Monday, July 14, 2014

Life After Ironman

Michelle always says, "the fittest athletes recovery the best." I know that 3.5 years ago when we first started working together I took much longer to recovery than I do now. I would be sore and trashed for days after even an Olympic race. With my consistent and SMART training, focus on active recovery, nutrition and generally taking care of myself my recovery time almost shocks me these days.

After Boston I needed about a week and I felt completely back to normal, ready to get back to the heart of Ironman training. After I raced a half Ironman on no sleep and uprooting to CDA, I needed 2 days of active recovery and sleep catch up.

After Ironman, it's been 2 weeks and I feel fantastic. I spent the first week doing something light and easy almost every day, including walking probably 4 miles back and forth from the finish line to our house 3 times that evening. I swam some, floated around in the pool & the lake. I rode my cruiser almost daily and did a couple of spins on my road bike. Nothing more than 45-60mins and NO running for 10 days. My muscles were slowly healing and my mind was inspired.

Honestly the hardest thing about those 2 weeks was watching my husband head out for his training, knowing I couldn't go. We're in this awesome training playground and I wanted to PLAY too. So, to keep myself occupied I did some sitting on the beach just staring at the water. I go ahead on my athlete's training plans, and I of course, drank beer and ate pizza and cheese and all the things that I shouldn't be doing (not because I think they are BAD - in fact I think everything is fine in moderation, but because of my food sensitivities they do make ME feel like crap). I enjoyed them all, but I can definitely say 2 weeks of that was enough!

Today starts a new chapter! It's also a good example of even when you are a coach yourself, there is a reason we too have coaches. My training peaks schedule is loaded with all sorts of fun stuff to keep me out of trouble, and certainly not in a way I would probably have set it up for myself 2 weeks after and Ironman. But, I opened it up last week, saw what was coming and started mentally (and time management wise) figuring out how to fit it all in.

You know, it's funny. Every time I'm prepping for a big race with others around me I notice a pattern of people lining up their activities and mentally ready to be done with Ironman and have a normal life. Sometimes I question my own sanity, because aside from just wanting a week or so of rest, beer, sundayfunday and exercising as I feel, I know that after so many days of that I still want to get back to the training because, I love it. I love being outside and seeing things on my bike. I love feeling exhausted and sleeping well and having my muscles burn.

Last November when I had already signed up to do IMCDA, Shane was heading down to Ironman registration before our race to register for this year. I was torn. I didn't know if I was even going to like the race, and how would I know if I wanted to do it again.  Not just do that race again, but do 2 Ironman in one year. I had never done it before, and I didn't know what would happen at CDA or even how I would feel after. I took a leap of faith and brought my checkbook with me. It really was an in the moment decision that I went back and forth on in the tent as I filled out the form.

But, as I was on loop 2 of the bike out on the 95 with that head wind just hammering me, I had a feeling that the race might end with me feeling more hungry, with more fuel in the fire and I thought back to that decision in November happy with it! I have to say it was a weird feeling to run a PR marathon (IM) cross the finish line already having my brain mentally prepared to do it all again in a few months.

Before it was a (very expensive) backup plan, now it's on the calendar and on my goal list to end the year! So happy I have this gorgeous place to train in, my training partner to push me (and vice versa) and my body healthy and ready for the challenge.

As for next year, that's still up in the air!  The LaPan's have some decisions to make ;)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Ironman CDA 2014

This was my 4th time doing Ironman CDA, and like every other time, this race brought out challenge after challenge.  After finishing the last time in 2011 I said I needed a break from this course.  My stomach was a mess from start to finish (the cold that year - 53 water) shut my system down and I was unable to take in nutrition.

This year the water temperature was PERFECT 61.8 degrees and weather temperatures were forecasted to be perfect as well 54/72, partly cloudy.  The only outside factor we would ALL have to face was the wind.  And the wind was intense.  In fact, out of all 4 times I've competed in this race this was by far the choppiest water (IMO), including 2007 when they gave us the option to not finish the swim.

What was different about this day, and what got me through each leg of the race was my head.  I stayed calm throughout the week, the morning of, and during each minute of the 11:15 minutes that I was out there on the course.  My body was trained, and all I had to do was stick to MY plan, and everything else would fall into place where it was supposed to.

As with every big race I typed out my detailed plan from what time my alarm would go off all the way to how I would feel and what I would do as I headed down the finish line on Sherman Ave.  I received feedback from Michelle, and noted every single thing she put on that plan.  I incorporated couple of new things to try (hydration on the run) as well as giving up my beloved peanut butter leading up to the race.  For anyone that knows me, this was 100% the hardest thing to do :)

There is no magic recipe for success, or no magic drink or food or pre race ritual.  Doing everything in your own power and control to be at your best on the day that matters, those are the ingredients.

I've done enough of these races, and now that I'm helping others train and achieve their own goals, I felt the importance of being ON leading up to this race, as well as on race day.

I could not be more happy with how my day went.  I did everything right and I have not one single regret or what if.  To be honest, that  feels better and I'm more proud of that than any time on the clock, or podium finish.  I could not have done one single thing better, faster or more on Sunday.

Now, the race!

The swim was insane.  I seeded myself right where Michelle said to, in the FRONT of the 1:01-1:15 group.  I had no idea what to expect from this new rolling start, and was shocked out how quickly I was in the water, maybe 2 minutes after the first wave.  I was instantly relieved.  The water felt awesome and I was not getting my ass handed to me by the other swimmers.  I noticed it was much more open on the inside of the buoys so I headed over there and had a pretty good swim out to the first turn.  Instead of fighting other swimmers I was fighting huge swells and constant water in my face and mouth.  I had to quickly adjust my plan of right side breathing (so glad I focused on that for the past 3 months, lol) and the only way to avoid mouth full of water was to breath to the left.  In every direction. So, that's what I did!  I got out of the water and checked my first loop split at ~32minutes.  I did worry a bit, because typically that second loop is about 2 minutes longer which would put me over my 1:04 or less goal.

The second loop was a bit more chaotic with people and I had a much harder time finding open water to swim, but I stayed calm and just kept swimming.  I exited the water in 1:06 and put that piece of the race behind me.  It was not a swim PR, but after my (personally) poor time at AZ I was happy.  It was also a 5 minute swim course PR (1:11 in 2011).

The minute I headed out on the bike course I knew it was going to be a long day with the wind.  And as soon as I turned onto 95 for the second out and back and felt the impact of that headwind I knew it was going to be up to ME to not get defeated.  I did everything in my control and didn't look at my time or speed.  I stayed on top of my nutrition and hydration exactly as I had planned and could not have been more happy with how I felt, but also to be off the bike.  I don't have a whole lot to say about the bike other than it was HARD.  The hills are one thing, but top it off with a relentless headwind and your brain and mindset will be the most influential factors.  I got off the bike about :25 minutes later than I expected (although I didn't really have a set goal for this bike, knowing the wind would be a factor), no idea where I was ranked, but 100% prepared for the run.  I ate every single piece/calorie of nutrition I had planned (including a stop for the first time ever at special needs for 2 more bottles of OSMO nutrition) and topped it off with a gel (first one of the day) as I rode into transition.
I did not know at any time during the day what my AG rank was.  My spectators were having quite the party, and when my husband came up to me on the run course I asked, but he had no idea.  It didn't matter.  I was staying with my plan and doing everything that I could do have a good day.  I held back as much as I could for the first couple of miles but my legs were wanting to go.  I was about :15/mile over my plan but it felt natural so I just kept myself in control and focused.

I did 2 things differently on this race than every before.  I carried a bottle of OSMO with me for the first half of the run (the plan was to drink it in the first couple of miles, but I was really hydrated from the bike so I took sips of it, just like in training every single mile) AND I grabbed another bottle at special needs to take with me for the second half).  I did 1 gel every 4 miles (getting 5 in) with the last one at mile 19.   I did not walk through any aid stations until mile 21, and from there until the finish line I walked just enough to get some cola in my system and head on my way.

I was tired (who wouldn't be), and I did have to dig to find the energy to pass a couple of girls in my age group, but I never once felt like I could not make it, or that I was done.  My stomach felt great (as great as can be) the entire day and I never once lost my focus.  I didn't alter my plan (it's VERY easy to do when you are feeling great at the beginning of the run) and just kept plugging away.  In the last 3 miles I encouraged the spectators for cheers and as I headed down Sherman I smiled.  I held back tears and in the last few 100 feet of the day I high fived every single person I could.

This was a 4 minute IM Marathon PR on a HARD course, 40+ minute course run PR and a ~45min course PR.  I ended up 6th in my Age Group missing 5th (the podium) by 2 minutes.

I'm elated with my day, and even more excited for my first time coaching an athlete and friend to an Ironman.  Not just an Ironman but a ~20minute PR on a VERY hard day.  Sippy, you made this day even more special than I could have imagined.
Training for this race was such an amazing experience.  We had an awesome group of ladies to spend hours and miles and fun times together. It was such an epic journey, and it made the celebration even sweeter.
I can not thank our supporters for having such a FUN time out there cheering for us all day long.  From what I hear, it was just as epic for you as it was for us out there on 95.  Your day may have been a bit more entertaining ;)  It was an absolute blast to have you all at the finish line!
And, as always, thank you to Michelle for being my friend, my mentor and my coach.  You have been on this journey with me now for over 3 years and you have taught me so much about myself, my abilities as well as help me find aspirations I didn't know I had.  I trust you with helping me recover, and start up the preparation for the next step in achieving my newest dream!  Even if it means giving up peanut butter for a week.


Monday, June 23, 2014


It's race week!!!  I'm not gonna lie, I'm super excited for this week.  Normally, I dread the "taper" and the rest and aches and all the not fun stuff that goes along with it, but this time I'm READY.  This is my 4th Ironman working with Michelle and my 4th Ironman CDA.  Each training "season" has been the same, but also different, this one in particular.  I'm not one to love a big long taper, or rest days, or even weeks for that matter.  My body (when fit) recovers quickly so after big big blocks I need a couple days of light active recovery then I'm ready to get back at it.  Too much rest leaves me feeling slow, sluggish and then takes me a longer time to get back to work.  But, my last couple of weeks have been a bit more "nailed" and intense than normal so I'm way ready for this week!

One thing that has not changed are the infamous "phantom" symptoms.  There are so many of them.
  • Phantom pain (you know you all have them!!):  Oh shit, my "xx" hurts, I think I pulled a muscle, is this inured?, why is my "xx" bothering me.
  • Phantom illness:  lethargy (DUH, you are coming off of months and months of WORK to slowing down, your body is confused!), sickness (my throat hurts), am I getting a cold? (hello allergy season)
  • Phantom fitness loss:  feeling slow, out of shape, how will I EVER do that distance?
  • And one of my favorites, the Phantom weight gain.  I'm SO FAT!! How did that happen in 2 days?

So, this year we're playing a new game in our house.  Any time I allude to one of the above, Shane is instructed to simply say, "PHANTOM."

I think this is definitely my most structured Ironman training phase.  I don't know that it was much difference in what Michelle set out for me to do (although there were definitely differences there), but a bit part of it was my approach.  I did nearly to a T what was set on my schedule.  Set bike intervals, more BSC swim send offs (which my attitude changed for this time, instead of being scared, I just DID and somehow it always worked out), and ironically a bit less running.  Instead of worrying or questioning I just did the work.  I did a lot more training SOLO.  Partially due to my work hours and just not being able to commit to training partners, and partially for selfish reasons because I wanted to do my own thing, and be accountable only for me.

I think if I were to look at my total training hours they will be less, but I believe the quality was there.  I did more cycling on a trainer than ever before (love my wahoo kicker!), ran, swam and even rode at various times of the day and got pretty far out of my comfort zone doing back to back hard, long swims.

I did NOT do as many long runs, and while there may have been a brief moment where I wondered why, I'm not at all worried.  I've got a deep fitness bank from years of base training and consistency in my training program and am feeling good!

With all of the training done and in the bank, it's now officially TAPER mode.  One interesting thing (I won't share all of my crazy training with you all) Michelle had me do (yesterday), 1 week out from Ironman was back up a 4hour brick day (ows, bike, and run) with a 4hour bike ride.  However, the instructions were STRICT.  Soft pedal, sightseeing, stay outside and away from the fridge (bored eating) type of day.  Shane & I headed out to "The Trails of CDA.  It was PERFECT.  Flat, gorgeous, quiet and just what we needed.  These pictures don't even do the ride justice.

It was absolutely gorgeous and I can't wait to go back and explore a bit more of the trail (it goes ~75miles one direction, into Montana!

For now, it's back to actually tapering.  Rest, short workouts, good nutrition, sleep, more rest, recovery boots and weather obsession!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Ironman CDA Nastalgia

Late after noon last Sunday, I headed out for my second run of the day on the Ironman run course.  I had a few race pace (ish) intervals to do and thought what better way to get into race mode than to do it on the course.  As Shane & I started out I was a bit blah.  My legs were heavy and I felt a bit dizzy.  This happens a lot when I do double runs, I'm definitely more of a morning runner, but I usually come around.

Our rental is about a half mile from the park (transition) so we weaved through the Fort Grounds neighborhood then were on course.  Each turn I started to remember.  Remember the 3 other times I had been on this course (officially) and the memories just started flooding.  The first one was right about where the special needs bags are, passed the library and in front of Tubb's hill.  I remembered that is "Benny's lawn."  In 07 when we were here we met up with some "blog" friends from Utah.  Benny had a rough time out on the course and Shane told me about him literally just stopping to nap in this lawn.  A bottle of gatorade and I think a half of a sandwich later and he was back motoring through the course.  Every time I see that house, and that lawn, I think of that story.  Benny's lawn.  Benny and Jaynee are still great friends.

In that same area on the course, I couldn't help but giggle thinking about how Melisa and I ran the back half of the marathon together.  Exhausted and ready to be done, we made a pack to run the "flats" and walk the "hills."  Funny that was done on the "flat" part of the course.  But hey, whatever makes the miles click by.  And they did.  And the feeling I had crossing my first Ironman will NEVER be forgotten.

I'm also not sure I will ever forget the absolutely terrified feeling I had at the start of the race....

The experience of training with our group will always remain special to me.  I planned our weekend rides for months, booked our rental house and in the end we all had successful days.  We had each other out on the course, as well as my special super fans :)

Somehow Melisa peer pressure had me signing up while I was still on my Ironman high, and before I knew it we were back training again.  I of course hoped to better my time, and while I did by about 10minutes, it was really just transition time.  To be honest I don't know what I thought was going to be different.  If I knew then what I do now (NUTRITION), things may have been different, but none the less it was a a trip to remember with friendships made that were priceless.

While I was on the course Sunday these are a lot of the memories that flooded me.  I remembered Lindsay's crazy fun, energetic family out there cheering their faces off!!!  As I turned around on my last interval, this is what I thought of.  It carried me up the false flat and back into the Sanders beach area of the run.

This memory will be channeled on June 29th, for sure.

As will the post race celebration party. TEQUILA!

It was a few years before I came back to race here.  This time I got a few new friends to join me and we had adventures of our own training for months.  This was also my first time working with Michelle, and meeting her! 

 I had big hopes for this race, but once again came away a bit defeated.  My whole day was off.  The water was so cold that I think it shut my system down.  I was unable to take in my nutrition and fell flat on the run.  I had no get up and go, no energy.  My stomach was bloated to no end and I actually ended up running shirtless (NEVER HAPPENS) to relieve the pressure of my tri top.  I finished the race completely wasted and ready for a break from this course.  

We had a nice post race celebration (duh) where we got drunk with the coach, Shane confessed his goals and a few week slater we were both on a training plan with Queen BSC training for Ironman Canada! 

It's been 3 years since that last time here and I'm back and ready.  I'm in love with this town, and feeling more at "home" than ever.  My training buddies and girlfriends will be here in a couple of weeks and we have a whole group of spectators that will be out on the course.  I'm bound and determined to "WIN" that damn swim and come out in a respectable (for me) time and then nail the rest of my race plan.  Everything else will be like a card draw.  There will most likely be wind, there will most likely be  cold or HEAT (yes!), and I will make the best of it.  When I'm out on that run course I will remember such great people I've shared this experience with, and do my best to smile every step of the way!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Troika Half Ironman

My little race recap I posted on Facebook mentioned something about getting through a 5+hr race on sugar and caffeine... It's true!  What a whirlwind few weeks I've had.  I swear, it never seems to fail either I've got too much time on my hands (not training, work is slow) or it all comes at once.  Sure enough this time it all came at once.  Thankfully, I seem to be a heck of a lot more productive the busier I am!

We started our rental contract for the summer in CDA on June 1st.  However, a friend told me about a local half ironman that I had done a few years ago, and how they moved the race from August to June to help locals racing IMCDA prep!  I sent a note to the owners of our rental and they were super sweet and had no problem with us checking in a few days early.

I've never considered how much actually goes in to moving for 4 months.  2 people, 4 bikes, 2 dogs, 2 home offices.  Top the planning, packing, organizing, cleaning on top of normal ironman training a full time job and a new coaching business and my mind and body were at their limit.  Of course I didn't make it any easier on myself by jumping on a last minute trip to go climb Mnt Lemmon the weekend before our departure, but since the following Monday was a holiday I figured that would be my packing day.  All good intentions of course.

Without going into all the details of the long days, stress etc., let's just say we finally had the car packed at 8pm the night before Shane was departing at 3am for the 21hr drive to CDA.  We talked with our vet, and because we have to sedate one of our dogs it was better to do it in one shot.  I had a 10am flight, but got up with Shane to work a half day and finish closing up the house.

I had a friend pick me up at the airport and give me a car to borrow to get out to CDA and pretty much everything after that was a blur.  I got locked out of my work email, I lost my wedding ring, slept about 12 hours in 3 nights and there I was Saturday morning heading to a small town outside of Spokane to race in a half Ironman.

The day before I had texted Michelle about how exhausted I was.  I was so not myself.  I was in a cloud of sleep depravation, and my body was sore and tired.  I went out for my pre race bike ride and did a few pick ups and my legs burned!!  She reminded me it was not an A race, to drink some wine, try to relax and just have fun!

That is EXACTLY what I did.  I somehow managed to get all of my race gear together without forgetting one thing!  I arrived at the low key race, not knowing a single person and just got my transition area ready with plenty of time to spare.  The weather seemed perfect, not too cold, light breeze.  I got my wetsuit on and headed down to the lake for a super easy warmup.  After dipping into CDA lake which was about 55-56 the day before, the 64degree water felt fantastic.  Before the race I noticed that the rectangular course had an extra buoy off to the left on the way in.  It was the sprint turn, but I wondered if we needed to go around it.  It looked out of the way, so I asked 2 people and they both said YES.

I started the swim lined up perfectly with the first turn buoy right in front (beach start), but noticed several other girls were lined up way to the left.  I almost second guessed myself as we started out and I could tell they were heading out fast.  The group going about the same pace as me were super far to my left side and I was ahead of anyone else so I basically swam the entire course by myself.  I felt like I held a solid line with no veering off course, until I made the final turn and aimed to my left to get that last off centered buoy. As I did my sighting I noticed a ton of people going straight towards the land so I was really confused.  I actually stopped, looked around and saw a kayaker so I asked if we needed to go around it.  She said no, so I redirected myself and cruised right into shore.

I felt like I had a good solid swim, which I have many times before with the watch telling another story.  I pulled up my wetsuit and saw 30:40 as I exited the water and from then on I didn't care what happened - I FINALLY swam how I should be swimming.  Have I mentioned how much I LOVE my Freak of Nature?  I have never been so comfortable in a wetsuit in my life!

I messed around with my arm warmers for a bit in transition but realized I wasn't really that cold so just left without them.  I did have my toe warmers on, and was super thankful for that.  The bike course started out super fast!  I went really easy at first trying to find my legs and eventually passed a couple of girls.  Someone yelled out to me that I was in 2nd place, then the next thing I knew I passed another girl.  My spirits were lifted and thought, hey, I might actually be able to pull this off and have a solid race!  A few minutes later I hit my garmin and it popped off, went flying over the edge of the road into some bushes.  I've lost 2 garmins before, one during a race and wasn't about to lose my new 910!  I stopped, went backwards a bit, put my bike down and had to walk down the ledge a bit to get it.  When I got back on the bike I thought.. I wonder if that ~minute will matter?

About 10 people re-passed me and each one of them slowed to ask if I was ok.  I was shocked, so nice!  I got back on my bike and took off to try and make up some time.

Shortly after I was passed by 2 different girls (I had not seen before) and they were MOVING.  I tried to go with them but just didn't have it.  When we made the turnaround I realized how much descend we had been doing as well as being greeted by a nice headwind.  I began to noticed how sleepy I was.  My body felt good, my exertion was fine, but I was just really tired.  I decided to just keep the effort steady and do what I could.  I took in a few extra calories and when I got into transition figured I'd see what I had for the run.

As I exited T-2 Shane & my friend were there telling me I had passed someone else in transition and I was running in 3rd.  Shane had run the course and said there were a couple hills, then mostly flat until the other side of the lake.  There wasn't a lot of shade and he said the others would be way too hot.  I didn't really care - I wasn't in the race mode anymore, but as I realized I was closing in on 2nd place I did get a little fire in my belly!  I finally passed her at the beginning of the second loop, but my energy just wasn't there.  I was passed by another girl who was flying, moving me into 3rd place, but could see a couple of girls coming my way and they looked like they were moving!

I had as much fun as I could out there on the course.  Cheers (and high 5) from Sister Madonna, fellow local triathlete Jessie and her wonderful daughter (they've cheered for me every time I've raced in this town!!), and race updates and motivation from my husband and friend Chris made it worth wild and motivating for sure!

I've never wanted a coke so bad during a race!  I brought my own gels, and thankfully 2/3 were caffeine so that helped, but really could have used that cola rush.  I did finally get passed by the girl I saw coming my way in the last 1/2 mile and as much as I wanted to go with her, I just didn't have it.

I was SO happy to be finished!  I walked over to a bench laid down, and just closed my eyes.  It was all I had been thinking about doing all day long.  Turns out my efforts got me 1st in AG and 4th OA, missing out on 3rd and a fancy plaque by less than a minute....  Hmmm :)

I was still super happy with the day, and how I was able to perform on such little sleep and energy.  Makes me excited for the next 3 weeks and the big day at IMCDA!

We headed home to rescue the dogs and walked them over to the lake, then stopped at a little bar and grill that just happens to be dog friendly and 150yards from the house.  It was a perfect Saturday, and made me so excited for the rest of our summer adventures!

And, when my head finally cleared Monday, I did eventually find my ring.... Not sure how I missed it the other times I went to take my supplements?  Phew.....