The Emotions of Ironman.

…Okay, tomorrow it will be one week until the big day.

Calm my excited, rapidly beating heart.

I finished my last “big ride” (50 miler) today. Tomorrow morning before work I’ll head for a short 6 mile run and Monday I plan on another swim around here. (I am not sure what is in store in terms of next week’s workouts, but I’m pretty sure next week is all about taking it easy.) I found myself wanting to go out and do more (of either running/biking/swimming) today, but in a weeks time I will be doing plenty of all three (and hopefully all under 17 hours).

As I was driving around picking up some last minute items to pack, I was trying to figure out what I really feel in regards to this race.

Disbelief. When I started setting out all my gear the other day, I could not really believe that I am taking part in IMLP. For years I have followed the blogs of triathletes; I have read about their own packing lists and experiences training and racing in Ironmans. But I never actually thought I would be doing one someday. There is a difference between wanting to do something, and actually going out there and doing it.

The start of my packing task

Packing has only just begun.

Fear. No doubt about it, I am scared. I am scared of the mass swim start. I have only swan 2.4 miles outside once before, and that was by myself. I am scared of bodies swimming over me and the feeling of “drowning” under them. I am afraid of not finishing by the cut off times. I am afraid of not finishing, period. I have invested so much into this race, the thought of not completing it is frightening. I am afraid of having to stop and waste time going to the bathroom (i know, silly things). I am afraid of failing. I fear all the missed workouts from surgery, or when “life” happened, will add up and ultimately, my body will not let me finish.

Regret. Parts of me regret those times when I “listened to my body” and refrained from going further, or pushing myself harder. The times I took an extra “rest day” when my coach had workouts planned.

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Sadness. There are parts of me that are sad that this journey I started in October is almost over. What will I do with my life? My weeks have been planned around my long rides and long runs! (Well, we all know I’ll be going back to grad school in the

Stress. There is a certain element of anxiety/stress that goes along with every race I do: getting to the race location, making sure everything is all set up by the time it needs to be; the stress of parking and finding family members (and also knowing the stress that family members will encounter trying to find me! I know I will hear about it after the event.)

Joy. I’ve talked about it before: ironman training has created an emotionally unstable being in me…Atleast when it comes to watching ironman finish videos. Tears of joy seem to well up in my eyes when I imagine myself crossing that finish line and becoming an “ironman;” hearing my name by Mike Reilly on the loudspeaker…I choke up inside thinking that that could be me. Seriously. I do not know how people watch those YouTube videos without crying. (Lets face it, those people must simply be robots).

And the biggest emotion I have felt recently is excitement/anticipation. I am definitely excited for next weekend (rather, Thursday, when Kevin and I head up to Lake Placid). I have embarked on other adventures in the past, and have challenged myself physically and psychologically, but nothing compares to taking on the challenge of an Ironman.  I cannot wait to get my race packet– to see my number with my name….To see Mirror Lake in person…To meet other triathletes I have come to “know” online, who have given me tips and hints on the big day…I am sooooo excited!

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It’s Doable.

There are 15 days left until race day.

A little over two weeks.

While tying that I just had a “Ohh sh-t” moment. Seriously, only two weeks left?

Where did the time go?

Ironman Lake Placid has been a part of my daily life for the past 8 months. I’ve thought about it, in some capacity, everyday. Whether it was a long training ride, or jitters I had the night before a tough training day, or if it was a “rest day,” I’ve thought about this race on a daily basis.

Crazy? Yea, probably.

For me, it is crazy to think that now I am “tapering.” I don’t think I have ever really “tapered” before. There are parts of me that want to make up for all the long runs and rides I never finished. But I know that pushing myself now will not get me to the finish line any quicker in this type of event. It takes weeks to build up to riding the full ironman distance ride (and run, and swim). So one extra day will do nothing.

It may be because  I have settled into a more normal pattern at work, and finished up that summer class, but I feel I have all the time in the world at the moment (which I know will not last once I go back to grad school in the fall). So I figured I would enjoy this time and blog.

It is funny how as the length of the race you train for increases, your perception of training decreases. For example, I remember training for my 70.3 triathlons and thinking, “Holy crap, a half marathon after a 56 mile bike ride? Are you kidding?” Now, the thought of jumping on the bike for a 56 mile ride is nothing (heck, any ride under 4 hours is a short ride). I run half-marathon distance runs weekly, as if it is “just another run.”  I never thought I would be able to finish a century ride, especially alone. But I’ve completed four 100+ milers since the end of May.

Despite wanting to complete an ironman in my lifetime, I never really thought I would ever be able to swim 2.4 miles in the open water without the use of flippers or a buoy (as crutches to use when I was tired). Yet, I finished my first 2.4 OWS alone on Monday. To my surprise, I did not drown, nor have a seizure, nor be eaten by fish. I put my mind to completing that distance, and I did it.

I remember vividly my first time back on the mountain bike last August after my nine month mountain biking hiatus. I was horrible. I was scared to ride over rocks and roots that I once was able to ride over without difficulties. The ride was supposed to be fun. All I could think about while trying to concentrate on the trails through my tears was how I wasn’t good at anything. I ended up walking more of the bike ride than riding. I gave up. I’ll never be a good mountain biker. Why can’t I do this? Why can’t I buck up and be brave? I suck at mountain biking. I’ll never be good at anything.

 It is during this bike ride that I made the mental decision to sign up for IMLP–to prove to myself that I can do something that I put my mind to; that I can be brave, that there is something I am good at.

(Mind you, the next day of mountain biking was the complete opposite– I guess it took awhile for me to get my “mountain bike legs” back.)

Now, I am just your average beginner triathlete. I’m not out to gain a slot at Kona by doing IMLP. I’m a back of the pack swimmer, and your average cyclist and runner. I don’t think I will ever be a triathlete who gets to Kona, and I am okay with that. I am doing this race because I want to do it. I’ve turned into an emotional guppy during training; whenever I see a video of people crossing the finish line at IM races, I start to cry. Yes, it is because I may be tired, but crossing that finish line is something I want to do so badly that even the thought makes me tear up.Why? Because completing this type of event is beyond what I think I am capable of doing.

Despite those little voices that tell me I can’t finish this race, there is a voice that states, “It’s doable.”

I did not realize those two (or three) words could have such an impact on me.

This Ironman is doable. Just like the 2.4mile open water solo swim was, and a century ride was.

It’s doable.

I know I am physically in the best shape I have ever been in. I’ve gained stamina and strength through all the training I’ve done. I’ve gained knowledge about my body, and the power of nutrition. I’ve learned that no matter the weather, you are still able to ride/run and swim. I’ve realized that on those rides where I’ve been cold, wet, and tired, I never gave up. (Well, being alone in areas without reception, you kind of have no choice whether you give up or not, because no one can get to you). My last long ride was horrible. I didn’t even finish the distance I was supposed to,nor did I finish the long run I had planned. But, I know in a little over two weeks I will be doing it all again. The next time time, though, there will be thousands of other athletes around me. We will all be in the same boat together. Attempting for the first time (or second, or tenth for others) a race that so many people have called us crazy for attempting. Doing something that people say is impossible, and that is unnatural for the body to do. We will push ourselves, mentally, physically, and emotionally, to see what we are capable of doing.

Despite the doubts, pain, and fear, we will do it.

Just Believe

I figured now would be the best time to write a post, as I am sick of studying, it is raining, and everyone around seems to be napping. So, why not write? I have been meaning to write a post since, forever, but June has been one of the craziest months to date. Between training for an IM, doing a one month intensive summer course required before starting grad school in the fall, and beginning a new job, my “free time” has been next to nothing. I would exclaim, “man, I am so sad that June went so quickly” but in fact, I am super glad the month is over (because of everything that was happening). I can say that I survived juggling so many things at once, but, I really detested doing so. Due to everything occurring at once, I had to put training on the back burner, which stinks, but I had no choice. There were a couple emotional breakdowns spread out, but June: You are almost through! And, July, I welcome you with open arms.

Just a little heads up, this post is a mash-up of life and Ironman training. For one, Ironman Lake Placid is less than a month away. Heck, where did time go? I feel like it was yesterday when I decided to sign up for the race. (I remember when I decided to race like it was yesterday!) With a race of such calibur, I know it is normal to doubt the training you have done thus far, and question whether or not you are prepared to race. You dwell over the workouts that you missed–those hours you were supposed to be training when in reality, you didn’t. I’ve caught myself more than once thinking about everything I have not done, which quickly leads to self doubt and negative thinking regarding the race. If I missed those OWSs, I’ll never finish the swim in time. I haven’t finished all the long runs scheduled…I’ll never finish this race….You get my drift. Training has brought on some full-blown “negative thinking” fests, which I’ve realized, from which nothing positive comes. And, I guess this is where my “training life” and “day-to-day” life overlap. I’m pretty good at the whole negative thinking/self-talk thing. Infact, years of my life were devoted to thinking I was not “good enough”: not thin enough, not pretty enough; I was unlovable and a horrible human being for things I’ve done to those around me. This lead to living an obsessed life: obsessed about food and weight loss. Obsessed about finding the time to exercise. Obsessed about acheiving what I thought was “the perfect girl that any guy could fall in love with.” (I now know all of this was just internal lies). Over time, this negative thinking lead to substance abuse. I was in search for a place where I would not think; a place where I did not care, or worry, or fret, about what I ate that day, how much sleep I got; whether or not I was in a relationship, or the size of my clothes. I know negative thinking leads me down a very dark and scary path.

Despite how i’ve caught myself doubting my abilities to complete this race, I’ve learned the power of positive thinking can uplift, give strength, and ultimately bring a happier me. And, in a way,training for this Ironman has taught me more about myself that I may not have realized otherwise. Last week, when I was on my third 100+ mile road ride, I found myself wet, cold, tired, and ready to be off the bike. Six plus hour training rides solo really gives you plenty of opportunty to think about everything in your life. At the end of this ride, I found myself doubting my ability to be able to complete the full 112 mile bike course that I’ll be doing on July 26th. I was trying to add some extra miles in at the end of the ride, and ended up turning down a county road. About a mile or so down the road, I noticed the words “Believe in yourself” spray painted across the road. I did not realize how much of an impact those three words would have on me. After a couple minutes, I turned around and when I saw the words, I stopped, and smiled.

I’ve gotten my nutrition strategies pretty down pat. I’ve run marathons in the past and know even if I have not run the whole distance in this training, that I can do it. I know I can swim with other people and not “freak out” (as evidenced by my last half IM). But the one thing I’ve lacked is the self confidence and the belief in myself that I can  finish what I’ve set out to do. I remembered how I was able to finish Quassy after missing training from surgery. At the beginning of the race I thought, “You’ve got this; you can do this.” And, I did it. Truth be told, finishing a race may seem important and an accomplishment. In some ways, it is; and I want to finish this Ironman so badly. But, whether or not I finish it, I’ve accomplished much more within the past year as a person.

Last Fourth of July, and the months that came after it, were a couple of the darkest months I’ve been through, and believe me when I say I’ve been through some pretty crappy times. I was physically there on the 4th, celebrating with family and friends. But psychologically and emotionally, I was far from being “present.” I had lied. Again. Despite promising to “never do it again,” to the ones I loved, I did. I went kicking and screaming back to get help for something I felt I could control. Yet in reality, it had control over me. Fast forward a year, and here I am. On that ride when I saw those words on the ground last week, it dawned on me that it’s been almost one year since I’ve polluted my body with something it does not need. To put some perspective on it, this is the first year in the past eight years that I’ve gone more than six months without quote-in-quote relapsing.

Shit. Eight years of my life, wasted.

This is the first time I’ve been myself in years. Molly; unfiltered. It has definetly not been easy; I’ve had the stressors of more frequent seizures and medical diagnoses that are not easy to deal with (you  might remember the post “Elephant in the Room.” But, it has been such an amazing and fun year. I’ve challenged myself; I’ve challenged those fears of seizures, and swimming. The fears of the inability to finish Quassy. The self-doubt that I would ever be able to finish a 100 mile bike ride. I’ve started a new job, and in the fall will be going back to start a Nurse Practitioner program (which challenges the inner thoughts I have that I am not smart enough to become a NP). I’ve felt true and unconditional love from the most amazing man I have ever met; the man who decided last July not to give up on me.

Finishing races are an amazing feat. But learning to believe in yourself, loving the person you are, and living is even better. 

So, if you ever have any self doubts, challenge them. Believe in yourself. Because no matter what you are going through, you can do amazing things if you simply believe.

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Quassy: The Beast of the Northeast

First of all, I would like to thank Kevin for being at the race: beginning/middle/end, race chauffeur, photographer, personal cheerleader. 🙂 Race support do not get enough credit for what they do. So, thank you!

Challenge Quassy. Where do I begin? I learned a few lessons the day before and day of the race–little hiccups–but this race was all about going with the flow; rolling with punches (is that a saying?). Middlebury, CT is less than an hour and a half drive from me, which was awesome, because we did not have to travel far. Quassy is a little amusement park that is right on Lake Quassapaug, and it wasn’t a horrible location at all to house an event.

Mmm Carbs!

Pre-trip breakfast. Mmmmm carbs!

Saturday we drove up and I was able to take part in the practice swim, get my packet, check-in my bike, attend athlete meeting, etc. When we were getting my stuff together, I realized I forgot my toiletry bag. Okay, no big deal, except it had my glasses and all my epilepsy meds. Sh*t. Usually, I’m not the most organized person and just keep meds in two places: cabinet, and thrown in a bag I use. However, recently, I have been attempting to be more organized, so I put everything (meds included) into a toiletry bag. No bueno. I should go back to being unorganized, because I always had something with me.

Anyway, my thoughts at the point I forgot everything: This is already going to be horrible. Slight melt down, and we hadn’t even been at the race location an hour. If you have read some of my prior posts, having seizures (esp in the water when swimming) really freaks me out. Not having those meds (“safety net”) threw me for a loop. The rest of the things in the bag could be replaced, and we did indeed get what I forgot (minus my glasses). But, not a great way to start a race weekend.

My name! Bike is checked.

My name! Bike is checked.

Lesson #1: If you take medications for a medical condition, always bring extra in your purse or what have you.

Later, we checked into the hotel and found a restaurant with food that was decently priced where I could get my pre-race veggie burger with fries. That is the traditional meal I have before races (I know, I know, not the healthiest, but it is tradition and we know what happened when I broke my “Tradition” of throwing meds into a bag, right?).

There were no ice machines, so when I asked for ice, they brought

There were no ice machines, so when I asked for ice, they brought “just a little”

We were back at the hotel by 7:30pm, where I went through all of my belongings i would need for the race, and pack them. I am sure I am not the only triathlete who lays out all their stuff atleast two or three times, making sure they have everything they need.

“We are going to be late, we are going to be late!” I kept telling people, trying to get everything ready to bring to the race start. “It is almost 6:30 and transition closes!” I parked the car and ran with my bike and race bag to the changing area and tried desperately  to put my wetsuit on. For some reason, it was taking forever, but I made it to the swim start. However I was still trying to zip up my wetsuit, and no one would help me. “Three, Two, One….Beeeeep.” The race director said as swimmers ran into the water. I was still on the beach when he looked at me, lifting up a red card. I was disqualified at Lake Placid before I even began the race. How could this happen? How could I let this happen?

I woke up at 3:15 to a nightmare of not even being able to begin the swim at Lake Placid. I was oddly not feeling anxious about the race the day before, but I guess the nightmare which woke me up would suggest otherwise! Being unable to fall back asleep, I hung out in bed until my alarm went off. Time to get ready! Quassy is neat in that instead of body markers at the beginning, everyone gets removable tattoo numbers that they apply. I’m not going to lie, I think it was badass 😛 When we checked in, the receptionist said to another person that they were having an early cold breakfast starting at 4am, and i was starving when I woke up, so I ventured down stairs and not knowing where breakfast was, asked the receptionist. She then pointed to a table and said, ” We have granola bars and fruit for sale, and complimentary coffee.”

I looked over at the table, with the $2 granola bars and $2 pieces of fruit. Are you kidding me?What am I going to eat for breakfast? I NEED BREAKFAST!!!!! I returned to the room and stated, “Kevin, we need to find a Dunkin Donuts. There is no breakfast here!”

Lesson #2: Never assume a “cold breakfast” means actual food. In fact, just pack supplies for breakfast (which is actually what I usually do. Do not know why I did not do it today.

We were able to find a DD’s (Hallelujah!) And I shoved a raisin bagel with cream cheese down my throat on our way to the race.

The Swim

As with may triathlon starts, there is a lot of waiting. I made sure my transition area was all set, got into the wetsuit, and then it was time to head to the start. There was a small warm up area for people to go and I acclimated myself to the water (which was 66 degrees and it felt much warmer being in the water than in the 48 degree air temperature). I did learn something about warm up areas for races though. Well, I did not learn it per say, but it is a theory of mine. If you are waiting for the swim start and see a bunch of people waist deep in the water, just looking out, I am 99% sure that they are peeing. No joke. I guarantee you that is what people are doing. If you are a triathlete who has never peed in their wetsuit in the water, I want to know your name. Because (almost) everyone does it. I realized this when I was walking into the water and thought, Man, I am going to dunk my head in an area filled with the urine of hundreds of athletes. Maybe that is why the water was so warm?

My swim wave.

My swim wave.

😛

Anyway, I was oddly at ease waiting for the swim to start. Today was not a race for me. It was just a long training day, to see how my training for LP is going. After about 45 minutes of waiting and shivering, our swim wave started and the 1.2 mile swim began. It was a mass start, but I was able to find the outside and just get my groove on. It was slightly hard to sight the bouys because they were directly in the sun, but I didn’t mind, since we swam with them to our right and in OWS I tend to only breathe on my right. I swam then did short breast stroke breaks. Before I knew it, I was clumsily running out of the water. I looked down at my watch and saw 43:00. Holy crap. I could not believe that I swam that distance in that amount of time (the last half IM I did was in 55 minutes). I was ecstatic. I know if I didn’t take those breast stroke breaks the time would be even faster!

This is my

This is my “ehh how am I going to get the wetsuit off?” look

I ran to transition to get my bike and take my wetsuit off. Of course, the last time I wore a wetsuit someone helped strip it off. So, I wasted about 5 minutes trying to get it off. But then I was off on the bike!

Lesson #3: Practice taking wetsuit off

The Bike

Locked, loaded and heading out on the bike

Locked, loaded and heading out on the bike

Ohh, the bike. I knew going into this race that the bike course was hard. My goal was to keep plugging along, stick with my nutrition plan, and getter done. The bike course is really quite beautiful, and a lot is shaded which is nice. The thing with the Quassy bike course is that there is almost no flat. You are either climbing, or descending. I guess in a sense that is nice, because on the descents you can get “free speed” and recover. But the hills are relentless and there is 3,996 ft of elevation gain in the 56 miles. Now, this is nothing I have not seen before; Dutchess county has terrain just like that of where the course is. Heck, the sprint duathlons I have done all include some sort of hills. The Patriot Half last year was flat as a pancake. Quite a different course. I found my training in the Catskills definitely helped with my climbing, and I found I was able to pass people on the climbs (and then they would zip past me on the descents).

Elevation of the bike

Elevation of the bike

People often wonder what you think about on the bike. I am pretty sure the same thoughts circled in my head. Keep going, this is really a lot like D.Co….Are the hills done….?Ouu, nice house. 

By mile 40 I was ready to be off the bike, mostly because triathlon shorts have no padding whatsoever and my butt hurt like the dickens. I will most definitely be wearing cycling shorts for IMLP. My legs were ready to be running. There were plenty of aid stations along the bike course which was nice. I did stop once for a pit stop (I have mastered peeing in the water, but not on the bike.) Towards the end of the course I was getting a bit fatigued, and the last portion parallels some of the run course. At this point I was slow enough to have a bit of a conversation with a runner.

“Hey, nice bike I have the exact same one.”

“Yeah? It’s great, isn’t it?”

“Yea, you are looking great. You look super fast on it!”

“Thanks!”

“You just need white shoes now!”

“Haha, keep up the strong run!”

It is funny how little comments like that can really give you that extra energy to keep you going.

Run

I made the dismount with my legs wanting to run. Kevin was there and shouted out some words of encouragement (how I love that man!). I probably could have saved some time on the transition, because I decided to run back to my bike to put more sun tan lotion on, but oh well. The run is similar to the bike: it is hilly. In retrospect, I do not think I have ever run such a hilly half marathon course. It was great though, a nice combination of dirt roads and paved. And, most importantly, there was a ton of shade! I took it easy and did not push myself. I thought about running and training. I questioned whether or not I will be able to finish IMLP, because this course is only half of that.

Heading out for the run

Heading out for the run

 People say the run tests you physically, mentally, and emotionally. And they were not kidding. There is over 900 feet of elevation gain on the course. Towards the beginning of the run, I decided to break it up into chunks of 6 hours. By mile six I thought, “Okay, only three more to go.” And then I realized, wait, this is not a marathon, it is a HALF marathon! Only one more to go! Mile 9 to the finish are tough. Like, “Are you f-cking kidding me? Another steep hill?” tough. Yes, there were downhills, but at mile 9 there is a 7-9% incline you have to run up, and they have the same type of incline at mile 12. You know that you are going to be running up that hill at mile 12, because you run down it. (Actually, there is a similar out and back on the bike where you go down and then have to turn around and go back up). just keep moving along. Almost at the top of the hill, I spotted Kevin on his bike. It was a sight that made me so happy.
Run

Run

“Kevin, this course is no joke.”

“I know, that’s what they say.”

He rode next to me for a couple hundred feet until I turned into the park and headed down the finish chute. Well, I first ran past the finisher chute when people yelled, “wrong way! It’s down that!” Ooops. So, after I turned to head towards where I was supposed to be running, I finished!

As I crossed the finish it dawned on me that exactly three months and one day ago I had my surgery, and missed the whole month of March. Which means, I was back training for this beginning in April (so, two months). I remember first getting back into training wondering if I would be able to finish this race, this “Beast of the Northeast.”

And I did.

Not only did I finish, I had a PR 1.2 mile swim, and only finish the whole race 9 minutes slower than my first half IM last year, which was the total opposite of this race in terms of difficulty.

Right at the finish I met Kevin and gave him a huge, sweaty, salty, sun-tan lotion drenched hug.

“I did it! I finished!”

“You did awesome, Molly.”

Selfie!

Smile, Kevin!

Last week being sick, and reading about how hard the race was, I had some self doubt about being able to finish this. But, it goes to show what you can do with will power.No, it wasn’t a course record, nor am I as fast as other people, but I’m pretty happy with my time on such a difficult course. Excluding the nightmare, treating the race as “just a long training day” helped tremendously in that I felt almost no pre-race anxiety. I went in knowing what I had to do, like other training days, and just went in and did it. There is still work I need to do before IMLP, but I’m pumped and ready to train!

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Race day memento

Race day memento

The end.

🙂

Above all, challenge yourself. You may well surprise yourself at what strengths you have, and what you can accomplish.

-Cecil Springer

T-4 Days (Or is it 3?) to Quassy

I figured I would try to write a quick post before heading to work, as I consume “sore throat lozenges” like the are candy, pop vitamin C drops one after another, and guzzle water like it is the last water left on earth.*

My newfound love: homemade machta iced tea lattes. The BEST!

My newfound love: homemade machta iced tea lattes. The BEST!

Yeah, I know, the last thing any athlete wants is to be sick when counting down the days to a race. Especially a half Ironman.

I guess it is a good thing that since the race is Sunday, that means this week I’ve been taking it easy (and by “take it easy” I mean “do no physical exercise whatsoever”). I need this cold to be gone, baby, gone in a couple days and will do what it takes to get there.

Mmmm post workout pick-me-up

Mmmm post workout pick-me-up

It seems with taking a summer course, starting a new job, and training for an ironman has made life a little bit more busy than before– I’m not complaining! It’s all about time management, right? So today looks like the best day to do a quick update on training.

Last week ended on a better note emotionally than the week before. I was able to put in another 2.4 mile swim at the pool, and did my first couple OWSs of the season (I always find my first OWS similar to the first outdoor ride of the season: a bit disheartening, but that is because I am not used to it). I ordered one of those swim safety buoys to help with my fears of swimming alone, so that (once this cold goes away) I can dedicate some more time getting used to swimming outside again. I mean, swimming is completely different outside than inside, no doubt about it– especially on a windy day! My challenge is getting to the same speed I am in the pool, somewhat soon. Over the weekend I was blessed to have a day at the lake, where I swam and my man and younger sister kayaked. (My man is pretty darn amazing at documenting things, too, might I add).

First OWS-- gotta love smacking yourself in the jaw when trying to put on a wetsuit...

First OWS– gotta love smacking yourself in the jaw when trying to put on a wetsuit…

Action shot

Action shot

Weekend fun!

Weekend fun! (I was looking at fish)

This should help with OWSs, right?!?

This should help with OWSs, right?!?

On Thursday I set forth to do ride 100 miles. It was my goal to ride 90-100 the weekend before, but that fell through. I do not think I wanted to do it to get the miles in, I wanted to do it for psychological reasons (remember how I’ve said a lot of IMLP is psychological as well as physical?). I wanted to prove to myself that I could complete a century. Most other people I know who have done centuries have done organized long rides, and I realized that, yes, it might be nice to be in a group of people doing a long ride with support, as it is a long time to be riding by yourself. But, I completed it! The route I did may not have the elevation gain of the IMLP course, but I was able to complete it and still have energy at the end. You realize on long rides that your rear is not the only thing that begins to hurt after 6 hours of riding. I started noticing a lot of other body parts that began to make their presence known. I also realized a lot of self organization goes into long bike rides, especially if you do not know what services are like along the route. (Thank goodness on race day there will be aid stations!). Another realization I had, or rather, lesson learned, was to check the condition of your face before you walk into a gas station/restaurant/whatever it is that may have other people. I know I have said this before, but I still don’t take my advice and look at myself in a mirror before I enter public places. And I should, I really should. At Margretteville (my “turn around” on my ride at mile 50) I decided to do a quick pit stop and bought gatorade. The lady at the register was very nice to me when I asked where the rest rooms were. Only once I was looking in a mirror that I noticed I had chocolate all around my mouth– as if I was licking chocolate batter off a spoon. (I had eaten a chocolate Clif Bar en route!!) That, plus some streams of sun block down my cheeks and a bunch of small dead flies pasted to my forehead was not a pretty site. No wonder no one else at teh station said hello to me when I greeted them. Smacking my forehead. 

IMG_7284

Starting a century at 5:45am means you pass the Ashokan Reservoir when everything is still.

Starting a century at 5:45am means you pass the Ashokan Reservoir when everything is still and calm.

Post- century meal. You know me and my sandwiches/wraps/etc

Post- century meal. You know me and the soft spot in my heart for sandwiches.

Anyway, that was a big accomplishment. Mentally, I know now that I should be able to complete the IMLP bike portion. And that self confidence goes a long way.

I know I have paid little attention to the Quassy Half. Well, that is because I have. Training has been geared towards Lake Placid. I could not help but notice that discussion forums regarding the Quassy Half have boomed over the last couple of days, and I knew going into the race that it would be difficult. But I do not think I am really as prepared as I think I am for said difficulty of the course. One person asked the question if Quassy was really as difficult as people say it is. My favorite (and perhaps the most terrifying) response was: “You are f-cked. Gun ammo and rocket fuel for breakfast!”

Ohh gotta love knowing “you are f-cked” before you even start a race. However, on a good note, most people who have completed both Quassy and IMLP say they would much rather do the full IMLP bike course than the Quassy bike course. Should I be worried? Well, at this point, I am slightly concerned. But, i will be treating it as a long training day. And as of right now, I am trying to contain this cold, so there will be no last minute, long training rides before the race.

I guess we all will see how Quassy goes next week, when it is over!!

Last Week in Numbers

Running 3:30 (20mi)

Biking 7:36 (115.6mi)

Swimming 2:45 (3.8)

Total: 14hrs (139.4miles)

*I did not finish this post before work, nor did I really pop the lozenges like candy. But you get the drift.

A Newly- Turned 29 Year Old’s Thoughts on Training and Life

I’ve been meaning to write a blog post for awhile now, and figured today would be the day. The next couple of weeks will be slightly busier than before: starting a new job, taking a summer course, and then ofcourse the training for IMLP and Quassy. Between the last post and this one, I managed to turn one year older (gasp!); the last year being in my 20’s. It is actually a bit crazy to think that I started this blog back when I was merely a 24 1/2 year old. Seems like yesterday, and yet it seems like an eternity ago. Gone are the days of last-minute-sans-training marathons and races….

After a recovery week (which was very nice with less than 6 hrs of training) I finished up last week’s of training with gusto. Actually, I felt a bit discouraged after my bike ride/brick yesterday. It being a long weekend, I really wanted to complete a century. I mean, if other people were up at Lake Placid doing 100 mile rides, why couldn’t I? Not even half way through the ride, I lost momentum.Those thoughts of the training I have not done began to creep up and doubts of finishing this ironman erupted. I realized it was tough riding alone and all of a sudden I felt I was slower than other rides. I decided to turn around and stop after 80 miles. This is too difficult. I’ll never finish. If i cannot even complete 100 miles now I am doomed. Don’t get me wrong– I completed an even longer ride last Monday, which did not seem nearly as difficult as yesterdays ride, despite, in fact, being a tougher ride.

This morning I had the chance to speak with a great friend about my fears: that I will not finish the bike portion in time, that I have not been following my training plan to a “T,” that I have not been putting enough miles on the bike compared to others, that, that, that….

She reminded me to trust what I have done and what training really is about: conditioning the body to accept the punishment it will be getting on race day. It’s about building up what my body can handle. Furthermore, that my body will gladly accept it and perform for me. She reminded me I’ve been missing one key element during my training: adrenaline. That pre-race/mid race excitement that only occurs on race day and always seems to help me push forward, focus, and see what I am made of. And this is all true: there is nothing like the feeling you have on race day, especially with triathlons, since they are new types of races for me.

In retrospect, last week I put in more training in one week than I ever have before. I completed my first full IM distance swim, and completed the longest ride I’ve ever done. I’ve found when I listen to my body, I can indeed go further and farther. It’s funny how training for an ironman puts the lengths of rides and runs into a different perspective. I remember last year when I was training for the Patriot Half I thought anything under 30 miles on the bike was an easy day, or anything under an 8 mile run was short. A year later? Most of my runs are at least 10 miles, and rides under 50 are considered a “short spin.”

Today is a complete rest day– I am not doing any-thing. (I am not one of those people who must train 7 days a week– I value my rest days!!) And after last week, I am okay with it. I may not follow my coach’s plan to a “T,” but I always end up completing the total number of miles that were meant to be completed by the end of the week. I need to remind myself not to compare my training to the training of other people– everyone is different, with different physiological make-ups and commitments. I need to focus on what I have done thus far, and what I will continue to do to prepare for IMLP, so that I will be able to finish it. (Which is in 9 weeks, not that I am counting or anything :-O )

Huge important note to self: chamois cream is your friend.I guess you learn things the hard way….

Pictures from the last couple weeks (because pictures speak louder than words)

Training-related

My longest training ride last week, including getting lost with more climbing than planned...

My longest training ride last week, including getting lost with the longest climb I’ve done on a bike

IMG_7178

One of my favorite roads to climb is through Peekamoose in the Catskills, along which are a plethora of waterfalls. It’s simply gorgeous.

Note: the name of any road that includes

Note: the name of any road that includes “Hill” really does include a hill. (This is where a map or working internet connection may have been useful)

Destination ride

Rondout reservoir in Catskill Park

Post- 80 mile ride t-run (yes I am not the best selfie taker by any means)

Post- 80 mile ride t-run (yes I am not the best selfie taker by any means)

How I feel after a long training day...

How I feel after a long training day…

Foodie photos

(cause we all know I’m like a pregnant woman with the munchies)

Yummy meals!

Yummy meals!

...And more food!

…And more food!

The best raw-vegan cake I've made (Happy Birthday to me)--it is hard to believe it is actually healthy for you!

The best raw-vegan cake I’ve made (Happy Birthday to me)–it is hard to believe it is actually healthy for you!

My new addiction: water with mint and cucumber (and, I don't even like cucumber!)

My new addiction: water with mint and cucumber (and, I don’t even like cucumber!)

Non-Training

Good times with good friends

Good times with good friends

Wedding time! My man and I

Wedding time! My man and I

I love this guy.

I love this guy.

My beautiful cousin <3

My beautiful cousin ❤

Last Week’s Training Totals:

Running: 29miles

Swimming: 3.07miles

Biking: 164 miles 

= 19hrs 25 min 

The Internet and Ironman training, and a Pregnant Woman with Munchies

Social media has without a doubt helped give me encouragement and motivation on my “road to IMLP.” I belong to a couple different discussion groups for the race, and reading that others share my own fears regarding the race is reassuring.

However, knowing the amount of training some people are doing at this time, the training camps they are going to, meet-ups at race locations to run/bike/swim together also leave me with some feelings of doubt and concern. Do I have to go to the race destinations and pre-ride the courses in order to be able to finish the races–look at all these people who are doing just that!Are training camps really significant in how well you do in a race? Holy cow, people are spending 16hrs a week training already?!?

Etc, etc.

I found myself up at around one am this morning thinking about race day nutrition. Instead of tossing and turning, I decided to google “ironman nutrition” and found myself browsing a slew of people’s IM distance training blogs. I find these fascinating–and informative– to know what has worked for people and what has not.

After reading these blogs and peoples journeys to completing ironmans, I found myself reassured after doubts had creeped up from the discussion boards. Thousands of people– ordinary people– have finished ironmans with training, and without having to attend these specific race-related training camps. Heck, when I think about it, there are athletes who live across the country, and I highly doubt they will be flying to Lake Placid for a weekend of riding on the course, right? If these people have been able to complete and ironman, then so can I.

My own Training

Last week was supposed to be a recovery week for me, but since I have a wedding to attend to this upcoming weekend, I decided to switch some things around so I can enjoy this upcoming weekend and not miss too many training days. It dawned on me the other day that training is becoming (1) more intense and (2) longer. Once upon a time I used to think swimming 2400 yards was a lot; that thirty miles was a long distance; and running over an hour was a lengthy run. Now, my views of riding/running and swimming have definintly changed. My long rides now are 5+ hours, with t-runs that are over 8 miles. Swims are 2400 yards upwards (today I have a 3900 yard swim planned!! That is over 2.2 miles of swimming). Only in ironman training can include a 18 mile run, and the week still be considered a “recovery week.”

Trail run!

Trail run!

The most daunting discipling, thus far I would say, are the long bike rides, since I do them by myself. In order to keep myself from really “freaking out” about the distance of the rides, I’ve decided to make my long ride/t-runs into little “day trips on the bike.” It sounds less scary that way, right? Last week I did my 72mile long ride and decided for it to be a little tour of the Shwangunks and Catskills (alright, if you are unfamiliar with the area, basically, it had a lot of climbing to go over one “mountain” range, then descend into the valley, and go up into another “mountain range” although they are really just hills.) It was tough riding, but knowing it was my “touristy day” helped a lot! (I stopped a couple times to snap some photos– I know this will not happen on race day, but hey, it is what helped me.)

At the end of the week, I realized I put in over 115miles on my bike. That is the most I’ve done in a week in over a year. It seems like a lot of miles, but in reality, that distance is only three miles more than the “long ride” I will be doing on race day.

IMG_7056

Puts a little perspective into the length of an ironman, right?

Anywho, I’ve been putting a lot of emphasis on nutrition on rides/ runs since that has been a weakness of mine in the past. I remember attempting my first HIM distance race without ever really training with nutrition. On the ride (which caused a DNF) this engine lost all fuel and was running on empty. Attempting to refuel with one power bar after a 1.2 mile swim and 40 miles on the bike was no way to get the engine to want to work any harder. Not finishing that race had a lasting impact on me, and I vow for that not to ever happen again.

I’ve read a lot on nutrition with training (this should be a separate post) and from what I’ve read, there seems to be two trains of thought on nutrition during the ironman: those who use liquid nutrition, and those who use solids. Since I am by no means trying to qualify for Kona, I’m sticking with the solid foods for now, and it seems to be working. It’s taken practice to remember to make sure and eat something every 45minutes while riding, and make sure I drink as well (but not to over hydrate!) Nutrition is a balancing act, and I think I am getting there!

Bonk Breakers

Bonk Breakers

On the topic of nutrition, I have realized as training volume/intensity has increased, I have become like a pregnant woman with the munchies. Not that I know what it is like to either be pregnant, or have the munchies. But I am continuously eating, and go through certain craving periods.  Currently, I cannot get enough smoothie bowls or CLAT sandwiches (swiss cheese/lettuce/avocado/tomato). Now that I think about it, any type of sandwich sounds incredibly appealing. With numerous workouts a day, my energy expenditure is ever increasing, requiring proper food replenishment. It’s been quite fun, actually, testing out new recipes. The day after my long training day last week while I was at work, I could not seem to stop wanting to eat. A co-worker joked, “Molly, are you pregnant?” And to that I replied, whilst digging into the french fries she offered, “Nope, I’m just in training.”

IMG_6801

Smokey BBQ chickpeas= da BOMB!

Mmmmmm smoothie bowls

Mmmmmm smoothie bowls

IMG_7023

No, I have no addiction to this cereal....

No, I have no addiction to this cereal….It was on sale, so I *had* to stock up…

Ofcourse, after discussing sandwiches, this girl needs to go make one right now.

A look at last weeks training time:

Swimming: 1:12hr

Biking: 7:46hr

Running: 2:24hr

Total time: approx. 11.5 hrs

5 Weeks to Quassy Half

I remember the morning that Kevin and I drove to MA for the Patriot Half Ironman last year pre-race jitters and nerves had consumed my body and I stated, “I just need to finish this, and I never have to do another one of these again.”

Fast forward eleven months and here I am counting down the weeks to my next 70.3 triathlon. The pre-race nerves have not hit yet, but I have no doubts that they will return a couple days before the race. They always do. If there is any athlete out there who has no pre-race anxiety whatsoever, lead him/her to me so I can learn their secret.

I’ve read, and heard, many things regarding the Quassy triathlon, with one common opinion: it. is. hard.

I must admit, I chose the Patriot Half because I knew it was flat. For me, flat equalled easy, and flat equalled something I could finish. In reality, even flat courses are difficult; having your body endure a race that lasts longer than 70 miles is not a walk in the park.

This race coming up in a little over a month however, is the opposite of the Patriot Half. I have heard that it is hilly. I have heard it is difficult. I’ve heard it is one of the more difficult half ironman distance races in the US.

Does that scare me?

I’ve decided to turn feeling “scared” into feeling “challenged.” It will be a challenging race for sure, but one that I am looking forward to in seeing how my training for IMLP is going.

Last week, I completed the longest brick thus far: a 40 mile bike ride and then a 8 mile run after. Long story short, it was a horrible training day. Even though I fueled well, I felt weak. I felt tired. Riding my road bike brings such discomfort that it is hard to muster any energy to pedal because of the pain I have in my shoulders. I was supposed to ride 60 miles, but gave up after 40. I couldn’t even keep up a 13.5mph speed. Throughout the run after I kept thinking, “How am I possibly going to finish a race in a few weeks when I am in such discomfort after only riding 40 miles? Maybe I should just quit all together. There is no way I will be able to ride 112 miles. Too much training lost from my stupid appendix. It’s just a waste of time trying.” Negative thoughts began, and we all know those are evil and to where they lead.

A week later I had a 70mile ride scheduled and then a long run after. I decided to take my triathlon bike out and test it on hills and real roads (not just a rail trail). There was a decent amount of climbs and descents, which is what I wanted, so that i could become more comfortable with my tri-bike handling skills. Let me just say, I finished the ride and felt good for the first time off the bike in who knows how long. Yes, there is a certain discomfort you have when riding a tri bike, but I had no vision-changing, piercing pain that slowed me down on my rides on my road bike.

Not a bad place to learn how to ride your Cervelo.

Not a bad place to learn how to ride your Cervelo.

I made sure to fuel well and hydrate.

Nothing like the pre-ride PB&J

Nothing like the pre-ride PB&J

Wrappers I emptied from the pockets of my jersey...

Wrappers I emptied from the pockets of my jersey…

I learned that taking pictures while riding a tri bike is extremely difficult to do.

I had no idea I was taking a picture here....

I had no idea I was taking a picture here….And I think it is quite funny. Hello nostrils! 😛

For the first time in who knows how long, I enjoyed it. Yes, there were a couple instances where I feared for my life, and I did have to stop for about 10 minutes in order to talk myself into continuing down a extremely scary road (and I am sure, not the safest hill to ride down, especially if it is your first time riding your triathlon bike near cars.) But, I survived. And I managed to average a faster pace than on my road bike. (I am still far from those 20+mph cyclists out there.)

https://www.strava.com/activities/294951653/embed/cf5d6e93f128483049d613530e1f4da444520dcb

Not only did I survive a road, I figured how to take a picture without falling off!

Not only did I survive a road, I figured how to take a picture without falling off! (Don’t judge the backpack–it is a second skin now)

At the end of the ride and run I thought to myself, “Man, that was a challenge which I survived; I think I’ll be able to finish Quassy!”

It is amazing how positive thinking can evoke such excitement for the rest of my training. Yes, rides will be longer, runs will be tougher, and swims will be exhausting. But anything is possible when you believe in yourself, right?

100 Days to Ironman Lake Placid

100 days– that may seem like a long time for a lot of people. But truth is, it isn’t. If time continues to fly by as it has been recently, it will be here before I know it.

After about a month and a half of my forced R&R (post appendectomy) I have been able to get back into the grove of training, and I have found returning to training mentally and physically exhausting. The weather is finally nice enough to bike outside again (yay!) but on my most recent ride, I found myself feeling extremely discouraged and doubting my abilities to finish the bike leg before cutoff time at Lake Placid.  Knowing all the training I missed adds to the self doubt of completing an event of this caliber. I won’t go into detail about the actual number of training sessions I missed, but I’ve felt that since I missed a bunch of training, I will not be able to finish.

I know I should not be so hard on myself– my body is still on the mend and I just returned to training a couple weeks ago–but the fears of not finishing are very real. I have been told the first outdoor rides of the season tend to be the most difficult– due to the amount of clothing you are wearing and the difference between riding on outdoor terrain vs on a trainer. But those excuses do not nearly change the fears I have about missing the bike cut-off time. I’ve already had dreams about messing something up during the race. For example, in one dream, I felt really confident and strong getting off the bike and heading out to the run, when I realized I still had another lap on the bike to complete! I also had a dream where I had a seizure right during the beginning of the swim portion and kept sinking further from the surface of the water. I know other people have had their own ironman nightmares, but the ones I’ve had seem so real!

Over the past day or so, I have tried not to focus on all the training I have missed, nor how slow I was on my bike ride the other day. I decided from now on, to train like I would race: to put the same mental and physical energy into my training sessions as I would during a race. In the past, during races, I’ve tried to be positive and optimistic; rarely were there times when I told myself, “Man, you suck at racing. You should quit now.” There are plenty of times when I have questioned why I decided to do a certain race (actually, I feel like I think of that during every race haha), but that is not negative. Anyway, I’m going to put more effort into the remaining training that I have; not like I was a slacker before the surgery. But now it is different. I want to tell those voices in my head which told me I would never be able to finish this ironman–that I am too slow or too out of shape–that I can finish it, despite missing 6 weeks of training.

During the next 100 days (and 51 days, for the Quassy Half) I’m going to try and change the negative and fearful thinking into positive. I mean, if other people can finish one, why can’t I?

This week’s training (thus far– I plan on attempting a half marathon on Sunday–gulp)

Monday: 40mile bike ride

Tuesday: AM Brick: 14mile “speed” workout on the new tri bike (first time outside on the bike!)+ 5mile run, then in PM 1500 yard speed swim

Surprisingly I did not crash

Surprisingly I did not crash

Wednesday: rest

Today: my first mountain bike ride since November (a fun and challenging “spin”) and 2500 yard swim

IMG_6833

Tomorrow (plan): AM run before work

Saturday: fun day with my man (possible bike ride? hike? we shall see)

Sunday: Half marathon (+3miles for a total of 15miles)

….And, we all know triathletes have huge appetites, so here are  some pictures of food items to which I am currently addicted:

I don't have a problem with Luna bars....

Luna Bars (they are sooo good!)

...or greek yogurt....

And greek yogurt (this picture shows half the number of containers I bought during that shopping trip)

My new favorite special treat...If you like PB and chocolate, this is for you!

I consumed one box in a day (okay, that might have been a bit much)– they are sooo tasty and a great treat if you are craving chocolate….

My favorite post-workout snack: protein smoothie bowls! Delish!

My favorite post-workout snack: protein smoothie bowls! Delish!

If you are a triathlete, how have you been able to deal with self doubt regarding a long distance triathlon?

LP Training Realizations from Last Week

The other day I saw my name on the list of registrants for Lake Placid and it dawned on me “man, I’m really doing this.” I know, I know, I’ve been training for LP, but seeing my name on the official IMLP’s website made it real. Last week was somewhat exhausting, not from training, but from life. Work has been insane. I’ve realized that sixteen hour shifts followed by twelve hour shifts completely drain the life out of me and leave me physically exhausted, making training difficult. But, despite the exhaustion, I was able to muster up the energy to complete the workouts of my “rest week.”

A couple of realizations from last week:

1) Once upon a time I thought brick workouts were created by the devil. Truthfully, I didn’t do as many brick workouts last year in prep for the Patriot Half as I really should have (seriously, why run 9 miles after a 50 miler road ride?). Training for Lake Placid has changed my idea of training. This bricks are vital for the race. Two or three of my trainer workouts are followed by a run of somesort. My legs used to HATE running after biking. Now, they are used to it. Crazy how your  body becomes accostumed to certain activities.

2) Strength training has an important role in triathlon training. I always used to think that running, swimming, and biking was enough to prepare for a triathlon. I never knew the importance, however, of adding strength training to your program. My coach has me do two core sessions (ab exercises) and one to two leg strengthening sessions. A strong core and strong legs really do assist you when you are swimming, running, and biking. In fact, just today I was able to complete a run on a hilly route that in the past I have had to stop and walk up some of the hills. Strength training has given me power– allowing me to  me to have that little extra umph when exercising. I never thought I would actually agree with my coach when she said strength training pays out in the end.

3) Training for this race requires someone with self discipline and will power. It’s tough waking up early to get a workout in before work, especially knowing you will be on your feet for 12-16hrs with few breaks. You only hate yourself for waking up early for the first 15-20minutes. Later on in the day, you are thankful you got up to do it.

4) I seem to be hungry a lot. And snack often–not sure if that is good or bad. I have gone through luna bars like they are candy (they taste like candy!) and decided to save some money and make my own protein bars. They were a hit with people I work with. And I have added to my greek yogurt addiction with discovering powdered peanut butter. Oh my goodness. YUM. I never ate greek yogurt, or any yogurt really, until I was sick in january and it was the only thing I could eat. Now, if I don’t have it on a daily basis, I get moody. (Okay maybe I should cut back a little on how often I consume it…)

No, of course I do not have a problem with too much greek yogurt...

Problem? What greek yogurt problem?

5)I never thought a “Rest week” like mine last week would include a 13 miler and three brick workouts.

6)I feel the amount of training per week increasing significantly. I cannot imagine putting all this effort into training for something you really don’t want to do. Some people have equated training for an ironman as a part time job. Looking at this weeks workouts, I now know why they would say such a thing. Workouts are no joke, and I cannot remember, or don’t think I have ever, trained 10-11 hrs in a week. Thank goodness I enjoy it.

What are some things you have realized when training for a long distance race?

A sneak peak at this week’s plan (will probably change around a little):

Monday:60min spin pre-work

Tuesday: speed work (run)/core strength + 3500 yd swim

Wed: Long trainer/t-5mile run

Thursday: 60min spin+ leg strength/core pre-work 

Friday: 9 miler +2800 yrd swim

Sat:Trainer/t-4mile run

Sun: rest (or 10 mile road race instead of fridays long run)

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