New Orleans 70.3 – A Season Finale Culmination Of Love and Oliver’s Last Stand

“New Orleans is the only place I know of where you ask a little kid what he wants to be and instead of saying, I want to be a policeman, or I want to be a fireman, he says, I want to be a musician.” – Alan Jaffe, Jazz Musician and Founder of Preservation Hall

Next weekend, is a culmination of love – favorite city, great music and clarinet playing, triathlon, my best friend, and my bicycle.

Mask

It’s been a quiet year blog-wise. I took a lot of the year to regroup and reflect on triathlon. My goals this year were to just have fun and enjoy training again. It was another year that I couldn’t quite afford a bike and mine is on his very last legs. I am eeking out everything he has for this last race. After cutting last year short with surgery, paying for said surgery, I just needed a breather year. So I spent my money on a destination race for fun and left out all gadgets.

This was that year. I chose races that looked fun – races that were new to me. Destination races and races with new faces. Races that took me to unfamiliar courses. I also chose races that would challenge me and embraced the suck with my friends at Triple T. I had fun at every race.

There is one more. As I head to New Orleans next week, I am looking forward to my final triathlon of the season. I am looking forward to racing with strangers, looking forward to being in the city that I love. I’m racing with shoes that have too many miles on them, a bike that could fall apart at any second, a wetsuit that has seen better days, and goggles that are so scratched it is a wonder I can see out of them.

But none of this matters. I have no worries about making cut-offs like I have in the past. I’ve been racing for years. Experience has taught me to control what I can and leave the rest to mother nature and whatever else. My race sim day I split a tube and had to rethink my whole plan. My rear tire tube blew to bits. Like butter…I just readjusted my brain and timeline and went out and did the sim like nothin. No poo-pooing, just onward. I am a poor (monetarily-speaking) triathlete. This year has taught me to work with what I have. I can’t train with power. I have to spend my money smartly. I still go out and race with everyone else and I love it. I work my butt off out there, and I do just fine with what I have. My body gets me through each course and my gear is just along for the ride.

I’m finally managing to scrounge up enough to get that elusive bicycle next year without using credit, while at the same time making sure I can also get the “extras” that go with it. I plan to spend modestly on a bike instead of the “dream bike” so that I can also get a power meter, pedals, new shoes ( I have never EVER had new bike shoes since I started tris in 2007), a professional bike FIT, and hell maybe if the cards are right – a new smart trainer. Hopefully, there will be $100 left over to get a new pair of running shoes.

Thankfully, the gym at my apartment just got brand new cardio equipment (which includes spin bikes with power meters) so I can train all winter with power and hope to pick up in the spring with new wheels and power meter.

OliversFirstRace

Pictured here – Me and Oliver. Oliver’s first race. Look at that set-up! HAHA. Look at that WATER BOTTLE. Very aero. 🙂 I love this.

 

I’m so looking forward to the race-cation. But really, the race is one day. The culmination of this season is to go relax, eat amazing food, vakay, listen to some fantastic clarinet playing, spend some much needed together time with Eric, and spend 6ish hours pumping out some enjoyable swim, bike, run action and the last 56 race miles with my beloved bicycle, Oliver – with me since my second year of triathlon. It will be amazing to be out on a long(ish) course again, smiling, waving, salting, and making new friends while we all love the pain together.

 

In New Orleans.

I can’t wait.

Dreams do come true in New Orleans.

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TTT and TT and RESTTTT

The first weekend in June brought with it an interesting sampling of difficult races in succession. I had been looking forward to it for months – until I started really digging into the bike elevation maps. My tri bestie warned me against looking at them – but it’s like saying “do not touch” – the first thing you do is touch. Talk about difficult biking. Looking at those courses ahead of time only made the anticipation that much worse.

It was a 7 hour drive from DC to Shawnee State Park in Ohio and about a 7 hour drive for my Wisconsin tri friends who were meeting me there. Anna’s parents had a cabin reserved for us and we were all planning to roll in around 2ish on Friday afternoon. I left the DC area around 7 PM on Thursday to avoid the bulk of rush hour and drove to a halfway point to stay in West Virginia for the night. After a few harrowing moments of the check engine light appearing, and some interesting mountain driving, it was relatively uneventful.

IMG_2784The first race was at 5 PM on Friday afternoon. A super sprint. Ok. An easy 250m in the lake (with about 50 m of that being goose poo) sans wetsuit, brief little 4k bike (mostly all uphill) and then a mile run (little more hill). It was fun but also eye-opening. I told myself do NOT go out hard – this is a long weekend. I tried to do all paces at long-distance paces. It was fun, hill. Lots of hill. A preview of the weekend.

We went back to the cabin and Anna’s parents – who are quite possibly the most wonderful triathlon-Sherpa parents to roam the earth – did our laundry and made some food. Bedtime came early every single night. The three of us were sharing a room and in bunk beds in the cabin. I think it was lights-out at 9 PM after all three of us spent the majority of the night trying to pry Gator Skins onto my bike. Beezey ended up with a beautiful thumb blister.

Saturday – 7:30 AM (Sprint) Rise and shine. Sprint number 1 for Beezey and I. Swim – bike – run. Wetsuit, goose poop, hills, HILLLLS, DOWNhill, speed bump, and hill, running, hill, rock, tripping over rock, and some more running. Basically – it was super fun. There was a huge 2-mile hill that everyone clumped together on. We got about a mile up and the guy next to me yelled – only a mile to go! Talk about a race where everyone is just rooting everyone else to perform their best. Shouts of joy from all cyclists upon getting to the top of that 2-mile hill-we’d have to do it again on Sunday morning….on tired legs. The downhills were so challenging and Beezey and I had a great time passing eachother back and forth on the bike. I’d spin up the hill – she’d catch me while flying down the other side. The bike course was very challenging. Steep up and downhills with plenty of switchbacks. It showed me who was boss and was defintely a great weeknd to hone in on cycling skills. The run was fine. Small bit of cramping on the uphills, but the second half was downhill. Okie dokie. Go rest and repeat later that afternoon.

Saturday – 3:00 PM (Sprint) Bike – Swim – Run. We biked first. More hills, but smaller ones. One road on this course was the type where they put down oil and then cover it with gravel. It was pretty unpleasant and I ended that ride white-knuckled and happy if I never saw gravel again. I kept the rubber down and finshed up the ride. Swimming after hilly riding…in a cold lake…let’s just say, I took the time to struggle into a wetsuit and am glad I did. Instant quad cramping when I hit the cold water. I swam the entire distance using only my arms. Any time I would kick, my legs would just seize. I know how to prepare for next time. Got out and was never happier to run, despite how my legs felt. I followed Beezey the whole run – just like old days she pulled me right along. I told myself to just keep her pink compression socks in view and all would be well. We ended up getting a ride up the hill back to our cabin from a nice gentleman in a white pick-up truck. At that moment – it was heaven on earth.

Back to the cabin, more laundry, Beezey did some grillin, and then early bedtime again.

Sunday – 7:00 AM (Oly. Distance) I knew that hill was coming again on the bike. I felt so much better than I had on Saturday afternoon. Legs felt fresh, I was rested. We hit the lake for one last shake through the goose poop. keep-mouth-shut-keep-mouth-shut-keep-mouth-shut And yay! Bike time. I felt good. Spinning along at a moderate pace. Knowing that hill was coming again. This time, I knew what I was in for. I seemed to get to the top a lot sooner, even though I think it was because I was focusing on other things. Then once I hit about mile 18 on the bike, I started to hoof it. I knew that my legs would be fine. I had made it this far and was ready to push it a bit. Finshed really strong and of course – smiling – at the end of the bike course! Slapped on my shoes and started out for the insanely uphill 6.5 mile run. I walked up every hill. I was tired at that point. But I mustered a decent pace for the downhills. haha. I probably could have tucked and rolled at the same speed, but whatever, the end was near. Finished. Got my food and a 3rd place AG. Savored my last few minutes with my bestie and then trucked the 8ish hours back to DC.

I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to do this with and I LOVED being with my tri bestie/Sherpa extraordinare/all-time favorite running partner. It was too short but I wouldn’t have wanted to do that suffer-fest with anyone else!!

Fast forward to that week. All of my tests: Run TT, Bike TT, Swim CSS, were that following week. The point was to do these on tired legs after a long training weekend to see how I fared.

Since March
Swim CSS – 9 second per 100y improvement
Bike 15 mile TT – 2:00 improvement
Run 5K TT – 2:14 improvement

MOST OF ALL THOUGH – I don’t feel drained or in pain every single day. I don’t have nagging little niggles, I feel rested and strong all the time. Add to that – a renewed focus on Injury Prevention and having set days built into my training plan where I focus on injury prevention and rest. I have specific injury prevention sets and we focus hard on making sure that my body and core remain strong in place of just “getting in the miles.”  I have a set number of hours in my schedule and I finally have a great balance between swim-bike-run workouts and the rest, foundational strength, and foam rolling required to stay healthy all season. My individual needs and goals as a triathlete and as a busy person who also plays music in her downtime are all balanced in my plan. I’ve not been able to find that for some time and it’s awesome to see improvement not only in my fitness, but also in my personal life and my outlook on the sport and why I really started triathlon in the first place. My goal this season was to re-find what I loved in the sport – and I have certainly done that without even having a single A Race yet.

I will take this. I am gearing up for my early August short-distance A race and hope to have everything honed in by then. I’ve got a big apartment move in the middle of July, some family visiting, a trip to see the Brewers v. Phillies, and a tune-up race. It’s going to be a busy month and having the solidity of a training plan always helps keep things normalized for me.

Then after that August A Race, it’s all New Orleans training, all-day. I’ll have a good 2 months of longer distance building on a solid fitness base that I will have developed by August and then the month of October for a brief taper.

This is really shaping up to be a fun and fantastic season. It’s drama-free. I am having the time of my life with the people and the sport that I love. I am doing races that I want to do and having just a dandy old time. Just what the doctor of life ordered!

restday

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).

 

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!

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

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.