Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Part 4 of my Ironman Cozumel Experience-- The Final Chapter

The goals I set for myself when I race aren't necessarily private and personal, but I also don't talk about them a lot. If someone nails me down and I feel it's appropriate with that person, I may mention what times I want to hit or other details of my race plan. However, my reasons behind the goals are personal.  The why behind all of this is between me, myself and I. That's all there is to it. I have grown up in sport, I stepped away from competition for a number of years and now I'm back into it and the reason I keep on trying is found deep inside me. And, those reasons are strong and powerful. But they must be kept to myself. They don't mean anything to anyone else and while I try to be open and honest in this blog, I do not tell all.  I think all that matters is that I say and assure you that this meant an incredible amount to me.

That is why the day after my Ironman on 12/1 was almost harder than the 10 hours I spent racing.

Ironman day is hard. You start full of uncertainty, excitement, anxiousness and to some degree, a bit of fear. Once moving, much of that dissipates for me and I just do what I do. All day long, I swim bike and run. I train for that and on race day, I just get out there and execute. The pain and fatigue are inevitable, but I train for that too. My mental strength takes over and I fight back and fight to the end.

My results this time were very good. I am proud of my racing and proud of how I placed. I was 3/ 93 in my agegroup. 24th women with all the Pros mixed in  and 188th out of the entire male/ female field. I'll take it!

I don't plan to do a lot more Ironman racing {though don't' hold me to anything, it's only been a week } and I had a HUGE goal of 'ending' out on the Big Island. The Ironman site predicted 3 spots for my age group. Our age group was the largest women group. And so on. I could only hope. I was 3rd in TX by just a few minutes and now 3rd in Coz by only 4 minutes. I was thrown in the penalty tent for 4 minutes ( grrr...), and they shortened the swim on my by 1/2 mile costing me a bit more time to try to put a lead on folks too. I was feeling a little short-changed.  But that's the way it went  and I couldn't do a darn thing about it.

Monday morning arrived and I was in Miserable pain. Walking was a joke. My abs hurt, my arms hurt, my shoulders were sore and my legs, ha! The were just stiff and sore! My feet hadn't swelled too much....yet. Believe me, by Wednesday on our travel day, they were unrecognizable. Stiff balls of puff from my calves down.

We hustled out of the condo and hit the beach. I was happy and relaxed for a while. But the slot allocation was set for 4pm and after about 1:00, my stomach started swirling again. I needed to know....


I walked over to the wall where the guy was hanging pieces of paper with the results printed out. I didn't care about that part. I knew my time, my place, and a few other details. What mattered was the piece of paper off to the side. The one that read: SLOT ALLOCATION.

And with this, my heart broke. I felt a HUGE lump in my throat and I had to make eye contact with Mark so he'd know where I was, and take off around a corner by the pool. I DO NOT like to be seen feeling sorry for myself or being emotional because I "lost" or anything like that. I am private and to myself about those things. I was disgusted with myself, but I seemed to be out of control of my reaction and the tears just came.

Again. Again I was 3rd by a teeny bit over the course of a huge day and again, they had two measly spots for us. Hey, that is life in this sport. It is not easy to get that coveted spot on the Kona starting line and it's getting harder. More and more Ironman races around the globe = fewer and fewer spots at each race.  The number of starters in Hawaii isn't increasing. It's nobody's fault. These numbers are based on a % of the people in each group that starts on race day. Clearly, many more men take on the 140.6 mile race than women. But it's still hard to see 5 & 6 spots for some of the male groups vs 2 in ours. C'est la vie.

I walked around the corner where I was out of sight and away from the crowd. Hundreds of athletes were starting to come in. Mark found me and we talked a few things over. I was so sad. I really just felt sad. The amount of time and effort that went into this last Ironman, surpassed all before. I am not alone in that. That is the name of the game in Ironman, it takes everything you have to get it done well.  Hundreds of others around the corner could tell a similar story too. Of course, that didn't make me feel better. I spent several minutes feeling sorry for myself, sad at the notion that my final Ironman was done and realizing that it probably just wasn't meant to be.  I had to get a grip.

For those of you who don't know how it works, this is the deal. From 4:00-5:00 the people who won their spots can show up to this spot, with their cash in hand, and accept their Spot to the World Championships. After that, it gets a little more complicated. However, the easy part is this. For my age group, there were two spots allocated. I was 3rd. If either of the top two women said, "no thank you" to their spot, it would go to me next.  My friend Karen won our age group and I knew she was going to Kona. As I said in my earlier blogs, I was thrilled for her. She worked tirelessly towards this goal and earned big time. I didn't know the woman who was 2nd but after they called my age group, I saw Karen and another woman up at the table smiling and hugging and I just assumed.

From 4 to 5:00 was really really long. And, I didn't have any hope.

Mark had wandered around and found some people to talk to. I was strolling around by myself. I spent a few minutes sitting by the pool talking to Cameron.  Trying to stay busy, I walked  over to mark and met these great people and we chatted about the race, about her desire to get to Kona as well, and our mutual understanding of things made me feel better and distracted me a bit. Part of me wanted to just leave. I honestly thought there wouldn't be a single chance for a spot from an older age group to land at my group. People take their slots and that is that. My age group was the biggest, but I still had lost all hope. The award ceremony started at 6:00 however, and I knew I should stay for that. Top 3 were podium finishers and it's always a thrill to be honored that way. As I said, I was very happy and proud for what I had accomplished. I didn't want to short - change myself of that. I just took deep breaths and kept it all in perspective and thought hard about the amazing experiences I have already had in Hawaii.

Then, something happened that I will likely never forget. It's something small that may seem like nothing to most of you reading. But to me, it was very touching and a moment I'll remember.

My son Tommy walked over with a look in his eye. My kids knew I was sad. They watch me train and hear me talk about things. They live this with me and know how much it matters. They understand how it all works.  Tommy is about to turn 12 on Friday. He's a spirited little boy who is big into sports, his friends and just being a "typical" pre-teen boy. (whatever that means :) ) But he is also, and always has been, the most sensitive and caring child. His heart is huge.

He walked over to me and very gently took hold of my arm. I looked at him. Very quietly he said, "Mommy. She hasn't come yet. The 2nd place lady isn't here."
It was 4:40.

My eyes widened and I inhaled. Really?

He just smiled and said, "Maybe you will get it Mommy."

It felt so sweet to me the way he did this. The fact that he was paying enough attention for nearly an hour at that point to know this. The poolside was very crowded and the athletes were coming in and out and there was no true organized way they were gathering.  But, he knew.

The waiting became harder again. But now, I had a small smile. A hope. I was watching the crowd like crazy. I talked to my friend Karen, who had won, and she confirmed what Tommy said and she told me what the girl looked like.

With about 5 minutes to go before 5:00, I walked over to the guy in charge of things. I said, "I just wanted to confirm that there was still a spot left in my age group."
He asked me my age, and my name.
Then he smiled, turned to me and put his hands on both my shoulders and said, "Stay Calm. And, get your money ready."

Ok, I almost just cried again as I wrote this.

I stood nearby and waited. The kids  & Mark were next to me. Finally...

They called my name. As they had for all the other athletes accepting spot, the crowd cheered and yelled Congrats.

Totally psyched. I was happy happy happy.

Mission Accomplished!

The End!!!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Ironman Cozumel Part 3 - It's all about the Run

I hobbled happily off that bike of mine, handed it off to a volunteer and ran toward the T2 rack. 

I felt a renewed energy and was excited to hit the road running. Fair game for all.... 

The racks where they had us hang our transition bags were small and crowded. The tape with our Numbers written on them were peeling off and hard to read. My section wasn't labeled and I struggled to find my bag. It felt like forever. The #1620 is hard {for me!} to say in Spanish!! 

I dumped my bag and began rushing to don my shoes for the run... and visor, garmin, glasses, gels, and so on.. Once again, the volunteers just stood there and didn't help. They couldn't speak my language and I couldn't speak theirs. I also didn't have the desire to try after my 113 mile frustrating bike ride. :) 
I was almost ready to go, but still needed my gels and garmin. I looked down where my gear had been dumped and it was all gone. One of the ladies had re-bagged all my stuff and cinched the bag up. ARGH! I wasn't done!! I had to undo it and fumble through all the junk again. grr.. 
I headed quickly into the portopotty since I thought I had to go and Hoped too since being hydrated is critical. Ok... what is UP with the bathrooms there???? I thought it was poor planning at the swim start when there was no paper in the toilets ( and I was Early! ) but here we go again. Not only wasn't there paper, there wasn't a Place for the paper! I had seen a box with rolls and rolls of TP in it on a table in the T2 tent and wondered... but it was way over there and obviously, I wasn't' going to Leave the bathroom, go over to the table way over there , grab a roll and go Back to the bathroom.  Very strange. And, not so good either! {Seems like they could have told us this pre-race....} also  ( Later in my trip I encountered many restaurant bathrooms with No toilet Seats!??? At the airport too... it was like that everywhere. Strange and gross indeed. blek. )  

The signage at this race was pretty much  nonexistent so simple things like Running OUT of the T2 tent was a challenge. Which way do I go? I couldn't say this in Spanish  at that time either, so of course several volunteers just looked at me in confusion as I asked how to get out.  I tell ya....   

After what felt like forever, and was in fact an absurdly long T2 split, I hit the road running. 

Eek! Time to turn this around and have some FUN!!! 

 It was HOT and you know, my legs were pretty heavy!!! I was hoping to feel light and springy but I guess it wasn't quite time for that!! No problem, this is normal. Just run...  I just ran and knew I'd come into it soon. Those first few steps almost always hurt. 

The crowds were awesome and I was ready to finish the race well. I had No idea where I was in terms of placement... no idea. But the run course, like the bike, was a 3 loop treat so I knew I'd find out soon enough if I was in front, or behind.  Head up, arms down, keep feet quick and just go..... 

My pace was quick for the first few miles. But my heart rate  was too high. I tried and tried to back off and get that down.... but instead, it kept rising! Argh.. Not yet! The heat was climbing and I knew that was why. I stuffed 3 or 4 gels into my shirt, a coin purse for salt, and 2 clif shot blok packs! ha.. cute!! Who cares. Arms low, relax, head up, brain off...... 
just go.... 

that was my mission... just keep going.... 

I drank and drank. I didn't need to walk.. I just tried to keep it controlled and steady. Where am I? Where is "she?" I was off to find out what the race was all about now. 

I will not lie. It hurt. A lot. I was hellbent to stay positive and to 'care.' But you know what? It's easy to stop caring. It's easy to decide you just want to stop. It's so damn easy to think you don't really care anymore. When it hurts that much, when you're that tired, and hot, and you think you might not have a shot, it seems like you should just walk. 

That ride was long and made me angry but the run is where it all comes down. What do you have in you? Are you going to fight? Or give in. 

I had to work for it. I had to work for my fight. And I'm happy to say, and proud to say too, that I found my "fight."  I never really lost it, I just had to work hard to get it back up the surface.  

This helped:  :) 
Check out this little series of photos my husband caught. 

The 3 boys who had been up since 4:20 a.m....standing around, waiting, driving in crowds for hours... they all stood watching for me while I was nowhere in sight.... 

Still waiting  

I was coming now.... Tommy moved up to get close... Nick is still attentive....

Tommy leaned right at me and hollered so many enthusiastic cheers, and funny comments that are "jokes" between the two of us, just to make me smile {he did!!} .... Nick has his arms out and yelled GO MOMMY ,Love you!  {seriously! it doesn't get any better!!} as I got to him, Cameron was right there and I remember hearing, " you are doing so well Mommy..."--- they saw me FIVE times on this run and never ever waivered in their enthusiasm.... 

I think you can see the pain on my face.... but those 3 kids were RIGHT THERE for me. No "pre-teen I'm too cool and bored for this today" nonsense. They were my rockstars!!!! My YOU CAN DO THIS push- all day long. {Thank you boys. Thank you Mark. This trip to Hawaii is for you too. Love you!!! }

I have no idea what my problem was at this point but Nick looks like he's wringing his hands thinking, "Hmmm... what can I say right now that will help..."  :) :) 

 I ran and ran and ran. Sometimes I ran harder than others. On my way out on the first loop, I saw my friend Karen PM that I met when I went to a training camp in TX. She was KICKINGBUTT!!!!! And, I couldn't have been more happy for her. Even if she was in my age group and ahead of me. :) I know she has worked SO hard for this and I am pretty sure she has done 4 Ironmans in the last 13 months with a fight for her Kona spot. It made me smile to see her having a great day. The question was, who else was ahead of me? I was fine with Karen being up there, but nobody else. :)  :) Shortly after this, I saw Michelle S. She confirmed that one other lady in my age was up there. Ok.... work to do. And, I had no idea if there was still a shot for me.  Would there be 3 spots or only 2 again. We had been hearing 3. You just never know.

I wasn't running as fast anymore and I was sad to see the pace I had slowed to, but I was running. I only walked here and there through aid stations to get the fluids in. I took a few gels ( or only 1? not sure) and I ate some clif bloks, I felt ok. I was very very hot though. I had to go to the bathroom Badly ( I think that was the problem in the pictures above ) and there were only a couple portopotties out there on the course.

My mantra during the run became.... "Just keep running because you never know..."
I was hot, but it was hot for everyone. I was tired, but of course I was! And of course everyone else was. You never know if someone else, someone ahead of you, was going to start walking. Or cramp up. OR, if someone behind me was close. I had to hold on. I had some very low spots but then I rallied... I rallied hard. I fought back. I wasn't about to give up after all the effort that went into this.

I headed out on the third loop and the sky was BLACK black black!!!

It started to rain. Yay!!! But then, it started to POUR!!! I mean, POUR. Torrential hard heavy big fat rain. It FELT really nice. It was hard to see..but it felt good! :) The problem however, is that the roads there don't drain. The roads became basically flooded. Huge deep puddles filled the roads so much of the time we were splashing through water that covered our shoes. It was literally that deep. The sun did come back out and that was ok too, but now our feet were heavy with water. It was a little crazy. Also, some of the aid stations went a little berserk during the rain storm and some athletes had trouble getting drinks etc for a while.

I actually started to feel better as the run went along. I pushed harder and while my pace never went back to where I wanted it, it didn't slow down Too much. I did have to make a bathroom break towards the end .... just had to ... and that took time I shouldn't' have spent.

I never really knew where I was in the race. Just that I had to stay the course. Keep pushing, You just never know....

I finally saw town again. I had hope of reaching the finish line after all . The buildings never seemed to get closer though. It was as though I was running in place. I felt like I was separated from my body. I was moving closer and closer to the end in my mind, I could feel it. But my body wasn't going forward. I could hear the finish line but was I moving? The rain had stopped but I was slogging through ankle deep water in the road. People near me were going backwards... did that mean I was in fact moving?

Just keep going.... just keep going .... you never know. Run harder.  You will get there.

Even though my mid-race stupor at mile 3 of a 26.2 mile hot & humid run said, "oh it's ok, you're a big girl and can deal with defeat. You have been to the Big show twice, you have done it! It's ok if you don't this time."
Ha! That is NOT what was in  my heart and soul. That is not how I felt. I realized this during that run, I snapped OUT of the I'm so hot and tired pity party and Fought back. And I'm so happy and proud that I did.

Near the end, the rain started again..... my race photos are in my mind and in the eyes of my kids and my husband. The camera had to be saved and put away in the bag but turning the corner to the Finish and crossing the line is something I will Never ever forget. I did it with a huge smile and satisfaction knowing I gave it Every single ounce I had that day. I played fair, I raced smart and I raced hard.

race time: 10:05*( 141.2 miles ) ---- 3rd age group-- 9th amateur woman

There's a  little more left to the story.....  :) :)

coming soon.....

Ironman Cozumel 2013 - Part 2- The Ride: Holding my head High

The long 112 mile ride of an Ironman race holds so many possibilities. It's the hardest part of the race for me because I have 'anxiety' about getting a flat or having some other mechanical issue that can ruin the race. This happened to me in Texas. 

On Sunday, I felt as ready as I ever have to ride a very strong 112 miles. I worked so hard this year on my bike and rode many many miles. 

I felt strong and solid right out of the gate. The heavy, achey, tired feeling that sits with you during most of the training season, was gone. I was rested and ready. Game on! 

The heat wasn't bad at all in the early hours. The roads on first leg weren't smooth,  but they were decent  and my bike seemed to be riding well.  I pushed pretty hard to start and had to consciously back off a few times.  Remember Ange, this is 112 Not 56 mi.....easy easy...many many miles and hours to go....   That's a big rule in Ironman racing-- do NOT ride too hard. It will bite you where it hurts on the run. 

I cruised along and started drinking bottle after bottle. I was watching my clock and getting in the fluids perfectly. I ate every 40 min without a hitch. All was good.... 

However, only a short while into the ride and it became very clear that some racers were out for a fast split and not worried about a fair game. It was one big drafting game out there. I've seen it before but this time, it felt worse. And I'll get to that... 
This course is a 3x Loop and the road is flat. That's the perfect recipe for a crowded course that supports those who Try to draft and causes drafting by accident even when you try to avoid it.  ( Drafting is when you ride within 4 bike lengths of the person in front of you. If you get passed, you are supposed to drop back that far , you aren't supposed to ride next to anyone and so on... there are a handful of rules but those are key... )  
It was absurd. Many packs with at least 15++ riders went by me. They were Absolutely intentional.  There were even small groups of 3-6 riders who were taking turns leading with the others sitting on each other's wheels. It was blatant cheating. 

Meanwhile, I worked very hard to stay out of draft zones. I would sit up, brake and ride a lot more slowly on and off throughout the whole race to avoid these packs and other riders. There were many many times I was face with either a) riding slowly or b) surging Hard for a while to get by 5-6 or possibly 10 people to find a clean zone again. You see, when it's that crowded, you may pass one person but then you're smack behind another one again and into that person's draft zone.  In addition, So many athletes do NOT drop back when they are overtaken. Hey, it's a huge drag!!! But those are the rules. This went on and on all day.... 
And then, on loop 2 at about mile 50, I made a pass. No big deal. I think I did it just right. Once the pass was made, I was out front. There was nobody in front of me for a bit so that was nice. I heard someone behind me yell something though. I couldn't hear him. Then I saw the Marshall on the moped. No big deal, I was one of the ones playing fair. Go get 'em I thought. Go penalize all those cheaters. I was feeling crabby and angry at all I'd be watching around me. It ruins the sport for all of us I think. 
Instead, the guy yelled at me. What? 
"Pull over on the right!!!"  He snapped. 
What did I do???? 
I still don't know. I assume I somehow got into the draft zone of another. Maybe I didn't make my pass fast enough? Not sure. But after trying so hard to do it right, and watching others Purposely cheat, I was heartbroken. In fact, as I write this I almost feel like crying. 
But at that time, I was FURIOUS! I rode like a crazy person for about 5 more miles until I came to the next Penalty Tent. I had to stop, sign a paper, get my bib # marked with a red check, and wait 4 minutes. 
I avoided looking at the road. I didn't want to see the women who flew by me while I stood there. I thought to myself, "there goes my Kona spot." 

"Ok, you can go... " 

So off I went.... onto the windiest part of the course. I rode alone and fought the head and crosswinds. My speed was slow, it was very hot, and I was trying like hell not to lose my faith. 


The day was getting hotter and the winds were stronger. The ocean was beautiful on the windy leg of the course but it was hard to enjoy when I was fighting the winds and heat. I felt good, but was growing concerned because while I had been drinking at least 1.5 bottles/ hour, I didn't have to go to the bathroom. In Ironman racing, this is not good. Not good at all. The calories and fluids were going in though. I stopped at special needs to get my 3 bottles of Perform. I threw the course gatorade out at that time and took off with my fresh cold bottles. Wait... 20 seconds down the road and I realize, they were STILL Frozen!!!???? This was not good. I decided to give it until the next aid station to warm up or else I'd have to throw at least one away and go back to gatorade. I had to drink! 
It worked, they defrosted and with effort, I began to get enough to drink. geez... never guessed That would happen!

I started loop 3 even more hyper-vigilant about drafting. If you get 3 strikes, you're DQ'd. Ha.. imagine if that happened! So I slowed down what felt like 100 x to avoid getting stuck in a zone. I also started to have some issues with the fluids. My stomach felt full.... but it took my by surprise when without warning, I just threw up. Not a lot, but enough.  In fact, it happened about 4 times. :( Ugh. I know, disgusting. I don't like talking about these things but honestly, this stuff is reality and important during endurance racing.  Nutrition and hydration matter as much as your pacing during these races. I had to just hope I would be able to continue to eat & drink. I knew I had to modify something I was doing so I just committed to a ~30 min break. I'd ride and let myself settle and hope I'd feel better. I did. It wasn't long before I was taking the fluids in again without any issues. Phew. 

The final 20 miles or so were very frustrating to me. The hot windy section along the coast was hard. My pace was so slow during that stretch and I saw my time goal slipping away. Meanwhile, more and more riders cruised through that tough section in draft packs or groups-- riding in aero like the wind was at their backs. I was sitting up, pedaling hard, trying to stay straight on the road while the wind pushed me. I was bitter about my penalty as I watched the marshal ride up near these groups, blow a whistle and move on....?? I have a hard time understanding that one. I have a hard time grasping how the marshals can let so many go and I have an even harder time understanding how athletes can hold their heads up at the end of the day knowing they didn't play fair. 

On the final long road before hitting T2, my anger go the best of me and I had a few pushes on the pedals where I rode like I would in an Olympic distance race. I absolutely Had to get away from a long line of riders that were causing me to ride way below my race pace. The course was too crowded and congested and  I wanted to get onto the run where it was every person for him/ herself no matter what.  

I hit 112 miles and noted my time... below 5:30. Yes! I subtracted the 4 min penalty time just for kicks and felt even happier. I rode my fastest every 112 miles. I noted that in my head and smiled. But there was still >1 mile left of this course so I kept pushing to find that T2 tent.  

Ahhhh.... there it is ... the dismount line.  I love that moment.... 

113+  miles ---  5:32

Ironman Cozumel 2013


My 6th Ironman race is now done.  Thank Goodness!!!!  I love this sport but woah, the weight off my shoulders right now is huge. Each one has left me with many intense feelings and stories but this one is a little bit different. Rather than sit at my desk struggling for the perfect opening sentence to capture my readers, I will just start telling my story and hope the words flow smoothly and my emotions can be felt from where you sit. 

We traveled to Mexico on Thanksgiving Day this year. I felt some guilt for taking my boys and husband away from the 'typical' gathering around the table, however, both our parents joined us at our home the previous Sunday to celebrate the holiday.  We were thankful for that and also thankful for having the opportunity to take our kids on this adventure to a different country this year. The day went smoothly and after hours of flying and then boating across the Gulf from Playa del Carmen, MX to the little Isla de Cozumel, we stood on the balcony of our rented condo and looked out at this: 

Not too bad!  Our accommodations were amazing at the condo and we had plenty of room to spread out and be comfortable. I was feeling lucky to have found the perfect spot to spend a week with the family and to relax/ prepare for the race. 

I prepared as best I could for heat at this race. But the challenging element that presented itself even more as we arrived was the wind. Red flags were up on beaches and the thought of trying to ride a bike in the wind was quite daunting. To me, it felt hurricane-like. Our condo had three big areas with sliding glass doors that we couldn't open because the curtains and other things around the house were blowing too intensely. There was a small beach at our place but there was No way I was letting my kids swim yet. I didn't even "dare" go in! The waves and surf were too massive and since I didn't know about rip currents etc at this spot, I put my foot down and dealt with the pouting boys.  Safety first! :) 

The forecast was promising for Sunday in terms of calming winds, however, the practice swims at the race site were cancelled both Friday and Saturday because of strong currents. This was a bit nerve wracking. I could deal without a pre-race swim, but what did that mean for race day? Was I facing the potential of an "Ironman" without a swim? That would be a serious game - changer for me not to mention, result in a race that wasn't really an Ironman. The thought of all the hard early morning training for nothing made me sick to my stomach. I tried to stay calm. 

Friday was also the day to get race 'errands' done. Packet pick up, bike pick up from TriBike, groceries, a workout, and so on..... Mark and I found the small island somewhat difficult to get around with poorly marked Ironman venues.  I wasn't impressed yet.... 

On Saturday, I let them in the water. The water was still pretty crazy ( this doesn't show it very well) but the kids were fine and had a blast. The water was very warm, crystal clear, and the big waves thrilled my 3 boys.  They're all about big waves and action these days. 

The day before the race--I'll keep this brief and get to the race. I stayed off my feet. I ate so many white carbs and drank so much fluid that I felt like a beached whale by the end of the day. The winds calmed, the heat rose, and our wifi was OUT. This is relevant because that is how Ironman had communicated with the athletes about the cancellation of the practice swims. Were we ok for race day?? I had to assume Yes. That day, we had to drive to the location of the swim start to rack the bikes & drop off T1 bags but at that point there was no word on any changes to the race.  At the athlete meeting the day before, they told us to bring T1 and T2 bags to that location. However, once there they said we had to go back in town to drop the Run bags. ( two transition spots). The logistics of these races can make it challenging for those of us trying to stay out of the heat and off our feet the day before the race. I think the whole process took 3 hours with all the driving, waiting in line and two locations. Not ideal...


Race day-- 3:55 alarm & I was up eating and thankfully, checking my ipad to see if we had wifi yet. We did. The many thoughtful Good luck notes friends and family had sent the day before came filing through my inbox. THANK YOU to all of you who sent me those nice notes. Each and every one meant so much and gave me a burst of strength from home. But then, my eye caught the one from the Ironman peeps. Sh$^#*$**!!!!!!!!!!

The race that I had put in Countless hours and so much hard work was now going to have an ** at the end of it.  The subject line of the email read:  MODIFIED SWIM COURSE FOR FORD IRONMAN COZUMEL

I am not kidding when I say my heart skipped a beat and started racing. I know this has happened at other races and they have even cancelled swims before. That didn't make me feel better. 
"They " say you can't Win a Triathlon on the swim. True enough. It takes a solid performance in all 3 legs. But, I can get a lead and believe me, that is part of my race plan. 
While I felt relieved that we still had Any swim, I was angry and I was worried. Our 2.4 mile starting leg was now 1.9 miles. I had no idea what this would mean to the day..... 
All I knew was that I was going to swim even harder than I already planned. 

We were out the door with all 5 of us by 4:45. My kids are such rock stars when it comes to this stuff. Seriously, they got up and out of there without a single squeak about the obnoxiously early hour. We buckled into the jeep and little Nick even said positively, "I just love the feel of the cool air in the morning." :)  Love them... and so happy they were with me at that moment. My calm before the storm.

One last hug before I went one way & they went the other....

The swim change also changed our race morning start location. We now had to do our thing at T1 and then find a bus that was taking us to the new start location at a hotel down the road. As a result, race morning was now hurried and confusing. All 3000 (approx- not sure the # of racers ) of us piled off the buses and funneled onto the small beach.  I found Michelle Simmons and Nalani pretty easily and was reallly happy about this. I hoped to swim near them (they are Fast so I Hoped to keep up!!) and it was really great to have friends to navigate our new chaos with at that moment. 

In the email about the swim change, we were told we would start ON the beach approx "knee deep."  The pros swam out to deep water to 'line up' near some buoys. I wondered why they were different. Whatever. ... 
But it was now time for us and everyone swam off the beach and out to the buoys. Huh?? 
ok... go with them! Michelle, Nalani and I swam out and lined up near the front. At this point, we were Supposed to stay between the two buoys and not any further. The swim was Already shortened after all!!!! 

Yeah... this didn't happen and the people in charge were HORRIBLE at controlling the athletes. This was just the beginning of what became, in my opinion, a horribly unfair race day full of cheating.  I felt sick to my stomach. Many many manyyyyyy athletes began to "drift' further and further out.... many even reached the "next" buoy. Michelle appropriately used the word "conflicted." Yes, exactly.  I race fair. I race hard. I expect others to do the same. But now the people we were racing were starting ahead of us. Since the people in charge that day were clearly not going to control things, they took advantage of it.  We stayed at the start line. I wasn't about to shorten my 140.6 mile race even more. I had big goals for placing and for time and what was this doing to it all?? If there were women I would be racing out in that pack that drifted way ahead of us, did I have a chance now? The day was starting with a big sour feeling in my gut.  I was immensely disappointed in things and hoped I could "make it up" with my hard efforts. Karma. Right? I hoped....

No starting gun or buzzer or yell was heard but arms began thrashing and I just started swimming-- Hard! 

I was hit and pushed around a little, but nothing like a few other races I've done. I was never underwater or unable to move. I swam hard and found some space. I felt more frustration as I swam past people that were Clearly not good swimmers. They were struggling and quite slow. I am not sure why those folks place themselves at the front of the pack. It was hard to get through some of those bunches. Not much more to say except while I felt strong, I began to feel sick as it went along. Really sick. I thought I might throw up in fact. I think I was "sea sick." I had swallowed a few big gulps of sea water and though I couldn't feel it too much, I am sure we were rolling up and down a lot and it upset my stomach a lot. Towards the end, I felt the current change and it was harder to move forward. I was swimming mostly with men, but there were a few women around.  I just pushed on and hoped I was putting time on some people. I hit the stairs and was psyched to be running toward T1. My husband is very tall so I could easily find him in the crowd. They hadn't seen me get out of the water,  so I slowed a bit and made sure to wave and get their attention. Later, Tommy told me I looked like I had been beat up. Yeah... the goggles KILL my eyes every time. I felt like had been beat up kiddo. 

I ran to transition with Michelle and was really happy I had been able to swim "with" her. 

I got my bag from the rack  ( not easy to find but easier than T2... more on that later )  and hit the tent. 

I was one of the top 10 swimmers.... I saw only 4 or 5 other women in the tent at that time. And yet, I had NO help from the volunteers.  It was odd. I had 3 or 4 volunteers standing at me, but they didn't nothing. Great. I also couldnt' really ask for much help because they were all Mexican and my Spanish is well... pretty much nonexistent with the exception of a few key sentences I learned along the way in school. Not much use during an Ironman transition!! haha

I dumped my bag and started rushing to get stuff on. I felt a nasty chafed spot under my left arm. ( I felt it starting while I was swimming- salt water does that every time despite loads of body glide. ) I asked if anyone had Vaseline. Despite the fact that I didn't say this in Spanish, they understood. I pointed quickly to the spot and someone helped me with that. However, Next thing I knew, another lady was GOBBING tons of Vaseline up and down my Right arm!? I had a Huge wad of it all over my arm. Gross. Ahh... I had to say, "Please stop!!!" 

I ran out of there and luckily, navigated my way out of a Very confusing Transition area ( it's a parking lot and bikes were up and down little sections--- a friend told me pre-race that it was like a spider web. Exactly.)  

I saw Mark and the kids as I ran out and that of course, gave me a warm fuzzy as I started the longest ( and most upsetting in this case ) part of the day. 

athletes running out of the water

That's me in red, waving to the guys. 

The very end of the swim course. 

My support crew with Mark behind the camera. 

The logistic for the spectators to get from the end of the swim Back into town to watch the rest of it was a Nightmare and took my family a few hours.  They were stuck behind 100s of people walking and driving.... :( 

Tommy's feeling while they were stuck. :) This cracks  me up... he captures it perfectly!!!

Next up: 
The 113 mile ride.... 
wait? Isn't an Ironman 140. 6 miles?? Not this time...... 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Happily resting ......

I was feeling calm, cool, collected and focused until yesterday when I clicked on the link and without my permission it flashed in Giant numbers 12 DAY LEFT along w/ the number of minutes and hours and so on. AHHH! I clicked X and left the page. I despise countdowns. I don't let my kids tell me the # of days until summer vacation or Christmas. I can't stand when people say, "Time to get going! My race is in 366 days!"  I can't explain it. It just bugs me. I think it's because I have my own personal mental calendar that works a certain way in my brain and when I see the countdown numbers, it just plays with my system. I know... I am crazy in my own special way. I've never denied that. That was yesterday, which means, it's now 11 days in counting. Personally, I prefer to say, "we leave in 1 week and then I have a few days to get settled, rest." Race day is in less than 2 weeks.

What does that mean? It's TAPER TIME!!!! For some people, it's not a happy place. However, I like taper. It means I can actually accomplish a few more things in my life! I'm not way way behind laundry. Bills are paid. I have started a few Christmas errands. AND... I can walk up the stairs without resting half way. I don't feel like I'm going to tip over in my dinner plate from exhaustion and I can hold my focus on conversations past 8:30 p.m.!!! I kind of like that!!!

I know how hard I have worked this fall. I have put in a LOT of hours ( hint... title of last's the # hours of training since.. ) and I have done the work. I deposited lots and lots of good stuff in that bank. I don't get worried about losing fitness because I know that if I show up with achy legs that are holding onto deep fatigue, I can kiss my goals goodbye.  Rest is good.

While I swam competitively all my life and experienced some pretty cool taper periods, I still remember one experience I had with Rest as a runner.

It was a long time ago, and I'm not sure if I had two kids at that point or all three. I was running every day. Sometimes I'd go alone, sometimes I'd push a single baby jogger, sometimes I'd push two boys in our double. I ran and ran and ran and basically had no purpose. I was just enjoying the air, having time alone ( sort of... note baby jogger comments :)), staying in shape, and probably entering a race or two here or there. I had very small kids and I wasn't doing Triathlons yet. However, I did keep a log book and write down my times and other details about the weather and how I felt. It was summer and we took off for a week of vacation. I didn't run. Or, if I did, it was Very minimal. I remember feeling guilty. The day we got home from our trip, I unpacked and quickly headed out for my routine 6.1 mile route. I FLEW!!!!!!!!!!!!! My legs were fast and fresh and I knocked that run off a solid 3 minutes FASTER than I had ever done it before!!!! I was blown away.
Hmm.... Guess a bit of rest freshened me up!!!!

It works.

Yesterday, I started to feel it. That extra zip. It was bedtime, and I wasn't really feeling it. I could have stayed up and watched the Patriots ( they lost, glad I didn't ) and just hung out. Instead... I was a good little athlete in taper and went to bed. However, 4 a.m. came along this morning and I was ready to go. Wide awake.  Grr...of course when I set my alarm for that tomorrow it'll be brutal.

I have more workouts to do and more sweat and hard efforts ahead. It's not time to stop yet. But it's close. And, I love it.

Friday, November 15, 2013


"Are we there yet?"
"How much longer?"

A few little sentences you have likely heard if you've driven in a car for more than 60 min with children. I feel a bit like a child myself right now. Is it TIME yet??? Oh please, let this race happen soon!!!!

Ha... I need to watch myself because really, the next two weeks will fly by and believe me, by about 4:00 p.m., 2 weeks from tomorrow, I will be wishing I could set the clock back just a few hours. Those last few hours get scary.

Here's the deal--
My 2013 race season started Early last year. My first A race was in March, in California. For a Maine girl who skis all winter, that's early. And, it was a challenge. I made sacrifices and stayed disciplined all winter, however, and nailed the race and took home the gold. From there, it was onto Ironman Texas. Again, I stepped out of my comfy summer training and raced a hot hot HOT humid race in early spring. Yup... crazy. That one was tough. Not a total crumble, but not a rock solid day for me.
After a bit of summer racing then two solid 70.3 events late summer/ early Fall, I got serious. Very serious.

I have put my heart into this one. I have crossed my Ts and dotted my Is. It hasn't been perfect and there are a few things I didn't quite accomplish, but I am not one to dwell on those things. Because, I never skipped a workout. I never quit when I was tired. I rode and rode and rode and rode that bike. I have logged more miles than ever. I endured a 100 miler with high winds, big hills and temps in the upper 30s and I have also endured a few more 100 milers without moving an inch. 5.5 hours on the trainer.. heat cranked... no fan... multiple pairs of shorts because they were 100% saturated with sweat. You get the point. And that's just the riding.  There were countless 4 a.m. mornings to the pool when Believe me, the bed was much more enticing. One morning when I got home from the pool, Mark laughed hard as he told me the swears I yelled at my alarm clock 3 hrs earlier. Oops.

Training for an Ironman isn't just the hours on the road, it's the details between the workouts. Your food choices, your drink choices, your bed time, and your choice of 'other' activities all matter. It can take over your world. If you let it.

That's why it's so exhausting and overwhelming at times. I can't let it take over. I am a mother and wife and have a job. And of course, my children trump all. My home filled with boys who are now into their teen, pre-teen and thankgoodness he's still under 10 year old lives is busybusybusy!!!!!! I am not afforded quiet weekends to regroup and prep meals for the week. Most of this training period was squished with mega-soccer. We had games and travel galore all weekend as well as practices & games most week nights.  Add in homework and meetings and and and....... My time between workouts wasn't allowed to be 'chill.' In my world, I squeeze in the training while the kids are at school and then typically end up with 20 min to shower and eat (often I have a gulp or two of Endurox IN the shower to make sure this part happens)  before I start the after-school scramble. If I'm lucky that is and if I don't stop too much while riding and suck up that time.'s hard! But I wouldn't change a thing. It's the life I have chosen and I enjoy it!

I take my training very seriously. I am not a pro. But I want to be the best I can be. It matters to me. I want to toe that line knowing I did all I could do.

I believe I have done that. I am ready for this race. Two more weeks with rest and sharpening and then I can JUST DO IT!

I am not nervous yet. I am not "freaking out."  I am calm and I am focused. Sure, big nerves and anxiousness will kick in. But there is still work to do and miles to travel.

And then, on  12/1/13 I will give it ALL I have. Of that I am certain.

I am also certain  that I can't Wait for 12/2 and the weeks / months to follow because I am READY for a rest, ready for more time for all the other important things in my life.

Good things ahead! I can feel it.

Oh... the # in my title. I'll let you guess.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Ironman Cozumel is around the corner. Just a few days over a month to go. Because of this, I am operating of only partial brain power at the moment. I anticipate feeling a lot better after Saturday morning when I can actually put the alarm clock in the drawer and have a day at home. There are a million + 1 things to do here and of course, training, but on our own time schedule for a rare treat!

Training is going very well. I'm working very hard and most of the time, I feel positive and excited about the coming weeks. Sometimes it's hard to maintain that eager feeling.  For me, it's a build up of cumulative training fatigue along with the emotional and physical work it takes to raise a family of three boys. It can be a lot. Not to mention, I don't have people around me that I can talk to about this day to day. Not that I 'need' to talk about it too much. Thank goodness Mark is happy enough to listen to me. Mary is Always on the other end of an email when I need her. In addition, our house is under construction and our contractor is a good friend  who happens to be a Triathlete and 'gets it.'  That has been nice. But otherwise, my lips are sealed. I don't want to be that person who talks about her training .  Sometimes though, I just want a little hug or high five after I've worked my tail off for 6 days in a row.  It's not easy. Once in a while, I would love to tell stories about the crazy rides or runs I do.

So the countdown is on!
Alright, while there's only 30+ days left, I am still piling on lots of hours so my blogging time is limited.
I was laughing the other day-- noticing the little signs that Ironman training is full ON in my house.

Can anyone relate??

  • At least a few times a week, I climb in the shower and find pieces of gel wrappers on dropping to the shower floor. They stick to my skin when I stuff them in my shirt on runs/ rides. 
  • This : 

Is often my lunch. 

  • I usually think of the week days in these terms: swim day, long ride day, long run day, double run day vs Mon Tues Wed... 
  • I always have circles on my face-- not sure if they are permanent tired eyes circles or goggle marks, but they are there!  ( yes, getting old. skin not as fresh any more!! ) 
  • Stairs can be very very evil. 
  • Bike bottles seem to be everywhere in the house. Full in the fridge, emtpy in the sink, left on the bike.... all over the house. 
  • It hasn't taken me too long to go through one of these massive jugs of post- workout tastiness!

  • Laundry is everywhere. And while I do have 3 busy boys, 95% of the laundry seems to be MY workout clothing. And, I never seem to get a minute to fold it. Do you need to fold it? it's ok to just live out of it this way, right? 

  • My short ride day is ...80 miles.  
  • Everyone tells me to give up coffee....and I think I might cry.

  •  I  have a love/ hate relationship with this thing....
  • <----this is="" li="" most="" my="" nbsp="" of="" the="" time.="" wardrobe="">

And as crazy and all consuming as this training can be, I love it. I feel myself getting stronger. My confidence is building and I know I'll be ready as ever on 12/1/13.

Time to hop on the bike!!!!!

Monday, October 21, 2013

We found it...

What? What did we find?

Our lesson. We found the elusive life lesson in a crummy situation this past weekend. Through the course of my life,  which has been very heavily involved with sport, I have learned that there are many life lessons to gain from our involvement in them. Sure, I learned and trained to become a skilled swimmer. But wow, that is just the tip of the iceberg of what I got out of all those years on all those teams.  The lessons I learned along the way that had nothing to do with the water, are too many to count.

I have been telling  my kids this as well. I've been sharing stories with them and assuring them, that as they move on through their life in soccer, or skiing, or running or LAX or golf or whatever they choose to do, the Lessons are out there. Just wait. They're coming.

This past weekend, it was time to dig deep inside and find the golden nugget and the hidden lesson. It was time to find a silver lining after being handed a nasty card. I thought it might be hard to find. But really, it was right in front of us and heartache turned into heartwarming moments we'll never forget.

Summarizing the situation-- it's all about Soccer right now in the Bancroft home. Starting the first week of August when I drove them all an hour each way to a day long soccer camp for a week, killed time/ worked in a coffee shop/ and trained for the 6 hrs they played,  through next Sunday, every weekend and every single day of the week, at least one of my kids had practice or a game.  Three boys + 3 teams = busy with nothing but soccer outside of work! And you know what?  We love it. We really love to watch our kids play any sport they are into.

Tommy's team has been together for a long time. I'm not exactly sure, but 4 or 5 years for most of them. They've grown up together. I have been friends with three of the Moms since before the kids were born and one of those is his 2nd cousin. It's a close knit group.

Their team is the most fun to watch. I'm not sure what it is about it, but it's just great soccer. The kids don't always win, but they all always play their hearts out. They have improved so much over the years, it's a blast to watch the changes and development that has happened. Friendships have formed between parents, families and the kids.

The season ends with playoffs and then if they do well enough, onto States. Our work was cut out for us. We played Div 1 this year and it was hard. Our team is U13 but a bunch of the kids, including my son, are younger and could be on a U12 team. Tommy is 11.  Some of his teammates are 13.
This past Saturday was game 1 of a 4 game playoff period. One game Sat & one  Sunday with the same rotation next week. We had to win at least one of these games in order to have a chance to get to States.
The team we played against Sat was seeded way ahead of us.  No worries, our team is tough. The night before, Tommy was nervous and excited. In his own words.  My son is a tough kid and he plays with heart. Tommy has gone at life with 110% since the day he was born. He's ON unless he's in bed. ( yikes! As Mom this can be a bit trying at times!! :) )   The team is everything to him. He has left practices both in tears and with great anxiety and worry thinking he wasn't good enough as well as fired up and excited about how things were going. He cares. He always tries his hardest when he's out there on the field.  And, usually, he does pretty well.

Saturday's game was Very exciting to start! Our kids were dominating the play. As an example of Tommy's effort, at one point he got the ball and ran full on down the field. ( He plays defense.)  He's in pretty good shape. He can run and run and run without getting too fatigued. Clocks a 6:10 mile at the school test. But, after this little breakaway, Tommy was gasping for air so drastically that his coach was yelling, "breath... breath..." as he tried to recover while still playing. Just an example-- he gives 110% of himself-- every time.

The half ended at 0-0.  Our team was fired up. Big hope for a win.

Then, only a few minutes into the 2nd half, the other team was firing at our goal. The boys were in the goal box trying to defend. A Hard shot was taken at "close" range to Tommy. His hands went up. Bam. Wrong move but done instinctively to protect his face. Reflex. He's 11!  He bent over and put his hands on his head in an "oh no" move and then ran off the field before I knew what happened. Where's he going?

The lady ref had made her choice. She had blown her whistle, reached in her pocked & more or less ended his season.  
For a handball. At age 11.

Now, Tommy was on the bench and my heart broke. How could this happen?
The other team got a penalty kick ( as they should have ) and scored.
Tommy got off the bench, ran over to his coach and said, "I'm sorry."
He sat back down and I ached. I could see him, crushed. Crying into his hands. One of the coaches talked to him. A bit later, Mark walked over to find out what happened ( confirmed it was due to the handball).

What did it mean? It meant the rest of the game, our team played one player short. Tommy was out for the game. And, out for the next day as well. Seriously? A handball!  There was no reach to push the ball out of the net, there was no grab, just a hand to his face as the ball came at it. As Mom, I'm kind of glad I'm not staring at a kid with 2 black eyes, or a broken nose, or knocked out teeth. :)

Hard work all season to have the most important games taken away.

Rules are rules. But the Ref had the choice of interpreting it one way or the other and also had the choice as to whether or not give the Red card or not. I didn't see any of the 2nd half. The kids running around trying to save our game were blurry. All I could see was my poor kid sitting on the bench aching with sadness and guilt and confusion. He meant no harm to others. He didn't mouth off. He is always a good sport. He never does anything to harm or hurt his teammates. And now this. His act was playing a huge huge role in what turned into a 4-0 loss.

What happened over the next 24 hours was something I think we'll always remember.  The reaction and support from almost everyone there that day, was more than we ever imagined.

The coach on the opposing team spoke to Tommy. He told him what a great job he did while he was on the field and that the call was wrong. That coach reached out to the people in charge and said, "it was wrong. Let him play tomorrow."    Our coaches filed appeals. Calls were made and emails were sent. Parents reached out to Mark and I and we were told how sorry they were and how much they wanted to see Tommy play on Sunday. Other team parents even looked at us with tears in their eyes in sympathy for our son.

We held out hope. We heard this Ref had actually been banned from working in towns just 5 miles from where this game had been played. They would surely listen to all these people and reverse something or at least let him play on Sunday.  The call was finally made to us on Saturday night. He was not going to be allowed back in to play.
We took a deep breath. I made cookies. Tears flowed. He didn't eat the cookie. A good sign a little boy wasn't  feeling so hot. He skipped the cookie and laid face down on the couch--not talking. The next day, he got up with red eyes and a blotchy face.
I went for a run. I hadn't eat much since either, so my energy was pretty low. Half way around my block, I bent over, put my hands on my knees, and just cried.
My poor kid. He did not deserve this punishment for what he did. By accident.
It was wrong.  And it hurt. Sure, he'll get over it. It's just a game. He's only 11. But right now, to him, it's everything. It meant everything.
I ached for him.

We all pretended it was any other game day and rushed out the door in time to drive 60 min to get there for a 30 min warm up. Tommy had been wearing his uniform since 9 a.m. ( 1:30 game ) but was told he had to cover it.

There's no place else we wanted to be than at the game, cheering on our team. We never considered anything else, not for a second.

Tommy ran ahead of us, but when Mark and I arrived we were greeted by some of our friends asking how Tommy was doing and reinforcing how lousy they thought it  all was.

Then... they pointed out what a few kids had done.  Two of the boys had used tape to convert their uniform numbers into Tommy's #88. Tears welled in my eyes.
The Coach's wife had also made little tape band with the number 88 on them for the kids to wear on their socks or shoes.
They started the game in a huddle and yelled 88! Same thing at half time, and at the end.

It was like family. True teammates. Something crummy had happened to one of them and they were all sticking by him. His penalty hurt that team. And yet, they were uniting behind him because of the way he was punished too severely and, because his is their friend. Their teammate.  Not everyone has the chance to be part of a true team like this in their life. I am so grateful that my son is experiencing what it is like. He will always remember it.

 Some people may have held a grudge or been mad at my kid for causing all the chaos. That penalty kick went in, the score was 1-0, they immediately scored again, and our team had to play without their defender.  But instead, we felt nothing but love and support from a truly great group of people.

Remember, we're talking about pre-teen and early teenage boys. If you have some yourself, you know what I'm talking about. They aren't like girls who pass notes and tell each other all the ins and outs of their love and friendship for each other. They are too busy trying to be cool. Too busy trying to be the best at anything their doing together. They're tough and their expression of emotion and caring towards another boy that age has to been found between the lines.

And, we found it. It was in bright yellow highlighter.  Thank you OCSC boys team, coaches and parents.  We found our life lesson thanks to you all. There is nothing more important than true friends and family because when the chips are down, they are the ones who will pick you back up.
And that you did.
Thank you.

See you at practice.

Ange, Mark, Tommy,
Cameron & Nicholas

Friday, September 27, 2013

I write in my head while I run and swim and bike.  Hours or maybe days later, I may sit at my desk and attempt to put those written 'thoughts' into words on paper. Here goes... but I'm much more fluent in the water at 5 a.m.

In the middle of the night last night, I realized I was awake. It might have been 1:00. Or maybe it was 3:44 and my night was within 20 min of ending anyway. The point is, when my night ends 4:04 a.m., I don't want to spend any of my hours in bed awake thinking about my headache. I had a headache, again, and felt gross. This was the 2nd time this week.  I hate headaches. They consume me. I rolled over and pretended it was only midnight ( I don't look at my clock in the night when this happens... ) and hoped. Before I knew it: buzzzzzzz. Well that didn't take long. Ugh. 

I went into auto-pilot: hit the button, got up, put on my sweats, kissed my husband bye, and headed down for the ohsoawesomecouldn'tdothiswithoutit mug of coffee. It never tastes as delicious as it does at that hour. Love it. Then, I rub the cats, give them some water,fill a water bottle, throw the bag in the car and drive 45 min to the pool.  At least they play great tunes at 4:15 a.m. The stars can be really pretty too. It's also nice quiet time for me. I don't get much of that... .

Today, I was 2000 yards into my 4000 yard swim,when I realized, Hey! I feel great! Headache is gone, I'm swimming sorta fast, and in 25 min I'll be done without workout #1 and on my way home to the fam.  All by 5:30 a.m.!  Love it. ( even it is torture at 4:04... it doesn't last. ) 


It's not always easy. In fact, most often, it's quite hard!!  

Once in a while, I hear people talking about the secret. 

Sorry. There are are no secrets. It all comes down to these two things: 

Hard work &  No excuses. 
Repeat--> for years. 

During my swim today, I did some 400s. In fact, I did 10.  My goggles were a mess. They were leaking, they were foggy, and they were tight. 
Not once did I stop during a set to fix them. I swam blind, I swam with water in my eye, and my headache threatened to come back because they were so tight. I fought the urge to fix them for 3 in a row. 

Why? What's Wrong with me?? Just fix the goggles, right? Easy enough! 

Except, I'm training hard for an Ironman right now. And, during all 5 Ironman races I've been in thus far,  my eyes ACHED by the end of the swim because of the goggles. An hour without lifting them off your face is a long time and they get sore. And, I have them semi-tight because people hit me! During my last half ironman, I was kicked Hard in the face before I took my first stroke. It hurt, a lot. And my left eye was completely filled with water. I did fix that, but they were never on right for the race and I swam with water in there the whole time. 
So, I train for it. I train to be ready for anything. 

I train when it's freezing cold outside  and I train when it's hot. I train when it's windy and  I train when it's humid. I train when I feel good. I train when I feel bad. There are days that I look forward to a run and days that I absolutely loathe the idea of changing into my workout clothes, again. Once in a while, it's 70 degrees and sunny. The air is dry, my legs are light and fresh, and I'm not rushed for time. But really, is that how racing is? Only sometimes.  

There is no magic in this. There is just a lot of hard consistent ongoing work. 

If you want it, you will do it. 

That is the only secret. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Pumpkinman Half - My Race Report

For years I have heard what a fantastic race the Pumpkinman Triathlon is in South Berwick, Maine. However, until yesterday, I hadn't been able to race it. I have been missing out!!! This race is on my all time favorites list now.  If you can, add it to your schedule for 2014. I'll talk about a few reasons why as I go along.

After a restless night, I turned the clock around to see what time it was and since it was 2:54, I just got up. Yikes. That might be a record for earliest race morning! I was out the door by 3:20 and surprisingly, I felt fine. ( going to bed at 7:59 helped..)  I can't say I feel that good today! But yesterday, I was up and ready to roll.

I was off to this  race alone again. That's rare for me. My family is almost always there. But when I registered for these two Half Ironmans I've done in the past two weeks,  I didn't really process the fact that our boy's soccer seasons would be in full swing. I just forgot. But since I didn't really race this summer, it was important for me to get out there before I attempted to reach some big goals in Cozumel. Mark and the boys were 100% cool about it, so I kept it all on the agenda.  I was ok heading there by myself. Mary would be there. And, I knew I'd see others I knew. But still.... it wasn't normal for me.I like having my gang around!!!

You know, true friends do not grow on trees. I mean, think about it. True friends are different. You know what I mean.  One of my true friends was there for me yesterday, and for that I feel so incredibly lucky. This buddy of mine got up before 5 a.m. ( way before ) and drove nearly an hour to meet me during the wee hours to help me out. He didn't just show up at the start. He showed up 2 hrs before. Before big triathlons, there's a handful of things to take care of and a lot of gear to shuffle around. Mike helped me with all that. He carried my pump and pumped the tires, fixed a valve that wasn't working and held things I didn't need at the start. He was on the course cheering and taking photos. At the end, he had my husband on the phone so I could yell to him as I ran by. Then, he dropped that phone so he could help me run up this last nasty hill which I was dying. He met me at the finish for that finish line hug after a PR race. Pretty cool huh? That's a friend.  Thanks Mike. :)

Here's my race story--

As I said in my last post, I decided to take a risk & put myself in the elite category for this one. This race allows some Pros and age groupers to mix together. Our wave was the first to go off. I love being the first swimmers in the water! Nothing like space to swim!!

I made a plan to try to swim with my friend and Pro Triathlete, Mike Ciazzo. I have swum with him several times at a Master's group, and I can keep up with him. The men lined up in front and the women were all behind them. I stood Right behind Mike and was ready to go. THREE-TWO-ONE Go go go go go !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well... I dove in, got KICKED in the face, Goggles ripped off and boom, before I even took one stroke I was standing up again fixing my goggles. GREAT start, Ange!!  ugh. So much for that plan. Ok... I was fast to get back at it and let me tell you, for such a small group, it was ROUGH! Ironman starts are worse, but packed age group starts full of women only ( as are the normal conditions for me) are Much easier!!!!  Those men have strong nasty kicks. Thankfully, the group was small and I was keeping up. It was rough and there were kicks and swim-overs but finally I got off to the side and fell into a groove right next to a few guys. We all had white caps so it was tricky at first to determine if they were men or women, but I figured it out by the first buoy. I felt Amazing!!! And, I was having a blast. This was the most fun I've had in a swim in a Long long time. I was a swimmer first. That's where I got this racing bug...starting way way back when I was 8. But surprisingly, I don't usually enjoy the swim leg of races. There are a few reasons...but yesterday was different.

I was excited because I felt myself pull away from some women and also, I was really excited to be ahead of all but 3 or so men. Plus, this was the best part, I was truly stroke for stroke with one of the guys.  It felt like it did back in my swim team years. I swam day after day, two times day, with all my best friends back then. I'd go back and forth down the pool arm for arm with a few of them, and that was fun! It pushed me harder and kept me going. I had that yesterday. And I loved it.  I was in my happy racing place and feeling really grateful that I was given the chance to race with these guys.

I made it around the two loop swim in 26:03. I climbed out of the water just seconds ahead of the pack I'd been with.... giving me the 3rd fastest swim of the day.  A great start....

I'm the one on the left 

Next up with that Hill Climb--- ouch!!! It has it's own special Transition split and there are prizes for the athletes that scale it the fastest. Not me! haha.. I worked at keeping my HR slightly in check, even took a few walking steps, and just tried not to curse out loud. It was hard! I guess this little hill is even used as a ski hill in the winter at this place! No wonder it hurt to run up it after our 1.2 swim!

I was in and out of T1 in decent time. Off to ride.... you know... there's not a lot to say here. I saw those fast men fly away, a few others cruised up behind me and disappeared into the hills a few minutes later, and then... that was it. I was by myself. On the one hand, I was clearly happy the other women weren't catching me. On the other hand, I had to fight Hard to keep that race mode. I was  by myself on the roads. The volunteers directing us on the course were such welcome sights because it reminded me we were racing! Despite this, I pushed hard ! I really did. I felt stronger than I did at Rev3 and my watts were there to show it. I have to say,however, do I ever get bored out there... after about mile 30 or so... I just want OFF. Hmm... gotta work on that. I think I really fade a bit when that happens. The course was nice though. There are a few rough roads but mostly it was fun and fast. The winds were howling yesterday and I was pushed around the road a few times. There was one section that was flat and the wind Must have been at our backs because I was sailing.......... it was a blast. 30-31-33mph... fun fun stuff.

And then, the not so graceful & not so pro-like dismount.  Ah yes.... it was pathetic. I meant to take my feet out of my shoes... I meant to be ready. But, something distracted me and I didn't do it. So I got to the dismount line and fumbled around. I tried to whip my leg over the bike and I got stuck....on the bottles on the back. I nearly fell over. All while my buddy Mike and Kurt watched on. Both of whom were instrumental in teaching me how to do it properly and reinforcing why I should. Ooops... I was not impressed with myself. I growled and laughed at my typical gracefulness and moved on....

Bike split for the day 2:33. I was thrilled. These sub 2:40 rides are really really good for me.

Time to run... enough of this bike gear... I slipped on the shoes, changed glasses, grabbed my gels and watch and headed off. It all comes down to the run....
running out of T2

My shins were super tight.... but my quads were not and my Achilles was fine. (I have something wrong with it.... I don't talk about it but I'm definately having issues. I am always relieved when it feels good. ) I did see another woman ride into Transition as I was running out. Hmm.... ok.... we'll see what happens. She clearly out-rode me because I had a solid lead out of the water.

After about 1/2 mile or so, I noticed a bike riding Right in front of me. Yeah, if I wasn't racing a half ironman I would have noticed it earlier. I was in my own zone, I guess. I wondered why he was so close. Why did he keep looking back at me? Hey...he has a Pumpkinman shirt on.
"Are you my lead biker??"  I yelled out to him, incredulous.
Sure am!! You're the lead woman!
Ha! I knew I was in the lead at that point but I had a bike escort???
"Kat is so awesome!"
Seriously... this doesn't' happen to us 43 year old age-group Moms!! I was tickled. In Kona, there's a lead motorcycle for the man and woman leading the race. At some other big races, they have them as well and sometimes bikes too. But not for me! It was a fun few minutes...

Before that moment was over, I also came to aid station 1. Actually, I knew that was coming a good 1/4-1/2 mile ahead of time. The Berwick Field hockey team was in charge there and they were the BEST!!! They were screaming for me way way before I got there. So much fun.

Well, the next thing I knew, she was there. I heard the steps. Hmm... didn't I say this same thing in my last race report? Oh no, that time I heard the breathing because we were on a trail. Anyway, yeah, she caught me. Ms. Amanda Kourtz is one heckuva speedy runner I must tell you. I knew that heading into the race actually. She out ran me two years ago at the Rev3Oly. Actually, she has since gone Pro. She is a crazy fast athlete!!  I watched her run for a while. I tried to match her cadence as she pulled away a bit. I felt pretty good and while I was making an effort not to run too fast too early in the race, I was also letting the run just happen.

I ran and ran and ran. The turnaround seemed so so far away. The course was filling up with other athletes as this is a two loop run. I was no longer alone and that felt good.
Finally, we approached a small cul-de-sac that was the turn around. I think it was near mile 6. I saw Amanda running out as I ran in. I was pleased she hadn't put too too much time on me. I knew she was running faster, but at least I was hanging on. I was also anxious/ nervous to make the turn to see how close the other women were behind me.

I rounded the circle and realized, Amanda was Gone! She just took Off after that! Amazing.

Before too long, I saw Nicole ( a friend of mine ) and then a few of the other ladies making there way. I had to keep moving because they were right there!!

The problem was, I was entering that dark place. My legs were getting so so tired, I was tired, I felt sick to my stomach, I had horrible side stitch, I was realllllllly realllllllly tired. I didn't want to run anymore. I fought the urge to just Stop, with every ounce of my inner strength. I was having the it's ok, you dont' need to beat them talk in my head. The racing devil was sitting on both shoulders telling me why I didn't need to push so hard. He was telling me it was ok to let it go. It was ok to just walk and say hey, 'you're getting older. You can't always have a good day.' Oh that devil had had lots of sleep the night before and he was Pushing me!!!  I was fading.

I have no idea where I was or what my pace had slipped to but I got to an aid station, walked through it and grabbed a cup of Coke. I made the decision at that point to get my act together and finish what I started. I didn't race 64 miles as hard as I  could to back down with only 6 to go! Seriously?? Nope. Bye bye racing devil... I don't give up that easily.

There was a lot of pain involved. I felt horrible for moments and then I'd have times of feeling like a runner again. I had to dig so deep. I'm experienced and I know what to do out there, but the actual work does not get easier. It hurt. It still hurts today. My muscles were seizing, my stomach was revolting...

I just held on. I made the turn where it said:

YES! FINISH Time!!!!  The support of the crowd was amazing all day. I had fellow athletes and family/ friends of athletes and volunteers all yelling to me "You can get her!" or " Great running ! Second woman!" All that good stuff.... it made me so happy inside. thank you guys. It really does help.

The final 1/2 mile or so was hard! I tried to stay strong up this really steep mountain ( ok, hill) that led us into the Spring Hill area finish. My quads were just on fire. Kurt was pulling out of a road and yelled, "let's go Ange. .. come on come on" and then Mike was just up a bit with the phone and said, "Mark's on the line! Yell to him!" So I said, "Hey Babe!!!! Save me a freeze pop!!" I know, strange, but I was dreaming of freeze pops and we have some here! :) Mike then clicked goodbye to him and ran with me up that sucker. I made a right hand the finish... except it was the wrong way! I weaved around the parked car and smiled as I finally saw the end.

Oh so worth it. All that pain, all that tough fighting, when you run down the Finisher's chute, you remember why you are out there and why you sign up for more.

The clock had just clicked to 4:39... GET IN there! I wasn't about to miss this chance now...

Yes... I hit the finish breaking 4:40 . A PR at this distance. The run was 1:36 which was better than Rev a few weeks ago. And I walked away with a nice 2nd place overall.

It was a good day.  I had to fight as hard as ever but it's always worth it.

Coming in to the finish 

Beautiful Fall Pumpkinman Finish line
Amazing Race Kat Donatello!!!! Thank you!!!