Wednesday, June 8, 2016

50 shades of "real"

While most people apologize for being off the grid, my departure from the grid was quite necessary. For the most part, this blog has been primarily focused on working out, and recipes, and dogs, and trips to Disney World. All of those things have molded me into the person that I am now. (Yes, even the trips to Disney World... don't you think that having a light heart is essential to having a happy heart?) I've found myself on long runs, and around mile 85 of long bike rides. Something happens to your brain when you're on the road for hours on end. For me, I don't even notice really what I'm doing anymore. My body goes through the physical motions, and typically my thoughts turn inward. Sometimes those inward facing thoughts are driven towards that pesky IT band, or the numbness in my toes from being clipped in to the bike for hours. But lately, my inner thoughts have been far more reflective. I've been finding myself striving to think deeper, to be more reasonable and rational, to see the big picture, and to try to see reality. (And while this is all well and good for self reflective purposes, it proves to be a tad distracting from remembering to abide by the traffic rules of the road on my bicycle/avoid being even an inch too close towards that white line.)(Read: Dear 18-wheelers, chill the F out.)

I think my biggest struggle that I'm having lately is seeing reality for what it really is. We all have the ability to perceive. A lot of times, our perceptions are different. Usually, it can be looked at in the same was as someone's feelings- they're neither right or wrong. If I'm sad about something, that's not incorrect. My feelings are my own, and I have a right to feel them. Your feelings are your own, and you have a right to them as well. It's like, my favorite color is yellow; your favorite color is red. Who's wrong? I feel as though perception is the same way. Perception ties into feelings, right? If I perceive something that has been said is hurtful, and the speaker had a different intent in their message, does that mean that I'm wrong? Something that was said to me has made me feel hurt, per say, so is that incorrect? If feelings aren't right or wrong, then where does the line get drawn on perception?

There's always three sides to every story, right? My side, your side, and the truth. I don't necessarily think that my side is a lie, nor is your side. But we're blinded by the "facts" that we know, and that blurs that line of reality for us. I've been trying, in being more reflective, to take even larger steps back to try and see the picture from an even greater distance. It's really hard, mainly because so rarely do I really understand how others perceive the same situation. Most people don't like to admit when they're wrong. No one likes their pride to hurt, right? I'm not sure if it's because I've never felt like I've been a very proud person, but I don't think I've been one who has had a problem admitting when they're wrong. I am wrong all. the. time. Every day. I make mistakes all the time. But that's how I learn. I learn the best by fucking up once, twice, maybe even three times. (The more times I jack something up, the smarter I get!) With every failure comes another thing that I can theoretically take out of my toolbox; with every failure comes another thing I can hang my hat on knowing doesn't work. Maybe your personal perception of the last few statements of mine is like Whoa, pity party city." I assure you, that's not at all what I was going for. I feel like we can be just as proud of our mistakes as we can from our successes. (Not all of them, of course. Even after 10+ years, I'm still not proud of ages 19-23... who is?!) I mean, we may not know what works yet, but we sure know what doesn't! (Like Goldschlager, jello shots, and Busch Light- they don't work. Freak drunk strength, 3 burly dudes, a loose parking meter, and 4 flights of stairs- surprisingly does work at the time...but then you realize you wish it didn't. And don't even get me started on Molson Golden, hockey helmets, and hard objects..)

Our knee jerk reaction in situations is to lean away from the discomfort, from the unknown. Why do we do that? Technically, isn't everything in life uncertain? The only things we can be certain about is life and death...and uncertainty. The best we can do is try our best to see things for what they are. So, if it's uncomfortable to admit when we're wrong, and we tend to lean away from that discomfort, then what are our brains doing to our perception of that situation? How do we know, even if we KNOW that we're looking beyond just our side of the story, that we're seeing reality? If our knee jerk reaction is to dive into self preservation mode, leaning away from uncertainty and discomfort, then what does that do to the lens through which we see things? Do we need to completely take our emotions out of something so that we can see a scenario in black and white- in it's purest, realest form. And is that the only way we can see reality? 

I think that maybe this word barf of a post might be chock full of rhetorical questions. That's ok. If anyone has any answers or words of advice to share, PLEASE! I really enjoy hearing other people's thoughts on this, and having my mind and heart opened in new and different ways. 

In trying to turn my thoughts inward, I've also tried to adapt to a more mindful way of living. I want to be mindful of me, and all other living things. Lokah samastah sukino bhavantu. May all beings be happy and free. Is that not the most beautiful thing to reflect on?

Happy Wednesday <3


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Ironman Florida Part 3: time to do all the stuff!

November 7th came and went faster than I ever thought it would.

I woke up feeling pretty calm, and just wanting to get to the start line. I had packed, re-packed, checked, triple checked, quadruple checked all of my gear bags. I counted salt and potassium tablets repeatedly, triple guessed my number of Gu's and bonk breakers in each bag, and pondered the life out of where else I could shove another little bottle of sunscreen or bag of m&ms. The countless second guessing of my packing skills were what was really sucking the life out of me. As soon as I left for the start, at least I knew I had packed what I had packed, and whatever I had forgotten I would have to just figure it out on the course.
Ready to go, just waitin' on the rest of the house!

Emily and I rode together in her car to the Walmart parking lot where we were going to pick up the shuttle to get to the start, and my parents followed behind us in their rental car. We had the most perfect timing- there was a tiny line to get onto the bus, and all four of us were able to get on in one fell swoop with no waiting! When we were pulling out of the parking lot though, there was quite a line. We couldn't have timed it better if we had tried.

My mom and I walking towards transition. Both still smiling, but I think she might have been a little more nervous than me. <3

Athletes only were allowed into transition, so I bid farewell to my mom and dad and told them I'd see them in a few hours. I got my bike and run special needs bags dropped off, my tires pumped up, my water bottles and fuel packed, and I was as ready to go as I'd ever be!

My Texas peeps and I had agreed to meet at the pool before the race start so we could take a final team pic and barf nervously all together. I met up with Jimmy and Diane, but the whole group meet up kind of fell apart. We weren't allowed to bring phones on the course, so our phones had to be checked with our morning bag. Unfortunately I lost track of Emily somewhere between the pool and the bathroom so I didn't get to wish her a final good luck.

After 17 more trips to the porta potty, Jimmy, Diane and I made our way to the beach. The energy was absolutely electrifying! The music was blasting, people were stretching out and chit chatting, and any remaining nerves I had were quickly replaced with sheer excitement!

One more picture with D before we separated!

The swim turned out to be non-wetsuit legal. The water temp was about .3 degrees above the cut off. You were allowed to wear a wetsuit if you so chose, you just would not be eligible for any age group awards, or qualifying for Kona. I was really trying to place in my age group for the swim; first out of the water in each age group got stuff from Roka, and you know me and stuff- I want all the stuff. We found Mike and Aydee on the beach, and I got so caught up in talking with them that I didn't even realize that I should have already been up in the corral with my presumed swim time group. I thought- no sweat! I'll just make my way up there! Or not. It. Was. Packed. The back of the corral had estimated their time to be 2:00+. I needed to try and make my way up to the 1:10 gang. I met a dude who was also trying to work his way up to that group, so I channeled my inner punk show crowd navigating mosh pit skills and was like, "come on, bro! We got this!" We made it to maaaybe 1:45 before we admitted defeat, and waited with all the other anxious swimmers. 

The gun went off, and the crowd slowly started moving towards the water. I couldn't see anything except all the tall people in front of me, so it wasn't until a few minutes later when I finally got to the opening of the corral and saw the water, and all the swimmers already making their way out, for the first time...
One of the earlier groups of taped up, skinned up swimmers making their way out...

...and this was the sight I was greeted with!

I could hear choruses of "oh shit" and "here we go..." I, on the other hand, was giggling like an idiot. It looked like pure chaos; people swimming on top of each other, waves breaking on people, people swimming all sorts of off course because it was hard to sight. I. Was. So. Psyched. I grew up spending almost every weekend from the time I was 8 until the time I was 22 at swim meets, warming up in crowded ass lanes, learning at an early age that, sometimes if you need to get your swim on, you've gotta swim on top of people. I also learned that people are going to kick you and punch you in your face, and all over your body- but that's ok, because you're going to do that to people as well. It comes with the territory. Pair those childhood survival skills I adopted with 11 summers of lifeguarding on Cape Cod, doing buoy sprints and sighting with surf and chop- this shit was my jam, and I felt so at home! The bummer was that, since I did start farther back than I needed to, I wound up having to swim over quite a few people. I try my best not to kick people in tris; perhaps they did not grow up with the same aggressive pool experiences as I did. A lot of people get really scared, especially swimming in open water, so I always try to be as respectful as I can. If I'm able to, I try to stop pretty regularly for a quick moment so that I can reassess my direction so as to give someone else their space. However, when I got kicked in the head so hard my ear rang for about 100 yards, I got a little pissed and may or may not have swam directly over him. Sorry, dude.

The swim course was a double looper. About 800 yards straight out, 100 yards across, and 800 yards back in. Then maybe a 25 yard sand jog to the start, and do it all over again. 

The first lap I was trying to politely fight my way into my own space, so my time wasn't as quick as I had wanted it to be, even though I still wound up negative splitting. I was on my way back in towards shore when I swam past someone pulling a dinghy. They were accompanied by a lifeguard on a rescue board, so I stopped and said to the guard, "is this like a Team Hoyt thing?" He nodded, and said, "sure is!" If you're not familiar with Team Hoyt, I urge you to check them out. I know that I say I do races for the stuff, but that's not entirely. I do races like these because the other athletes that participate them inspire me to keep going, and to be a better person. More about that later.

There was a really long sand bar that was about 15 yards off shore, so we had two sets of break to manage getting in through and out of. On the way in from my first loop, the waves were pretty big, and as I sighted I could see people going over the falls; trying to stand up and just getting knocked over. I looked over my shoulder and saw this beautiful wave and thought to myself, "I'm gonna see if I can ride this bitch into shore." I paddled harder and harder and felt it starting to lift me up. I dug in...and totally caught it! I rode that beast into the sand bar and, by the grace of God, got my footing perfectly timed, and stood up straight as soon as I got to the bar, arms over my head, triumphant- like a gymnast who just totally nailed the landing! I think I even let out an "OOH!!" But as I looked around, I realized no one saw it. And if they did, they sure didn't care. 

Second loop was uneventful. I had come into my own space, which was nice. I got into a nice rhythm, and just let the waves carry me up and down. I LOVE ocean swimming so much more than pool swimming. While the techniques you learn in practices can help you, the vitality of the ocean really forces you to just feel it out, and let it carry you. Don't try and swim against the wave and try to beat it- it's going to win. Just relax and go with it! (I know, I know...easier said than done.)
Jimmy was volunteering as a wet suit stripper and he caught this pic of me coming out of the water at the end of the 2.4. All smiles!

From the swim, it was a short jog to transition to grab my bike gear bag outside of transition and head to the changing area. While I was not the first out of the water for my age group, when I got into the changing area there were far more volunteers than athletes. I had two volunteers to myself! I felt like royalty. They helped me with sunscreen, and compression socks (which, if you've never tried to put them on when your legs are still wet, can be a real bitch), and even got me a water and a gatorade! I lived it up while I could, because whatever lead I get from the swim I lose instantly once I get on the bike.

I got my things that I needed for my pockets, thanked the ladies, and headed out to my bike. I saw my sweet friends, Kristin and Caroline, waiting for me at the transition area. I waved to them furiously, I think blew them some kisses, and then grabbed my bike and went for it. 

The bike itself was pretty uneventful. I tried to eat at a relatively steady rate (but being careful not to consume anything other than water after about mile 95 or so). It was a really hot day, so I was pretty worried about dehydrating. I pushed the water pretty hard. It's not good if you're doing a long race and you never have to pee- so my goal was to drink til I had to pee. It worked great! I even made a couple of new SBS friends on the course who let me tag along with them for about 20-30 miles or so. They were much faster than me, though, so I dropped back from them shortly after the halfway point. 

While I was biking..
My dear friend, Kristin, relaxing cheering her ass off with sweet Jacy girl

You're welcome, friends, for giving you a reason to visit the PCB

Yup, you pups are welcome, too <3

A little off centered, but there I am!

There were TONS of volunteers just waiting at transition to take your bike from you, so you literally just handed it off to someone and then ran to get your run gear bag. As predicted, I did not get the royal treatment this time around in the changing area. But the volunteers were still super nice! I donned my best Texas sweaty band, changed into a cuter outfit and compression socks (fact), had the grand opportunity to brush my hair and wash my face(!!!!), and I was off!

I was worried about my hip being a jerk, so I was slow jogging and setting my watch up for intervals (one of the things I had not properly prepared beforehand). I hit start on the Garmin and the interval watch as I crossed the timing pad, and started the run. The first half mile or so was packed with people cheering, so you really couldn't walk if you wanted to. Because they'd yell at you. And call you lazy. (Just kidding about that last part.)

About 5 minutes into the run I thought to myself, well hot damn! My hip doesn't hurt at all! I got to revel in that glory for about .235 seconds before, all of a sudden, I got this pain in my knee that hurt (and surprised me!) so bad that I almost fell over. I slowed down a bit and tried to focus on my stride, but no dice. The ol' lumbago was not having it. I had hoped to do 5:1s (run for 5, with my new, improved and exhausting higher knee'd gait and walk for 1), but my knee would only give me about 45 seconds of running before I had to walk it off. I was so bummed out, but tried to be thankful that I had at least made it this far with no pain, and my hip was feeling awesome. 

So. Fine. I have to drop down to 1:1 for a while. So be it. I got 26 miles to recoup. I tried to stay positive. My knee, however, remained being a little bitch...and soon thereafter, so did my stomach. I won't get into details about that. However, in lieu of staying positive, I look at is as being able to take a very scenic tour of every. single. porta potty on the race course. Some of them were just so nice (and, dare I say, breathtaking?) I felt the need to visit them twice.

A little blurry because my dad was so excited, but this was the first time I got to see Donnie (and my sweet mother in law, who came down to surprise me!!!)! Had any fluids been able to flow up to my face, I would have cried. What champs!

The run continued slowly into the night. The sun went down early thanks to stupid daylight savings time. Thanks to my impressive amounts of stops required (28 to be exact), and my slow as isht 1:1s, I wound up with my slowest marathon of all time. 
Marathon walking for the win!

But a weird thing happened- despite my, literally, crippling knee pain, and my ass that just wouldn't quit, I found myself having one of the funnest marathons I've ever done! Maybe it's because I'd long since kissed the idea of a decent marry time or sub 14 goodbye, or maybe the reality of what I was actually doing had set in. No matter what the reason, I had a blast! I wound up run/walking with some really fantastic people,some made me go on without them and thanked me for the pick-me-up, others I had to leave for another bathroom stop. I've always been a back of the packer in races, and my favorite part of that is just getting to talk to some really amazing strangers. Most of the people I encountered that night were on their at least 5th Ironman. We talked about good races, fun races, and bad races- such as the one we were in. Because, by about 8:30 pm, if you're barely past the halfway point, you're probably not having a good race. No matter who I ran with though, whether I found them, or they found me, I found that we all, at some point, repeated the same thing- "we're going to finish."

And I did. I don't have a finish line photo. I'm too cheap to buy the ones Ironman takes for you. Donnie took a video of me as I ran down the finishers chute, because I'd asked him to. I'm glad he took one, because all I really remember is giggling the whole way down the red carpet and worrying that I was going to be squinting in my finisher photo because the lights were so bright. People are right though- it really is difficult to process everything going on. Between thinking about what you've just done, on marathon brain (which is probably able to function on about 1/8th of normal functioning level), the people cheering, the blinding lights, and the announcer calling your name as you make your final charge towards the finish line, "Becky O'Neil, from Houston, Texas, YOU are and Ironman!" it's just so surreal. 

This guy- driving 10+ hours to stand out and wait for me in the rain <3

My rocks- emotionally and all sortsa supporting me since 2012/2013

This was an incredibly long recap, so if you're still reading this, hats off to you! Sometimes I tell people the abridged version of what I just shared with you, and they think I'm crazy for attempting it. Others say they're inspired- which to ME is crazy, because I'M the one who's inspired by all the amazing athletes out there on the course! Meeting people of all ages and abilities in all sorts of different walks of life is why I really do races. While I'd love to be at the front of the pack one day, the ones of us that bring up the rear- those are the people that really have spirit and determination. If you ever get a chance to check out an Ironman, go to the finish line when there's a half an hour left on the clock. It's the most inspiring half hour of sports you'll ever see. 

I will say that this race was the most fun, most difficult, most painful, and most sobering race I've ever had the privilege of doing. I found myself smiling the entire way. (With the exception of somewhere along mile 22 where I suddenly had to stop walking with someone I had picked up along the route because I needed to cuss loudly and say "FUCK, dude! This is hard!" Sometimes you just gotta let it out.) What had always seemed to be an impossible feat and way too much to take on at once, became believable. Donnie, in the days and weeks leading up, would say to me, "you know you can swim that far, you know you can bike that far, you know you can run a marathon- now you just gotta smush them all together." For weeks, I was an emotional wreck. (No, Donnie, YOU smush them together! And why is the damn fridge empty?!) But his words stayed with me all day. I took it one part at a time. I knew I could swim. So I did. I'd hoped I could get the bike done in the time allotted. Someone was lookin out for me, and I did. I knew that I could at least walk a marathon, which I pretty much proved that night. And somehow, not without the unending support from my loved ones (I can't even put it into words how much of this was because of them), smushing all of those things together brought me to the finish line in 15 hours and 51 minutes.
At this point in the night, I considered this to be stretching.

Do I feel like an Ironman? I don't think so, because I'm not sure what that's supposed to feel like. I do, however, feel infinitely lucky to have a body that was able to withstand the training, as well as 16 hours of exertion, finishing up with a completely empty gas tank, and walking away uninjured. I witnessed people who just set out to finish, crush the course that day. I also witnessed people who expected PR's and wound up walking with me quite a bit at the end. And even worse, I witnessed people who, due to circumstances out of their control, didn't get a chance to finish in the allotted time. That, for me, was the most painful part of the whole day. It still sucks.

I will definitely do another Ironman- probably Texas. That seems like the right thing to do. But it won't be for a while. And by "a while," I mean a year or two. Maybe 2017? 18? Who knows. While I'm not sure when exactly I'll toe that starting line again, I can guarantee that if I can drive there, I'll be there cheering. With my cowbell, my bubble gun, my obnoxious signs, and beer. Because that's how most triathlons should be done.

But for now...

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ironman Florida Part 2- pregaming

The good thing about destination races is that you get to see and experience new places! For me, this would be the first time I'd ever been to Panama City Beach, and I was interested to see how that gulf beach compared to Galveston- the only other gulf beach I'd ever experienced. Needless to say, my expectations of the scenery I'd be experiencing for 140.6 miles were pretty low. Because, I mean, I work on Cape Cod. I do Cape Cod beaches. ("If you like makin' love at midnight.. on the duuuuuunes of the cape"...yeah, that song? That's where I live every summer. So. I mean...)(#totalnewenglandsnob)

Since the drive time was manageable, we decided to drive to Florida and try to save some expenses on flights and shipping our bikes.
All smiles

The bikes are racked and the snacks are packed- lezzgo!

We made super good time, and were able to make it to Mobile before 10 pm when we decided to crash at a hotel. The hardest part of IMFL was, without a doubt, trying to get our bikes through the hallways of the hotel, along with all of our stuff, and then cramming all three bikes, numerous duffel bags, and 3 people into our room. And, for me, parting with the snacks in the backseat. #triathleteproblems
Day 2 and we're psyched! (I'm especially psyched because there was a Starbucks right across the street. Win!)

We continued on the road, and made it to Panama City Beach by about 1:30. For those of you who haven't been to PCB- it's mothereffin beautiful and is NOTHING like brown and dirty Galveston! White sand and perfect turquoise water?! Heavenly! I was so pleasantly surprised and rode that high for the next....20 minutes or so.

We had to check into the race before the end of the afternoon Thursday, so we headed straight to check in when we got to town. We hadn't gotten out of the air conditioned car yet, so we were psyched to get out and stretch our legs and be in the sunshine! It looked to be a beautiful day, and we flung open the door with excitement and nerves, and leapt out of the car- only to be greeted with air that was way hotter and more humid than Houston. Ugh. If I wanted hot and humid, I would have saved my money and done TX. Woof.

But, alas, you cannot change the weather, only adjust your sails. We headed toward check in amidst a sea of athletes wearing IMFL backpacks (bright blue and orange and not boring black! Win!), families wearing their athlete's old IM backpacks, and newbies like me- people who just looked like they wanted to barf, carrying around a half empty Nalgene bottle of water because they didn't think this all the way through and appearing to have the directional prowess of a 5 year old at a birthday party playing pin the tail on the donkey. I'm the biggest, blundering mess right before the first time I attempt a new, longer distance race. (I apologize to everyone I know and love for my behavior the last few months, and the terrible words I said to you when I was hangry.)

Checked in and sweating our asses of before checking out all the merch we wanted to buy- because that's what Ironman needs- more of our money.

My sweet parents came into town Thursday night, and oh what a blessing that was. As soon as they arrived, I felt this feeling of peace. Plus, my dad is super duper certified in all the first aid and life saving, so at least if I dropped from stress or anxiety beforehand, my dad would probably be able to work some magic somehow with a quick response time. 

Turns out, my parents of course had to save the day within an hour or so of getting there. To illustrate the blundering mess I turn into pre race day, I packed my nonracing gear suitcase with 4 pairs of running shorts, 2 sports bras, a bathing suit, one pair of socks, and 1 t-shirt, and a button down flannel (?). To last me 3 days. Neat. My mom and dad schlepped me right to Walmart before the night was over so I could buy a pack of t-shirts and some socks. Life savers.

Speaking of life savers... <3 Houston take over! Whatever peace was not brought to me by my parents I got when I saw these guys. I met Jimmy after my very first 70.3. And then from there, through him, I met everyone else who lives in Houston. Because Jimmy knows everyone, and everyone loves Jimmy. Since my first half ironman, I've trained with these guys for 2 more 70.3s, countless marathons and halves, supported Jimmy, Diane and two more badasses not shown in their first IMTX, and have gotten grow and know myself as an athlete. And a person. And a lover of pho. This crew builds me up, and forces me to push my limits, and wake up earlier than I ever want to on weekends. To say I'm thankful for them would be an understatement. Joining the Houston running and triathlon community was definitely one of the best choices I've ever made. I have learned and grown so much with the help of these amazing athletes and devoted friends.

Ok, ok. Sap's over.

Friday- t-minus one day!! It was a whirlwind day... But so fun!!
The girls and I kicked off the morning with a shake out ten mile ride. It takes skill to look this cute in spandex and helmets, y'all. And look at how Emily, Diane and Aydee rock it- so effortlessly! (Photo cred to Rita, my sweet mom, who documented as much of the day for us as she could. My BIGGEST regret is not getting nearly enough photos of my parents and me. Biggest. Regret. Do-over in IMTX 20XX, ok guys?)
This is how awesome and stoked we felt on our ride! Florida! (And that water though!) Sorry, we were just so cute that I had to make this photo extra big.

After our shake out ride, we double, triple, quadruple checked our bike and run gear bags, gave our whips one final wipe down and lube up, and rode on down to check in our bikes and gear bags. 
Shit's gettin' real- my sweet Cracker was racked and ready. I let some air out of her tires, gave her one final pep talk, and tucked her in for the night.

Our bike and run gear bags were packed and lined up according to your race number. On race day, volunteers would be in this area, calling out numbers as you came out from the swim and entered the transition area, while other volunteers would find your bag in time to hand it to you as you ran by to the changing area. (God bless the sweet volunteer who tried his darndest to find my bag on race morning. I spotted it before he did, and while he searched frantically through all those identical bags I quickly grabbed mine. If that volunteer that searched so hard for 1229 is reading this- no sweat, guy! You gave it a really solid effort, and it didn't slow me down.)

After we dropped our gear bags, we figured we'd take a little dip in the ocean, and check out what we were up against. The water temperature was right on the cusp of being wetsuit legal/illegal. It could have gone either way. I decided to scrap the wetsuit for the practice swim, and see how cold the water actually was. (For this New England girl, it was pure. heaven.) I was torn between wanting it to be legal, and not. I knew I wouldn't need the wetsuit for buoyancy or warmth, thanks to 11 years of Cape Cod summers in the Atlantic. I actually worried that, if I wore a wetsuit, I'd overheat. However, all of my tri kit tops were too loose on me so to swim in one with no wetsuit to suck it all in made me feel like I was swimming with a t-shirt on. #triathleteproblems

Since you should never try anything new on race day, I decided to see what it felt like to swim with just a sports bra. (And bottoms, duh.) While that totally worked, I was a little surprised at the amount of, um, huge jellyfish that I swam over, through, and pushed out of my way. While I didn't get stung, they were far different from the tiny moon jellies I swim through on the Cape each summer, and the lack of material on the top made me feel Regardless, we made it through the swim. I played in the waves and with the current for a while, reveling in being in my element (since I sure as hell don't feel at home on the bike or the run). I even made some new friends about 200 yards off shore. I love meeting people in random places!

Swimming into shore I found Diane!! She was just about to start her practice swim, so I headed out with her and got my swim on again (I just can't get enough ocean swimming!). Once we had our yardage in, we came back in to shore and played in the waves for a while, practicing swimming under and through them. And then we had an awesome photo shoot and tried to look seductive in the surf. I think D really brought it home, since nothing says "I'ma seduce you" like a wetsuit.

Emily and I dried off and headed back to Ironvillage to wait for the parents to come and buy us all the things. :) While we waited, I had an enormous grilled pita bread stuffed with tomato salad, that I inhaled like it was a pill it was so good. And then we played with all the stuff.
This crazy contraption provided like the highest quality of compression in all the right places. The leg sleeves pumped full of air, and the air kinda moved around, almost like it was massaging your legs, but providing compression in different areas for different amounts of time. It was heaven. And a zero gravity chair?! Boom. Yup.
Once the parents came, it was photo shoot time all over the place. We walked around taking one final look at some things while hoping I was acclimated enough (and there'd be enough signs and volunteers) to not get lost in the morning. My parents also tried to scope out the best possible places for viewing, but nerves were kicking in again in full force, and I turned into my blundering mess and unfortunately was unable to give them any sort of rational ideas or insight whatsoever.

One final shot on the beach before we headed back for the evening. See you in the morning, white sand beach!

The parents were SOOOO awesome and SLAVED over the stove and in the kitchen for hours to make this delish, carb loaded feast for us! The last supper, if you will. Emily, Bing and I are so lucky to have such a strong support system behind us every step of the way!

And while I'm talking about support systems- these. girls. These. Girls. Through thick and thin, at work and not, we've got each other's back. They're not just friends, they're my backbone. These two NEVER take a day off of work (because their students are all a little bit needy, and they never want to leave them and disrupt their schedule if they don't have to), and yet they both took the day off, left Houston crazy early in the morning, with two pups in the back of Caroline's Honda Accord, and made the 10 hour+ trek to PCB just to be there for me along the way. This also meant that all of the Special Education teachers, and 3/4 of the staff members certified to restrain aggressive children, were all on the beach in Florida. Sorry, BCS! Sometimes I don't know how I got so lucky.

So my bags were packed, my bike was checked, my belly and my heart were full. The only thing left to do was to get tatted up....

We had to document in photos, of course. I tried to reenact the deep burn of a new tattoo. #overdramatic

Numbers were on. Bags under the eyes. There's no turning back now.

You had to pay a little extra if you wanted the temporary tattoo numbers. I figured, since I'd already spent mostly all of my yearly salary on this damn race, what's another $10 to look super official and ensure some badass tan lines. Bing felt the same. He was a little unsure on how to tatt himself up, so we made it a bonding experience and did it together. Clearly, he was not a 7th grade girl in the late nineties who constantly temporarily tatted herself up with tattoos of footprints and peace signs. 

So. The tatts were on. The special needs bags were packed. The kits were laid out. My nails were done (the MOST important part of prepping for a race). There was nothing left to do but sleep. Which thankfully I was able to do. With the help of a whole lot of Xanax.

See you on race morning!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Ironman Florida recap: part 1- the "training...."

For the last few months I've been off the blogging grid. There was a string of quite a few months where I slipped into quite a funk, and had a hard time pulling myself out of. I'm not sure if I'm entirely out of it yet, but I'm working on it. With the help of insanely supportive friends and family, I'm feeling much better!

Some people have been asking for a race recap, so if you care to read about my Ironman experience from beginning to end, feel free to keep reading! If not, save yourself now, or else you're going to be real bored.

Ah, the training. What I originally thought would be a year of high mileage and fabulous workouts quickly took a turn towards long naps, sleeping through workouts, and poor nutrition. Once it was time for the real training to begin in late June, I wasn't at the base level that I had been hoping for, but didn't necessarily think it was totally hopeless. I got some long runs and rides in over the summer, but big picture- I was nowhere near where I should have been.

Upon my return to Texas, and the blazing hot August and September heat and humidity, motivating myself to get out there for 3 hour long sweat sessions were low. School full throttled me right back into high stress mode, and sleep quickly earned a priority spot over working out. In addition to being wiped, trying to pull myself out of my slump wound up equalling lots of doctor's appointments that ate up a couple of afternoons a week, meaning if I couldn't get my work out in at 5 am, it wasn't happening. So, more often than not, it didn't happen.

Come mid September, though, my friend and fellow IMFL participant, Emily, was a fantastic motivator. She made me get my ass up on quite a few Sundays to get on the bike (whether together, or miles apart but texting while on our trainers), lace up the shoes, or get in a quick race.

Hiding out in her car, watching the thunder, lightning and pouring rain before our Olympic in Galvs... A bunch of people went home, and the rest of us got to know each other while we waited for the race directors to make the cancellation call.

But alas, the race went on- and everyone had to do a sprint.

Originally, when planning out my training, I had been hoping to do a 70.3 to get in some good mileage, practice my rusty transitions, and play around with nutrition. But the funds didn't really allow for one, so Emily wound up selling me on an Olympic in Galvs. Galveston feels like home tri territory to me at this point, since I've done 2/3 of my 70.3s over there, so I was a little stoked for some familiar terrain, and headwind training (yeah, I one ever gets stoked for headwind training... but I did). I'd had my mind set on the Olympic distance, but when we woke up race morning to horrendous weather, a new set of possibilities arose. There was talk of canceling the race- which actually gave me a slight sense of peace- thinking that, if we left early enough, I'd still have time to get in a 70 miler on the trainer and maybe follow it up with a light yog through the neighborhood. But alas, the race wasn't canceled, and due to the lengthy delay, the race directors just had everyone do the sprint distance. I was a little bummed out- Em and I had done an abysmal 19 mile run the morning before, so I didn't really have much gas in the tank to push through sprint work that morning- but we were both too cheap and stubborn to bail on that race entry fee we'd paid weeks earlier, so we stuck around and took the "lazy" way out. Once again, the mileage that I really should have gotten in was cut drastically. I was starting to get a little worried...but I wound up placing in my age group and got to stand on the podium for the first time ever, and there was pizza at the end, so that helped.

The following week, Emily, her friend, Bing, and I had signed up for a century ride. My first century ride ever. I wasn't necessarily nervous, but I wasn't entirely excited either. I had come to the point where the mileage HAD to be done, so just effing do it, or you're going to die on November 7th, and that $800 entry fee that I had paid (not to mention all the bike work I'd had done) would all be for not.
50 miles in and still looking happy!

The century ride was full of rolling hills which, while I wasn't necessarily expecting to last the whole time, I was glad because things like that make you stronger! What sucked, however, was that the entire course consisted of a chip sealed road surface (with the exception of maybe 1 mile...). If you don't know what it feels like to ride your bike on a cheap sealed road, I'll tell you now in not so graphic detail- it's effing awful. I didn't ever upgrade my seat (because a seat is a seat, right?!) and immediately regretted that decision before mile 20. If you're not a bike rider and you don't know what I'm talking about, just imagine getting punched in the crotch for 7 hours. Yes. It's as fun as it sounds. I'm fairly certain that, thanks to that ride, I probably won't be able to have children. It was almost two months ago, and I think I'm just now recovered.
103 miles down the hatch...and the only ones left in the parking lot! We really wanted to get our money's worth by taking our time..

With the bike mileage under my belt, I was feeling much better about the 112 I needed to do, so I went back to focusing on the run. I did an easy 15 the day before the century ride and my hip was sore, so I decided I'd nurse it for a couple of days. The pain didn't ease up with icing and stretching, and when the date for our 20 miler came up, my hip was not ready. I decided to put it off for another weekend, continuing to ice, stretch, foam roll, etc. The next weekend, I set out for a long run. I made it all of 4 miles before I called it quits and called a local health and wellness center, Koala (which I highly recommend, btw!) here in Houston to get it checked out and talk possible PT exercises. I was exactly 3 weeks out from IMFL- with my longest run being 19 miles at the end of September, and an inability to run more than 4 miles without wanting to cry. More appointments at Koala followed- like 3 a week at least. Massages, PT, tape, electrotherapy, chiro adjustments- everything. While it was all fabulous, it cut into my training time, family time, and sleep time.

By the time I was two weeks out from race day, I had to embrace the fact that whatever happened, happened. I hoped I'd finish. I wasn't worried about the swim, I was a little nervous about the bike and making the cut off times, and I was just praying that I had enough marathon experience to survive the run in the amount of time allotted. 

Coinciding with not getting the mileage I needed for practice, I also didn't practice with nutrition. I knew what worked for me on the bike, I knew what worked for me on the run, but I didn't have a really good brick opportunity to try them both out.

So. Super long story short- I went into IMFL feeling undertrained, malnutritioned, stressed out and exhausted, and all around unprepared. Such fun, right?! 

Part 2 to come!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

All the food, and the best commercial I've ever seen

The first week of February had me feeling significantly more lazy than the first week in January. I should be done with my ten miler by now.... but instead I'm watching Mythbusters, blogging, and sippin' on some BPC. Bulletproof coffee gets me goin' in the morning! (If you guys haven't tried it, I suggest giving it a whirl. You might be surprised!) I usually make my bulletproof coffee with a little bit of coconut oil and ghee. Not only does it taste delish, but I don't need to use chapstick for the rest of the morning after drinking it! Win!
This is what's trumping me finding a sports bra right now. Does reading about running burn as many calories as actually running?

If you do decide to try out some BPC (don't be scared!), just keep in mind that it is loaded with healthy fats and calories. On mornings I go bulletproof, I don't eat or drink anything else (except for water, of course). Not only does it taste delish, it totally keeps me full until lunch time! Also, if you read up on bulletproof coffee, you'll find a lot of haters out there. But. You know. Haters gon' hate hate hate hate hate.

Yesterday, I dusted off ol' Cracker and took her on a 45 miler through the prairies of Texas. It was beautiful! I met up with two lovely (badass) ladies, and we photo documented our favorite parts of the morning!

Rest stop #1. The pickles! I'm pretty sure this was the second of the 28963 pickle pieces I ate yesterday morning. Not shown here is the brownies with peanut butter. If you think that eating a brownie with peanut butter, and then washing it down with a pickle is disgusting, then I urge you to ride your bike for a few miles and then try it. The heart wants some weird things in a work out...

I think this was rest stop #3. This was the cutest little set up! And an extra win- I was able to snag a pink and red starburst! (And of course, more pickles....)

It's not easy to look this adorable after riding 25 miles and wearing a helmet, and yet these two make it look effortless. 

Michelle got our bikes to lock together! It's like our bikes are snuggling. So precious.

Rest stop #4. You sure don't eat like this on a run. (And don't worry. There were pickles at this one, too.)

When I was driving to the starting line this morning, it was foggy, and cold, and spooky looking. This is what it looked like outside when we finished. I liked this tree and I liked the sky. Sometimes Texas is pretty neat.

I didn't even know when I signed up for this that there'd be free beer at the end! (It was put on by a small, Christian academy, so I kinda just assumed. Faith Christian Academy and No Label for the win!) Sweet Stephanie on the right made my day around mile 17 when she mentioned free beer and barbecue at the end. I think my pace picked up for the rest of the way after that new knowledge. 

They gave us a bracelet for the beer tent. And explained that they had to "limit" us to "only" 4 beers. Which was nice of them. Because at the finish line, there were NO pickles. Sometimes you can't win 'em all.

Also, I can't get enough of this. Watch it, and then go hug an animal of your choice.

Happy Sunday!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

January- documented in pictures, miles, and calories

I've decided I'm going to document 2015 in pictures and in miles. With a double marathon month, a smattering of half marathons (and I'm sure another marathon somewhere in there), and Ironman Florida in November, it could by my miles-iest year yet. I've never been one for keeping track of my mileage (other than calculating mid-run how many pieces of pizza I can eat and beers I can drink to still calorically be in the neg), but I thought I might give it a whirl this year. Who knows how long I'll keep up with it. If it's anything like my blogging, I give it another week.

January was a good month though! I got to kick off the year in Disney World with a weekend of Donnie and an excessive amount of eating and running. Because that's how I roll.

Carbin' up at 'Ohana. Banana bread pudding til ya puke.

The finished product. I died a little.

I saw this sign on my morning run and I legit thought they were pointing me towards the carbs. 

RunDisney day number 1! Half marathon day, and lovin' every second of it!

Action shot down main street. The weather was great for cheering, and I'm still lovin' every second!

No wait at the mine train. I won't see that again. Don't care, still lovin' life!

Every year I run past these fools thinking, "I should stop and take a picture." 2015 for the win!

My. Most. Favorite. Part. Of. Any. Race. ...EVER. Lovin' it!

Not seen on my run, but too stinking cute to not share. 10 years later, I still got him <3

Marathon day- I was lovin' life a whole lot more on half marathon day. True story, I was hating life (shocking, I know) until mile 14 or so. Then these guys (and a coupla gu's) helped me perk up!

 Marathon day is the only day you'll find me loving on the Animal Kingdom :)

This little guy had his own race number on the other side of him! Unfortunately the cast member cut off half his face. Take my word for it- the other half of his face was super cute.

Jiminy's my favorite!

The rest of my marathon pictures are blurry or selfies, so I'll spare you guys those. At some point, I passed Sean Astin along my travels and was too marathon brained to even notice. I don't want to talk about it. 
These two just happened to be on vacation in WDW during marathon weekend! Liz is one of the sweet, sweet ladies that got me into running 5 years ago, and her daughter, Melissa, wound up jumping in and running a half marathon with Donnie's Aunt Nanette and I in December. Two of the greatest, these girls. They even took time out of their last day of vacation to tackle the crowds and cheer for all the marathon finishers (me included)! Thanks, you guys!

Marathon in the morning, and then 15 miles around the parks for the rest of the day. Disney World is great for logging some miles!

This sweet fella! I met him the day after I met Donnie for the first time. Disney World is where I meet all the best guys! (Side note: he totally murdered his first marathon, and suckered me in to doing the Coast to Coast with him this year. And by "suckered me in," I mean I asked him if he was doing Disneyland and he said, "yeah.")

My goal for the whole 26.2 was to make it to the Mine Train in time to redeem my fast pass. I had 5 hours from the time I started to the time my fast pass was up. Mission accomplished.

Mile 26.3- pound beers in England. Done.

And the following weekend, while home in Houston...

"I just want people to take me seriously." Direct quote. This guy also ran the full 26.2 with a Starbucks cup and a bagel. The bagel, though in really rough shape, actually did survive til the finish line. Gross. 

This girl! Natalie was a Briarmeadow Bronco up until last year, and now she attends a different middle school, which is a super bummer, because she's such a badass! We ran into each other before the starting line, and she ran the first 4 miles with us! What a boss!

Look how cute they are after running for 4+ hours! 

Teamwork makes the dream work. Another race surrounded by these kids! I'm a lucky girl to have such a great group of friends that build each other up on the reg. 

Post marathon walk with my true loves. My heart is full.

Total mileage for January- 133.6 miles. Had I not been sick for 70% of the month, I feel pretty confident I could have hit a nice even 150. But I suppose I shouldn't be hating on 133. I guess that's solid, all things considered.

Bring it on, February.