Monday, July 21, 2014

Racine 70.3 Race Recap

As I sit here writing this this morning, I am still completely in shock over what I accomplished yesterday, so therefore I need to apologize in advance for the length of this post, but it really couldn't be helped...  Yesterday was my 70.3 triathlon race in Racine, WI.  It has been quite the journey to get to race day.  My 1/2 Ironman journey started 4 years ago when I decided I wanted to race Muncie, IN, I trained my butt off, to get injured a week before the race and have the Dr. tell me that while my foot wasn't broken it probably wasn't a good idea for me to race.  Talk about an incredible disappointment!  Then the next year, I planned on doing either Racine or Muncie and started actively training to eventually come down with a Mono type virus that knocked me completely out of training.  I was sleeping almost 20 hours out of the 24 in the day - which made it impossible to train.  To learn more about my training and how I got to my race on Sunday, you can read my previous post: 3rd Times the Charm - Right?

     If any of you have ever done a race, you know that race day approaches with a mixture of anxiety and excitement, this race was no exception!  All week long I went through various stages of emotions, leading up to the big day.  Race morning arrived and I was up at 3:30, ready to leave my house by 4am.  Thankfully I caught a few extra Zs as my Dad drove us up to the race.  Upon arrival, the first thing I had to do was get my body markings and finish setting up transition.  That was all quickly done so I met back up with my family to wait until the swim start!
         Anybody who knows me, knows that I am a little crazy when it comes to OWS because I never use a wetsuit.  Even my sister was trying to convince me last week to use one since the water temp last weekend was a balmy 54 degrees.  But, I am a firm believer in not changing anything the day or week of the race, so the wetsuit was a no go!  When they called my wave to start lining up, I quickly noticed that there was only one other girl who also wasn't going to be wearing a wetsuit, we quickly became fast friends, since we were both clearly crazy!  Luckily for us the water temp had risen from the 54 degrees the previous weekend to 61.4 degrees.  The air horn went off and we were on our way.  I definitely remember at one point thinking, HOLY CRAP - I am finally doing this race!!  Let me say... that water was COLD - but only for the first 5 minutes or so, then I got into a rhythmn and didn't even notice the temp.  I am very thankful for water suport crew, because I apparently can not swim straight to save my life!  According to my Garmin, my 1.2 mile swim turned into a 1.75 - no joke, atleast 5 kayakers told me that I needed to swim more to the left and back into the fray of swimmers... At one point I popped my head up and looked around and suddenly realized I was almost done and said, Hell Yeah! almost done, to which a kayaker laughed and said, yes, yes you are, way to go!  Finally got out of the swim, and quickly realized that my feet were numb - running into transition was the most awkward feeling I have ever experienced!  Next up the Bike!

           For me, the bike is the scariest part because of the fact that so many things can go wrong.  So mentally I told myself if I could just make it to the run, then I was finishing!  Well, I think God has a funny sense of humor.  I'm cruising along and was at a particularly bumpy part of the course (around mile 12) when I knew suddenly something was very wrong.  I looked down and sure enough my back tire was completely flat! SHIT!  Thankfully I was at a stretch that was still fairly populated and was able to pull off the course and get up onto the sidewalk and work on changing my tire.  I started laughing, kind of an ironic laugh, at the fact that it had taken me 4 years to be able to get to the starting line and here I finally make it to potentially have to pull out at mile 12 on the bike.  Seriously?!  So I start working on getting my tire off... but I hadn't changed or fixed a tire in 3 years, so the going was very slow.  I had no idea if I had a hole or what the situation was.  All these people kept zipping past, a few shouted out asking if I was alright.  One guy looked at me and said, WOW, that sucks!  To which I responded, Yes, Yes it does!  I pulled out my CO2 cartridge and  used it to partially fill up my tire so that I could find the hole, because I am apparently old school and patch tires rather than pulling out a new tube (which I didn't have anyway).  I finally fixed the hole and got the tire all back together, now just to get it back on my bike... When suddenly out of nowhere a guy comes by on a bike and asked if I would like some help.  I immediately responded yes!  Which, for all I know is illegal in Ironman races.  So he quickly got my tire back on my bike.  He lived near by and was just out for a casual ride and thought he would check out the race when he saw me.  He told me that I was old school for patching the tire and then gave me his spare tube because as he put it, "Girl, you have got to finish and you have a long way to go!"  So with many many thank yous, I accepted.  Thankfully I did not need it.  He pounded it with me, hopped back on his bike and shouted back, NO MORE FLATS! YOU GOT THIS GIRL!  So I was back on the bike, a little cautious about my tire, but it was time to make up for lost time, 30 minutes wasted on trying to fix my flat, was not a good thing!  As I was riding the thing that kept going through my head was, OMG, I HAVE to have my Dad for teaching me how to change a flat tire! I would have been totally lost otherwise!  My family was starting to worry because my typical bike pace is around 18mph give or take they finally got my 30mile update and I was averaging a 13 - stupid flat!  So I was cruising along when I spotted my brother in laws parents about 10 miles out from the bike finish.  I was really excited to see someone I knew and quickly shouted a HEEEEYYYYY as I rode past.  As I came into the last mile or two stretch I saw my Dad and quickly shouted HEY DAD! Too which he was very surprised and wasn't expecting to see me yet.  Finally down and into transition! I had survived the bike, now just a 1/2 marathon left!

      The run was a 2 loop out and back course.  I quickly waved to my family, told my sister I was glad Dad taught me how to change a flat and I was off.  But man, my legs felt like jello.  About a 1/4 of a mile in my quads, right above my knees started cramping so bad!  But I took it in stride and was hoping it was just my transitioning legs from the bike to the run.  Unfortunately that was not the case.  My legs went through a series of crazy cramping where I would stop and literally punch them to being totally fine, just tired and off I would run.  Two things on the run that probably saved me were the pretzles and cola they were serving at the aid stations.  The pretzles because I really needed the salt and the cola because of the sugar and caffeine.  I have truly never had a soda that tasted so good!  Finally the first loop was done and I was rounding the corner to start my second when I saw my sister and decided to stop and chat with her for a second, to only have my legs cramp up like crazy! One of my siblings took a picture in which you can see my muscle cramping - ridiculous!  The second loop was really slow, but I met a really nice girl named Darcy and we stuck together for the last 3 miles pushing each other, telling stories and essentially just helping each other with those last three miles.  Suddenly the finish line was in sight and I was overcome with this crazy sense of accomplishment!  My entire family, was just beyond the finish line and their cheers brought me in as my name was announced over the speaker system.  I DID IT!!! Click the following link to see me actually cross the finish line!  My finish Video!

  70.3 miles - filled with memories, I will never forget!  Thank you to everyone who helped me get to yesterday's race, I couldn't have done it without you all!  Weirdly enough today, I am only very minorly sore! Maybe I should go to the gym and get a workout in??

Friday, July 4, 2014

Land of the Free BECAUSE of the Brave

     I've always considered myself a pretty patriotic American. I love apple pie, hot dogs, baseball, crazy 4th of july celebrations, labor day, memorial day, etc.  But in the last few years my patriotism has changed.  I think I had a very superficial outlook on these American holidays - I was patriotic because everyone was, of course you wear red, white and blue but I don't think I appreciated these holidays for what they really represent.  All of that changed a few years ago when my brother decided to become a Marine.  His decision was met with very mixed feelings from everyone who knew him, pride at his bravery and fear that if he ever got deployed he might not make it back. 

     Three months away at bootcamp with next to no communication besides an occasional hand written letter was incredibly hard on my tight knit family of 11. (Yes, it is possible to be a really close family with that many people.)  When he graduated from bootcamp, my family made the trip out to San Diego to support him and experience what it meant to suddenly be a military family.  I remember being struck by the magnitude of  the decision that all of these young men made to serve our wonderful country.  That weekend was filled with many tears, some at finally being able to see my brother, some from laughing so hard at some of his bootcamp stories but most importantly some at finally realizing what it truly means to be an American and the sacrifice that some men and women are called to give.
     Now fast forward 3 years to today, when we celebrate the 4th of July and our Independence and I can't help but think of the history of this great Nation and the sacrifices that have brought us to where we are today.  While I don't agree with every decision our government makes, or have the same views as everyone else, I can't help but feel patriotic and like one unified nation even if it's just for one day.  But more importantly I think of the men and women who have fought for our freedom and independence from the very beginning, they have valiantly given so much of themselves.  Some have given their lives, others have given up holidays and events with their families, their absence is always felt.  So I encourage all of you to take a moment today while you are enjoying your BBQs, day at the lake or just hanging with family and friends to really think about what this day means, take a moment to thank servicemen and women for what they do and what they have done.  I thank God daily for the fact that we live in an amazing country and I pray daily for the men and women who continue to serve our country to make it the free nation that it is today. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Early Summer Races

     Summer is and always will be my favorite season - unless I move out of the Chicago area and migrate to a warmer climate.  I love summer for many reasons, the warm weather, the BBQ's, hanging out at the lake, ice cream, fireflies, fireworks, etc. but my #1 reason for loving the summer is for summer races.  Yes, I know that makes me a runner/triathlete nerd but it's true.  So far this summer I've participated in 2 races, with a few more coming up!
Race #1: Mudderella
      The first race was the Mudderella with my two sisters.   This race was seriously the most fun I have ever had running a 10k.  The mudderella is a 6.1 mile race, with approximately 13 obstacles of MUD!  There was mud everyone, teamwork, incredible bonding and joking around with the various participants and lots and lots of laughs!  I have never been covered in so much mud in my life and I now understand why they say Mud is a great exfoliant - I had such soft skin for days afterwards!  Thankfully my brother in law came to spectate this insanity and we got some great pictures and video, which still make us laugh as we trudged through the mud.
After - Woohoo!!
Race #2: Esprit de She Triathlon

Before - Getting ready for the swim with our goofy swim caps!
     The second race I participated in just a week after the mudderella and while it wasn't filled with any mud or nearly as many laughs, it was still an excellent race!  My sister also participated in this race with me.  I originally thought that we would be in the same age wave and get to kill the course together but since she is older :) and our age group was so big they split us up.  Which meant we were each on our own to dominate the course.  This race was my very first triathlon a few years ago and so I love to do it now every year to see if I can get faster, etc.  It was just a sprint distance and since I've been training for my 1/2 IM, it should have been a good race.  I think knowing that my sister was out there somewhere on the course helped push me to go faster and faster. The swim was a little rough, just because of the number of people, it was hard to find my perfect rhythmn, but once I did, I just kept on swimming.  The bike was kind of windy but a beautiful day, I tried to push my speed a little which was a little tricky since they switched the course around from previous years.  The first mile of the run is always the worst after coming off the bike, but my legs quickly responded and I realized that I had more to give.  I'm sure my 3rd mile was the fastest, partly because my legs felt so good and partly because I was buoyed on by the crowds that gather for that last mile, to cheer all the women in to the finish line.  I ended the day with a PR and I took 18th place out of my age group of 140 - which I am pretty dang proud of!  My sister killed this race too - her 3rd triathlon and her 1st one not being pregnant!
After - We don't look too exhausted!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

3rd Times a Charm - Right??

   A few years ago I participated in my first triathlon and from that great experience my love for triathlons was born.  Like most athletes, I have always been driven to see how far I could push myself, what new challenges I could overcome, etc.  So far, I have completed 4 marathons, a handful of 1/2 marathons, and multiple triathlons with the furthest distance being an Olympic race.  My goal was to complete a 1/2 Ironman and then maybe one day build and do the full Ironman.  For those of you that don't know, a 1/2 Ironman is 70.3 miles broken down into a 1.2 mile swim, followed by 56 miles on the bike and finished off by 13.1 miles of running. Typically this is point where I get a zillion comments like "you are crazy", "why would you ever want to do that?" with an occasional Good Luck thrown in there.

      The past two summers I have trained with the 1/2 IM in mind - with no luck.  The first year, I got injured a week out - A WEEK OUT! I hurt my foot and was having a hard time walking on it, I even went for X-Rays and the Dr. told me that nothing was broken but that I should definitely stay off of it and not race. NOOOOOOO!!! Those are seriously the worst words a triathlete can hear!  The next year I followed an intense training program and came down with a mono-like virus that had me sleeping about 20hrs a day with absolutely no energy to train.  This year, I decided to give it a go again, and while race day isn't here yet, I'm feeling better and stronger than ever!

       I've been following an 18 week program with an average of 2 workouts a day.  I've been watching what I've been eating and how my body reacts in my workouts.  But I've found, the most important thing this year in my training has been truly listening to my body.  If my body says, "Woah, Em - I need a day off!" I take a day off or even two in a row.  I really focus on a good recovery and I sleep a TON!  My family likes to tease me about it - a 2 hr nap doesn't stop me from sleeping at night.  If my body says, I need salt, sugar, protein - and yes you can really tell if your body needs those things - I don't hesitate to eat things to fill those needs.
An intense Hill workout before the storms came through - look at those clouds!
       Now as my race is only 18 days away - woah - I have been looking back on the progress I have made through my training.  And, man oh man, am I proud of myself!  I can now swim well over a mile without stopping, bike for hours and not be bored out of my mind and run and run and run.  I have no idea how race day is going to go, so many things can go incredibly wrong but so many things can go completely right.  Either way, I am proud of where I am at and what I have achieved so far! Bring on Racine!!!