Sunday, August 14, 2016

#FindingAloha after Kona

Drumroll please!.....

I have been invited to compete in the 2017 Ultraman Australia!!

What is Ultraman, you ask?  Ultraman is a 3 day stage race consisting of:

Day 1:  10k swim + 91 miles bike
Day 2:  171 miles bike
Day 3:  52.4 miles run

Each stage has a 12 hour time limit, and the race is self supported which means that each athlete brings a crew of 2-4 people who supply aid during the bike/ run legs.  Your crew is also allowed to run with you on Day 3.  Sound crazy?  Yeah.  It might be.

Craziness aside, Ultraman is founded on the principles of Ohana (family), Kokua (help), and Aloha (love) and this is what most attracts me to the event.  Over the course of the week you become like family with each of the other competitors and teams.  It's such a small group of people, and everyone pitches in and helps each other through the weekend.  As an athlete, you learn humility and how to lean on others for support.  As crew, you embody the meaning of each of those words as you sacrifice your time, and extend physical and emotional support to your athlete as well as each of the other competitors.  It was truly a gift to be able to crew in 2014, and it is my goal to make my Ultraman experience as meaningful for my crew as it was for me.    

It has been my plan for several years now to apply for Ultraman once my mission of #findingkona was accomplished.  I actually have several other big goals I'd like to achieve.  I want to run a hundred miler.  I want to compete in the SCAR swim challenge.  For me, it made sense to apply for Ultraman following the Ironman World Championships because I can build on my triathlon base.  As opposed to focusing on trail running for 12-24 months and trying to come back into triathlon after that.

After crewing for Ultraman Canada in 2014, I *knew* this was something I needed to do.  I always thought I would go back to Canada, even after they separated from the Ultraman umbrella and formed Ultra 520k Canada.

When I brought it up to Hillary in June as I was contemplating plans for 2017 she asked me, "Are you SURE you don't want to race a qualifier for Ultraman World Championships?"  I had never really entertained the idea of applying for the world championship, but when the World Champion herself asked me, I thought I better consider it.  The options for qualification included Florida and Australia.  After a little back and forth, and a little research on my part, Australia started sounding enticing.  Really enticing.

My husband qualified for 70.3 worlds this year.  In Australia.  But with the timing of the race being so close to Kona, he made the decision not to go because it would be difficult for us to travel to Australia and back and then turn around and head to Hawaii.  Not only financially, and time off of work, but also just the toll on the body with a trip half way around the world.  It's been a while since I've traveled internationally, but I remember the jet lag.  Several of our friends were going to stay in Australia and then head straight to Kona which would have been AMAZING if we could take 6 weeks off of work.  Sadly this was not an option for us.

In my research I discovered that Ironman Australia in Port Macquarie is one week before Ultraman Australia.  I pitched it to my husband... we fly to Oz.  He races Ironman, we head up the coast (approximately an 8 hour drive) to Noosa and tackle Ultraman.  We fly home just in time for his daughter's high school graduation.  A few days later, after careful consideration on his part, he agreed.
I am so flipping excited.  And absolutely terrified.  This is way outside of my comfort zone.  Which is another reason why I need to do this.  I have literally been on the website every day since the middle of June.  I've looked at the course maps enough times to know I need to point my bike uphill and do work.  I know where the closest grocery store is to our rental apartment.  I've researched the process of obtaining visas for myself and my crew.  I started a savings account so that I don't touch the funds that I've put away for this trip.

My type A is definitely enjoying the planning part of this.  I look forward to the work that will go into training between November and May (omg MAY!!! like, in 9 months!!).  And I can't wait to be inducted into the Ultraman family!    

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Run: At the heart of #findingaloha

One of the things I love most about working with Hillary is that I can bring ideas to the table and she will give me a "yay" or a "nay" on whether or not they'll work into my training plan.  I've almost never received a "nay" -- she believes in gaining fitness through racing, thankfully, so I'm allowed and encouraged to race regularly throughout the season.  Obviously we try to be smart about what races I'm doing and where they fit in so as to maximize the meat of my plan.  

Pre Race!  Obviously cold for us Arizona girls.

Last fall I approached her with the idea of fitting in the Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Run 55k into my July schedule.  She said yes, and even volunteered to enter the lottery herself.  On January 1, we both were accepted into the race.  At the time I imagined she'd win the race and be chilling at the finish line after a nice shower and lunch by the time I rolled in.  I did NOT imagine running side by side with her for 7.5 hours (at my pace).  Let me say, it was a blast!!  

Not quite the half way mark.  #trt100

We brought a couple of girlfriends along for the weekend and spent 90% of the time laughing.  (The other 10% of the time was spent sleeping).  What happens on girls weekend stays on girls weekend, so sorry... no details.  But it was very refreshing, and we enjoyed every second of our time in Lake Tahoe.  And sharing my favorite trail race with my friends was icing on the cake.  

Final aid station.  Had to get off my feet for 30 seconds.

For the first time I stuck around to witness the 100 mile finish and seeing the runners come through the final crew stop at mile 80 and into the finish line hours later solidified in my heart the desire for this particular race to one day be my first 100 miler.  

On the descent from Snow Valley Peak.

This year for me has been about finding joy and enjoyment (#findingaloha!) in everything I do-- appreciating the simple fact of being able to do the things I love.  Looking back, I think this pursuit has been really life-changing for me.  I've been accused of being pessimistic though I will always argue that though I am not an optimist, I see myself as a realist.  It's enough of a topic for it's own post, but after waking up for weeks on end feeling down on myself and down on life (last fall), actively choosing joy has been a huge part of my recovery and my success this season.  This also means that I have to recognize when something / someone in my life is not bringing me joy-- and I've been working to eliminate those things whether it's hiring someone to help with household chores, or unfollowing friends on social media who constantly post about politics, or getting rid of that toxic "friend" that you don't love but feel guilty about abandoning.  Life is too short.  Being in the mountains definitely brings my heart peace and joy.    

A little swim in chilly Lake Tahoe.

When we weren't running, we swam in the lake, ate at some unique eateries (#sassafrass) and just enjoyed the scenery.  Each of us girls is in a different phase in life.  Single vs. married.  Retired from professional racing vs. actively pursuing goals vs. training and racing for fun.  Too young for kids vs. decidedly no kids vs. in the trenches of family planning.  But together we can encourage, listen, laugh, cry, and just be there for each other.  These are the friendships that are forged through sport.  

The end of my racing season is quickly coming into view with the World Championships being 9 weeks away.  My training volume and intensity is reaching peak.  I am tired... a lot of the time.  I can no longer remember what's on my plan tomorrow or the next day, which is probably a good thing because when I look ahead it gives me anxiety.  

PR up Mt. Lemmon!!

Despite being tired, I am feeling stronger every day.  Last weekend we had a team smashfest in Tucson-- biking Mt. Lemmon and then racing in the pool.  I beat my previous best time up Mt. Lemmon, holding higher watts than I ever have and keeping up with teammates that I probably shouldn't be keeping up with.  And my times in the pool matched my previous best times for the workout.  I have a few more key workouts before I get a bit of rest for Ironman Coeur d'Alene in 2 weeks.  
A little team rivalry never hurts when racing!

If you missed my last post about meal planning, you can check it out here.  I am looking forward to sharing my plans for 2017 as there are some exciting plans on the horizon, but I'm not quite ready yet.  :-)  Soon!  

Thursday, August 4, 2016

More on Meal Planning: Finding Aloha in Food Freedom!

I have had so many people ask me about my diet and meal plan since my blog on the subject, I thought it would be fun to sort of update where things are now.  I cannot even tell you how many people have confessed to similar issues that I was dealing with-- sheer lack of time-- and desperately want help!

I have been working with Katie of Own Nutrition now for 6 months.  Still the best decision I ever made.  I highly recommend it.

My week looks like this as far as prep:

I usually try to print out my weekly plan before Sunday so that I can make my grocery list as concise as possible.  Each week I receive a daily plan, recipes and a shopping list with EVERYTHING I need for the week.  (This is awesome, btw!) I double check that I have all the spices I need, rice, quinoa, black beans, etc.  In the beginning I was buying pretty much everything on the list.  Now, my pantry is fairly well stocked so I mostly shop for produce and fresh meat/ fish.

Sunday:  I usually shop in the afternoon.  This takes about 45 minutes of my time MAX.  And that's if Sprouts is really crowded.  I'd say on average I'm spending about 30 minutes, but I do love to dilly dally once I'm in there.

I try to buy as much organic as I possibly can, and then non-GMO on top of that.  Sprouts (which is a small chain-- similar to Whole Foods but without the price tag) has a really great selection of organic options.  I realize organic and non-GMO are controversial topics, but it's important to me so I'm sticking it out.

Sunday afternoon I spend about 2-3 hours meal prepping.  This includes:

1.  Grilling.  I preheat the grill, prep all the meat/ seafood for the first half of the week (Sunday pm- Thursday afternoon) and then grill in batches.  I make enough for my meals as well as whatever my husband is going to take to work.  For me this might be a salmon fillet (usually enough for 2-3 meals), beef (usually filet- approx 2 servings) and sometimes pork.  Whatever I'm not eating on Sunday night gets cut up and stored for the BIG ASS SALADS that I eat throughout the week.  I invested in some nice glass tupperware so there's no odor when I store salmon in the fridge for a day or two.

I used to be really intimidated by the grill.  But eventually I got tired of always needing my husband around to light it that I learned to do it myself.  It's not complicated.  And a few weeks ago I took a poll, thinking there were other women (like me) who were on the timid side, but as it turned out ALL my girlfriends are the grill-masters in their homes!

Shrimp and pork chops (on the barbie!).

2.  Rice/ quinoa.  I make a big batch of brown rice and a batch of quinoa that we can both eat from for the week.  I highly recommend a rice cooker.  I received this one as a gift... it is life changing.

Must have!!  Rice cooker to the rescue.

If I want to, I can set a timer and tell it when I want my rice to be done cooking.  It basically does everything except clean itself when it's done-- and that requires very little effort on my part.  Here's another tip-- you can buy rice and quinoa frozen.  Yep, already cooked, in the freezer section.  So if, for example, I'm traveling and won't have Sunday to prep, I can buy frozen rice and still have quick assembly for meals.  *BOOM*

3.  Chopping.  I buy most of my greens already chopped and washed.  It's easy to find organic spinach, kale, arugula, etc already washed and ready to go.  I chop any veggies that are going into my salads (cucumber, peppers, etc) and portion out my salads into large (5 cup capacity) tupperware containers.

Grilled mango with jalapeno crema, pork and avocado.

4.  Boiling.  I typically hard boil a dozen eggs on Sunday evening.  When I need scrambled eggs I just microwave raw eggs (usually at work) when I am ready to eat them.

5.  Packaging.  Each evening, starting on Sunday, I look at the next day's menu and get everything lined up in the fridge.  That way in the morning when I'm packing my lunchbox I can just grab and go.    

Grilled shrimp with a summer salad and avocado dressing.

Summer is my travel season which throws in some extra challenges with meal planning but Katie has provided plenty of resources on how to eat well in a restaurant setting.  I can look at my plan, get an idea of macronutrients and compare with options on the menu.  I recently traveled with a friend who is also working with Katie, and twice we ordered the same dinner!

I'm in the final build before the first Ironman of the season so my nutrition is being put to the test on a daily basis.  I am happy to report that I am feeling good, recovering quickly, and know that in 9 weeks (and 2 days!) my consistency in diet for 9 months is going to be evident when it counts!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Finding Kona: A Day in the Life

Someone recently suggested I write about a typical day/ week and what that looks like.  I thought it sounded fun but rather than do a whole week right now, I thought I'd throw in a day here and there as I build for Hawaii.  I have some fun adventures planned for 2017 where I think a "week in the life" would be more interesting.

With my work schedule I work 4 longer days each week.  I work Wednesday- Saturday, have Sunday off, then work Monday through Thursday and have 5 days off.  That 2 week cycle repeats indefinitely.  So here's my Monday July 11, a typical "work" day:

4:22 am:  Alarm goes off.

Completely random time, I know, but 2 nights ago when I set my alarm I overshot 4:15 am and was too lazy/ tired to forward through the minutes again to hit my intended target.  I've been awake for somewhere between 30-45 minutes.  I often wake before my alarm goes off.  Sometimes I can tell it's still the middle of the night and I am still sleepy, just woken up by my need to pee.  Other times, like today, I can tell that I've finished my sleep cycle and it's time to get up.  My alarm clock is covered because the light bothers me at night, so I lift the veil to reveal that it is, in fact, 4 am.  I lay in bed resting until 4:22.  I've gotten roughly 8 hours of sleep as I was in bed by 8 pm last night.  8 hours is my comfort zone.  I would love 9-9.5 (THAT is in infrequent luxury!).  Less than 8 multiple days in a week and I'm struggling big time.

4:22 am- 4:48 am:  Getting ready for training.

On average if I am swimming or running it takes me 30 minutes to get out the door from the time I get up.  If I am biking, it's more like 45 minutes.  Sometimes an hour if I have to pack my car to drive somewhere to bike.  Today, knowing I am a little behind my intended 4:15 am wake-up, I am spurred to pick up a few minutes.  I'm driving to Lifetime Fitness for my workouts and then will be at work until 8 pm so I am packing for the whole day.  I make my breakfast (a Van's GF waffle with Justin's Almond Butter) while packing my lunchbox and somehow managed to carry all 6 bags to the car in one load.  I'm pulling out of the driveway at 4:48 am.

5:10 am:  Death by Treadmill

First workout today is an hour progression run on the treadmill.  Traffic was light in the pre-dawn drive and so I'm on the treadmill early which makes me happy and lowers my stress level a little.  This particular workout is pretty tough for me so I like to have 10 minutes to just walk on the treadmill afterwards to cool down.  I make it through the first 40 minutes listening to a podcast.  As I crank up the pace the final time, I'm having a hard time processing the words and my body is protesting, my mind begging me to jump off the belt for a quick rest.  Instead of giving in, I grab my iPod, which is conveniently preset to repeat my 3 favorite Eminem songs, and switch out my ear buds, all without breaking my stride.  In my head I'm singing (rapping?) along with Eminem and the minutes tick by.  At one hour, I slow the pace and walk, relieved to have survived.  I drink a bottle of water with 2 scoops of Tailwind during my run.  I don't always use electrolytes but I've been noticing lately with harder workouts that I'm more depleted and feel kinda crappy so I've been supplementing and it's helping a ton.   

6:20 am:  Shower number 1.

I have to go to a breakfast meeting in between my run and swim so I jump in the shower quick.  I change into my suit and throw some run clothes over the top.  I leave everything else in my locker knowing I'll be back in 2 hours to finish up.

6:30 am- 7 am:  Drive to breakfast.

I make a quick stop at Cadence Running Company on my way to breakfast.  I've got to pick up a stack of bills that are due, check my major accounts, and grab the files needed to get everything in order for the week.  I'm last to arrive at breakfast (which is rare!) but it's just 7 am when I arrive.

7 am- 8:45 am:  Downtown Chandler Cafe.

The doctors at my hospital meet once a month to discuss, well everything, so I won't bore you with details.  Breakfast on my meal plan today was a breakfast sandwich with tomato, avocado, eggs, spinach.  I made due with a Florentine Eggs Benedict, minus the hollandaise sauce and with fruit instead of potatoes.  And coffee of course.  Lots of coffee.

8:48 am:  Drive back to Lifetime Fitness.

By 8:30 am, I'm looking at my watch and getting jumpy.  At 8:45 things are wrapping up and I'm standing, ready to bolt out the door.  Three minutes later, it appears as though we're finished and I book it out the door.

9:05 am:  Swim.

I'm poolside just after 9 am and ready to jump in.  After the run and the breakfast I'm feeling pretty lethargic.  Today's 3k straight swim doesn't give my mind any distraction either.  Sometimes intervals are easier to bust out than 45 minutes of just mindless swimming.

9:55 am:  Shower number 2.

Workouts done for the day.  I pack up my crap and head to work a little early.  I will have time to get my bills from Cadence organized and paid before I start my work day.

11 am- 8 pm:  Work.

I'll be honest, I'm just not in a great mood today.  My allergies have been bad the last few days and I don't feel great.  I'm tired and I hate working closing shift because I'm normally asleep by 8 pm.  I feel pretty useless in general past about 4 pm, but we all share duties and I'm lucky enough to have only one closing shift for every 2 weeks.  Tonight is cat night, so I'm looking forward to seeing only cats in the last few hours.  The morning is gone, and the afternoon seems to drag.

Things I eat during this time frame:
Greek yogurt with kiwi, raspberries, and granola.
Banana and a hard boiled egg.
Big-Ass Salad with spinach, romaine, lentils, quinoa, avocado, hard boiled egg and a drizzle of evoo.  I forgot my tomatoes at home.  My salad could have used them. 
Apple with almond butter.
2 bites of a cinnamon roll left over from our breakfast meeting.
Sushi roll (something with spicy tuna) delivered by one of my colleagues.

8 pm:  Drive home.

Some nights I'm so tired I don't remember driving home.  I used to use my drive home to visualize my upcoming race.  I did that for 6 months straight leading up to IMAZ 2014 and when race day arrived I executed the race without even thinking.  I had rehearsed it so many times in my head that everything was routine.  It was pretty amazing to me.  Last year I was too stressed out and couldn't focus so there was no visualization practice.  If nothing else, it was a nice routine to destress after my day, and I always think about restarting.

8:20 pm:  Getting ready for bed.

The hubs is sitting outside when I pull into the driveway.  He helps me unload the car.  I unpack my lunch boxes while drinking a Nocturne shake.  It's late and I don't want to fix dinner, I just want to go to bed.  So the nighttime shake gives me a little calories boost so I don't wake up starving in the middle of the night (you know this feeling from after Ironman, right?).  Plus it has tryptophan in it which helps me fall asleep without my usual de-stress time in the evening.  I can't do benadryl or melatonin, so this is a nice alternative when I don't want to lie awake for an hour thinking about work.  I'm asleep before 9 pm.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Finding Aloha in the Journey

13 weeks.

13 weeks from today I will be racing the Ironman World Championships.

13 weeks from right this very moment I will be mere minutes into the 2.4 mile swim.

Every time I think about my journey and everything that has gotten me to this point I am overwhelmed with joy and gratitude.  As slow as the first half of the year went, time has now sped up and I want to maximize every workout, every opportunity for rest and recovery, every everything that can help me get through race day in 13 weeks.

Many people have asked me my goals for Kona.  I have avoided setting time goals for this race because time goals in general are useless and I think setting them is really silly.  For me.  This is my first time racing on the Big Island.  It's my first time competing in a major championship race.  I do have a rough idea of what I am capable of on a "perfect day".  But I also know that I need to get to the finish line no. matter. what.  Unlike racing in Arizona, I cannot completely throw caution to the wind.  However if I focus on doing what I do every single day in training, and stay in the moment, and stay on top of my hydration and nutrition, everything will be fine.

I'm going to be very honest here and say that the Ironman World Championships scare the sh*t out of me.  I ran the Kona Marathon in 2005 and it was great.  My sister and I were vacationing on Kauai, flew over for the night to run it and then flew back.  It was the same course as Ironman except you started/ ended at the far end of Ali'i Drive (where the run course at IM does the first out-n-back).  It's comforting to know that I've run through the energy lab, granted much earlier in the day, but I did it.  And at the time, I ran a marathon PR.

A few years later when my husband raced in Kona for the first time (2009) I took my bike to maintain my training for IMAZ.  I was absolutely destroyed by the heat and humidity.  I remember going out for a ride one afternoon.  Just an hour shake out.  Nothing major.  I seriously bonked within 15 minutes.  Like, had to sit on the side of the road in the shade of a vehicle to recover, destroyed.  I did my long ride during race week on the Ironman course and it was absolutely the worst 75 mile ride I've ever done.  I remember getting back to our condo and telling the hubs that I never, EVER, wanted to race in Kona.

Obviously a lot has changed since then.  I'm a different athlete, and by the time we went back to the Big Island in 2011 I thought, I could do this.  And that's when I decided to start pursuing the goal (initially chasing the Legacy).

I have worked really hard to change my approach mentally and this past week I was watching the broadcast from last year's race while on my trainer and I thought to myself, there have literally been 40,000+ who have finished this race.  For real.  (Almost) 40 years x 1000 finisher average (this is way low for a majority of years)= 40k.  There is absolutely no reason in the world that if I am on the start line on October 8 I can't be one of them.  None.  Not a single reason.

I will be prepared.  I have a heat acclimation program set in place.  I work every day on making sure my nutrition and hydration are working for me.  I am practicing with all of the gear and methods that I might want to use to help keep myself cool on race day.  There will be nothing left to chance.

The meat of my training is just beginning.  From now until the end of September I will be in full Ironman build mode.  These are the weeks I've waited for and looked forward to all year.  Every day I wake excited and ready to tackle whatever awaits me in WorkoutLog.

I told Hillary after Oceanside that I thought this year was going to be special because I no longer felt afraid, I felt free.  And that freedom propelled me to another podium finish at Ironman CDA 70.3 two weekends ago.  When she asked me my plan for the race, I told her I was going to go as hard as I could on the bike and hold it together for the run.  And I did!  After being first out of the water in my age group, I absolutely attacked the bike course, held higher watts than I've ever raced at before, and still managed to tick off the miles on foot feeling strong.

A few pics of our weekend in Idaho (my favorite race venue!!!):

Post race spin taking in the scenery! #ilovemybike

Pre race dinner.  Ready to smash it!

A little selfie fun at packet pickup.

My gem racked in transition.  Rock star parking!

Ceiling art at Taphouse Unchained.  Post race celebration!

2nd Place Women 40-44!

Next up:  Tahoe Rim Trail 55k!  Finding Aloha in my favorite place to run!

(P.S.  13 weeks from right now I'll be an hour into the 112 mile bike ride....)

Friday, June 10, 2016

Finding Aloha: Reality, Roadblocks, and Rejuvenation

A friend of mine recently posted on social media:

"On days like today, I just need a hug.
I'm in a new kind of Ironman adolescence where my mirror still says I'm a back-of-the-packer; but my training plan says I'm a Kona-qualifier.
Despite being extraordinarily tired and emotionally spent, somehow I find a way to keep up with grueling workout after grueling workout. But I'll be completely honest: THIS HURTS!!!"

I was in my warm-up on the trainer preparing to start another brutal set of intervals.  I instantly got all choked up and a new burst of motivation coursed through my legs.  Truth is, I've had a really hard time accepting that I've qualified for Kona.  I thought that once it happened I would spend a year celebrating and preparing for the big day.  Instead, I spent 3 months feeling like a big fat blog, unfit and unworthy of competing in the World Championships.

No matter how many times my husband reminds me that I can't be in peak fitness year round.  And my target race is in October, not February.  And to keep trusting the plan, it got me there in the first place.  Despite all of that I have still struggled.

After St. George 70.3, which would have been about 7 weeks into training, I finally started to feel like me again.  I recognized my bike legs in workouts and didn't feel like I was struggling just to hit Ironman watts.  With this milestone my excitement for October was kindled.

Out on the run course at Tempe International.

In mid-May I raced a olympic distance tri which is our local club championships.  I was very proud to represent my local team, TriScottsdale and pull in second female overall, earning extra points towards our club win.  And my run legs have continued to hold on through the spring and I capped off the tri with a 10k at 7:22 pace!

TriScottsdale sweep of the women's podium!
The training plan is ramping up and I'm seeing progress in all three disciplines.  After a very sluggish winter, my swim is finally starting to feel a little more natural.  I'm having a lot of fun on my bike.  We have a new favorite route for when "hills" show up on the training plan.  Instead of biking from home and wasting half of our time on flats, we drive out to Sunflower and bike a 25 mile loop.  In a 50 mile ride we get over 6k of climbing (and descending!).  Plus it's always windy which is great practice for me looking toward October.

Sunflower repeats!!  I love hills!
This past weekend I took my (adopted) little brother rim to rim through the Grand Canyon, twice, spending the night at the North Rim in between.  Friday we ran/ hiked the South Kaibab trail, through Phantom Ranch and up the North Kaibab with a stop at Ribbon Falls in between.  I have done this trip now 4 times, and I forget how hard it is.  That hike up the North Kaibab, especially the last couple of miles, is quite difficult.
South Kaibab Trail

We reached the top and were dismayed to realize we still had to walk 1.7 miles to the lodge.  Apparently I had completely blocked this from memory!  But we arrived well ahead of schedule and treated ourselves to pizza before we checked in.  We enjoyed beers and people watching while overlooking the rim before heading to bed early for our return trip.
Well deserved beers.

Saturday we reversed direction, leaving out Ribbon Falls.  We cruised into Phantom Ranch 2 hours ahead of schedule and after a brief stop to refill water were on the hike out by 8:30 am.  Heat warnings had been issued for the entire weekend, with temps in the canyon expected to reach up to 110.  We knew it would take 3.5 hours to reach the rim, and felt confident in our water supply to last that long.
North Kaibab Trail

We felt that way until we got stuck behind a mule train that had stopped to help a hiker suffering heat stroke about half way up.  If you are familiar with the South Kaibab Trail, the hiker was lying on the side of the trail near the middle of the switchbacks, just below Skeleton Point.  The park ranger offered some assistance and then radio'd for the helicopter.  We were probably only stopped for 10 minutes before they started moving again, but then they stopped 3 more times on the way through the switchbacks.  Each time I became more and more anxious about my water supply and worried that they would need to rescue two more hikers if they didn't get moving!

Soaking my feet at Ribbon Falls. 

Thankfully, when space permitted at the top of the switchbacks, the mule train pulled over to let us pass.  I had been promising that we'd stop to rest, but at that point all I wanted was to stay ahead of the mule train so I set the pace and stayed on the mission until we reached Cedar Ridge with 1.5 miles to go.  We stopped for a few minutes to sit in a very small patch of shade and eat some calories.  Just after we started hiking again the mule train pulled into Cedar Ridge, so our timing was near perfect.

#maycausedeath #donottrythisathome

We paused on the final switchback before reaching the rim.  Behind my sunglasses, I choked back tears.  I have no real explanation for why I love the Grand Canyon so much.  It just speaks to my soul.  I think because it is raw, and harsh, and beautiful.  It makes my muscles ache, my lungs burn with need for oxygen and all the while soothes me with sounds of water rushing along the creek bed, and wind through the canyon walls.  Sometimes, higher up the trail, away from the river, the silence causes my ears to ring.  I wish I could disappear there and explore every nook and cranny of each trail.  I wish I could sit for hours and watch the sunrise and the light move across the canyon changing my perspective.  Everything looks different when I blink and look again.

South Kaibab at sunrise.

This weekend refreshed my spirit and boosted my fitness.  I am ready to put my head down and do work, without fear or judgement, for the next 17 weeks.  I know I belong in Kona, and by the time October rolls around I will be in peak shape to take on what will no doubt be a challenging, amazing experience.  Focusing on #FindingAloha this year has allowed me to find the joy and passion in each workout, and honestly, looking at life from this perspective has carried over into my work and "non-triathlon" life.  I embrace each new challenge in training and try to give my very best every day.  I am so excited to get to Kona and realize a dream that has been many years in the making.          

Friday, May 13, 2016

Finding Aloha: Ironman St. George 70.3

Since my one and only dnf in 2012, I have owed revenge on the St. George Ironman course.  This weekend I got my chance.

To say that I was anxious would probably be an understatement.  In 2012, I dropped out because I was unable to adjust my expectations when mother nature dished out some horrendous conditions.  I was completely fine, physically.  But mentally I gave up in the swim.  I honestly was shocked that I didn't drown that year.  That no one drowned.  And over the last 4 years, my mind has turned that epic day into a blockbuster movie reel.  One in which the fish are six times larger than reality and the waves could easily swallow up Noah's ark.

Wind, in its greatest power, whirls.
We arrived into Utah on Thursday afternoon and headed straight to Sand Hollow Reservoir to swim before checking into our hotel.  The winds pick up as the day goes on, and so by the time we swam at 2 pm it was fairly choppy.  I was glad to experience that chop before race day and start to put some of my demons to rest.

The swim takes place in the reservoir at Sand Hollow.

On race day, I did not have my usual confidence jumping into the water and even though the water was relatively calm, I had to continuously remind myself that I was OK.  That I could breathe.  That I was going to make it through the swim.  One girl in my age group took off so fast at the gun that no one could go with her.  I settled into a rhythm with another girl and pretty much stayed with her off to my left until the final turn buoy.  At that point I tried to pick up the pace a little and worked on safely dodging slower swimmers ahead of me.  I was thrilled to see a sub-30 coming out of the water.

We had been following the weather for a couple of weeks as I'm sure everyone was.  Rain and 50 degrees were predicted for race day, and that's pretty much exactly what we got.  It was raining by the time I exited the water.  Knowing how my body reacts in cold weather, I had packed my Smashfest Queen vest and arm warmers into my T1 bag.  With wet skin it took me longer in transition to get my arm warmers on, but it was worth the extra minute to be comfortable during the bike ride.

All smiles at the start of the bike ride!

The bike ride was everything you dream about.  It was beautiful.  And challenging.  And fun.  And totally awesome.  I focused on holding my watts according to my race plan.  With the rain making it difficult to see at times, and the wet roads, I was definitely not as aggressive on the bike as I would otherwise have been.  The one thing my husband had said to me on Friday was that he didn't want me descending from Snow Canyon on wet roads.  With Kona coming up in just 5 short months, I cannot afford to crash out and risk my only real goal for the year.  As the miles went by I laughed to myself that, like it or not, I was going to be descending Snow Canyon in the rain.  I really wasn't bothered by it at all.  I was mentally prepared but it was just ironic.

Don't worry, I didn't stop mid race for this photo op!

In fact, coming into this race, I prepared for the absolute worst possible weather conditions.  In my scenario it was more of a repeat of 2012- wind, heat, and more wind.  The cold and rain was much easier to deal with as I can just put more clothes on.  I never felt chilled until the final descent and when you're flying downhill at 44 mph for 8+ miles, it doesn't matter that you have layers on, it's darn cold.

Running into T2.

T2 was once again super long because with cold hands I had a hard time changing into my running shoes.  I was super excited to be off the bike, not because I was happy to be off the bike but because I felt like no matter what happened now I would get to the finish line.  I took off out of transition and saw my #bff about 2 blocks up just as you start the first 3 mile climb.  She got this awesome pic of me as I'm shouting to her:

# whatthefuck #frozen

Apparently I got a good laugh from all of the spectators in her vicinity as they heard me yell #whatthefuck?! #frozen!  In reality, I was staying plenty warm working my way through 70.3 miles.  They were standing for hours in the pouring rain, wind and cold.  Thank you #bff for doing just that!!

There is basically no flat ground on the St. George run course.  You're either running uphill, or coming down.  The good news is that the first 3 miles are uphill, which means that the last 3 are downhill!  In between it's a nice mix of climbing and descending to break up which muscles are being taxed.  I actually really like hills.  And I think this course favors strength over pure speed.  With my experience on trails, I definitely fall into the "strong" category and felt like I was running strong the whole way through.

Running downhill toward the finish!

I decided at the beginning of the run that I was not going to look at my Garmin.  Coach had told me during our pre-race briefing that on this course, it's impossible to sustain a specific pace.  (For example, at Oceanside the plan was to dial in a certain minute-per-mile pace and hold that throughout.)  With the ups and downs, my pace would be all over the place.  Rather than worry about it, I decided to just not look, and hold constant effort.  When I hit 2 miles to go I glanced down and realized that I was going to be well under my goal of 5:30 for the day I was ecstatic!

The camera man caught me running into the finish line... you can see me with 1:17 to go on the highlight video below!  

Happy camper!

Even though I didn't land on the podium at Ironman St. George 70.3, I accomplished all of my other pre race goals:
*Survived (and thrived!) the swim (Swim time: 29:50)
*Held goal watts on the bike
*Finished the bike under 2:55 (Bike time: 2:54:04)
*Finished under 5:30  (Total time: 5:20:09)

And I crushed my goal for the run course finishing the run in 1:47:37!

Post race!

After the race we relaxed and at dinner.  On Sunday morning we slept in and went for a nice easy bike ride with the only goal of capturing some of the gorgeous scenery in Utah.

I had to bike up a 12% grade for this photo op.  #totallyworthit

Our bikes are enjoying the view.

After our ride we had an hour to pack up and check out of the hotel.  This was our starting point...

Help!  A hurricane hit our hotel room!

Up next:
Tempe International Tri (local olympic distance race for fun!)
Ironman Coeur d'Alene 70.3