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MEANT TO BE (AN IRONMAN FLORIDA FOLLOW-UP)

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MEANT TO BE (AN IRONMAN FLORIDA FOLLOW-UP)

This race was a pivot point for me.

My mother-in-law (and others) often ask me WHY? Why do you keep doing these races? Why do you put your body through the training? The long weekends? The race day itself? (1068.8 miles of ironman racing since 2012). Why do you sacrifice your time and your energy and your money to do such long races?

The answer is self-discovery.

These races tend to bring out all the feels.

STRONG SAUCE

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I had a mental victory on this day. I had my slowest marathon time since IM France in 2016, but I had some major wins while I was out there for over six hours. I mentioned that I turned off my run/walk alerts and simply ran when I wanted and walked when I needed. My Pez co-pilot for this race was a wolf. I chose him for two reasons.

"NOW this is the law of the jungle, as old and as true as the sky,
And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die.

As the creeper that girdles the tree trunk, the law runneth forward and back;
For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.

RUDYARD KIPLING

I was inspired all day by my pack. Jen, Maria and Tonya made me stronger. They made me resilient and tough. In my weaker moments, I remembered our training days. Our Saturdays in the hot sun on country roads. It made me push a little harder and dig a little deeper. The word for this race was TEAM and this team was brave and adventurous and unstoppable. Even though I was the coach, at times, I needed them more than they needed me.

The other reason for the wolf was inspired by this story:

One evening, an elderly Cherokee chief told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, ‘My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.

One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other wolf is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.’

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked, ‘Grandpa, which wolf wins?’

The old Cherokee simply replied, ‘The one that you feed.’

In races, the good wolf - loves to run. She loves to run with the pack. She loves to lead the pack. She digs in her claws and springs into action. She chases and kind of likes being chased. The bad wolf says: just walk! for crying out Mike. That voice says: give in. It’s worthless. You’re not winning. You don’t even have to finish. She likes to give in when the going gets rough. She succumbs to the pressure. Her mood spirals down like water in a drain.

All day long I fed the good wolf. Wolfie! What a good girl! Look at what you just did! You ran all the way up that hill. And down that one. In the rain! I promised her chicken broth and cola. I told her she was right on track. I complimented her when she kept running. I encouraged her to run through the next timing mat. I told her if she ran up this hill and down that hill that I would take care of her after the race. I’d let her do all of her favorite things (like organize things and sleep late).

WEAK SAUCE

Disappointment. What?! You just finished 140.6 miles of swimbikerun and you are disappointed?! Yes. I felt it AS SOON AS I crossed the finish line. I wanted to run faster. And bike better. And catch Jen and Maria. And claim a personal best. And qualify for Kona. I wanted to weigh 15 pounds less. In the race I was fully focused on the process, but as soon as I finished I was focused on the outcome. That shift created a big conflict within and the edginess that I felt pre-race returned as I stood in the pouring rain with my medal and hat and shirt and wrapped in my tin foil. That edginess is produced by pressure, both real and imagined and is always self-induced. It’s also produced by self-criticism. It’s produced by a feeling of NEVER ENOUGH. If I don’t keep this feeling in check, I tend to miss out on amazing moments. I tend to downplay the importance of them. I sometimes take for granted that my body can go farther on one day in swimbikerun than some people will drive in a week. I tend to check it off my list and move on to SOMETHING MORE. In doing so, I downplay myself. I play small.

In the days since, I’ve combated this by celebrating myself. It’s timely that Thanksgiving was this week. I’ve been reading social media posts about gratitude. I’ve listened to a podcast about THE GRATITUDE ADVANTAGE. I have worn my medal! Each day I’ve listed my wins for that day and put a star by them (like kindegarten) and done a happy dance for each one. I might just order this pillow:

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AWESOME SAUCE

This race was pivotal. In the wake of it all, new dreams formed and passions were reignited. Two major goals developed out of this race.

IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS, I want to coach 20 first-timers to their first IRONMAN finish. I have had the privilege of coaching TEN athletes through their first 140.6 training seasons and races. I love it. Even if I don’t see them cross the finish line, I love their victories. I love their new IRONMAN superpowers. I love their journeys and their own moments of self-discovery. I can’t wait to do it again.

This is what it feels like to finish your first Ironman!

This is what it feels like to finish your first Ironman!

Swim Start in 2017

Swim Start in 2017

I’M GOING TO KONA, BABY! IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS, I am going to qualify for Kona through the Ironman Legacy Program. The legacy program is set up to reward those who’ve done at least 12 MDOT races. Once you’ve done 12 races, your name is put in a drawing for a slot at the World Championships in Kona in October. I have done six MDOT races and I have six to go. In 2017, I went to Hawaii for the week of the race. I went for my Level II Coaching certification and while we were there Ace and I volunteered and spent the day watching the race. We were volunteers at body marking (I met the pros!) and saw the swim and parts of the bike start. Later that day we went out to the run course for a few hours to cheer athletes at the turn-around in town.

The one regret I had about that day was that we didn’t see the finish line. I knew then that I wanted to go back to Kona and for a year I’ve been imagining how it is going to feel when I coach one of my athletes (Jen and Matthew - who’s it gonna be?) across red carpet in Kailua-Kona.

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But now there’s another reason. It’s waiting for ME! I have to see it for myself. I am going to finish that grueling race and swim in the Pacific and ride up to Hawi and run down the Queen K highway and into that finish chute and across that line for me! I am going to own every mile between now and then. I am going to celebrate the swims and bikes and runs that will get me to and through that race. And, although it probably won’t be my last race, it will be a testament to my strength and endurance and love for a sport that has taught me so much about who I am and what I’m meant to be. #teammeanttobe

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IMFLA 2015: The Start & Swim

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IMFLA 2015: The Start & Swim

My day started at 3:45am. It really could have started at 1:27am because I woke up, "checked my hydration level" and ate a pop tart I had stashed in the nightstand. Somehow I willed myself back to sleep between making lists of things to do when I woke up.

We were all up by 4:00 and out the door by 4:30. I hopped out near Alvin's Island and headed to transition. I made a list of everything I needed to do - get body-marked, hydration and computer at bike, sunscreen in the bike bag, nutrition and headband in my run bag. Fortunately, on the way out of transition,  I heard the announcer say something about rubber bands and remembered that I still needed to put my shoes on my bike!

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There is something so beautiful about the hours before a race. It's quiet and loud. It's calm and frantic. You can choose where you want your nerves, your mind, your attitude to go. That day, I was calm and quiet. I sang along to The Way You Do the Things You Do and Sugaree [a gift on race day] as they blared on the speakers. I got to hug a friend from Wilmington doing her first 140.6. I got to hang out with my crew.

Race directors announced the water temp and that this would be a non-wetsuit legal race. Athletes were allowed to wear a wetsuit, but they'd have to start at least 10 minutes behind the last non-wetsuit wearer and wouldn't be considered for awards. It was an easy decision for me to go without the wetsuit. I am a strong swimmer and sometimes feel I swim better without the wetsuit. I knew I wasn't going to see a podium slot or a chance at Kona, but I'm in it to play the game on race day. I didn't want a penalty or an asterisk by my name for performance enhancing tactics.

Spice Girls! Erica my social media director and Jen my coach for the day.

Spice Girls! Erica my social media director and Jen my coach for the day.

By 5:45 I was warming up with Jen. The water was a perfect temp. There was a strong east to west current in the first 25 yards and two sets of breakers on either side of the sand bar. Past the sand bar, the waves were rolling, but not steep. I felt good. I sculled and did a hand stand. I did a few drills and was ready to go.

Florida is now a self-seeded rolling start instead of the mass start from years past. [See this video from Jen's first year in the mass start. The year that Erica and I looked at each other and said simultaneously: oh, hell no.] Athletes are funneled into a starting chute and the idea is that you swim in the group closest to your estimated finish time. Well, that did not happen. They opened the gate and all 3000 athletes shuffle in. Somehow I got stuck-slash-wedged in with the 1:30 section instead of the intended 1:10 group. I couldn't move. Plus, I was a little disappointed in the start - no cannon (not even an freakin' air horn) and no Van Halen (Panama!).

It took me two minutes to make it to the start line and into the water. I danced across the start line to GO BIG OR GO HOME and swear I was smiling as I went in. It felt just like home. It was exactly what I trained for at the Carolina Beach Double Sprint and the Pier to Pier swim. It felt like being on Masonboro Island in the summer. I dove under waves and was at the first buoy in no time. I actually had a lot of real estate until about the third buoy, then it seemed like every buoy was a cluster-eff.

There I am in the pink cap - ha ha. I'm in at about the 2:40 mark. Check out the waves at the 3:05 mark.

A fog moved in and the rollers were a little bigger the closer we got to the turn. At the top of every wave I could look down on the sea of caps. It also got physical in the stretch between the turn buoys. Some guy kept zig zagging across me and I got a punch in my left arm at some point. On the turn back to shore, I found two men with the exact same swim stroke as mine. For two buoys I drafted off their hip. I barely sited and was able to breathe bilaterally again. That might have been my favorite part of the swim.

Headed out for Lap Two

Headed out for Lap Two

I reached the shore and I checked my watch. I knew then I was off my timing mark. I was a little disappointed when I hit the beach, ran 25 yards down the sand and jumped back in for the second lap. But, I reset my goals and dove under a wave. I knew that I could probably negative split this lap and still come in at 1:20. Plus, I'm doing a freaking IRONMAN! I love this! I came up from the next wave,  gave a big woo hoo! and dove under another.

I watched a man beside me try to jump over the next breaker and when I came up on the other side of the sandbar, he was back in the trough and I was in clear water. I sited on one pink cap in a sea of green caps for that second lap. It felt long, but I felt strong. I remember thinking: this is hard, but I don't hate it. I remembered my last super-long set with Sami and Lance - the 4500-yard-She-Ra workout - and reminded myself that if I did that I can do anything.

Getting back to shore that second time was hard. My siting was a little off - maybe because of the wind - but, I made it out of the water and up the sand and stairs in 1:18:59. I found out later I was 16th in my age-group - and I beat two of the podium finishers out of the water. Outstanding!

I headed for transition. R2D2 was waiting.

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Wrightsville Beach Sprint Tri 2015

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Wrightsville Beach Sprint Tri 2015

What a surprising race! I hemmed and hawed about doing this sprint race that is a fun, fast, local favorite. I haven't done it since 2011. I've enjoyed being a spectator and a cheerleader for everyone else. Last year I worked packet pickup and volunteered in the body marking tent (um, hello!), then cheered on course for tri-clubbers and friends.

This year, I was worried about jellyfish and knew I had a big ride the next day. Plus, there is this lingering fear that creeps in about this time of year that I may get hurt or sick or sore from something unrelated to IRONMAN that keeps me from training or racing the big one. By midweek, though, I pushed all fears and negative thoughts away and decided I needed a fun, fast race.

I decided to go outside of my comfort zone and push extra hard. I decided that my race plan would be this: swim a hard effort + bike in zone 4 + run a 7:30-8:00 mile. That's it.

It's funny what happens when you make up your mind. I raced exactly like I planned and I was more excited about that than the results. I swam hard. I biked in zone 4 almost the entire time and I did a progressive run an 8:10/8:00/7:48. I was so excited that I did a happy dance!

Not only that, but I placed second in my age group. I had joked, when I shared my race plan with Dirty Spice, that if I made it on the podium, I'd take my selfie stick with me. HASHTAGOBNOXIOUS HASHTAGI'MTHATATHLETE.

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