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Ironman Lake Tahoe 2014: “Almost” Race Report

Breathless in Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. If you have been, you know exactly how pristine this alpine lake is. If you have not been, and you have not ever Google’d this magnificent destination are, stop what you are doing and Google it right now. Lake Tahoe is so clear, crisp, blue, and breathtakingly beautiful. Oh, did I mention that there are some fit fabulous people here as well? Activities in Lake Tahoe include swimming, boating, paddle boarding, cycling, running, walking, shopping, eating, and drinking. What’s not to love about this place?

In September 2013, you could imagine my excitement, after initial shock and panic, when I put my hat in the ring to compete in the full distance Ironman Lake Tahoe Triathlon race. What’s not to be excited about? It’s a race combining the disciplines of swim, bike, and run. Starting before the sun rises and swim 2.4 miles, transition as quickly as you can into your cycling gear to bike 112 miles. Then, after warming up on the bike for that nice distance, transition as quickly as you can into your run gear for a mere 26.2 mile marathon run. Simple as that! All this in my backyard to train and race! Why not do this amazing race in a breathtaking venue. Lake Tahoe!!

 2014IMLT

Training for this type of race is a journey in and of itself. Endurance is defined throughout your training. What workouts will be done, frequency and intensity of workouts are strategic, nutrition and hydration strategies are developed and tested, and time management takes on new meaning. This is overwhelming at times and is the beginning of testing your fortitude, focus, discipline, and patience.

But let me step back a bit in time but shortly after I paid for my race (freaked out and doubted every moment of that decision). I had already committed and paid for Napa Valley Marathon for March 2014. I had never run a marathon at this point and was already feeling pretty overwhelmed with logging in mileage for this race. I was feeling pretty stoked with the way my racing calendar was filling up. Only one, well maybe two, things I must focus on until Napa…I had to teach myself how to swim and then ride. Of course I know how to swim, vacation kind of swim. The kind of swim that usually is accompanied with a beverage of choice! I could also ride a bike…a mountain bike with no clip-in pedals. So, I had the basics down, right? Nope.

IMG_3333At one morning team swim practice, I was asked to swim free style. This is a basic swim style that requires the swimmer to swim, rotating arms in a circular motion, up and over the shoulder and back into the water to propel forward while kicking and maintaining form. Oh yes, and breathing…you must be able to exhale while your face is in the water, turn your head and gasp, I mean inhale your next breath. The length of the lane is 25 meters. I could not make it half-way across before I felt panic, stress, sinking, and drinking some pool water. I knew I had work to do.I asked one of my coaches what I can possibly do to get better fast and his response was “Spend a lot of time in the water.” What? That’s too easy. He further explained that it is normal to not feel ‘natural’ in the water. To help alleviate this natural stress, you have to teach the body to become comfortable with the process and the feel of the water. How do you do that? Swim…A LOT!! I spent 6 days a week for almost 3 months straight going for a swim at the gym’s indoor pool.

IMG_2401Training on the bike was similar. I bought a TT (triathlon) bike with aero bars, a snazzy saddle, and a compact body frame. She’s a beauty. I rode a lot! Indoor on a trainer and outdoor on some beautiful routes. I rode with my team, with my friends, at lunch time at work, and many solo trips. I have learned that I truly love riding. It is very empowering! I thought running was raw power and it is; however, riding on a bike that you are clipped in on the pedals, you become one with the bike and your legs are the engine. Raw power! Fun!

So now, I have worked on my swim and bike. I know how to run. Training is going well. That is what I thought until I had some medical procedures done as a follow-up to some blood work where my thyroid decided to ping outside of some normal levels. I had an enlarged thyroid, known as a goiter. I had it for a while. I remember as a child hearing that I had a large thyroid as doctors palpitated for swollen glands and such during exams. No big deal apparently throughout my childhood and adulthood. That is until December 2013 when my levels pinged the attention of my new primary care doctor. A few referrals, blood tests, scans, and ultrasounds later, it is determined that I have a naughty thyroid that must be removed. The thyroid was harboring some nodules that were identified as “suspicious”. When that word is tossed around in layman’s terms, we all can guess that this means it could be cancer. I was scheduled for surgery for a thyroidectomy and lymph node dissection. I chose to schedule this surgery 2 days after my marathon. What a wonderful time to do this right? Right after a kick-ass race and I need to recover from race day…might as well throw in a surgery and get some true rest and relaxation. The surgery would take me out of Ironman training for a few weeks. Not ideal, but it was necessary.

Temporarily out of commission...

Temporarily out of commission…

The surgery proved to be the best decision made because they did find papillary carcinoma that appeared to be defined to only the thyroid and one lymph node. Not as bad as it sounds but it is still devastating to hear such a harsh cold diagnosis. I won’t go into all the details of the diagnosis and such because to be honest, I am not defined by a label or disease. I knew I had to recover properly to get back to quality training. I also knew that further treatment was in my future. I had to plan treatments around training and racing because I had a few more races that were added along the way. What better way to train for a full distance triathlon then to sign up for a sprint triathlon, even better, a half Ironman distance (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run). Makes sense, right? Of course it does. But now I have to squeeze in recover from surgery, treatments, dietary restrictions required for said treatments that were not conducive to fueling properly for training, and then of course race day.

I made my way through all the races on my calendar with several added in under the label of “training races” which all served purpose for the big A race…Ironman Lake Tahoe! It was approaching showtime.

September 19, 2014: I checked in to the Expo at Squaw Valley Resort for the IMLT athlete check-in. So many badass triathletes all in one place! Amazing and inspiring. We each had a story and a purpose and I know we all trained very hard to get to this day, this weekend. But we all had that unsettled feeling in our guts. It wasn’t race jitters only, it was the threat of the race being cancelled due to a wild fire that was started a week prior. The fire was at over 87, 000+ acres burning and growing. High winds, plush forests, homes and structures lost, injuries, exhausted resources, and extreme drought conditions make this fire a monster.

Ironman Village

Ironman Village

Athlete check-in was completed. I attended the mandatory meeting where very important rules, expectations, and strategies were shared by Ironman staff. Great info to know! I was ready to race.

September 20, 2014: This is the day that bikes are required to be checked in and our gear bags dropped off in the respective transition areas. I felt like I was planning for a wedding and this was the day before the wedding. Dropping off the gear and bike was fun for me because it is my first Ironman. There was much to take in, so much to learn outside of training. I completely enjoy things like this. I made some friends in the process. Saw the excitement in the eyes of the volunteers. Very exciting. At the same time, we are concerned as we see the smoke entering back into the area. It was just like in the movies where you see an ominous cloud rolling in quietly from the mountain tops crawling down the sides into the valley. Dramatic?? No, it really did look like that. It was kind of cool but scary. Would we race tomorrow? According to race officials, we were still a go as winds were predicted to blow east clearing things up for race day and the day after. We kept our eyes on the updates. We are still a go for race day.

Racked and Ready!

Racked and Ready!

My wonderful husband, Sherpa extraordinaire, and I had to go back home and pack up to get up to the condo that we are sharing with our teammates who are also racing. A lake condo filled with triathletes ready for race day! I’m sure you already can guess that some shenanigans were had. But the details and specifics are confidential. Off to bed we go uncertain if the smoke will blow back out. As we begin to slumber, we can still smell and taste the smoke. It’s rolling back in. AGAIN.

September 21, 2014: SHOWTIME! No more trainings, practices, nutrition trials, and gear collecting. This is it. Race Day. Today I will be an Ironman. Now that sounded arrogant I suppose but I trained very hard for this day. With all the set backs and restarts, I trained hard and knew that I had the strength and fortitude to finish the race. Now it was time to show my fellow triathletes on the course what I had. Would I place on the podium? I am in a competitive age group so most likely not the first time out. Would I qualify for a covenanted Kona spot? Even more confident that I wouldn’t my first time out with all other factors being equal. I’ve learned to never say never so I can’t say I would NEVER potentially qualify but I was kind of clear on my skills and abilities. I like to keep my first race modest and set a decent baseline.

Sherpa and I head down to the start (T1) where the swim start will take place and then we transition to the bike. We filled up the hydration bottles, counted the fuel on the bike, threw a few more things in the bike gear bag, and headed back to the bike to put on my wet suit.

SHOWTIME!!

SHOWTIME!!

The temperatures were great! Compared to the inaugural race in 2013, it was a heat wave. It was around 55* with no wind. There was a slight smoke in the air but not chewable. We were still uncertain if the race would be a go but we would have heard by now if the race was cancelled, right? It was 6:25 and time to put on the wet suit. If you have never seen a triathlete put on a wet suit, you have missed out! I would describe it as a combination of skill, coordination, isometric exercises, and pure luck! This is my A race, I really did not want to make a fool of myself (as I usually do) while suiting up. I focused, put one foot in, pulled up the leg roll, then the other foot, pulled that leg roll up…pull, twist, and pull over should bib straps…now for the top, repeat process…and BOOM! Everything in place, pure skill…just kidding, really it was pure luck. Sherpa was highly impressed! He mentioned that I looked like a pro.

It is 6:30am. Time to go to the water and warm up. Lake Tahoe is known for her beauty and clarity. She is also known for her frigid water temperatures. She can be very cold even in the heat of summer. So you could imagine that I was a bit nervous getting in to “warm up” for the swim. As I entered up to my ankles, I smiled and thought the temperature was perfect! I slowly made my way deeper into the water, looking at the sky line watching the morning change from dark to dusk. I could see the Sierras now and knew that after the start of the race what a beautiful sunrise we would have for our swim. I was ready! Let’s get this race going!! I can do this.

I was just about ready to take the “plunk”, yes that’s an official term…to get my face and head acclimated to the water and get a few strokes in when I heard the announcer call all athletes attention. I will spare you the long drawn out details of the 1-2 minute announcement but I will say that I heard these words the loudest “the race has been cancelled”. CANCELLED.

 

I stood in the water waist deep in shock. I was truly waiting for the “we are just kidding” part of the announcement but it never came. They were not only serious, they were ordering all athletes and unofficial support on the water to get out of the water. As I walked in shock to find my husband, I saw all my fellow badass athletes for some who would fall to their knees in tears to those that screamed descriptive profanity. We were all shocked and in pain. We were breathless in Tahoe.

Athletes were ordered out of the water but advised that they could get their bikes and gear bags and bring it with them or they would be shuttled back to T2 in Squaw where the run transition would have taken place. Additionally, we would be able to pick up our finisher shirts, hat, and medal. Seriously? This is not real, it can’t be happening.

Dazed still we make our way back to T1 where we were now corralled and instructed to remove our timing chips. The athlete wears the device around the ankle and as you progress throughout the course, where you either step over, ride over, or run over mats that register your time and place on the course. This is all set up and matched to the athlete during check-in. To take away this critical tracking device was feeling the pain of the shattering heart break for the first time. It was like a 1-2-3-KNOCKOUT punch sequence. 1-announce the cancellation, 2-tell us to pick up our bikes and gear, 3-take our timing chip, and the KO is hearing that we can go pick up our “finisher” medals.

Like zombies we wadded through herds of athletes still in wet suits and caps to get to my bike. Man, she looked so pretty and ready to go. She was ready to kill it on the course. Sadly, we did not have our day to shine. Feels like we were stood up at the alter on our wedding day.

The walk to the car was filled with theories and opinions on whether the right call was made by race officials. As we tried sorting through our feelings we pass others doing the same, surely the stages of grief have begun. In a sloppy fashion, we load all the gear and bike back in the car and head off to T2, where the finish line is, to pick up my run gear and finisher swag. This is going to be a weird painful drive.

We had to take an alternate route back to T2 as the course was still “coned” for the race. Driving back down the mountain you could see the smoke sitting along the trees gripping like frayed cotton along the hillside. As we approached the town of Truckee, the situation becomes abundantly clear. The sky is full with dense smoke and visibility is less than a half of a mile. Hazardous conditions.

 Very hazardous!!

The drive into Squaw was tough with a lot of stop and go traffic littered with athletes riding their bikes. Since Squaw Valley is a resort, many athletes booked rooms there and have been staying there days prior to the race. Some athletes did not have a ride back to the finish line to pick up their gear, so they had to ride. Some protested and raced the course without support. I get it. I felt the same pain and frustrations; however, I would not want to compromise my lungs short term or long term. They did what they felt they had to do. Understandable.

The air quality was extremely dangerous at Squaw that volunteers were wearing masks. Athletes were covering faces with scarves and buffs. The air seemed chewable. As I made my way through the clutter of bags, I reclaimed my run gear and special needs bag. I did a great job making sure it was tightened up and my clothes were still dry after the rain that passed through! I was proud of my self for that, but I digress.

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On the way out, I was handed my finisher shirt, finisher hat, and finisher medal. Seems inappropriate somehow that I did not complete 140.6 of extreme endurance to claim my prize. I didn’t feel worthy.

We made our way to the finish line where many were taking photos of what would have been, victory crossing the line. There were no crowds, no announcing the infamous four words “(athlete’s name) You are an Ironman!!”,only the sound of volunteers tearing down the rails and staging area.

The drive back to the condo was uneventful. The group had decided to start immediate therapeutic measures. We made a huge breakfast, served beverages, and enjoyed each other’s company. It was a great time to share our feelings and plan the rest of the day. We decided to all head home where we admittedly would lick our wounds and start our mourning process in silence and alone. We understood what we each were going through but we knew we had to have our own time. It is time to start healing.

As I write this post-race report for a race that never was, I have cried, self reflected, and experienced most of the stages of grief. The World Triathlon Corporation has graciously offered entry into several venues to help those who couldn’t race IMLT. I attempted to get in to the Arizona venue; however, it was snatched up quickly. Logistically and financially I cannot explore the other options. I did use my credit and applied it toward Ironman Lake Tahoe 2015!! The rest of 2015 is penciled in on my mental checklist. I will let you know what I decide to do from here.

What I can tell you is that I have only just begun! I have only started to define myself as an athlete and I went through such a transformation during an extremely challenging time of my life that would sideline many and rightfully so with no shame. It was difficult. I have learned so much about myself with what I can accomplish when I set my sights on a goal. Ironman Strong!

As I close this long recap of my journey to the epic Ironman Lake Tahoe 2014, I would like to state for the record and with all my heart and soul, that I DID EARN THAT finisher shirt, hat, and medal. I earned it, just didn’t have a chance to show my fellow athletes on the course. I will look at my medal with pride and excitement to know that I made it to the start line and was ready to race. I had no doubts. I consider IMLT 2014 the #bestdressrehearsalever!!

PLOT TWIST!!!

PLOT TWIST!!!

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My name is Diana…I am a triathlete

It’s official! I can by all rights call my self a triathlete.  What started off as “cross-training” by adding in a few other things like swim and bike has grown into a newbie triathlete a full blown athlete!  My E-team sisters came out to race and spectate!

It's all about having fun!!

It’s all about having fun!!

My first triathlon was 3 days ago.  Location: Auburn, California.  Distance:  Sprint (aka Mini).  Terrain: HILLS HILLS and just because there wasn’t enough…MORE HILLS!!!

The distance was called a mini or what some would refer to as a sprint triathlon distance.  The first discipline is the swim.  The distance for the swim for the mini is 500 meters or .30 miles.  For those that need a further breakdown that’s 1640 feet or 19,685 inches…impressive! Here I am in the swim:

I'm in there somewhere...for real!

I’m in there somewhere…for real!

The swim was great.  I know a lot of folks out there get nervous. I was a little bit but just the normal nerves one gets before any race really.  I knew what I’d want to do in the swim portion.  I knew what it’d feel like, what I’d experience, I was prepared because I had done this over and over in my mind well before race day! I knew there was a rolling start so I knew I would plant myself at the back of the group and take my time starting.  I ended up back in the group and passing by some. Was great. Outside of the girl that was having extremely hard time sighting on the last stretch…she was zig zagging across me.  I was told it’s ok to gently nudge her aside or simply sprint past but she looked stressed out and hey, I wasn’t in a rush really. I was enjoying the experience! Here is me exiting the swim and getting ready to head to T1:

Because everyone should strut out of swim...just sayin'

Because everyone should strut out of swim…just sayin’

As we exited the swim, the first of the hills (oh my legs quiver with memories) was to run up the boat ramp then take a sharp right up a rocky technical dirt path to a parking lot to T1. I thought I’d be a hot shot and start the “jog” on up, felt the incline on my legs, and said “nope save it for the bike”. I’m very smart! I transitioned (I thought pretty good for a virgin triathlete) and prepared to ride the bike leg of the race.

Please don't be backwards...please don't be backwards...

Please don’t be backwards…please don’t be backwards…

Off and riding on the bike. This is my before pic…poor legs, they have no idea what’s about to go down.

The legs don't know what they are in for yet...

The legs don’t know what they are in for yet…

The bike course is beautiful!! It is a hilly course and a technical course. The distance is a mere 13 kilometers or 8 miles. Short, right? But it was HILLY!! Some as steep as a 12% grade in ascent.  Tough and challenging.  I learned how to handle shifting and climbing.  My only fear was that on the steep climbs I would either fall or walk or both. I am extremely proud to report I did neither!!  I did what I thought was best on the course and finished in the time I had anticipated based on my training and current skill set. I survived a tough bike course!

I am finished with the bike leg. I'm so excited to see my teammates!! And to be done...

I am finished with the bike leg. I’m so excited to see my teammates!! And to be done…

I was so excited to see my teammates and close friends the Baughs (who took the above awesome pic!)…and I was happy to be riding into T2.  I was much faster on T2 I think and now I entered into my comfort zone…the run! I took off my riding gear, put on my shoes, race belt, tighter things up…and began to run out of T2!! Yes…Now on to the run!!

I know I can run well.  I didn’t even think about the course because it is only 4 kilometers or 2.4 miles.  Guess what? There were HILLS on the run!! What?!? I can run hills, I’m not afraid of hills; however, I just had my fill of hills on the ride and now I have to run them? Bring it on!! I fly downhill on a rocky trail out of T2 area to the wooded area behind the finish line. Down the trail, up the trail, back down a trail hill then a sharp right. After that it’s really a blur but I can tell you there were several quad killer climbs and runs down hills. There were switchbacks and great volunteers cheering us on. There was a beautiful canal that flowed with crisp cold water that I was positive would be great if I could just stop and stand in the flow…my mind wandered…ahem, I snapped back to reality and saw my teammate Brynda up ahead. Time to catch her and bring us across the finish! We motivated each other to finish the race because it was the longest by far the longest 2.4 miles I ever ran…seriously. Those HILLS!! But here I am…ready to finish the entire race:

Approaching the finish...finally done with those hills.

Approaching the finish…finally done with those hills.

The race was over! I did it! I completed and survived with a smile my first triathlon!

Happy smiles...we are done! Brynda did amazing!

Happy smiles…we are done! Brynda did amazing!

I am happy with my overall time. It was right around where I thought’d I would be but I was handed a nice surprise…I placed 2nd in my Age Group!! What?!? That can’t be?? I double checked and triple checked.  It’s true! Although there were only 4 of us in the AG, I placed 2nd and I’ll take it thank you very much!

Me and Ms. 1st place. She was so happy!!

Me and Ms. 1st place. She was so happy!!

So what are all the little lessons in this race?? Well, there are too many to list and over time I’ll share.  But for now I would just like to give a huge shout out to Coach Will from Enduworld and my wonderful Endurance Reno teammates that trained and raced along with me encouraging me the entire time.  A shout out for a great race for Brynda and Andrea:

Brynda, Andrea, and me!

Brynda, Andrea, and me!

And to my husband, a great friend, and great coaching and athletic couple:

Corrine, my hubby Nick, Olivia, Sam, and the celebrity dogs Pebbles and Sunny Rae (little pom)

Corrine, my hubby Nick, Olivia, Sam, and the celebrity dogs Pebbles and Sunny Rae (little pom)

I have many more trainings, races, and lessons (hopefully more food posts too) to share in the future.  But what I would love to hear about is YOU!! What is going on with you with your training and racing? Share share share….please?

Let’s talk food & share ideas!!

It’s always a good time to talk food. In my opinion anyways.  I am always on the search for great food and recipes.  Even before my new active life began 4 1/2 years ago, I was on the search for fresh food ideas and let the inner “foodie” out and play.  The only thing holding me back?  Well, I lack the domesticated gene and a budding Martha Stewart or even a Rachael Ray I am not! I chose not to bake homemade goodies because I lack the patience to practice that type of chemistry in my kitchen.  Wait for eggs and butter to come to room temperature?? What?? If I wanted to bake a cake I want it in an hour or so (including frosting time)…jeesh! Homemade bread…activate the yeast, punch down the dough, let sit and rest?!? Too many steps involved and how is it that bread dough can rest and I can’t?  Damned, can’t have it all now can I?

I like quick fixes. I love homemade and full flavored foods but do not like to spend all my time in the kitchen waiting for results.  If the recipe has too many ingredients…you’ve lost me. If the directions have too many steps and appears to be complex…you’ve lost me.  Yes I judge the recipe before I’ve even had a chance to work it out.  So what do I do with my limitations? I search for easy ways to create the meals within the boundaries of my patience.

GF Awesome pancakes in the making...

GF Awesome pancakes in the making…

A nice quick easy breakfast meal that is great for quick meals throughout the week are PANCAKES!! I’m not on any type of diet bandwagon (not that its a bad thing) I just like to explore all my culinary options out there.  I like the Bisquick Gluten Free Mix it is reasonable priced and I can add a few things to bump up the heartiness and flavor and BOOM…breakfast all week!

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Recipe:

Base for pancakes

  • 1 cup of Bisquick GF mix
  • 1/2 cup raw oats
  • 1 1/2 cup + Almond milk (or any milk you choose)
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • Vanilla extract to taste
  • Fruit of choice to add

Instructions:  Mix dry ingredients.  Add liquid and stir.  You will need to add more liquid as the oats will drink up and expand as it sits.  Prepare your fruit.  Add to batter and stir. Heat your skillet.  Once it’s ready, pour batter and cook until you see nicely formed bubbles. Flip and cook other side.  Remove pancake from skillet and repeat process until all batter is gone!

This is a great base that you can add too!  Change up the vanilla for almond extract.  Add honey to the batter or even peanut butter! I top mine with smeared raw peanut butter and drizzle raw honey on top. Or just go straight for the honey. You choose your topping.  These freeze well and make for a great grab-n-go breakfast for the week. They also make a great mid-day snack! Just sayin’…

So back to recipes and ideas!! What great quick recipe hacks do you have that you would love to share?!?

Share your ideas in the comments below 🙂

Napa Marathon…the race…

There is a lot to be said about the amount of time, dedication, focus, and determination a runner goes through to race an endurance race distance.  What is an endurance race distance? Well for some, it may be 13.1 miles half marathon or it may be the 26.2 miles full marathon.  It may include distances beyond but for the sake of time and reference, we’ll just stick with the 26.2….

RTM

I love this because it’s true.  We train and train and mostly in silence pounding out the miles in preparation to our race.

As I have posted before, training taught me a lot of life lessons. I shared some of those lessons with you in prior posts.  I try to take up all that life offers in my life an apply what I feel are lessons.  Training prepares the body and cardiovascular system to handle the distance; however, the race….oh yes, the race offers so much more in lessons If you are receptive.

So you know I survived my race, you know who was with me, and you know my finish time.  I want to share with you what it was actually like to run the race itself. What I felt, saw, and learned about myself.

At the starting line, you could feel the nerves and excitement rise above the crowd waiting for the siren to start the race! I kept thinking to myself…”don’t go out too quick”.  I repeated this over and over and over.  Then the siren sounds…the race is on!  I look down at my HRM watch and quickly realized it was not tracking the mileage!! WHAT?? I am about to run 26 POINT 2 miles and it won’t show on my HRM watch?? Jeesh! This is not a good sign.  So I continue to run.  Runners are passing me rapidly.  Some are clustered in packs of friends and talking already about the next marathon they are signed up for.  Some share historical data of marathons they ran before.  Some are coaching and cheering on strangers already walking after mile 2 when our first hill approaches.  Lots of discussions, laughter, and excitement passing me by as I continue to chant to myself “don’t go out too quick…don’t go out too quick”.

I am running along the course very disciplined and focused on running the tangents properly.  CONFESSION:  I just truly learned what they meant by running the tangents the night before the race…true story!.   For those that may not know this either…you’re in great company because as I found out, there is a language to racing not just running.  Tangents are those turns and curves in the road. If the road bends to the left…it would be less mileage on your feet equalling to a faster time if you take the inside narrow elbow of that left turn.  Not the center or the outside of the turn. You can add time and mileage if you don’t take tangents.  Make sense?  Napa had a lot of tangents to tackle.  I was focused and taking them like a near pro! Hugging to the left…passing runners as I moved side to side to take the tangents almost running on the gravel shoulder. Oh yah, like a boss!  I would occasionally notify my target, ahem, I mean my fellow racer I was about ready to pass….”on your left” or “on your right”.  Things were running (pun intended) smooth…GPS finally kicked in…now my minute/per/mile pace is showing…now I only have 23 miles to go.  I can do this!

At around mile 4, everything changed.  I made eye contact with my running sister Olivia!  Remember that beautiful gal…to the left of me in this pic:

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I have many nicknames for her because she is one that I have secretly (well it’s not a secret now) watched and mimicked her form, her methods, her badassness.  That’s a word…google it. On hills…she’s a beast! Her nickname is billy-goat.  She can take a hill and make it cry as she runs up and down it.  I watch her running form, her cadence, how she handles running drills, and on some days that I am feeling super sassy, I try to pretend that I can catch her! She’s always ahead of me.  On the track, her nickname is little rocket! She’s a little shorter than I so I can call her ‘little’…and it’s truly out of admiration because as I grow as an athlete…I want to be just like her! She’s fast and an amazing athlete, runner, and triathlete.  So now that you know a little bit about Olivia imagine my surprise to see her at mile 4 in a marathon.  She was waiting scoping me out. She says she needed me that day but I needed her so much more!

I remember saying “What are you doing here at my pace!?!”  She was battling a hip injury for the past few months.  She trained through recovery and wasn’t sure it was going to hold out for Napa.  This was her race to set a personal record (PR).  This was her race! Napa would not relinquish anything for her this time.  Napa fought back.  At around mile 4 she felt the pain, she wasn’t sure she would continue.  She knew there were a few of us in the middle and back of the pack that she may run with to see how much it would help if she slowed down. She wanted to test it out. I was her target…I had mixed feelings. I was scared because this elite badass runner was going to hang around me for the entire race. What if I wanted to walk, or stop, or I don’t know…anything.  I felt scared and not sure why. hahaha.  But that truly was a fleeting thought and a knee-jerk reaction. I quickly realized as we started running together that this was going to be a great journey and experience that I would cherish forever!

She paced me, coached me, and helped me through some dark moments of my race.  She watched for me when I hit the physical wall, the emotional wall, and the mental wall. She asked me if I am good on nutrition, did I hydrate, how was this mile compared to last. She had me covered and under her wing.  I asked her several times how she felt and she always responded with a positive answer…”it’s ok, doing better”.  Well, she was not.  She ran with me and pushed me through to the very last POINT FREAKIN 2 miles.  The last stretch to cross this finish.  She pushed me to finish and sprint strong.  I did. I ran across the finish line in 4:22:19…tears in my eyes and joy in my heart! My first marathon done. I am a marathoner!

I turned to find her a literally a second behind me.  I turned around, hugged her, and totally balled my eyes out on her shoulder!

The lessons I learned that day include: how to pee outside before the race starts when there is a huge line at the PP’s, that I should have taken my Immodium MUCH earlier the day before than I did, I held back out of uncertainty and could have pushed harder…and when you think you are alone, you are not.  Just because you’re strong and independent, you always need someone (sometimes you don’t even know that you do).  When the “wall” hits you…there is always a way through it. And finally, during the most intense, most impossible moments of your life when you think you cannot do it, you can! You just have to push through and do it.  I had the honor of an awesome teammate, running superstar, badass rockstar, and now my marathon sister help me through a tough race and build a wonderful experience!

Who is your Olivia? What lessons did you learn during a race?

Napa Valley Marathon!! 2014

I am a marathoner! That’s it…end of post…I ran 26.2 miles in an official race.  Oh, wait, you want to know more?? Ok…it was the best race to run in for my first marathon ever.  It was nor remains an easy course. Let’s not be fooled into fiction here…It was a nice meaty race for a first timer.  I did absolutely great in time for a first. What was my time?? Well, we will get there…patience!

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It was a beautiful day! Overcast, a bit chilly and moist from days of rain. The smell of spring and vineyards surround. Look at the picture above.  You know you’d run that…not too hot, not too cold.  Perfect day for a race.

My husband and I drove down the Friday before to meet up with our Endurance Reno team and coach. My team had approximately 25 running the race and several drove out for cheering and support.  Love them…a bunch! We had a blast the night before with great food homemade by the coach’s beautiful wife Shanna. We wanted not…and needed even less. We stayed in a beautiful cabin home in the hills around St. Helena. We saw a huge coyote and heard Big Foot. Swear, we did. Truth!

      Napa House

What an absolute experience! I would have been so relaxed and at peace with this just being the get-away! But we were there to race!

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We brought all our gear and made this beautiful place our home for the next few days. We were here. We are ready to race our first marathon! We drove the course to get our heads in the game.  I personally like to know what I am up against.  Others, may not want to know that much. It’s all about how you plan your mental game for the race.  Knowing where the turns and curves and scenery helped when I needed it the most. We drove down and went to packet pick up.  ALERT!! Apparently you are NOT to try ANYTHING new ESPECIALLY at the expo before race day.  That sample can’t hurt me right?? Well, you decide if you want to take that risk or not.  I did not know this rule and I sampled the most lovely granola snack thing ever. Oh well…next time I know.  I had no GI issues as a result of it but hey, it was risky and I was just not thinking straight. I’m new at this ok?!? Well, kinda not now but you know what I mean.

With packet pick up done and course locked into memory…all there is to do is eat and drink wine and enjoy the company of my team…my family. Oh yes, we are that badass…just sayin’.

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Race morning and we are up! Took in my nutrition and stumbled to the bathroom to get one more opportunity in before the start. We are all tired, ready to get this done. No more training, no more talking about it, no more planning…the day is here. Time to roll to the start line.  Now if you are not familiar with NVM it is a straight shot 26.2 miles. Not an out-and-back but starts from Calistoga and ends in Napa at the HS. All we have to do is run.

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At the start line, I ran into my most favorite man, the man that gave me my life back 4 1/2 years ago through Gastric Bypass Surgery…my surgeon, Kent Sasse! He’s a marathoner. I did not know this until well after I became a runner. How cool is that?  Now we have a tradition to start each race off with a hug and pic!  This man doesn’t really know how much he gave back to me…such a great man great spirit!

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There were a few things I learned along the way during this amazing experience!  The first lesson…how to pee outside around other people.  OMG! Yes, I have grown comfortable with scoping out a bush and targeting for a pee stop.  That took me a few years to get comfortable with by the way.  But seriously, I had to pee at the start line and there was only 5 minutes to the start time.  Lines were LONG at each porta-poty! What’s a girl to do?? Go behind the line of porta-poties and join a few brave runners in their last pee break before a great race of course. I thought I was comfortable peeing outside…but when push comes to shove, you gotta do what you gotta do.  I had a nice pre-race chat with a gal as we were both squatting and peeing wishing each other a great race while my wonderful running sister Olivia (more on her later) kept watch. And done…bladder empty, we are ready to race!

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The marathon itself is an experience all in its own and deserves a blog entry of its own.  I just want to tell you this…see that beautiful gal to my left?? (I’m in the center if you didn’t know…haha) That is Olivia! She is amazing and in the next blog about Napa…I will share EXACTLY how amazing she is and how she was part of my wonderful NVM experience!

Wrapping up this entry…I learned so much through training and racing.  My running team family, coaches, and all those that supported me and continue to support me through 2014 race year…I love you all! How was my race??

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Finish time:  4:22:19

Not too shabby for a first-timer! I held back, I enjoyed the experience and the race itself. Watch out for my next one.  I would do Napa again! Stay tuned for more on lessons learned during a marathon.

Obstacle course and lessons learned

It’s been almost 2 full months since the last entry.  I know you might have been worried that maybe I got lost in the holiday shuffle or maybe I just decided not to continue on with training.  Maybe I forgot or maybe life just got in the way. The truth is that my mind is always busy pondering a little bit of everything of every part of life.  Based on my personality and ingrained traits, I am an analyst.  I analyze almost everything in my path.  Yes, it’s exhausting at times.  No, I cannot shut it off.  It is what I am.  It is my superpower and yet my kryptonite.

Where does that leave me with a 2-month gap in blogs? For starters prepare for a long-ass blog. Second, I have an opportunity to share my growth and transformation in that time.  This is a time to share what obstacles popped up and some challenges to my mental, physical, and emotional fortitude. Sharing my experiences and allowing you, the reader, to extrapolate what speaks to you.  And to share a word and its definition that stood out as powerful to me and what triggered it to be on my radar…that word is OBSTACLE

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I have learned that the sport of triathlon trains you for life.  Now remember, I am the analyst and as such I can make a correlation of the similarities and identify patterns, processes, and such.  With this in mind, I look for valuable data, data that I can extrapolate and use and apply.

Becoming a triathlete is not only tough working on three disciplines (especially when I only really knew how to do one of them…guess which one).  2014 is going to be an epic race year for me and I am realizing that being a triathlete is more than training.  It involves all the gear needed to race successfully.  There can be a steep start-up cost.  No one really prepares you for this.  As I become stressed about how in the world am I ever going to afford all this, a life experience pops up as an analogy.  It’s like preparing for a baby! During pregnancy parents-to-be often are consumed and overwhelmed by the supplies that are needed and how much it’ll cost.  But somehow most of us make it through, pulling out our creativity and awesome resources and in the end, we make it happen. This is my year of a lot of firsts! This is the year of my triathlon-pregnancy with the big prize being my Ironman Lake Tahoe Baby in September.

Another realization during the past few months as training has ramped up is that becoming a triathlete is not an easy journey. A tough journey especially when I went from couch spud (with deep roots and a long list of TV favorites) to an endurance athlete that would rather train than watch TV. There are a lot of growing pains, evolutionary stages, and what I like to simply refer to as “leveling-up”.

Such as in life!

Injuries…oh yes, injuries.  I have to say that I have been training extremely smart and cautious to avoid injuries.  I worked on all things that I can control.  These things include: stretching, foam rolling, chiropractic visits, massage therapy, and good old fashioned rest and sleep. I am very focused and passionate about these things.  They help! BUT…what about the things you cannot control?  Well, sometimes such things as a wrong foot strike in mid sprint can change up the mix and become the thing you cannot control.  During a sprint drill I landed a bad foot strike (it happens) on my left  and although I did not notice at the time, this incident would create a mental, emotional, and physical barrier…an inury! Enter tendonitis above the ankle…running along the tendons and the fascia intersection above my left ankle. No sprain…just a pain. Literally.

A decision must be made

A decision must be made

Day 1: the first day of awareness.  No inflammation yet, just a pain at the bottom of my toes under my foot.  I thought I busted a toe and it’s no big deal.

Day 2: after logging mileage, inflammation now enters the equation with slight pain.  Okay, it’s on the radar now.  A little massage and some BioFreeze and it’s time for bed.

Day 3: after logging more miles, swelling spreads like a virus across the top of my ankle and now there is considerably noticeable pain.  Hhmm…there is new data to process.  After assessing what I see and compare it to what I know so far as an athlete, I continued to apply ice/heat, raise the ankle, keep rotation moving, apply BioFreeze, and take Tylenol if needed.

Day 6: as the day for my longest run scheduled for my highest mileage week ever in my life approaches, I continue on with my own therapy and continue to accumulate mileage.  On the eve of my long run, I evaluate my ankle.  More swelling and the pain continues, now up my shin a bit. At this point Napa Marathon is just 4 weeks out.  I am at a critical decision point.  Do I push through log 22 miles and reach both milestones which would bring me great joy and sense of accomplishment…OR…do I listen to what my body is saying and evaluate the data, the facts, and create a new strategy plan?  Do I suffer now and risk the odds of creating a larger longer lasting injury or go hard and reach what once was impossible for me? Tough decision! Choice and consequence or action and reaction…a decision must be made. Such as in life!

After carefully evaluating the information and logically working it through my emotional, physical, and mental check points, I decided to hit pause and treat the injury with a bit more attention, respect, and re-evaluate in a few days.  I chose to deploy all my resources 1) the sage wisdom and experience of my Coach that shares the secret tips and tricks to rapid healing 2) my chiropractor to re-aligning my ankle and body after the injury 3) massage therapist to keep the entire body in tune and work on specific points around the injured area 4) and my own knowledge and resources of treating my body as a whole and not only focusing on the point of injury.  I focused on stretching, foam rolling, soaking, resting, icing, and making sure my nutrition and hydration were on track to aid in healing. And I had to dig deep to stay focused and balanced physically, mentally, and emotionally.  This derailed me. I lost the wind in my sail.  I was knocked down.  It’s ok to be knocked down…just don’t stay down!

As I am blogging this to you…I am on day 21 post injury and I can tell you that it seems to have been so long ago and forever that I have been dealing with the ankle.  This is where the mental and emotional strength pull ahead of physical strength.  My total down time with the injury included 5 days of total rest and yes, that includes NO RUNNING or CYCLING! I did swim but used it as therapeutic time using the buoy for assistance while working upper body and stroke technique.  Clever huh?

So how does this apply to life?  How can a running injury become a positive element in my training and in life?  I could have chosen to bring everything to a complete halt, treat the injury, drown in self sadness of not being able to train, and allow it to overwhelm my emotional and mental state of being.  Or, I could analyze the data, formulate a strategy based logical decision making skills to achieve a successful outcome.  I chose to use it to propel me forward and do what I can the best that I can while trying to maintain balance.  Well, for me, the analyst, it was simple.

Now let’s look at the word that was a powerful word for me this morning and that I’d like to share with you! OBSTACLE

Merriam-Webster defines obstacle as “something that impedes progress or achievement” or “something that makes it difficult to do something” or “an object that you have to go around or over: something that blocks your path.”

Let that sit and marinate for a moment but first read this:

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How you approach, address, and mitigate obstacles depends on how you perceive the worth of what it is your are trying to obtain.  For me, I place a high value worth on my goals this year!  I typically do not settle for less than giving my all and I certainly do not like to be told I cannot or should not do something.  It’s worth fighting for!

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How about you?  How do you deal with your obstacles?

“Obstacle.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2014. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obstacle&gt;.

It ain’t for the queasy!

This whole triathlon training.  Hell, training for a marathon isn’t a breeze either! Training takes focus, dedication, commitment, and balance.  Oh yes, and you tend to use a lot of muscles, do a lot of stretching, and eat all day (so it seems).  Training is intense.  I made a conscious choice to put my body, heart, and soul into my training for 2014.  However, I find that the one thing I do not allow myself sometimes is flexibility.  Not the kind that yoga or pilates can offer.  Although that couldn’t hurt either at this point but how would I fit it into my schedule…sorry, I digress.  Anyways, flexibility is something that helps bring balance to my schedule, family, and life.

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Last training week I put on my base mileage and went to a few practices but I also missed a few mornings and didn’t go for the team run which was supposed to be a long run.  With the gentle nudge and suggestion of my husband (who is also on the team and training for his first marathon at Napa with me…yay!!) we decided to waive off the morning session but to do our mileage later on in the day…a couples run.  Now first let me say that I know there are those who cannot run with their significant other; however, I can! I absolutely love running with my husband and we have the most awesome time.  Yes we are competitive with each other (that’s a whole other blog post right there) but we also run in harmony, smoothly, and no need for conversation…just running.

We have different schedules and do not see each other much throughout the work week.  Time together is sparse. I decided to be a bit more flexible and allow the morning training to pass and spend time with the hubby.  After Christmas shopping and some errands, we returned home to lace up.  We did log our mileage later in the afternoon.  On a side note: If you ever want to really test your commitment and focus to your training, postpone your morning run until the late afternoon and see how you really feel about lacing up and pounding the pavement or trail…in the winter…cold…getting dark mid run…now THAT’s dedication!! We logged 10 miles finishing off an awesome training week!

Logging miles together...

Logging miles together…

We just have a blast together! What can we say?

So training is intense but as you can see, I am enjoying every step of this process.  Now I better stop blogging to go pack my training gear for tomorrow.  

How do you handle your training schedule? Do you allow flexibility?

RTM

Over 30 hours since my last run! What??

I’ve been fighting a cold since last Wednesday to be honest.  We were traveling down to family for Thanksgiving and that’s when the sinus headache and tingly throat thing started.  I just brushed it off as change in temps…but on Sunday, I reached to scratch my neck and felt those lovely swollen glands.  I didn’t even know they were there.

Took my rest day on Monday and then planned my training week out.  Woke up Tuesday with the NyQuil fog and still glands are noticeable.  Feeling groggy, I texted my coach to tell him I was not going to make morning practice but I will still get my mileage in.  Grabbed my gear for Tuesday’s arctic run (Remember the highs are in the 20’s and low’s in single digits this week) and headed off to work.

Geared up for my lunch run which was AWESOME!!  Put in a respectable lunch time run and then got back to work.  Plugging away I get a response back from my coach that advised me to take a rest day. Ooops.  A bit late.  Now I’m confused.  I’m feeling ‘ok’ but now conflicted.  Do I listen to my coach and take the rest day or do I push through.

Now there are so many opinions of whether one should train while sick.  I’ve heard it’s ok as long as it’s not in your chest or if you have a fever.  I have continued training during sinus infections and such.  Got the mileage in.  Did it make a difference though?? I don’t know really.  They were sloppy hard runs.  But here’s what I do know…I personally trust my coach and as tough as it was to let go of my plans for the training week and surrender to the cooties I did what he said.  I took the evening as a rest day.  I also took today off as well.  Sometimes you need to just trust the process and allow things to fall into place.

Also, I have learned the hard way “if it doesn’t work the first time…try doing what your coach says”.  It works.

What’s another day of rest right?

Well what do you know, winter is coming!

I am a huge G.O.T. fan…so I couldn’t help the reference because today, in my town, winter made an appearance! I knew that coming back from sunny San Francisco over the holiday weekend would be a fading memory as a cold front and storm was getting ready to move through the area.  As a runner, I have learned to prep for my upcoming training week on Sunday.  I do my grocery shopping, errands, prep meals, and get all laundry done so that I can pack my luggage (at least it feels that way) for the days ahead.  I have also learned to check the weather.  As a good little runner girl, I did just that and this is what I saw:

Notice the highs and lows. BBbbrrr

Notice the highs and lows. BBbbrrr

So what does one do with that kind of information in advance?  Do you hunker down and hibernate for the week? Do you make those dreaded plans with the dreadmill to run those miles?  Do you “taper” just to practice tapering for a future future race?  Nope, you layer up buttercup and go for a run of course!  I did just that!!

Getting it done!

Snow was deep enough to provide a nice resistance during the run! What a workout...

Snow was deep enough to provide a nice resistance during the run! What a workout…

It actually wasn’t that bad.  Yes cold, yes snowy, but not too bad for a run.  And I have to mention this…motorists…we know when you purposefully hit those spots to spit snow and debris on us!! I was pelted twice on the run…I saw you do it.  Didn’t stop me though.  Still got my mileage in.

What are your “show-stoppers”??  How do you cope with winter and getting your mileage in?

RTM

So it’s a new beginning

The beginning of a new training week…

We are all getting back into the swing of having a nice holiday weekend!  I hope that all of you enjoyed great times, company, and food over the holiday and traveled safe back and forth.  I normally do not like to travel at all over the holidays. Period! That is because people are crazy!! I don’t like the traffic, the crowds, and stress that goes along with this time of year.  With that said, my family and I just enjoyed a wonderful holiday weekend away from home.  We live in Northern Nevada where it is nice and crisp this time of year.  The storms can brush on through but lately it’s been pretty calm.  We decided to spend Thanksgiving with family in the Bay area in California.  In suburbia outside of San Francisco, we enjoyed good times, family and food.  Oh yes, and of course a good run!!

Any opportunity for a selfie on a beautiful run!

Any opportunity for a selfie on a beautiful run!

Going for a run with the hubby on a "rough" trail.  Uneven pavement is more like it.

Going for a run with the hubby on a “rough” trail. Uneven pavement is more like it!

With 7 miles under our belt in 70’s degree weather, I’d say we earned every kibble of that Thanksgiving dinner!!

After Thanksgiving we decided to spend Black Friday doing what any sane runner would do when in San Francisco…run the Golden Gate Bridge!

Such a neat view looking up and seeing that!

Such a neat view looking up and seeing that!

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Just a couple of runners hanging out on a beautiful day in SF!

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Watch your speed…don’t want to run too fast!

So it’s back to home we travel and guess what?  The weather this week will be in the highs 30 and lows…wait for it…wait for it…pick any single digit from zero up to 9 degrees.  Yah, I want to go back to sunny and warm please!

How did you spend your holiday weekend?  Did you do a Turkey Trot Race?  Or couch surf?

Here’s to a great training week ahead!

RTM