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.

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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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THE BIG FIFTY

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THE BIG FIFTY

My very first triathlon in 2008. The Charlotte SheRox.

My very first triathlon in 2008. The Charlotte SheRox.

I've teased in a couple of posts about what's on the horizon for the rest of the season and so here's the big reveal! The first one:

In two weeks I'm doing my FIFTIETH triathlon!

Whaaat?!

The Sandling Beach 50 in Raleigh is a mile swim + 40-mile bike + 9-mile run and it will mark my 50th triathlon since 2008!  [HERE'S the story of my first one.] The idea started earlier in the year, but I don't quite know what sparked it. I was hoping that IM Santa Rosa was going to be THE ONE. I counted up all my tris - including relays - and thought I could make it. But, I skipped two races this spring and one got cancelled and so I had to readjust.

What it means is that I'm cramming FOUR races between August 19 and October 1:  Riverlights Sprint, White Lake International, White Lake Sprint (the next day), the WB YMCA Sprint and finally the Sandling Beach race.

The White Lake Sprint in 2009. Thinking peaceful thoughts before my second tri.

The White Lake Sprint in 2009. Thinking peaceful thoughts before my second tri.

I can't believe this will be number 50! I've come a long way and I can't wait to do 50 more!

Fifty shades of cray.

Fifty shades of cray.

 

Next up: the biggest news yet!

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COACH'S CORNER

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COACH'S CORNER

This year marks my fifth year as a USA Triathlon coach. It is my favorite job I've ever had. I don't know what's better, watching newcomers finish their first race or veterans of the sport beat their best. I love the little victories that my athletes experience in training and the big ones when they reach a racing milestone. I can tell I was born for this when I get off the phone with an athlete and say, out loud while clapping, I love doing this! Every. Single. Time. 

I started with two volunteer athletes on my personal roster. After I took the USAT Level I certification and passed the test, I promised I would coach them for free to gain experience in planning and practice. That year, both of them finished an iron distance race. The next year, they both PR'd their race - one by 30 minutes (on the marathon) and finished in the top ten of her age group and the other bested her previous time by almost two hours. Although I realize that their talent and determination counted for 96% of their success, I am proud of the 4G% that I contributed to their training and race experience.

This year, I have grown to 12 triathletes. Plus, I am the run and bike coach for our YWCA tri club (which is 10-20 athletes strong).  I love them all.  I want them to grow and succeed and learn. I like to see them gain confidence, connect to their professional or personal life and have fun.

In the past, I haven't written much about my coaching or my athletes, but through the end of this year and in 2018, I'll be able to feature the stories of first-time athletes from sprints to IRONMAN, swimbikerun comebacks and more! 

Plus, stay tuned for some exciting news about my coaching career.........

With my YDUBTRICLUB coaches: Lance Tate and Alan Sandrin

With my YDUBTRICLUB coaches: Lance Tate and Alan Sandrin

With my YDUBTRICLUB girls! Cassie, Maria and Tonya rocked out on the Azalea Tri in March 2017.

With my YDUBTRICLUB girls! Cassie, Maria and Tonya rocked out on the Azalea Tri in March 2017.

 

 

 

 

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IRONMAN SANTA ROSA - BEYOND THE FINISH LINE

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IRONMAN SANTA ROSA - BEYOND THE FINISH LINE

The finish of the race is never the end of the day. Believe it or not, I not only need to keep walking, but usually spend an hour or more at the finish area. Standing up. And, we walked almost a mile back to the hotel! I am so grateful that Ace and Sunshine were there as soon as I walked through the finish area to pick up my medal, my tee, my hat, my aluminum foil cape and get my picture. I'm pretty sure that Sunshine jumped the barrier before I crossed the line. I hugged her and kissed him and made my way out of the barricades. I got a hug from Boss and Yoga Spice and they took care of me - wrapped me in warm clothes, found me a port-a-potty and followed me to the food tent.

The finish of the race is never the end of the experience. Hours later I remember what the lake tasted like, what the sun felt like on my shoulders on the bike, what the dirt tasted like in my gum on the run, what the finish chute sounded like. Days later, I am content and satisfied and wearing my medal everywhere I go. Weeks later I am giddy and proud and amazed (at even myself). A month away, I will dream of the hills or the peace at the swim start and I will relive my favorite parts of the day. I still dream of biking in France and running across the line with my two best friends - one in 2013 and one in 2016.

I get lots of questions as I return from the MDOT bubble. Here are a few, plus the replies.

WHAT DID YOU FEEL LIKE AFTERWARDS?  Immediately after this race, my right shin was sore and both of my lifters (my hip flexors) were tender. But, I have never felt stronger after a race. I will say that I was I was too uncomfortable to get a good night's rest. My quads were puffy and sore to touch and my neck and shoulders hurt. And I was sunburnt. And chafed by the zipper of my tri top down the front of my body. And mini Wrunder Woman had scratched a hole in my spine from my back pocket.

HOW MANY CALORIES DO YOU BURN? AND WHAT DO YOU EAT ALL DAY? My Garmin showed that I burned 6000 calories that day. I was in an aerobic heart rate zone most of the day and was probably on target. Once the race started, I ate: seven GU or CLIFF gels [Caramel Macchiato, Salted Caramel, Peanut Butter, Raspberry (which eaten together is a PB&J), Mocha, Vanilla and Root Beer), 400 calories worth of my Infinit Custom mix (named GUSTO GRAPE), three packs of CLIFF chomps (new Gingerale is AWESOME), two bananas, one packet of Justin's Vanilla Almond Butter, 1/4 cup of Cola Gummies, at least two Red Bulls and some cola.

Me and Honey at the Iron Horse Vineyard.

Me and Honey at the Iron Horse Vineyard.

WHAT DO YOU EAT AFTERWARDS? I am always so hungry right after the race. I crave salt. Usually, I want a ChickFilA sandwich. This time, I filled my plate with delicious local pizza (which I gave to hubby), french fries, pulled pork tacos and two chicken sliders. I ate about 10 french fries and maybe an ounce of the chicken. And it took my 30 minutes just to get that down.

The next day I was able to eat a full breakfast including scrambled eggs, potato wedges, a bowl of fruit, bacon and sausage. I also downed a whole bag of my new favorite chips.

And I drank some wine (#toomuch) and had a normal lunch. And I've been eating ever since. My sweet tooth has been off the hook since the race. I joke that I left Whole Foods last week with only junk food: two boxes of pop tarts, banana muffin mix, chocolate cake mix, coconut milk ice cream (two flavors) and fig newtons. [But hey! They were gluten, soy and dairy free!]

ARE YOU NAKED UNDER THE WETSUIT? No!

WHAT WERE YOUR MANTRAS? I mentioned in a previous post that I tried to think of a new mantra for every four-minute interval on that last loop. Here are a few I remember:

I AM ONE WITH THE FORCE AND THE FORCE IS WITH ME

I AM STRONG AND FAST. OUTRUN. OUTLAST.

YOU ARE STRONGER THAN YOU BELIEVE. YOU HAVE GREATER POWER THAN YOU KNOW.

I AM STRONG NOT FAST. I'm BUILT TO LAST.

I AM MOANA OF MONTANUI. YOU WILL BOARD MY BOAT. 

MENTALLY TOUGH. FAST FEET. STRONG LEGS.

SCOOP YOUR BELLY. TUCK YOUR TAIL.

NO MORE RHYMES NOW. AND I MEAN IT. ANYBODY WANT A PEANUT?

 

 

DO YOU GET THE IRONMAN BLUES? Yes, but not yet. I actually think this gets better each time. WHAT DOES THAT FEEL LIKE?  I miss each race after it's over. I miss the experience and the challenge. I miss the training. I miss the interaction with other athletes.  I feel relief - which wears its own sadness. I am relieved that I am safe.  I am relieved that my body faced the test - and passed. That we traveled to and from a land Far Far Away. I am grateful. Which doesn't make me blue but does fill my heart to overflowing. I am grateful for my life. For my husband and his support and encouragement. For my friends who traveled 3000 miles. And for my friends and family and training buddies who cheered from home.

I mentioned in a previous post that on the bike I had to avoid at all cost thinking about how far I had to go in the race. I caught myself in those hours after the race thinking about how far I'd come. One hundred and forty point six miles. In one day. It put me on the verge of being emotional in those days following but, it it has actually taken more than a week for it to finally hit me that I did an IRONMAN.  Again.  It's a feeling I want to hold on to.  It's clarity and happiness and holy-cow-ness and power and love and joy. I want to feel that and put that out in the world. Because these days, we sure do need it.

DID YOU WIN? ..............

WHAT'S NEXT? HOW SOON DO YOU START THINKING ABOUT YOUR NEXT RACE? ARE YOU DONE YET?  I am not done. I have already started thinking about next year. I have several ultra distance tris on my bucket list and I can't wait to get them on my calendar. Mt. Tremblant. Boulder. Copenhagen. These are the dreams of those who will never qualify for Kona.

I am also not finished with 2017. But, I will save that for next time.

Boss, Om, Me and Dirty Spice

Boss, Om, Me and Dirty Spice

Day After: Me, Boss, Honey and Sunshine at the Iron Horse.

Day After: Me, Boss, Honey and Sunshine at the Iron Horse.

Day After the Day After. We turned on the fire pit at 9:00AM and sat in the sunshine.

Day After the Day After. We turned on the fire pit at 9:00AM and sat in the sunshine.

 

 

 

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