Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017: That's A Wrap

Oh 2017, what a year you were.  There were moments of exhilaration and joy and there were moments of struggle and anxiety.  But lets focus on all the good stuff.

There was:

A Monster PR: Harborview 8K

An Ass-Beating: Elkhart Lake Sprint Triathlon

Fun Bike Rides on New Routes:

Birthday (and Bunny) Celebrations: Mr. R&R's 40th Birthday & Easter

My First Freezing Cold Swim in Lake Michigan:

Cheering On Mr. R&R at Ironman 70.3 Racine:

One Of The Hardest and Most Rewarding Things I've Ever Done: Ironman 70.3 Steelhead

Amazing Hikes and Stunning Views with My Favorite Person:

And of course, lots of snuggles with my favorite fuzzballs:

And last, but not least, my total mileage for 2017:

Swim: 44.26 miles
Bike:  1,363.50 miles
Run:   328.30 miles
Total: 1,736.06 miles - or the distance between Milwaukee, WI and Los Angeles, CA!

I hope you had a wonderful 2017, and I wish you an even better 2018!!

Monday, December 25, 2017

So Far, So Good. (70.3 Wisconsin Week 2)

Week 2 has been interesting.  I'm still feeling pretty good in terms of soreness and exhaustion levels and I'm starting to see glimpses of what I was capable of when I did Steelhead back in August.  I think the biggest contributors to feeling good are:

  • The second rest day
  • Getting as much sleep as humanly possible
  • Experience
The second rest day has been a game changer.  Yes, the Sunday long double is hard, but it's entirely worth it.  It gives me an extra day to get my requisite adulting done and it gives my body a chance to go into the long double with a little extra energy.  It also has the added benefit of making me run long on tired legs - just like I'll have to do on race day.

Sleep has definitely been a factor this time around.  I was so tired last time around and I swore to myself that this time I'd make sleep a priority and I have.  I'm doing my best to get at least 8 hours as frequently as possible.  It's a bit difficult on Tuesdays and Thursdays since those are early morning run days, but on those days I do my best to get at least 7 hours.  Sometimes it's hard to go to bed and leave dishes in the sink or unfolded laundry in a basket, but sleep has to be the priority.

Finally, there's experience.  I was so naive last time around.  I thought I knew what I was getting myself into, but looking back I had absolutely no clue!  Based on my experiences last time around I've adjusted the training schedule, prioritized sleep, and I know exactly how important each workout on my calendar is.  I'm using being better this time around as the big carrot on a stick - and for now it's working.

Week 2 Totals:

Swim:                3,300 yards (1.88mi)
Bike:                  36.00 miles
Run:                  12.40 miles
Total Time:        5 hours, 46 minutes
Total Distance:  50.28 miles

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Humility (70.3 Wisconsin: Week 1)

This week, I chose discipline.  I showed up and busted my ass to finish every workout on my schedule - and I was reminded exactly how hard this triathlon thing can be.

Courtesy of my 4 month off season I've lost a lot of fitness so it was humbling to find out just how much this week.  My swim is slow (but strangely has felt comfortable). My bike FTP (functional threshold power) has fallen by 3 points.  My run speed is deep in hibernation.  Oddly, I'm not as upset by that as I thought I would be.  I have 25 weeks to go and that's a lot of miles for things to get back to where they were in August - and hopefully better this time around.

So far the second rest day each week seems like a good idea.  Yes, 3 doubles a week are ^&%#ing hard, but knowing that my only obligation on Saturdays is a 30 minute session with my trainer feels really good.  I think it will go a long way in mitigating the 'My To Do List Is 1000 Miles Long And I'm Drowning' feeling I experienced through much of my training for Steelhead.

Week 1 Totals:

Swim:                 3,100 yards (1.76 miles)
Bike:                   41.20 miles
Run:                    11.53 miles
Total Time:         6 hours, 47 minutes
Total Distance:   54.49 miles

Monday, December 11, 2017

Here We Go Again

It's been a wonderful off season.  I've been in the pool once since August.  I've been on my bike a handful of times - including a really fun 20 miler on the backroads of farm country with Mr. R&R and YadaYada.  Yes, YadaYada still knows all the best cow shit covered routes and I only half died trying to chase the boys.

Mr. R&R and I spent the week of Thanksgiving in the Smoky Mountains hiking, reading, and just generally unwinding from a very busy year.

On Thanksgiving Day we hiked to Charlie's Bunion via the Appalachian Trail.  I can't wait to do it again!

 And of course, I've spent load of time with my boys.

But the off season is over. It's time to train again.  I've got my eye on two 70.3 races in 2018: Ironman 70.3 Wisconsin in June and Ironman 70.3 Muncie in July.  Each of these courses presents a unique challenge.  Wisconsin is very early in the season (June 10th), so the water is likely to be quite cold and I'll have very few chances to get used to open water swimming.  Also, the bike course shares part of the Ironman Wisconsin bike course - which is notoriously hilly.

Muncie will be challenging because it's a reservoir swim - and that reservoir often gets too warm to be wetsuit legal.  I guess I'd better figure out how to skin swim a mile in open water by mid-July.  The bike and the run courses look quite appealing.

As of right now, I think Wisconsin will be my B race and Muncie will be my A race, but that could change as time goes on.

I'm experimenting with a slightly different schedule for the first few weeks of training this time.  I'll be doing an extra double day each week, but I'll also get a second rest day each week.  I think this might be a good fit because although I love how I feel when I'm training, it's exhausting!

So here we go...time to chase the finish line high!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Ironman 70.3 Steelhead

It took 24 weeks and 1,179.49 miles of swim/bike/run, but on Sunday, August 13th it was all worth it.


Mr. R&R and I spent Friday morning cleaning, packing, and getting ready to leave for Michigan.  Every time I pack for a race, I'm blown away by the sheer amount of 'stuff' that's required. I was extra paranoid about it this time since once we left the house, I wouldn't be able to go back for anything I'd forgotten and would be at the mercy of whatever I could scrounge up at the expo.

Mr. R&R and I also took some time to clean/lube my bike chain and do a pre-race inspection - and I'm so thankful that we did because we found issues with both of my tires (gouge in the front one, crack in the back one), so that led to an unplanned changing of both tires and tubes. Mr. R&R did the actual changing while I hovered around uselessly on the sidelines. Racing on untested tires was not part of my race plan, but it sounded infinitely better than spending 56 miles praying to the race gods that my tire wouldn't blow out and end my day.

We finally said goodbye to the boys, made it out the door, through Chicago traffic, and arrived at our hotel in Benton Harbor around 10pm local time.  I was pleased to see that the room was huge with plenty of room for my bike, tri stuff, and both of us!


I woke up on Saturday morning and had one of those 'holyshitthisisreallyhappening' moments.  After a shower and procuring a cup of coffee, we were off to Athlete Check-In.

Unlike IM 70.3 Racine which holds check in at a convention center adjacent to the race venue, IM 70.3 Steelhead holds check in and the Ironman Village (read: shopping/expo) right on the beach where the race occurs.  We parked about a mile away (where we would park on race morning) and walked down to the beach.  It may sound silly, but my heart beating a little faster when I got in the 'Athletes Only' line, showed my id, signed a bunch of waivers, got my wristband that allowed me into transition/on the course, picked up my swag bag/shirt, and acquired my all-important timing chip.

When I got back to Mr. R&R, we had a good chuckle about how stupid the shirt looked.  A) White? B) A Mitten?  The running joke for the rest of the weekend was 'Nothing says Badass like a mitten!'

We wandered over to the mandatory athlete meeting where the race director went over the general rules, talked about race procedures, described the forecasted water conditions (72.4 degrees and 1 foot waves as opposed to the 5-7 foot waves and rip current warnings that were happening during the briefing), etc. During this time, my mom was also texting me a series of wonderful triathlon-themed cartoons she'd drawn starring Walter and Spot.  I'm going to keep those to myself, but I will say that my favorite involved Walter wearing a snorkel!

Big waves and rip current warnings on Saturday (Photo Credit: Mr. R&R)

After the athlete meeting, I went into transition to find my spot.  I kept walking, and walking, and walking.  My spot was near bike/run out, but almost a quarter mile from swim/bike in!  There was an option to rack your bike overnight, but based on how much sand was blowing around (the whole transition area was surrounded by huge sand dunes, I chose not to do so because I didn't want my gears and brakes gummed up with sand.  It looked like the majority of other athletes made the same choice.

I spent some time figuring out what my path would be on race day, stared at the finish line for a while, and then Mr. R&R and I went shopping at the Ironman Store.  I picked up a bike jersey and a jacket - the same items he'd picked up at his race in Racine.

Photo Credit: Mr. R&R

Post shopping adventure, we went for a late lunch/early dinner at a riverside pub.  I picked at a burger (nerves) and lamented that I couldn't have a beer  (one of my favorites is made in Michigan).  I settled for stealing a sip of Mr. R&R's beer!  After dinner we retired to our hotel room, spent some time double checking all my gear, put the required stickers on my bike (not an easy task because my frame is so small), mixed up my bottles of Skratch Labs, and finally settled in to try to sleep.  Needless to say, that wasn't an easy feat with the mix of nerves and raw emotions I had going.


I got about 4 hours of sleep before the alarm went off at, you guessed it, Stupid O'Clock.  I stumbled into the shower, stuffed myself into my tri clothes, and helped Mr. R&R pack all of our stuff into the car.  In many ways, it was kind of nice to have something like packing the car and checking out of the hotel to focus on instead of focusing on how nervous I was! As we drove through the pre-dawn darkness to the race site I forced down water and a Clif Bar and tormented Mr. R&R with a steady stream of nervous word vomit.

Once we were parked, Mr. R&R put on his Sherpa Extraordinaire hat and quickly unloaded my bike.  I pumped my tires, loaded on my water bottles and nutrition bag, and we began the trek to the beach/transition.  Mr. R&R continued his sherpa-ing by carrying my bike over the sandy trail in the dark so I could focus on not twisting an ankle.  We arrived at transition and I went through body marking before racking my bike and laying out all my stuff.

Locked, Loaded, and Already Covered in Sand!
I grabbed my swim cap, goggles, wetsuit and timing chip and went in search of Mr. R&R.  Once I found him, we walked down to the beach so I could get a warm up swim in.

Photo Credit: Mr. R&R
Dawn was just beginning to break over the water as I pulled on my wetsuit and strapped that timing chip around my left ankle and it hit me: This was it.  This was the day I'd been waiting for.

Photo Credit: Mr. R&R
I waded into the relatively warm rolling waves and let my wetsuit flood before pulling on my goggles and swimming through some other athletes and into the oncoming breakers.  The water was greenish-gray and murky, but for some reason it really didn't bother me since it was the same color as it had been the weekend before when Mr. R&R and I went for a swim on our side of Lake Michigan.  The waves were definitely present, but I felt like I could handle it since they were relatively small.

Photo Credit: Mr. R&R

I crawled out of the water and hung out with Mr. R&R as the rolling start began.  He kept me wrapped in a towel since I was shivering until it was time for me to enter the starting chute before filtering into the water.

Photo Credit: Mr. R&R

It took approximately 55 minutes from the time that the speedy swimmers started until it was my turn.  I pulled on my goggles, the race director put his hand on my shoulder for a moment as he released the athlete in front of me, and then said "Go!"

Photo Credit: Mr. R&R
The Swim:

I took off down the beach and into the water.  I ran until the water was waist deep and I started swimming.  I'm not going to lie: the swim was my greatest source of anxiety going into this race, but not for my usual open water freak out reasons.  I knew that I could do the distance, but I wasn't entirely sure that I could do it fast enough to meet the 1 hour and 10 minute cut off time - especially since there were rolling waves.  My race plan was to take the swim one buoy at a time.  They were laid out in a triangular format approximately 100 meters apart.

In the picture above, the yellow buoys are 'outbound buoys', red buoys represented turns, and orange buoys are 'inbound buoys'.  I made it to the first turn feeling pretty decent even though I'd been swimming straight into nonstop waves.  I noted that my watch read 30 minutes as I reached the first orange buoy - meaning I was half way done.

Not fast, but good enough that I felt that I could get the job done.  At the third orange buoy, the waves shifted and instead of coming straight at my left side, they started coming at a 45 degree angle and I started feeling seasick from being tossed every which way.  I took the second turn and started feeling extremely nauseated.  I tried everything to make it go away.  I did some breaststroke (a little better since I could see the swim out arch and it wasn't moving). I tried the backstroke (worse because my wetsuit started constricting my chest).  Somewhere between the fifth and sixth orange buoy the nausea was overwhelming.  Fortunately there was a resting raft nearby so I swam to it, hung on, and fed the fish.  I felt a little better after that, but I lost valuable time since I could still only do 12-15 freestyle strokes before having to switch to breaststroke for a while to get the nausea down.

Gotta check the watch! (Photo Credit: Mr. R&R)

 I was so happy when the water became shallow enough to stand up so I be vertical again.  I had been hoping to finish the swim in just under an hour, but it ended up taking a little longer.  While I'm not thrilled with it, I think I would have come in under an hour if my unscheduled "break" hadn't happened.

Swim Time: 1:03:35

Under normal circumstances, I would have at least jogged up the beach and to my bike, but I chose to walk so I could catch my breath, regain my equilibrium.  Normally I'm pretty efficient in T1, but the amount of sand stuck to my feet even after I rinsed them off was insane.  I did the best I could with that situation, stuffed 3 packages of Shot Bloks and an emergency pack of Scratch Labs mix in my pockets, and did my best to jog out to the mount line.

T1: 8:38


Mount Up! (Photo Credit: Mr. R&R)

I clipped in and started turning circles.  After a brief stretch through a residential neighborhood, I turned out onto M-63 and really started to settle in.  The temperature was perfect (I was drying off, but not roasting or shivering), the terrain was gently rolling, the surface was relatively smooth, and I was able to see the pro males and females on their way back in.

Of course, that awesome pavement didn't last.  Somewhere before the Mile 15 aid station I hit a bump and heard one of my rear bottles hit the ground after it flew out of its cage.  I saw it roll into the middle of the highway and decided I'd rather face a littering/equipment abandonment penalty  (if a race official saw it happen) than risk pulling over and running across a busy highway.  Fortunately, the flying bottle was my water bottle, not my spare Skratch bottle, and was easily replaced at the aid station.

Once we turned off of M-63 we were in farm country and 20+ miles of chip seal roads.  The rolling hills continued as the miles ticked by.  It was so quiet.  The only spectators were farmers who graciously sat in their driveways and clapped as the spandex-clad crazies rolled by.  I occupied myself by closely monitoring my nutrition and hydration - and sorting through the crazy rush of emotions I was feeling. I made sure I took a drink (Skratch Labs/water/or a combination of the two depending what was in my aero bottle at the moment) at least every mile, eating a Shot Blok every 5 miles, and eating a chopped up Clif Bar (Peanut Toffee Buzz flavor) at each hour mark.  I also had a few happy/disbelieving tears around Mile 20 when I realized that unless I had a serious mechanical issue or passed out on the run, I was going to finish this thing!

I swear I'll replace all of these with un-watermarked images after I purchase the race photos

Along the way my spare packet of Skratch must have fallen out of my pocket when I pulled out the Shot Bloks, but I'm not sure where it went or I would have picked it up.  I emptied my spare bottle of Skratch into my aero bottle somewhere before Aid Station 2, shoved the bottle back in the cage and added a bottle of water for good measure.

I was so excited to turn back onto M-63.  I knew that at that point, there was less than 20 miles away from the end and the course had some really good downhills in my future.  I felt pretty fantastic on this stretch, did a lot of passing (and those passes were permanent), and just generally spent a lot of time marveling at the fact that I was racing a 70.3! My fastest mile of the day was 21.1 mph and that was Mile 55!  The final mile was all downhill, but it was a mandatory Slow Zone because it was winding, really sandy, and part of it was over a very rough wooden boardwalk.

As I came down the hill, I saw Mr. R&R, my dad, and his wife screaming their heads off for me.  It made me smile for what was probably the last time before the finish line.

Bike Time: 3:27:11 (16.25mph avg.)

Photo Credit: Dad

I dismounted right at the Dismount Line, struggled a little to swing my right leg over the bike, and did my best to jog the quarter mile through T2 back to my rack.

Back at the rack, it took me a minute to get my bike back in place.  I took off my helmet and bike shoes, tried to dust more of the residual sand off my feet, added socks/running shoes/race belt and a visor and headed out onto the run course.

T2: 6:02


Coming out of T2, I felt okay-ish.  My legs were turning over fast and when I looked down at my Garmin, I was on pace for a 9:44 first mile.  This was far too fast, but my legs were still kind of numb from the bike and the signals between my brain and legs were getting a little scrambled.  I slowed down just in time to hear someone I didn't recognize on the other side of the road (those on their way to the finish line) yell 'Go Tri Wis! Keep it up!'  Gotta love racing out of state and finding out that other people from your team are there.  Despite my lukewarm feelings about several aspects of the team, they always make a point of cheering each other on at races.  It was nice to hear.

I'd been having some hip/knee issues leading up to the race and overall my run training wasn't where it should have been, so I knew I was in for a rough 13.1 miles.  My loose plan for the run was to run as much as I could, walk when I had to (including up any big hills/through aid stations), try my damnedest not to set a new personal worst at the half marathon distance, and basically not stop moving forward no matter what.  Mile 2 was straight up a huge hill that smelled like a garbage dump.  Gross.   The next few miles were mostly a mix of running and walking and then we turned into the Whirlpool Corporate Campus.  This was the only place on the run course where there was any shade and the temperature was climbing fast.  I started dumping ice down my bra at every aid station in an attempt to keep my core temperature down - and it seemed to work, although dripping water as it melted wasn't my favorite experience!

I felt a mix of happiness and frustration as I started the 2nd run loop.  I was happy because it meant that the next time I saw that spot, I'd be headed back down that garbage-scented hill and to the finish and frustrated because it meant I had to do the Whirlpool Loop again.  I continued my icing technique and if nothing else, it gave me something to look forward too as my legs started to ache more and more as I kept moving forward.   Finally, the sign pointing to the finish line was in front of me.  2 miles to go!

I did my best to run down the hill and the rest of the way in.  When I hit the fenced off area that meant the finish line was close, the pain temporarily melted away.  I didn't sprint the finish and I had never planned to.  I'd been waiting 8 months for this moment and I wanted to savor it.  Mr. R&R, my dad, and my stepmother were me the final push I needed to finish this thing.  I heard Madonna's Ray of Light playing. I saw my crew cheering and a tidal wave of emotions overwhelmed me and I had to wipe away a few tears and get control of myself so I didn't ugly cry my way across the line. Some of the official photos show me struggling not to cry, but as soon as my feet touched that black and red M-Dot carpet, I was all smiles.   I heard the announcer call me in: Rabbits and Runs (obviously he used my real name): You got it done girl!  And then it wasn't a dream any more. I crossed the finish line of Ironman 70.3 Steelhead and became a half ironman.

Run Time: 2:37:30 (Avoided a PW by 8 seconds)

Total Time: 7:22:56

Almost instantly a volunteer slipped a medal over my head and handed me a finisher's hat.  A few more steps down the chute, Mr. R&R got to me.  I cried for a few more minutes, mostly from relief that it was finally over, before I made my way out of the chute and met up with Mr. R&R, my dad, and stepmother.  We all hung out for a little bit while I caught my breath, tried to force down the post-race food (not happening since it was all grease and dairy), and finally decided it was time to call it a day.  Dad and Stepmother headed home and Mr. R&R waited outside transition while I collected my all my stuff.

Mine. All 70.3 Miles of it.

We walked back to the car (Mr. R&R took the bike) very slowly.  I was so happy to be off my feet and out of my wet/sweaty clothes.  I had figured that I was going to sleep most of the way home, but I was still running on too much adrenaline.  I passed the hours with a steady diet of babbling at Mr. R&R, playing on social media, and munching on McDonald's french fries (sounded less horrible than pizza or cheesy pasta).  After far too many hours in the car we finally made it home.  I wasn't feeling so hot (every step hurt like walking on broken glass), but dinner, a shower, and sleep helped a lot and I felt at least 50% better by the next morning.

At this point, I can't believe it's been a week since I crossed that finish line.  In some ways, it feels like it was yesterday and in others it feels like a distant memory.  My body is mostly okay again (aside from some seriously bruised toes) and sitting on my booty for a week has driven me stir crazy! I'm ready to get back into it, but before I do, I feel like I have a lot of people to thank.

First and foremost, I have to thank Mr. R&R for pushing me, believing in me when I didn't, and for being the world's best race sherpa.  Honestly, without him, I wouldn't have started...much less finished.  (No, he's not available to rent.)

Without my mom's willingness to stay with Walter and Spot, I either wouldn't have gone or I would have had to do this without Mr. R&R there. She also listened to me complain about all my aches and pains for months.

 I'm grateful that my dad and stepmother drove all the way to Michigan to be supportive - even if they only got to see me blow by them once on the bike and at the finish.  

Finally, I owe a huge thank you to my friends - particularly a group of women I refer to in my head as 'The Twitter Tribe'.  They've listened to me whine and cry for the last 8 months, they've propped me up when  I need it, and they've handed me my ass when I deserved it.   I couldn't ask for a better group of people.