That’s been my motto since my birthday a few weeks ago. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to translate it to the New Year but somehow, “Twenty-Nineteen and Feeling Fine(teen?)” doesn’t seem to flow quite as well.
In any case, despite this new catchphrase, I’ve actually been feeling less than fine these past few months. I’ve felt tired and worn down more often than not and seem to be having a much harder time getting back into the swing of training than I usually do this time of year.
After several weeks, I got sick of accepting this was just a normal “off-season funk” (patience is a virtue I lack) and decided to take a more scientific look at things.
So, for a birthday present to myself, I went and got my blood tested with InsideTracker. The process is pretty simple: You order a test online and are provided a lab form to take to any Quest Labs. I scheduled an appointment before work the next day, showed up, got 3 vials of blood taken, and that was it!
About a week later, I received my results, which (spoiler alert!) revealed some possible explanations as to why I’ve been feeling so run down lately. Key markers for my muscle and bone health (i.e. creatine kinase, vitamin D) were outside the optimal range, as were several of my liver enzymes and iron group biomarkers. The liver thing may sound a little odd, but it is actually pretty normal for athletes to have elevated liver enzymes due to the constant cycle of muscle breakdown. Beyond that, I’d also been on a bit of booze-bender between holiday parties and my birthday celebration so wasn’t shocked to see my markers for liver health looking less than perfect.
Here are some things I like about InsideTracker: you receive a more relevant range for your biomarkers (optimal, needs work, at risk) instead of just a generic “in or out of range” like you get from the lab directly. More importantly, they immediately offer actionable suggestions to optimize areas that are in need of improvement based on your lifestyle goals (i.e. overall health, endurance, injury prevention, energy), and back up each suggestion with the research and science behind it. They’ll also recommend personalized nutrition tips or food groups to focus on based on your results, all within a pretty sleek user interface that’s easy to navigate (of course, as a millennial, that’s what I really are about).
I chose “overall health” as my lifestyle goal, since that’s kind of where I’m at these days post-Ironman training. Below are some of my action items to support this goal. You can set up your preferences in InsideTracker to send reminders everyday, week, etc. to complete these daily actions. I have mine set up for a daily text message.
Here’s what I’ll be working on:
Drink less alcohol. You all can probably appreciate how hard this will be for me given the title of my blog. I really love good beer! And bourbon. Oh and most red wines (even the really cheap ones). But apparently it’s time to give the liver a little break. I’m attempting to do a #soberJanuary –inspired by my friend Liz Lowe – and will see where things go from there.
Take a vitamin D supplement. Because I live in the northeast, get absolutely no sun throughout the year, and also don’t eat dairy….this one kind of feels like a no-brainer that I should have started sooner. I picked up some D3 gummies a few days ago.
Take a probiotic supplement daily. This may be cheating because I sort of already do this. I started a few months ago when I was having some bad GI issues and it seemed to help (and no, I don’t even care if it’s just the placebo effect at work). I’m the kind of nerd that writes things on my to-do list just to cross them off a moment later so… let’s leave it on!
Eat more fish.The hubs and I usually eat chicken or meat-free during the week…because we are boring creatures of habit. In 2019, we are going to spice things up and have fatty fish at least 2 days a week. This should help my Vitamin D levels but also hopefully improve inflammation markers and cholesterol as well (thanks Omega-3s!).
I’m on Day 6 of #SoberJanuary and, other than having a horrible cold, am doing pretty well. I have yet to get on my bike but have attended some lovely yoga classes and have taken my supplements, along with cold medicine, daily. #winning
I’ll get my blood tested again in April to see if I’m making progress. In the meantime, I plan on just listening to my body, following my action steps, and taking it one day at a time. Leaving my race calendar wide-open in the spring and early summer has given me the wonderful freedom and flexibility to that. Yay!
I also, for those interested, have some goals (I don’t use the term resolution – too rigid) outside of health/fitness. In 2019, I’m going to read and write more, and I’m defining “more” as at least once per day. In order to achieve this, I need to free up time from somewhere else…That means less (defined as <1 hour day) social media and Netflix. There are better ways to unwind and reward myself.
If anyone else wants to join in on these goals, let me know! I’m #blessed (only using that half-sarcastically) to count on the support of my IRACELIKEAGIRL teammates for a second year, and of course, my truest supporters, Evan and Evie.
I got home from work today and quickly changed into my bright pink iracelikeagirl tech teeand short spandex shorts. Though the shorts are super short (as most running shorts tend to be), they’re perfect for running. Honestly, if I wasn’t worried about this little thing called “safety”, I’d wear the least amount of clothing as possible for running in weather over 60 degrees. Even as the sun started to set, it was close to 70 degrees in Boston today. A truly perfect fall evening to sweat out a tough work week. So, even though a little voice in my head said, “Are you sure you want to wear these shorts?” – I pull them on. We’re mid-laundry cycle and they’re what I had that was both clean and appropriate for my workout on deck. And I like them.
After that sort of intro, you can probably imagine where this is going. Before I’d even finished my 1.5 mile warm up, I’d been honked at and cat-called twice. It didn’t exactly set me up for a great workout… and I didn’t have one.
During my cool down, a man in a truck slowed down to drive along side me and started trying to make small talk. I wear headphones sometimes on runs… usually not to listen to music, but to make situations/people like this easier to ignore. Here’s what he was saying:
Hey – what are you running for? Are you running for some sort of school? You look like you’re running for something. You look like a fit girl. Seriously girl, you look fit. Are you in school?
There’s so much strange and creepy to unpack in that.
I’m in my late 20s. I don’t look especially young for my age. Maybe you think you’re complimenting me by saying I look like I’m in school?
Maybe you actually think I’m young enough to be in school (I guess I am wearing a shirt that says “IRACELIKEAGIRL” on it), in which case…. What the f**k is a man your age doing slowing down and talking to me like this?
Regardless my age, clearly I don’t want to talk to you so probably you should just take the hint at this point and keep driving.
After ignoring him didn’t work, I eventually did stop running, take my earbuds out and say, “No, I’m not in school. And you’re going to cause an accident if you keep driving like that.”
To which he replied, “I’m just saying you look like you’re fit enough to be.”
There are now cars honking behind him… because it’s rush hour traffic in the city with dozens of people around. So, the loser does eventually drive off. Correction: he peeled out away from me in an obnoxious way that only men of that caliber seem to do.
I’m pretty annoyed by the time I get home and grab my dog to take her for a short walk before dinner. A few blocks up the road from my house is a older man standing by his car on the side of the road. The car’s hood is up and he’s looking inside of it. I’m pretty sick of men in general at this point but also try to be a decent human most of the time… so I stop to ask him if everything is okay. He answers politely that he’s fine and his car just overheats sometimes.
As I’m walking away he says, “That’s a cute girl right there!”
Evie, my dog, has what I call a perma-puppy face and is VERY cute so I proudly start to respond,
“Thanks! She’s a go—–”
“AND THE DOG’S NOT BAD EITHER!!” <wink, wink>
On a different day, I might have had a better response. I have decent wit. I’ve been known to be cutting with my words from time to time (and not always to folks to so
Tonight I had nothing. I think my brain could only handle so much in such a short period before exploding. So I just sort of stared at him and eventually let out a big sigh before turning away and continuing my walk. He passed me later and honked a friendly “toot! toot!” at me… like we were old friends and would be seeing each other again soon.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you probably know that it’s been a rough week for women in this country… or least for women like me who believe that women are people deserving of equal rights and, you know, all that other stuff.
The Kavanaugh hearing has impacted me in a real and personal way. It’s bummed me out… and not just a little. It would have been nice to have this run today to clear my head and not deal with a bunch of creeps. It’s really a bummer that we (women) can’t do fun things like go for runs, attend parties, etc., without creepy men ruining everything. And when I say “ruin” I specifically mean: make us not feel safe… harass us… assault us…etc.
Mostly I just don’t know what to do about the fact that shitty people get to just continue being shitty and getting away with disgusting behavior on a daily basis.
It was a bad run. It’s been a bad week. I’m sure tomorrow I’ll be fired up again and ready to take on all the garbage taking place in our world right now.
It’s been a little over week since I officially became an Iron(wo)man in Lake Placid. I’ve spent this past week reliving each moment of the race, dreaming about what’s next, and riding the bittersweet highs and lows that the day I trained nearly a year for is behind me.
Before I start thinking too much about what’s next: it felt important to give Ironman Lake Placid the reflection it was due with a proper race report. Warning: this post is way longer than it should be. I totally got caught up in recounting every detail of the day. But, alas, here it is!
Leading up to the race…
The weeks leading up Lake Placid were… should we say… a little stressful. As some of you may recall, my bike was stolen about 6 weeks out from race day. I was able to get an awesome new bike (a hand-me-down frame from pro-triathlete Angela Naeth with brand new components… no big deal) with money from my insurance company, just in time for taper.
While I was thrilled to have a bike at all, getting it when I did didn’t leave
much time to get many long rides in on it. I spent the final weeks tweaking the bike fit so it could get me through 112 miles comfortably. Spoiler alert: the Scott Plasma ended up working out great! Big thanks to Fast Splits, Grey Ghost and Velofix Albany for building the bike, dialing in my fit and making a last minute repair (respectively) leading up to
There were a few things I did leading up to July 22nd that I think helped me avoid any major catastrophes on race day.
I took taper seriously. As in I tapered hard…Harder than most probably. I did relatively little during race week — focused on getting to bed early and sleeping in late. I limited my alcohol consumption to no more than one drink a night. As my blog title indicates, I’m not going to cut it out all together (not even Ironman-Eve)… I love it and it relaxes me, okay?!
I got my gut ready EARLY for the world of terror I was about to throw at it.That meant cutting out fiber basically altogether starting 4-5 days before, having my biggest meal at breakfast the day before the race and winding down from there. Big shout out to Field Work Nutrition Co for making a delicious, race-prep-friendly protein powder that got me through that week.
Finally my Mom (a certified Reiki Master), offered to give me Reiki before my race. I’m not sure what your beliefs are around this but, personally…I take all the help I can get! I have to say: it 100% helped me feel calm and ready in a noticeable difference sort of way.
The only things I might have done differently were pack up my special needs bags and prep my bike several days before the race. That was a stressful last minute to-do that I could have done without. Otherwise, pre-race things went well.
I got up at 3:45 race morning and immediately made myself my rehearsed, QT2 race day breakfast of a cut-up banana mixed with applesauce and Primo protein powder. I did not skip coffee because (much like beer) it’s something I love too much. My mom braided my hair (just like when I was a little kid) as I ran through in my mind once more everything I would need for the day. After using the bathroom at the house (i.e. not in the portapotties – YAY!!!) I grabbed my pre-packed morning bags and headed out.
Transition area was buzzing when my brother and I arrived around 5:15 am. It was an amazing amount of energy. If you haven’t been there, try to imagine 2,500+ athletes in the Olympic oval, hyped up on race day nerves as they begin one of the most physically grueling days of their lives. Pretty awesome. After putting our water bottles on our bikes and our wetsuits on, my brother and I headed together out of transition and over to the swim start.
We got to the Mirror Lake almost an hour before we were set to start and were lucky have a place to crash at the T3 tent before the race. Before we knew it, it was time to start lining up. At around 6:20, we started making our way down to the beach and were shocked by how many people were already packed in. I gave my brother a good luck hug as we parted ways and then spent several minutes shuffling to get to my right seeding area.
After warming up, I ran into my friend and teammate, Ben Cohen. It was awesome to have someone to talk with to settle my nerves in the final minutes before the gun. We both seeded ourselves around 1:15 and walked into the water together. As we crossed the timing chip mat, Ben looked at me and said, “This is it… Like we start our watches now!” And then shouted “Peace be the journey!” before diving in. I smiled at Ben’s fun spirit, took a deep breath and started my own watch. And the day began.
I’m not going to lie: The swim was nuts. Mirror Lake has this amazing underwater cable that you can use to stay on course… on any day but Ironman. Due to the congestion near the cable on race day, I ended up swimming 2-3 bodies away from the cable most of the first lap. Other than the pure chaos in the water, I felt pretty good. I didn’t freak out when the bodies of much larger men came clamoring over me in the water. I found 1-2 decent swimmers and tried staying on their feet as much as possible. When I started to feel a little panicked by the sheer amount of people around me, I just focused on one of my favorite swim mantras: Bubble, bubble, breathe. This worked pretty well and I was actually surprised at how quickly the first lap went by. I did start to get a little bit of calf cramp on the swim, which had me nervous. I focused on relaxing my feet and was able to keep it in check. I came out of the water on my first lap in 37 minutes and stayed pretty consistent on lap two – where I think I may have actually enjoyed myself (!!!) for a total swim time of 1:14:42. Swimming is my weakest of the disciplines and my goal time was 1:15 so I was happy with the time and to get the swim done with.
So… I’ve never used wetsuit strippers before. I’ve also never worn a two piece bathing suit for a race. I was very nervous about these two things combined. Thankfully, I was able to hold my bathing suit in place while my wetsuit was ripped off of me. The only downside was getting a bunch of sand all over my bum in the process… but strippers were totally great otherwise! Wetsuit in hand, I started slowing jogging the quarter mile to the transition area and got to pass my friends and family along the way. Given the fact that I was half naked and still a little dazed from my swim, I didn’t stop and talk to them but I think shouted something like “Yay! I didn’t drown!!”
After seeing the transition set up at Lake Placid (where you basically have to go into the changing tents) I decided it would be crazy not to change completely at transitions. The weather forecast for the day (rain) solidified that. I swam in a swimsuit bottom and my sports bra so I could change into my cycling kit (thicker chamois than my tri kit) for the bike. Because I had sand all over me, I took awhile in the changing tent. Enormous thank you to the nice volunteer who literally helped me get my bike shorts on and handed me everything I needed to set out on the bike. You rock!
Total time in transition: 00:09:16
I rolled out of transition with a huge smile on my face. I’d just had a pretty good swim so the hardest part of the day was over! (HA!). I rode very cautiously out of town as my coach and many others had warned me about going out way too hard initially. The bike loops starts with about a 10-12 mile climb out of town. By race day, I had done the climb several times so was was prepared for the elevation…
What I was not prepared for was the wind.
Oh, and the rain.
It may or may not have hailed at one point.
There was 10-15 mph steady winds with 30 mph gusts. I was riding at single digits speed for a good portion of those initial climbs in order to stay in the right power targets.
About 30 minutes into the ride, I decided it didn’t make sense to think about any type of time goal. I knew I’d kill myself on the bike trying to get close to the 6 hours split necessary to stay in the running for a 12 hour day. So I just let go of any time-related expectations and said to myself, “Just have fun out here, Kay. This is your day”.
And it worked. I totally did have so much fun out there! I talked to almost every person I passed or was passed by on the bike. I got to see a few of my iracelikeagirl teammates out there and feed off their energy.
The whole ride was pretty awesome but there was nothing like riding back into town. As I climbed Three Little Bears (the final climbs on the loop) and made my way back into the village, I literally got a little choked up. It’s hard to describe the emotional experience of these moments. My dad did Ironman Lake Placid in 2010 and I remember him passing us on the bike saying, “I’m having so much fun!” – and that’s exactly how I felt. I couldn’t stop smiling. I just felt so damn lucky to be experiencing the entire day. I rode along the spectator wall and gave my family and friends high fives before setting out on loop #2. I stopped at Special Needs to get my second bag of fuel and got to see another friend Ben who was volunteering. I told him the wind was tough out there but I was feeling pretty good. Some brief high fives and I was off on lap #2.
I was reallllllllly hoping the wind would die down on the second lap…. but it didn’t. Still my spirits stayed pretty high. There are a few flat, longer segments on the course where I was able to stay in aero for a bit and really test out the speed of my new Plasma. I have to say, men really don’t like getting passed by a girl in a pink kit. Unfortunately for them, there were a few of us out there that day. Booyahhh iracelikeagirl team!!
I focused A LOT on fueling on the bike as one of my biggest concerns for the day was bonking. I made sure to grab Gatorade Endurance at every aid station for my speed bottle. Every 15 minutes, I reached into what I called my “magic bag of snacks”, which had cut up Honey Stinger, Clif Bloks and Rx bars in bite-sized pieces that I could swallow without too much chewing. I also had an espresso flavored Gu every hour. The last 15-20 miles were where it got really rough. The Wilmington Notch with the addition of the Whiteface Mountain out-and-back is a little soul crushing. From the faces of the other riders, I know it wasn’t just me that went to a dark place on that part of the course.
The rain had finally stopped and the sun was making it’s way out, which really heated everything up. Elements aside, it’s also just a really tough point on the course, both mentally and physically. I honestly felt like I was riding backwards at one point. Worried that I might have under-fueled, instead of getting off my bike like I wanted to, I had an extra gel, stuffed some more food in my mouth and pressed forward to Three Little Bears where the energy from the spectators brought me home. Total bike time was 06:50:42 … about 35 minutes slower than I was hoping for but reasonable given the conditions.
So…I actually managed to go through the entire bike leg without ever getting off my bike. I rolled through the aid stations, peed on my bike (3 times, it wasn’t easy and I’m still a little grossed out by it). I share this to emphasize that finally dismounting at T2 was a moment I’d been really looking forward to. But my first few steps off the bike looked like a cowboy that rode cross-country on horseback (at least I’m assuming that’s what it looks like) and thought to myself “Oh shit – there’s no way I can run a marathon.” My calf cramp was also still nagging me, which made me really nervous about starting the run. I sat down in the women’s changing tent for a minute as I started pulling off my soaking wet clothes and said to the volunteer “I’m not sure I can do this”.
She looked at me and replied, “you don’t have to”.
Shocked, I stared at her for a minute until the Volunteer Captain came over and said, “What was that? Yes, you sure do have to do this. You’ve come all this way to call yourself an Ironman – you can’t stop now! Now what do you need? Got your fresh socks? Need water? Red Bull?” Ah yes, ma’am. All of the above please and thank you!
Clean, dry clothes and a littttttle bit of Red Bull turned out to be just what I needed to get going. I thanked the volunteers and trotted out of transition, down the hill through town where spectators lined the streets. I saw my family and ran over to give hugs and a quick kiss to my husband. I shouted to my mom– “Send Reiki to my right calf please!” She replied, “You got it!”
Despite all of the energy leaving town, the first few miles of the run were super tough. My legs felt like complete garbage. I had a mild stitch in my side, my calf felt closer to seizing up in a cramp with every step. I took some time at the first few aid stations to drink extra Gatorade, take in extra salt, and stretch a bit. Around mile 4-5, I caught my friend, training buddy and teammate, Colleen. We caught up a bit on the day, I told her I was starting to really struggle. We decided to just take it one mile at a time. My plan for the beginning was the walk every aid station and so was Colleen’s. The hardest part about walking the aid stations is getting started running again so we were able to keep each other honest with that.
Around mile 10, I started having cola in addition to Gatorade. Like some magic elixir, that seemed to make things start feeling better. Every single aid station I had the same routine: ice down my shorts and sports bra, water over my head, Gatorade and/or Coke in my mouth and a little bit of water to wash it all down. Together with Colleen, we climbed our way back up into town to finish the first lap. That’s when I started to get a second wind. For one, the crowds LOVED our kits and that we were running together. Spectators commented, “That’s it, girls! Work together! Looking strong!” I thought about picking it up a bit towards the end of the first lap but knew there was a long race ahead
of me still. Colleen and I stayed together until about mile 17, which was pretty amazing.
After I made the turn around on River Road to head back to town for the final time… I knew I could really do it. Passing through 20 miles, I thought to myself just a 10K left and found myself smiling again. My calf wasn’t bothering me at all (it’s the reiki… I’m telling you!) and I felt stronger than I did on the first 10K.
As I came into town one final time I couldn’t believe how close I was to finishing. I didn’t allow myself to get choked up on Mirror Lake Drive (but came pretty close on that last mile) As I entered the Oval, I slowed down a bit to fully take it all in. My eyes filled with tears so much that I couldn’t even see my husband shouting for me as I rounded the turn towards the finish line.
And then, I heard it. The words I’d imagined in so many of my toughest workouts over the past year. Mike Reilly’s voice over the microphone:
“Kalyn Weber from Roslindale, Massachusetts… A first timer! Kalyn Weber, YOU are an Ironman!”
My final finishing time for Ironman Lake Placid was 12:33:27. I placed 6th in my age group and was the 82nd woman to cross the finish line. Going into the race, I so badly wanted to finish sub 12 hours…but the best decision I made out there was to let go of that time goal and try to just enjoy every minute of the race. Completing those 140.6 miles after nearly a year of training is one of my proudest life accomplishments. It’s made me feel like I’m up for any challenge this world wants to throw at me. At the risk of sounding like I really drank the Kool-Aid, Ironman might actually be life changing.
The most enormous, heart-felt thank you to everyone – my husband, family, friends, coaches, teammates, volunteers, spectators and race organizers, that helped make Ironman Lake Placid what it was. I’m excited for what’s next!
So, a few weeks ago something pretty shitty happened to me. I was driving back from the T3 endurance training camp in Lake Placid when my tri bike was taken. The details are sad, painful and even a bit embarrassing for me recount. I left it unattended for a few minutes when I stopped at a gas station to get a Red Bull for my drive home. No it wasn’t locked. Yes, I feel incredibly stupid about that. What can I say? I grew up in the area and honestly never dreamt anything like this could happen.
The hours and days that followed were a whirlwind of [pretty terrible] emotions. There was a brief glimmer of hope where my bike was maybe spotted along the highway but when I and others drove to the location, it was gone. I drove slowly around the area it went missing again and again, ultimately giving myself a flat tire on my car from driving on whatever debris was on the highway shoulder. And still…. nothing.
After filing a police report, I waited for hours in that same parking lot, stranded in part by my car’s flat tire but also sort of just paralyzed by the situation.
Do I drive back to Boston? What if shows up? Maybe someone has it and is just looking for the owner!
Occasionally I’d look back at my bike rack with torn straps that had once held my most prized possession and my heart would sink further. 150 miles from home in Boston; 6 weeks out from the race I’d been training for for nearly a year….and no bike. Overwhelmed, heartbroken, and exhausted, I called my Mom and started crying.
Not to belabor/sound dramatic about how shitty this felt because I’m sure some of you may be thinking, “Kay, it was just a bike…Keep it in perspective!”
And of course that’s true. But this bike was really special to me. For one, it was a really nice bike! I worked really, really hard to buy the original frameset and perhaps even harder to get the components upgraded only a month prior to it going missing. It spent most of the year in my basement on a trainer where I’d spent hundreds of hours training on it. It was the bike that I planned to ride 112 miles through the Adirondacks during Ironman Lake Placid next month. I know it’s silly to say… but I loved it.
So alright, alright! What’s the silver lining? Well, here it is: YOU ALL! The support from my friends, family and the online community was… incredible to say the least. The Facebook post I made soon after it went missing went essentially viral (by my standards at least). I had COUNTLESS people reach out and offer to lend me a bike or help in anyway they could. People I had never met before were sending me Facebook and Instagram messages offering to help incredibly generous ways.
And each time someone reached out I was so incredibly touched and the world, that had gotten so heavy over the past few days, became just a little bit lighter.
There’s not a single day that I don’t remind myself how privileged I am to be able do this sport. Not just the obvious fact that I could afford such a nice bike to begin with, but also that I’m able-bodied enough to put it to good use; that I grew up in area where I could start going for solo runs and bike rides in high school, that I learned to swim at a very young age (okay yes, and haven’t improved that much since then). Most of all, I’ve always known how incredibly lucky I am to have friends and family who support me through something kind of crazy like training for an Ironman.
And these past few weeks have just solidified all of that. Friends and complete strangers offered to lend me their (also very expensive) bikes so I could still race Lake Placid on a tri bike. COUNTLESS people checked in regularly to see if there was any news and if there was anything they could do to help.
So what do you make of that? Well, my take is this: It’s the shitty things and people that seem get a lot of attention. Whether it be a rotten bike thief, or a horrible world leader who separates families at our nation’s border….
There are so many really, really kind, amazing people out there still. Like, at least 20,000,000 of them in fact. There’s also this thing called insurance, which I’m really glad I have. I got fitted today for a new bike and I’m hoping to get on it in the next week or two… just in time to start my taper for Lake Placid.
THANK YOU SO MUCH friends, families, strangers who I’ve never met for all of your support and kind words these past few weeks. I can’t tell you how much it’s meant to me.
A few of you asked if I set up a crowd funding account. I did not but would love for you to consider to donating to this way better cause instead.
I’m probably of the 1 in 1000 people (including non-triathlon folks) that enjoys reading the lengthy race reports that triathletes like to write…which is why if I write them, I usually try to keep it short and sweet. BUT I’m currently stuck traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike on a 13+ hour car ride home to Boston so figured why not have at it! This report is neither short nor especially sweet, but neither was the race itself! To the 0.1% of social media followers that may read this, here’s to you!
Ironman 70.3 was my first official 70.3 and my first ever Ironman race. When I signed up for it, people kept saying “Ooohh! North Carolina in June?? Good luck with that!” but I never really took their warnings seriously… until I arrived down there a few days before the race: 88 degrees, 70% humidity, water temps IN THE 80S! Eeeeps! This northerner was not prepared. I stopped thinking about a goal time for my race and started focusing more about my fueling/hydration plan.
I started hydrating extra the week before and basically cut out fiber all together the days leading up to the race as I am prone to GI issues, particularly when it’s hot out. I use a great smoothie mix made by Field Work Nutrition Company that allows me to still get the important nutrients even while cutting out vegetables (too much fiber) during race week. My race day breakfast included a smoothie made from Primo mixed with 1 banana, cinnamon applesauce, water (though normally I would do almond milk) and ice, plus half a bagel on the side for a few more grams of carbs and some solid food in my stomach.
I basically had one goal for race day: respect the heat and stick to my race plan. Shout out to my Coach Karen Allen Turner for giving me some great guidelines to adhere to for race day. I stuck to them the best I could. Here’s how it went:
So, because I’m from New England, I didn’t have a chance to open-water-swim before the race (aside from a quick dress rehearsal the day before). However, I kept telling myself on my pool days “yeah, but on race day you’ll be in a wetsuit”. Of course with 81 degree water, Raleigh was not wetsuit legal. I did have a friend lend me her Blue Seventy Swim Skin the day before the race. While swimskins don’t offer the buoyancy (read: security) of a wetsuit, they do keep your kit sucked in nice and tight to you, which cuts down on drag. The swimskin worked great and I was lucky to have it!
The Raleigh swim starts in Jordan Lake, about 40 miles outside of downtown. We boarded the buses from Raleigh around 5:00 am. Transition closed at 6:45 which gave me PLENTY (maybe too much) time to get in the water and warm up before my wave went off at 8:15
Jordan Lake was much nicer than I was expecting. There were a lot of nay-sayers on the Internet talking trash about the water quality but the lake (other than being like bath water) was fine. My swim wave ended up combining 3 age groups, so it was pretty large. As instructed by my coach, I seeded myself closer to the front of my wave so I could hopefully find a faster swimmers feet to hang onto. I may have been a little overzealous in this as when the horn went off, I found myself hanging on for my life in a cluster of swimmers WAYY faster than me. About 200 yards out, I started panicking that I had gone out too fast and felt myself start to hyperventilate. I’ve never had a panic attack in the water before but felt it coming on this time. I started breaststroking to calm myself down and eventually, after a few moments, I passed the first turn buoy and got back into my rhythm. Just as I thought I was in the clear, the men from the Relay wave caught me. As they crawled over me in the water, I wanted to shout at them, “YEAH, BUT YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE TO DO ANYTHING AFTER THIS”. But instead I waited until someone who seemed closer to my ability swam near and tried hanging on. This time I was much more successful. The last 1000 yards or so yards went by without any more drama… but I was still more than happy to finally get out of the water. Averaged 1:59/100 yard, which is slow for me, but considering my few hundred yards of breaststroking, I was okay with it.
Aside realizing I couldn’t take off the swimskin by myself, T1 went pretty smoothly. The only unique thing about Raleigh is you had to pack your swim gear into a bag so it could get transported back to the finish for you (since it’s a point to point bike ride). That wasn’t a big deal and only took a few seconds to do. As I ran to “BIKE OUT” I saw two, younger boy volunteers holding enormous sunscreen bottles and shouted “YES! Get at me, boys!” They thought that was funny and did a great job throwing massive amounts of sunscreen lotion on me. Time in T1 was 4:50.
My heart rate was a little high from the anxiety of the swim so I took the first 5 miles of the bike to get my heart rate down. I drank the first half of my speed bottle right away to catch up on fuel and hydration. I got on the bike around 9:00 am and it was smoking hot out already. About 15-20 minutes into my ride, I settled in aero and basically stayed in that position most of the course. My new Shimano Dura-Ace wheels had me feeling like I was flyyying on the flats and downhills. The course was basically rolling hills the entire way, which kept things interesting. I rode fairly conservatively – spun up most of the hills, tried keeping watts below ~220, even on the hills. I had a power target in mind to average but focused more on my heart rate than power. More than anything, I knew I had to be super smart about hydration during the bike. Because it was SO DAMN HOT, I just kept drinking. I started with 3 bottles of First Endurance EFS. I refilled my speed bottle with Gatorade Endurance at every aid station. After the first one, I managed to refill “on the fly”, which I was pretty pleased with myself for. I also had 2 energy gels and a protein bar (broken up to have about 1 portion per hour). Since it was so freaking hot, I also dumped a water bottle over my helmet and into my bike shorts at every aid station to try and stay cool. Volunteers didn’t seem too weirded out by it.
I ended up averaging a little low for normalized power but was SPOT ON for my heart rate target. My bike split was almost exactly 3 hours (3:01) which was faster than I was planning for actually! Averaged closer to 19 mph, which was solid for 2800 feet of elevation. Felt good and was even happier to finally pee as I came into transition (yes, in my chamois), which was my goal indicator of hydrating okay on the bike. YAY!
So, the distance between the bike dismount zone and the entrance to the actual transition area was ridiculously long. There’s almost nothing more awkward than running in bike cleats while pushing your bike along on pavement so I was not impressed with this aspect of the race. Other than that, T2 went fine. I practiced in my head during the bike what I was going to do during transition. Took out my cooling towel, wet it with an extra water bottle, chugged half the emergency RedBull I had in my transition bag, grabbed my Base Salt and Clif Bloks and was off.
My coach warned me not to go out too hard on the run and to instead use the first mile to get my heart rate in check. That’s exactly what I did. My first mile was exactly on target at 8:14 min/mile pace and heart rate low Zone 2. The run course was two loops and contained (without exaggeration) at least 6 out and back U-turns. So… it was pretty congested out there. The tight turns made it difficult to get into a rhythm and, of course, that mother f**king heat. I knew from feeling the strength of the sun on the bike that the run would be brutal but there was no way to really prepare for it. I took a salt lick every mile or so, had an energy chew every 2 miles, drank Gatorade at every aid station. Around mile 3-4 I got an incredible stitch out of nowhere. You know the kind where it’s hard to even stand up? Yeah, like that. I ended up walking the next aid station and drinking extra Gatorade and water this time. I forced myself to start running again and was surprised to start feeling better.
By the second lap I actually felt pretty good so tried to start picking up the pace, but as soon as I did the stitch would start to come back. So instead of pushing it, from then on I just took it from one aid station to the next. The heat had me a little nauseous so I ditched trying to eat anything solid and went straight liquid calories. I started drinking cola in addition to water and Gatorade around mile 7 and the caffeine seemed to really help. I also followed a cooling protocol given to me by a friend (thanks Sam!) which included water over my head, plus handfuls of ice in my sports bra and chamois at each aid station and that (plus the cooling towel) really saved me. Running in nearly 90 degree heat is no joke! At mile 10 I thought to myself “Just a 5K left. Anyone can do a 5K” (a mantra given to me by a friend) and decided to actually pick it up. This was the first time my heart rate went out of Zone 2 all day. Mile 10-12 was a long steady climb back into town so my final splits were not anything special but I was able to get back down into the 8s and finished the run course in 1:57.
Raleigh 70.3 was a tough battle that tested both my mental and physical fitness in a way that it hasn’t been before. The course was mostly well designed and very well supported. The volunteers were INCREDIBLE. But by far my favorite part of the day was seeing my brother, who also raced, on the course and my husband cheering me on.
My goal for this race was sub 5:30 and/or top 10 in my age group. I ended up finishing in 5:48 and 14th in my age group. For my first official 70.3 and the race day conditions, I think I executed it nearly as best as I could have. I’ve been going back and forth like “Man, should I have ridden a little harder on the bike? I probably could have pushed harder on the run.” but then I remind myself that this was just the warm up: I’m still gearing up for the Big Dance in Lake Placid on July 22nd. This was the last year Ironman Raleigh 70.3 will be held so I was happy to help send it off… but will probably stick to racing above the Mason Dixon line from now on. Bring on IMLP!
I haven’t blogged in a while. Despite my New Year’s Resolution to “write more,” I just simply haven’t had the free time between work and Ironman training.
I was recently promoted at work (yay!). While promotions are awesome, early feelings of pride and accomplishment quickly converted to stress and anxiety as I realize the implications of having more responsibility, more exposure to leadership, etc. More than anything else, it’s been a struggle to navigate my new role and still make it seem like I (at least somewhat) have my shit together.
To use a swim metaphor, it’s like just when I figure out how to tread water to stay afloat, someone comes and hands me a 20 pound weight to hold over my head and am back to almost drowning. Essentially, I’m doing too much to really feel like I’m doing anything well. I shared this with one of my mentors and asked for advice on how to do better.
Her response was this: “I think you’ve got it wrong and actually you are kicking ass and we, as women, are just way too hard on ourselves.”
Maybe she was kind of right. I was probably promoted for a reason… was probably given more responsibility for a reason. No one has called me out on not doing a good job in my new role.
I started thinking about this and wondering about other areas of my life. Silly things that have been causing me stress for no reason.
Take this photo:
This is a photo of me taken at the Outrival Racing training camp. It ended up getting picked up by Outrival and QT2 Systems and shared on their social media accounts. This could have been really cool but all I could think while looking at the photo on my phone screen is that I’m nearly 10 pounds over “race weight,” that I don’t look like an endurance athlete… blah, blah blah… all the horrible things we think about our bodies from time to time for no good reason.
The thing is: I was one of the strongest runners at that camp. The fact that I was even at that camp and the fact that I’m training for an Ironman 10-12 hours a week shows that I have a pretty decent level of fitness. So really, that kind of self-loathing about an extra few pounds is kind of crazy!
And obviously I’m not alone. Here are just a few examples of conversations with my girlfriends from the past few weeks:
I could seriously be 10 pounds lighter if I didn’t drink beer. (Yeah, maybe… but then you wouldn’t drink beer and that would be so sad and boring)
I only worked out 4 days this week… that’s pathetic. (No, you’re working full time and going to nursing school at night and it’s amazing that you find any time to work out)
I’m going to show up for work my first day and they’re going to immediately fire me when they realize how unqualified I am. (They hired you knowing your experience and decided you were the best person for the job.)
You get it. This topic is so pervasive in women’s conversation it is almost cliché to even write a blog. But for real. Maybe it’s time we actually start to cut the crazy talk and cut ourselves some slack.
So I took that quote from my mentor and have used it as mantra these past few weeks. Here it is for you to keep in your back pocket for whenever you need it.
In endless support for the sisterhood …on International Women’s Day and all the days!
I’ve come back to this question a lot this week. Often support just means money: Whether it is traditional patronage, i.e. supporting local breweries by spending too much of my disposable income on craft beer, or donating to NPO whose cause you support, i.e. for my birthday I donated and collected donations for the organization She Should Run.
But sometimes “support” is subtler, more personal. For example, my husband supports me in triathlon by taking care of the dog in the morning so I can train.
I mention this because, like so many others, 2017 made me angry (see #metoo movement for details). Every election, every corporate restructuring, and every misogynistic comment helped nourish the nasty seed in my head that the cards are stacked against women and minorities in an infuriatingly real way.
Obviously this wasn’t new to 2017… but this past year pushed me to where I had to start doing something productive. So I decided at the end of last year to start consciously and directly supporting women.
Triathlon was a good place to start – it’s another thing I throw an obscene amount of money at. I joined a women’s triathlon team founded by pro triathlete Angela Naeth (a woman and badass athlete that’s had to overcome a lot in the sport) and volunteered to help out the team however possible while serving as the Regional Director for Boston.
Side note: feel free to talk to me directly about joining IRACELIKEAGIRL.
Then there’s coaching. Coaching is one of the most obvious examples of the double standard: At the elite level, it’s perfectly acceptable for men to coach women and women’s teams but the reverse is rarely true. A reminder that there are certain power dynamics we are comfortable conforming to and a certain type of person that we trust as “experts.”
So, I started working with a female coach in October. From high school through college athletics, I’ve had many coaches in sport, but this is my first time working directly with a woman. That’s kind of crazy, right? Working with Coach Karen has been amazing and I’m 100% confident it was right the move.
But these things were relatively easy. They’re largely symbolic, grand gestures that make me feel like I’m contributing to the solution instead of the problem. These actions, however, are not how you change a system. Real change is wayyyyy more complicated, baked into our day-to-day interactions, how we do business, how we interact on social media, what we choose to blog about…
Fear of backlash is a common reason why we stay silent… and why things stay the same. So if we want change, we have to support things we believe in, loudly and publicly. Where you have a voice, use it, wherever and however you can.
So I am using mine. Here. At work. Online. Wherever possible.
If you disagree, you can “unfollow” or “defriend” me… but I’d much rather you let me know in a constructive way. Drop me a suggestion of how you go about supporting positive change. I’d love to hear from you.