be the one thing I wish I had done. Lisa was smart. She went to the meeting. And took notes. Lisa gave me the details that I needed - how they were going to do the start, the timing of transition, the deadlines for adding stuff to the run bag. But I didn’t write it down. In the back of my mind, for the rest of the day, I worried if I was going to remember the timeline. If I’d have gone to the meeting or written down the details from Lisa, I wouldn’t have fretted so much. Duh!

After meeting Lisa, I tried to keep things familiar. I headed back to the hotel room, pretended to nap. I futzed around with gear and bottles and bags (similar to Fridays at home). I even made Neal take a walk around the block - as if we were walking Sunny before dinner. I think I’m going to make this a new thing because it cleared my head, it relaxed me and we were able to explore the neighborhood. I ate an early dinner and hit the pillow.

When race day rolled around, I was up and ready to go before my alarm sounded its happy little chime. I ate (sweet potato biscuits with turkey and mayo + banana + coffee + a Larabar), donned my super suit, wrote my inspiration on my arm and did a little functional strength warm-up. Ace and I walked down to the village and I dropped off my run special needs bag, filled my bike with all its bottles and food and headed to my run transition bag to grab my shades.

One thing I would recommend at every race: go check on your bag on race morning! Mine had been moved! My bag (983) was lined up behind number 982 on Saturday, but by Sunday morning, it was lined up behind 981. I got a little frazzled because I’d already paced out where my bag would be in a line of 2499 other red and white bags! One of the volunteers - a woman with a Captain America shield on her sweatshirt - helped me find my bag. They had lined up the odds on the left hand side and evens on the right-hand side.

After that, I mapped out the bike start, the bike finish, the changing tents, the run start and the finish line. We mapped out how Ace would get to see me at all the intersections and how he might get on his bike to see me out on the run course.

We hung out by the riverfront for what seemed like forever. I warmed up a little. Were warned by race officials about the impending cannon blast to start the race (Dude! That little thing is only a little bigger than my Pez and was louder than a jet). I was surprisingly calm and having a good time. We talked to people in the crowd. We watched the pros (males only at this race) start a minute apart. Then the first of the age-groupers began their departure. Two-at-a-time. Five seconds apart.

I finally went into transition, looked for Lisa for a few minutes and then skeedaddled over to my bike. I chatted with the other women in my age-group. We introduced ourselves, told funny one-liners, nervously shifted from one foot to another in our bike shoes and fidgeted with our helmets. Finally, a race official came to our rack. Now, you can get your bike off. Now, you can walk your bike up. Now, you line up two-by-two. Now, you can lift one leg over the frame. Now you an clip one foot in. All this time we were moving forward and before I knew it we were ten spots groups away from the start.

Right about this time, I spotted my superhero volunteer. She was still inside the run bag area and cheering us all on. Have a great day. Enjoy the ride. See you when you get back. As I clip-clopped up to her, I handed her the red volunteer appreciation bracelet each athlete is given. You helped me so much this morning to find my bag. Please take this and know that you are loved. She beamed and said GO GET EM, GIRL!

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FOUR LETTERS

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FOUR LETTERS

About two hours outside of Chattanooga, I finished up a stint of driving and checked my phone. I had 17 messages. Quite a few were of the go-gettem-girl variety. The rest were about cancellations. The one from Holly stood out the most:

THEY CANCELED THE SWIM.

Our 2.4 mile down-river swim was canceled three days before the event. I might have used a six-letter word that rhymes with Slammit. I was and still am disappointed. I love the swim. I want the event to be a triathlon. I’ve been working so hard for all three. Wah. Wah. Wah.

The river is running three times faster than normal, there are high levels of e. coli and there is a large amounts of debris floating around. I understand the reasoning and the decision (someone died in the swim here in the spring 70.3). But, still!

Another round of texts involved the cancellation of IMNC 70.3 - our hometown half that happens next weekend. None of the disciplines (or even transition areas) are safe for an event. Plus, volunteers and fire, police and rescue are stretched thin. It makes perfect sense to cancel. But, A few of my athletes were racing, I will miss out on raising money for the Haitian orphans and many businesses will lose money. Disappointment is valid.

In times like these, I do remember 4G: Gusto, Gumption, Gruel and Grace. It’s about time for a little GRACE here.

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But, I’ve also learned about the 4Fs: F*CK, FIX, FORGET & FOCUS.

If something goes wrong, say the four-letter F-Word. Maybe not out loud. Or maybe very loud. Maybe not in front of your kids, though. Or at work. Be disappointed. Be pissed. Be emotional. You have four minutes to feel the feels.

Then, FIX it. If you’re already on the course, do what needs to be done to make it right - or mostly. Flat? Fix it. Dropped your bottle of Infinit? Fix it. Last mile not fast enough? Fix it. An event cancellation is out of my control, but I can fix my attitude. I can fix my reaction to it. My turnaround: This crazy course is still long at 142.6 miles (the bike is 116). And, I still get a medal for my longest brick ever!

Then, FORGET IT. Out of sight. Out of mind. Set a time limit now for how long you're going to think about it. Don't let the memory of that one incident weigh you down for the rest of the race. Let. It. Go.

FOCUS. First on the process. Focus entirely on the next right step. And then the next. Then extend that focus. Focus on the positives. On what will happen in the next mile. At the finish. My current focus is how to prep my gear for my biggest bikerun of the year. My attention is on a different nutrition plan and pacing strategy.

I recently watched a story on the Weather Channel (probably during all that Florence coverage) that mentioned the best way to aid a person in panic is to divert their focus to a task. So, get to work. Get busy.

And stop cussing.

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RACE WEEK - RACE PREP

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RACE WEEK - RACE PREP

I love prepping for race week. I really do. The lists! The packing! The piles of gear everywhere. The bags in bags inside of bags. Okay, it CAN be stressful, but it can also be fun. I have found a few ways to treasure the week before. Here are a few things I look forward to:

PRE-RACE SOCIAL

Local athletes doing the same race gather for a social a week or so before the big day. It’s a way to encourage first-timers, find out insider tips from athletes who’ve raced in the past and finalize where we’re staying, eating, training, etc. while we’re at the race venue. This year was a chilled out dinner at a local Thai spot with Holly, Michael and Susan who are also doing Chatty, plus: Erin, Jen, Sami, Charlie, Angela, Andre and James. It was just what we needed after a week dealing with the aftermath of the storm. It was just what I needed to get excited about racing - which has been lost in the surge of clean-up.

 Here’s our crazy crowd a few years ago celebrating Kona pre-race for Sami!

Here’s our crazy crowd a few years ago celebrating Kona pre-race for Sami!

PICK THE PEZ

For every IronDistance race, I pick a Pez to travel with me on the bike. The first year, it was a classic Wonder Woman. Last year in Santa Rosa, it was the new Wonder Woman. R2D2 was with me in Florida. I have a big collection and I’m always looking for new versions.  For Chatty I chose……the Black Power Ranger.

 

Quick-witted and clever, Zack relies on a combination of skill,  strength, and agility to win his battles. The original Black Ranger is  an energetic, charismatic, and fun-loving young man. He enjoys athletics  (such as basketball, American football, and scuba diving), dancing  (especially to a fresh beat bumping out of his friend's boombox)……… Zack is extremely confident and positive. 

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You’ve heard of spirit animals? Well, Zack is my spirit ranger.  He even matches my race kit and Lucinda. And I’ve already been seeing it everywhere. And, as everything, it has multiple meanings. It has been a reminder that IRONMAN is not black and white. It is not this or that. Nothing is set in stone. It is constantly changing and there are often many right answers - or no right answers! In a brand who’s motto is ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE, it’s also true that ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN. And already has! Have I mentioned that the swim was canceled before we even got here?

So Zack is my spirit ranger. He will remind me to use my combo of strength, agility, confidence - and maybe a little dancing - to fight the battles of this race. Let’s see what we can do in the face of 142.6 miles.

MOTIVATION MATERIAL

I can find motivation anywhere: from everyday training, a funny quote, chalk drawings, a Scripture verse or even a birthday card. At my first few pre-race socials, I received dozens of well-wishes - cards and photos and CD full of songs - and a giant box containing  140 index cards -  reasons to tri (thanks, Sunshine). It is now stuffed with inspiration that I’ve collected throughout the years that make me feel strong and fast and “ironie”. If I’m driving to a race, I’ll take it with me.

I usually take one book with me as inspiration. For this race, I’m taking Deena Kastor’s memoir LET YOUR MIND RUN for its little nuggets of wisdom from the Olympic marathoner.

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I read this book earlier this year and it really made a difference. Kastor used not just one, but a multitude of mental skills to improve her run and her life. She used her love of nature, the discipline of optimism and even visualization to garner more confidence, resilience and longevity.

“My competitive days had a short window, but I could push my mind and strengthen my positivity for a lifetime. How optimistic could I become? How much richer could I build my life? What joy and potential lay ahead. Pursuing positivity felt infinite, limitless.”

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RACE WEEK - CHATTY 2018

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RACE WEEK - CHATTY 2018

I can’t believe it’s here! It’s already race week. I leave in only a few days and I am excited and nervous and ready as I’ll ever be.

It’s been a crazy season. I haven’t written much about it, but it’s been wild. I’ve gotten injured (hamstring), I had a hard spill on the bike, I had a big race A-HA in August, a big race meltdown in September and we had a major hurricane disrupt life and training. It makes me feel unprepared in many ways, but maybe I’m even more prepared than I know. I can use my experiences as an excuse or I can use it as fuel.

Here’s what I do know, I am looking forward to a new race experience. Chatty is new to me and I know from my past races that I can thrive that way. Similar to France and Santa Rosa, this race will mean new terrain and a slightly different climate. The swim is a down-river-with-the-current course, the bike is 116 miles (not the traditional 112) in North Georgia within sight of Lookout Mountain and the run will be the hilliest I’ve ever done.

Of course, I’ve had a few full-circle moments in the lead-in to this race. Last year during my Level II Endurance certification clinic, I created a presentation about Stephanie - a triathlete with her first Ironman in her sights. She wanted to do Chatty and place in the top ten of her age-group. I immersed myself in that Chatty race. I found pictures and a few race reports and blogs to add to my presentation. It was shortly after that that I signed up for this race myself! On September 1 of this year, I turned the page on my office wall calendar to find a picture of a runner on the Walnut Street Bridge in Chatty, the one I will cross twice and the one that will take me into the finish area of the race on Sunday.

The quote for September:

Some people create with words or with music or with a brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run.
— Steve Prefontaine
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COACH'S CIRCLE - CATCH-UP DRILL

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COACH'S CIRCLE - CATCH-UP DRILL

This story is not about a swim drill. This is my way of speeding through all the things I want to write to get caught up. Sometimes I feel like this blog is a good friend and I've got to catch her up on all the fun stuff that has happened in order to convey all the new stuff that's about to happen! So here we go......

 Happy Place: in a Hammock outside our clinic classroom.

Happy Place: in a Hammock outside our clinic classroom.

USAT TRIATHLON CLINIC Last October, right after my last race of the year and my 50th triathlon, Ace and I took a vacation/work trip to Hawaii! It was my first time there and I was spellbound. It was a combination of everything I love: ocean, adventure, relaxation, play and yes, triathlon. My primary intention for the trip was the USA Triathlon Level II Endurance coaching certification clinic. It felt like play to me. Even though we spent FAR too much time in inside, I relished every morsel of swimbikerun education that the Level III coaches fed to us.

I was in heaven. It was three days of high-level coaches teaching about long course triathlon. Plus, there were only 11 other coaches there for the clinic. It was a small group of talented, diverse and inspiring mentors for triathletes. There were presentations on nutrition, strength training, video analysis and athlete psychology on top of swimbikerun tips, techniques and theories.

My favorite part? The final presentations. Each of us was given a case study of an impossible athlete. My athlete was Stephanie and she was a piece of work. She wanted to do Ironman Chatty - but never take a day off. My presentation (which had to take into account all that we'd learned over three days) had to show how I could make that happen. In ten minutes or less.   I pulled out all the stops, created a kick-ass slide show complete with a Wonder Woman slide and practiced in my off time! I will brag and say I got a huge round of applause, but it may have been because I was last and we were all ready to get out of there!

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And go play.

Because, oh......did I mention that all of this was happening during the IRONMAN World Championships? More on that to come.........

 

 

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THE SANDLING BEACH 50

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THE SANDLING BEACH 50

WAAAAAY BACK IN OCTOBER........I did my FIFTIETH TRIATHLON! I wrote about it, but never published it. I'll tell you why later. In the meantime, here's the recap:

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NUMBER 50 IN THE BOOKS! On Sunday, I took on the Sandling Beach 50 - a one mile swim + 40 mile ride + 9 mile run - for my fiftieth triathlon. The headline news: I missed first place in my age-group by THREE SECONDS! The subtitle: Number 50 might have been my best race ever. 

The day before the race at check-in, I presented my USAT card and signed my waiver and said, I'm number 21. Nope, said the race timer (and my dear friend Renee). Your number had been changed - to NUMBER 50! Suddenly I was STOKED to be racing. How cool! I'd been downplaying the significance and it really was a BIG deal. The next morning, I found a balloon at my bike rack that said: Happy 50th Triathlon! on one side and Go Beth Andrew on the other.  Even the temp on race morning was 50 degrees!

I had been downplaying the race in my mind. It's not a big deal. It's the last race of the season. I've done six races in 12 weeks (I'm tired!). I'm not trained for hills. I had achieved so much already this season. But, suddenly - it was a big deal! I got so excited.

Somebody asked me the other day if these races remain competitive to me and Sunday proved: YES. Yes they are.

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The swim was a self-seeded rolling start which meant you could start anywhere in the line. I started in the first 20-30 people and tried to be one of the first women out. We crossed the timing mat on the beach and entered the water about 10 seconds apart. It was a beautiful swim. It was two lap loop and I got to see Renee and John and Bill (Set Up Events pros) at the turn. They gave me an atta, Girl! and I gave them a thumbs up and jumped back in. The swim seemed to fly by and the only trouble I had was on the first loop - sighting on the shore and the turn-around. I think that the sun was in just the right spot to annoy my view of the wiggly man and turn buoy. I finished in 27:42, faced an uphill run into transition and headed out on the bike.

As good as the swim was, I didn't feel strong on the bike. I felt cold. And off my game. I also just didn't care. I was apathetic and felt like I was just along for a spin. My legs felt a little heavy. At the start of the second loop I was wishing I was finished - and I still had 20 miles to go. Parker and Anna were even out on the course with an AMAZING sign and although it gave me lift, I just wasn't right. And then, a woman with a 49 on her calf passed me. And it got worse.  Oh well, I thought. That's okay. It's not my day. I'm just happy to be doing number 50.  I soft-pedaled up the next hill.

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And then, I woke up.

All of sudden my competitive fire lit up. Burn it up! I said out loud. Just stay with her as long as you can. You are strong. Keep her in your sights. You don't have to beat her on the bike, you can catch her on the run if you stay close. Stay with her. And I did. I was within 30 seconds of her for 10 miles. I spent that whole time counting landmarks. She'd reach a landmark and I'd count how long it took me. Eventually, her lead stretched out and I could no longer see her. But something had clicked. What would normally have been disappointment turned into determination. I was going to catch her.

But, she had an 11-minute lead going into T2. That is a pretty big lead in a nine mile race. I had two advantages, I didn't know she was 11 minutes ahead and I knew I'd be able to see her on the course. There is something about seeing my competition that makes me want to race. If I can see you ahead of me or if I know you're behind me, I will race you. Plus, I had two process goals: to run with my metronome and to not walk.

I had been training with my metronome on my Garmin for about two months and had already done two races with it. It is a three-fold wonder: it keeps my turn-over on track, it gives me something to think about and it regulates my breathing. I had it set a little high, but knew that even on the hills, I would be able to keep up with the alert or at least get back into the groove. I had done two September races without walking on the run, but I had trained most of the year (for Santa Rosa) with a walk/run strategy. It is so nice to walk. And I knew I'd be tempted to walk up the hills. I promised that even if it was just a shuffle, I would run up those hills.

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And I did. I counted nine hills in those nine miles. I ran up all of them - with 10 steps of fast walking on hill number 7. The great thing about this race is that there are four spurs in the two loop course. That means you can see the other runners and how close they are to you as you pass on the out and backs. I finally spotted number 49 as I climbed the second major hill. She was coming toward me and I started counting again. I was about seven minutes back. Yikes. I stuck to my plan and saw 49 at mile 3.5. She was probably five minutes ahead. But, she was walking up a hill. 

I'll pause for a 20-second commercial break and say it was an amazing run. The weather was perfect. The sun was shining, it was low humidity and the temps were in the mid-60s. The best part were the volunteers. Right near transition,  a group of young women volunteers directing traffic. Evidently, they had seen my balloon and heard about it being my 50th - and thought it was my BIRTHDAY! So they cheered and sang and wished me happy birthday every time (four!) that I ran through that area. It was hilarious and I wasn't about to correct them. Especially, when they remarked how good I looked for 50! Ha!

Anyway, back to the race! I did not give up my plan even though the next few times I saw her she was running and looking strong. Instead of getting discouraged, I just kept my my feet moving to the metronome and moving forward. In fact, I did not pass her until mile seven. She sighed and said, good job when I passed and I said Atta Girl! C'mon! Let's do this. I slowed for half a second thinking she would take the challenge but then changed my mind - afraid she would take the challenge. I felt like I skipped up that last hill. I suddenly felt like Mirinda Carfrae in the 2014 Ironman World Championships. I had come back from a HUGE deficit and had overtaken my rival.

I was giddy and pushed to the end.

I crossed the line in 4:17:23 - my run time was 1:26:12. Renee was there to celebrate with me and watch as I jumped up and down. I grabbed a water and waited under the finish tent. We turned around and waited for 49 to come across the line. When she came in view I cheered and screamed like I'd known her my whole life. Congrats! I gushed when she crossed the finish. You kept me on my toes and running for my life! She. Was Not. Amused. She mumbled something like thanks and walked away. Renee looked at me and we both busted out laughing. Oops.

A little while later the results were posted.

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THREE SECONDS.

The funny thing was.....I was not disappointed. Okay, maybe a little. But - I was also really proud of myself. I joked about it with Renee. I got teased about it by one of the event directors as I stood on the podium in second place. [Three seconds? Three seconds? he asked into the microphone.] I called ACE and Anna and three other friends on the way home to tell the story.

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I fought hard. I was my own best coach. The good wolf won over the bad wolf. I pushed myself. I didn't give up. I worked hard and focused on the processes it took to get the outcome I wanted. I might as well have won! I was smiling from ear to ear. [It also helped that even after John made fun of me, he also made a big hoopla about it being my 50th triathlon!]

My favorite thing about triathlon is the lessons I learn about myself along the way. It's one of the reasons why I keep at it. There is always something knew to discover and uncover. It took me one race - that first one -  to learn how to move past my comfort zone. It took me until this last one to learn how to really fight until the end. I can't wait to see what happens in the next 50.

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TIME-OUT

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TIME-OUT

FOUR WAYS TO TURN YOUR SET BACK INTO A SET UP FOR A COMEBACK

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It's been a long time since you've had a set back, said a friend about a month before my hamstring quit playing. Sigh. I think she jinxed me and now I want to set her back. [You know who you are.]

It's true though. I've been lucky. The last time I had an injury was 2014. I broke my calf. Well, It felt like that anyway. Way back then, while warming up for a 5k, I started my skips and bounds and then BOOM. You know that sound of the bass drop when the space ship jumps to hyperspace? Yeah. I heard that. I thought I'd been shot. And I nearly dropped to the ground. It made me nauseaus and woozy. I hobbled into the expo of the race and found some ice for my calf and a glass of wine for my feelings and cried while all my friends finished their race. The next morning,  I remember lying on the floor of our sunroom and crying to Ace; whining that I couldn't run and that it hurt to sleep and I'd never be able to race again and and blah blah freaking blah.

This hamstring injury was not as dramatic as that.  But, I AM. And I'd knew I'd have a come-apart at some point. I haven't had as many tears, but I did have a mini-freak-out about two weeks in. There is a fear that snuck in and said - it's over. Discouragement took over. It said: you'll never get it back. Shame played its part: how could you let this happen?  Pity had a party: everyone else is running, why can't I? and But, I don't want to be injured.

I knew what to do: I called my coach/mentor/friend to talk me off the ledge. The next day at swim practice she brought me a goodie bag. It was filled with lotions and potions and her Compex and a note that read: you are a ROCKSTAR. It made me smile and I stepped away from the Cliffs of Insanity. 

I decided to see this as a TIME-OUT. In basketball (#goheels), time-outs are called for various reasons: to stop the momentum of the other team, to change up your game strategy, to draw up a specific play, fire up the team or rest your players. I'm resting this player.

GIVE GRACE: It's one of the 4Gs. In the middle of this GRUEL (another G), I am giving myself a little GRACE. A little forgiveness. A little time. A little love. Whenever there's a run in my plan, I've given myself the gift of a massage, or a PT session, or a freakin' nap! Give it to yourself and your aching body. Don't rush the process.  Give yourself the time to heal. Rest.

DRAW UP A SPECIFIC PLAY:  Make a plan to get back into the game. Make it as specific as you can. I often tell my athletes that my advice for coming back from an injury is the same that a doctor would give to an addict leaving rehab and fearing relapse: YOU CANNOT GO BACK TO THE SAME DOSE YOU HAD WHEN YOU STOPPED. So create a plan - or hire a coach to help you create a plan - that eases you back into your normal training load. Otherwise, you will overdose.

FIRE IT UP/LOOK FORWARD: Get excited. I have had to drop three races off my schedule this spring. Instead of wondering what could have been, I've had to shift to thinking about what IS on my schedule. I've gotten to make new goals.  I've fired up my YouTube browser to find inspirational videos. Use this time to imagine what it will be like to come back from the setback. How will this add to your story?

LOOK BACK: Reflect on your successes from the past few months. Enjoy your victories from last year! And, you can always go back to your one word. Go back to the word you chose for this year and ask a million questions, starting with: how can I see this as............? [Gratitude? Resolve? Honor? Posture? FillintheBlankWithYourWord].  My one word for 2018 is FULL-CIRCLE. So, my question is: How can I see this as FULL-CIRCLE? The answer: One of the reasons I got into triathlon is because I got injured running! I was bored and had a now-forgotten injury (bursitis in my hip?). I knew that swimming and biking would make me a well-rounded athlete and was great cross-training. Plus, it felt just like being a kid again! How's that for FULL-CIRCLE?!

Plus, the year I had my calf strain, when I didn't run for six weeks and wore a boot at night and acting like a whiny-wort was the year that I had my best Ironman (by an hour) and placed third in my age-group. #thebestisyettocome

Whether you're injured or stuck, you can use these four tools to set yourself up for the next right step. How do you set yourself up for your comeback?

 

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PIGGY-BACK

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PIGGY-BACK

It started with a piggy back ride in Haiti. With a kid on the front and a kid on my back I raced back and forth on the gravel yard against Jennifer who had two other kids from the orphanage hanging from her neck and shoulders. We took turns loading kids, running to the sour cherry tree and back. Those out and backs almost felt better than crossing the finish line at Ironman. Almost.

 ECHO Haiti

ECHO Haiti

My functional strength training prepared me for all the squats to get kids on my back. It helped me lift kids over my head. It helped me balance and dance and play duck-duck-goose.  I felt a little sore all over later that evening and was pretty sure I had kick-marks on my booty from the piggy-back rides, but overall felt strong. Haiti was good for body, heart and soul. 

Fast forward to the week before Easter.  I did water aerobics with my class instead of teaching on the deck. I attended a 15-minute boxing demo class at the gym while waiting for my spin class to show up. I did the step climber, too. On Thursday, I put on my prettiest golf skirt and hot pink sweater and headed to the Country Club for the annual adult Easter Egg hunt. The starter yelled GO! and off we went to find the plastic eggs filled with Mega Million lottery tickets, wine vouchers, free dinner vouchers, chocolate and more. I ran 50 yards at a good clip and as I climbed the 18th green I felt the world jolt beneath my left leg. 

Hubby has the video and I can see the moment it happened. My arm flies up in the air as I steady myself. I watch as I fasthobblewalklimp to the rough around the 18th hole bending to pick up as many eggs as I can get my hand on. I walked back to Hubby with a slight limp and groan: I think I broke my hamstring. 

True story. It's a low grade proximal hamstring strain.  Literally a pain in the butt. 

It's been two weeks and five days and it is finally feeling better. I've had to drop out of an upcoming half ironman and I won't be running for another four weeks. But, there is good news:

  • I can swim without kicking and without pushing off the wall with my left leg.
  • I can bike. I haven't pushed the intensity, but Lucinda and I went outside for a ride on Saturday morning. It was glorious!
  • I can do Pilates. 
  • I can write! 

One of the benefits of being injured is that there is more time in the day to do the other things that you think about doing when you're swimbikerunning. Whenever there's a run on my calendar, I stretch. I sit on a heating pad. I have started using the COMPEX. I have used my compression sleeves.

Apparently, I think about writing a lot and so.....here we go. 

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I QUALIFIED FOR KONA!

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I QUALIFIED FOR KONA!

Ha! Made ya look! But that is my other big news.

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Truth is, I am going to Kona! I did qualify. But not for the Ironman World Championships. Back in January, I applied for the USA Triathlon Level II Endurance Certification course. And I got accepted. So, I'm headed to THEBIGISLAND for three and a half days of triathlon education!

But, I WILL get to see THE Ironman. It's my Super Bowl.  It happens to be the weekend after my certification class. So, I will get to see it all first-hand. Ace and I have even signed up to volunteer for body marking on race day. I'm hoping to spot a few of my favorite pros (Alicia Kaye and Sarah Piampiano and Mareen Hufe)  and meet some amazing age-groupers. I really, really, really want to see Chrissie Wellington get inducted into the IM Hall of Fame.

Right now, I'm more excited about the certification than the race. In the last week, we've gotten the schedule and some content. I've been re-reading some of my content from USAT Level I certification and studying up on TRIATHLON SCIENCE. I've read up on the case studies we'll be assigned and prepping for a presentation we'll have to give on the last day. I am totally nerding out.

Honestly, I've never really wanted to do the Hawaii Ironman. I will never qualify by time - I'd have to be top one or two in my age-group (although IRONMAN's motto is: ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE). I may someday qualify for the Legacy program - but that would be years from now. Plus, Kona is hotter than White Lake hot.

I will say that I have always wanted to coach an athlete to Ironman. That is my Kona dream. This experience is going to launch me in that direction. I already have the athletes on my roster that are poised to become Kona qualifiers.  This is the tipping point for all of us and I can't wait to see what happens.

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