Thursday, September 8, 2016

Ironman Mont Tremblant -->Kona bound!







It's been nearly 3 weeks since I raced my 8th Ironman up in the beautiful village of Mont Tremblant Quebec.  I have been processing the day on and off since. I haven't been writing in my blog lately. I know I wrote a little story about the Boston Marathon, but nothing since.  I write in my head all the time but I haven't been able to spare many moments to sit and compose thoughts about myself these days.  Life with 3 teens is a whole new world of busy.  

But as I sit at my desk getting some work done, sucking down coffee hoping it'll seep into my veins and fill me with energy I just can't seem to find this week  because I need to head out the door in 30 min for a 16 mile run, I feel the need to write out some of these memories and worries that are overloading my brain right now.   

Call it my therapy. 

____________

A few years ago, after racing in Kona, I thought I was likely done with Ironman racing. But some time passed, I crept into a new age group, the boys asked why I wasn't racing as much and told me they missed our fun trips, and I decided to go for it again.  I missed it. I had/ have a few big goals left to accomplish and there's no better time than the present. So I signed up. Mont Tremblant is one of my favorite race courses on the circuit. If you're considering racing there, GO for it. It won't disappoint.  

My prep for the race went well. It was a little different than years past.  First, this was my first Ironman without the help of a coach.  I have been so fortunate to have been taught and guided by a number of Really great coaches over the years.  Seriously.... starting when I was just a little kid in the pool, through High School and College swimming,  Track and XC teams and then 10 years of Triathlon.  I have learned so much through them and through my own experiences and schooling that I knew I could handle this alone. But, that was the thing. There were times I felt a little bit 'lonely.'  You know, that pat on the back after a hard long block of workouts with a little advice or constructive criticism was missed.  However, I had to suck it up and keep going. Also, I could always reach out to my buddy Mary for those words of encouragement.  
In addition to being on my own, I had just raced the Boston Marathon in April. It wasn't a horrible lead into IM training, but it does throw in some challenge. My winter was absorbed with lots and lots of running and a lot of time with family skiing. That leads to less time biking and swimming. I had work to do after that 26.2 mile Patriot's day run. 

It was head down, get the work done, and keep the faith all summer.  Of course, I work from home & have three guys I love spending my time with so my training was squeezed into the very early mornings so I could maximize time with them this summer too.   It worked out just fine. They are quite independent and had some of their own things going on so we made it work.  I hit the starting line feeling very ready. I had put in a lot of high quality work with quite a bit of necessary volume and the combo felt good to me. My rest days were placed exactly when I needed them and my method of adjusting things as I went along worked well. After all these years, I find that I can handle quite a lot before needing rest so I took some risks with my workout plans and challenged myself a little more than I have.  I also lost a little weight and felt better myself due to that. I have no idea how much. I haven't stepped on a scale in Years. Truly, I bet it's been 4+ years.  This is a little rebellious in the world of Triathlon.  Sweat rates, caloric needs, and race weight are all very important.  I just know that I can't do it.  When I feel good, my clothes are loose and my workouts are going well, I don't want to stand on the scale and see a # that is higher than I want. That will send me to the kitchen for some cookies.  It works the opposite way for my brain. So, I go by feel. I know what I need for fluids and calories and I know when I'm at the proper body composition. That's that. I knew that I was 100% ready on race day.  

Don't get me wrong. That confidence and self- assurance does not mean there are no race nerves and anxiety!!!!  But for one of the first times, I do remember standing on the beach pre-race, alone, with an unusual sense of calm.  I just had a sense that all was ok... my head and body were totally prepared.  


We had a very hot and sunny summer.  I was ready for heat and humidity. I raced the 70.3 in MT in June and it was in the 90s and I was Miserable. But this time I was ready. 
However, mother nature decided to test us.  Rain was forecasted.  Ok...how much rain? I didn't really worry about it. Little did I know. We got a summer's worth of rain in 12 hours I think! Also, despite the 'scare' of a no- swim situation at the pre-race meeting ( fog and thunderstorms were the worry ) -- we were a 100% Go on Race day. Clear skies started the day... so a full Swim Bike Run day was ahead. Yay!!!  

Here's how the race went down: 
I'll spare you all my race morning prep and details. We all have our routines.  :) But it all went Just as planned and I was excited to get things moving.  NERVES were on Full Force that morning-- until the gun went  off!!!  

Swim: 

I think this might have been my first NON- Mass start Ironman. I must say,  I liked it. I was NOT a proponent of the change. I mean, the mass start is part of the challenge. That being said, those mass starts have Scared the heck out of me. I have had some bad and scary starts.  So I was in the very very last dead last wave. :( I was bummed. I wasn't looking forward to navigating my way through people. However, it wasn't too bad!!!  
I hit the water and felt Amazing.  I really just felt smooth and strong. I went out hard and could see I was pulling away from the others in my wave. That gave me more of a surge. I started to catch the waves ahead, group by group, but also felt gaps in the water to get through the people. Sure, I got kicked. I had breaststroke legs whack me in the face. I accidentally climbed over others. Oops, sorry. ;( It's all part of it. Goggles got knocked off.... the whole bit. 
And way out when we made the turn in the middle the water got Rough!!! We had big chop and huge swells. I just adjusted my stroke and breathing pattern and kept going. 
Finally- the sound of the crowd, the blown up arch in the distance and the beautiful shore.... love each finish along the way on Ironman day. Goggles off ( ouch, they always hurt my eyes after an hour with no break ) and dropped to the ground for the 'strippers' to help. I checked my watch and saw my time was sub 60 min.
YES!!! I was THRILLED!!!! I hadn't broken 60" for the swim since
my first race back in '09!  
58 min for this leg. Great start. So so happy. 

Long run to T1--- into the tent-- this was fine. Typically the volunteers in the tents have sat with me and helped with things. They didn't do this here. They were standing back. That was different but also fine as I didn't have much to do this time. I ran out of the tent and had to take a Left to head to the bikes and WHACK! I totally flew in the air and fell straight down onto my hip. It was embarrassing. But I wasn't hurt. I laughed and ran to the bike. 

bike:

Don't worry, I wont' talk about 112 miles of biking. Let me just say this. It rained. Hard. The whole time.  Very very hard.  I was ready for it to be 90.  But instead, it was 60s (?? ) and insanely wet.  But you know.... you just have to deal with what is given to you! Or, you can quit? 
Nah... 

I guess the first 10 miles were ok.  I'm not sure.  It's always crowded to start and people are all over the roads trying to settle into their spots. The rule is you can't ride closer than 6 bike lengths to the person ahead of you. That is tough with nearly 3000 people on the roads and many of close clusters.  There are a lot of people who really don't seem to read or care about the bike rules and that gets frustrating. Especially with bad weather.  Those are the issues that seem to be the most noticeable at the beginning.  You just get out there, find your space, settle into an "easy" pace, and start drinking and eating.  

I was feeling great. I got 2 bottles in very quickly. About 10 miles in... 
It started to rain. And then pour. And then pour harder.  
It was pelting our faces and honestly, it hurt!  That came and went but I remember thinking that a lot. Ouch.  I was fine with it for a while. But eventually, the constant torrential rain got rather annoying.  I couldn't see. Water was seeping down behind my glasses and filling my eyeballs. The lens were fogged and wet. But if I took them off, it would still be bad and I had no place to put them.  My bar tape was super slippery and a few times  I lost my grip and slight control.  I was on alert.  The roads were covered with lots of standing water.  On a hilly course, it was  a bit dangerous. I decided braking was a bad idea. And while that sounds crazy, I thought it could cause me to wipe out.  I spent a lot of energy holding on Very tightly to the bike so I wouldn't fall.  My shoulders and back were getting pretty tired. 
All that aside, I felt strong. My power was exactly what I wanted. My pace was Exactly what I wanted. I was eating and drinking a lot.  My friend Bob passed me around mile 30 and it was nice to see a friendly face. Or I guess I just saw his back as he flew by very quickly.  We exchanged, "Great day for a ride!" chuckles...  The rain was so heavy  that I couldn't see anyone else all day.  This course is a 2 loop ride but we pass by the entrance to the village twice on each loop. My family (all my kids, my husband And my parents! ) were able to stand where I could see them twice on each loop! Spectating on the bike is sort of lame.. you see your person for about 10 seconds. :( But for us, it really does mean a lot. I have tried to explain to my kids just how much energy and 'oomph' they give me every time I get to see any of them.  There's something about that contact. Touching base... a little burst of sanity and hope when we see people we love out there for us.  Mom, Dad, kids, Mark, and all the oodles of friends that were there that day, THANK YOU!!! While the rain was very bad for us--it was also very bad for them.  They endured it just like we did.  

Around mile 60 my bike was making a horrible noise and completely distracting me. I worried about that a lot......at what point would I have to quit if the bike gave out and at what point could I 'run it in?'  26.2 miles is enough to run.. would I do 35 if I had to?  I was thinking about things like that............
The mind has a lot of places to go during 5 hour ++ bike ride...

Finally-- I made it through the torturous 12 miles out and back on the steep and windy climbs and into T2. I was sub 5:40 and honestly, I had tears in my eyes of happiness about my day as I rolled in and handed my bike off to the volunteers.  I was realllllllllly feeling good about what was happening.  
All I had to do now, was nail a marathon. :) 

Ironman is about patience. And pacing. And toughness.  Now that I was off the bike, the race was about to start. I had a feeling I was in a good position,but that's all I had. A feeling. I felt myself pull away from the other girls in the swim.  When I got out of the water, I looked around and didn't see anyone until I was running to T1. I saw another woman and checked out her calf: P. Hmm.. Pro? ok... I was 22 min up on her. :)   From there, I was off on the bike and basically blinded but I knew I didn't get passed by any women.  My feeling as I headed off to run was a controlled and cautious confidence.  I had a long way to go


This guy--100% in my corner.  He gave me a  "you got this hun" kiss and I  headed off to get the job done. 

Good thing I didn't wipe out-- again.  :) What the heck am I doing??!! haha... 


I climbed the first hill that takes us away from the village and out onto the run course and was so excited to see my friend Marni standing there cheering!!! I knew she was in town, but we hadn't been successful in connecting yet.  Texting & emailing were totally unreliable for me in Canada and she was staying a mile or two away.  It was a great surprise to see her there and fun to get a hug from my friend I rarely see!! 




Marni Sumbal--my first nutritionist to help me with this sport. Owner and founder of TriMarni Coaching and Nutrition. :) 

It had been so long since I raced with a bunch of friends!! This is just a few of them that were there that day. Bob T, Dave B, and Patrick K!! Great job guys!!! (Theresa, thanks for putting this fun compilation of photos together as we started our runs!! ) 




Time to get to work. Ahh... the Ironman run. It's a beast!!! The Mont Tremblant run course is hard, but fair. It's an out and back x 2.  For me, it's 4 Lengths. Pool talk. I'm a swimmer at heart and think in terms of the pool.  4 x 25. Or more like 4 x 1000.  And, like the 200 fly ( my old college event ) the 3rd 50 is the hardest.  

I hit the roads feeling good. Fine.  Nothing was bothering me.  I remember chatting with a guy about how Great it felt to have dry feet. I had changed my shoes and socks in T2, of course, and the dry socks felt Amaaaazing. The rain had stopped for the moment and I was enjoying that. Although, the humidity was building.  My stomach was fine, my legs were waking up-- or adjusting the run motion rather.  I've learned lots of things over the years in my racing & one key thing for IM racing is if you feel good, eat! Take advantage of it and get some calories in.  I did have a headache, but that's fairly typical for me at that point. I wasn't worried.  I just started taking cups of gatorade stuff on mile 2 and sucking on the EFS flask. While keeping myself in check, I started off strong. I felt good and wanted to get a little time on anyone coming behind me and anyone ahead. I wasn't sure where I stood in my age group.  I knew I had to find a strong pace that I could keep the whole way. My mission was to Not stop as much at aid stations as I have at other Ironmans and to keep my pace hovering right around 8:00/ mi pace.  
Lap1-- I don't remember much.  I tried to block out how much more was left. Just run. Block the rest out.  
Lap 2-- back to the village. To me that meant--- touch base/ hug/ wave/ info time from my family.  It also meant-- time to get serious and be ready for the face to face moments with women running towards me.  I wanted to check out where I stood within the race, and at the same time, not show my face. I felt pretty good. My quads were screaming a bit. I figured out a way to deal with it.  I allowed myself ~5 seconds or so at aid stations and with both hands I just squeezed both quads and loosened them up a bit. It worked. Quick stop and rub and off I went.  Head down, visor low ( stealth mode in case someone was looking for me...;) ) and brain off.  
It was raining again. I was feeling a little grumpy about that. My socks were soaked. Shoes were heavy and I could feel a beauty of a blister forming on my left baby toe. As long as it didn't rip or do anything crazy. I knew I had dry socks in my special needs bag.  I contemplated that change for about 6 seconds. I quickly changed that thought into, "Age group winners don't change their socks. If you want this. Do not stop. Suck it up babe." 
So......... with that I yelled my bib # to the special need bag helper, grabbed my gel flask replacement and left the socks.  

Ironman is not about comfort. It is about being tough. It is about hanging on when you want to stop. It is going to hurt.  That is a given. If you think you can head into a 140.6 mile race and not have some pain, you signed up for the wrong race.  The final 13 miles of the Ironman marathon, to me, are all about digging deep. It's about deciding how badly you really want it. It's about remembering all the hours and hours and miles and miles of hard work & making it happen.  It's about NOT feeling sorry for yourself.  That is a game changer.  It's hard, it hurts, you want to stop. Badly.  If you can learn how to put all that aside and instead of feeling badly for yourself for what you're going through.  


I ran down through the village at the half way point. I heard so so many cheers from people I knew watching!!  Thank you! If you are reading this, it really helped!!! But best of all, I got high fives from Mom and Dad! I got a hug and words with Mark. He told me I was in first in my age group. I saw all the boys. I stopped and hugged and kissed each one. I put my head up against Nick's forehead and told him I was getting power from them.  It truly gives me a lift. It means everything to have them there. 


I saw Marni again and she wasn't sure about my place but thought at least 3rd or 4th.  I knew I had a shot, one way or the other.  I made a decision about my "3rd 50."  I was going to run "easy." I knew I was running a solid / consistent pace and felt like I could hold on. But I wanted to have it in me to bring it home strong and faster, if needed to. My quads were on fire. My feet were on fire.  I have chronic foot pain that kicks in every time I run. Sometimes it's mile 5, sometimes it's mile 13. It comes and goes but it was there this day. I takes my breath away at times, it's so bad. Both feet, from mid-foot on, are just on fire.  I squeeze my toes inside my shoes when it happens and know that somehow, at some point, it will dissipate.  

I ran that last length away from the village with an easy approach. Not much changed, but I consciously brought my heart rate down and avoided pushing even when I thought I could. The roads were crowded so I had to slow down a lot just to get through people.  I started to see friends that were racing and that felt great. Friendly faces offering each other encouragement is always so welcome on these hard days.  

I made the turn at the end, took a deep breath and maybe even said out loud, "time to bring it home." 

Those last 7+ miles go on forever at times, but I was really feeling good. I started looking at my garmin and the clock. I started doing the math on my finishing time. I knew that if I could hold my pace for the last 4 miles..... I could get in around 10:25. I was Beyond ecstatic with this. But I could NOT stop. I was so so tired. My quads... pain really doesn't describe what we go through at the end of these. 
Back in 2011-- I had what I had been calling, 'the race of my life.'  That Ironman in Lake Placid went So well. I finished in 10:19 that day. I was 41.  
I am 46 and to think about coming close to that was truly exciting for me.  I worked very hard, and it was paying off. 

There were 2 steep hills that nearly threw me over the edge. I pushed so hard to get up them--- and when I got to the top I stopped. I didn't mean to. But my legs.. 
I squeezed them as I had been doing and just ran on. One time, some guy behind me yelled, "LET'S GO!!! DO not stop now!!" !   :)  I had a lot of support from other racers out there. It was very cool. 
I was able to eat and drink all the way to the end. Even on the last mile, I was taking in a few shot bloks. I just wanted to finish strong and I felt good, so I ate. I ran down the hill next to the lake and felt Amazing. I had energy!!! I ran up to the road that winds through the village and felt a surge and just raced so hard to the end.  It was done. 

Mission accomplished. 

10:25 overall time after a 3:34 run.  
I won my age group and took 3rd amateur woman and 10th overall with the Pro field mixed in.  

Now-- I prep for Kona. I am excited and overwhelmed all at once.  The race is one month from today. This is a very very fast turnaround.  I guess this will be left for another post-- if I can write again soon. Advice is welcome!  So far, I've rested a bit, built back in with some moderate training last week and started hitting it hard again this week.  I hope I'm doing this right. I have big goals for myself on that island. This is the last hoorah there.......I have experienced it and now I am going to race. I am on a mission.





Thank you for all the support Marni!!! I can't wait to see you again in Kona and to share the race course with your speedy husband, Karel!!! 








Thursday, May 5, 2016

Boston Strong!!



I remember sitting on the school bus in front of the Lunt School in Cape Elizabeth. I was 11. I do not remember if I was listening to the radio on the bus or if people were just talking about it. Ronald Reagan, our President, had been shot. I felt scared. What was going to happen to us? I had heard stories from my parents about JFK being shot and killed. Was it happening again? 

Fiver years later, I was downstairs in the hall by the library when I walked by and noticed a small TV on out in the hallway.  They were allowing people to view the Space Shuttle take off since the local teacher was on board this time. Moments later.... it blew up. I watched it live. 

At age 31 while I was  6 months pregnant and the mother of a 2 year old, I was standing in our kitchen watching the Today Show. I was getting ready to go to my friend Linda's house to sit and chat & drink water ( pregnant, no coffee :(, I make up for it now)  with some ladies while the kids played around us.  Right before I turned the tv off to leave, a plane hit the World Trade Center. Huh...that's strange. It's sunny and clear. My husband is a pilot. I know what the risks are and what day makes a bad flying day.  That wasn't an example of one. I scurried around the kitchen and got little Cameron ready to go.  As everyone reading this knows, it wasn't an accident. The chaos and attacks continued. All day. 
It was 9/11. 

Every generation has events that they remember exactly where they were.  Those aforementioned historical tragedies were big ones for me. But the most recent and possibly one that struck the closest to my life, was on April 15, 2013. 

Our plane circled above Logan airport a few times before landing. It didn't seem like a big deal.  It happens. Pilot has to wait for clearance.  I was alone, on my way home from a training camp in Texas. I was getting ready for IMTX a month later. The plane landed, we all got off without issue and I turned on my cell as I walked to baggage. I had been trying to track a few friends and athletes of mine who were running the marathon while I was on layover. I didn't have wifi so my buddy, Mike, had been keeping me posted as much as he could. But when 20-30 texts popped up, many from Mike, I couldn't imagine. His words, "Explosion at finish line!!!!"
I thought he was being dramatic and just using figurative language to tell me about something cool that happened. Somebody went really fast?? Though, it did seem like an odd way to say it.
But then... one by one... people around me starting hearing.  Other texts were more clear. 
What the.......?????
Standing at the baggage carousel, I became a little afraid. I was in Boston. Was there an attack happening on the city? Was I in danger? Security officers and bomb sniffing dogs were coming in. I was confused. I was frantically trying to reach friends who were there. Cell service in the city was getting shut down... Dad texted me, "Get on a bus and get OUT of the city." 

The bus ride back to Portland was long. I was sad. I was angry.  Mary and I reached each other and talked about our horror. Our fear. What do we do now. This is what we do. A 9 year old was killed. Nick had just turned 10. My kids and my husband and my parents were Always at my finish lines. What do we do now??  Stop racing? What was happening?? Why at a race?? It didn't make sense... 
All our friends and athletes were accounted for. Thank God. Though a few of them were much much too close and saw more than anyone should ever seen in a life. 

In October of 2014, I raced the Ironman World Championships in Kona.  Several months later, an email popped in my inbox that read, "Congratulations on Qualifying for the Boston Marathon!" 

How? I hadn't run a marathon since 2011? Then I realized my Kona run got me a BQ. Cool! I ran Boston back in 1995. It wasn't really on  my radar to run again any time soon. In fact, after 4/15/13, I wondered if I ever would.  

I sat at my desk, stared at the email, and said inside my head and maybe even out loud, "#@$*!!@! the terrorist brothers!" ( won't use their names.. )  The people who were injured were going back to Boston. People who were AT the race at that moment, were going back. No way in hell was I going to let those jerks shut me down from doing what I love to do.  

I wrote down my confirmation # and put the Registration date on my calendar. There. I'm going back to Boston. 

Ok, so now I can Finally tell about my race day! Took me long enough to set that up huh?? 

I worked really hard all winter.   I swam some and biked some but my focus was certainly on logging many miles on the feet and training to hit my goal time.  Race week came and I felt good... except... I had this KNOT in the middle of my back. Ugh. No clue why. it hurt A LOT!!!   I went to see someone for a massage and it helped, that day. But it came back. I was totally distracted and worried as it hurt just to be as Mark and I often ask each other regarding injuries or illness. "Does it hurt just to be?"  You know, vs. when you Move. I swear I spent 90% of the drive time to Boston with my arm torqued around my body trying to self- massage. Not very effective. At some point, my son Tommy ( age 14 ) asked me if I remembered what I suggested he do this past winter when his hand was killing him before his State meet nordic race. ( We actually thought it was broken...  )  Ahem... yes, I remember hun. Something along the lines of, "put it out of your mind? You'll be fine while you're racing? Are you sure you want to do it? If so, suck it up and worry about it when it's over? adrenaline will fix it? " hmmmm... Touche Tommy, Touche! It was time for me to SUCK IT UP ! :)    





We went to the expo and I got my Bib and Tshirt and a few other little things we all thought we needed that day.' I bought my cool Marathon jacket. I stood in front of the 'picture wall' and got my photo taken. I'm glad I did it, but it looks a little like, "Hey wait.. I should take my picture here."  haha
Someone asked me if I still had my jacket from 1995 when I last ran. I laughed. I was a 25 year old Graduate student!! I didn't have any money for a fancy marathon jacket!! I did, however, get this cool T shirt and somehow I still have it! ( who am I kidding, I keep all that kind of stuff.) Big enough? These over
sized cotton T shirts are what we used to race in!!  Too funny. 

We went out to eat in the North end at a great little place. It was tiny and packed and 100% Italian.  It was fun.  I stuffed my face with pasta and loved every second of it.  

Sunday was chill day for me and explore day for the guys. They even did a Duck Boat tour, which cracked me up.  After, Cameron studied and the others went to the pool. At dinner later on ( @Quincy Market... everything full that night! ) , I was super psyched to bump into my friend and former TriMoxie athlete, Aubrey!! She was there with her 1 year old adorable daughter and her husband, Jon.  What are the chances!!  Made my day... 

I got  up super early, ate a dry untoasted  bagel, drank beet juice and sports drink  in my hotel bathroom. Ahh.. those race day routines and the non glamorous part of these sports! I tried to be quiet but.. you know.. By 6:00 I was hugging Mark goodbye and headed down to catch shuttle #1. I was wearing about 4 layers.  I was cracking up at myself but you know, it was chilly, I had 5 hrs to wait and I'd rather be warm and have stuff to sit on than be cold before the start!!  We were dropped at Boston Common where I waited another hour or so. I chatted with some lady from the mid-west.  Finally, I went through the security check to board the school bus to Hopkinton. I was feeling fine... my back was OK!! But I refused to even think about it.  listen to Tommy.....suck it up Mom!! 

After an hour ride ( I got a seat to myself) we were there. The exits from the highway to Hopkinton were blocked with police. Nobody was entering the athlete zone except athletes and authorized personnel. Fine by me. I felt 100% safe, the whole time. But security measures were... noticeable. They were solid. They were there to protect and to allow us our day. I am very grateful and impressed. That city comes together in 100% force. There is no doubt they are Boston Strong. 

Athlete village was like a giant summertime concert scene. That's what I thought when I walked in and people were EVERYWHERE. People and portapotties and tables with bananas. I just found a small grassy square and sat. I talked some. I stretched a little. I watched the bathroom line grow and surround me. I waited.  I wondered if I should eat more.  It's an atypical race morning.... point to point marathon with uber security.  It was an experience. 

Eventually, it was time to go through step 1 to get to the start. I waited until guards said "WAVE 3 foward". Up on the buildings surrounding that area, were police. Armed. Watching. Protecting. It was comforting. And sad. And Sobering. I saw others notice and comment.  Whatever it takes, the Boston marathon goes on. 

We moved into corrals at that point. I was in wave 3, corral 7. It was verrrrrrrrrry hard for me as I am verrrrrrrry anxious ( I know I know... ) pre-race and want to just BE at the start-  ready. But I kept getting put 'on hold.'  My # was 22,067. About 30,000 run this. I was not near the front. :) We waited in our corrals for a bit and then we were allowed to walk ( almost a mile? ) to the start area where we got back into More corrals. Phew. It was Very organized. I was impressed. I was antsy. 

My run time in Kona in '14 was fine but it was quite a bit off my 'flat' marathon time.  As a result, I had a challenge with all the crowded roads to get so I could run at the pace I trained for and was capable of. (Hopefully.. :)) I wasn't too worried about it.  I'd just do what I could do. 

It was hot. The forecast had been hot, and then cooler, and then back to warm. Typical New england. In the end, it settled on hot.  ok.. no big deal. I loaded on the sunscreen. And, planned to drink. A lot. 

Finally, we were OFF!!! Sort of. For as far as the eye could see... bobbing heads. It certainly prevented me from going out too fast! But I was frustrated. I had a pace plan and well... starting from mile 1 and then 2, I was off.  A lot.  Every time the road opened or a sidewalk presented itself, I surged. Surging isn't really a good idea. But... 

Mile 3 and 4 were net down hill ( most of the first 6 ish are... ) and I made up some time and got on track.  But my ave was still off.  It's alright... I just kept telling myself I'd have time. 

Miles 5-10... were not great. My legs were not really feeling that "I'm just floating" feeling that you should have for the first ~13 miles of a marathon. Hmm.. My pace was high 7:20s to 7:30. It was ok. But about 15 sec off my 'plan.'  Hey, it's still going to put me in my 'goal range' that I was ok with. Keep on- Ange. Just 'keep on' was my plan. I checked my HR a couple times and while my legs felt dopey and tired, my effort felt 'easy' but my Heart rate read super high. 170s? I didn't believe the garmin, so I stopped looking. If I could have, I would have ripped the strap off and tossed it. But then, I'd have to buy a new one. Like the nice arm warmers I accidentally brought to the start and had to ditch. :( 

Backing up to the start-- the thing people talk about but it's hard to truly convey, is the INSANE amount of support on the sidelines at this race. I have raced in big races, but Nothing compares.  The cheering just does NOT let up.  It grows at times, but it's never gone.  One critique however. It seemed that everyone, for  a few miles, thought that all of us, should slap All their hands.  Um... no. I had to run a marathon. Not high 5 everyone. I was running on the very edge of the road and I can not believe how many times I got Whacked in the chest and gut. Seriously. If the runner isn't putting their hand up, put yours down please. :)  It hurts and you know, it gets old to be hit like that.  Otherwise, all the screams were incredible. more on that... 

There were hills mixed in with flats and descents. I can't begin to tell you what was where even though I studied it pre-race.  I know that around mile 11 I felt better. My legs woke up, my energy was great, and my pace improved. A bit. 7:15s weren't happening. I had accepted that. I was watching the average and trying to get it back to 7:23 where it had landed for a while. I was make some progress. And then I'd lose it. Back and forth. 
But you know........kind of the story of my day, and what I remember the most, is what I saw on the roads and all around me.  
I saw a women with an escort group. She had a prosthetic leg. A young blond woman. A survivor of the bombing. I had a lump in my throat. I could barely run.  Mile after mile I was staring at the crowds screaming. I was watching all the police along the sides. Totally focused. Keeping us safe. So we could run.  So we could continue to race.  I felt such a huge sense of pride in being part of the thousands that refused to give in to evil.  HUGE huge huge enthusiastic crowds and volunteers. I was overwhelmed for 26.2 miles. I was focused on running THE Boston Marathon. Three years later. I was not focus on Running. I realized this later. My game face took a bit of a break. And, I am more ok with that than ever before. 
The day was hot and somewhere around mile 13, not sure, it got windy. ugh. A headwind. oh well.... keep running. Ignore that force trying to push us the wrong way!! After all, the best miles were coming up!! 

Wellesley College is famous for their screaming at this event and wow, it did NOT disappoint.  I could hear their roars for about 1/4 mile before I got there. I KNOW my pace was faster during that mile! 
Mile 14 is where the Maine Track Club was to be stationed. I was looking for a few people there. I saw Jill and she yelled to me! I missed Kate, but I looked!  I saw a guy running with a Beach2Beacon shirt and we exchanged, "Yay Cape E" sentiments...  
I got gel on my leg and it dripped to my knee. It drove me Nuts. my legs were sticking to each other. how does that happen?? I hate 'sticky'. A lady on the side had papertowels! yay! I took one but, ugh, it was dry. ? I tried to wipe the gel but ended up with a stip of towel on my leg. Cute. 

Mile 16 was the spot my family planned to be!! I PRAYED I could see them. Who knew with the crowds. I scanned and scanned and then, ahead a bit, I saw my Tall Mark. :) Yay! I ran over to them and found NIck and Cam and kissed them both and hugged Mark. Just then I heard, "DAD!!!!" I knew the voice. I turned to the opposite side of the road ( a wide stretch I'll tell ya ) and Tommy was running full stride. He had been on "Mom lookout" on the other side. :)  I dodged runners and made my way across to kiss him. :) Happy!!!!

Now... I can't remember which mile.......but Shortly thereafter I heard, "ANGE!!!"  I believe I was on one of the Newton Hills. I turned and saw Marisa and Sean!! Friends up all the way from PA!!  I ran back a tiny bit for a quick hug there too.  And at mile 18, I saw Jeff and Samantha and had quick hugs there!! Jeff offered me Coke and I declined, but about 50 steps later, I would have paid $ for a few sips!! lol  All of these sightings happened during the famous Newton Hills. I felt amazing. I was having so much fun! I truly think I smiled during most of this race.  I was completely distracted by everything around me. The run itself.. an afterthought much of the time!  Unreal.  The hills were fun because I was seeing everyone!! 

Then, I was coming upon mile 20 and I knew that where Mom and Dad were planning to be. I think that was Heartbreak Hill but I was so focused on seeing my parents, I didn't even really think about it. AFter all, I do live in the hills and it didn't feel all that bad. Lots were walking at that point so I felt faster than I really was since I was able to run. 

Mom said Dad would wear a red shirt. ok! I was scanning for red. It was Crowded!!  I was really worried I wouldn't see them. They came for the weekend for a 15 second wave and Hi!!  Imagine if we missed one another! 

And, boom, right on cue at mile 20 were my parents! I saw them first. I ran over and hugged my Dad even though he was determined to keep the video rolling. :) Yay! 


video



So now.. I had to keep my legs moving for that lovely final 10K. I was certainly spent. My legs were trashed. And yet, I was having a blast. I was emotional. I was grateful. I was so dang happy I'd seen all 'my people.'  LIfe was good.  That last 10K of a marathon is really never the best part... but I was in a really happy place despite my time being a bit off. 

I finally looked at my watch. I had a few miles left-- I'd be around 3:20ish.. not bad. It wasn't too far off my goal "range."  I ran down the city roads. I thought a buddy might be in the Fenway area, but I didn't see anyone.  The miles were going by pretty fast. I was pushing but knew my pace was only ok.  I was on that tiny road ( Hereford? ) right before the final turn and my chest felt tight. I had to concentrate. The memory of what had happened was a bit overbearing. I turned onto Boylston and looked down at that beautiful blue and yellow sign. The roads were FULL of people. They were there. Everyone was back.  The  roads are barricaded and full of police. I found myself move to the middle of the street. It was an awesome moment to stand up for what we do and to go back to the Boston roads after 21 years.  


My final time was 3:22.  I was 35th in my age group out of 1901.  I feel good bout that! And, 852nd / 12,167. Big numbers at this thing!!  I'm very happy even though I was a bit off. I was >20 minutes faster than my 25 year old self had been. That feels pretty darn good. However, the experience and memories and meaning of this was much bigger than any time in a log book. 




We left the city the next a.m. and headed off for some perfect R and R in the  Caribbean. A perfect April vacation. 



Thursday, March 3, 2016

Acceptance

It's been 17 months since I last wrote in my blog. Just recently, a few people have asked about it so I decided to give it a try.  I write in my head all the time. I always have.  It's what I do when I run.  Not all days. Some days I am thinking about my family's schedule and if I can finish the planned run and still fit in a shower & get food ( I've even been known to eat handfuls of food while IN the shower.. it's true. Gross? Maybe-- but that's how many minutes I have some days and I get really hungry out there! ), some days I spend time just trying to nail intervals, and other days I'm just cruising along 'writing' in my head.  The problem is, the time to sit and put it on 'paper' is scarce and to be honest, I also like to keep my thoughts to myself a lot.  

A lot has happened over the year. I left off with this blog talking about my race Kona, Hawaii and at that time, declared "retirement" from Ironman. I didn't do that publicly. After all, nobody cares really except my close family.  The thing is, I told Mark that and he just smirked at me.  He simply said, "uh huh.." and nodded a knowing smile. What?? I mean it.... lol 
Sure, Kona '14 was a tough one.  Excuse me, to rephrase, it was a "rough one" for me. Kona is always tough. Racing 140.6 miles is tough period.  But the fact that 10/11/14 wasn't my best day (it also wasn't my worst. It was just .. fine.)  on race course wasn't why I thought I'd be hanging it up.  

See the photo below? These guys. My 3 'little' boys.  They are why I thought it would be best to stop.  This was taken last summer. They're sitting so it's hard to tell. ( I just love the picture because it's at my favorite spot on the ocean. ) But they are small here compared to now.  They have grown SO so much.  Cameron and Tommy are quite a bit taller than I am now. And, they are Big. Just big strong boys.  ( I'm 5'5"-- not tall by any means. But also not Too short! )  NIck is close to my height too. His feet are size 10 1/2 mens. MENS! He's 11.  Yup.  I have 3 Big boys now. (16, 14 and 12 next week )  And wow...... 


 

I thought life with little boys was busy. Ha. I had no idea.  No idea!! And you know what else? Things are real. Issues are serious. It's not about who took the other kid's lego and broke it. It's about girlfriends and driving and what rumors may or may not be spreading about your child, for example. And,  I didn't want to compromise my time or my energy with them and for them.  I have three great boys. I will say that.  I am proud of each of them and they are absolutely good boys. Sure, I'm Mom so my opinion is what it is. But they are straight shooting good children who are on a great track right now. That just doesn't mean it's easy.  

With all that in mind, I took 2015 as my mellow year. I stepped back and did less. I raced the White Mountain Tri ( Half ironman distance ) in June and had a fun day there. I also raced a Very cool Adventure race called Sea2Summit. It was amazing. It was an endurance race without all the "tri" pressure. ( However, the girl I was head to head with actually raced in Kona in 2014 too... so mid-race the Tri - pressure reared it's head. Oh well.. ) 
We swam about 1/2mile in a river in southern Maine, rode 92 miles Up to Wildcat ski area in New Hampshire and then 'ran/ hiked/ crawled' our way UP Mount Washington  to the summit!!!  The thing about it? I don't even know what my time was!!  I worked my tail off but it wasn't about time or any of the normal race day things. That day should and may be a blog post I go back to. We'll see. 
Otherwise, I ran Beach2Beacon 10K with 2 of the boys. And 2 of the boys beat me. ha!! Not again! ( jk...lol...) see....teenager speak there. ;) 
I also raced the Lobsterman Oly in September and am excited to say, I won!! It's a hometown race in some ways that I've been close to winning in the past so this totally reinvigorated me. And then, I raced a half marathon in October and had a PR. I was, once again, thrilled and reinvigorated. 

Meanwhile.... during that time I watched a bunch of friends race Ironmans. And, I also received an email saying I qualified for the Boston Marathon with my run time in Kona. I didn't even know that was an option!! 

My wheels were turning. My heart was aching with envy. I wanted to get back in the game. I still have unfinished business. Sure, I'm 46 now. But I'm not all washed up. I just raced a 10 miler in my hometown and had a PR.  I have more in me. I love to race. I have to accept, it is who I am. It is what I do.  I have realized, I am a better person, a better Mom even, when I am doing what I love while also raising and caring for them.  My head is clear. My body is strong. I feel good about myself when I am working hard to achieve goals I set.  
Over the past year or so, I have had to accept that sometimes you can't control loss.   Even if you try to hold on and keep it with you, sometimes things go away on their own without explanation.  But, this is something over which I do have control. I am in charge of my own success. I am the only person who really cares how fast I can swim 1000 yards or run 10 miles. I am also the only one who can control how hard I work. My kids and my husband support me, they enjoy the races & travel we are able to experience for them and I am still Mom whether or not I PR and win or not.  My personal rule is that I don't ever miss any event of theirs or have them sacrifice for my training.  I fit it all in around their lives and it all works just fine for us. Some days are harder than others!! But, hey that's what keeps life interesting. Challenges!! 
And that's my story for 2016!! I have Accepted who I am and what I do and am going after it all once again.
First up- The Boston Marathon ( last time was 1995!! )

And summer's big goal is Ironman Mont Tremblant. 
On that note--- time to hop on the bike!! 



Monday, October 27, 2014

The Final miles- Kona part 4- Time to find that Finish Line!


It's been over two weeks since I crossed the finish line in Kona.  It seems like a long long time ago.  And yet, it's all still quite raw and close in my heart.  You can't just "shut it off" after training and preparing for something for nearly two years. I write my blog to share but also to heal.  I relive it through the words and remind myself just how much I gave out there and it allows me to move on to whatever is next.  

With that... I will briefly tell my story from the final leg of my Ironman that day... the final 26.2 miles of the day. 

___________________

After handing my bike to the volunteer, I was off for a trip to the bathroom ( Phew!! I was hydrated fairly well... This is a BIG deal in an Ironman and a Huge deal in an Ironman in the Hawaiian heat!!) 

It's a long trek around all the bikes to the T2 tent. I had a headache, my neck and back and shoulders were stiff from gripping the bike for dear life for 6 hours but I was Thrilled to be throwing on the running shoes. Again, I think I took too long in there but I was trying to hurry. I talked to some lady about the girl who was head to toe in road rash with shredded shorts and hoped they could find her a new pair. ( They didn't. My kids saw her running later. I know it's likely not legal or possible but I had hoped for her. ) I threw on the visor, glasses, garmin, shoes, race belt, sunscreen, grabbed gels and that was it. 

The cheers coming out of the tent and onto the roads are uplifting. I felt good!!!  Then honestly, I don't remember a lot of details about the next few miles. But I remember feeling really good. My pace was spot on &  I just got myself settled. Mostly, I was staring ahead Knowing my crew would be there for me soon.I was excited! I couldn't wait to see them.  Our condo was at the end of the 5 mi we start with on Ali'i. Five miles out, turn and back to town before we head onto the Queen k ( again! ) for the hardest 16 miles of the day.  
I had tunnel vision-- show me the boys show me the boys. I NEEDED that quick contact with my family to reassure them and myself quite frankly, that all would be ok. 

YaY! There they were!!! Running around the road in just their swimsuits. :) THey were running in and out of the water ( beach right on that road with big huge waves ) to cheer. 



 I think I was saying, "IT was SO WINDY!!!! NO! I didn't have a flat I, just winds!!" :) What I love here is the view of Nick running behind me with the camera. Not sure where those photos are... 


I had my quick dose of family and then I was on my own again.  The great feeling I had during the first 3-4 miles had left me. My ankle and achilles were talking. It hurt. I was really hot and started to worry. But the biggest problem was that my right foot was Burning with pain. I battled achilles tendonitis this summer but I have had chronic foot pain for years and years. I had neuroma surgery a long time ago and it helped, but it's not gone.  Sometimes it's fine, sometimes it's not. That day between miles 5-10, it was Scorching. I was completely distracted by the pain. The second my foot hit the ground it was hot stabbing pain. A couple times, I stopped and squeezed my toes because that does help. But... the girls I had passed on the earlier miles would start to pass me. I didn't like that ( ! ) so I kept going. Mind over matter. It would go away eventually. Just forget about it! 

At some point, I latched onto a woman who was running near me. I loved the way her stride looked. She just had a way of running that made me want to copy her. Our pace seemed similar so I tried to stay with her. We exchanged words of encouragement here and there.  And if one of us slowed or stopped at the aid stations, we always caught back up and were running together again. ( All of this is before heading out to the queen k.) Along that route, I saw her find her family and kiss her boys. Boys!  She was a fellow boy-mom. :)  That made me smile. 

We rounded the corner on Hualalai ( I think that's it... ) and could hear and see Pro women finishing. ( Jealous! )  One of the motorcycles escorting them nearly hit me. I had to jump off to the side. Just an age grouper here - don't worry about me! grr. 
It was time to climb the big hill on Palani Road. At least it's big at mile 10 of the Ironman! I thought I was ok. But I had visions of walking. (huh?  not really like me. ) Kortney ( at this point I had head her name from her family etc ) came up next to me and said the same thing, "I am just going to walk a minute." I was easily lured.. "me too! just thinking that... " 
But then my HR started to go nuts ( no monitor..just felt it) and I was overcome with the heat and a feeling of sickness. I stopped and put my hands on my knees. oh oh. 

Without a second of hesitation, Kortney turned around and said, "Angela! Let's GO! Run with me. Run now to the aid station!!" 

So I did. We did. Together. 

Thank you. I told her that  a few times:  Thank you.
THAT is one of the great things about this sport. And no, not all sports are like this. But there we are, competitors & we had both been racing and fighting for hours and hours. She had a huge road rash on her shoulder from getting knocked off the bike in those winds I talked about.  And yet, she took the time and Effort to help ME keep running.  A true sportsman. 

That one act alone made my whole day. 

Now, we were heading out for the hardest part. The part where many athletes falter and and lose their focus. The day has been long and it is HOT. Sure, we did have occasional cloud cover but upper 80s/ lower 90s is not cool and that was the temp in Town. Out on the lava fields and in the energy lab, ha, it's not that cool.  

The road is empty except for the athletes coming and going and the aid stations ( Bless those volunteers! ) each mile.  THe 6 miles before you turn left into the Natural Energy Lab are so long. It' lONG long long and the road is basically one steady gradual climb.  My foot had started to behave, my achilles was fine, and I was feeling alright. I was hot and I was starting to feel my quads burn, but, I had rallied from whatever little pity party I was having on that climb and was just running.  

We had our race numbers on our arms but that is it. No age on the leg this time. I was annoyed that I hadn't figured out what age - range was my age group.  I had No clue what age I was passing or getting passed by. I did a lot of back and forths with a group of people. I'd go ahead, then I'd slow to get fluids and they'd go by me. Or vice versa. A few I passed for good and a few passed me for good.  Kortney and I remained close and took turns ahead of one another. 
I definitely got to the point of not caring who was who and just running to get to the end. Dont' get me wrong, I CARED and I knew exactly what I had hoped for and was aiming for, but since there wasn't a soul  on the roads to help me know where I was, I just couldn't stress about it. I tried to catch any woman ahead of me & that was all I could really do. 
I finally turned into the energy lab. Down down down into the hole of heat.  ( They harvest the sun's energy here and make power/ do experiments with it. )  It's a strange place that seems to zap people and eat them alive. I was determined to be FINE going in and out.  However, I started to feel gross and had some belly pain. I battled with my head for several of those miles-- stop at bathroom or not?  Where WAS a bathroom? I am not sure, but I feel like they were Very few and far between. I finally saw one on the other side of the road at mi 18. I ran in. WOAH- not much worse than mile 18 porta potty IN the Natural Energy Lab  in Hawaii. I was in and out of that in a matter of seconds. 

I passed a group of 3 men and one stayed RiGHT on my heels. I wouldn't have cared except he ran SO loud slapping his feet on the ground. It was agitating me beyond words at that moment.  It was so bad, I stopped and let him go! Lame. I would have run faster instead, but, I couldn't. I was doing all I could.  Things were starting to hurt.  I was shutting down. 

I broke the run into segments and at the top of the hill exiting the NEL I knew it was about 10K left. My Final segment. OH how I wanted to run hard and feel good!!  I was doing the math and thought I was on my way to a 3:30 and change run. I was Happy!!!  {What I didn't remember, was that my watch was on Auto-pause. So all those little dumb stops added up and no, I wasn't running a 3:30. I was closer to 3:40+ when all said and done. Bummer. }   

But I guess it worked in my favor because I was watching my watch and was Determined to get in by about 3:35.  I knew that if I just Kept moving forward  at the pace I had, albeit slower than planned, I could do it. NO more stopping. I was now OFF the perform and gels and onto the coke.  My calories had been going in the whole time without an issue, I was drinking at every station + stuffing ice all through my clothes and despite the legs shutting down, I felt ok.  I did, however, notice that my skin was dry. Hmmm.. 
My shoes were soaked and making that squishing noise with Every step but my arms had no sweat on them.  I had been drinking TONS so I just don't know what that was about. But no sweat didn't seem to be quite right at the end of a crazy hot Ironman. 

I just kept my focus and kept drinking the coke. I no longer stopped to make Sure the fluids went down, I just poured in what I could as I ran.  Only 6 mi, 5 mi , 4 miles... I could get by without getting it all in at that point.  I wasn't taking any chances during the earlier miles, but now it was all in my head and heart.  
Trying to describe the way I felt at that point...it might be something that I just tuck away and remember myself. I can tell you this.  I knew that when I did finally cross the line, I would be a stronger person forever. This was definitely the Hardest race I've done and because of that, I am stronger mentally. It changed me. 
My legs were Aching and throbbing and they each weighed a Lot more than when I started. Lifting my feet to run took conscious effort with each step.  I know I was gritting my teeth for miles. Finally, I could see the stop light at the top of the hill where we turn right to go Down the hill that nearly took me down hours earlier. A group of spectators had set up camp at the top of it. They were blasting music and formed a little gauntlet for us to run though, cheering WILDLY as if we each were their best friend. Pure awesomeness at any point but at THAT point as I made my FINAL turn of the Queen K back into.. .it actually took my breath away. 

Unfortunately, it really did. Literally. 
It was at that point that I started to wheeze. I could Not get enough air. I don't know if it was the emotion or some strange physical reaction but I don't have asthma so... there I was just trying to run those last few miles while not being able to breath. The legs became a secondary problem.  But still, I was RIGHT THERE> I could Hear the finish line. And while this was taken a bit Before I got there... 
THIS Is what I saw: 

"If we watch, eventually she will come back." I keep thinking of that quote from Field of Dreams-- If we build it, they will come. :)



MY GUYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   
I ran down that hill ( sort of ran.. in my head I was running and Mark wont' tell me what I REALLY looked like but ..haha... I think I know :))  and SCREAMED to them again, like I did heading up that hill on my bike BANCROFTS!!!  They hadn't seen me and it worked. somehow I found the air to do that!  I ran by them and high fived and you know... it was yet another BEST moment of the day. I was truly going to actually get to that finish line.  Wheezing and hobbling and hot and exhausted and truly desperate to finish, I ran on.  That next stretch is BRUTAL!!!!!!!!!  THankfully, it is lined with people cheering but we have to run down the road about.. 3/4 mile? I am not sure. ( I know I should know ) before turning Right back onto Hualalai and then: ALI'I!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  
It's a very long long long way when you are really at the last few moments of being able to run. 

And then, it happens. You turn onto that famous stretch. It's a Long amazing welcome back. EVERY single person is there for you. Kids running around with hands out, music blasting, smiles and cheers and ahh... it's truly magical. And, I Desperately Desperately tried to savor every last second of it. But geez, if only I could breath. I was audibly gasping for air. It was pretty rough.   It was also extremely special.  Five minutes or less that is forever etched in my brain.  







And then, just like that, Done. 

I saw the boys and Mark off on the side screaming for me.  I blew them kisses and smiled.  We did it. 



A  relaxing day by the shore. 


three of my guys emerging after some Serious body surfing. Kona doesn't' mess around with waves! They mean business! 


Lots of fun in the water on this trip. I loved the post-race Chill time with the kids and Mark. 
Race night-- Back at the Finish line party to cheer in the final finishers.