Lessons from a Stranger

Have you ever met someone who instantly knew who you are as a person, and changed the way you think about life? A couple months ago I had the chance to spend 24 hours with a man who changed not only the way I think about triathlons, but about life.

As much as you  might find me complaining about being a bedside nurse, this profession has lead me to meet some incredible individuals. I had the opportunity to be Mr. X’s nurse, an incredibly talented athlete whom fascinated me. I’ve met other athletes and triathletes, have had coaches, etc., but have never learnt so much about myself, about racing and training in under twenty-four hours. Well, perhaps in the back of my mind I knew some of the things he told me, but I’ve never had anyone tell them to me to my face. He gave me tips, hints, and advice that I would end up using for the last three races of the season.

Numerous times, he suggested I read Golf is Not a Game of Perfect; he said it was a “game changer” and should be read by everyone– not only athletes.  I went to a local library and glanced at it. Sure enough, it was about golf. You probably have the same thought as I did when I first took a peek at the book: I am not a golfer. I do not know anything about golf. High handicapper? Have no idea what that means. The only thing I know about golf is that golf carts are fun to drive (hah). I decided to rent it because, what the heck, and realized that Mr. X was correct:the psychology in the book can be applied to other aspects of life and other sports.

So I thought I would share some things that I learned both from those twenty-four hours, and take away messages from the book.

  1.  I remember Mr. X stating, “You are an anxious racer, aren’t you?” after just twenty minutes talking to him. When he said that, I felt like he could see into my soul :-p Being an anxious racer was brought to my attention back in June in Tupper Lake when someone else mentioned it to me. Yes, I am an anxious racer. I stress over everything. I stress over the appearances of other people in the race (and compare myself to them). Stress leads to doubts about my abilities. A certain amount of excitement and adrenalin is good in a race. But when doubt replaces trust, you are screwed. A [triathlete] must train herself in physical technique and then learn to trust what she’s trained. You spend hours during the week training for the big day, and you have to learn to trust yourself and all the hard effort you have put into preparing for the event. I’ve found I doubt my training and capabilities, ultimately leading to feelings of anxiety.
  2. This leads to the next point from the book: People by and large become what they think about themselves and Confidence is crucial [to a good game]…Confidence is simply the aggregate of the thoughts you have about yourself. If you don’t think you can do well in a race, you won’t do well. You “psych yourself out.” If you think you can win, you can win. Go to a race with confidence. “Don’t stray to the back of the pack. Push yourself. When you get to the race, think, ‘I’m going to own this motherf-ing course, and no one can stop me.’ Believe in yourself and start at the front. You are there to dominate.'” A little intimidating? Maybe. But I’ve become one of those people who starts at the front of the pack.
  3. [Athletes] who realize their potential generally cultivate the three D’s– desire, determination and discipline; the three P’s– persistence, patience and practice; and the three C’s– confidence, concentration and composure. I found it incredibly interesting to hear about Mr. X’s training routine when he trained for 140.3 races and other triathlons. He had three workout sessions a day, 6 days a week. It was not just the number of hours he put into his training, but he went into training sessions with a focus. “What is your plan today? What is your focus? Every training session should have a focus– whether it is a speed session on the track, power work on the trainer, or drills in the pool. Never go into a session without a plan….Train like you race. If you aren’t seeing stars at the end of a swim workout, you did not swim hard enough.” When training for my first two 70.3 distance triathlons, as well as IMLP, I put the training in “to log in the hours.” I didn’t focus on speed in the pool. I didn’t focus on speed on the track. I did workouts without any thought to it. When I was injured and started training for Aquabikes last March, my mindset regarding training changed, and meeting Mr. X emphasized that new mindset: train like you race. If you don’t train like you race, how will you perform on race day? If you don’t practice your transitions, how will you do no race day? “Don’t be that person who will not ride in the heat or the cold. Train in the elements. Know what it is like to push hard in the humidity or in the hail. Know what your body will do. Practice changing tires. Sit in front of the TV and change them over and over and over again until you can change a flat in under 60 seconds. When you are out on the bike course, concentrate on the road. Know the course. Never go into a race not knowing what to expect.”
  4. A golfer cannot let the first few holes, shots, or putts determine his thinking for the rest of the round. Okay, so how does this relate to triathlons? Triathlons are more complicated than a running race or swim competition: there are more elements involved, meaning there are more opportunities for problems and potential obstacles. I can give you a perfect example with my most recent race: the swim start was one of my most horrible swim starts ever. It was windy and extremely choppy, and I was unprepared for the choppiness. I felt confident when I first started but then found myself swallowing gulp after gulp of lake water, choking and coughing. I hated the swim start. It was not going the “way I wanted”. I freaked out and had to swim breaststroke for the first couple hundred yards to help gain composure, which means I was not swimming as fast as I had hoped. I could have just given up on the race then, and a part of me thought, “F- this.” But, another thought crept in, “no, don’t let this bad swim start ruin the whole race.”  Instead of dwelling on the negative, I accepted that the swim was not what I planned, and continued with the race….Golfers must learn to love the challenge when they hit a ball into the rough, trees, or sand. The alternatives–anger, fear, whining…do no good.
  5. Attitude and self-talk can make or break an athlete. I would say that I am probably one of the greatest negative self-talkers of all time. Unfortunetly, thinking negatively about myself has become such a habit after all these years, to actually have positive self-talk is rare (sad, I know). This negative self-talk does a triathlete no good during race day. Imagine being at the start of a race and thinking, “you suck, you are not going to do well, why do you even do this?” Fortunately, on race day, I’ve actually been able to change my negative self-talk into some positive self “pep-talk”–and I think those positive thoughts have changed the person I am. [Athletes] with great attitudes constantly monitor their thinking and catch themselves as soon as it begins to falter. It would be so much easier for me to tell myself that I am a horrible triathlete, that I cannot place, that the other women look like “true, slim and strong athletes.” And in the past, those thoughts have crept up in my head, like at the beginning of Tupper Lake. Now, if I start to have those questioning thoughts, I try to change them and rephrase them. I am *just* as good of an athlete as those other women out there.
  6. Which leads me to another lesson: If a [triathlete] chooses to compete, he must choose to believe that he can win. Winners and losers in life are completely self-determined, but only the winners are willing to admit it. It is highly unlikely that you are going to win a race if you don’t believe that you can win it. If you believe in yourself, anything is possible.
  7. Another thing: fear. I learned that fear is completely normal in an athlete. Personally, I have a fear of failure and of another DNF in my life. That one DNF left such an imprint on my life that I fear it happening again. I know in reality there are possibilities of future DNFs that are outside my control. Heck, the professionals have DNFs and DNS’s, so why can’t us “common athletes” have them? But you need to overcome that fear and not let it consume you. Courage is a necessary quality in all champions. But an athlete cannot be courageous without first being afraid. 
  8. (Okay, so this does not come from the book, but after recent news, I thought it  to be an important subject to bring up). You are not a product of your coach. You are a product of your own hard work and dedication. What a coach does in his or her own personal life is not a reflection of the you; their values and their life decisions do not represent the person you are.  I used to think having a coach whose athletes pulled off podium results was the one to look for. It did not matter if they were expensive: if they were able to have athletes win, then why not pay the money for them to coach you? But I came to realize that my own growth and progress as a triathlete was not because of my coach. My growth was because of the dedication and hard work I put into my training…It was for the mornings I woke up early on my days off to go to the pool, when I really wanted to sleep in and be lazy. My growth was because I followed a plan, and attempted things that were outside my comfort zone. The one person who had the biggest impact in my “triathlon career” would have to be my swim coach. She is the one I spent the least amount of time around, and met late into my training for IMLP. She is first one to push me to test my limits during an actual race– and for that I will be forever thankful.
  9. Lastly, A person with great dreams can achieve great things. If you asked me last year at this time if I would compete in a championship race, I probably would have laughed in your face. I think there is a little section in each of us that wants to excel at something, whether it is athletic or non-athletic. But before you can excel, you need to have a dream. I admit my dream has been to qualify for something– even if it was not the Ironman World Championships. And you can’t let anyone else belittle that dream or criticize you for it. Emotionally, participating in aquabike races last season instead of triathlons  was difficult. More than once I heard people say, “She only did the aquabike– she did not do the whole race,” and hearing that was hard. It is like telling a sprinter who does 5K races that “he only did a 5k and not a half marathon.” My reasons for not competing in full triathlons races was beyond my control, and it was not by choice I cut out the run portion. I was overjoyed to find races that had aquabike options.  I decided to dedicate myself to the disciplines that I could still complete, when I could have simply given up on the sports all together. To hear people say I didn’t finish the whole race felt like someone was telling me all my training for the events was not true training. But you know what? I trained long and hard for those races I participated in, and even if I was not able to finish the run portion, doesn’t mean I did not try or work as hard as the others who were able to run. If I let those people impact how I did in events, I would never have qualified for a race. Don’t let anyone belittle your dreams. They are just jealous because they may not have dreams of their own.

Now go, rent that book and read it 🙂

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All quotes taken from Golf is Not a Game of Perfect, by Dr. Bob Rotella

On the Sidelines

Training for IMLP took me away from speed training; I know a lot of ironman training programs do incorporate speed sessions. But my goal was simple: to finish the race within the 17 hour time limit. So I wasn’t focused on speed. Late summer/ early fall I decided it was time to gain my speed back. I’m not going to lie, running hard and fast is tough. But, I was able to get back to my sub-8minute miles, and was estatic. I made sure I was able to have Thanksgiving off in order to take part in our local Turkey Trot; I had a goal to beat my previous 5k time.

I failed to mention during this time, I switched shoes brands (and shoe type). From my first run in the shoes, there was pain in my left foot. But I figured it was just my foot getting accustomed to the new shoe. (I am “profoundly” flat footed and decided to try a minimalist shoe). There continued to be pain as I ran, but we all know that runners are pros at running through pain.

Then, one day, I started out on a run and it was too painful to run. I decided to take a couple days off from running, focusing on biking instead. A week later I attempted to run again, and found the pain was extreme. After working a busy shift, the pain was not only present when I walked but all the time.

Enter peroneal tendonitis.

Long story short, this is my second week in a CAM boot, out of work, in hopes the tendons will forgive me for being so cruel to them. I was unable to take part in that Turkey Trot, and haven’t run for almost a month.

I have been sidelined before (i.e. my appendix), but this injury has been a lot harder, emotionally. I still have the occasional pain when I walk without the boot, and I haven’t been able to bike for over a week, and kicking when I swim even aggravates the foot. The impatient person in me wants this to heal quickly–even though the damage I did was probably over a couple months. I’ve tried to do other activities, but nothing has “felt” the same way as a tough run or good bike ride feels. Truth be told, deep down I fear I may be unable to run again. The goals I had for next year’s races seem to be disappearing before my eyes. It’s lead to feelings of depression and sadness that I haven’t felt in a long time.

Yes, you might say I am being dramatic right now, but the fear of being unable to do the things I love, is real.

I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. A friend of mine reminded me that things happen at the times they were meant to happen in our lives. But right now I cannot seem to figure out what the reason is behind this injury…

Has anyone else been sidelined by an injury? How did you cope?

She’s Back, and Just as Crazy as Before

Well, I cannot remember the last time I wrote on this blog. Okay, that is a lie, I know the last time I wrote was back in July after I finished Ironman Lake Placid. There have been numerous instances when I have thought about this blog, including really interesting topics to discuss. But alas, life got in the way, and grad school has become a priority over blogging. Only three more years of school to go!

Anyway, fall has come and almost left in the Hudson Valley. The leaves have fallen, or are almost gone. I have no idea where September or October went. Before we know it, it will be the Holidays! Between work and school, I was able to take full advantage of the gorgeous fall days that we had and take a plethora of foliage photos. The scenery never gets old for me here.

I have heard of people becoming a bit depressed after finishing up their first ironman triathlon. I would not say that I became depressed. In fact, it was nice not having 5-6 hr rides planned on my days off from work. I did find myself wondering what to do with all my free time (back before I started school haha). I actually found myself highly unmotivated to do anything related to triathlons, especially swimming. So, I took a three month triathlon hiatus and focused on things that I had neglected while training for IMLP, including spending time with my man, and doing activities such as mountain biking and trail running. I must admit, it was a nice change of pace.

But now with the days getting shorter, and the weather getting chillier, I decided I want to train for a couple other (short) races next year, and do another triathlon. In fact, all through Sept/October (especially since I started trail running again) I kept thinking about S.O.S: Survival of the Shawangunks. I remember mentioning the race back when I first started this blog five years ago and writing:

I’ve studied the map and website for the race, gawking over the different stages, and give any athlete who has completed the race my utmost respect. There is no way I could ever complete a race like that.

At that point in my life, I had not started swimming again and had just completed two sprint duathlons–I never imagined I would (1) ever do a triathlon let alone (2) completed a full iron distance race. I guess a lot can change in a couple years.

Anyway, I thought it would be really challenging, and super fun, if I was able to do S.O.S. After all, the race is local, which means it would be easy for family to get to, and I could do a large part of training on the race course itself.

The first challenge of this triathlon would be registering for it. Apparently, it sells out within minutes of when registration online opens. I am not one to wait for any registration to open. In fact, I am not one to wait in lines for anything to open (except for that one time in September when Kevin wanted to get a special release Beer up in VT). But, I guess I’ve changed. So the night of registration, I drank lots of caffeine and ate some candy* and waited for the registration to open.

Within eight minutes, the race sold out.

And I was lucky to snatch a spot for the race in 2016 😀

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If you are unfamiliar with what S.O.S. is, it is an eight-stage triathlon that takes racers through Minnewaska State Park and Mohonk. It starts with you riding for thirty miles (with the last 5 miles all uphill), then you run, then swim, then run, then swim, then run….then swim….then run up to the finish at Skytop tower. The thing that is unique to this multi stage event is you must carry everything you will be using from your first bike-to-run transition. I still don’t know how I am going to do that, but I have some time to figure it out.

This brings a whole new set of challenges for me, including swimming with shoes , and having multiple swims and runs during a race. But I embrace the challenge, and am giddy with excitement for this next event!**

I guess this means I should start swimming again, huh?

*I actually had pizza and a beer instead of coffee and candy, but neither choices are healthy, so why does it really matter? 😛

**I will be recruiting the best support team out there to help me with this next challenge if they are up for it (wink wink to my man and soul sister)

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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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. 

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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

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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.”

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Smokey BBQ chickpeas= da BOMB!

Mmmmmm smoothie bowls

Mmmmmm smoothie bowls

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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?

Stages of a Trainer Session

Since the blistery cold weather has returned to us (or atleast is knocking on our door), my poor circulation has deemed it nearly impossible to ride outside anymore. Hence, the trainer is once again getting some love and attention.

 

I’m not sure about you, but I dread the trainer. I have written numerous posts about hating it. Yes, when I first bought mine years ago working nights, I was stoked to have it so I could ride at night in the dark. Now, though, I drag my feet walking upstairs to where I have my trainer parked. I know trainer sessions are an integral part of training for a triathlon, and I just have to buck up and do trainer workouts as planned. I’m simply not happy about them. I am not saying that they are easy workouts; I’m pretty sure I sweat more than an overweight man in a sauna when I am riding; and my heart rate is able to skyrocket in minutes. But, the simple fact I am riding so hard and so far and getting no where drives me nuts (like running on the dreadmill).

When I was finishing up my trainer workout the other day I came up with the emotional stages one might go through while on the trainer…And I have pictures that go along with the stages. (What else do you do when you are bored out of your mind than take incredibly awkward selfies of yourself looking horribly sweaty and disgusting?) Note: I am not one of those people who find it necessary to be caked in makeup whilst exercising. Infact, I am not one to feel it necessary to brush her hair before it, either.

Stage 1: The Warm Up

At this point, you have just started, warming up your legs, becoming adjusted to the bike

IMG_5867

“I’m just flipping through the songs on my iPod. Only 55 minutes to go”

 

Stage 2:  Boredom 

At this stage, you start looking at your surroundings, wishing you were somewhere else. Envy of people doing any activity other than riding on a trainer starts erupting.

IMG_5870

“Hmm, I wonder what is happening outside. Look at the snow; I could be skiing right now.”

 

Stage 3: The Pain

Whether it the big chainring on an incline or “speed ups,” you feel the pain in your legs, grit your teeth, and pedal pedal pedal.

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“Oh man oh man my legs my legs. THEYYYY BURRRRNNNNNN OMGGGGGGGG.”

Stage 4: Your Second Wind

Between sets, your heart rate comes down a bit, and the burning legs ceases.

IMG_5872

“Grrrr.F-ck the burn, I’ve got this. This is EASY! Eye of the tiger, baby, eye of the tiger. BRING IT!”

Stage 5: Depression and sadness

With more sets, and increasing leg burn, you become depressed and sad, questioning life and why you have to be on this stupid machine.

IMG_5877

“I never did anything to deserve this. All I want to do is be outside.”

Stage 6: Mental breakdown

At this point, the workout is almost done. Your legs feel like they are no longer a part of your body. You feel like giving up all together. Flashes of your life start flooding your brain. Your eyes well with tears from the pain.

 

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“Why me, God, why meeeee?”

Stage 7: The Finish

You’ve finished the cool-down; you have completed the workout. Life feels like it is full of rainbows and sunshine. Relief, happiness, and joy fill your body. It.Is.Done.

IMG_5880

“Pshh, that was easy.”

Happy Trainer-Riding!

Ending notes:

Yes, I realized that my earphones were all knotted up, but you can’t untangle headphones while in pain. I feel like Roseanne Roseannadanna pointing out that “little bead of sweat on her nose” when flipping through the photos. 

 

 

 

 

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