The Helpers

“Look for the helpers, you will always find people who are helping.”

Fred Rogers

Thanking all of my helpers who have been there the last few weeks! You know who you are. I am truly grateful for all of the love and support that is pouring in from every corner. With everything from my grandpa to this week’s car accident and total loss of the blue bomber Aveo. The cards, warm wishes, positive vibes, and genuine human kindness have been overwhelming. Thank you for the hands, the shoulders, the hugs, the tears, the strength, the laughter, the borrowed vehicles, the offers of kindness at every corner. My body hurts but my heart is so full. Every day I remain shocked at how much love is in the world and I can’t even begin to describe the love I have felt. I am touched in so many ways. Always look for the helpers – always be a helper.

RIP my little blue gumdrop bomber. No UPS man will be able to buff out the dings you now have.

My strength has been tested over the past few weeks, and again I find myself so grateful for triathlon. So grateful for music. So grateful for humans. Renewed faith in the human race. Renewed faith in myself and always the ability to see strength.

Dear Triathlon:

Welcome back. I present to you a healthy and happy woman who is ready to respect you again. No longer sick with stress and lack of sleep. I apologize for neglecting you for a few months while I stressed, fretted, and got sick over things that were perfectly in my control. You have my attention and devotion once again. I look forward to smashing goals with you all summer long. Thank you for the most recent bike hill adventure – you reminded me how strong I am and of the joy I find in biking. While I may not have a car to get to the pool for a while – I promise you I will find a way.

Dear Clarinet:

Hello there. How are you? I never neglected you, but I lost some joy. I am sorry that I didn’t turn to you in times of need. Music, my soul, my love. I took for granted the fact that I got to play in an orchestra concert for the first time in years. I’m sorry I let that joy be dimmed.  Picking you up and letting my heart soar through you is a gift that I never want to take lightly. I won’t do it again.

Dear Aveo:

We’ve been through a lot together, you and I. My first real adult purchase. I am sorry that you had to go out this way. Although it wasn’t my fault, I wish you had received a royal send-off on your final journey as car. Thank you for accompanying me just recently on my Ironman journey and for driving me to my very first “big girl” job all those years ago. Thanks for forcing me to learn how to drive stick shift. I got you for that reason and taught myself well. I’ll remember the good times. 🙂

Dear Mumford & Sons:

Whoop! Windows down time and some singing in the car never felt so good…I’ll get a new car for you soon enough.

Dear Me:

Hi. Remember you? Here you are again. Your life journey continues with a few new scars. Look at your helpers – your wonderful friends, family, coach, training partners, co-workers, musician co-horts. Remember them and their love for you. Some surprised you! Some you hadn’t spoken to in years! You made an impact on their lives at some point in time and there they were. You never had to say a word. Forget who you are again? I think not. Your smile is fierce. Your laughter and your joy are everywhere again. Here you are with another brand new triathlon journey. Here you are enjoying your beautiful music. Here you are getting a chance to play at the Kennedy Center. Here you are with the joy and beauty that is life. The ups, the downs, and the everythings in between. Enjoy your reading again. Earlier nights. Morning workouts. That beautiful sunrise. You are you. 🙂 It’s pretty cool.

The music. The sport. The life. But most of all…the helpers. The helpers who are there but who also give you the strength to enjoy your moments of solitude. Those nights you do just enjoy being alone with thoughts and mind. You need no one else but even in your moments of quiet, the helpers are still there.

When you are a helper to others, there will always be the helpers for you.

Look for them. Listen for them. Help them too.

rogers

 

 

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I Train Best When…I Think…?

The past month or so has been difficult on my training schedule. First it was a trip to Wisconsin (a very important trip…), next a sinus infection that knocked me out for three days, then a solid several weeks of decent build, HALT – a terrible terrible flu from which I am still recovering … etc. etc. … no excuses but I just can’t seem to get on a roll here. I’ll have some decent training sessions and then a slew of days where nothing clicks. It’s either all there, or all frustration. There is no middle ground these days.

News on the family front has put things into perspective. To those of you who know me, you understand how close I am with my family — some of you are just as close to them. They are my family and they are my best friends. Mom’s side, dad’s side. I treat them all with love, respect, and care for them deeply. When one hurts, we all hurt. As the oldest grandkid, cousin, kid, etc. – I have always been sort of in the middle. Not as young as the bulk of my cousins, and not as old as my aunts and uncles. It has given me an interesting perspective and has made me close to all of them in different ways. As we face difficult times ahead, I find myself feeling far from home. My heart hurts and I am sad to not be sharing this journey with the people that I love so much. As the girl who always made it home at least one or two Sundays a month to visit, catch the home church service, and hang out with my family – it is difficult to be half a country away from them. Hugs, hands, tears, wishing I could share this time with them – not for myself – but for everyone. To share the love we all have. To be there to support, and also to have that support in return.

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Right – so what does any of this have to do with triathlon, training, etc.? The above picture was taken last summer (July 2015) while I was home in WI for my sister’s wedding. I had just finished a 70 mile bike ride from Milwaukee out to my grandparent’s house and my dad drove and met me there. He forgot to bring my dry clothes so here I am in my gross bike gear. Stinky no doubt – but these people love me anyway. 🙂 These are my lovely grandparents. You never know what life will deal you or when it will deal…so I try to never take anything for granted. This day was spent with great loves: triathlon and family. We told wonderful stories that day and sang songs together. Grandpa told his usual naughty jokes, grandma tried not to be embarrassed as she sat holding his hand, we shared memories of old times, we talked about my upcoming race, and (of course) the terrible Milwaukee Brewers. It wasn’t easy to leave that day, but it’s a day I will remember forever.

Today I returned to my training with a different mindset. Again, it is life that reminds me to put things back into perspective. Today, just like always, I hit the pool. This time, filled with thoughts of my family. Clear, wonderful thoughts. Memories flooding through me. I heard the water in my ears and remembered wonderful times spent at my grandparents’ swimming pool. I thought of my cousins, my sister, my parents, my aunts and uncles. Love in general. I couldn’t get out of my head how lucky I am to have such beautiful family members in my life. Not everyone is so lucky. I wasn’t thinking about a specific pace, my workout data, my coach, my training partners, none of that. I don’t want to hear any of that. It is so easy to get wrapped up in drama and data and this and that. But I improve and am at my best when I am focused on my own thoughts — drowning out the drama and data and talk of those around me. In the end, my training does need to be my time. I love the group support sometimes and seeing everyone once in a while. It helps especially on very long rides to know there is support there. But I also like knowing that I can do a lot of my training on my own. I like the push and competition and it is necessary at times – but always training with a group or with other people would be a tedious task for me.

It always comes full circle. I am my happiest when I am training alone with my thoughts. Those thoughts might be sad, happy, angry – it doesn’t matter. But in the end, all of those sessions that end up being my best sessions are the ones in which I am listening to my brain and my heart. I love the times when it is me and my own mental and physical battle. Whether it is fighting something physical (flu, knee), mental, or just boredom sometimes (bike trainer), I realize that my favorite times are when I fight through those battles on my own. When I stop for just 30 seconds to watch a sunset or a heron glide across the water, to wipe a tear from a wonderful memory, or to blow a dandelion into the wind and make a wish — these things are worth it to me. What is 30 seconds during training? Would I do it in a race? Nah….I’d want that 30 seconds to try to win…but you can bet I will still be enjoying every minute and smiling as much as I can (see Ironman). Do I want to be competitive at this sport? You bet! And in time, I think I can get there. I work hard every day with the help of my coach — but it is the brain and the “me” time that really play a role in how my training goes. The training is my therapy. Sometimes I forget. My swim today proves that bit by bit I am improving. The joy for me though, comes in those moments when I can reflect. I do that with the black line, the miles on the bike in the beautiful sun, and one foot in front of the other during a run. Even with the memories flooding my brain today at the pool — I dropped my Critical Swim Speed another few seconds (yay!). My body felt balanced and smooth in the water. I didn’t even feel like I was going that fast.  Today, I have to thank my family for my training session. The beautiful thoughts and memories provided a perfect backdrop as I inched through the water.

Far in distance — so close in heart.

RunningGoucher

With love, to my family at home: It truly is a wonderful life.

Snowzilla 2016 Woke Me Up

Let’s just say…2016 has been “interesting” so far. My first physical challenge of the year was the Indoor Tri through Lifetime Fitness. It went fine. My swim is still really rough and I work on it constantly. My bike saved me and my run is improving. I wasn’t terribly pleased with my performance, but I didn’t embarrass myself either. Moving on.

A wonderful Packephoto 1rs-Redskins game with E-Rock and The Man proved to be an excellent time. My heart and head have been highly stressed and heavy lately for a number of personal reasons. It was good to let loose a bit and laugh with some of my favorite people. Getting back into a more regular routine and focusing on my training has proved to be beneficial.

However, just as I started getting back on track, I visited Wisconsin to see my ailing grandparents. The Man accompanied for part of it which made it a special trip. I got to show off only a very small part of the city I love so much (Milwaukee). It felt wonderful to see some old friends as well as family. A little chilly (highs in the negatives) but I managed to get in my swims with my favorite training partner, Beezey! It was good for my soul to be training with her again in the dead of winter.

I came back to VA ready to rock!! Had a great talk on the phone with Coach D. Then…cue door slam. Immediately socked with sinuses full of gunk. I was in a terrible spot. Not wanting to miss any more work after having just returned from vacation and the holidays. Hoping I didn’t make anyone ill…alas…I was out. No energy. No lung power. No workouts.

Then SNOWZILLA 2016. I spent the better part of the week shrugging it off. I am a WI girl and snow doesn’t stop me. I was wrong. This was my first DC metro area snow storm….Snow shuts down a city here. I stand very, very corrected. I apologize to anyone (everyone) I laughed at.

Wisconsin

workschool

DC-Metro

snow day oprahshovel

Obviously, this area does not have resources to deal with this type of thing. Snow ended around midnight on Saturday and I had no doubt that I would be out and about by 9 AM Sunday morning. Incorrect. I couldn’t make it out of my subdivision on my own power until mid-day Monday. For days and days and days – stuck inside. At my wits end…I had the worst of cabin fever. Plus, I really, really needed to put some time in at the office. But…the boredom and the fact that my sinuses were on the mend allowed me to finally put in some time on the bike trainer and in the running shoes. A great trainer session on Friday, a tempo run, and some serious shoveling and snow trudging on Sunday – have re-inspired me. Now that I am at least mobile and able to move about the city again, it reminds me of Wisconsin and I love it. I may not have been able to get many places, and this area clearly can’t handle snow like the midwest, but it got me back on the horse workout-wise. Re-motivated and back in a positive mindset.

So maybe I was annoyed that I couldn’t get anywhere to actually play in the snow, but my run shoes didn’t fail me and my bike trainer was the usual perplexing (and long/boring) experience. Decent workouts all around and enough to launch me back into some sort of routine – despite the fact that normal routines were completely destroyed by the snow and sinuses.

While I do love snow, I am at my happiest on my long rides with the wind in my face and my thoughts in my head. The trainer is maddening to me. Soon, I hope to be back on the roads. March isn’t far away. Although, if I have to be on a trainer, it’s much easier with several feet of snow outside than any other weather. 🙂

There are always lanterns in the darkness and sometimes you need the help of a beautiful blizzard to see them. Nothing beats the sound (yes it is quiet – but that IS the sound) of a fresh snowfall. It is one of the most peaceful experiences in the world. Don’t forget to listen.

“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” Albert Camus

Bring the training. Bring the tough.

Bring that DAMN bike trainer (hopefully not for much longer).

 

A Very Rogue Christmas (Workout!) – And new laces?

“Never underestimate the power that one good workout will have on your mind. Keeping the dream alive is half the battle.” – Kara Goucher

Saturday morning! Happy December! Coach D calls a Rogue workout! My friend K called it “Rise and Grind with Rogue” in a picture. Clever. Funny. Awesome.

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First of all – going to whine for just a moment – it ruined my training plan for the week because I originally thought I wasn’t going to be able to go. I was supposed to help a friend move. So I had planned my bikes and runs around Saturday (with the thought that I wasn’t going to have time to bike OR run on Saturday)…Well the move fell through and I ended up being able to go (yay!).

For those who know…I live and die by a schedule – that I carefully write out every Sunday and/or Monday afternoon depending on when I get my training plan. Between squeezing in Christmas concerts and music rehearsals in the evenings, I have to be super careful about getting all my ducks in a row early in the week. Lunch time runs, trying to get to the pools when high schools, masters groups are now using them for swim meets at odd times of the day. Something changes in my schedule…and EVERYTHING goes up in flames. I can be flexible to a point, but there isn’t a ton of wiggle room. Then coach says…nothing but swimming on Friday…no biking/running. AND no biking/running on Sunday. There went my planned trainer ride and my long run….but I felt the group workout was going to be much more beneficial…so I had to let it go….still hanging onto the fact that I didn’t get all of my workouts in this week.

AnyWAY!!! It was amazing. A series of bike/run/bike/run, etc. for a solid hour at 100% effort. Along with a few other gems…if you want to know all of what we did, you’ll have to hire my coach. I LOVED it.  LOVE LOVE LOVE. When it was finished, I felt that I hadn’t pushed myself hard enough and found myself wondering just how hard I could go the next time.

As I have always battled those cramps off of the bike while running, I tend to take it a little easy for the run. For this workout, I pushed it harder than I ever have before, and found that I still had room for more. I was running faster than I ever have in a tri, and STILL could have run faster. I just kept pushing the up button on the treadmill – inching my pace higher to find that threshold. I don’t know where any of the energy or strength came from, but it was there. I wasn’t even feeling 100% physically when I arrived at the gym in the morning. It was a wonderful learning experience and a great way to gauge both how far I have come and see what I can yet do.

I think what I most needed though, was just some time with my teammates. Rooting each other on. It was great to see everyone again, doing what we love best (all things tri). The cheering and the smiles topped off a difficult week. Rogue is growing and it’s wonderful to see that too! It’s easy in the winter to miss those things like our long group rides, brick workouts, and times soaking in the pool after difficult training sessions. You really do become a small family – a family that understands the training and the love of the sport. It’s important to be around people who understand that once in a while, because not everyone does. While I do love the miles out on my own, the times to reflect and think, over the year I have also come to love the times when I get to see/hang out/root for my teammates. It’s a wonderful and amazing balance and I sometimes have to remind myself what a joy it is to get up early in the morning and have a sweat session with other people who love this sport as much as I do.

Also – this workout taught me that I most definitely need Yankz/Lock Laces. Suggestions? Comments? Reviews? I am going to need to spend those Christmas tri gift cards on these types of things.

Over, under, around, and through….blah, blah, blah and tie a shoe.

What was the rhyme?

Anyway, maybe I am to the point where those seconds of making that little bow are actually starting to count. At least in my brain.

Happy December.

She Smiles, She Swims

So the past couple of weeks have been decent training-wise. I’m still not quite up for long periods of time on the bike but running and swimming have been excellent for my soul. This is a shorter post – mostly about work in the pool.

The pool.

After the eval from Coach D, I have had no shortage of things to focus on at the pool. Kick, kick, kick, go very slow, kick some more, float, kick, single-arm, drill, drill, drill. I like it though. I like working my butt off. Swims have been no longer than 1600 at a pop right now (averaging 3 per week). Much of this is drills and kicks. I can already tell that my vertical kicking is improving. I was happy that today at a relatively empty pool, I wasn’t the only one doing vertical kicking! The woman in the lane next to me had her arms to the sky workin’ it (although she was wearing fins which gave her a slight advantage). Slowly but surely I am getting my arms higher and able to not drown for longer periods of time.

But I work. Boy do I work. And it is difficult. Oh to be a natural swimmer. This week I have consistently shaved 10 seconds off my 200 time. It isn’t a mountain, but the little molehills can add up if I am able to get some endurance at that pace.

Using a kick board is not pleasant. But I do it. Every time I hit the pool. If I am going to pay $8 when I use a pool…I am going to work damnit.  Seriously though. I do notice the improvement and I feel better in the water – until I get tired and my form goes down the drain. Baby steps. Baby kicks? I’m a better triathlete than I was yesterday. Even a bad day at the pool reaffirms that. Sometimes fighting through a workout makes you feel pretty good when all is said and done. Especially when you look at your data and realize it wasn’t as bad as it felt.

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Looking forward to Sunday’s CSS Test!

Loving the work. Craving more. Working towards excellence!

That Was A LOT Worse Than Expected – Post Race Slump – Honest Evaluation

The post-race slump. Whoa. I have never experienced such a thing as the post-race slump. It was actually kind of scary and maybe I should have been more vocal about it. Looking back at the last few weeks – yikes. Things could have gone south fast.

As a generally positive person, when my coach warned me about the post-Ironman slump – I sort of shrugged it off. I thought, “What’s the big deal? So maybe I will be a little bummed out. Maybe I will be sad for a few days. I won’t want to do much.” I have done so many races before and have never experienced any post-race moodiness. I didn’t have it after my half Iron. I wasn’t worried. I had this.

It was FAR worse than that. Being a positive person, maybe I just haven’t had these feelings very often (or ever). I have been in some really difficult situations. I have been in bad places in my brain and in my heart. I have had to make difficult and heart wrenching decisions. But those situations all felt within my control. I could control my actions and my choices and I always felt that I had the control to make changes if necessary. To get myself out of those situations.

THIS. I have never felt this. I kept trying to convince myself, my coach, my friends – that the post-race slump was over. I wanted it to be. I wanted to shake it off. But wow. I thought it was homesickness and that was the worst of it. NOPE. It just kept going in this spiral. I felt completely helpless over my own brain. I couldn’t will myself to do much of anything. That. Is. Not. Me. Very scary. I am just now able to start dragging myself out of bed and get excited about training again. I am singing and bopping along to tunes again at work. Feeling productive. Wanting to get things done…finally.

What the heck? So a quick blow-by-blow. I isolated myself from my roommates. Laying in bed. Not doing workouts. I got angry with The Man. I didn’t talk to my friends. Was distant from co-workers. Just….very quiet. I went out alone several nights just because I was feeling so stir crazy. I threw my phone. A complete roller coaster. I was completely destructive for about a week – and this was a few weeks AFTER the race. Wasn’t this supposed to be ending? I didn’t want to tell people how destructive I felt because I felt stupid about it. I felt like I shouldn’t be feeling this way. The race happened a long time ago…get your head in the game, girl. What is the MATTER with you? My coach said something to the effect – that I should just talk to him. He even brought up suicidal tendencies. I wasn’t experiencing that by any means…but I still felt like I had little control over my brain. And with as reckless and destructive as I was getting/feeling…it could have been worse. Coach said he was there to help with that. But when he said that…I thought I was on the upswing. And also…I threw myself into…protect mode. There isn’t anything wrong with me. Please I am just fine. That’s crazy talk. I am strong. I am smart. I am successful. Nope. Guess not. I didn’t care about anything. I didn’t want to get out of bed. Getting through the workday everyday was a huge struggle. I tried to throw on my smile – and even THAT was difficult. I am finally laughing again and enjoying the presence of other people. For a while there – I wanted to shut everyone completely out. I don’t know if this was some sort of chemical imbalance or what…but I felt completely helpless to prevent these things I was feeling.

Am I fully out of this slump? I honestly don’t know. I think maybe – but then I said that in my last post. I don’t want to just lay in bed anymore. I am starting to do things with my friends again. The Man – He brought me to the Kennedy Center for a wonderful, special evening and even then I was struggling to smile. It was one of the most special, romantic nights of my life and I enjoyed it so much…but boy was my mind heavy. That just isn’t me. I was quiet and not as smiley as a normal me would/should have been. Halloween – I dressed up, usually one of my favorite holidays…but I basically went through the motions. Went to a few parties, smiled for the cameras, blah. Band concert – went through the motions. This was music! One of the biggest joys of my life. My mom, The Man – there for support. Again – so special! Just went through the motions. Played the notes on the page. Check it off the list. Packer game, World Series, just going through the motions.

Even last weekend, I went to Soul Cycle (needed it) – maybe feeling better. Spent the day at Monticello with my mom – needed that too. A chance to get out of the city and into nature. That’s when I finally started to feel like myself again. Or did I? Then this week has been wonderful. I still have been slacking a little bit on my training…but when I do get out there to train…I am not “checking it off the list.” I am out there to fix things. I am out there to make progress. I am out there to become a better triathlete. I have focus. I am back to participating and leading lunch time boot camps at work. My motivation and ability to motivate others is returning. That brings me a lot of joy. I had another wonderful evening with The Man and this time I was me. Bopping around annoyingly – excited to share an evening with him. Dragging him to one of my all time favorite shows. Bouncing out of my seat – annoyingly 🙂 Being goofy. And smiling. Really finally smiling real smiles. The first smiles since I was running that race.

Thursday night rehearsal. Christmas music. I had a blast playing my clarinet again. No longer just going through the motions but enjoying it. Putting my soul into the sounds. Yes. Made a break through at work after a few difficult weeks. It didn’t help that I had been beating my head against the wall on a project during this time…but I finally started accomplishing something after several frustrating weeks of dead ends.

Friday – A swim evaluation with the coach. An early morning. That alarm went off…grumble…not what I wanted to do. We were at the pool for an hour and a half at dawn…doing very little swimming for distance but working on a bunch of tedious drills. I went with a mindset to accomplish things and make myself a better swimmer. I was there to be a sponge and just soak in everything he had to say. It was the BEST THING EVER. That morning – I knew I was me again. When people say, “I had a moment” – do they mean it? I do. I actually HAD A MOMENT. Might be the first time I actually mean it when I say that. It completely dawned on me at one point while I was in the lane and my coach was on the deck explaining the next drill we were about to do and I was smiling and laughing and I felt it. I just felt it in my brain. I love this. I love this sport. I am back and I love this. But there was an exact moment that I can pinpoint when all of a sudden, everything just felt right again. Everything clicked. Everything was clear. It was almost like my body was flooded with positive energy. All of the positive energy that I had been lacking for a month. I can actually see that precise moment from Friday morning in my memory. Then after that – we were working and he was having me do some crazy things in the water. Some things were frustrating, but I never let that stuff get me down. I was laughing. Smiling. Laughing some more. Laughing when I couldn’t do the deep water vertical kicking. Understanding things I am doing wrong. And smiling. Smiling cause now I have things to work on and things to fix. It was so great. Smiling when he told me to swim really slow….and then told me I still went too fast…and we tried again…and again…and again. To. Go. Slow.

Biking this morning in the terrible wind and the November chill. Everything about the ride was tedious. But guess what? I loved it. I just loved it. Here I sit smiling. Smiling and excited. And it has taken a month.

The post-race slump. Not going to lie. Looking back, it was scary. I know for next time that I need to talk about it. It was real and it could have been much worse. I know when I have friends who compete in their first races, that I need to be around to listen. I need to keep my eyes open if they are shutting doors. What is going on in those brains can be a serous thing. For me – the positive, always sunny, bouncy attitude – the girl who sometimes thinks she is invincible – it hit me very, very hard. I felt almost helpless to prevent it. I couldn’t shrug it off. I don’t know if it will be this tough the next time. I hope it isn’t because wow…

But I know for next time that I need to talk about it. That there are people who understand it. There are people who have been through it. And I admit – it hit me. Sometimes I am not as strong as I think. It hit me hard and I was stupid to try to put a timeline for when I would feel better. I just needed to get there. Next time, I know what I am in for and I hope that I have learned something from this experience too.

“Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.”
– Vernon Law (Former Pirates pitcher)

Final Post on Ironman Maryland – What It Truly Meant

I allowed myself a week to enjoy the post-glow Ironman. It’s done now. As my friends race MCM today and I sit like a sick dog in my bed with the sniffles, time to move on and support everyone else! Even if I have to do it in a robe with a box of Kleenex next to me.

IMMD was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and the following is my final report. Then this turns into just one of the many run-of-the-mill everyday-living triathlon blogs about balance, training, gear, and perhaps my quest to the Trek Speed Concept.

The feels:

Leading up to the race I wasn’t as excited as I had been 2 weeks previously. I had an eerie calm about myself. Packing up my stuff, etc. I didn’t feel rushed. I felt ready and just very, very calm. I picked up Beezey from the airport and we gathered my mom. Off to Cambridge! Even still, it wasn’t really hitting me. Sure I was excited….of course once we got to Cambridge and started seeing athletes and gear and whatnot, I got pretty jazzed. Mostly just a “come on already, let’s get this done.” Still, I calmly went through athlete check-in, took some goofy pics and got some gear. Beez got me a sweet shirt, water bottle, and the traditional IM car sticker.

Racking the bike and setting up my transition bags that afternoon, I had some much needed time alone with my thoughts. I was reflecting, focusing, playing out the race in my head. No goofy pics, no social media, just me and my thoughts in the beautiful sunlight – making sure everything was where it needed to be. All went well and we left for the hotel.

Getting to the hotel, we got our $300 “luxury” suite. Basically, it was a dump. Mom attempted to kill a stink bug that later stalked Beez on the bed and sent her flying halfway across the room with a shriek. Entertaining. We had a good laugh. Dinner was Olive Garden. Yes, I had a pre-race beer. Don’t tell coach? Nah….I ALWAYS have a pre-race beer. At Olive Garden, it hit me and the tears welled up. Beezey and my mom gave a beautiful toast and I couldn’t help but let the tears out a little bit. Thinking of all I had been through and why I had entered the race just hit me at that moment. It was the relief of knowing that everything was so much clearer. So much brighter. So much better. Sleep actually came easy that night (unusual) after a failed bath attempt in a crappy bathtub and the traditional pre-race painting of the toenails.

Race Day

That morning, we got up with the alarms and got on the road. I was up at 3 AM anyway – an hour before the alarm. Ate my peanut butter, banana – all of the usual. Followed my routine, etc. The policy was – no talking allowed in the car on the way to the race. I wanted quiet. I drove. That’s my style. Silence, the road, my thoughts, my zone.

Shuttle. Transition. Potty. Everything was going smooth. Then for one final potty stop…waiting in line forever. Worried about getting my wetsuit on in time for the start, etc. Finished that business and went to find my coach. Took some pics with the coach and team. Got some pics with Beez. Then they announced due to high winds and a small craft advisory that the swim would be shortened to 1.2. miles and the start time pushed back a half hour. After about 1 minute of disappointment, I got over it and went for a little jog in my wetsuit and crocs to stay warm. THEN they announced…well we are going to lengthen the swim to 3,000m now and push back the start just a little bit more. So what is the course? One loop? Two loops? What is even happening? At this point, the entire Ironman had become…you-know, I am just going to roll with the punches. Hurricanes, bike accidents, swim adjustments. Ok cool. Whatever, I was ready and getting that pre-race nervous energy.

The Start/Swim

Ok. I was just beaming by the time we lined up. I felt so ready and just wanted to get this show on the road. My coach, Beezey, my mom, the Rogue group, my training partners who were also racing. Wow. I felt marvelous!! ALL SMILES. The Star Spangled Banner…a little emotional..but no tears. The music started pumping and we all danced as we headed toward the water. Fantastic energy. I made the usual goofy faces as I danced onward.

As soon as my toes touched that water it was go time. A completely different mindset. Instant focus on the task at hand. I didn’t hesitate for a second. Goggles on, I dove right into that water and started swimming as soon as I could. I got kicked, my calf cramped at one point, the usual triathlon jumbles. Nothing surprising. But the focus of this blog post is the beauty. Sure, I couldn’t see anything on the way out, my goggles were so foggy and I was zig zagging all over. But that water was beautiful. Every stroke I thought, wow, I am doing this and it is amazing. I listened to the water as it rushed by my ears. Every time I sighted, I took in that sun as it rose above the river. The loop was fine. I briefly got annoyed at people who were standing at one of the buoys because I was having trouble swimming around them, but then refocused on listening to that water and just enjoying the feel of it. There would only be ONE first Ironman swim. No time to be annoyed. I swam until I couldn’t swim anymore. Fingertips to sand. Ran up and let the wetsuit strippers do their thing. Heard Beez and my mom cheering for me! Wow. What a wonderful feeling to have just swam that far. Granted it was 800m shy of true IM distance…it would have taken maybe 16 more minutes. I could have swam another hour in that beautiful river.

Transition 1

I took my time in transition. It was windy and very cold outside. They had heaters in there. 🙂 Trying to get out of sticky wet clothing and into a sports bra sure is a treat when you are freezing. It’s a treat when you are not freezing…but add the cold…. Luckily the WONDERFUL volunteers snapped my bra right into place with finesse. I wish I had a little personal helper every time I need to wrench my body around to squeeze into a sports bra. Lovely. Changed into bike gear. Uneventful. Stayed warm. Grabbed my bike and headed out for 112.

Bike

Mmmmmmm. My absolute favorite. It was soooooooo windy. I didn’t let it bother me. The BIKE…..WHEEEEEEEEE tailwinds on the first part of the course!!! Smiles. Saw the Rogue balloons at mile 30 and smiled, waved, and shouted as I passed them. Kept cycling. Beez and my mom surprised me at the halfway mark! I could hear Beezey cheering from like a mile away. Seeing her run and follow me while cheering was one of the most awesome feelings in the world. Bike special needs, there was my coach right there for me. Asking if I needed anything. I was so happy. I grabbed my special needs (beef jerky and pickles) and just got on my merry way! No time to stop for very long! I had already went to the bathroom once and had to wait in line for the Port-O-Potty! Back for another 56 miles. The second half of the bike was just as fun. Although I had to improvise a bit. Dropped my Ibuprofen. Dropped my Base Salt. I never practiced working nutrition with gloves on…. Luckily I had beef jerky. Nice and salty. Round a corner near mile 80 and saw the Rogue balloons again. It was fun never knowing where those would pop up!! There were my teammates rooting me on again! So many smiles. Then I am biking at mile 90 and they are driving up to me, playing music, shouting out the windows, taking pictures, mooning me at the aid station. Sure it was windy, but man, I was out there enjoying and taking in every single second of that race.The last 12 miles were SO difficult! STRONG headwind. I heard bikers bitching about it. I chose to just carry on. Told a few people we were almost there. Fight it, bring it home, this is your race and you’ve biked over 100 miles in strong winds. Look at what you are doing right now…..how can you not smile???

Transition 2

Changing for running. I took my time again. I felt pretty tight and was worried about cramping. I took a little time to stretch. I used the potty again. More wonderful volunteers. Here we go. It’s just a marathon.

Run

I had never run further than 14 miles in one stretch…ever. Oh boy. Beez and ma cheered me on my way and then I rounded the corner to find Rogue! They ran up to me and started me on my way. Wow. Fantastic. Ok. My goal was to just go slowish and aim for an hour of running. Then an hour and a half, then the 13 mile marker. WIND OMG WIND. But I ran (jogged). Managed to waste more Base Salt when I didn’t get the cap back on and spilled it all over myself…ugh. Saw the coach around mile 7…still running. Saw Rogue…still running. Laughing, joking. Saw Beezey and mom…still running. Eric arrived! Still running. Made it to the 14 mile marker and chuckled to myself think…well…this is as far as I have ever run. Just keep going. From there on, I ran from aid station to aid station and walked the aid stations, this slowed my pace down a bit, but I wanted to make sure I was staying hydrated. When it got dark, there was chicken broth. Fabulous. I walked through aid stations, thanking volunteers. Smiling. They started looking for me on the loops commenting on how I was still smiling.

Final loop – that wind. At mile 22, that wind, it almost beat me. It was relentless and I was running straight into it yet again. I had slowed way down that last time out into the wind. I was running out of leg strength and just wanted to make it to the turnaround so it would be at my back. Made it!! Coming back into Cambridge there was energy everywhere. One last little jaunt up into town where all the people were cheering outside the bars. I got a little teary eyed knowing…wow I did it…but wow…is this the end already? A moment I never want to forget. I was more emotional here than when I crossed the finish line. I knew I had done it. Here are these complete strangers giving me high fives…I hear them say things like…wow she is still smiling. She is looking strong. She’s still running well. I was. I felt strong. There wasn’t a miserable bone in my body.

Coming home. I took in that finish line. I let a few people pass me in a clump so I could have the moment to myself. I sprinted. High fived a little boy. I lost my Brewers hat in the wind coming down the final stretch and smiled at that little boy. I let the hat go and just kept running. Jacqueline Brellenthin you are an IRONMAN! Beezey was yelling, my mom was taking pics, Eric was cheering and videoing, Rouge was right there at the finish line. My coach was so proud. He had a screenshot of my time. And there was that little boy. He had picked up my hat and ran to the finish line with me so he could give it back. I felt a huge blanket of caring and kindness from everywhere. My family followed me online and watched me cross the finish line. Overwhelmed. It takes an army. It is not a journey that one does alone. Sure, I put in the training. But this army. This army was all around me: physically and virtually. Stay tuned to the end of this post – if you can make it that far to hear more about the thoughts in my head and how remembering why I started became so different from this is who you are at the finish.

Post-Race

Great! Positive! Normatec boots arrived thanks to Danno. Beez and The Man took care of me all day long. This included a failed trip to go watch the Packer game, some force fed Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, chicken, asparagus, potatoes. I was so nauseous the entire day. And mostly just slept. The Man brought beautiful flowers and dug his fingers and elbows into the sore spots of my legs with his usual finesse. The good pain. I wore the finisher’s jacket that my mom got me for at least three days. Worked from home on Monday mostly because movement was difficult. Spent some much needed time with Beezey. Then I had to bring her back to the airport. Such a blur, but I wouldn’t have wanted to spend this special weekend with anyone else. I hope to someday be a fabulous Iron Sherpa for her!

Post Race Depression

This didn’t hit until about Thursday. I rode the high for a few days. My coach warned me about it but said he wasn’t too worried with me (being a generally positive person). But it did hit. In the form of homesickness for Milwaukee. All of a sudden, I missed Milwaukee. Beezey was gone. Kelly’s Bleachers, Brewski’s, Miller Park, Ale House, Five Card Studs, my friends, my family, fish fry, etc. I realize that while I have wonderful new friends here, there isn’t that same – let’s go out in a T-Shirt and jeans and dance to a cheesy cover band with a local beer in hand. And that’s how it hit. Now I have time on my hands again, and I MISS Milwaukee. I miss the 414. I couldn’t wait to move away. And this race and this new place…I mean I even didn’t want to go back for a while because of the feelings and memories I had. The first time I went back to Milwaukee, I felt horrible. But now, I miss it so much. I watched this AMAZING video a few times to cheer myself up….if you haven’t seen it, you MUST!!!! Click this link for amazingness!!!! I mean, there is a keytar featured 🙂 Five Card Studs: Hello Milwaukee Do you think I could get Five Card Studs to tour DC? This region doesn’t know what they are missing. I mean, come on, these guys are for the ladies. 😉

The post-race depression is still lingering, but I am excited to get back into training, running, WEIGHT LIFTING YAS, and fitness type things.

The Mental Thoughts

Remembering why I started. The initial registration was sort of a “Screw you! IM is not a stupid goal. Watch what I can do.” Then rediscovering myself. Remember who I was. Beating down old demons. All that jazz…see this post for more details. But the race. I was sure there would be points when I felt shitty, or angry, and need to channel those negative fighting emotions of the past. But my realization…not ONE time during the race did I think “Screw you, look what I am doing.” Past thoughts didn’t even enter my head. Nothing did. Nothing about why I started. And that. I didn’t think about that until after the fact. I embraced every part of that race in a positive way. The wind. The swim. The bike. The chafing. I laughed when I dropped my Base Salt. I kept the entire thing light. I smiled. I smiled at volunteers, I smiled at my support, I smiled at strangers. I joked, I laughed, I swam, I biked, I ran (for a long time). But no. And then a few days later, I realized it. After the race glory wore off. And then I cried. I cried privately. I cried quietly. I shared the tears with no one but myself. No coaches, no support crew, no boyfriend, no family. These were my tears.

Now I share the feelings and what these tears meant. A good cry. The cry of realization that I have accomplished something solely for me. I cried that wow…not once during that race did I think of past mistakes or think “Screw this.” Not once. And I cried and cried for everything that I left behind. For the new person I am. The strength. That is the success. It is not a sub-5 marathon, surviving a questionable swim, battling winds on a bike, it is not my time as I crossed the finish line. Sure I was happy to meet my goal and go above and beyond. And that’s always what everyone wants to hear. How fast were you? What place? What was your bike speed? Not important. At least not to me. Coaches, friends, family – everyone can remark at how well this split was or that other thing…or how well such and such was executed. Good, I am glad I can make people proud in that way, but I didn’t share the important thing with people. That isn’t what they asked me about. I am happy to share times and stories. But the fact that I went through that race without once thinking about a demon from the past and not even realizing it. The fact that I finished and all anyone could say was they couldn’t believe I was always smiling.

THAT is MY win. And THAT is what I will remember about this race. And THAT is exactly what I set out to do. I didn’t even realize it was happening at the time. THAT is my Ironman. Repairing an Iron soul. A happy soul that I hope to share with everyone who has touched my life. So it is a thank you to everything. The light and the dark. Without the dark, I never would have made this journey. This post has no pics. The pics are for those a bit closer to me. A less public space. The pics and videos will always be reminders of the day and the journey. They capture the smiles and the fun. It is the best feeling to know that there is nothing behind those smiles but happiness. Sometimes smiles will hide sadness or anger. Those smiles are smiles and smiles alone. Light, sunshine, me. A win.

Now I will cheer for those fighting similar battles. This Ironman is over. Time to switch to stalking my friends as they finish up their marathons today!!! Priorities!!

Run YOUR race. Let others think what they want. But smile. It is YOUR race. It is always YOUR race.

EnjoyLife-Series-007-run-your-race