Good morning and Happy Monday! I hope you had a great weekend! I have a very special guest post to share with you! Last Monday I gave you my side of my oldest sister’s amazing accomplishment: finishing the Ironman. Over the week, I asked her to write something that I could share with you. Her training was certainly not easy, but her determination kept her going. I am excited for you to hear her side of the story, today as she tells us about her training, the ups, downs, and challenges! You can also check out her full race report here!
So without further ado, I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did!
I’m honored to write a guest post for NutButterRunner – my sister. Without the support of her and my family I could not have made it through training and Ironman.
I still can’t believe it’s true – I am an Ironman.
It doesn’t feel real. For 365 days I was focused on one day – November 2, 2013. The day I would attempt to complete my first Ironman – the day that all of my training, every early morning, early evening and missed event was for.
Why did I sign-up? Good question. I had been doing marathons for a number of years and got into triathlons in 2010. My first was with Team in Training in Panama City Beach, Florida – a half Ironman. Over the course of the past few years I have grown to love triathlons, and as such, many more of my friends are triathletes. I had never wanted to do an Ironman – that was crazy, insane – but after watching friend after friend complete theirs I couldn’t help but get swept up in the excitement. I wanted this, I wanted to push beyond where I was comfortable, focus in on the ‘big day’ and know that I could achieve anything with dedication and time. Oh and the team I train with – Team Z – was doing Ironman Florida, right back where I started the journey in Panama City Beach, Florida. It was meant to be.
Panama City 2010
If you have ever signed up for a popular road race you have some idea of what signing up for Ironman is like. On November 2, 2012 I sat in front of my computer logged in, USAT number ready, credit card ready – just waiting for registration to open. In true form I was at the Sky Lounge in an airport because I happened to be traveling that day. Then just like that I was in….and a feeling of OMG what did I just do came over me. Luckily I had a year to get ready - 365 days….plenty of time.
Over the winter when it was cold and I wanted to stay indoors, I got out and rode. When I wanted to stay under the covers, I laced up my shoes and ran. When I wanted a few more minutes of sleep, I made it to the pool…..okay well that’s not quite true. The truth is I love running, I’ve come to love biking and I could just never really enjoy swimming. Good thing it’s the shortest part of triathlon.
Nursing bursitis in my hip, I was taking it easier on the running so I just upped the biking. I had a few friends training for Ironman Lake Placid and I loved riding with them so I did. We rode 50 miles, 60 then 70 and suddenly I found myself on a 95 mile ride with them….and I was loving it! There was no pressure to really focus on training so this was all fun for me – working on speed, form and trying to hone in on the right saddle. After all I had
a year 6 months to train.
Suddenly, just like that it was July and when my friends training for Ironman Lake Placid had to go for a 50 mile ride I had to do 80 miles. It was real, it was here. I could no longer hide from the fact that my training had really begun. And now I was going to have to start making it to swim practices.
It is a well-known fact that I hate swimming…I just don’t enjoy it, the early mornings, the chlorine, the monotony of laps. But there was no way I was going to look back the day of Ironman and wonder “what if I had just made it to more swim practices.”
And so it all began in August…..
Ugh. Have you been in D.C. in August? Hot, humid, miserable is all I can say. But I was blessed to have two good friends training for marathons around the same time as my Ironman and that meant running buddies. Every weekend we would awake to be out on the path before 5 am, trying to get as much of a run in as possible before it was too hot. I had always planned a walk/run for Ironman, but my friends were running their races so many times I just ran these long weekend runs. But there were a few weekends where it was just too hot, so they walk/ran with me instead.
It was brutal, I was questioning my abilities to make it through the race – I was barely surviving a 13 mile run. In the summer, it is hard to realize how much heat and humidity affect your abilities. I was so down on myself, feeling as if I had lost all of the speed I gained the year before. But I had to remember it was nearly 90 – 95 degrees out and that you really do lose 1 – 2 minutes per mile with that heat. In the moment it is hard to realize and believe this though – honestly without Melissa and Anna I would not have made it through these August runs.
August also brought about Team Z’s Florida prep training weekend in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Nothing like practicing for a flat and windy course on a flat and windy course. It was a great weekend with friends and new achievements. This was the first time I rode 100 miles, and it was amazing to do alongside friends who were also completing Ironman Florida. Again, I can’t say how much having others around helped me enjoy every moment of the training. There are those dark moments when you just want to quit, but having others cheering you and right there with you can help pull you through. Since we rode on Saturday, Sunday was to be our 18 mile run. The friends I was staying with also wanted to get up early (before the sun) and then get on the road home. So we headed out, and this time I had a walk/run buddy as well. Lara and I were close to the same pace and I had been talking about my plan. She mentioned she was planning the same – so then why were we both just running? Sometimes it is so easy to get lost in the moment and forget what you are planning to do. We walk/ran together, making it through what was the longest training weekend I had ever under took.
OMG. OMG. OMG. September was going to be epic. Looking ahead we had three build cycles all 100+ mile bikes with 18+ mile runs. Having trained for marathons I was used to shifting things around in my life to get in a long run. But this was different. How do you shift a 5+ hour ride and a 3+ hour run on a weekend? Well, for one you luck out and have a friend willing to run 18 miles with you before work (THANK YOU ANNA!) so that you can travel that Sunday. But the other is to have friends and family who understand it is temporary and you have to focus.
Balancing work with training was becoming harder and harder. My weekends were gone, with no time to clean, cook or grocery shop. My weekdays were exhausting. Every morning I was up by 5 am to run or swim, then work 10+ hours, and then twice a week bike. I’m blessed to have a flexible job and took a few Fridays to work from home so I could do laundry between calls or run to the store at 8 am and most importantly spend a day not getting out of yoga pants. I’m not going to lie, it was a lot. There were moments where I called my mom in tears – not sure how I was going to get everything done that lay ahead of me. I couldn’t do a bit of work on the weekend because Saturday was 3 or 4 hours of running, then cleaning, laundry, the grocery store and to bed early so Sunday could be 5 – 6 hours of biking. There were many weekends I left my house at 5 am only to return at 5 pm. I am not sure how people with families train for an Ironman…they are amazing.
This was also the month in which a good friend lent me his ZIPP wheels – YAY! For reference the wheels cost as much as my bike, but were going to be amazing in helping me go faster on the bike – every bit helps. Of course I thought I had packed an extra tube that worked with them when I went out for our 110 mile ride. Guess what – it was the wrong tube. How do I know? Well about 40 miles in I got a flat and when to change the tube. The value didn’t reach through the tire. Talk about feeling deflated. I was going to have to call it quits at 40 miles, the wrong tube, I should have checked before I left. As I was kicking myself, I realized I had a patch kit with me – essentially a band-aid for the tube. Now to find that tiny little whole…. As I fixed my flat I watched all of my teammates pass by, feeling like I was taking FOR-EV-ER. Finally I was done, thank goodness for Mark and Meghan who stayed with me – I think I would have felt defeated otherwise. Once we were off, we picked back up speed and suddenly I was passing people back. I will say as much as it sucked, it was good to know that even if I got a flat in the race, I could still ‘make up time’ and get it done.
The last weekend in September was our EPIC weekend – a 20 mile run on Saturday and a 120 mile ride on Sunday. This was the last big weekend before taper. And it was EPIC. Of course things were also crazy busy with work – not helping me focus on what was in store for the weekend. I was stressed to the T and just trying to keep it all together. I was late to the run on Saturday, having worked late on Friday and hit snooze one too many times. But I got out and walk/ran the 20 miles, passing a few friends along the way. Again, this was a bit of a confidence boost – to know I had been late and still managed to finish with people. The bike was tougher. The 120 miles is actually 127 miles, and yes those 7 miles make a HUGE impact. My goal for the ride was to keep things controlled as I had a tendency to push the bike too hard and too fast. It was a fun ride with friends, and amazing to have other teammates out there cheering. At mile 90 there were teammates with boiled potatoes and salt. OMG this was food of the gods. This was definitely going in my special needs bag (bag at the halfway point of the bike in the race).
Wow, I did it. I made it through September in one piece.
So, I wasn’t the smartest person for October. I somehow planned nearly every weekend away. Not smart. The pressure with work, things around the house and travel was a lot and this was probably the toughest month for me mentally. I did love every trip, it was just a lot to look to at the beginning of the month. AND just when I got to the other side of biking and running, 90 minute swims started. But I was determined to make them all and I did – well okay all but one. I wanted to be sure I was going into the race with no regrets, no wishes to have just tried a bit more.
The first weekend in October was spent running the Minneapolis 10 miler with my dad. Last year we had run this right before he found out he needed heart surgery. It was going to be our come back race. While there are races I love running for me, more and more, I love running with others. It was beautiful day and a great race.
The third weekend I was in New Orleans for a friend’s bachelorette party. I had to run 12 miles and ride 50 that weekend. Since I had missed the 80 mile ride two weeks before as I was in Minnesota, I couldn’t miss this one. While I had planned to run Friday morning before I left, life got in the way. I was up late the night before and feeling run down, so I decided sleep was more important. This meant I was going to have to run Saturday. Well Saturday in New Orleans it was down pouring. Buckets of rain. But you know what, I got out and did my mileage anyways. I had to, and truthfully it was a great way to see more of the city. We went out Saturday night, I was hoping just to stay up straight through to when I had to catch my flight. See the only thing left by the time I booked was a 6 am flight Sunday morning – OUCH! I ended up getting about 2 hours of sleep before heading home. I slept a bit more on the plane and then was planning to sleep more and maybe do a 30 mile ride. Maybe I could have skipped it, but I had just gotten my bike tuned and needed to test it out before I gave it to a friend to take to Florida and that was in 3 days! My goal that day was slow and steady – after all I had just been out in New Orleans not 6 hours earlier. I managed to do 50 miles around Haines Point – which is a local 3 mile loop many bikers use. Yes, that is something like 20+ loops, but you know what I felt good and it all seemed to be worth it.
On Wednesday I gave my bike to a friend to take to Florida and then on Thursday I headed to Hilton Head, South Carolina to be with my family. It was exactly what I needed to relax. We ran a bit, walked a bit, and rode beach cruisers around town. I was relaxed heading into the race.
Back in town for a day to pack and then Wednesday I was off to Florida. I had made it through training in one piece (trust me that is harder than it seems). I had not caught the flu that was going around. I was ready.
The days leading into the race I was a nervous wreck. What had I signed up for, what was I thinking, could I actually do this? The race itself was unbelievable (race report here).
In the end I did what I set out to accomplish. I had fun. I had fun training with friends, amazing experiences and memories along the way. I had fun in the race, enjoying the crowds, fellow triathletes and each moment of the day. Would I do it again? Probably not, but then again I never thought I would do it in the first place.