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

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A Different Sort of Struggle – The Postponed Ironman

These last few days, the mental struggle has been very real. Those who follow triathlon are probably aware that Ironman Maryland was postponed because of Hurricane Joachim. First of all, kudos to Ironman for being able to reschedule it for two weeks later. That could not have been an easy feat. I am very grateful to be a local triathlete who is still able to participate. It will be my first IM – as readers know – and I am glad it wasn’t outright cancelled. I don’t have the funds or desire to try to plan a trip to Florida or Arizona or Cozumel (even though that would be FANTASTIC) to race in one of the remaining IMs this year.

My heart goes out to the athletes who are unable to return to the race on October 17th. To me, that would be a terrible loss. Months and months of training so hard…I can’t imagine. Advice: You did the work. You were ready to race. Push through and enjoy the benefits. Thank your supporters and the people who have stood by you. And consider the options.

My struggle is different. The taper was fabulous. I was getting rest. Checking off those final long long swims in the pool. Checking off the bike rides. I had a mini bike emergency a week before the race was supposed to happen that was handled fabulously by Handy Bikes DC (shoutout!). Everything was set up and ready to go. My mind, my body, my spirit. I had family and friends flying in to Sherpa. Everyone was so excited for a seriously special day.

Boom – Cancelled. (No one even knew whether it would really be rescheduled or not). Oh no. Now what? At this point in time, I was so glad to have a coach. He was the one who initially broke the news to me. Thank goodness. I would’t have wanted to hear it from anyone else. He was immediately in touch with me regarding our next plan of action. I remained pretty positive with the news until that Friday.

The Friday right before the race was supposed to happen, I was at work and legit had a moment. I had to go into the bathroom and just cry. Everything came out. I wasn’t supposed to be at work. I was supposed to be racking my bike, supposed to be at the expo, feeling the excitement of the race, the athletes, my Sherpas. All of the training, the work, my sister was here, I just was an emotional basket case. I sat on the toilet and literally said out loud as I was sobbing, “What the hell is wrong with you? Pull it together.” I just couldn’t stop crying.

This was maybe because I got my coach’s plan and saw the HUGE workouts to bring me out of taper – and just trying to ramp my mind back into a different mindset. A training mindset again. 10 mile run, 55 mile bike….apparently I just go right into a half Ironman. A 3,400 swim on the docket?! Oh man….I am SOOOOOOOO sick of the pool right now I could barf. And I love swimming outside whenever I can — and now I am stuck in indoor pools that randomly close on me when a small child uses it as a restroom. Bless their hearts, those mini-swimmers…but ugh. When I am in the middle of a huge set….it is really difficult to drive and relocate to a different pool.

The rainy weekend didn’t help. Stuck inside for training sessions. Although I did a brick (thank you Green Lizard for opening early for us so we could bike inside!) with two of my fabulous training partners. That helped immensely. While I love triathlon, I was looking forward to spending some more time with people that I had been neglecting. Another two weekends of getting up at the crack of dawn, losing daylight during the week, everything just got very overwhelming. I love the balance, and I am damn good at it – but I just don’t want to see 4:30 on my alarm clock for a while. Like 2 weeks. That’s all I need.

Luckily my bestie Sherpa was able to change her flight. She is still able to make it for the race 🙂 And I am now starting to gear up for the race again. I have a few more training sessions to check off the list this weekend and I plan to use them for self-reflection and remembering how far I have come. To really focus on my body, listen to what it is saying and just mentally prepare for what is in store next weekend. One of my best friends ran her first marathon last weekend. She fought injuries and battled through. I was so proud. Her and I had had a wonderful discussion earlier in the season about the quote: “Remember why you started.”

She said she saw someone holding a sign that said that and she teared up as she thought of me. I am tearing up right now just thinking about it. That is exactly what I need to do this weekend. Remember why I started. Nothing has changed. So the race changed dates. Big deal. This Ironman was for me. For healing. For reflection. For challenges I never thought possible. None of that has changed.

Have I forgotten why I started? No. But maybe I lost sight for a bit. I plan to use the rest of this weekend (as well as the live KONA STREAM YES – and some other friends racing IM Lou) to re-instill that drive and desire. I have already crushed so many doubts and demons and I just can’t wait to bawl my head off as I finish this race next Saturday.

My life has changed drastically in these past few months. All for the better.

“Remember why you started.” “Remember why you started.”

How could I ever forget?

See you at the finish line on October 17th!

It’s on now…the build phase! 14 weeks to go…and this one is selfish

Ok. I feel great! Is it the spandex??? The new tri kit??? I got the suit and spent a solid 10 minutes jumping around on my furniture. There is something about fresh spandex FullSizeRenderthat makes you feel like a superhero. Not to mention – mine is patriotic and RWB which gives it added spunk! I literally jumped on my couch, I jumped on my bed, I turned in circles around my tiny little sardine can apartment. Life is good. This all during a time my legs were supposed to be recovering from track work. Hey…legs felt good as I was jumping so…a win. I am still able to wear a little lime green at times too. The lime green is the best. Hello tri kit and lime green. Welcome to Studio J.

I have found a new boost in my training over the last week. I am gonna go ahead and attribute much of this to the new coach. Someone is actually monitoring what the heck I am doing. Not to mention – keeping me accountable when/if I mess up and/or get lazy. I am optimistic about the upcoming ride to awesomeness. October 3rd is getting closer and I find myself getting more confident each day. I still have “WTF!” moments when I think about the undertaking – but then again – I am putting in the time and the training and all will be well.

I love this sport and all of a sudden I have a renewed energy. It’s great, especially after last week’s bummer of a race. However, I must admit that the training is becoming a little bit of an obsession. I don’t know if I will know what to do with myself once the race is over. Training is taking up a huge part of my life. It is almost like having a second full-time job. Don’t get me wrong, I love every minute of it and thankfully I have a great support group around me. I fully admit now that this is a selfish goal, whereas I didn’t before. If I had a family here and more responsibilities – I would certainly NOT be able to do this. My tiny little apartment bears the brunt of my busy schedule. Vacuuming, dishes, pretty much any sort of housekeeping falls to the wayside. You’d think I would be able to keep 500 square feet clean (it isn’t quite that small!). Nope. It’s atrocious. The training really does take up my time. Then it’s dump all training clothes, shower, change into work clothes, rinse, repeat. If I am not training, I am usually napping, working, sitting by the pool, or eating. I have skipped happy hours to train, dragged friends and family to the pool with me so I could get in workouts, and bypassed girl’s nights to spend time on the bike trainer. But it is game time. I love the challenge. I love the schedule. I love the way it is making me feel.

The rejuvenation and start of the build phase has also boosted my mindset. A lot of that was also probably because of the extra sleep. If I was positive before, I am even more so now. I love this area of the country. I am so happy to be here. I am happy with everything in my life right now. Sure, I still have a bad day here and there but they fade so much faster now. I really am becoming me again. There are many other factors adding to this happiness: relationships, work, music, etc. All of which are only helping my training. It’s a cycle of amazingness where each thing is helping the other.

Sooooooooo what does this build phase mean? It means getting faster and stronger. Building. How we do…

So…the swim. I am still sooooo SLOW!IMG_7297 I need to get faster. This was my pre-swim smirk face today and I shared it with my number one motivator! It’s a game face before every swim. Every swim. The pre-swim selfie is a must. It’s how I pump myself up. I intend to dominate every swim. I did fine on this one. Still not as fast as I want. Technique needs a lot of work. I am sure I have a slew of bad habits I have to break because I really do feel like I am working hard every swim and it’s just…..S.L.O.W. I do some drills each swim, but it remains a struggle. Bonus of swimming outside…a bronze glow.

The bike, oh the bike: My forever favorite. The bike is still feeling pretty good. Last weekend I biked Mt. Weather. It was tough, but I really felt good and can’t wait to try again. The bike needs a tune-up and it will be nice to get it back in decent shape in a few weeks. I also need to get fit again. Although bike as extension of body still works. It feels good. It is most definitely a part of me. I just keep working on making it better.

The run: Ugh. Oh. Bah. The run. The run. Track work. Get faster. It’s coming. Bit by bit. It is coming. I have added motivation from an outside source to push harder. 🙂 Hills. The run. I really just want to make it through the run in a standing position. I don’t really know how my damaged knee will hold up once I start upping the mileage. Time will tell. For now, it’s hills and track and hills and track and long run and etc.

The wedding and the return home: My sister’s wedding is smack dab in the middle of this build phase. I am so looking forward to seeing her and have felt far away during all of the planning. She takes priority during this time. I have been so far away, that for the time I am home, she is number one and the only one! With her wedding and a big Brewer game bash with so many of my favorite people, the trip home looks very promising despite some earlier bad vibes this week. My time management skills will even find a way to squeeze in the necessary swim/bike/run business. Can’t wait for that challenge. There WILL be updates. Hoping to lose this racerback tan before I have to sport that bridesmaid dress…although my mom told me it would make me look tough…not so sure about that…and sis wants me to wipe off my smirk for her pics. 🙂 I’ll just have to make sure I don’t plan a swim on wedding day!

The selfish – Ok. I know. Everything about this blog post was selfish. It won’t always be that way. But, I was told recently that it was okay to be selfish when it comes to training, “Training is one thing you’ll never have to explain. I get it.” That is the utmost importance to me. Those few words which could seemingly be unimportant to someone else. My training was respected. My goals were respected. Everything was understood. It shot straight to my heart and hit me in the feels. Wow. It is a difference of night and day. Smiles and sunshine. It is my race. My rediscovery. My journey. So far, it is a good one. I am so lucky and thankful to have wonderful, selfless people helping me on the way. So, so lucky.

Excited to see what happens next! In every aspect of life! 🙂

Sarcastic Wonka seems appropriate for this post.

WillyTriathlon

“The purpose of training is to tighten up the slack, toughen up the body, and polish the spirit.” – Morihei Ueshiba

That it does. That it does.

Why the Ironman? – It isn’t about the medal (or the tattoo).

Tonight marks the end of my first full week of Ironman training. All-in-all, a success topped off by this morning’s beautiful GW Parkphoto-4way 10 miler. There I am with my sweet medal. Averaged 9:30 miles. No back pain. So, yay! This was a win.

10 miler aside, however, this is going to be a rare serious blog post from yours truly. As I began my training this week and after a few talks with some of my closest friends, I really dug into why I am doing this Ironman. I get the question: Why would you ever do something like that?

It is not an easy question for me to answer in the time it would take during these types of conversations. So I usually say something like….”Well I want to check it off my bucket list,” or “There’s no time like the present!” Which is partially true. But not really. No one wants to actually stick around and hear the real answer, because it isn’t glorious and fabulous. It is dark and uncomfortable and uncharacteristic of the me most people know. And if you don’t want to hear it, by all means you can stop reading this at any time. But it is something I need to share for myself as well as for anyone who might have similar feelings or experiences.

For me, this Ironman is not about winning. It is not about faster times, crossing the finish line in X number of hours, going sub 10 minute miles on the marathon, losing weight and looking fab, or getting a medal. It isn’t even about bragging rights. (Maybe a little bit about the tattoo). I have always wanted to do an Ironman, yes, but now is exactly the time! Why?

What is the Ironman for me? My Ironman is about healing, hope, and rediscovery. Two years ago, I lost myself and completely forgot who I really was. I gave up a lot of me for something that never should have been. I lost my sparkle, my smile, my self confidence, and everything that defined me as the person I had worked so hard to become. I was a shell of that strong, independent, sometimes hard-headed woman. I was even told that I used the word “love” too much. However, I don’t think it is wrong to use the word when you really do love people. How can having love be a bad thing? I really do love. Anyway, I lost much of my self-worth and was ashamed for how bad I let everything get. Nevertheless, I slapped on a big grin, and accomplished amazing things! Life goes on despite the background noise. So in essence, not all was lost! Looking back, of course I know better now, but the sting is still there, as well as the realization that I will never let that happen again. During those dark times, I was told that my Ironman was a stupid goal. How foolish it was to have such a goal! At that time, my Ironman goal was about finishing and being able to say I did it! But it was not and has never been a foolish goal. Because it was/still is my goal.

Last summer, I moved to this beautiful new city for a new job. It should have been a perfect fresh start. But the healing didn’t begin right away. It was a lonely summer and although I was far from homesick (the distance was excellent!) I felt lost. I was lost because I was still trying to hang onto that which had stolen my identity. I joined some groups (yay Team RWB!) and got involved in a bunch of stuff, but it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t until my wonderful friend Marty came to visit, that I finally had some sense knocked into me. “You are not you anymore. Why are you doing this?” For some reason, this time it stuck. I knew it in my heart that things weren’t right, but I just kept ignoring it for some reason. I kept convincing myself to push those feelings aside and try to make things work. Because you had to fight for relationships right? That’s what I kept hearing.

The realization that support from my loved ones will always run deeper than anything in the world no matter what – was the straw that broke the camel’s back. For some reason, it was Marty’s visit that made it finally strike home. Many, many of my friends had attempted to get through my thick head, but I kept convincing myself that they were wrong. Loved ones don’t have to be husbands, boyfriends. Loved ones are best friends, family, people that love and embrace you for who you are. My friend Eric shared the following: While they all fall in love with her smile, she waits for the one who will fall in love with her scars. And my bestie in Arizona told me: There’s nothing any man could do to stop me from being your friend.

Their love is overwhelming at times and when I sit and think about it, I can feel myself being embraced by it. I sit and can literally feel the warmth. Thousands of miles away.

Scars? Yep. I’ve got them. For a solid year, every one of those scars was reopened and filled with salt – time and time again. But those scars have since closed again. They are there, they are visible, and they are me. Am I proud of the scars, no. Have they made me into the woman I am, yes. Am I proud of the woman I am today, you bet. I don’t mind having the scars because scars are wounds that have healed.

So how does the Ironman fit into this and have I digressed? I have not digressed. After Marty’s visit, I volunteered at IM Maryland. This gave me first dibs on an entry into the next year’s race. And now it is coming. I signed up. I signed up and this journey is for me and me alone. In no way is it a selfish journey. Those who want to share and support are the ones who have always supported. This is nothing new. What is my training? It is many things. I can go out on a long run, and it isn’t about…I need to get these miles in today. It is…wow, today I can run 10 miles. During those miles, I rediscover myself. I reflect. I remember why I started. This Ironman is my journey. It is my journey into myself. It is reacquainting my heart with my mind and my body. I lace up my shoes and it is  a reminder of self-worth. I slap on a swim cap and follow that black line and it is “I am strong in mind and body.” I clip in and bike for half a day and the wind blowing on my face is love. A bad training day is still my journey. This has always been my goal and it is more meaningful now than it ever would have been before. I choose to see the good in every darkest moment. Now I can look back and say, wow…this Ironman will be even more important than I could have imagined. Before it was to finish….but now it MEANS something much more! This Ironman is for me. Because I am me again. Every mile and footstep is me. Crossing that finish line is for me. My rediscovery, my hope in humanity, my love for all humans, my choosing to see the good in everything, my mind, and dammit my scars. Take it or leave it. I do this for me. And that is what motivates me every single training day.

Do you know what motivates you? Why are you on your journey? Remember why you started.

Here’s some Mumford and Sons just for a little extra end cheesiness….some of my favorite lyrics:

If your strife strikes at your sleeve.

Remember spring swaps snow for leaves.

You’ll be happy and wholesome again.

When the city clears and sun ascends.

Thanks for your patience. 🙂 Rough but real. I’ll be back to singing and dancing next blog entry.

Patience, Anticipation, X-Training

After a small hiatus for the holidays, I am back to blogging in full swing. I am currently in that phase where I am feeling very antsy. Technically my IM race training does not begin until the week of April 20th (still almost 2 months!!!!!). It’s killing me – especially as I see other friends gearing up for their seasons for earlier A races in the schedules. I am trying to tell myself to keep enjoying this time I have for cross-training and boxing because that will all end soon. I have been doing some pretty good off-season base building but just want to get cracking with actual IM training. I know I can’t start too soon or I will burn out, but there is also a feeling of “Holy cow, will I be ready for this when the time comes?”

October 3 is very far away, and I know I’ll be fine as long as I put in the training time. I have started to cut back on my less tri-specific workouts (boot camps, other miscellaneous workouts) so I can really start focusing on how my body will deal with the recovery time. Also, I have dropped those workouts in favor of more Range Of Motion exercises and am using that time for longer stretches of injury prevention. Now that my back is back (ha!) at 100% I just want to get rolling. I continue to diligently perform my back exercises to prevent injury, and I find that boxing has helped my core strength. All planks all day. But really….foam rolling, range of motion and even injury prevention weightlifting have taken the place of some of my cross training activities. I am a fan of Ben Greenfield’s strength training programs for triathletes. I feel he spends a nice amount of time focusing on tri-specific muscles and how to best keep them and the surrounding joints healthy.

Today though, was one of those days that I really struggled to find motivation. I didn’t get up early enough to get on my bike trainer (well – the alarm rang but the body decided to remain a lazy slug) and I also skipped my evening boxing class. I did manage to get a run-commute home from work, but even that felt like a chore. I am not sure what hit me. But when I changed into my run gear at work, I just sat on the floor for a bit trying to get up the mental strength to venture outside. Then, even when I got outside, it took me a good 5-10 minutes of walking/simple drills before I even wanted to run. I thought about just walking home. Finally I sucked it up and started running. THEN….when I was about 2 minutes from home – I stopped running. What? Why did I do that? I came to a dead stop for about a minute because I just didn’t want to run. Standing 3 blocks from home with my hands on my hips I had to silently yell at my brain to get it together. I spit out a nasty loogie in disgust with myself then sprinted home the final few blocks. I am trying to put my finger on the problem. I have been getting plenty of sleep, eating well, maybe not drinking enough water, but it was just one of those days when my brain was somewhere else.

I suppose these types of days are good for me. It’s why I decided against evening boxing. Was my body telling me to just take it easy? I normally can’t wait to get on my bike, enjoy the beautiful crisp winter air, or punch the stuffing out of a heavy bag. I swam so strong last night that I was surprised by today’s disappointment. The mystery continues and it is now 10 minutes past my bedtime. Here’s hoping tomorrow’s swim and lifting session bring me some renewed ambition. After all — I haven’t even started my training yet!  LET’S GET THIS THING GOING!!!  Or maybe I just need to remind myself of the following:

preparing-extraordinary

Racing Milestones and the Road to Recovery

A few months ago, I finally made the decision. I’ve been involved in the sport of triathlon since 2008 and I decided to go for the big one. When I first started racing, the thought never crossed my mind. IRONMAN. I started triathlon when I moved to a new city – a way to meet new people who shared a similar interest in fitness. I never had any intention of ever attempting an IM. Plus, just finishing one sprint was a challenge for me. I never swam much to begin with, and the open water experience is what keeps many from attempting the sport. I am still apprehensive every time I enter that water at the beginning of a race and still say in my head “Good, I am alive” when I exit the water. I had always been active, mostly in soccer…year round…and then general fitness in college. I was never into anything fancy. After graduating college, I moved to a new city and got into boxing at a gym. There, I made some new friends who were all getting ready to race their first triathlon. Joining the ranks, I too decided to take on the challenge – The Pewaukee Sprint in Wisconsin (still a favorite race to this day)! I even managed to get some co-workers interested in the sport and now the company I used to work for has a triathlon team with their own personalized Hal-Leonard tri suits! 🙂 Proud.

Naturally, my first swim happened to be cancelled due to algae in the lake. I immediately signed up for a sprint that was happening 2 weeks later. I wasn’t going to do all that training and not do an actual triathlon. 2 weeks later, I raced and got the bug. I’ve never looked back and triathlon has become part of my lifestyle.

Now, 6 years later, I find myself again in a new city, making new friends. My first triathlon in this city – Nation’s Tri – also had the swim portion cancelled this year. Irony. But this year, after several sprint and Olympic races and one half-Iron under the belt, I bit the bullet and signed up for IM Maryland. October 3, 2015. After volunteering at the finish line this year and watching the athletes, I was reminded about how much I loved the sport. It is a great way to meet new people, but training also provides much-needed “me” time, especially on the long bikes and runs. It offers me the chance to reflect, think, and focus. It is a wonderful way to explore and to enjoy the outdoors. It is also the personal challenge and the anticipation of knowing I am going to push my body to the limits. I hope to accomplish something that few can say they have done. Now is the time. I have time in my life to devote hours to training and may never again have the opportunity. The challenge is mine. But to successfully finish, I need the support of my family and friends. While some may think the goal is foolish, it is those nay-sayers who won’t have a place in my heart. I have already been inundated with support from those who will root for me and offer understanding when I say “No I can’t, I have to train.” Or “Yes I can do that, but only after I finish my bike ride.” “Sure I will come, but I need to bring my own food because I have to eat healthy fueling foods.” It will be a wonderful year.

However, almost immediately thereafter, I was sidelined with a back injury that forced me to stop biking (on my road bike) and running. Just like that I was told – nope. Stop everything and fix this right now. I have never had an injury that required this type of dedicated physical therapy — aside from numerous knee dislocations back in the day that probably SHOULD have required some PT. So instead of jumping into a tri-specific off-season plan, I have been strengthening my back and focusing on small movements and excruciatingly long workouts that have little to do with triathlon. However, last week I was given the go ahead to run 1 mile….ONE. One mile and no more. This week it was two. And no more. It’s a long way to go to get to 26.2. I have cried, I have punched pillows, and I have laughed in frustration BUT with three more weeks of scheduled therapy to go, I must admit my back feels stronger and my swimming is most definitely getting better (as that was really all I could do there for a while).

The injury has made me nervous that I won’t be ready for the race in time, but then I remind myself that I still have a little over 10 months to go. The mileage will increase and so will the strength in my back. So off I will go. Slowly upping my mileage through the winter with my trusty thumb loops and motivated by gifts from two wonderfully supportive friends. The picture and cowbell sit with all my triathlon gear so I don’t forget to stay determined.

photo 2  photo-2

“It’s always the athlete’s responsibility to keep everything in check. We have to listen to our bodies — sometimes the hardest part is to back off and rest.” – Julie Dibens