Wednesday, September 18, 2013


OMG, tri season is a wrap here in the Midwest!  Read on for ways to handle your new found free time......

FIND A NEW HOBBY- I know, I know, it is hard to give up that triathlon obsession even when it is not racing season.  But in the Midwest it is also hard to feed the triathlon beast in the dead of winter. Every fall, in addition to the cooler days, I look forward to college football, my fantasy team and traveling.   Three things that make me excited that triathlon season is over and the next chapter of my year is about to begin.  Instead of training on the weekends, I get my short workouts out of the way in the morning before football starts and the spend the day cozy at my house with my family and big screen.  I always have a few trips planned for the latter half of the year, outside summer when I need to be training, and in the fall so I can look forward to them.  

GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK (SOMETIMES)-  I have this rule from September- December:  If life gets in the way or I REALLY don't feel like working out, I won't.   Now mind you, I am addicted to working out so this usually doesn't happen more than a couple times per month, but I give in to the urge this fall season.  Because it just feel so good to be lazy sometimes.  The rest of the year I don't give myself that luxury, it is not even an option.   I also have this game I play at home if I can't drag myself to the gym during workout time- I give myself the choice to clean one floor of my house or workout.   I often do decide to clean and you know what?  There is no guilt after.  I made my home spic and span and actually moved my body a little doing it!

MIX THOSE WORKOUTS UP-  Sometimes I just don't feel like running, biking or swimming.  But in season you still have to.  This time of year you don't.  So I like to lift weights, take a class, do yoga, go for a long walk or just ride my bike to 5 different client's houses to get my workout in.  Taking a mental and physical break from triathlon makes it more exciting to pick up that sport again later.  

DO WHAT YOU LOVE, ABANDON WHAT YOU DON'T-  For some reason I never get sick of running.  I think it is the simplicity of tying your shoes and getting out the door.  Swimming is fun once you get in, but after 25 years of swim training, diving into the pool can be torturous.  And I am always happy to retire my bike for a while in the fall.  So you know what?  For the next couple months I will continue to run, sign up for a few local races, swim when I can coax myself into the water and forget about the bike.  Because come January the Computrainer and I have a lot of dates, and my Computrainer does not like to be stood up.  

SLEEP IN, EAT WHAT YOU WANT, BE LAZY- Ok, that is a bit of an exaggeration but I am firm believer that you cannot be on your A game, in your best shape, at your racing weight all year round.  Part of what feels good each autumn is not setting that alarm, eating some junk when I go to a football tailgate on Saturday (and not worrying how it is going to effect my Sunday workout), and laying on the couch all day Sunday watching my fantasy points (after a short workout in the morning). These are luxuries I am willing to give up all spring/summer because after a while they lose their appeal.   And training and racing and giving up junk food and working out several hours a day becomes that much more appealing.  Don't make the mistake of putting on more than a few lbs, but don't lose any sleep over those few lbs that will inevitably creep back on, either.    Enjoy and make the most of your down time and you will be that much more motivated to train when it counts.

Alright, people, watch some TV late into the night and sleep in in the morning- you deserve it!
-Coach A

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

IMWI 2013: Hot or Not

When you compete in a sprint or Olympic distance triathlon, it is not uncommon to have a race where you feel like you totally nailed it.  Your training was solid, you felt strong and fast throughout, and that confidence carries you through to the finish line.  An Ironman is a totally different beast altogether. Even the fastest professionals go through cycles of high points and low points throughout the day.  The trick to conquering the IM is to ride the highs as long as possible and dig yourself out of the low points quickly.   Below, in a hot or not format, are some of the things that affected me throughout my race on Sunday.

HOT:  The weather.  I mean, seriously, when was the last time you saw a cloudy, 70 degree day sandwiched between two 95 degree sunny days?  That's what I thought.   Never.  Someone was looking out for us.
NOT:  The wind.  It was a bitch.   Especially on miles 96-102.  Those were definitely the worst part of the bike for me.

HOT: The volunteers.   Unbelievable.  Their smiles, motivation and enthusiasm were so fantastic I almost wanted to hug each one I encountered.  I accidentally threw water and/or Perform on more than one of them and they all laughed it off.  To the girl in T1 who rubbed sunscreen on my back to the one in T2 who changed my socks- you all rule.
NOT: The triathlete who called one of the volunteers an asshole because he wouldn't give him his gear.   This athlete did not have his participant bracelet or pickup ticket, which was a rule stated from the very beginning.  Poor volunteer was just doing his job and this guy was giving us all a bad name. Too bad it was after the race- he should have been disqualified in my eyes.

HOT:  The spectators.   From the guys in the pink speedos to the tutu'd ladies to the man who looked me in the eye at mile 10 and said "You look like you are having a great race."  The spectators made this race a memory to last a lifetime.  Thank you for coming out.
NOT:  Miles 18-25 on the run when the sun was setting and the spectators were calling it a day.  These are what I call "the dark miles."  When you need to dig deep and figure out what you are made of. Reflect on how far you have come and where you are going.  The pain was bad, I remember that, but already becoming a distant memory.

HOT:  A breakdown free bike ride (for me).  No mechanical issues with my newish electronic shifters, no flat tires, no ejected water bottles.   Nothing to throw me off my game.
NOT:  The poor guy I saw looking at his bike on the side of the road with a BROKEN CHAIN.  Broken chain?!  Yikes!  I can only hope race support was able to help him and get him back on the road.

HOT: Any section of the race on State Street.  There are two portions on each loop so four times altogether you get to run past the bars and the crowds and they will motivate you like none other.
NOT: Who decided it would be great to make miles 6 and 19 mostly uphill? And a steep one at that. Even walking at mile 19, uphill was killer.   You try to tell yourself only 7 more miles but then realize that is over and hour and it is depleting.

HOT:  The deliciously salty goodness of the chicken broth I chugged at mile 20. I was sticking to Perform and water prior to then, but all bets were off the last 6 miles.  So yummy.
NOT: The sticky sweet taste in the back of my mouth and throat for a majority of the marathon.  Ten hours of Roctane, GUs, Chomps and Perform will do that to you.  I am on energy supplement detox for a while.  

HOT: The last few hundred meters of the race with the spotlights pointed towards you, the roaring crowd and that final boost of adrenaline.
NOT: Ten minutes after the race when I realized I needed to lay down or I was going to keel over.   When I laid down right there on the sidewalk my mother immediately walked me to the medical tent.  I managed to avoid an IV by laying down for a bit and drinking a can of Sprite in front of the doctor.

HOT: Taking a warm bath at the hotel after the race, falling into bed, and blissfully falling into a deep slumber.
NOT:  Being awake in a full blown panic almost all night Saturday before the race.

HOT:  Every time over the past 48 hours that I remember that I just finished an Ironman.
NOT: When I realize that I might never be in this great of shape again in my life!  Aaah!

BTW, the picture on the top of this post? That is the tattoo I am finally going to get next week.  It has been a five year decision process and I am ready to make it happen!
-Coach A

Monday, September 9, 2013

Ironman Wisconsin 2013 Race Recap

What a weekend.  I can finally cross IMWI off my bucket list.  We have attended for years and I have always known I wanted to race it, but I honestly didn't think it would happen so soon.  What a difference a couple of years make.  And how quickly the last year passed.

Starting about five days before the race, basically after the Labor Day weekend,  I entered full IM focus mode.  Which should be a good thing, but it wasn't.  Thinking about the race was greatly affecting my sleep.  I have never encountered anything like this before and it was horrendous.  I had two nights with five hours of sleep, Thursday night I downed some Nyquil and managed eight, Friday five and the night before  got ONE hour of sleep.  ONE.  And it was not even good sleep.  It was halfway there, fitful, not very restful nap sleep.  I was honestly awake at 3 am in tears wondering if I should still even race.  Then the alarm went off at 4:30.

I have never had so little sleep in one week in my life.  Those of you who know me well know that I take my sleep very seriously.  I spent many of my awake hours googling "no sleep week before Ironman."  I found a lot of posts about people only getting a few hours the night before, but nothing like my succession of sleepless nights.  But the human body is an absolutely amazing thing.  Despite all my fears about not being able to complete the race or turning in an embarrassing time, the only place I noticed my sleepiness throughout was in my eyes.  They just felt heavy.

Then, there it was, race morning.  I met Elisabeth in the hotel lobby at 5:15 and we headed down to drop off our Special Needs bag, headed over to stock our bikes with water bottles, pump up our tires and get body marked.  Before I knew it we were wetsuiting up and heading to get into the water.  At 6:45 we gave each other a teary hug, jumped in the water and made our way out to the start line.  I felt unbelievably calm and overwhelmed at the same time.   After a year of planning, five months of training and a night of no sleep, it was time to go.

The first 500 yards of the swim was intense.  I was getting clawed, kicked and swam over by men all around me.  I kept thinking they should have some sympathy on the poor girl who ended up in their pack (they knew I was female by my pink cap) but to no avail.  Once we hit the first turn the pack thinned a bit and I found my groove at the hip of a guy for quite some time.  After the second turn we hit the long straightaway (1700 meters) that was directly into the wind and waves (waviest I had seen on Lake Monona).  They were no whitecaps, like Racine, but harrowing nonetheless.  I just tried to maintain a strong comfortable pace and before I knew it we were hitting the last turn. 

I figured the waves were going to add 4-5 minutes to my goal time of an hour so I was happy to see that I was out 1:03.   I was happier later to find out that that time place me 3rd in my age group and 21st overall female.  Running out I was getting some great cheers from strangers and people I knew and I just tried to enjoy every minute of it.   The run to T1 up the parking ramp helix is unforgettable- totally lined with people cheering you on, while you are trying not to go to fast and wear yourself out. Once I made into the Terrace the volunteers grabbed my bag and helped me transition to my bike gear in a few minutes.  

And onto the bike.  112 long ass, hilly, twisty, and WINDY miles.  We were blessed with cool weather on Sunday but paid for it with the 15-20 mile per hour wind from the east.  So, the first 16 miles the wind was to our back and it felt fantastic.  Then came the start of the first loop.  The loop I have practiced on so many times this summer and know every turn and hill.   I felt prepared and just tried to keep it easy for the first 25 miles or so until the first of the succession of three killer hills. 

I was excited about the hills- I have never cheered there but have always heard that it was lined with spectators who will keep you pumped up.  I was not disappointed.  I saw friends, strangers, a clown walk out of the corn, and men dressed in women's swimsuits.  I was proposed too, run with, called Pinky, and creepily complimented on my pigtails by many a drunken man.  It was a hoot and I hardly noticed my pain on the first loop.  The second loop was a different story.    

Once I managed to get through the two loops I was actually still on track for my original goal of 6:30 (before they forecasted high winds) and thought I might just break it.  Then I turned off to head back to the city.  HOME STRETCH!  Or so I thought.  When I made that left turn, smack, that wind hit me like a ton of bricks.   And the first few miles included rolling hills, mostly an uphill battle.   With a marathon in my not so distant future I decided it was best to conserve energy, slow down and take in some calories.  With the cool weather I had not made it through all my bottles of Roctane, so I ate a bag of GU chomps during that last hour, wrestled with the wind and made it back in 6:37.   

The bike catchers grabbed me and I hobbled into the Terrace to T2.  Changed socks, put on visor, grabbed my race belt and I was outta there.  Now all I had to depend on was me.  I trust myself.  It was a good feeling.

I tried to go out very slowly knowing the IM marathon is a sneaky sucker that is going to get you no matter how hard you pace.  After the first two miles under 9:00 I settled into a ten minute mile for the next 8 miles or so.  I felt good and strong and finally got to exchange some words with my family and give Alex a kiss around mile 10.  She asked if I was finished with my Ironman and I think I said almost. But not quite. Only the 16 hardest miles of the race left.  

Things were good until about mile 14 when the side ache crept in, I started getting some serious acid reflux (so weird, never had that in my life except when I was pregnant) and the blisters were killing.   At mile ten I had promised my family I was going to beat my Arizona time of 12:53, and come hell or high water, I was getting it done.   I needed to keep those mile under 12 minutes and I only allowed myself to walk every other aid station and these two crazy hill that would fry your legs so bad they were not even worth the effort.  I managed to keep most miles under 11 and with 3 miles to go I knew it was going to happen.  

Miles 23-25.5 are long, dark and sparse of spectators.  So close, yet so far away.  Then you hit State Street and that is what this race is all about.  Music bumping, beer flowing the crowd shouting you up the hill towards the capitol.  I teared up a little turning that corner.  It had been a long week and I had my moments doubting whether I would make it here or not.   I looked around, picked up my turnover a bit and soaked it all in.  

The final turn when you see the finish line is so wonderful.  After 12 hrs and 44 minutes it finally felt good again to move forward and you almost want that moment to last forever.  ALMOST.  Because crossing that finish line and falling into a catchers arms and letting your legs stop moving actually feels better.   They hang that medal over your neck, give you your finisher gear and regale you with praise.  Your fans are yelling at you from the side and Mike Reilly has just announced that you are an Ironman.  For those of you think I'm insane (its ok, I am not offended), this is one of the biggest reasons I do this.   For the moment when I become an Ironman.

This post is too long already but stay tuned tomorrow for Hot List: Highs and Lows of IMWI 2013
-Coach A

Friday, September 6, 2013

An Ironman Thank You

An Ironman is a very selfish act.  The training you need to do to prepare.  The sleep you need to do the training.  The times you can't go out so you can sleep.  The food you need to eat to train.  It's all about you.  

No one will get nearly as much joy out of me crossing that finish line on Sunday as I will, but it sure as hell took a lot of people to get me there.  So now, I would like to thank them.  In no particular order:

The Running Institute of Chicago.  I came to you in January with a lingering foot pain.  Thanks for steering me in the right direction. 

NovaCare at DePaul.  Athena and Will grastoned? the heck out of my foot and got me out of a walking boot and running faster than I thought possible.  

Running Away.  For your gear and support and George and Anne and everyone for getting me set up fast on my sweet ride. 

Hot Tubes Custom Painting.  For giving me the coolest paint job I have seen on any bike, ever (in my opinion). 

My babysitters.   Parents, nieces, friends, and anyone else who took care of Alex so I could train.  Gene, sorry, I don't think Dads count as babysitters.  

My spectators.  I have a big crew coming up Sunday specifically for me and I can't wait to see them. I also know there will be other friends I see and strangers who yell my name and for that I am thankful.  

My training partners.  If I ran, rode or swam with you this summer you are part of this group.  You got me through a workout and one step closer to the finish line. 

My clients.  For listening to me talk, complain, boast (not sure what that was) and making me feel like a badass.  You guys are the best.  

Tavia.  For mostly just being you but also for creating the Spark brand.  I will be so proud representing my brand in your creation Sunday, seeing others out there in it, and getting a tattoo that you designed;)

My parents. For everything you do for us and for going above and beyond this summer to allow Gene and I to ride.  And for giving me the priceless gift of knowing Alex is always taken care of. 

Elisabeth.  For being client/friend/training partner extraordinaire.  I'm so proud of how far you have come and could not have made it through this summer without you.    

Alex. I love, love, love you more than you will ever know.  Thanks for always being up for an adventure and the sweetest baby girl a mommy could ask for.  I can't wait to cuddle with you after the race. 

Gene.  My hubby, tech support, equipment manager and best friend.  There really are no words to thank you enough for all you do for me.  I could not possibly have done this without you.  I love you so much.  

See you at the finish line!!!
-Coach A