posted by on Fitness

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As I have mentioned, some of what I have enjoyed recently is having the flexibility to choose workouts based on moods or whims. In addition, not having a training plan to follow has allowed me to focus on other things that I have really needed to focus on. For example, stretching and yoga. This is something that I know IS good for me and I should incorporate it into my regular fitness routine. However, while training for Ironman, I was lucky WHEN I included some level of stretching into my plan. I definitely did not do enough, but it was so hard when days consisted of long training sessions and many two-a-days. When I finally had time after work, training and meals, all I wanted to do was relax or sleep. I would force myself to stretch or foam roll SOME. Over the last few weeks, though, I have been trying to do yoga twice a week. I have been successful in some twice a weeks, but it has been more once a week frequency. Yoga is something I have done now and again over the past few years. There have been some times where I was able to do it on a more regular schedule, but more often not.  THIS…I am working on.

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I recently stumbled onto an article that mentioned it was National Yoga Month. Well, sure enough…after more googling, September is National Yoga Month! According to the Yoga Health Foundation, September is the official National Yoga Month (a national observance designated by the Department of Health & Human Services) designed to educate about the health benefits of yoga and to inspire a healthy lifestyle. So, in support of National Yoga Month, I thought I would share some thoughts from my experience about the benefits of yoga.

1. Greater flexibility – This first one might be the most obvious. Being more flexible helps with recovery and injury prevention. This is very important for triathletes since we ask a lot of our bodies. According to Active.com,“Triathletes are unique because they compete at peak levels in three physically demanding sports. Over time, this extreme training can cause imbalances in the body, which can result in injury if not addressed. Yoga can help by going beyond simple stretching to work the muscles and joints through all ranges of motion. By working the body through all planes of motion, yoga creates balance, stability, core strength and flexibility.”

Half pigeon pose has become one of my favorite and “go-to” poses over the last several weeks. I have been dealing with an achy glute and tight hips, so this position really targets some of these areas.

2. Builds strength and muscle tone – Who doesn’t like this? There are many yoga moves that require us to hold/balance our own body weight. There have been numerous times that I have done yoga and the next day I was sore. Holding the downward dog position will definitely give your upper body a good workout! There are also lots of great yoga poses that focus on core strength. I don’t know many triathletes that spend enough time working on their core. Building a strong core can benefit in all three disciplines (swimming, biking and running)!

3. Reduce stress – I know that many reading this may say that they will go for a run to reduce stress or to sweat out a bad day. Well, I agree! However, I know that I carry a lot of stress in my shoulders and upper back and while a good run will immediately make me feel better to work out the frustrations of the day, yoga can help with the tightness that builds up in the areas where people tend to “carry stress”.

While I am not a certified fitness instructor or extensively experienced in my yoga practice, the benefits listed above are my opinion and the benefits I have personally realized from doing yoga. I think it is a good idea to experience difference areas of fitness to learn what other activities we might benefit from or just enjoy. I chose to post these in the spirit of sharing. I do not attend a yoga studio, but have numerous videos which I use at home. There are also lots of good options to check out on You Tube as well.

Do you practice regular yoga? What is your favorite yoga pose?

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Life After Ironman

Sep
2014
10

posted by on Fun, Ironman

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Life after Ironman has been great. August was a really fun month!! Don’t get me wrong…life before Ironman was great too…just super busy! The first several days after we got home from Lake Placid were easy. I was only back home and at work for two days before I headed off to the Outer Banks of NC for a get-away with two college sorority sisters.

Girls Beach

Girl Time!!!

The timing was really perfect. No training to think about. Just enjoying some well-deserved rest and relaxation. It rained almost the entire weekend (yes, I thought I already had my fair share of rain), but we had a good time none the less.

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Enjoying a very short peak of the sun just in time for sunset!

Upon returning home, I had a surprise awaiting me. Tony had gone on a bit of a mission while I was out of town. This is what he had done with my race bib and medal. I love it!!!

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So, after the beach trip, it was back to work. Only a four day work week, but I believe in easing back into things :). It is so very nice to have my morning start at 6:10-6:15am. There were no 4:45am – 5:00am alarms to think about!! I also continued to enjoy my evenings off from training. I did not have a set number of days in mind for recovery…I just wanted to take it easy for while and ease back into activity. Well, so I thought!!

That next weekend we had plans each day of the weekend! The Friday night outing was a cookout with a group of friends…it was a bit of a pre-party for the next evening’s 40th birthday celebration for a good friend of ours.

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At the Birthday Celebration!!

Sunday was a dinner out with a couple friend.  She wanted to hear all about the race, so we had a nice afternoon catching up and chatting!

Rewind a bit to Friday…As we were leaving the cookout, I was talking with two girls that are currently training for their first half-iron distance and iron distance races about the training they were doing the following morning. They had a long run planned and I agreed to tag along. So, my first REAL activity after IM was a 10-mile run…IN THE RAIN!! And yes, AGAIN, I had experienced my fair share of the wet weather, but I wanted to go. I did not necessarily think my first run back would be 10 miles, but I knocked it out, with some achiness.

The following week was another short work week because I took a bit more time off work. That Tuesday afternoon we headed out after lunch for Charlotte. We attended the Linkin Park concert that evening.

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Linkin Park Concert with Great Friends!!

Well, the concert was an absolute blast!!! They are my favorite band and I had an awesome night at their concert. My favorite concert to date!

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Such a Fun Night!!

The following day, we spent time at the White Water Training Center. (The Center’s 500+ acres offers a wide variety of outdoor activities for all ages and skill levels. Guests can enjoy whitewater rafting and kayaking, flatwater kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, rock climbing, zip lines, ropes courses, a canopy tour, and mountain biking on our 25+ mile trail system. (Description from their web site.)) We had heard a lot of positive things about the White Water Training Center and it was fun! Our favorite part was the whitewater rafting. Our guide really showed us a great time!!

The next weekend included more fun dinners. Friday evening included a “thank you” dinner. Tony had the idea to show our appreciation to the people that had helped me with my training by having them over for a dinner party. It was a great night with lots of triathlon talk! The following night was a dinner get together with a friend that we had not seen in over a year. It was great to re-connect and catch up on the latest happenings! The Sunday was a dinner with my family. My brother planned the dinner as a congratulations on my Ironman! It is always nice to spend time with family and to snap some fun pics with my niece and nephews!

Family Collage

The next two weekends included attending a surprise party for (another) friend’s 40th birthday, dinner out to celebrate our friends’ (Tim & Nicole…part of the crew from Lake Placid) recent marathon finish, attending the football season opener for NC State and a dinner out to a local “special occasion” steak house to celebrate our good friends’ anniversary.

State Game Field

Go Wolfpack!!

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NC State Football!

Angus Barn Collage

Amongst all our activities, we have enjoyed some down time, watching some new movies and  I actually started reading my first book of the year!  I finally treated myself to my first pedicure of the summer.  I waited until after the race because I was spending so much time in running shoes.  Four days after my pedicure, I lost a toe nail!!  Unbelievable!!  So much for waiting!!

As far as training, I have enjoyed flexibility and doing whatever activity I want to do! There is a group bike ride that leaves from a local Tri store on Tuesdays and Thursdays and due to my IM training, I had been unable to check it out, until recently. We have enjoyed this ride multiple times over the past several weeks in addition to some Saturday rides from our house. I have also tried to start more regular yoga and stretching. I have run a few times here and there. I also took my mountain bike out on a local path for a different kind of ride. All in all, I have been staying busy and enjoying different levels of activity from the endurance training I have focused on for the past months. [I guess it is good that I have maintained some regular level of activity...as I write this recap, I am really noticing that our August included lots of eating!!!]

I think it is only natural to think about what’s next? I do not have any races planned for the remainder of the year. I plan to keep active, like I have been the past several weeks since IM recovery, but eventually add some strength training into the regiment. I will get back into the pool soon and try to get in swims, with (SOME) frequency. I have a few races in mind for next year, but am still pondering. I will say that the longest race on the agenda will be a half IM. I plan to have a completely different focus for next year and set some new goals. In the mean time, I will continue to enjoy the flexibility and keep having fun with the activities I choose!

posted by on Ironman

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After all our hugs and celebrations at the finish line, the original plan was to shower, eat and head back down to watch the finishers during the last hour. We had done this in Kona and it was a really amazing experience (well, everything is amazing in Hawaii!!).

Tim and Nicole volunteered to get my bike and bags from transition using the friends’ pass that all athletes are given. I was so thankful they were willing to do this, so Tony and I could start our (slow) walk back to the place. As we were walking back, while I was still full of excitement and chatter, I realized that my stomach was obviously not too happy with all that I had done that day. Once we got back to the apartment, I took a very nice hot bath to relax a bit and I felt a lot better…all except my stomach. While the crew was rightfully hungry, after a long day for them as well, the thought of food did not appeal to me. I knew I had to eat, but nothing sounded the least bit appetizing.

I rested, laying down on the couch with my feet up, while Tim SMARTLY encouraged me to take in fluids. He concluded I was dehydrated. The group decided to grab a dinner order from a good restaurant across the street and I opted for soup.

I sipped on some broth and just felt better when I was lying down. So, unfortunately, it was decided that we would not be headed back to the finish line for spectating.  It was more important to take care of myself.  We all had a long, emotional day, so hitting the sack was not a bad plan.

On Monday morning, Tony and I got up early in order to head down to the merchandise tent for finisher gear.  For those that may be unfamiliar, you can purchase all kinds of Ironman merchandise prior to the race (even though I am superstitious and did not).  However, the “finisher” gear becomes available on the morning after race day at 7:00am.  There is always a line, so we were there around 6:15.  There were plenty ahead of us, but we had a decent spot.  After about 10 minutes in line though……it started to rain.  UGH!!  Thank goodness there was an umbrella in the 4Runner!!

After over an hour in line, we finally gained entry in the tent (they only allow a few people in at a time).  We headed straight to the finisher jackets.  That was the one thing I knew I wanted.  Before we checked out, I also grabbed a visor and hitch cover.  I was happy with my selections.

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The Finisher Jacket – LOVE IT!!

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The Back of the Jacket – SWEET!!

Next up…BREAKFAST!  I was ready to eat at this point.  Nicole located a restaurant online that we decided to try after my pre-race announcement of desiring “pancakes as big as my head” on the morning after the race!!   She read about the Lake Placid Inn that serves some of America’s best pancakes (according to Travel + Leisure).  Breakfast was served outside (it was a chilly, rainy morning) on the terrace next to a cozy, stone fireplace.  They also provided us comfy blankets.

Lake Placid

View from the Terrace at Breakfast

Nicole and I both had the WORLD FAMOUS BUTTERMILK GRIDDLE CAKES.  They were fluffy and delicious!

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Pancakes for the girls!

Tony and Tim had the HOUSE BAKED BRIOCHE FRENCH TOAST.  All and all, the group gave breakfast “two thumbs up”!!

Breakfast

French Toast for the Guys!!

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Tim & Nicole outside the Lodge

We headed back to the room and decided it would be a lazy day.  The rain was set in and it was very chilly.  No one really wanted to be out in the elements.  I spent the rest of the morning and into the afternoon reading and responding to notes on Facebook/text from friends and family.  I was quite overwhelmed with the words of encouragement and celebration I received.  It was truly fantastic and heart-warming!!

Lunch time rolled around.  After breakfast, I did not think lunch would be required.   Tony mentioned pizza and that sounded tasty!  One slice of pizza really hit the spot!

While we all continued to laze around and chit-chat, the rain outside continued.  All I could continue to think about is that thank goodness the rain did not last all day on race day!!

For a long time, the one thing that I like to treat myself with after a race is a milkshake.  It has become a tradition.  So late afternoon, Tim, Nicole and I decided to continue the tradition (Tony was napping). Even though the weather was not “milkshake – drinking weather”, we all enjoyed our choices!

Milkshakes

MILKSHAKES!!!!!

Early in the day, I had decided that dinner for me would consist of a BURGER!  We wanted something close by, so we would not have to walk too far in the nasty weather, and we decided to check out Smoke Signals.  There was a short wait, but it was not unexpected with all the athletes still lingering around town.  I ordered the Flatliner burger…it was crazy with all the toppings!

Burger

The “Flatliner” Burger

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Excited about my burger…not sure HOW I was going to eat it though!

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The first bite!!

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Mouth full!   NOT an attractive picture, but I was a good sport!

I was only able to polish off half my burger.  With all the eating I had done that day, I did a fantastic job (plus SOME) of replacing the calories I had burned on race day!

Despite the icky weather, it was a fun day of hanging out and relaxing with Tony, Tim and Nicole.  The day consisted of LOTS OF EATING and re-living race day details.  It was a fine way to spend our last day in Lake Placid.

Tuesday morning, we all woke early in order to head out of town.  Tony and I were hitting the road with a very long drive to Raleigh while Tim and Nicole were continuing their travels by flying to Niagara Falls.

The town of Lake Placid will always hold fond memories for me.  It is a charming place, that I would like to visit again, but it was also the site of a truly special day for me.  I highly recommend this destination for anyone considering an Ironman or a nice place to visit/vacation.

posted by on Ironman

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My plan on the run was to start smart. The first three miles or so includes downhills. I did like that about the course, but could not let my legs get too excited on the early downhills. I planned to use that time to shift my legs into run mode after being on the bike for 112 miles. Early on, I felt ok. I had trained lots of bricks, so the bike to run transition on the legs was familiar to me. I had a very simple hydration/nutrition plan for the run. I was carrying concentrated Osmo on the hydration belt and I would supplement that with water at the aid stations and take one Gu Chomp (I would pick up a pack from the aid station as needed) every 15 minutes. I also had planned to grab orange slices and grapes, as they appealed to me. I wanted to get into a steady pace (not aiming for fast, just steady) that I would try to maintain between each of the aid stations. I had planned to walk each aid station so I could totally concentrate on eating and drinking at each of these points. I also had some other food options in my special needs bag, in case I wanted something different than what my options were on the course.

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My crew was in full force on the course. I did not always spot (or hear) Nicole, but she was was in paparazzi mode around the start of run course (she would spot me several times since it was a two-loop course).

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I spotted Tony a little bit into my run. Whenever I am racing, he always asks how I am feeling and I always try to answer him honestly. If I were to be experiencing problems, he could provide me ideas on how to address them. Luckily, I was able to answer him with “feeling pretty good”.

Also fairly early in to the run, another athlete recognized the MJG initials on my tri top. It was obvious that we had a mutual friend, so every time he passed me on the course, he would say something supportive. That was cool and yet another reminder to stay strong and what I was racing for!

On the River Road out and back stretch that seems to extend forever, I saw Tim. This road is closed to traffic and in one write-up I read, was described as no-(Iron)man’s land, since there are very few spectators. However, Tim incorporated a training run into the day (he and Nicole have a marathon approaching), so that he could be out on this quiet area of the course. It was so incredibly awesome to see him twice through this section. I felt special having a personal cheerleader out there! He passed along some encouraging words and since he was the one that helped me so very much when I was having issues with my hydration on the run, it seemed appropriate that he was out there encouraging me to stick to my plan. I did see one more familiar face which was another athlete I knew from Raleigh. He was on his second loop of the run but we were able to spot each other twice to lend a few words of support.

As I progressed on the first loop of the run, I did a good job executing the plan. One aid station at a time. As I approached the station (they all had water as the first option), I took a big swig of my concentrated Osmo and followed it with water. I would also take water again as it was the last option as I made my way through the station. I would take a Gu Chomp approximately every 15 minutes…I grabbed a pack early on and would take it at the aid station with water if the timing was close to the 15-minute mark. I remember taking a few orange slices throughout the first loop and a handful of grapes. I thought the fruit was a nice break!

The run course includes some rollers/hills throughout. Generally, I felt that the hills were short enough to run up, but there were a few where I chose to walk…not a causal walk, but a power walk.  (There was one fellow athlete that remarked to me as I was walking one short section that I was the fastest walker he had ever seen. Ha Ha!)

The late miles on the loop contained the largest hill on the course. There were lots of people lining the street on this climb. When I approached it, I was going to try to run it, but quickly decided to shift down to the power walk. I felt this was a smart decision.

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As I approached the crest of this hill. there was a lady standing pretty far out onto the street and she talked to me, encouraging me to “go chick that guy in front me” (direct quote)!

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I laughed and as soon as I hit the top of the hill, I started running again, truly motivated by her enthusiasm!

 

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Near the end of the run loop, you get so close to the finish line that you can hear the finisher’s names being announced. Nearing the end of the loop, there is another out and back section (Mirror Lake Drive) that you have to run, so you actually come close to the finish line twice (once as you start the out and back and then again as you start the second loop) even before the mid-way point of the run! The out and back also contains the area where you can access your special needs bag.  I bypassed the one on the bike, but chose to grab a couple things out for the second part of the run.  I took a snack pack of mini-Oreos (my favorite store bought cookie) and a snack size Ziploc of Goldfish. I immediately ate three or four of the Oreos and quickly decided that those were not what I wanted. I threw the rest away. The Goldfish, however, were a different story.  They tasted great! (Thanks to Nicole for suggesting these from her marathon trail race experience!)

As I started the second loop, I was thrilled to be starting the final part of this long day. However, I would be headed into absolutely new territory as soon as I hit mile 19. I had never run a marathon and 19 miles was the longest run my plan had me complete in training. I was definitely feeling some aches in my legs. Specifically, I was feeling some achiness in my left quad (not something I have felt before) and my right glute (something I feel routinely). I started feeling my right glute on the bike (having it start on the bike was unusual) and I continued to feel it on the run. It is always just a dull ache that I have been experiencing on and off for a while. It is not painful, just achy. I had taken two ibuprofen around mile 12.

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I passed Nicole again as I began the nice downhill section early in loop two. Seeing her gave me a good boost.

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At mile 16, I saw Tony and Tim. More smiles as I saw them, but I knew it was the last I would see my support crew. As I passed them, after they gave me their final supporting words, Tony said they would see me at the finish line.
Run 10

While those are very sweet words, I knew I had the most challenging physical part of the day still ahead. I basically continued the same approach that I had done for the first loop. I had decided to try some Coke at the aid station and/or possibly chicken broth. I had tried Coke once during my first half (to help a queasy stomach), but I had heard that Coke and broth can really help you get through the final stages of the IM marathon.

Run 11

Even though my stomach was feeling fine (which was a TREMENDOUS victory in of itself), I wanted to keep it that way! I had my trusty Goldfish that I was enjoying at every aid station and still would take water as the first thing at the station. I took Coke numerous times and broth once.

Run 12

As I hit the 19 mile mark, I thought to myself….”here we go. This is new ground, but I can do this!!”. As soon as I hit 20 miles, I started counting backward. I told myself that I had 6.2 miles left and surely I can run 6.2 miles! That continued for every remaining mile…whatever works to keep your mental game in play, right?? For these later miles, now that I think back, it is hard to describe, but I was definitely in a deep zone. Even more so than what I had experienced during training…thinking back to it, it is almost a blur. At least on that long section on River Road. Mentally, I think I really went somewhere deep to push through.

As I approached that nasty hill for the last time, I was so ready to go down the finish chute. However, I had that brutal out and back section on Mirror Lake Drive to do once again. I call it brutal, not because it is hilly or difficult, but because you are so close to the finish line and you have to keep running! I was plugging along and I remember stopping and walking. It was not a conscious decision at all. It was as if my mind and legs were not communicating. I literally had a five second conversation with myself and said “what are you doing? There is no walking at this point! You are so close to being done! Get a move on!” So, that five or six seconds was what I needed to push through the final mile.

As I was completeing the back section (of the out and back), it all became real. Then I had the final right turn (marked by the arrow for “finish”) to start down the chute. At that moment I felt all kinds of emotions running through my body.

I remember someone telling me to take my time down the finish chute and enjoy the moment. I did just that. It was almost surreal.

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I raised my raised my arms in celebration and I spotted Tony just near the finish arch at the end of the chute. I don’t remember my name being announced by Mike Reilly (although it was, but mispronounced) and even though that was something I was so excited to hear (I frequently thought about it during training), seeing Tony as I was taking the last few steps to reach my goal was so much sweeter. He has ALWAYS been my biggest supporter and having him right there was the only thing I needed.

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Immediately after I finished, a volunteer put the medal around my neck and there were two ladies there to help me with whatever I needed…one on each arm. I stood still for a bit as I was taking in what I had just completed. The volunteers were awesome giving me a wrap, my finisher’s t-shirt, hat and water and asking me if I was okay (since I continued to stand still). I was totally okay!!! I had done it! They asked me if I wanted food and really all I wanted was to see Tony, Tim & Nicole. One of the ladies gave me a chocolate milk and led me to the food table anyway. The first choices I saw were orange slices, grapes, pretzels…the same food from the course. NO! I definitely did not want that. Then I saw pizza and thought I might try that. Well. I looked even further down and changed my mind when I saw French fries. Yes please! Warm, salty fries! They encouraged me to sit down, but I told them I was fine and just wanted to find my crew. I wondered out (with my arms and hands full of my race bling and treats) and was looking for the gang. I decided to stay close to athlete’s exit of the finish chute with the thought that they would come to me. After just a few minutes (I had enjoyed four of five fries at that point), I saw Tim. He came up to me with big smiles and hugs. Just what I needed! He called Nicole and Tony and within a couple of minutes they found us. As soon as I saw Tony, he grabbed me and gave me a huge hug and the tray of French fries I had in my hand went flying everywhere! Then all the emotions got the best of me and I did not want to let him go. It was one of the best hugs ever!! I finally let him go and then got another great hug from Nicole. These guys were the best! I loved everything they did out on the course and it meant so very much to have them there.

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I was on cloud nine and was so happy to be reunited with them all. I had so much to talk about and share.

This day was the cherry on top of the sundae that I spent six months building (really…it took me several years to build it as I worked hard to be in the physical and mental position to start a 6-month training plan to become an Ironman). I knew this day would be full of challenges like I had never experienced. I honestly did not think the challenges would start before ever exiting the water, but this really proves that you never know what will happen in an Ironman. You can train and prepare to the best of your ability, but you must be mentally prepared to overcome whatever comes your way. I am proud of myself. I proved alot to myself on this day and it will be a day that I will never forget.

To Tony, Tim and Nicole…thank you is not enough. Since I have spectated four Ironmans, I know it is a long day. They have all been fun days, but tiring, nonetheless. Having their support out of the course was tremendous. All the words said during the day kept me motivated and made me smile (especially the reminders about pancakes and milk shakes from Nicole). The photos I have are so special as they will always be reminders of a terrific day! Thanks to them for enduring the “normal” elements of Ironman spectating (getting up early and lots of standing around), but the harsher ones that this day brought (very cold rain).

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Total Run Time = 4:36:11 (Division Rank: 57/172   Gender Rank: 206/702)

As a result of the crazy weather during the swim, WTC decided to not include the second loop of the swim and T1 in the official results for age groupers. Even if an athlete was not pulled early from the swim, everyone’s time was treated this way. According to Ironman, my official finish time was 12:41:42. However, in my mind, this is not my time. I feel I was completely on pace to match the same time in my second swim loop and if I estimate my T1 time to be approximately the same as T2, my finish time is 13:35. This, of course, does not include the time we swam to the docks, waited around and then had to walk a very long way to T1. The 13:35 would be my race time. It is a little frustrating to have an “official time” that really is not official, but I feel the 13:35 more accurately reflects my race. Even though I never shared it before the race, my goal time was 13 to 14 hours. Needless to say, I am happy!!

As several weeks have passed since I completed Ironman Lake Placid, I have frequently reflected back on that day. What should I have done differently? What could I have done better? During these reflections, I remember that decision making is also a huge part to an Ironman. The decisions made to push harder, ease up, drink more, eat now, stop for the bathroom, etc. are part of the day. I made the best decisions I could at the time. I don’t have any regrets with anything I did or the decisions I made. I learned so very much about myself and I like these lessons. I am more full of determination, grit, focus and strength than I thought. The time in my life from February 10, 2014 (the day I started the 24-week training plan) to when I crossed that finish line, changed me in so many great ways!

Worth It

I can say this with COMPLETE certainty now!!

Courage

Enough Said!!

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posted by on Ironman

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The beginning of the bike course literally starts with a short, steep decline and a very sharp left turn. There are hay bails set up on the turn to catch run-away cyclists. I started very cautiously since it was pouring rain…gently riding my brakes to stay in control. The first few miles are flat as you head out of town. I was trying to drink and eat a bit. Since my body was so cold, I did not feel like drinking, but it had been a while before my swim since I last had water. I knew I needed to stay on top of my hydration from the beginning, even if I was not thirsty. This part was slow going. I was being smart (ie. cautious due to wet roads), but I still did not have my mind in the race. I talked to myself quite a bit. The bike is my favorite leg of triathlon. I had ridden hundreds of miles to prepare for this day. Yes, conditions were crappy at that moment, but I had to suck it up.

The next section had a number of steady rollers and then one decent climb. I know I did not push my pace at all on this section. I had planned to start conservative and probably ended up being too conservative in this stretch since I was gradually working my mind back to business.  Also, I knew I had some stiff challenges ahead…the descent.

Probably one of the most documented stretches of the IMLP bike course is the descent into Keene. This stretch is approximately eight miles long. The exciting news for 2014, was that a majority of this stretch had been recently re-paved. Most cyclists love downhills. FREE SPEED! The terrain that I typically train on does not have steep descents (in comparison to these). However, I generally feel comfortable descending and since we had driven the bike course, I knew there were not technical turns associated with these descents. I was confident heading into race day. Well, rain changes everything!!! I knew this section would be so very dangerous with the heavy rain we were experiencing. I also knew that I had to remain SMART and in control of my bike. I did just that. I rode this stretch the only way I was comfortable given the conditions.

Overall I felt that the other athletes were very aware and being safe on the roads. I think everyone’s radar was extra sensitive due to the inherently dangerous conditions that the rain brought to the roads…especially on the descents. However, in one area, I passed another female cyclist that had gone down on the descent. She was getting help, but still remained flat out on the pavement. REALITY CHECK!! As the descent continued, any warmth that I had generated on the opening climbs was gone. My teeth were chattering again and my body was shivering. I was just trying to hang in. I told myself that as soon as I made it into the town of Keene and the flat section started, I HAD TO WORK! I needed to get warm and get in my groove!

I vividly remember the mental relief I felt when I made the left hand turn coming off the descent. It was almost as if I turned a page in a book. I started really eating at that point (I had nibbled some a little earlier) and concentrating on my plan. The rain began to ease up and I eventually started seeing a bit of blue sky. Just a peak through the clouds and I know I must of had a big smile on my face! Being optimistic that things were getting better and I would not be a bike popsicle on two pretty purple race wheels!

I saw my complete support crew for the first time around mile 25. At that point in time, I was on cloud nine. I had my mind totally in the race and was eating and drinking according to plan. [I was consistently taking water from the aide stations as well an Bonk Breaker bites.  I was supplementing the water with the concentrated Osmo I had brought on my bike, as well as, peanut butter filled pretzels and Honey Stinger Waffles.]  I was feeling good and relieved that I had fought past this first huge hurdle. It was GAME ON for me!!

The second time I saw the crew was just after the 10 mile out and back section (to/from Ausable Forks) making a right hand turn that immediately tuned into a short steep climb, around mile 35-ish.  When we drove this, Tony instructed me to stand up and climb as soon as I made the turn.  I had no idea they would be there, but sure enough, as soon as I stood up, I spotted them!  I know he was happy that I followed his (good) advice!  Again, big smiles when I saw and heard the crew.  It was amazing every time I saw them!!

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Standing climb!!

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I passed the guy in the blue jacket on the climb!

I felt like I was in a good groove. Riding like I had trained. Still being smart since that was my game plan for the first loop…not pushing too hard. I had to stop fairly early on for a bathroom break. I was obviously hydrating well! The bad part was that I had waited as long as I could possibly wait and when I saw the next aide station, I stopped. Unfortunately, there were at least five people in line before me. I saw the line as I was dismounting, but there was no way I could make it another ten miles to the next aide station. I knew I would have to stop along the bike course, but I had not really planned on having to wait in line! This stop took a long time and I lost at least 8 to 10 minutes here.

As I progressed to the back end of the first loop of the bike course, I hit the rolling/climbing section that is also very well documented.  There was one supporter/spectator that was “coaching” everyone to be in the small ring from there to the end of the loop…which was not bad advice.  No need to overwork the legs on the first loop and not have enough left in the tank for the second.  I finally came to the last stretch of climbs that are entitled the “three bears”.  I was not sure when I actually hit them (the order being mama bear, baby bear and papa bear), since they are preceded by plenty of rollers/climbs.   However, I did know when I hit papa bear…I saw it written on the side of the road.  There were also lots of spectators and some even dressed in costumes.

As I was coming back in on the first loop after the bears, I was in the small ring and holding a good cadence to work through the last section into town.  There was one man that was really excited about my cadence. He said “boom, boom, boom…look at that cadence” while cheering for me. It seemed as if there were plenty of spectators that were knowledge about cycling and/or the course! Pretty cool!

I came back into town and made my way back through to start the second loop.  I was feeling good and knew I was where I wanted to be.  Of course as I started the second loop, mentally I was in a place that was a day to night comparison to where I was when I had been in that same spot a few hours earlier.  As I hit the descent into Keene, the roads were dry, so I was really able to take advantage of the downhills.  YES!  They were pretty fun!!

I saw the crew again around mile 65-ish.  It was on the stretch into Keene and these are some great photos of the course.

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A nice view of the bike course

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Nice scenery on the course

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Happy to see the crew!!

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I found that there was a sense of camaraderie amongst most of the cyclists. There was one instance when I looked back over my left shoulder to see if the path was clear so I could take a pass and someone was approaching. I was going to slow up. Instead, he verbally allowed me to take the pass first and within legal rules (no drafting). There were a few people I played leap frog with. One other girl and I jumped positions multiple times on the first loop. I spotted her again on the second loop and she commented that it had been a while since we had seen each other. There was one guy that I traded spots with a number of times. One instance when he passed me and said…”I know I will see you again in a few minutes” (he did).  I also received lots of comments on my purple race wheels! One lady commented (whose bike and gear was totally outfitted in pink) that her daughter would love my purple wheels. I was also asked what my favorite color was…ummmm, I wonder!!

My ride remained strong. As I hit the 10-mile out and back section (just after mile 80), I decided to push the pace a bit. My legs responded well. It really felt good to open up. On this stretch, there were three guys that I passed with 2 minutes or so of one another and they were all very supportive of “being chicked”…each one said something supportive like “that is the way to go” or “looking strong”, etc. I just found it interesting that I received three comments in a row.

Unfortunately, I had to take a second pit stop. I would have rather not stopped, but nature called. Still a good sign that I was hydrating well. Once again, there was a bit of a line that took several minutes. Nothing like standing still to really make a dent into my average bike pace!

I was tacking the tail end of the course that is filled with lots of fun rollers and climbs, the bottom fell out.  Once again, it was accompanied by thunder and lightning.  Sure, I would rather it stay dry, but at that point, it really did not bother me.  Other than trying to eat my peanut butter pretzels out of my bento box (the rain was falling into the baggie making for soggy pretzels) and my glasses fogging up, I stayed (mentally) unaffected.  On this challenging stretch, my legs were feeling the effects of nearly 112 miles.  Nothing too concerning and I had taken a few ibuprofen during the second loop to try to mitigate too many aches and pains.  I think it is fair to say I was ready to wrap up the bike leg though.  Considering I had been on the bike for 7 hours, I was ready for a change.

I felt I had executed my plan fairly well.  Hydration wise, I felt in good shape.  Nutrition wise, I had not eaten all that I had planned.  I was not significantly under, but not to the level I thought I needed.

It was exciting to make it back into town. The crowd was lining the road and was super supportive. Nicole was in the crowd, but unfortunately I did not spot her before she took this photo!

Finishing the second loop and heading into T2!!

As I arrived into T2, a volunteer took my bike (cool) and I grabbed my run gear bag and I hit the changing tent.  Off with the bike gear, including the arm warmers, and on with running shorts, socks, shoes, visor and hydration belt.  Once again, the volunteer was awesome help!!  It was run time…my first marathon!!!

Total Bike Time = 7:10.10 (Division Rank: 79/172   Gender Rank: 296/702)

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As most athletes do prior to a big race, I had been checking (or stalking) the Lake Placid weather forecast as soon as July 27 was included in the 10-day outlook. No surprises, but it changed daily. The chance of rain fluctuated from 20% to 60% over the course of the days leading up to the race. I felt confident that there would be rain at some point during the race. I signed up for this race knowing that rain was a frequent occurrence. Even still, I remained hopeful and positive about the weather. I was keeping my fingers crossed that it would at least stay dry until I was off the bike.

Race morning came very early. 3:45am was the alarm. I woke and immediately had breakfast. I was happy that I did have an appetite and I was not really feeling too many butterflies at that point. I had my typical breakfast of plain, stove top cooked oatmeal, sweetened with a bit of brown sugar and topped with 1/2 banana and walnuts. I also had a homemade muffin which I brought along with us for the road trip. I finished my preparation and we headed out on schedule…I wanted to be in transition by 5am.

We made our way down towards the Olympic Oval and quickly heard that body marking was required before being allowed into the transition area. Body marking went quickly and I was in transition.

Body Marking

Body marking

I needed to put bottles on the bike (I had two double concentrated Osmo bottles and one throw away water bottle). My plan was to get all water from the aide stations, but I wanted to start with one water on my bike. I also took off the plastic bags that I had put on my bike the day before, in an attempt to keep my saddle and bars dry. (I have to laugh at this part now knowing what a lost cause all that was…!!). I checked my tire pressure and was satisfied about the firmness of the wheels, so I did not add additional air. I also had to put my two (frozen) double concentrated Osmo bottles in my run gear bag. My plan was to run with two bottles in my hydration belt. All other hydration (water) would come from aide stations.

It was a beautiful morning

It started as a beautiful morning

The Swim Start

The swim start

The Swim Course

The swim course

We then made our way to the vicinity of the swim start. I dropped off my bike and run special needs bags as well. I hit the restroom one last time and then had about ten minutes before I had to put on my wetsuit to have enough time for a short warm-up swim.

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Nicole was keeping me company as Tim had staked out some spots along the fencing by the swim start and Tony was kind of back and forth. I was glad Nicole was with me as it was about this time that the butterflies started. After pulling on my wetsuit I ate half of a honey Stinger waffle, one of my favorite nutrition options.

Looking goofy while putting on the wetsuit

Getting on the wetsuit

My goal was just to take a quick swim to feel the temperature and warm-up my arms a bit. Pretty much as soon as I was done with warm-up it was time to get lined up. I hurried back over for final words and hugs from my support crew before I lined up. I tried to eat the other half of the Stinger waffle, but the butterflies were in full force! The anthem was sung and the pros started. I rushed back over to the swim start corral.

The Pro Men Start

The pro men start

All the Swimmers Lined Up

All the swimmers lined up

I should have started the line up process a little earlier. It took a while for me to make my way up to my desired group…1:21-1:30 swim time. There were other athletes that seemed unable to make it to their desired group (toward the front with the fastest swimmers) since there were so many people in such a confined space. For anyone interested in racing LP, make note to be early when it comes to swim start line up! The age group cannon fired and IT WAS TIME!!

Age group start

Age group start

For those that may be unfamiliar, Ironman Lake Placid features a rolling swim start. Historically, the majority of Ironman swims have been a mass start (all 2000-2500 + athletes start the swim at the exact same time). However, in 2013, there were some changes made to a number of Ironman races to make the swim start a bit safer. Similiar to that of a road race, LP athletes self-seed into groupings of their anticipated total swim time with the idea being that the other athletes surrounding you will be swimming a similar pace. Your official time begins as you pass under the swim start inflatable arch. I passed under around 6:45-ish, give or take. I walked into the water and started swimming almost immediately. I was starting my Ironman. Here I go!!

See me waving (by the second red medical shirt)

See me waving (just past the second red medical shirt)

See me very focused (under the tent under the first M-dot)

See me very focused (under the tent under the first M-dot)

My feet just touching the water (sleeveless suit)

My feet just touching the water (sleeveless suit)

My goal was to start the swim and just focus on getting into my rhythm as quickly as possible. Then after I was comfortable, I wanted to remain aware of my effort level and if I was pushing myself appropriately. There were lots of people around me. Nothing too brutal, but plenty of contact. I found the underwater cable a few times, but there was more contact on the buoy line. (To explain, Mirror Lake has an underwater cable that marks the local canoe and kayak course that doubles as the IMLP swim course. The straightest line is swimming right over the line (or just to the side of it if you don’t want to bang head first into buoys every 50 yards). Hypothetically, you could swim on the buoy line and follow the swim course perfectly, without having to site to the swim buoys at all. However, you must take into account that there is more traffic there and even if you are on the line, there always seems to be random people that will just stop during the swim and if you don’t want to crash into them, you need to keep an eye out!

I was feeling good on the first loop. After the first turn around buoy, I was focused on the straight away and getting out of the water for a few seconds to start the second loop. I thought I felt some rain (I was wearing a sleeveless wetsuit), but I was not certain if it was actually rain or just splashing from other swimmers. Mentally, I was in the game. No feelings of being anxious to get out of the water. There were two loops to swim and that was what I had to do. I was actually looking forward to a quick change in body position (going from swimming to being on land) for a short time. Just to break it up, if only for a handful of seconds. I passed underneath the arch to start the time for lap two and after glancing at my Garmin, I was RIGHT on point for my goal of a 90-minute total swim. I was a few seconds shy of 45 minutes for loop one. Sweet!

Loop two progressed in much the same way. I found the buoy line a few times, but still there was more traffic that I would prefer. I really shy away from the contact as much as possible. I made the turn around and knew I was in for the home stretch. I do remember thinking that my arms were cold. I thought this was a little odd, because I had been swimming for a long time, but I really did not think too much of it. I did not have too much time left in the water. I also remember thinking that it may be raining again. Oh well, not ideal, but what do you do? After a bit more time, I suddenly heard odd-sounding honking horns. I stopped and the drivers of the safety boats in the water were honking to get our attention. They were shouting at us to get out of the water. “Swim to shore” is what they were saying. The shore they were referring to was NOT the shore to exit. It was basically to turn left 90 degrees to swim to the shore that we HAD been swimming parallel to. It was then that I heard thunder. WHAT???????? YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!!!!!

There was mass exodus to the shore.  I, along with tons of other people, swam straight up to a dock. The dock was attached to someone’s house! There was a lady on the dock (wearing a bathrobe), along with her husband, helping the swimmers get out of the water as fast as possible. Just as I was getting out of the water, I saw lightning.  It was raining…hard.  All of this craziness is kind of a blur.   I looked at my Garmin and realized that I had only been .3-.4 of a mile from the official swim finish, before swimming to the dock.  So close!!!

We stood on the dock for a short amount of time and we then (somehow) heard instructions to make our way to transition. There were so many people standing on the dock that had to make it out to the road, that the man told people to walk through the house. (Remember me saying in my pre-race report how people in LP were nice? Point proven…who encourages tons of wet strangers to walk through their home??) Well, I had not been out of the water very long before I became VERY cold. My teeth were even chattering (not one BIT of exaggeration either)! We all began walking, barefoot of course, on the road. I don’t know how far we walked. It seemed like forever. There was total confusion. I just kept thinking how cold I was. This was terrible! I wished we could have finished the swim.  It would have been so much easier than all this craziness.  (I do understand the safety aspect and why we were pulled from the water.  I am not disagreeing with that…I was just really bummed at the time!)  How was I going to get on a bike for 112 miles in the cold, cold rain?!?!?

We eventually passed the wetsuit strippers, and there was NO way I was taking my wet suit off yet! I passed Tony and he had no idea what had happened. (He later told me that he knew something was odd since he saw these huge groups of people walking together into transition. Usually people will at least jog to transition.) As I passed, I told him that they had pulled us out of the water and I made a sad face to him. He read me like a book. He immediately told me to get my head back in the game. He was so right, but I was not sure how I was going to accomplish that.

I grabbed my bike gear bag and walked into the changing tent. Oh man, it felt so warm in there!! I changed into my bike shorts, put on my tri top, bike shoes and helmet. THANKFULLY, I had my arm warmers. They were tough to put on wet arms, but the volunteer helping me was amazing! I did put sunscreen on my face (I thought it was a waste of time) and laughed at the volunteer when she asked me if I wanted my sunglasses. I took them and was glad I did, but at the time, it was a bit comical. I walked to the tent exit and remember pausing for a few seconds as my mind continued to wonder how I would gut this out. A volunteer was ready to pass me my bike with kind words to be safe out there! I knew this was going to be a tougher ride than I had ever imagined it would be.

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We hit the road from Raleigh to Lake Placid on Wednesday evening. We had a 13 to 14 hour drive to make, so we decided to break the trip into two legs. With our travel passing through several cities that are notorious for bad traffic (Richmond, Northern Virginia, DC, Baltimore), we planned to by-pass these cities during the typical commute hours. I had reserved a hotel room just north of Baltimore for us to stay Wednesday night. Our drive went well and did not encounter any traffic headaches. I had packed us sandwiches and fruit for dinner (and had tons of other snacks), so we would not have to stop for food.   We arrived at the hotel just before midnight and crashed hard.

Just before hitting the road!!

Just before hitting the road!!

We slept well and awoke around 7am-ish. We hit the showers and the complimentary breakfast. I packed a couple of additional sandwiches, so once again we would only have to stop for gas and restrooms. We were on the road around 9am-ish. The drive went fairly well. We hit one traffic slow down, which probably cost us around 30 minutes, but in the scheme of things, not bad. We arrived in Lake Placid around 4:30ish.

LP Banner LP Sign

My first impressions of Lake Placid were that it was a quaint town. Of course, I immediately saw how pretty it was. We checked into the hotel, which was in a primo location, and immediately went back outside to enjoy the perfect weather.

This was a beautifully perfect day!!

Mirror Lake

This was a beautifully perfect day!!

This was a beautifully perfect day!!

We made a long walk to dinner (longer than we realized it was going to be) and enjoyed a nice Italian dinner at Cafe Rustica. They were super busy, but we were not in a hurry, so no worries. We found out about the free trolly that goes around town, so we grabbed a ride back to the hotel. It was a nice first evening!

Friday morning we awoke to a very cool morning (around 45 degrees). Tony went to get us coffee while I made oatmeal in our apartment. The apartment I booked was a 2-bedroom with a full kitchen (the kitchen was a must).

After breakfast, we made our way to athlete check-in. There was a bit of a line, but it was not bad and we made it through relatively quickly. I filled out paperwork, signed waivers, was weighed and finally tagged! It felt really official then!

Paperwork!

Paperwork!

On the scale

On the scale

Almost done!!

Almost done!!

It is official!!

It is official!!

We then made our way to the IM merchandise tent to get the oh-so-popular IM backpack. It was nice!

The plan was to attend the athlete briefing, but we had some time to walk around the expo first. So glad we did! We were able to talk advantage of a product demo that we had seen before, but never tried. There were two available chairs, so we jumped on it! These were NormaTec which are really cool massage boots. We were able to enjoy a 15-minute demo, which was fabulous!

These boots were awesome!

These boots were awesome!

After a bit more browsing, it was time for the athlete meeting. It was relatively short and semi-useful.

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Afterwards, we headed back to the apartment as Tim and Nicole had arrived in Lake Placid!

After their arrival, we grabbed lunch…we were all starving! We visited the Dancing Bear where we all had Lobster Rolls. Very tasty!

Lobster Rolls!!

Lobster Rolls!!

After lunch we split up as they went shopping and Tony and I drove the bike course. I am very glad we did as I was able to witness first hand all that I had been reading for the past twelve months. It was nice to see where the pavement conditions were good and where it was broken and required caution. It was also nice to visualize the climbs and know what to expect come race day.

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After the ride, we headed back to the apartment and I put on my suit and grabbed my wet suit to go hit Mirror Lake for a practice swim. It was good to get out in the water and get a sense of the lake and swim course.

Practice Swim Practice Swim2

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Of course, I immediately headed to the buoy line to catch a glimpse of the “underwater cable”. I swam to the third buoy or so, not far, but enough to feel comfortable. One funny story is that after I had put on my wet suit and started getting my feet and arms wet, I commented to Nicole that the water was chilly. I think the water was around 70-72 degrees. (The lake I had been swimming in at home was in the 80s.) Apparently, a random woman heard my comment and found it funny because she asked Nicole if we were from Florida because they (the locals) thought the water was warm!

After the swim, we all headed back to the apartment and got ready for dinner. We had earlier decided on a restaurant called Freestyle and made reservations. The restaurant was eclectic and amongst the group there were mixed reviews.

Saturday morning started out with breakfast at the apartment and then prepping all my gear bags. I had checklists ready to help me ensure I had everything I needed. It took me a bit longer than planned to pull everything together, but I finally got it all done.

Gear Bags

I also took my bike for a short spin to ensure all the gears were shifting smoothly, my breaks were good and all felt ready to go. The bike felt great!

She was ready to go!!

She was ready to go!!

LP Sticker

The race wheels on my bike are Tony’s wheels.  However, he wanted them to be unique for me and my race.  He had the red decals that are usually on the bike removed and some special decals made for me in my favorite color (purple!!).

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We then headed to bike and gear bag check.

Bike Check In

It seemed to be going smoothly…I found the rack and got my bike in place. I then tied plastic bags over the saddle and handlebars because of predicted rain overnight.  I placed my gear bags on the rack. I was set or so I thought. After I got out of transition, I was telling Tony about how I racked the bike. After some quick discussion, we decided that I should probably change some things about the set up.

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Getting ny bike set up in transition

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Racking my gear bags

I went back into transition and made some changes. At that point, I was wishing Tony could have helped me out, but unfortunately he was not allowed in transition.

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Making some changes to my set up in transition

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Making some changes to my set up in transition

After we got all that taken care of, we decided to stop for a sandwich on the walk back to the apartment. The line was long, but I had read good things about the shop (Big Mountain Deli). We enjoyed our sandwiches and then the afternoon consisted of me relaxing and staying off my feet.

Relax

Relaxing!!!

Dinner that night was cooked in.  Tony and Nicole made pasta and meat sauce for us to all enjoy.  It was the perfect pre-race dinner!!

I went to bed at a good time for me (to try) to get a good night’s sleep!  After Nicole and I turned in, Tony and Tim took a little walk up to the transition area and got some photos before all the chaos ensued.

Transition Night

“The calm before the storm!!”

In just a few more hours……..GO TIME!!!

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I am an Ironman!  I did it!!!

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I have so many details to share from the event.  I know it will take me a bit of time to pull together all my thoughts, feelings and memories to write my race report.  However, I did want to share the best part first!!!

Tomorrow………

Jul
2014
26

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ironman lakeplacid eventpagelogo 200x70

Tomorrow is the big day.  The day that I have spent so many hours preparing for.  I am going to go out and give it my very best!!

Will it be easy

These last few days have been great.  Since we have arrived here in Lake Placid I have really enjoyed my experience.  I am still feeling relaxed and can only hope this continues (I kind of doubt it though…).  I already have so much that I know I will be sharing and after tomorrow, it will greatly multiply!

I am posting the link for athlete tracking.  I have had several ask me to share this information so they can follow my progress on race day.  I appreciate this support more than I can say.  My bib number is #1052.

Athlete Tracker

I also appreciate all the well wishes I have been receiving. The texts, notes on Facebook and comments on my blog…I read every one and each is special to me. It motivates me that much more!

I know I really can’t imagine the extent of the challenge I will face tomorrow.  Not really.  I am going to try to remember all the details possible, so I can share my words to truly remember this experience.  So for now, I have my feet up and enjoying some relaxation…there won’t be too much of that tomorrow!  Until next time…..

This is my plan for the afternoon...chill!!!

This is my plan for the afternoon…chill!!!

 

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On race day, I will be wearing a tri top with the letters “MJG” across the front. I want to share why I choose to wear these letters when I race.

MJG stands for Michael John Gressman, a 32-year old who courageously fought cancer but lost his battle on July 14, 2009. The MJG Brain Tumor Research Fund is committed to increasing awareness and raising money for those inflicted with brain tumors, while providing HOPE and inspiration to all people along the way. Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) is the most common and aggressive of the primary brain tumors. Few patients survive longer than 3 years and only a handful survive 5 years.

In 2008 when Tony was training for Ironman Florida, he met a couple of brothers that were training for the same race. Tony found himself spending time training with Mike & Eric Gressman. A lot of their training was with various groups, but Tony and Mike had a tendency to maintain a similar pace, so they ended up riding together a good amount of time.

During the period leading up the Ironman Florida, Mike was diagnosed with GBM. His treatment began immediately and his Ironman dream was put on hold. The relationship Tony had started forming with the Gressmans turned from a training partnership to a friendship.  This was the period of time when I started getting to know Mike and Eric as well.

As Tony had the opportunity to spend time with Mike away from training, he realized that had a lot in common. In some non-athletic interests and their thoughts on certain topics, is where they found more common ground. In a very endearing way, Tony describes Mike as having a “big heart with no filter”.

Over the next year, Mike gave a new definition to the word Ironman with his will and courage to fight his disease. It was a roller coaster ride for all those that were praying for his recovery. I remember the day that Tony called and told me that Mike had passed away. Even though I had known him for a short time, it really hit me and confirmed what we all too often take for granted. Life is precious and tomorrow is not guaranteed.    

A foundation was established in his honor to raise awareness and funds for brain cancer research (www.braincancerhope.org). The supporters of MJG are continuing to keep Mike’s spirit alive. I vividly remember when I finished my first half iron distance triathlon. It was the 2012 Beach 2 Battleship half in Wilmington, NC. Mike’s mom, Donna, was volunteering at the finish line. I crossed and she was the first person I saw as I had a huge smile plastered on my face and said “I did it”. With an equally as big smile on her face, she said to me, “Mike would be so proud” and gave me a huge hug. That is a moment that I will hold dear because it truly touched my heart and she said those words with such emotion and honesty.

My first half- B2B in Wilmington, NC

My first half- B2B in Wilmington, NC

The MJG support crew at B2B Half

The MJG support crew at B2B Half

I have been touched by so many stories lately of people that have been diagnosed with a form of this devil of a disease called cancer. It is truly incredible how strong and determined people can be when faced with the battle of their lives. The one that touches me deeply is that earlier this year, my step-father Ron, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, cancer of the plasma cells in the bone marrow. He has risen to great heights to fight the disease that keeps trying to knock him down. To be honest, the disease is also trying to knock down my mom, who is there with him every day caring for him and watching him endure the toughest days of his life. We are all confident that it is just a matter of time until he wins this battle. There will be a BIG PARTY.

When the MJG foundation was started, bracelets were made that I have worn on my wrist for over 5 years. I wear it daily to help remind myself of all the feelings I felt on the day that Mike passed away. Live life doing the things you love to do. Travel, dream, love…whatever it is that makes life even more special. Life as you know it can change in a second. I want to live my life in appreciation of the health and happiness I am so blessed to have. This is one of the reasons that I signed up for Ironman. I am lucky to be a healthy athlete and I didn’t want to delay tackling something that I dreamed to achieve.

At the bike check-in the day before the 2013 Raleigh 70.3

At the bike check-in the day before the 2013 Raleigh 70.3

At the finish line at the 2013 Raleigh 70.3 (love my crooked hat!!)

At the finish line at the 2013 Raleigh 70.3 (love my crooked hat!!)

good life