Thursday, December 2, 2010

What motivates me and why Nuu-Muu?

As a busy homeschool mom and owner of a photography business my life can get really crazy. Thankfully, I'm able to take time out of my day for exercise. Some say I'm a little nuts when they hear about my 4:30 AM workouts but, with my family's schedule there are days that it needs to be done.

When I started running in 2002, I was considerably overweight and under motivated. I knew that running would help with my weight loss but I really didn't have a desire to do it. I knew that if I wanted to continue running I would need to find a way to stay focused and motivated. Initially my motivation came from entering races. I knew if I entered a race I would need to train sufficiently to get me to the finish line. Over the years, that motivation has helped me not only run 5k races but has taken me all the way to completing and winning my age group in half Ironman races which require swimming 1.2 miles, biking 56 miles and running 13.1 miles all in the same race. It wasn't always easy but it was always worth it.

Today I am highly motivated by other people who are beginning their journeys. Whether it is someone who overcomes their fear of swimming and completes their first triathlon or a mom who has done nothing but sit and drink Eggnog Lattes for years and decides to train for and complete her first 5k. Helping coach and motivate others drives me to complete my own goals.

In 2011, I am excited about where my journey will take me. I plan on competing in two half Ironman races, a century bike ride, and many other smaller races. Based on the completion of those goals, 2011 may be the year I complete my first full Ironman race.

I am thankful to be partnered with Nuu-Muu for many reasons. First and foremost, the staff at Nuu-Muu is fantastic. They are real women, like me, and I enjoy the passion they have for life. The dresses, well, they are just the cutest I've ever seen and they really work well with my lifestyle. You can wear them in the summer, of course, but just add a few layers and you've got a great winter look, too! Nuu-Muu Exercise Dresses are great for training and great for getting together with friends. Best of all, when I'm done with my workout I throw my Nuu-Muu on and feel totally cute! Now THAT'S a great feeling to have after a workout!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Warrior Dash 10.10.10

Race: Warrior Dash - Mid Atlantic
Date: Saturday, 10/10/10
Location: Quarryville, PA
Race Type: Run/Play/Get really dirty while going through an obstacle course
Division: 40-44 yo
Time: 53:14 (16:54 pace for 3.15 miles!) OH YEAH!!! The slower the better on this course!

Race Report:

I was very excited to register for this race. It seemed like the perfect way to end my big triathlon season. Of course, all triathletes know that the SEASON might end but the TRAINING doesn't! So, I knew I needed to "proceed with caution" to this race. When I registered for the race it was supposed to be somewhere in Maryland but, a few weeks after registration, they moved the race to Quarryville, PA. It was about 45 minutes farther than I had planned to go but with my "OBX gang" (plus Elizabeth) traveling with me I knew we would find interesting and fun ways to spend the additional time on the road...and I was right!

The trip to PA was nice and calm. Our wave didn't start until 12:30 so we didn't have to get up at the crack of dawn to drive to the race. Once we made it to the race venue we started to understand the phrase we read so many times that this would be "the craziest frickin' day of your life!" This race is inspired by several competitions - Navy SEALS training, American Gladiators, Eco-Challenge and Ironman! So, yeah, I knew it was going to be nuts!
Ginger, Me, Elizabeth and Becky - nice and clean - representing the tri community with our goggles and awesome TRI CHICKS ROCK body marking! 
Photo by: John Vandenheuvel

Run: 3.15 miles

It's so hard to call this just a run because it is way more than that! At the start line you almost get toasted with the heat from the fire jets shooting out from the start line poles.

Photo by: Jason Kopp

The best part about this race was all the cool obstacles. The worst part was I couldn't take pictures of all the cool obstacles for fear of getting my camera dirty. So, I had someone else take pictures for me and I've graciously been allowed to use pics from other Warriors (and/or their photographers!) for the purpose of this blog. Next year I'm wearing a video cam!

So, yeah, it wasn't a race like I'm typically used to running. It was chip timed, however, which confused me a bit. Yeah, it's cool to know what your finish time is when you are running a race but the Warrior Tri Chicks and I knew we were out there to have FUN - we had no concern about finish time. Of course, that is totally obvious by our 16+ min/mile results!
  • "Tunnel of Terror" - The only reason I could think of for calling this the "Tunnel of Terror" is if you got caught in the tube behind someone that smelled really bad. Otherwise, you were just crawling through a big black tube on your hands and knees.
    • "Tanker Trouble" - The first big bottleneck of people. We had to stand and wait our turn to get over the trailers (aka tankers). You needed a little upper body strength to get over this one so I was thankful for all those Crossfit workouts - particularly the pull ups (did I just say that???). Anyway, after I managed to get up to the top of the first trailer I looked beyond the trailer to see that I had FOUR trailers to crawl over! YEAH!!! Once all four of the Warrior Tri Chicks got to the top of the trailer we did a little dance for all to see and then headed toward the second trailer. On the way down I became the first of the girls to fall flat on her butt! I was so paranoid I was going to injure myself and not be able to race my half marathon in November that I ended up falling instead of jumping down with power from that trailer. But, I got back up on my feet, dusted myself off and finished the obstacle with strength and power.
      • "Hell's Hills" - Large mounds of hills. You could play it "safe" and take the edge of the hill or you could be a real Warrior and climb up to the top of each hill. I figured if I was going to do this race I was going to do it right so I took on every challenge that came my way (well, almost every challenge...keep reading...)
        • "Hay Fever" - This was a big pyramid of bails of hay that you had to climb over. Pretty simple.
          • "Cargo Climb" - My husband told me prior to the race that these look harder than they really are. Really? Because I thought this was pretty easy. This was actually one of my favorite obstacles for several reasons. First, because I was able to convince the photographer to get a rockin' pic of me and my tri chicks heading down the obstacle. Second, because standing on the top of this obstacle you could see a huge portion of the course. Last, I'm normally afraid of heights but I don't even recall being scared for one second. I had overcome my fears (at least temporarily).

            Photo by: Anna Wie

            • "Walk the plank" - For a bunch of tri chicks in tutu's this was the perfect obstacle. I even did a little ballerina twirl on my way across the plank.
            • "Blackout" - This was similar to the "Tunnel of Terror" except there was hay all over the ground and you weren't confined in a tube. But, you still had to get down on your hands and knees to get through this obstacle.
            • "Mossy Maze" - Picture a forest with bungee cords draped everywhere and you have to get through the cords to reach the other side. That's what this obstacle was all about.
            • "Breathless Bog" - Okay, here is where things started to get interesting!!! As we came around the corner we see this pond full of green scum.  Now, I had just recently taken a pic of a pond just like this (see below) and I had NO DESIRE to go into that pond! But, I'm a Warrior, right? So, I HAD to finish this obstacle. As soon as my body got into the water I realized why it was named "breathless!" The water was so cold it took my breath away! THEN I had to somehow get my cold body over these huge logs rolling around in the water. I was fine going over the first few logs but then I came upon these ladies rolling the log TOWARD them rather than AWAY from them. I tried probably 5 times to get over that thing with them rolling it towards us but I just couldn't do it. I told them to roll it away from them but I don't know what they were thinking. Maybe the cold water had already reached their brains. The longer I attempted to get over the log the more I kept thinking I was going to freeze to death before I got out of this water. Becky came over and tried to help pull me over but with the log rolling me back in the other direction it was just too difficult. Finally I decided to go head first and I **almost** had my entire head in the water. And, to top it off - I got a mouthful of the green goo! By the way, this was the first obstacle that I pulled my goggles off my head and over my eyes! Best decision ever!
            • "Warrior Tri Chicks Flying Mud Zone" - This was an extra "obstacle" that most race participants didn't have to overcome. But, as Warrior Tri Chicks, we were all so excited to finally get dirty (yes, I know it sounds odd) that we decided it was time for a little mud fight. It was almost like we were all four thinking with the same brain because the mud started flying everywhere as if on cue! 
            • "Warrior Wall" - we had to climb over several walls that were about chest high. This was where Ginger decided to bite the big one. She was one tough Warrior Tri Chick but the mud was a little too slippery and down she went. She made up for it later, though (keep reading...)
            • "Slithering Swamp" - the "swamp" wasn't so bad but the hill we had to climb after the swamp was a little challenging. Imagine a hill with a pretty steep incline all covered with mud. Now picture trying to climb it with basically nothing to hold on to. There was carnage everywhere! But, the Warrior Tri Chicks forged up the hill in style!
            • "Muddy Mayhem" - This is where you separate the true Warriors from all the others. And, I've gotta say this is where I fell short of a true Warrior. Did I go through the obstacle? Yes. But, did I DIVE into a mud pit like my friend Ginger. HECK NO!!!! There is NO TELLING what was in that mud pit and there was no way to determine how deep the pit was. Was I going to throw my body into that pit without prior knowledge of what was in it? NO WAY!! Will I do it next year? Maybe! After getting into the mud pit you had to crawl low so as not to get barbed wire fence across your backside!
            Although I don't have a picture of Ginger jumping into the mud pit this is just about what she looked like!
            Photo by: Dave Ricci:
            • "Warrior Roast" - This was AWESOME! Jumping over fire pits really makes a gal feel like a true warrior. I kinda wish they would have had more fire pits along the course it was so much fun!

            Me - just after jumping over the last fire pit
            Photo by: John Vandenheuvel


              If you would have told me a few years ago that I would be running a race that included getting muddy from head to toe I would have thought you were nuts. But, here I am. Muddy as can be! 

              Becky, Ginger and Tracy post race
              Photo by: John Vandenheuvel

              The Warrior Dash was an amazing race. There were fire trucks to hose us down after the race and I needed to go through the line twice to even get half way cleaned off. After we all got "reasonably clean" we had a nice time sitting around at the post-race party watching other people complete their race and yet others who were totally clean getting ready for their wave to start. They had a live band, food and drinks post-race. I even ate my first Turkey leg!
              Tracy & Elizabeth eating our first Turkey Leg!
              Photo by: Becky Wellhouse

              This race is on my "must do" list for next year. I need to make sure I don't plan any big races immediately following this race so I can have a mindset of "reckless abandon" next year. I loved the feeling of pushing myself through obstacles I never thought I would do and it felt GREAT! This is not a race for wimps. However, most people would be able to complete it. I saw many people walking on the run path or slowly going through/over/under the obstacles. But, for the true Warrior - you've gotta do it right! Attack those hills, jump into the mud pit, and never ever stop running...unless you fall! The biggest sign of a true Warrior is just how dirty they are at the finish line - not how fast they ran the 3.15 mile course!

              Lessons Learned:
              • There is no need to bring a duffel bag full of shampoo, conditioner, soap, towels, etc. Just bring a plastic bag with a change of clothes and a towel. Shower when you get home.
              • Wearing a costume was awesome but it should be a costume that doesn't weigh 20 lbs once it gets wet. Also, it's a good idea not to wear white. White will NEVER get clean and you'll have to ditch your clothes.
              • Turkey legs aren't all that good
              • Bring your ID with you to the finish line so you don't have to walk all the way back to your car to prove you are actually 21 years old!

              Friday, October 1, 2010

              New Triathlete Series II: How to find the right winter cycling gear

              It is sometimes difficult to determine exactly what clothes you should wear while riding your bike in less than perfect weather conditions. Nothing is worse than being cold and wet while riding your bike. It may take some experimentation to determine exactly which clothes work for your body but, in general, you should follow these guidelines:

              Keep your torso and legs warm: Your base layer should consist of a moisture-wicking material. On your legs, cycling tights are the best choice since you’ll want the comfort of the chamois next to your skin. A second layer, such as fleece, should insulate and keep you warm. Finally, a third waterproof outer layer will protect you from snow and rain as well as insulate you from wind.

              Keep your hands warm: Wear full-finger cycling gloves that insulate and protect your hands. Remember, you’ll need to use your brakes so make sure the gloves aren’t too bulky.  If you plan on riding in rain or snow, wear gloves with a waterproof outer layer.

              Keep your feet warm: Wear wool socks which allow your feet to stay dry. Shoe and toe covers are a good option to cover the mesh section of your cycling shoe and provide protection from moisture.  You can also purchase cycling shoes specific for winter cycling

              Keep your head warm: Your primary areas of discomfort when cycling in the winter are likely to be your ears and nose. Cycling caps and balaclava’s can be worn under your helmet. However, the balaclava provides protection for not only your head but for your neck, ears and the side of your face. Balaclava’s made specifically for cycling typically have a thin inner layer of fleece and an outer layer of spandex.  Your nose will more than likely go unprotected unless you wear a ski mask.

              This year, don’t let the cold weather deter you from getting outside for an exhilarating ride. 

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              Thursday, September 30, 2010

              Suggested ideas for off-season triathlon training

              It’s not quite time for a talk about off-season training, but when you are running in the dark every morning you should probably start thinking about how you’re going to spend your winter hours this year.
              So many new triathletes feel the winter months are a time to relax and unwind after a busy year of training and, if you weren’t a triathlete that might be exactly what you would do. However, training through the winter is what your competition may not be doing and you’ll have the advantage next season.
              Some great ideas for off-season training include:
              1. Computrainer classes – These classes allow you to compete against yourself and others in a virtual bike race. It enables you to build endurance as well as practice skills and technique all while riding on your own bike. You might start out eating everyone’s “virtual dust” for a while but the longer you attend the classes the stronger you will become.
              2. Train with a coach or a group – Many people think that coaches and group training are useful during the midst of your season. But, they will help push you through the winter by making sure you are at your workouts even if there are blizzard-like conditions. Having that extra “push” out the door might be just what you need to get you through the winter. Getting the extra track workouts that your competition didn’t will be a great advantage!
              3. Strength training/Yoga – Now is the time to get stronger. Join a class and keep with the schedule. Staying strong and flexible will enable you to stay off the injury list.
              By implementing some of these ideas this winter you will be much stronger and well prepared for racing when next spring rolls around.

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              Why strength training should become a triathletes fourth sport

              It is hard to imagine making more room in your schedule for a fourth sport but the importance of strength training to a triathlete is invaluable. When some hear the words “strength training” they think about “bulking up.” But, strength training for a triathlete is more about building your core muscles and helping to prevent injury. Having strong core muscles is very important to a triathlete given the swim, bike and run all count on core strength to work effectively and efficiently.

              Core muscles consist of the abdominal, obliques, and lower back muscles. During the swim, a strong core helps your body stay parallel in the water. On the bike, it helps you efficiently transfer power to your lower body. And, on the run, it helps keep your pelvis neutral which allows you to maintain a long stride. Without a strong core you aren’t able to perform to the best of your abilities.

              There are many ways to obtain stronger core muscles and many resources on the Internet to show you exactly how to do that. For those who are new to strength training has some great articles with videos to show exactly how to position and move your body like this one: . Make sure you start slow but try to build your way to about two workouts per week.

              Stay strong!

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              New Triathlete Series I: How to fix a flat

              As a new triathlete the thought of getting a flat while riding your bike is frightening. But, if you practice fixing a flat during your training, you’ll have the self confidence you need on race day.
              Every rider should carry a basic repair kit: pump (or CO2), new tube and two tire irons.
              • For a rear wheel flat: drop to the smallest gear so it is easier to get your chain back on then release the brakes. For a front wheel flat: stand over your top tube and release the brakes.
              • Remove the valve cap, open the valve and depress it to release any remaining air.
              • Place two tire irons about 3-4 inches apart between the tire and edge of the rim being careful not to pinch your tube. Take one iron and place it in the opening you made and pull the other all the way around removing the tire.
              • Pull the tube out. Feel the inside and look at the outside of the tire for any object that may have caused the flat.
              • Reinstall one side of your rim.
              • Inflate a new tube just enough to hold its shape then close the valve.
              • Place the new tube into the tire starting with the valve stem.
              • At the valve stem, push the loose bead of the tire back onto the rim and work the tire back on with your thumbs and finish pumping the tire.
              • Put the wheel back on the bike. For front wheel: stand over the top tube, lift the front fork, slide the wheel into the dropouts, tighten and close the lever and then secure the brakes. For rear wheel: lift the chain, line the cog with the chain where it runs over the top pulley on the derailleur. Gently work the wheel down until it drops in and then secure the brakes.
              Give the wheel a spin to make sure there is no rubbing of the brake or uneven spinning and then off you go!
              For video instruction:

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              Wednesday, September 22, 2010

              I'm getting published!!!

              I'm excited about a new opportunity I have been given to write articles about triathlons for the DC Examiner. You can find my first post here:

              Suggested ideas for off season triathlon training

              Monday, September 20, 2010

              Outer Banks 70.3 Weekend

              Race: Outerbanks 70.3
              Date: Saturday, September 18, 2010
              Location: Manteo, NC
              Race Type: Triathlon - Half Ironman Distance
              Division: Age Group 45-49
              Time: 7:11

              ------------ --
              Race Report:

              Before the race

              Friday morning ...6 AM...3 AMAIZING women (Becky, Ginger and myself) left for a wonderful trip to North Carolina. Along the way we picked up Ginger's mom and Spanky the "killer" dog! Once we got to the Outer Banks we found our way to the house where we would spend the weekend (THANK YOU, GINGER!!!) then headed off to check out the race course and go to packet pickup. 

              I was pretty impressed with the race from the beginning. I had several email and phone interactions with the race director and he was always right on top of things. Meeting him and some of the other volunteers on the day before the race just confirmed my opinions that even though this was a small race I could tell it was going to be good. This was the first year for the 70.3 distance so the race participation was low (45 people) but it was truly a very well organized race and one I will attend for many years to come.

              We took a drive on the race course and were concerned about a few things - like a big hill on the bridge. We couldn't really tell how steep a slope it was but after driving it didn't think it would be that bad. Come to find out, we were right. We were also concerned about a pretty bumpy road on the bike course but as it turned out it was okay, too. You had to dodge a few pot holes and raised places in the road but all in all the course was fairly easy to maneuver.

              The funniest thing about checking out the race course came when we tried to drive the run course. It started from transition and went...of all places...on the edge of an airport landing strip! We followed the flags that had already been placed the day before (after getting approval to do so, mind you...) and we ended up in a location where we could go no further...unless we wanted to DRIVE on the LANDING STRIP! We were a little confused so we turned around, went back, and asked for approval again and specifically where the trail went when it collided with the landing strip. We were told to open a 12-foot gate, go through the gate, close the gate behind us and that was where the course went. So...we did it! We felt we were doing something "wrong" the whole time but apparently it was okay for us to be checking out the course. I'm still quite concerned about FAA regulations, though!

              After our exploration of the course we headed back to the house, had a good dinner and went to bed around 9 PM. None of us had been getting very good sleep the few days before we left so we were all pretty tired and went to bed pretty quickly.

              Race morning

              My race morning began with a 4:45 AM wakeup call. After a little problem with my smoothie maker I was very thankful to have been spending the weekend at a fully furnished home with a blender. Don't know what I would have done had we been in a hotel. My nutrition from Eagleman (my last 70.3) worked out well so I stuck with the same plan and it continued to work for me on this race.

              The race venue was beautiful. When we arrived it was still dark. My Amaiza girls were THE BEST "race crew" ever! Since their race wasn't until the next day they kindly helped me carry my bags to transition (although there were signs everywhere saying they couldn't BE in transition)! But because of the small size of the race there was a lot of leniency of the normal "rules" of a triathlon. Because there was an Olympic and Sprint race the next day and they were expecting about 300 people they had all the bike racks available for the 70.3 folks to use. So, just about everyone had their own bike rack. It was AWESOME to be able to spread my stuff out all over the place! 

              Swim (1.2 miles): 51:09

              I wasn't super impressed with my swim. I just couldn't find that good rhythm that I typically do. I'm not exactly sure what the problem was either. Swimming to the first buoy felt okay. I noticed most of the people were swimming to my right but I felt I had a pretty good straight line to the turn around buoy so I kept swimming on. Turning at the first buoy and heading to the second I couldn't see squat! The sun was in my eyes and I struggled just to determine if I was on course or not. I did get a little off but didn't need too much course correction to get back. Heading into the finish line I started to feel a little cramping in my legs and felt like I was wearing down a little. All of a sudden I realized I hadn't taken a gel before the start of the race. UGH! The water was getting a little choppy after the last turn so I found myself swallowing a considerable amount of water. But, my swim time wasn't too far off what I expected it to be. It's hard to judge whether it was similar to my last 70.3 or not since Eagleman was 0.3 miles longer than it was supposed to be.

              T1: 3:23
              I felt pretty good coming out of the water but my transition time wasn't all that quick. It was about a minute slower than Eagleman. I did eat a gel and get something to drink but didn't think it took me that much longer. Oh well, I'll need to practice that one a little more.

              Bike (56 mi): 3:20:01 @ 16.8 mph

              Seven minutes slower than Eagleman...but I'm not too shocked. The first part of the bike I didn't push it too hard. I remembered from Eagleman that I cranked it almost the entire way in my hardest gear and my legs were dead by the time I had to run. So, I didn't want to repeat that. The first 2 miles I just let my legs warm up. When I reached "the bridge" I wasn't sure what to expect. Once I hit the bridge I started cranking a little harder and got up to about 25 mph going across. Once I hit the other side of the bridge and into the nature preserve I thought I was going to die. Wind was hitting me from all directions! I figured it would stop when I got to the turn around...but it didn't! I knew I didn't want to push it too hard because I would wear myself out and I knew I didn't want to push it too easy because the bike is typically my strongest leg. So, I kept my pace somewhat high but not killing it. I did 20 miles in my first hour. UNFORTUNATELY I hit the bridge about that time on my way back across in headwinds. OUCH! My speed immediately dropped to about 15...then 12...then 10 mph!!! Well, there went my average! About 2.5 miles of headwinds and not being able to get faster than 12 mph. It stunk!

              We biked back to the transition area then did the whole loop all over again. This time I was a little more prepared. Going across the bridge I kicked it in and got about 30 mph as long as I could. Where I had done a little slower paces the first loop I really tried to push it on the second. Of course, hitting the bridge the second time I was still not prepared enough but I did have the energy to at least not allow my speed to drop below 12 mph this time. 

              I tried standing several times during the bike just to kinda shake out my legs and not allow the cramps to come like they had in Eagleman and that seemed to help. On a pancake flat course you have to do something!!!
              T2: 1:01
              At Eagleman my T2 was 3:42 so I was super impressed with this result. I was even 1st place in T2 - even beating all the men! My closest T2 competition (a man) finished in 1:06! Pretty rockin! 

              Run (13.1 miles): 2:56:07

              This is where I made up the bulk of my time from Eagleman. Obviously I still have a lot of work to do in getting faster at the run. But, my biggest accomplishment on this race is that I didn't walk at all. Yes, I stopped at the water stations but other than that I did no walking. There were times I wanted to walk...believe me. The most difficult part of this race was the fact that there were only 45 people in the race and no real crowd support. You were out there on your own most of the time. You had to be mentally strong as well as physically strong. The mental game was horrendous. You have nobody out there on the course to push you - no competition around you (unless you were lucky enough to find someone near your pace) and no crowds to push you. You had to do this all on your own. Thankfully I had two amazing cheerleaders who drove the course, found me, and cheered me on for a while both on the bike and the run. But they couldn't be everywhere all the time and that was really tough.  

              Post Race:

              I knew from the start of this race that as long as I finished it I would be on the podium because there were only two women in my age group. And since the other lady ended up with second overall I was awarded the first place age group award in the 45-49 year old category. I was obviously excited about the award by the bigger accomplishment in my eyes was that I didn't walk the run and I had a 20 minute personal record. 

              I am so thankful God has allowed me to be able to race the way I do. I am thrilled that he has given me the drive, the dedication and the ability to do what I do. I may not be an elite athlete but I am who God made me and I'm excited to be able to participate in races like this for His glory! It was such a blessing as I was on the bike course to see a sign on a local church that said "...let us run with endurance the race set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith..." Hebrews 12: 1-2. This was actually a scripture I put on my shirt the last time I ran a marathon. Perfect!

              Summary and lessons learned 
              Continue to practice open water swimming so I don't get off course as much and practice spotting while looking into the sun.
              Don't forget pre-race nutrition!
              Focus on getting stronger on the run after the bike.
              Practice T1 transitioning

              Tuesday, September 14, 2010

              Tooks Sponsorship

              Thank you for your sponsorship, Tooks!

              Thursday, September 9, 2010

              Loving all my new sponsors!

              My third sponsor offer has just been signed and, again, I am thrilled to death! Thank you so much Epic Action Video Cam!

              Sponsor #2!

              I'm excited to announce my second triathlon sponsor.... RECOVERY SOCK!!!

              Tuesday, September 7, 2010

              My first sponsor!!!

              After several weeks of working on my "racing resume" and sending it out to several companies I'm really fond of, I finally got my first sponsor! Thank you, Rudy Project for the great sponsorship!

              Tuesday, August 24, 2010

              Today you WILL become an Iron Girl!

              It wasn't the best day for a triathlon. The skies were overcast and it had begun to lightly drizzle. I was okay with that because this year I wasn't competing. I was there as my team's race photographer and to cheer on all the wonderful women who had trained so hard for this day...for this moment...when they would become IRON GIRLS - some for the very first time!

              The first few swim waves went off seemingly without a hitch. 5...4...3...2...1....AFLAC!!! (insert loud horn blow!). It was exciting to be on the cheering end of the race this year! With each blow of the horn I got excited for these women because I know the feeling they have way down deep in the pit of their stomach. It's that nervous feeling that releases the endorphins you need to make it through the race. It was their time...their moment. They had trained for a long time and now it was their time to SHINE!

              Next in line for the swim wave start were the ladies with the blue caps. I had a few friends in this wave so I made them smile for the camera and yelled words of encouragement to them. Then all of a sudden something seemed a little odd. What was going on right in front of me?

              I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Was this actually happening? Did a woman decide to quit the triathlon within minutes of her race? What happened to her? Did she somehow get injured during the swim? Had someone kicked her in the head and given her a concussion? I knew that could have been a real possibility. I had so many questions about what I was seeing and I was very curious about what was going on. Wait! There's my friend Laura and she is talking to her. Maybe they know each other. Maybe Laura will turn around and yell for a medic...but she's not. They are just talking. Okay, Laura must know her because now she is giving the woman a hug. Number 858 looks petrified! I really wish I could hear what was being said. Oh, wait, there she goes. She has started swimming again. WHAT JUST HAPPENED????

              For the remainder of the race I was perplexed. I knew I had to find Laura as soon as she crossed the finish line to calm my curiosity, but unfortunately I never saw her.

              That evening I sat down on my computer and typed a note to Laura asking her about the situation and the story she told me brought tears to my eyes. You see, Laura didn't know this woman at all. Number 858 had started her swim and then decided she couldn't do it and started heading back to the start line to quit the race. Laura stopped her and gently reminded her that she had trained hard for this race and today she was going to become an IRON GIRL! Laura then proceeded to give her a big hug and briefly talked about the different strokes she could do to get to the finish. She pointed out the closest kayak which was there for safety and she encouraged the girl to just go do it! Number 858 turned around and began swimming freestyle. Of course, everyone that heard this story was interested in whether she had completed the race or not and, sure enough, she completed the race that day (in pretty good time) and became an IRON GIRL!

              I am always amazed by the quality of people that I have met throughout my life and, in particular, the quality of people in my favorite sport of triathlon. Yes, it was a great accomplishment for number 858 to become an Iron Girl but I am so full of joy when I think of the compassion Laura had for this woman. When I think of an Iron Girl I think of someone that is more than a triathlete. I think of someone, like Laura and so many other female triathletes I know, who have a heart and a passion for this sport, their teammates, and other women competing against them. Yes, it's great to be able to stand at the finish line with a trophy in your hand, but just as important are times like this that make me so proud to be part of this community.

              Thank you, Laura, for reminding me what this sport is all about and thank you for helping one more girl reach her goals. You are truly the definition of an Iron Girl!

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              Wednesday, August 4, 2010

              Off-season Triathlon Training!

              Okay, I know it's not time for off-season training just yet but I've been inspired to write about it because I recently realized just how important it is.

              It was last fall when I began training with my amazing coach - Laurie Bickart - and she got to see me at my best...right at the end of marathon training! YIKES! At the time I thought I was doing pretty well training on my own. Besides, I had been training on my own since 2002 so why would having a coach be any different? Well, I quickly found out just how different it was...and it was great!

              After the marathon, I figured I was done for the triathlon season. I mean, the marathon wasn't even part of my tri plan so, in my mind, I was pretty much done before that. And, in Virginia just how many triathlons am I going to find in the middle of the winter? None. Nada! So, tri training was over.

              What happened next threw me for a loop. I signed up for a CompuTrainer class over the winter. At first it wasn't fun for me because I was slower than EVERYONE on the bike. So, I was eating everyone's "virtual dust" all winter long. I went home every day a little bummed about how slow I was but during the workouts I would push it as hard as I possibly could...JUST TO KEEP UP with these speedy folks! I never got fast enough to "pass" them during the workouts but what I didn't realize was that with every workout I was getting stronger and stronger. Of course, my strength didn't show up until I was able to go outside to ride and climb hills that once were extremely hard for me and go distances I had never gone before. My average pace for 20 miles went from about 16 mph to about 19 mph and it all happened because I trained throughout the winter. If I had decided my training was over until the spring I would have been starting all over again and my pace probably would have been closer to 15 mph.

              Running was my next big "ah ha" moment. I had always trained through the winter when I trained on my own but training with a coach was very different! Now, no matter what the temperature or weather, I was outside training and getting stronger moment by moment. I know all my improvement in running isn't just from off-season training but getting that extra "push" out the door was very beneficial. There were days it was so cold I could barely stand to be outside but my coach would always remind me that I was strong and this was just helping make me stronger. And, you know what? It did make me stronger. My previous 5k PR was 31:01 and this past July I ran a 5k in 29:08.

              My swimming improved over the winter as well. I was able to drop my 100 yd swim time from 2:05 - 2:10 to 1:45 - 1:50. I KNOW my swim time would have suffered at the beginning of race season had I not trained throughout the winter. I notice a difference in my time if I don't swim for a week or two. I lose the endurance and the ability to breathe correctly! LOL

              I don't say all of this to brag about my improvements because I surely have a long way to go but I mention this all to say how important I feel off-season training is. Ditch that name - it's "off-season RACING" I'm not racing during the winter but I sure am training. And, I feel by continuing on this path of training (when some athletes decide it's time to rest) puts me at a much bigger advantage for my next racing season!

              This winter my focus is going to be about getting stronger. My coach leads some Crossfit/strength training classes and I need to push myself to be at every one of them. When I was routinely going to these classes I noticed a really good change happening to my body but, because my schedule has been conflicting with the classes recently I've had to miss many of them and my body sure does show it! So, Crossfit classes, Computrainer classes, swimming 2x/week like I have been, and running in the freezing cold weather will be on my agenda for this coming winter. And I'm hoping the improvements I make this year will be just as big as the ones I made last year because now I am "gently" being "guided" to never register in the Athena division again so Age Group here I come!!!

              Monday, July 19, 2010

              Allen Stone Memorial Aquathlon (Run/Swim/Run)

              Race: Allen Stone Memorial Aquathlon
              Date: Saturday, July 17, 2010
              Location: Virginia Beach, VA
              Race Type: Aquathlon (Run/Swim/Run)
              Division: Athena
              Time: 1:04:47 (4th place)

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              Race Report:

              Race morning
              I was pleasantly surprised when I woke up to a beautiful sunny morning with no rain! 

              The weather forecast was all about rain and I had dealt with rain at this race last year and didn't really want to do it again. I took a casual one-mile walk along the beach to the race venue from my timeshare while I dipped my toes in the water. It was so much better than the 65 degree ocean temps from last year. Yes, the race was also in July and also in VA Beach.

              Once I made it to the race venue and set up my transition area I was off to get my whole body into the water. I guess I should have remembered that my gel was in my tri suit pocket before I got in the water! Oh well, it was going to be a short race. I'd be able to survive without the gel. Besides, I had a good breakfast and that should sustain me, right?

              For such a small race this is a very well organized race. The pre-race events included the Navy parachute team called "Leap Frogs" parachuting down with the US Flag as the National Anthem was sung. It was a very moving experience and one I missed out on last year due to the weather. After that a C130 airplane flew at a very low altitude right over the ocean and then banked to the right to head out. So totally cool and a very patriotic way to begin a race dedicated to the life of a US Navy Seal.

              Run: 1K: Approx 5 minutes
              There is so much discussion these days about barefoot running and I'm totally on the "I need to wear shoes" side of the conversation. So, as I ran the first 1K on the beach...without shoes...I just had to laugh a little. I knew some of my friends would be proud!

              I probably could have pushed the pace a little more on the first run but, quite honestly, I was a little scared about the swim after my somewhat failed attempt last year. So, I just used this run as more of a warm up.  

              Swim: 1K: Approx 25 min
              I was very happy with my swim this year. I started out heading right toward the buoy (see pic - I'm the one in the yellow cap and black tri suit with the flower on the back just to the right of the buoy and just getting over the wave)

              My goal this year was to try and keep the straightest line possible to the finish and I felt I did a pretty good job doing so. I noticed a lot of people were to my right throughout the entire race and I kept getting a little nervous thinking maybe I wasn't in the best line possible. But, every time I sighted the finish line I felt comfortable with my position so I kept on swimming my own line.

              When I got near the finish I was really pleased with my swim and even more pleased when I looked at my watch to see I had beat last years time by over 30 minutes!

              Transition: Too slow
              I'm not sure my transition time but I do know it was too slow for what I had to do. I'm typically pretty speedy in transition but I was feeling a little light headed coming out of the water so I took it easy. This isn't the first time I've come out of the water feeling light headed so I need to investigate that a little more.

              Run: 5K : Approx 32 minutes

              I wasn't super thrilled with my time on this run because I know I can run a faster 5K than this but because of the light-headed feeling coming out of the water I didn't push myself too hard. I allowed myself to walk at the two water stations and when I got to the finish line I knew I still had some left that I could have pushed a little harder.

              As I mentioned before, this race is pretty well organized for such a small race. It was nice they had a rock-climbing wall, playground area, and, of course, the beach for the family to remain entertained during the race. During the results ceremony they had a chin-up competition where they gave out prizes to anyone who could do 15 chin ups. If I do this race again next year I'm going to have to work extra hard during my Crossfit workouts so I can get a prize next year! There was only one woman that even attempted it! I could have done ONE! Haha!

              Summary and Lessons Learned:
              • This is a pretty fast course with lots of fast racers there. The overall male finished in 39:12 and the overall female in 45:22. So, if I ever do this race again I need to remember that and remember to just KEEP MOVING. It's a RACE and I need to RACE it, not just get in a workout! 
              • Take the gel out of my pocket before getting into the ocean! Duh.

              Time for another challenge

              Challenges are always good for me. It always motivates me to motivate others. I'm currently motivating a friend to begin the "Couch to 5K" program for running and I enjoy it so much. Now I've thrown down a challenge to three friends: Leslie, Cherie & Becky to join me on my Paleo/Zone challenge.

              The first 30 days I did this challenge were very successful. Not only did I drop a few dress sizes but I had more energy and was able to push my training harder and farther than I ever had before. I love that feeling.

              So, I started the day out with my pre-workout snack: 1/2 Greek Yogurt (not really on the Paleo diet but I'm allowing it due to my training) and 3 cashews. My workout felt really bogged down but that just reminds me that my eating habits yesterday (not Paleo OR Zone) really are destroying all the hard work I'm doing in my training. When I got home from the pool I ate my breakfast: 2 eggs w/1/2 tsp olive oil too cook, 8 cashews, 1/2 cup blueberries, 12 grapes and the rest of my Greek yogurt.

              WATER: Gotta have the water. I'm so bad about drinking water but it really helps a body in so many ways. I don't necessarily agree with everything on this website but I found an article about water that I think is beneficial for us all to read:

              Here's to another wonderful 30 days!

              Monday, June 14, 2010

              My first Ironman 70.3

              Race: Ironman 70.3 Eagleman
              Date: Sunday, June 14, 2010
              Location: Cambridge, MD
              Race Type: Triathlon - Half Ironman Distance
              Division: Athena
              Time: 7:31:18

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              Race Report:

              Race morning

              My race morning began with a 4:15 AM wakeup call. I grabbed a small cup of coffee (6 oz) and drank my breakfast smoothie with milk, protein powder, blueberries & banana. I wasn't sure if this would get me through the day but it actually did. I drank a small bottle of Heed to make sure I got some electrolytes in my system before the race and I believe that helped as well. Of course, two days of drinking electrolytes and water prior to race day was key, too.

              Before leaving the hotel I lathered myself in SPF 50 sunscreen because I knew it was going to be a hot day. Little did I know the heat index was going to rise to 101 today! 

              After arriving at the race venue I allowed myself some time just to soak in the atmosphere. This was going to be a great day and I wanted to be sure to remember even the smallest details of what was happening around me. Here is a picture I took prior to the race start. The river is the Choptank River in Cambridge, MD and it was where we did the swim portion of the race. Just absolutely gorgeous!

              Port-a-potty lines were crazy. I thought it was cute they had "portajane" potties - "Port a Jane - because John Can't Aim" was their motto! Too funny!

              Anyway, as I was waiting in line for the bathroom, my friend said "Hey, is that Michael Phelps mom?" I turned around to look and the lady sure did look like her. Finally I got up the nerve to go ask and, sure enough - it was her and Michael's aunt! Crazy who you meet in a port-a-potty line! She was just the sweetest lady! I was really glad I went to say "hi" to her. Anyway, they were there to cheer on Michael's sister Hilary who was racing. I'm told she is a pretty amazing triathlete and she actually started in the same swim wave as me since the Athena's started with the 30-34 year olds.

              Swim (1.2 miles...well...1.5 miles from what I'm hearing): 1:01:16

              Now, some people got their first "freak out" moment of the day when we were told this race was officially wetsuit ILLEGAL! WHAT? Just yesterday the water temps were 74-76 degrees and now it's 79 degrees and 78 degrees makes it illegal. Hey, fine by me! I mean, a wetsuit makes me buoyant and may help me shave off a second or two from my time but to not have the neck of the suit choking me throughout the entire swim was a GREAT relief! I was also thankful that Sea Nettles (similar to jellyfish) were not an issue this year either because that would have been another reason to wear a suit. 

              As is typical with any open water swim (OWS) you're going to get punched, kicked, swam on top of, etc. This is one of my all-time favorite videos describing what triathletes experience in a race setting. 

              This race was a little worse than others I had been in and I think I was to blame for most of it! Obviously at the start people are all over each other but because my swimming had improved over the winter I wasn't swimming out there all by myself anymore but was surrounded by people! During the first turn around I felt myself swimming on top of someone only to look up and realize it was my friend Jennifer! YIKES! Sorry girl! However, toward the end of the swim this one girl and I were stroke for stroke to the end and with each stroke we took we were right on top of each other - either she was on top of me or I was on top of her. Finally I just let her get a stroke ahead of me because it was annoying the crud out of me!

              I felt pretty good about my swim. I was comfortable with my stroke and I sited the buoy's much better this time than previous OWS but there were still a few times I got off course by just a tad and had to make minor corrections. I freaked out a little when I got out of the water and saw my time, though. I was expecting to finish the swim around 45 minutes and seeing over 1 hour was a little shocking. What I came to find out later is the swim was longer for everyone - apparently by about 0.3 miles. Adding the 0.3 miles to the little corrections I had to make from my personal length adjustments made sense that I would have finished around an hour.

              T1: 2:14
              I felt GREAT physically when I came out of the water. Nothing like my Rumpass in Bumpass experience of nearly passing out. I ran out of the water, ran to my bike, sat down and put on my cycling shoes, sprayed more sunscreen on me, put on my gear, drank a sip of electrolytes and I was on my way.

              Bike (56 mi): 3:13:00 @ 17.4 mph

              As I was heading out on my bike I saw that a van had just run into a PARKED car (probably an athlete's car) and torn the bumper off of it! I hope that athlete had a good race, otherwise this day may have just turned very horrible for someone from Massachusetts! 

              I felt great getting on the bike. The first 20 miles I did in one hour. I was like YEAH!!! I'm going to finish the bike in record time...then the winds came! It wasn't as bad as I heard it COULD be but with this super flat pancake course I needed something for a change of pace. Just about the only thing that slowed me down were the winds, slowing to pick up water bottles, slowing to eat my food, and slowing because I got stuck behind someone and the speedsters were flying by me on the left and I just couldn't get over and around people at times. 

              I was so thankful for practicing nutrition during my training. Every half hour I switched between having either a gel or 1/4 peanut butter and honey sandwich. I wasn't sure how I'd hold up with the sandwich on a hot day and, I really would have liked to have packed another gel on the bike instead of eating that last 1/4 sandwich but, it did what it was supposed to do for me and I was pleasantly surprised how I felt (nutritionally) coming off the bike.

              There were several times on last part of the bike where I "shook out" my legs. Once or twice I even unclipped so I could really stretch them out and prepare for the run. My quads were really hurting and trying to stand and pedal was nearly out of the question. 

              The scenery on the bike was gorgeous. I'm going to have to take my camera back there someday soon and shoot pictures there. We rode through a nature preserve and some of the scenes were just too beautiful to have not photographed.

              T2: 3:42
              I can't believe I was so slow in T2. That is usually my faster transition! I did put on socks for this race but that should have only taken me a few seconds more! Oh well, I sprayed myself down with sunscreen for a third time, did what I was supposed to do and headed out for the run. OH....the run....

              Run (13.1 miles): 3:11:06

              I'm so glad I have practiced a lot of bricks (bike workout immediately followed by a run workout) during my training because it really helped on this day. Getting off the bike my legs were screaming at me! I continued on because I knew that pain would subside eventually...and it did. In the past, it's taken me about 3 miles for my legs to recover from the bike but I'd say it only took me about 1-2 miles this time. 

              More than the pain in my legs, the heat and air quality was killing me! I had taken my cell phone and clipped it to my fuel belt for the run just in case I felt like calling my friends who were waiting for me at the finish line to give them an approximate finish time. But, I was right on course with where I wanted to be so far. However, 1/2 mile into the run I was ready to stop! I called Christina (my training partner) who was waiting at the finish line but she didn't answer her phone. It was a good thing she didn't. I was ready to ditch it all and was going to tell her so. But, not being able to reach her made me reach down inside myself - what I had left - and go to that place I had known before. I began praying. I knew this was the only way I would get to the finish line. I had promised myself before the race that I wouldn't stop in the run. Henry (Christina's husband) had told me that pain comes and goes in waves so I tried to remember that. But, unfortunately it wasn't the pain that was bothering me (although my legs were still screaming from the bike for sure) - it was the air quality and heat and I knew I needed to be smart on this day and not push myself through these conditions.

              The first water stop couldn't have come any faster! I drank water, ate ice, and had a bite of a chocolate chip cookie and a bite of a saltine cracker. Yeah, food isn't a great idea for me on the run portion! I put some ice up in my hat to keep me cool and kept running. After the first water stop I started catching on to what I needed to do pretty quickly so at all the following water stops I grabbed a cup of ice for my hat, a cup of ice to chew on between water stops, a cup of ice water to drink, and a cup of iced Pepsi to drink. I felt AMAZING after drinking the Pepsi! It has been so long since I had drank a full-blown calorie-laden, high fructose corn syrup-laden soda that the sugar felt like it immediately went into my bloodstream and "perked me up!" The soda really made me feel great but the carbonation was kinda upsetting my stomach. Thankfully I didn't get sick on the run course...although I seriously thought I would. 

              The run was pretty horrible for me but I plodded along doing the Ironman shuffle to reach the finish line about 1/2 hour over my goal time of "under 7 hours."

              Post Race:

              It felt AMAZING!!!! I just completed a 70.3 (um...70.6) mile race! Are you kidding me??? Best part was that I actually came in 2nd place in the Master Athena division and my new friend, Jennifer came in 3rd place! Whoo hoo! Thank you Jesus!!!

              Jennifer & I with the race director getting our awards

              My 2nd place trophy!

              Summary and lessons learned

              Practice more OWS so I don't get off course in the swim as much.
              Practice more in the heat of the day to prepare for days like this!
              Continue playing around with nutrition. I think my nutrition worked out really well on this race but I want to have more options the next time.
              Find sunscreen that WORKS! Even after three "during race" applications and one post-race application my shoulders are almost to the point of blistering!

              Special Thanks (aka my Victory Speech that I didn't prepare with my list of items for race day! LOL)

              Fist of all, I thank God for allowing me to get my body in the physical shape it needed to be in to complete this race, for giving me the opportunity to share my experience with so many people and for allowing me to actually  do well in the race.

              I thank my family for putting up with all the long training hours I had to go through and the time I had to spend away from them while doing so. Thanks for sticking in there and encouraging me to reach my goals.

              I want to thank my AMAZING coach, Laurie for pushing me through the winter, for helping me do the hard things when I really didn't want to, for encouraging me, for laughing and crying with me through the past 6-8 months. Thank you for helping me find the right nutrition for my body and helping me get some of this extra weight off - can't wait to continue that...after I have a few days of eating everything in sight! I can't tell you what a key role you played in getting me where I am. 

              To my fabulous training partners at Amaiza Fitness - you girls have encouraged me, supported me and loved on me through a long winter and you have been some of my best cheerleaders ever! Special thanks to Kristen for the awesome note the night before my race and to Christina for being there at the race cheering for me, encouraging me and taking pictures!!!

              Thanks to my compu-trainer friends for leaving me in your virtual dust all winter long. It helped me to get so much stronger on the bike which has been my biggest improvement throughout my training. Thank you Jeff, Sarah, Kirsten & Lori!

              To Molly - my amazing roommate and photography bud! Thank you for allowing me to stay with you in a stress-free environment this weekend. You were amazing - I couldn't have done as well in the race without you! Now, let's move on to our next goal...CPP Certification!!!

              To my virtual friend (up until this weekend) Jennifer who has unknowingly pushed me to go faster and longer just so I could have a podium finish with you! You're awesome! Thank you for letting me have such a relaxing dinner with you guys the night before the race!

              A big thank you to Jan for coming out to the race and for bringing me my post-race milk...and it was still cold! I will forever be grateful for that!

              Thanks to Jen at ATP Endurance Systems for the awesome bike fit!

              Thank you to all my friends and family who have said words of encouragement to me over the past several months as I've trained for this race. Each and every word was heard and taken to heart.