Work Hard, Race Hard, Play Hard

Work Hard, Race Hard, Play Hard

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

2013 Ironman World Championships - 3rd Time's a Charm!

Hello Hello – Happy 2014!!  Wow – is it really February and I am yet to give an update on Kona? My lack of an update is in no way an indication of my race or experience in Kona. This race was up there in my top athletic experiences and I left the Big Island completely thrilled and proud of my race! But, as usual once back in NYC I fell full steam back into work, offseason, the holidays and just plain enjoying life without a training schedule dictating my life :)

2014 has been in full swing and it has been a great year so far!! But I feel I can’t begin to welcome the New Year and give you and update on what has been going on in my world until I give a proper good bye to 2013 and that would include a recap of the biggest race of the season – the Ironman World Championships!!

So here goes nothing!

Before I get into the details of race week, let me back up a bit.  After qualifying at Whistler at the end of August, I headed back to NY and had 7 weeks to recover/train/deal with an injured shoulder from being knocked pretty hard by a guy coming out of the swim at Whistler and make travel plans for a race that I just qualified for.  A race I never had any intention of doing in 2013!  I was also quite stressed about who would be able to make this trip with me! Both Mom and Sissy made the trip to support me at Whistler and with Kona only 7 weeks later, it was uncertain if they would be able to pull off another big trip!  If you have been following along you know that both Mom and Sissy are my biggest supporters/cheerleaders and I am never at a race without at least one of them, and usually both!  I feel very lucky to have such a supportive family and it’s not something I take for granted!  Well as it was turning out, my Mom was unable to make the trip because of work…this news was truly devastating to me. My Mom has pretty much been there for me at every athletic event since I could remember - High School games,  she travelled to all of my college lacrosse games at PSU, she has been there for most triathlons, and she definitely hasn’t missed an Ironman or a World Championship event.  I could write a whole blog about how amazing my mom is– but basically in addition to being the most amazingly supportive mom, she has also managed a successful career on Wall Street where she juggled 80+ hour weeks with raising a family and not missing a beat when it came to being “there” for her kids.  Even though she worked a ton, she somehow always found a way to make time for her kids and figured out a way to make it all work! Well, until Kona 2013 that is (not a bad track record haha)!  Mom is a Project Manager and the project that her company had hired her to manage was going “Live” the week of Kona.  So, as much as she tried to figure out a way to be there …it just wasn’t possible.  I totally understood but it didn’t lessen my disappointment any! I know it may sound crazy to most of you but I had thoughts of not racing.  It was somewhat unimaginable to me that I would enjoy this experience without her there. But then I realized (with the help of some good friends and family :)) I needed to put my big girl pants on and make the most of it. This was not a good reason to skip out on the Ironman World Championships! This whole season was a pleasant surprise to me, and I did so many things differently than in the past, so travelling to a race, a World Championship event, by myself was also going to be added to this list of new things for 2013!

This was my 3rd time travelling to the Big Island for the World Championships. Each experience was so incredibly different than the other.  And the saying “the 3rd time is a charm, couldn’t be more true for my race this year.  In case you haven’t been following along… a recap of my prior two trips to the Big  Island!

2010 – 2nd Ironman, 1st time at Kona – 10 weeks post shoulder surgery.  No expectations, great race all things considered (ie. Did not train for this race since I was in a sling with a broken collarbone/torn ligaments from beginning of August until 2 weeks before the race).  Race results:  Total time: 10:47 (25th AG)  (Swim 1:17, Bike 5:59, Run 3:22)

 2012 – 3rd Ironman, 2nd time at Kona.  Too much self imposed pressure and season inflicted with injuries.  I really struggled mentally and had some nutrition issues during the race which made for a somewhat disappointing experience on the Big Island.  Complete burn out after this race and almost quit triathlon permanently.  Total Time: 10:50 (18th AG) Swim 1:12, Bike 6:10, Run  3:21

2013 – 6th Ironman, 3rd time at Kona.  Third time was a charm!! My best race and unbelievable overall Kona experience!  Details below :)

I flew to Kona on Sunday – one day earlier than I had the previous two times. And having that extra day to get organized definitely made things go a little smoother than usual! I also stayed closer to town this time around. I usually prefer to stay further away from all the race week craziness, but since I was flying solo this trip, it was logistically easier being closer to everything! I can honestly say of my three trips to the Big Island, this year I really enjoyed and took in all that pre race week had to offer, I was surprisingly relaxed and having fun!! Of course, I was excited and nervous to race, but it was a good excitement! I really felt so much less pressure than last year and was just excited to go out and see what my body could do!  Then on Wednesday, Sissy and Mike arrived! It was so great having them join me and they were helpful in getting me race ready and took care of many of the little details so that I could focus on the race as much as possible.

Race week fun with Sissy!

Underpants Run!

Teddy was ready to race! 

As always, before you know it race day is here and its go time!! My race plan was simple: smile, have fun and enjoy the experience!

I’ll try to keep the deets on the race as brief as possible :) 

Pre race send off - best Sissy ever!

The Swim (1:11, 45th AG)
One of the biggest unknowns for me going into this race, was again the shoulder.  Until the week prior to Kona, I was not able to swim since Whistler.  The day I landed home from Whistler I went straight to the doc to try and figure out what was wrong with my shoulder.  Because if it was broken, I knew I would need to cancel my Kona plans.  Unable to get an MRI because of the plate/screws in my shoulder from previous shoulder surgery it was difficult to get good imaging to diagnose.  However, Doc didn’t think anything was broken so I just spent the next 6 weeks resting it and receiving cortisone shots and hoping it would hold up on race day. But as I do before every race….I swam the 2.4 miles course upon my arrival in Kona just to be sure I could still swim that far :)   The swim is interesting for me.. granted I don’t swim much in training, but before Ironman I do get enough swims in to know I have the endurance to get thru the 2.4 miles (some may call this cramming!), but looking at my times: 1:12 last year in Kona; 1:12 in Whistler in August; then 1:11 at Kona when I literally didn’t swim for over a month…all such similar times whether I swim or not?!  Swimming is overrated (hehe – Just Kiddin’!)  Anyway, I was just happy to have survived the swim and be off on the bike!  (side note: that shoulder still is not 100% healed and I didn’t swim for months after Kona! Boo..). 

The Bike (5:36, 37th AG)

Ironically, biking was the one discipline that was going pretty well post Whistler. For the first time ever after an Ironman, I was back on the bike the week after the race. Not my typical, toss the bike in corner of my apartment and not touch it for 4 months post an ironman :) My legs were feeling pretty good on the bike and I was mostly indoors on the computrainer at Tailwind Endurance (Thanks Earl Walton!) with a couple outdoor rides thrown in!  But, I was still nervous about how recovered I really would be after Whistler.  I was pleasantly surprised when I hopped on the bike and was feeling good!  I felt a heck of a lot better than last year, and just got into my own rhythm and focused on staying within myself and not get caught up in all the drafting going around me!  Its truly unbelievable the packs that would fly by me.   Not my thing – I prefer to ride legally and have my results be my results and not because I sat on some guys wheel!  Sissy and Mike were out on the  Queen K and it lifted my spirits to see them on the out and back! The conditions were certainly more forgiving than last year, but it was still hot out there and those last 30 miles are brutally hard into the headwind.  As always, I was ready to be off the bike and into my running shoes….

The Run (3:17, 11th AG)
Ahhh the run!! This is where the race begins for me, but truth be told….I was pretty nervous how this run would go.   After Whistler, I was dealing with a bit of a calf issue that actually forced me to quit a few training runs.  For those who know me, I don’t quit my run workouts…once I get started, there is no quitting. But there were a couple times post Whistler where I really thought if I continued I would further injure myself.  And while my legs felt decent on the bike post Whistler, the same could not be said for my runs.  I did not have one good run between Whistler and Kona, so it was another unknown for me on how my legs would respond to another 26.2 miles a mere 7 weeks apart!  However, I was hopeful once out on the run, my legs would do their job :)   I do think having some experience with this course, I was more mentally prepared for certain sections of the course and I focused on pacing a bit better than I had in the past.  Luckily, I was feeling ok…ok, not great – I certainly didn’t have any “pep in my step” but  I just got into my zone and focused on passing as many people as I could. I also knew the spots that Sissy and Mike would be at on the run course which helped break it up.  Loved seeing them out there!  I was beyond thrilled to have put up a 3:17 run split and run my way to 11th in my AG! This was my 2nd fastest IM run split, 2nd fastest in my AG and one of top overall run splits of the day. To run a 3:17  so soon after Whistler where I ran a 3:19, on a much harder and hotter course was a huge confidence booster for me! I didn’t feel great, but I just remained consistent and found a way power through.  This was my best Kona time (10:13) and placing (11th)…just shy of top 10 – ouch!  Gives me a goal for next time…. :) 

Some bike photos - lovin' the lava fields :)

Knowing my mom is watching at home I'm captured here looking up at her on camera saying 'i love you mom'  :)  

Post race - ohhh what a feeling !

I love a finish line, especially an Ironman finish line, and there is really nothing like a Kona finish line! I was soooo incredibly happy running down that finish chute…the 3rd time really was a charm.  I felt like I left it all out there and stuck to my race plan - I smiled, had fun and I can say without a doubt I truly enjoyed the experience! I was unsure how my body would recover and handle 2 Ironman races so close together - especially given that I don’t do a ton of volume in my training.  I’m happy and grateful that my body rose to the occasion and that I was able to mentally push through and have a great day!

After the race, I enjoyed a couple extra days in paradise before heading back to the East Coast.  I was sad to say good bye to Sissy on Sunday, but we got to enjoy one last Basik Acai bowl together :) Post race was then filled with rest, awards banquet, Zoot after party, more rest and more eating:) And Monday night it was back to the East Coast!
I was still on my race high upon arriving home and for a fleeting second considered racing Ironman Arizona (I had signed up last year prior to changing my plan to Whistler).  Luckily, my coach talked some sense into me  (thanks Brian Hammond) and recommended I end the season on a high note, enjoy the offseason, and not risk burnout for a sport I had just come to love again.  Thank goodness, because I do believe trying to do 3 Ironmans in  3 months on my training would have been too much :)

Zoot party with Morgan and Billy !

Can never get enough Kona sunsets!
Or enough Acai bowls!  Last one with Sissy before she left.  I ate one every day I was there except race day .. oink, oink :)

After a tough 2012, I am happy that I was able to turn my season around and find my love of triathlon again…the love affair may even be greater than it was before :)  I  found my groove this year, I redefined “my best” and have been enjoying training, focusing on the process and remaining consistent.

 I’m beyond thankful for all the people in my life who helped me get to this happy place. You all know who you are!

I’ll check back in soon on my 2014 plans! So far it's off to a good start and I have a feeling it's going to be a great year!!

Thanks for reading!



Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Ironman Whistler - "Mind Over Matter"

Ironman Whistler – “Mind over Matter”

I promised myself I would get this race report written before I took off for my next and last race of the season.  I was sooo close J  But at least its done before my next race!

First of all, before I get into the details of race day, I wanted to mention that Ironman Canada was an amazing race.  Whistler was a great venue for Ironman, and I loved everything about it! I highly recommend this race!

Secondly, I believe I executed the best possible race I could on the day and was extremely happy with my result. I hate excuses, so I don’t want anything I say in this report to be misinterpreted as an excuse.  Ironman is a long day and so many things can and will go wrong for everyone and its how you deal with those obstacles that will determine your race. “Mind over matter” as they say! This is why I love Ironman! You don’t always have to be the fastest, you just need to the toughest to have a good day.  For this reason, I believe my strengths prevail in Ironman. It’s no secret I am not a “fast” swimmer, or have the strongest bike, however I am confident in my ability to run a strong marathon. I also know that I am able to stay “mentally” strong and really dig deep when I need to.  As much as I love running….running 26.2 miles after biking 112 is never easy, and it hurts a lot….but I am able to just focus and “embrace the pain.”  I had quite a few things go wrong during the race and I will talk about them not as an excuse, but as an example of the things that will go wrong, and how I dealt with those issues.

As beautiful as Whistler is and as much as I loved the course and the experience, this course was definitely not a course that suits my strengths. I knew this going into the race and it was drastically different than my other Ironmans to date.  I typically love races with hot, humid, flat, windy conditions and non wetsuit swims.   Whistler was a wetsuit swim, HILLY, and not very hot or humid.   But, sometimes its fun to challenge yourself and see how you will fare on a different course/conditions, and how you will do on a course that is the exact opposite of what you “like to race.”

My Mom and I flew to Vancouver Wednesday before the race. We stayed in Vancouver Wed. night and spent Thursday morning exploring Vancouver. Neither of us had ever been so it was fun to check it out. We ran in Stanley Park, checked out the Lululemon stores (I am lulu obsessed) and then we drove up to Whistler later that day.  We checked into our hotel, The Fairmont, in the Upper Village, which was a great hotel and very convenient for walking to/from everything.   Friday was spent doing all the typical pre-Ironman activities.  I went for a ride with the Tribike transport crew, checked-in,  drove part of the bike course and attended the pre-race meeting.  Friday night Sissy arrived from San Diego. Yay! Having my mom and sissy at my races makes me so happy.
Views from Stanley Park

Silly in front of the Hollow Tree in Stanley Park
Clearly Mom and Sissy are the cheerleaders in the family!

As always, the day before the race is over before you know it and it always ends up being busier than you think! I went to bed super nervous and excited to race. I knew I had put in the work and I was ready to just get out there and do my best!
Green Lake in Whistler.. run course scenery!
Checking out Whistler..

Onto the race details!

The Swim: (1:11,  25th AG)
I typically do not like wetsuit swims. This may seem strange since swimming isn’t my strength, so you would think I would want all the help I could get, but in reality, wetsuits make me claustrophobic! I literally feel as if I’m going to hyperventilate and the sleeves make my arms feel tired!  Well, for Whistler, I was lucky enough to be trying out the TYR Freak wetsuit (Thanks TYR!) and I can honestly say it was the best wetsuit I have ever worn. It was comfy, I didn’t feel as if I would hyperventilate, and the comfort in the shoulders/arms didn’t make my arms feel as tired.   As for the swim itself, it was my typical Ironman swim, where I feel as if I am getting beat up by the men.  Oh how I wish there was a separate Mens/Womens  start for amateurs in Ironman.  Unfortunately, when I exited the swim, a male athlete knocked into me, I went flying and landed on my right shoulder…the same shoulder that I had surgery on for a broken clavicle and torn ligaments 8 weeks before Kona in 2010.  And it hurt, it hurt a lot!  But I continued on…time to bike!  As for the 1:11, I was satisfied with that. Since I shared with you my training schedule in my last blog, and my lack of swim training, I can’t expect a much faster time at this point J
Beautiful swim start backdrop!

Thanks TYR and MB for letting me try out this awesome wetsuit!

The Bike: (5:55, 15th AG)
Once onto the bike, I tried to ignore the pain in my shoulder, and just focus on pedaling.  The bike is a continual work in progress for me. And after taking 6 months off from cycling, I definitely felt out of shape getting back at it. But I have been putting in some work and feel that I have been making strides in training. I know I still have a ways to go to get it up there with my run, but I think I have been moving in the right direction! Thanks to all the coaches and training partners at Tailwind Endurance who keep me motivated for those 5:30 am classes! It has definitely been more fun than doing those solo trainer workouts in my apartment!  Ok back to the race…even though I felt prepared for the bike, I still knew it would be a tough day given the difficulty of this bike course and the 6000+ feet of climbing! I live in NYC and do a lot of my training on the computrainer and even most of my outdoor rides didn’t include this kind of climbing! But I have been training with power for the past couple of years and was planning to just focus on my watts! Well once onto the bike I spent the first few miles fiddling with my power meter and for some reason it just didn’t want to work! My initial thought was UGH!!  But after getting over the frustration, I got it together and knew I would be fine, I am very in tune with my body and am more than capable of racing by feel! The bigger issue was my shoulder, it was SERIOUSLY hurting! It hurt to raise my arm which made it difficult to take in my nutrition.  Being aero was very painful.  But, as I said…“Mind over matter.”   After driving the bike course and getting a little freaked out by all the climbing, I really thought a 6:30 bike time was in my future, so a 5:55 on this course for was a decent time for me. I know I’m capable of better, but was happy with this result at this point in my training.

Run (3:19, 5th AG, 2nd Fast Amateur run split)
As always, I was ecstatic to be off the bike and onto the run! My legs felt good, which was a good sign I didn’t go too hard on the bike! Again, the only problem was my shoulder, still KILLING me!   The run is a two loop course through the Whistler trails with a lot of twists and turns and wasn’t quite the “fast” course I was expecting.  I was able to see my Mom & Sissy a bunch of times which helped lift my spirits and keep me plugging along!   I have been running in Newtons for almost as long as I have been doing triathlons and I absolutely love them! I also always run without socks and I never have any issues with blisters..until Whistler.  At about mile 5 I started developing blisters on both feet that pretty much encompassed the tops and bottoms of my feet. It was beyond painful to run like this for 21 miles, but  “mind over matter.”  I suppose the upside was this pain helped me no longer think about the shoulder (sort of).  It was a hard run but I just focused on holding my pace and “embracing the pain.”   I passed a bunch of girls but had no idea where I was in my AG. I wasn’t chasing a Kona slot, or focusing on my place in my AG, but I just wanted to have my best possible race.  I ended up with a 3:19 marathon, which was good enough for 2nd fastest amateur run time and moved me up to 5th in my AG. This was my 2nd fastest Ironman marathon time and I again I was pleased with the result. I do know I have a “faster” ironman marathon in me though, and I’m even more motivated to chase it!
Happy to be out on the run!
I finished in 10:33, 5th in AG!  I literally couldn’t have been happier with this result. I gave the race everything I had both mentally and physically.  Ending up on the podium and a Kona slot were icing on the cake!
Post race with Mom and Sissy... you guys are the best.  xo

Back to Kona I go!  Woohooo!

Thoughts on Kona

Now I know I said earlier in the season that I had no intention of racing Kona this year even if I qualified. But of course as the season progressed, I started to shift my attitude and thinking that if I qualified, I would race.  I wouldn’t take a rolldown, but if I legitimately qualified, I would take my slot.  I didn’t put any pressure on myself and didn’t go into Whistler focused on qualifying for Kona.

There are a couple reasons for the change in plans:

1.     While long term goals are great, as I have learned in the past, life is unpredictable and doesn’t always turn out the way you expect or plan for. I could spend the next two years training to get back to Kona to try and finish top 5 in my AG and I could end up getting injured, or have a bike crash, or a 1000 other things could go wrong.  So sometimes, when life throws you an opportunity you have to take it. And that’s what I did with Whistler. I figured if it was meant to be, it would be.  

2.     If I don’t go to Kona this year, I may not have the ability to get back to the Big Island to race for a few years.  As I have mentioned in previous blogs, balance in my life is very important to me. And triathlon is truly a hobby, so I don’t want to sacrifice everything and everyone for triathlon.  Next year my Sissy is getting married in September I don’t want to worry about training for an Ironman during this important time in her life. I want to be fully involved and enjoy every minute with her without worrying about my training for Kona.  Also, I have another big athletic goal that I would like to achieve and this could take my focus away from Ironman for a few years.  To be determined on that, so I will share when/if I fully commit to this goal J

In any event, I made the decision, I took my slot, and I was off to the Big Island on Sunday for my 3rd start at the Ironman World Championships! I’m beyond excited, a little nervous about how my body (and my shoulder) will handle two Ironmans in 7 weeks, but I’m mentally ready to get out there and give it my best!!  And I’m so excited to be back racing in a nonwetsuit, hot and humid race J
Celebratory drinks with my biggest fans!

Not an Ironman race without the Buskos (and Morgan !)!

I have so many people to thank, without the support of my family, friends, coach, sponsors and training partners I wouldn’t be on my way to another Kona start.  Mom and help me throughout this journey so much, there is too much to write ;)  Brian Hammond.. you believed in me when I had stopped believing and you work around my crazy schedule!  Dad for helping me SO much with logistics lately when I have no time to deal with dropping off/picking up my bike etc.  Earl for keeping me challenged on the bike all those early mornings.  And my sponsors/supporters: Tribike Transport, Nuun, Sparkly Soul, Health Warrior and Newton.  

Thanks for reading!