Finding Equilibrium

I am afraid of heights!  Not a little nervous or uncomfortable, but paralyze me and put me into a panic kind of fear.  Sometimes my family exploits this silly fear of heights and convinces me to do things they are certain I should enjoy!

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Several years ago, our family took a trip to Busch Gardens – Tampa and my middle son, Jordan, conned me into riding a roller coaster called SheiKra. “It will be great!”,  he said.  This coaster boasts a couple 90 degree drops and chairs that give the impression you are being catapulted along without the security of a proper floor.  As we waited in line and my impending doom got closer and closer, my panic increased until my eyes started leaking.

“Mama, are you crying?”

“NO!”

I managed to move myself forward and strapped myself in for the ride.  I didn’t want to ride this ride, but here I was, locked and ready to roll.  There were parts of the ride that were fantastic and parts that were horrific! Each of those 90 degree drops began with dangling me over the edge and pausing long enough to allow my panic to reach maximum intensity.  I spent the entire ride with my emotions and physical reactions all over the place…

No Equilibrium!

2015 was my roller coaster year with giant highs and equally low lows… The beginning of the year found my dad fighting hard against an aggressive and unmerciful pancreatic cancer tumor, I participated in Gulf Coast Triathlon: my mantra for the day – “Dream Big and Fight Hard” – (Personal best, fantastic race, made some great new friends), after chemo and radiation and surgery to remove Dad’s tumor it was determined that the ugly tumor was inoperable, I got to train with my Madison and her good friend Savanna for the MAC poker ride – Proud Mama, I suffered a traumatic knee injury, I took an anniversary trip with Jeff to Maine – Whale Watching/Acadia/Puffins, our family went home to Missouri for a wonderful family reunion – celebrated Dad’s life with most of my siblings and their families, went home to Missouri again, shortly after, for Dad’s funeral, reunited with Jordan after his two year mission to Brazil – Proud Mama, spent the next week preparing Jordan to start his schooling at UNC Wilmington, our puppy dog Remus died suddenly, I was able to hire a coach for my 2016 triathlon season, I took a trip with Nicole to Panama City Beach, Florida to volunteer for Ironman Florida 2015 and support my friend Cyndi for her “retirement Ironman” and Ellie for her first Ironman…AND…I registered for my first FULL IRONMAN – IM Florida November 5, 2016!

2015 left me feeling like I had just stepped off an emotional roller coaster… even with the great moments, I struggled to find my  Equilibrium!

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Gulf Coast 2015 – 2nd in Age Group

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Dream Big – Fight Hard

 

 

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MAC Poker Ride with Madison – Love this girl

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Remus – Puppy Heaven

 

 

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Acadia National Park

 

 

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Whales!

 

 

 

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Home after 2 years in the Amazon of Brazil!

 

 

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‘Til  we meet again – I love you Dad!

 

2016 – I’m coming at you and will find my Equilibrium along the way!

 

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It’s official!  IM Florida 2016!

 

There are many who question my sanity and wonder aloud, “Why would you ever want to complete an Ironman?”  I don’t know how to answer this question, and most likely, if you have to ask, my answer won’t resonate with you anyway.  But here’s my best try at why I want to be an Ironman…

I believe in Dreaming BIG!  I have watched others train for and complete an ironman.  I have felt inspired by their dedication, I have watched their satisfaction from a dream achieved – no more wishing but DOING, I have felt the hope of possibility.  Ironman is not the only way to Dream Big…

but it is MY way!

I believe doing hard things will help me discover my weaknesses and limits.  I am not afraid of finding these weaknesses as I believe this is the pathway to find my strength.  Ironman is not the only way to find your strength…

but it is MY way!

I believe our bodies are a gift from God and I will celebrate this life He has given me and work to make my body as healthy and strong as possible.   I will celebrate for all those who cannot push their bodies in this way.  Ironman is not the only way to celebrate our miraculous bodies…

but it is MY way!

I believe the journey is worth the feeling I expect to feel at the finish line!  Finish lines have always been incredible to me as they represent so many different things to each person who arrives.  No matter how you get to the finish line or how long it takes you, the finish line will be yours.  This particular finish line will be accompanied by the words…

”Julie – YOU. ARE. AN. IRONMAN!”

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That Dam Tri

“That DAM Tri”!

When I signed up for this race, I didn’t realize how true this statement would be…I was just thinking how funny the shirt might be – can you say Conversation Starter?  However, the race proved to be one of the hardest races I have participated in.  Not because of the course – it was fairly straightforward and simple.   Not because of my fitness – I was prepared physically.  Not because of the competition – I had a terrible race and still managed to be 3rd in my age group – (slower than normal F45 – 49 age group)

It was hard because I gave my chatty, negative voices room to bring their A game and mess with my mental game!

The Dam Tri was the last race of the 2014 season for me and I have been looking forward to 2015.  There are some fun and exciting things coming up for me in 2015.  I was selected to be a part of a new Triathlon team – Tri Team IGNITE – I am very excited about the team and the awesome people I will get to rub shoulders with for the 2015 season.  I have 2 Half Iron events in my plans, Gulf Coast Triathlon in Panama Beach and Augusta, Ga in the fall – both important mile markers for me on my journey to “Iron-Mama” status.  As I have been looking forward to the coming year, I have been evaluating where I am as an athlete and what improvements I need to make to successfully achieve this iron dream of mine.  The Dam Tri reminded me that often, I give my biggest competition a free ride… after all, she’s sitting right between my ears.

The irony of my bad race day…..

Thursday and Friday, before the race, I relaxed on my couch and read a book by one of my new team mates.   Triathlete EQ : by Dr. Izzy Justice.  I loved the book!  Chapter by chapter I thought to myself…”Oh yes, I have a weakness in this, I need to make sure I am practicing that”.  The whole book resonated with me.  I practiced some of the skills outlined in Izzy’s book during my training for Beach 2 Battleship.  However, as all my races this year have been shorter races, I ignored practicing any mental/emotional skills.  Why would mental fortitude be important in a short race!?!  Obviously, this was a mistake.

The Great News!

Crappy days can be your best opportunities for learning.  The pain and aggravation of the bad day can be a good way to remind me that I want to avoid experiencing that again.  So, to that end and for your reading pleasure, here is my plan to avoid a Dam Tri:

Know who you, embrace whatever your “weird” is and be prepared to manage your needs

I know a few quirky things about myself – I like order, I do NOT like the unknown, I’m very sensitive to things being the way I like them, I plan way too far in advance, I don’t roll with the flow all that well.  And yet, for this particular race, I didn’t know the course, I didn’t check all my equipment before race day, I decided to do a few things I had only tried a few times, I kind of just showed up.  This started my race day all out of kilter.

Don’t make that mistake again:  I will embrace my “WEIRD”.  I know I seem weird when I can tell you what the elevation profile of a course is and how I plan to manage it.  It’s okay to do this even for an unimportant Dam tri…it makes me feel happy and prepared.  I know I seem weird when it is a priority for me to drive the course to see what I will see on race day.  I know I seem weird when I am checking the weather and packing outfits to accommodate any possible weather scenario.  I know I am weird when I am making list after list of things I need to plan for that might possibly happen…you know…just in case.  I know I am weird…and I will embrace this…even for a little dinky Dam Tri.

Know why you are racing…if it’s for the t-shirt or the food…make sure you’ll be getting both!

 Please refer to the previous paragraph.  I know I have my own special quirks.  But…I really like my race t-shirts.  The Dam Tri didn’t have one.  I LIKE my $70 t shirts and just sort of expect to get a t-shirt in exchange for my registration fee.  Seriously, no t-shirt!?!  And no post race Salsaritas either…Dam Tri!  UGH!  This dialogue dampened my excitement for the race.

Don’t make that mistake again:  I know why I race and as much as I like my t shirts, they are not the reason I race.  I love the chance to test my training.  I love the feeling of crossing a finish line.  I love the pre-race energy of anticipation, nervousness, and excitement.  I love the chance to improve a previous time.  I love to race!  I do love a race t shirt but it is not why I race.

Manage your entire race…Sometimes 30 seconds in T2 is time well spent!

I am historically slow in transition.  I am not entirely sure why and have been working on making improvements.  I decided that putting socks on takes too long.  I know you should never try something completely new on race day.  So…I ran without socks one time about a week ago.  It wasn’t so bad.  AWESOME!  I will save at least 30 seconds in transition by skipping my socks.  OOPS!

Don’t make that mistake again:  30 seconds is worth comfortable feet.  I know there are those who see this issue differently, but my priority is comfortable feet.   I hope I will feel that same way if I miss a podium spot by 30 seconds.  But for now, 30 seconds will help shut up the whiner in my head.  My screaming blistery tootsies made it very difficult to shut out the other negative voices telling me I might as well walk.  And walk I did.  Sometimes those voices sounded so reasonable.  Discomfort at the end of the race is inevitable….I will make sure the discomfort is not from something I could have prevented with good choices.   Ouch…can’t decide what hurts worse…my blistered toes or regret at giving up.  Either way – OUCH!

Shake it baby…shake it!

 Yep….I need to learn to shake it.  Shake off the mishaps.   This race was a race of equipment malfunction and I didn’t shake off any of it.  Bike, HR, Shoes….

My pre race bike ride alerted me that something was way off with my gears.  I’d like to be able to articulate what was wrong but because of the panic this caused, I am not very clear right now what happened and in what order.   In a nutshell, I had 2-3 gears that would work – sort of.  My chain wouldn’t consistently stay on my rear cog or respond when I tried to change gears.  It did, however, make a noise that had me wondering if, at some point, my chain would spontaneously combust.  With just a few minutes to race start and a wetsuit that requires A LOT of energy and skill to get into, I made the best decision I knew to make… keep it in my big ring, use those 2.5 gears and hope the course wasn’t too hilly.   My emotion….defeated!  The race hadn’t started and I felt defeated.   I let that feeling of defeat race with me.   Talk about a Dam Tri…I’m afraid that may have been an unrehearsed mantra for the day…I’ve never felt a need to muttered the name of the race over and over as I raced, but it seemed appropriate on this day.

Don’t make that mistake again:  Keep perspective and a full and working mental tool box.

In hind sight there were several happy things about this race, and yet, because I didn’t shake anything off…I missed some potentially mood altering events.

  • Shake it off: I was able to get into my wet suit without any embarrassing mishaps…AND it still fit in spite of some extra pounds I have gained. Shazaam! I should have channeled my inner super hero.
  • Shake it off: I was only able to fit one of Rich and Tonya’s open water swim clinics into my schedule. Just this one swim clinic gave me more confidence than I typically start the swim leg with…can’t wait for more…I’ll be swimming like a mermaid!
  • Shake it off: In spite of my less than perfect gear shifting, my bike leg was still respectable.
  • Shake it off: Happy, inspiring people race triathlon…one competitor couldn’t ride up a hill so she got off and happily pushed her bike to the top, hopped back on and continued the race. She was dead last but came through the finish line HAPPY!
  • Shake it off: My emotional roller coaster during this race was amusing…at least in hind sight. One minute ANGRY at myself, the next choking up at things like; inspiring competitors, safety cones identifying the halfway point of the run, happy supportive attitudes of triathletes, etc. etc.  I think my emotions burned up the calories of a Half Iron Distance.
  • Shake it off: Trying to discreetly blow a snot rocket only to be surprised by a cyclist passing me.  I typically only brave the snot rocket when I am riding solo. After a quick apology to the poor rider, she says, “I saw you getting ready to blow and avoided it.”  Really!?! What am I doing to alert my fellow riders that I am going to blow…I thought I was pretty discreet.
  • Shake if off: Failed attempts at getting happy could have made me laugh…I tried to follow advice from Leigh Ann and smile during the run to make me feel better.   Okay, smile and high five. So, I lifted my arm and high fived a lady and, as that seemed like too much energy, totally dissed the guy right behind her. He had happily put his hand up for his high five. The look on his face was sad but a little funny.   A guy a few feet back looked at me with anticipation. However, as he was wiping who knows what from his nose to his hand… I intentionally dissed him.
  • Shake it off: The leg injury I have been nursing for the last 5 weeks was almost unnoticeable. Not 100% but not race altering.
  • Shake it off: There was chocolate at the finish line. Okay…no t-shirt and no Salsaritas but there was a candy bar.

Don’t make that mistake again:  I will learn to boogie….or at least add some additional mental tools into my race day strategy.   I might have another bad race, but it will not be because I have ignored the mental training part of my sport.  I will not make the mistake of ignoring things that ARE within my control.   Sigh…..

“That DAM Tri”

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Why do I TRI?

“If you ever see me running, you better run too because something is surely chasing me”

“You’re crazy!”

“Running isn’t a sport it’s punishment”

“I would NEVER walk again if I sat on a bike seat that long”

“Did I mention you’re crazy?”

“I just can’t swim”

“You are completely nuts…how can that even be fun?”

I have often found myself in conversations where I am trying to explain to a person why I participate in triathlon.   Sometimes, it is even a conversation I have with myself.  It is not uncommon for the conversations to end in one of the statements above or some other variation of head shaking and expressions of my need for therapy.  While I have never denied that I could benefit from a few therapy sessions…I usually try to find words to explain WHY running, biking, and swimming have a hold on me.  Ultimately, I find words are inadequate in explaining the myriad of emotions I experience through my training.  It seems people either Love it or Hate it.  If you will NEVER run, bike or swim…you’re okay and I’m okay….but  this post will not help you understand how this is fun to me.  However, for anyone who is curious about it but just not sure if it’s for them….

WHY DO I TRI!?! (pun intended)

Tri-ing makes me Smile, Laugh, Cry: I have experienced just about every possible human emotion on my journey through triathlon.  However, most often I am happy…laughing, joking, smiling!  Triathletes are funny, often quirky, people experiencing some funny things.  Even the horrible things are funny, if not initially, almost always later.  Trying on wetsuits is hysterical and best done with the support of a training partner and several cans of spray lubricant.  Likewise, trying to find the perfect tri top is often an endeavor that should be logged in Training Peaks as you will burn significant calories.  If you do not break out into a sweat or require assistance, the article of clothing is likely too big.

Note to my female friends: built in sports bras seem like such a great idea until you realize the bra will be in a size suitable for a woman who DOES NOT require the aid of a bra at all.  I could write an entire post about my experience trying to unroll the tightly rolled internal bra.  Tortuous but SO funny!

The feeling of losing your balance while one foot is clipped to a pedal is unnerving, but something to enjoy as a beautiful TRI rite of passage!  There you are in all you newbie glory tipping over for no obvious reason.   You will feel like a super star when you can comfortably rest on your bike with one foot still clipped in.  Get a couple hours into a group ride and just about anything is funny.  Endorphin overload!  Playing chicken with a frisky squirrel doesn’t seem funny until after the squirrel has made it all the way through your riding buddies chain ring, bolted like a “squirrel out of hell” and you are still upright on your bike.  THEN it’s one of the funniest things ever.

Tri-ing is “Fail Proof”: The only possible failure is if you give up – but THIS is within your control. You get to choose if you fail.  This is not to say triathlon is without obstacles.  Triathlon is ALL about obstacles and figuring out how to overcome them.   We are all limited by something; physical ability, current fitness level, time constraints, aging bodies, injuries, finding the right running shoe, sports bra, anti-chafe cream and on and on and on.  These limiters do not create failure, just obstacles.  Failure only happens when we let our limiters dictate our behavior.   There have been workouts that have felt like failures when I don’t meet targets that have been defined for that particular workout.   However, I only fail when I sit down, put on my pouty face and tell myself, and any unfortunate bystander, that I’m a loser and just can’t seem to succeed.  Triathlon encourages me to figure out why my performance was what it was that day and then figure out how to avoid it in the future.  Sometimes this is a long and frustrating process, but as long as I keep trying to figure it out….Training for triathlon is SUCCESS!

Tri-ing is Empowering:  Training for any endurance sport is a process of measurable gains.  Regardless of whether you have the latest gizmo or gadget, you can know how far you have gone and how long it took you.  The nature of endurance training is regular, consistent PROGRESS!  But let me mention right here, triathlon provides outlets for the gadget geek in all of us – there is a seemingly unlimited array of gadgets to track anything about your training you could ever think to track.  You can track every workout, evaluate and discuss to the point of nausea what you can do to improve.  And there is an entire community of people who actually enjoy the conversation.  Whether you have a need to make charts and graphs or not…there are 100’s of opportunities to have a progress celebration at the end of every race or workout!  Progress isn’t measured against anyone except yourself.  Progress is empowering!

Tri-ing keeps you Honest:  There is no “Hail Mary” in endurance sport.  There are no bad ref’s winning or losing for you.  You have either earned your endurance or you haven’t.   There is little room for making excuses.  If you missed workouts, you will not perform to the best of your ability…even if you perform well…it will not be YOUR best.  You can have good and bad days, but you cannot do more than you have earned.  You can get lucky and experience a great tailwind on the bike, but chances are, you will also experience a headwind of equal or, more than likely, greater intensity.   Conditions can be terrible and keep you from your best performance, but every racer in THAT race on THAT day will be battling the same horrible conditions.  I have found that after any particular key workout (race, time trial, etc) I can compare my results against what I have put into training and find a correlation.  Triathlon even keeps you honest with your mirror.  Spandex Don’t Lie!  It is hard to find flattering triathlon gear…I have often joked that if I would just put on a tri suit first thing every morning, skip the scale put on spandex…take a good look in the mirror…it would be a good tool for making healthy food choices.   The 5 pounds that can be hidden with more flattering attire are exposed in all their glory when you’re wearing spandex!

Tri-ing is great for Body Image:   While I am vain enough to enjoy some of the aesthetic benefits of endurance training; more muscle, less fat, narrower mid-section, etc.  I love triathlon because it gives me a healthier outlook on body image.   Spandex forces you to see, and even accentuates, whatever flaws you see in your body.  Remember – “spandex don’t lie”.  However, the very act of facing this head on is a good exercise in accepting the body type you have and focusing on how strong your body is becoming.  There is great satisfaction that comes from knowing you are strong.  I love the confidence that comes from mastering my body’s desire to stop when things are hard, digging deep and making my body continue until I’m finished.  Rather than obsessing about the size and shape of any given body part, I can obsess about what I can train my body to DO and how to make it stronger and more capable.   As a woman, I still have moments where I wish my arms looked more muscular, moments when I worry my shorts make my butt look fat, moments when I notice my belly is not as flat as it used to be.  Society’s ideals of “perfect body type” are a terrible way to predict race performance.   Knowing this helps me effectively shut out my insecurities.  I know that what will determine my success has little to do with the “body type” I have and MUCH more about what I have trained this body to do.

Improved body image is not a benefit reserved for those at the front of the pack.  At the end of the Myrtle Beach Half marathon, I was watching the runners who were finishing around the 3 hour mark.  Two women came running in together.  One of them was struggling and was at that point where tears were right at the surface of her tired eyeballs.  I know this feeling…you just want to quit and sit down.  It is so hard to keep going.   I immediately choked up and shouted any encouraging words I could squeak out.  As they ran right past me, one woman said to the other, “Look at what your body has just done….you have been moving for 3 hours!”  I could visibly see the woman gather herself as she acknowledged that she was strong and awesome!  THIS inspires me!

Tri-ing makes me feel like a super hero:  Every race has a finish line and I get to cross it!  I do not have to cross a finish line before everyone else to feel like a super hero.  I just have to cross the finish line as fast as I can on that particular day.  I find it nearly impossible to cross a finish line without feeling euphoric!  Sometimes the happiest thing is simply that the race is finally finished.  Sometimes, it represents a new personal best.  Sometimes it is the culmination of a long, hard, road that I suffered through without quitting.  Sometimes it is a happy, fun, social, costume wearing experience.  ALWAYS it is something to celebrate.  Finish lines are filled with total strangers cheering you on.  For me, there are often those closest to me cheering for me as I complete what I started.  Occasionally, I cross a finish line looking graceful and dignified but more often than not, I look rough!  Exhausted, sweaty, lacking grace and good form, often looking a bit befuddled but feeling SATISFIED!

The finish line represents my domination over all those negative voices that try to tell me this is a crazy idea, that I can’t do this, just sit down and quit already.  My negative voices can get very chatty.  The finish line means I have shut them up and I might be a super hero!

 I am after all wearing spandex!

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Myrtle Beach Half Marathon 2014 – NO REGRETS

I started training for this race with the goal of finishing under 2 hours and as my training progressed, added a secondary goal of leaving the race course with NO REGRETS!   I have raced other half marathons and, with each one, left the race course with regrets.  At the beginning of my training, I thought the regrets were all tied up in failing to complete the race in under 2 hours.  My discovery in training was that the real “half marathon demon” was more closely related to allowing myself to make racing errors I knew better than making and even more importantly, allowing mishaps on race day to demoralize me in a way that I gave up a little in each race.  This was going to be my race of No Regrets!

 So, I set out on my quest.  Coach Sarah was going to give me a plan and I was going to follow that plan.  Easy enough!

One of my strengths as an athlete is dutifully getting all my training in.  I like to work hard, push my limits and love to see myself make progress.  One of my weaknesses is that I can sabotage all that hard work by letting my head get in the way on race day.  Since Coach Sarah has started helping me, mental training has been a part of my overall training plan.  Remember that “Half Marathon Demon” I mentioned?  By the end of my training, he was tormenting me.  I was feeling so stressed and wasn’t really sure this was very fun anymore.  I knew I was physically prepared…but I have been physically prepared before and not had the results I’d hoped for.  I had a sit down with Sarah and was so grateful for her perspective.  One of the things that stuck with me was “you can only race the best you can race on THAT particular day”.  I’m not even sure if Sarah said this or something she said reminded me of this.  I also got an impromptu pep talk from Mike Byrd “It’s got to be FUN!”  I left Cool Breeze knowing I needed to dominate this stupid “Half marathon demon”.

I went home and I made lists!  Lists of a “perfect race day”, “average race day”, and “terrible race day” – including what strategies I would use to manage all 3 scenarios.  I’m a natural list maker so this exercise is fun, almost therapeutic, for me.  Don’t know why I hadn’t done this before.   I also made a list of why running is FUN and rewarding for me.  I may post that for your reading pleasure someday.  I was finally feeling happy and positive about this goal.

Thursday morning, we got everything packed up, got Madison off to her friend’s house and Jeff and I headed out into the monster snowstorm.  I was feeling so glad that the worst of the weather was behind us.  Heading to the beach with high hopes of beautiful weather  J  My happy, optimistic feeling didn’t last long as the forecast for Myrtle Beach was rain and strong gusty wind for Saturday morning.  I decided to handle this little piece of bad news with a healthy bit of denial.  I finally had to face the fact that I wouldn’t be using my “perfect race day” plan.  I had a little cry moment as I felt the fear start to creep in again…yikes!  The wind I could handle but the rain and I are not friends!  My feet blister and the rain just feels demoralizing to me.   I don’t even know any words that will adequately express how grateful I am to Jeff.  He is my cheering section,  my support, my personal comedian, my eye candy J and sometimes the quick kick in the butt I need to pull myself together.   I started rehearsing my “terrible race day” plan and was able to get myself to a place where I felt sure, worst case scenario, I could break 2 hours.  I felt like I could be in control even if the weather wasn’t on board.

Friday night they began calling for the rain to stop between 6am- 7am.  I went to bed feeling a mixture of calm and resignation that tomorrow’s race would be a challenge, I may end the day with blistered feet AND I was okay with that.  I felt prepared and had myself together.   Wow!  That felt good AND unusual.  I have not slept that well before a race…ever!

We got up at 4:45 and went through my regular race morning schedule.   Everything went smooth….I have a list people!   Got to the race start and began what I have been referring to as, “The March of the Penguins”.  It was COLD, it was BLUSTERY, and it was RAINING!  I was grateful for a rain jacket and a cheap poncho.  But I was mostly grateful for the camaraderie of runners who are willing to huddle up in attempts to keep warm and dry…well not dry but warm.  This is what it looked like in my mind’s eye – poor little runner people:

penguin

We finally had to break the huddle and head to the start line.  BRRR!  I felt a little nervous, but as I brought my personal comedian with me I had the luxury of a few comic relief moments as Jeff reminded me of his gallant plan to let me beat him.  His generous Valentine’s Day gift to his wife 🙂  Ladies…don’t be jealous.

My first challenge hit immediately.  I didn’t think about how dark it would be and that I wouldn’t be able to see my watch.  I know I have a light on my watch, but there were A LOT of people and I was trying to be graceful.  I caught a few glimpses of my watch but was having trouble keeping a steady pace.  I was determined to not go out too fast, and even with my watch trouble, didn’t do too badly.  The next little mishap hit within the first mile.  I was running along, trying to keep a good even pace and all of a sudden the crowd parted right in front of me.  In the time it took my brain to register and my eyes to adjust to what the other runners saw, I stepped right in a very deep puddle.  UGH!  My left foot was completely soaked.  I wanted to swear but before I even had time to bite my tongue the guy behind me (who, incidentally, had no warning as I was too slow to react) let out a string of colorful language that would have made a sailor blush.  Oddly, this made me giggle a little and I was able to just let it go.

My plan was to run steady for the first 6 miles, then evaluate every 2 miles after that, increasing my speed if I could.   I tried very hard to do this, but had crazy, gusty wind to contend with.   It was sporadic enough to prevent me from ever getting into that zone where you’re just running.  I tried running in a group thinking this would block some of the wind.  This might have been a good strategy for anyone else, but I like my space to run.  So, I found a little “empty” area at the edge of the road and just dealt with the wind.  I also tried working with the wind a little bit.  If it was really blowing, I allowed my pace to slow just a bit and allowed myself to increase a little when it wasn’t blowing.

I had several runners pass me at the beginning, and to resist the urge to “race” them, I made an effort to pay attention to what they looked like.  I have heard Coach Sarah mention several times that if they are faster than you…let them go…if they are going out too fast…you will get to pass them at the end.    I felt this helped me stick to my own personal race plan for the day.  I was so happy I did this because in the last few miles, when it starts to get hard, I actually recognized some of those people as I passed by them.   It made me happy that I stuck with my plan the best I could.  The other bonus is that this particular race really lacks interesting things along the way.  There was very little crowd support, given the weather conditions, one band and the scenery was really not interesting.   All of my mental strategies really helped keep my mind engaged along the course.

When we finally got onto Ocean Blvd I was really hoping for a tail wind.  There were a few moments where I could feel the tail wind, but as the wind was so gusty, there was nothing sustained.  Sometimes it blew from the side, sometimes from the back and even sometimes from the front.  However, there were more spectators along the course on this section which is always helpful for me.  I was really happy at this point with my race so far.  I had fueled just as I had trained, I had paced myself the best I know how, I was starting to recognize a few people who had flown past me earlier and I was feeling certain I was going to meet my goal.  I was tired, but happy.  I made the last turn off Ocean up toward the finish line.  About 1.5 miles to go and the wind hit like a MAC truck!  I had been managing the wind fairly well to this point, but this was the first time in the race I had that moment of thinking how nice it would be to walk, sit down, eat french fries….anything but keep running.  There is a slight hill AND the wind AND I’d already run 10+ miles.  I was SO happy I had all my red card items and just started going over them.   Suffer today…celebrate tomorrow!  I can do anything for 10 minutes!  NO REGRETS!

Finally, the finish line!  I hurried – more of a hobble trying to avoid any sidewalk curbs – to the Jeep, put on dry clothes, grabbed Jeff’s camera and headed back down the course to wait on my Valentine!  He did indeed let me beat him.  I played photographer and LOVED watching all the runners coming in.  Finish lines make me want to cry.  Every person, no matter how fast they finish…still finish their race.

A quick note on Jeff’s race report – He is NOT a runner, but he is a great sport to participate with me and had this to say about his race experience.  “It was cold, rainy, wet, I felt an oddly strong desire to knee cap everyone around me, and was particularly annoyed with the sound of a million beeping Garmins.  I am, however, very thankful for the medical personal that provided bandaids and Vaseline.”   Jeff’s Awesome!

Myrtle Beach Half Marathon….Success!  1:53:23 – 550/2931 finishers, 15/219 in my age group…And Most Importantly…I know I raced the best I could on that day!   NO REGRETS!  That’s a good feeling!

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70.3 Beach 2 Battleship 2013 – On my way to being an Iron Mama

It is difficult to write a race report without speaking of the preparation to get to the race.  It seems cliche to talk about the “journey to ironman 70.3” but the majority of my time was spent in preparation.  I did some quick math and in the 12 weeks leading up to race day, I put in 92:15 hours of training and spent 6 hours on race day.  This doesn’t take into account the time spent building a base that would allow me to complete the training requirement, doing loads and loads of stinking workout gear, planning food, recording how training was going, etc.  The training was the majority of the journey and the time where I feel like I learned the most!  Here is a summarized version of what I learned from my training:

1.  Triathlon is NOT the most important thing in my life!  As I juggled a busy schedule, (family, church, work, friends), and was forced to make decisions about when to make a workout happen, and when to let it go, I was grateful for the enhanced clarity regarding  those things in my life that are most important to me.   Be focused but not consumed by your quest for Iron Mama status!

2.  Training for this triathlon taught me to allow others to help and support me in my dream!  As a mother, whose primary job has been to stay home with the kids, it is easy to fall into the role of doing for others.  I love this role and feel very grateful that I have been able to be a stay at home mom.  I will “S”mother my kids for as long as they will let me.  However, it has been overwhelming to watch each member of my family willingly sacrifice so I could have the time I needed to prepare for this race.  I can’t count the number of times my husband would say “Julie, just go get your workout in.  We’ll be fine…I’ll take care of ….”  It took practice to submit to this and let my family pick up the slack with things I have taken care of for years.  This would not have been possible without them.  They were AWESOME!

3.  Training Partners are the Bomb!  This is simply not a journey to take alone.  While my family was the most amazing support I could imagine, there is something about having someone who gets why you feel like you need to discuss a saddle sore, or how you can successfully blow a snot rocket, or the best body lube to use, and sometimes just to hear you complain that your behind is tired of sitting in the saddle, or Zone 4 is going to kill you…and maybe. …who is our crazy coach and why does she seem to hate us!?!   Someone to laugh with you and sometimes at you .  But mostly, someone you know totally gets what you have just accomplished because we did it together.  Yep, training partners are awesome and mine is the best!  Thanks Nicole!

4.  I am stronger and more capable than I knew!  This training has been empowering.  Coach Sarah is smart, kind, generous and a little scary!  I am so glad I chose to have her help me with this process.  I saw huge improvements in what I thought were my limits and abilities.  She obviously gave me a focused plan that I could use to train with confidence.  But I feel like something, perhaps intangible, about her training approach with me made me feel confident enough to dream of the possibilities.   In one of our first sit down meetings, she first listened to me rattle on about my own evaluation of how I was doing and nodded and smiled (maybe it was a smirk).  Finally, she took charge and informed me that at the end of this 12 weeks I would know exactly how fast I could swim, bike, and run.  She was right.  I am convinced that my race day experience would have been vastly different if I had chosen to figure this out on my own as I have done for years.   Money Well Spent!

So with that “summary”, I bet you’re afraid of what the actual race report will look like.

Training is done, gear is packed, travel plans are made…weather reports have been looked at 1000 times, every possible forum entry about Beach 2 Battleship has been read.  Ready to Roll!

Thursday:  Packet pickup uneventful.  The expo…not all that great.  That “Oh My Gosh I’m going to race 70.3 miles” feeling….Pretty awesome!

Friday morning, Jeff and I headed down to  check out the swim start and watch a group of racers do a pre race swim.   This was so exciting and had me almost giddy.  Jeff just smiled a lot at me, but I wanted to jump up and down and do a happy dance.   We met up with Jason and Nicole and  headed out for a quick bike/run while our men just hung around waiting on us.  Have I mentioned they are awesome!  Lots of waiting, shuttling, listening to endless nervous energy.   We spent the rest of the day with last minute preps.  Bikes to transition, transition bags packed, unpacked, packed again.  Long lists of gear reviewed…transition bags double checked one last time and then turned in.  Hair braided…Nicole’s not mine.  She looked pretty…..AWESOME!

The transition bags are both good and bad.  It is unnerving to have to make clothing decisions the day before the race.  However, it was very nice to not have to think about my gear race morning when I am at my most nervous.

Friday night – dinner with Nicole and family.  Great food and company then off to bed.  Started really feeling my cold settling in.  Yikes!  Took advil for a head and ear ache and headed to bed.  Woke up a little while later stressed out about my difficulty in breathing.  Not a plug your nostril kind of cold, but make you wheeze type of cold.  UGH!  Had a bad dream that I didn’t finish the race.  Yikes again!  Jeff woke up, helped reassure me and I was able to relax and sleep for another 45 minutes.   So this would not be a perfect race, but I was able to mentally pulled out the “less than perfect day plan”  Okay, I can do this!

Race morning was freezing!  We went to T1 to check on our bikes.  We were told that there would be tons of bike pumps at T1.  This may have been true but it felt impossible to find Bike support.  Friday they were clearly visible at a Bike Support tent, Saturday…who the heck knows.   I walked to the tent with the assistant race director and was told that Bike Support was wandering around T1 in gold shirts.  Now this would have been a little funny if it hadn’t been so stressful.  Do you know how many triathletes wear bright yellow or gold shirts/jackets.  I resorted to asking random people in yellow:

“Are you bike support?”

“No”

“Well would you happen to have a bike pump?”

“No, I’m looking for bike support too”

I finally found a guy that was carrying a bike pump AND he had some sort of crate…He MUST be bike support.  So I started my dialogue:

“Are you bike support?”

“No but you can borrow my pump”  (Insert angel music here.)

I took his bike pump to my bike followed by his buddy who was going to return the pump to this nice “not bike support man”.   I tried attaching the pump to my tire and only succeeded in emptying the air from my tire.  The “buddy” was unsure how to operate the pump.  Oh No Panic!  I had a bike pump in the jeep but couldn’t figure out where Jeff had gone.  Breathe, Breathe…Red Moment!  Finally, I found Jeff and my beloved bike pump.  Aaaawww how I love my bike pump.  Note to self…be your own bike support!

The race directors told everyone that it would be impossible for spectators to go to the swim start.  Right here I am super grateful that Jeff, with his non conformist attitude,  ignored this instruction and made a decision that he was going to drive me to the swim start.  Having the jeep to sit in and keep warm was a fantastic bonus.  I flip flopped in and out of nerves and calm.  Rehearsed in my mind my race plan.

B2B - Getting Ready 1aB2B - Getting Ready 2a

Then here is was…Time to wetsuit up!   Oh my gosh, please don’t let there be jelly fish.  I watched Nicole’s wave go and can’t describe clearly how I felt…”Go Nicole you’ve got this”  “Oh crap I have 70.3 miles until I get to eat real food” .  Somewhere during this time, Jeff looked right at me and said “I am so proud of you”.  Okay, I can do this!

B2B - Swim 4a B2B - Swim 7a B2B - Swim 5a B2B - Swim 6a

My plan was to enjoy this experience.  The announcer called for my wave and then went on and on about how this is his favorite group.  Women 45 and up, Athenas…He said “This is the group that has the most fun”.  Great reminder…I’m going to have fun!  And then we are off.  Wow, it was splashy but I felt strong and ready.  Very proud of myself for starting in the center and not shirking to the edge to miss all the splashing.  However, I still somehow ended up out on the edge as  I struggle to swim in a straight line.  So here is my only DEEP red moment during the race.  I swam over a group of jelly fish.  AAARRRGGHHH!  What do I do?  What do I do?  Bright idea…breast stroke so I won’t touch them.  I can’t breathe, I’m breast stroking like a maniac and still see them.  Okay, roll to my side and put my bottom arm straight out…then paddle with the other.  This does not work if you only allow your hand to barely scrape the surface of the water.  Finally, my brain started working and I remembered joking on FaceBook about being Dori….”Just keep swimming”  And….I can’t see the jellies anymore, but realize I am much farther to the right than I want to be.  Course correction physically and mentally.  Just relax and swim and that’s what I did.  I got back over into the channel had some bumps and tangles with a few swimmers but it’s all good.   1.2 miles (Garmin said 1.3 miles…but that’s my loss – swim straighter) in 37:42 – 2nd in my AG.

B2B - Bike 1a

Out of the water… wetsuit strippers – FABULOUS!  Hot fresh water showers – WONDERFUL!  Running with cold bare feet on the bumpy asphalt – OUCH!  Not sure why they don’t lay carpet out for that little bit.  Oh well, no harm done just uncomfortable.  Got to my bike, sat down to put my shoes on.  I know, I know… cardinal rule of Triathlon Transition don’t sit down in transition…but I like it that way!

B2B - Bike 4a B2B - Bike 5a

And I’m off on my bike.  I’ve got a plan, I’ve got confidence and I’ve got my food.  3 hours of day dreaming and passing people.  Stick with my plan…don’t RACE the bike…Keep my heart rate steady, keep my cadence steady, keep my eating steady.  This was a brilliant plan with one exception.  I hadn’t thought about how hard it is to feel the gels with gloves on and managed to lose a gel and a cliff bar.  I had planned generously so I wasn’t in serious trouble, but was hungrier than I wanted to be by the end of the bike.   About the bike course; the reviews of Beach 2 Battleship say the roads are great.  I wouldn’t argue with this with the exception of I-140.  That was a horrible piece of road to ride on.  It was so bumpy!  I was glad I was passing people because I decided to ride on the narrow strip of road on the left hand side of the lane that is between the big divets that wake you up if you’re driving a car and drift out onto the shoulder and the bumpy lane.  It took focus but saved my behind.   56 Miles in 3:02:08 2nd in my AG.

T2:  The volunteers were great.  I handed off my bike and actually moved to the side and removed my bike shoes before running all the way around the convention center (good decision).  The volunteers grabbed my T2 bag, and I went to change.  Yep…sat down again…Did I mention that’s the way I like it?

B2B - Run 1a B2B - Run 2a B2B - Run 3a

Off on the run.  Super great crowd support!  Probably the best I’ve experienced.  Tons of spectators by T2 and the finish line and there were many who took the time to read my bib and shouted encouragement by name.  I knew immediately that the run was going to hurt.  I have practiced my breathing during workouts and could not get my lungs to expand.  My breathing was so loud and wheezy.  I was prepared to make adjustments on the run.   So when I realized, I was going to have that much trouble, I changed my plan a little and decided to keep it real “easy”.  Nothing feels easy at this point, but easy relative to what I had planned.  I was also very thirsty feeling.  Not sure if that is a normal reaction to salt water or something I did wrong.  Drank both of my fuel belt waters before I even made it to mile one.  Okay…I will walk through aid stations.  And that’s what I did.  I bordered on yellow to green through the entire half marathon.  My stomach wasn’t particularly happy…a mix of feeling hungry for food and something else.  It just didn’t feel reliable.  I had written the names of my kids on my arm and looked at them often.  Strategy learned in training.  Thanks Sarah!  I also started working out the math for when I could expect to see Nicole on the out and back course.  It was great to finally see her.  She looked strong and Awesome!  It was a good lift.  High fives…maybe more like “side fives”.

The  run course was okay.  I felt like there were several places along the running path that had roots and other uneven surfaces. Not bad for me as I was running in daylight, but it didn’t seem like the best surface for those doing the FULL who would be running in the dark.  As I got close to the finish, I was starting to feel very happy, relieved, accomplished, there is not just one word to describe it.  I had anticipated that I might cry but I almost wanted to laugh.  HAPPY!  The crowd was so great!  They make you feel like a super star.  I probably would have felt that way anyway.   13.1 miles in 2:09 8th in my AG

B2B - Run 4aB2B - Run 5a

The Finish!  Oh how to explain this?  I just finished 12+ weeks of training for a goal I’ve had for several years.  Should I laugh, should I cry, should I get jiggy with it and do a happy dance?  Seriously, there is not one reaction to accurately express how it feels.  Nicole and Jason were standing on one side of the chute and Jeff was on the other.  The volunteers were amazing!  I got my medal and was so freaking happy!  Then moved along the finisher chute and got the coolest pair of pajama pants.  Oh yes…I will stay in these forever!  I met up with Jeff, Nicole and Jason and went to find some food that would make my stomach happy.   Here’s the one little sad thing.  Nothing really sounded good, tasted good or felt good.  Jeff got me a gatorade, I sat around chatting for awhile, visited with a few friends from our MAC bike group who also ran the race and finally decided to go get our gear.  It never occurred to me that I would be in the top 3 of my AG and ought to stick around for the awards ceremony.  I had estimated that a podium finish would require a sub 5:45 time.   So here I sit — 70.3 miles in 6:00: 48  3rd in my AG…It’s a great day to be an Iron Mama!

B2B - Medal 2a

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