Meet my newest training buddy.
He’s a baby, just 6 months, so he won’t be ready to run distance for a bit. But I’m pretty sure he’s gonna be a runner!
I don’t even have any pictures I’ve been so tired and busy, so you’ll just have to believe me.
The last 5 weeks have been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. By far. IMC was tough, I’d argue that finishing Boston was tougher, and then there are the private and personal struggles we all go through that are a different kind of challenge than anything physical.
I can easily say though, that the last 5 weeks of training, my build to peak, were the hardest thing I’ve ever done: 5 weeks of steady building (training mileage + hours) with a finale weekend of a 128 mile ride + hour-long run on Saturday, and a 20 mile run on Sunday. With a taperless 70.3 and a 3-day training camp in the middle, no less.
Ever single day for the last 5 weeks I’ve woken up more tired.
It can’t get harder than this, tomorrow you’ll feel better, I’d tell myself multiple times per day.
You just need to warm up, I’d tell myself to limit discouragement at the start of each workout.
You should be tired, as I got sleepy earlier and earlier each night.
I watched my Garmin and fought to keep pace, and watched my heart rate drop drop drop. By the end I couldn’t get it above zone 3b if a tiger were chasing me.
There were a few days, specifically in the last 2 weeks, where I truly didn’t know if I could finish my workout. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I didn’t know if I was capable. Spoiler: I did. But had coaches and friends not surrounded me the first day of camp, or had I not had others to meet and keep me entertained for a 7+ hour ride (that started with 2-3 hours of rain!), I don’t know if I could have blocked out the mountain of a day and focused on moving one mile at a time.
Even though it was only 2 days after the peak of my training, yesterday I woke up feeling better. To say I felt “good” would be a laughable overstatement, but better than I’ve felt for at least a month. Even if my body hasn’t gotten the memo, my brain knows: Taper Has Arrived!
I feel grateful to have arrived at taper in one piece this year. I feel happy that I held it together and didn’t have a mid-build meltdown like I usually do (nevermind some exceptionally grumpy days – no tears is an incredible feat!). I am proud that I worked so hard every single day.
At this point, I couldn’t panic train if I tried. There is nothing left, I am empty, and my tank needs to refill itself. But I believe that I did everything I could this year. I know I did. I will always wish to be faster, and fitter. But all you can do is give each day your whole body and heart, and I did that a hundred times over.
With about 40 miles to go (of 128) of our last long bike ride on Saturday we started talking about how we were heading home.
Crossing the bridge this direction means we’re headed home, and
This is the last time we’ll have to climb this hill until next year, and
This is the last time we’ll stop at this gas station…
Then there was a pause.
Well, unless any of get to Kona this year.
I never wrote about one of my favorite training weekends so far this year – the Wenatchee Century ride.
I’m lucky enough to have a friend and training partner whose family has a vacation home in Eastern Washington, and she invited a bunch of us over for the first weekend in June to ride our bikes in sunshine on nice roads.
We ended up riding about 98 miles with 4,300(ish) feet of climb in under 5 hours and 30 minutes.
I wish that was real life every weekend!
There’s no time like now for a little training update. Right? Especially since tomorrow marks exactly 3 months out from August 25, also known as Ironman go time?
After IMC last year I was ecstatic about my race for a couple of days, then exhausted for a few more, and pretty soon after that I started thinking about the next one. It didn’t take me very long to decide for certain that there would be another, but I didn’t want a repeat of 2012. I wanted, and still do, a lot more than that.
I want to go to Kona. And if I don’t get a spot I want to walk away knowing there was not one thing that I could have done to be more well-prepared to earn it. If I believe that in my heart, I will be a happy Ironman no matter what.
I can’t complain about my 2012 season or Ironman Canada. If I had a magic ball the only things I’d change are things that can’t be controlled anyway: freak weather in Boise, freak bike crash in July, more freak weather at Lake Stevens. I have not an ounce of regret about how I handled any of it, but when the season quieted down I knew, and know, that I can do better.
What worked for my first Ironman (and second summer of triathlon) isn’t the same thing that that will help me continue to grow as an athlete. If anything, 2012 was more of a preparation against failure rather than aggressive and planned growth. So last fall I outlined what I needed to do to be better and came up with a few things:
Then in December I did something that was pretty challenging for me (thus meeting one of my goals?). I broke my routine with the friends and coaches I had become comfortable with and joined a new tri team: Pauole Sport. And I think I was more afraid for that first day of master’s swim than I was the morning of Ironman Canada.
The good news is: it’s working. I’ve gotten stronger in the water and on the bike. And on my run off the bike as well. I have a pool (literally, ha) of talented athletes to use as carrots, training buddies, and resources. And I’ve met some awesome people who I’d want to hang out with even if we didn’t all have to ride for a million hours every Saturday so we may as well do it together. And on top of all of that my new coach is fantastic.
Things still feel exhausting and hard on many days, but having confidence in my coach’s plan, having friends to endure it with, having resources to learn from, and having the occasional day off is currently making all of the difference in the world for me. These things make it possible for me to spend time with my family and friends, have a (small) life, stay sane, and still think Ironman is fun while getting better.
Greg LeMond’s quote is the real truth, “It never gets easier, you just go faster.”
The other night I was looking through old photos and came across a few gems.
You see, I haven’t always been this crazy about running and triathlon. In fact, I absolutely hated running until fairly recently. But I have always been crazy about sport, fitness, and health (minus a few years post college).
Growing up I practiced gymnastics about 20 hours per week on top of normal public school (middle and high school), still got good grades, and really couldn’t have been happier. I was the queen of time management and learned how to fit everything I wanted to do into my life, thanks to my parents who were pretty much fulltime chauffeurs.
Other kids wanted to hang out after school, watch tv, eat mac & cheese, and gossip. But all I really wanted to do after school was to get to the gym as quickly as possible to practice, and get better. Summer was the best because it meant 6-8 hour training days rather than the usual 4.
It wasn’t uncommon to spend weekends all over Oregon, Washington, California, Arizona, or even Hawaii for competitions. I got to see new places, compete against the best, learn a lot about myself, and have a lot of fun in the process.
Though I did eventually (obviously) quit the sport, my current running and triathlon days remind me a lot of my gymnastics days, especially as I develop more friendships and relationships within the sport. Yes, going to the lake is about swimming and getting faster, but it’s also about camaraderie, socializing with people who have similar goals, and catching up with friends.
Today is my birthday, and in the amateur sporting world of running and triathlon it’s a big one. Though I only turn 29, based on the timing of my birthday I will from this point forward be aged up into the 30-34 age group.
The 25-29-ers are fast and fierce, don’t get me wrong. They feel and look friendly, kind, and caring, but out of nowhere athletes will in essence eat you up and spit you out. But in a friendly way. They’re there to compete, but there’s an air of compassion and we’re-all-in-this-together-ness. Athletes are there to race, but against the clock, the course, and themselves. All season long this year, at the start of every race, I watched those 30-34’s and thanked goodness that I was still in the 25-29 group.
The 30-34’s look more hardcore. They’re geared up. They know what they’re doing. They line up, size each other up, and are ready to go. There are fewer athletes that are new to the sport – it ain’t their first rodeo – and they look more confident, calculated, and dialed. They chat and smile and wish each other luck, but it looks to be surface. The 30-34’s are there to race too, but against EACH OTHER.
Next time I pin on a bib I’ll be racing among athletes who are older than me, but in triathlon age is (to a certain point) a virtue. My set of competition will be more experienced and they’ll have more years of endurance build up under their race belts. And there will be more of them! The 30-35 in women’s triathlon is one of the more popular female age groups so the swim start is large and the field is wide. I’m worried that I’ll be intimidated. I picture the swim start at Ironman Lake Stevens 70.3, lined with fellow-colored swim caps, and wanting to turn around and walk back ashore.
Not that I don’t usually feel that way but…
The upside is that I have about 10+ months until I race an Ironman again, and when I do (assuming I race Canada) my age group will have not only double Kona slots but more to start with due to the age 30-34 participation ratio. Another upside? In an Ironman every last athlete starts together so I can seed myself in the chaos or on the fray depending on how I feel; no matter what I’m up against 2,800 people for the first 1:00:00-1:30:00. And I’m not a competitor in road races, plus there’s no violence like in a swim start, so the worst thing that happens is I get crushed (in performance) in NYC. But unless your name is Kara Goucher that’s pretty much a guarantee, meaning I’m used to it and unafraid. However in triathlon I’m generally average enough at everything and not terrible at anything so I perform and place decently; every second I spend swimming rather than getting beat up counts!
Another upside… when I actually turn 30 it will feel like a nothing birthday because I will have already endured the worst part: aging up. 🙂
On a more serious and sap-tastic upside note though, I’m about 800 miles from home, my husband, my family and friends, and I’ve never felt so loved. Riding into San Francisco in the back seat of a cab I was reading birthday wishes from so many people and I’ve never felt more satisfied with my life. I never imagined that I’d be right here, right now, but the details of my life are exactly how I always wanted my adult life to be but didn’t know was possible. As a 12, 15, 17, or even 22 years old if you’d have told me this would be my life I’d have responded:
Living in Seattle? Maybe. Seattle’s cool.
Married to my best friend at 27? I’m too selfish to conceptualize what that means. Or I was… until I fell…
A Boston Marathoner and Ironman? HAHAHA. I HATE RUNNING SOOOOO MUCH.
Working at a full-time job that isn’t work because you believe in the purpose? I wish! But since I don’t feel that strongly about anything other than exercising I doubt it. Unless someone will give me a salary for elliptical-ing!!
But when I string it together right now my life is just as me as when I was 12, 15, 17, 22, or 25. The things that have always been common, that are unchanged with age and experience because they are inherently who I am, are thriving right now because I’m living the life that I always wanted but never knew specifically existed. I’m 29, and I’m truly happier and more myself than I ever remember having been.
I hope for many things, but when I blow out the proverbial candles tonight I will wish for this feeling to recur on every birthday for forever. Life. Is. Good.
Ok, one more post before I post my recap. It’s written, so promise I’ll put it out there soon!
But before I recap my day I want to thank a lot of people. It feels corny and self-important to me to profess my thanks to people who may only moderately care that I did an Ironman, on the Internet no less. But in the simplest terms I want all of these people to know that in some way or another they made IMC possible for me. That I thought of all of them while I was out there. And in a few cases, they’re why I held it together and hurried back in to town as quickly as my broken stomach and tired legs would carry me.
Not one person in my usual cycling and running circle was racing Ironman Canada, nonetheless I’d receive texts and emails from them every week asking what the weekend’s workout was. They’d meet me for whatever portion of my day they could schedule in and let me complain about how long my long days were, as well as that my short days weren’t long enough. Through injury, the crash, and life I never doubted myself while training with them; it turns out their confidence in me rubbed off. Thank you for long rides, longer rides, and the longest ones as well. There’s probably no one that gets what this took better than you.
Coworkers Past & Present
Luckily I have an extremely understanding and supportive employer who cheered me on every single day leading up to IMC. I cannot imagine putting in those kinds of training hours without having the support of my workplace to slip out for a lunchtime, and don’t want to imagine not having people to talk to who understand the ups and downs. Luckily I’ve also had colleagues who are supportive in the past – in fact one of them was who put me on this crazy roller coaster. Thank you for not telling me how tired I look, and for putting up with my monopoly on the women’s shower. Thank you for a wonderful, inspiring, and supportive send off. And thanks for planting the Ironman seed in my mind.
I’d like to think that I’m a low maintenance athlete, but I suspect alas I am not. I might not analyze everything entirely to death, but I like to analyze it at least all the way to the ICU where it may or may not be revived. Thank you for your patience, direction, and leadership. Thank you for understanding how important this was, is, and will continue to be to me. Thanks for pushing me. And keep at that last one, please. We’re not done yet.
Friends & Family
Ironman is sort of a crazy thing to try to explain to loved ones. “You’re doing what?! All in one day?!” But everyone that I know was amazingly interested, and though it can be hard to understand an IM everyone was encouraging and immediately believed in me. Thank you for supporting me, and thank you for celebrating with me.
To all of my virtual friends, your advice, support, and feedback kept me going every step of the way. All of your training, racing, goals, and achievements inspired me on less than stellar days, and your celebration of my own accomplishments reinforced that I could do this. Truly, knowing that you’d be tracking me kept me going!
To my parents and Courtney and Thomas, thank you from the bottom of my heart for being there for my day. I didn’t know how much that meant to me until you were there, and I was saying goodbye and heading into transition. And it was reinforced every time I was nearby enough to think about coming back into town and spotting you. Thank you for never poking fun at how much time and energy and work this took. Thank you for screaming your brains out. Thanks for understanding, without question, that this was going to be so important to me all year long. Thank you for wearing neon yellow shirts.
Garth/Husband/Race Sherpa/Videographer/Photographer/Chef/Bike Bottle Fixer
And the most thank you’s on earth, more than even exist, to Garth. They say Ironman is a lifestyle, and it is. What they don’t tell you is that it is a lifestyle for everyone in your household. You carried my bags, forced me in the water, woke up at 5am, fixed my bike, folded about 800 sports bras, and got in bed at 9pm to do it again. When I told you I was going to do an Ironman you said, “Awesome.” When I told you my goal was sub-12 you told me, “You can go faster than that.” There’s no one that believes in me more than you. And there’s no one that loves you for that more than me. There are a few moments from that day that I believe I always remember, and all of them boil down to one thing: seeing you believing in me. I hope that you always know that I know how lucky I am.
Alright guys, ready for round #2? 🙂
This installment of Friday Cry Day is for Daily Sweat, who I have officially now met in person!
We went swimming this morning. It was horrendously cold. I let the coldness take over at the start and my lungs are still frozen. 😦 But Megan was super tough, shrugged off the coldness, and made a new friend (in addition to me)!
Introducing, Daily Sweat’s new friend:
Last night at the track was Brick Night, so rather than kill ourselves just running fast we killed ourselves running fast off our bikes.
I’m sure we were a sight to see on our trainers in the grass, changing shoes quickly, and taking off running. It was good practice and good fun though. It’s much easier to catch up with training friends while spinning – I’m far too heavy of a breather to talk while running – and spinning goes way faster while chatting it up as opposed to watching the morning news.
The workout was a 1/2mi warmup (run), 20min spin (bike), 1mi fast (run), 15min spin (bike), 1mi fast (run). The spinning was a total sweatfest, I hit my first mile in 6:45, and the second mile in 6:49. I couldn’t have held on to the run pace for another 400meters even if someone had bribed me with a Whole Foods Berry Chantilly Cake, but I felt pretty able to hang on to the pace for a mile and forced my body to keep form despite screaming burning lungs.
A mile is a good distance to run off the bike. The first 400 your legs say “eff you get me back on the bike NOW’. The second 400 you realize you’re probably running too fast. The third 400 you curse yourself for running so hard. And the last 400 you’ve succumbed to the fate of dying via the run. But as soon as you’re on the bike you forget the pain and want to do it again.
Next time I want to run 3 miles/sessions off the bike, and I want to run faster. My legs weren’t so fresh from Monday’s 40miles (bike) + 1hr @7:47min/mi pace and I think that I could do better.