Monday, September 29, 2014

Marathon-iversary

Since it is now officially fall, we are right at the beginning of fall marathon season! 

Ahh, fall marathons. The best.

 THE best fall marathon ever

While I enjoy training for a spring marathon because of the cooler temps, by the time race day rolls around it is usually hotter than I would like (alright I've only done one spring marathon, but you get my point). Fall marathons are different. While the training in summer may be less than ideal, for me, once race day rolls around the temps are nice and cool.

My marathon-iversary is tomorrow. Two years ago, I ran the Wineglass Marathon and officially became a marathoner. For those of you who have been following my blog for that long, you probably remember that my first marathon did not go how I planned. You may also notice that I am saying "my" and not "our". 

Mike and I trained for our first marathon together, looking back on it we did not train very well. We probably got most of our training runs in, but I know that our long runs did not go well. There was a lot of stopping and sitting, before begrudgingly getting back up and finishing our runs. We cut runs short and we just fell apart most of the time.

 One of my favorite pictures of us!

Still, we went into race day with big expectations (do not do that for your first marathon, your only expectation should be to finish).

I started out way, way, way too fast. Paces that I shouldn't have even been trying to run, but I was anyway. Why? Because I felt good! Well, duh, I felt good because I was only halfway through a 26.2 mile run.

 Foolishly thinking I was doing alright

I didn't respect the distance. at. all.

So, the distance decided to be mean and take it out on me. My race started to fall apart at mile 13-14, when I first walked. I was able to hold it together for the most part, and I know that I still wouldn't have achieved what I wanted but it would have maybe been a bit better, if it weren't for the next thing that happened.

 Right before

Around mile 18-19, Mike decided to DNF. And I saw him. He was on the sidelines, with this family who was spectating right outside of their house, and I, in my delirious state, tried so hard to get him to continue to run. He wouldn't.

I cried, I crumbled, I walked, I almost DNF'd as well.

 This photo says it all

But, I finished. With a time that I, at the time, didn't think was respectable (about 5:01). For a long time I was ashamed of this race. Ashamed that I became a marathoner and Mike didn't. Ashamed that I fell apart so badly. Ashamed of my time.

Now that it has been two years, I look back on this race differently.

I have, 100% (alright maybe 95% since I still go out too fast sometimes), learned from this race. I have learned to respect the distance. I have learned to run my own race. I have learned that Mike and I will achieve different things at times, and that is alright. I have learned to trust my abilities, but to not set unrealistic goals. I have learned to become mentally strong.

In no way does this mean that I am an marathon expert. I don't think that I will ever be one. I will always learn from my races and experiences and use them to become a better triathlete and runner. 

My last, stand alone, marathon finish. The sweetest of them all - so far.

I am excited to see what this fall marathon season holds for us!

Friday, September 26, 2014

35 by 35 Bucket List

I've always been a goal-driven person, even when I was younger. I would set goals as a young competitive swimmer and when I accomplished them I would set even higher goals. I did the same thing in school, after not doing well at the beginning of my college career, and graduated from my master's program with a 4.0 G.P.A.

The same is true as a triathlete, I set goals and I work extremely hard to accomplish them. Sometimes they are time goals, sometimes they are distance goals and often they are experience goals.

 This was a pretty big goal!

If you are friends with me and Mike on Facebook, you'd have noticed by now that I share a lot of races, events and experiences that I find with him on there. And usually I say, "we should do this!" or "let's do this!" He always says, alright, but the problem is when? When will we do all of these things that I want to do?

It is hard to do all of the things that I want to do because I typically have the next year or so of races planned in advance (we sometimes change things but for the most part it stays the same). At the same time, I see all of these things and I MUST. DO. THEM. NOW! Alright, maybe it's not that extreme but I get really excited about all of the opportunities out there, I just need to find time to make them all happen!

This coming year I am turning 30. I have not given myself "enough time" (really what is enough time?) to make a "30 by 30" bucket list since I have less than 6 months until my birthday. So, I am going to make a "35 by 35" bucket list instead, I don't like being like everyone else anyway.

Most of these, naturally, are triathlon related. Some are not, since I do have other interests other than triathlon. If I accomplish them all, great! If not, I can add them to my "45 by 45" bucket list.

So here it is, my "35 by 35" bucket list, in no particular order:

1. Go to Alaska (this one is pretty obvious, ha).
2. Compete on an ultra relay team.
3. Complete a multi-day cycling event.
4. Become a 46er (if you don't know what that means, a 46er is someone who has hiked all of the High Peaks (46 of them) in the Adirondacks).
5. Race in all 50 states and Washington D.C. (obviously quite ambitious, even for 5.5ish years)
6. Go on a vacation that is not race-related.
7. Go on a vacation with my family (Mike, my parents and my brother).
8. Buy a new house, with a bigger yard (Bernie wants a puppy brother).
9. Pass the next promotion test at my job.
10. Qualify for the Boston Marathon or Kona (both would be cool, but for now I'll go with either).
11. Run an ultra marathon, any distance beyond 26.2 miles.
12. Race in another country, not including Canada (already did that a few times).
13. Race a 5K open water swim.
14. Finish riding around all of the Finger Lakes (we have completed 5 and have 6 more).
15. Run up Cadillac Mountain (technically I have already done this during my one year of high school cross country, but I'd like to do this with Mike).
16. Go to Hawaii.
17. Go to Prince Edward Island.
18. Visit as many lighthouses as possible.
19. Related to #18, visit some west coast lighthouses.
20. Go on another cruise.
21. Compete in an off-road triathlon.
22. Win a triathlon as first female (dreaming big here, but why not?)
23. Compete in a triathlon with an ocean swim.
24. Hike all of the mountains on Mount Desert Island (we have done a lot, but have more to go).
25. Go camping with Mike and Bernie.
26. Go to a triathlon training camp with friends.
27. Go on a vacation, race or non-race related, with friends.
28. Renew our vows.
29. Go skydiving (I have to put something on there that is a bit of a stretch for me, but that I'd do!)
30. Go on a hot air balloon ride, preferably during fall.
31. Do a corn maze (I've never done one, lame, I know).
32. Go to the Grand Canyon.
33. Eat gelato in Italy (dreaming big here again).
34. Hike the Appalachian Trail.
35. Go to the Olympics (winter or summer) as a spectator.

Edited: My friend, Isaac, informed me that I had two "21" and "22" bucket list items, oops! So here are some bonus things I'd like to do. 
 
36. Be a guide for someone during a triathlon or running event.
37. Run in Central Park.

Well, there you have it. I'm sure tomorrow I could think of even more things that I would like to do by the time that I turn 35, which is kind of the beauty of a "bucket list". It isn't stagnant and can change with me.

It will be fun to see how many of these I do actually "cross off", though!

Monday, September 22, 2014

10 Years

This weekend was great! We got in some swimming, biking and running, but we also were able to do some non-triathlon related activities (including getting some apple frosts and donuts from our favorite apple mill).

We also celebrated our 10 year dating anniversary. On September 20, 2004 Mike and I met for the first time. We always just say that we met on the swim team, but that isn't the entire story.

 The oldest photo we have together - summer 2005

At the college we went to, we had the "hub", which is where you could share and download music, etc. (yes, I know. Not good, but we went to a tech school). You could also chat with people, and I vaguely remember someone saying that there were no girls at our school (which back then was true, it is getting better now). I decided, for some reason, to say that I was a girl and then people started to private message me, ugh.

One person was talking to me a bit and we chatted about my music, I think he liked that I had Sublime, and I happened to mention that I was on the swim team. He told me that his roommate was on the team and the three of us decided to meet up, on September 20, 2004. 
You obviously can guess who his roommate was, yes, it was Mike. So even though we would have met a few days later anyway at the start of the swim season, who knows if we would have ended up together if it weren't for his roommate talking to me on the hub!

In the past 10 years, we have accomplished a lot.

We have received four degrees between the two of us, ranging from an Associate degree to a Master degree.


Mike's graduation in 2009 and my Master's graduation in 2011

We bought a house.

 Just call me Vanna

We got engaged.


We got married. 


We have taken care of three birds, two cats and one dog together.


We fell in love with the sports of triathlon and running.


We became Ironmen.


I am so excited to see what the next 10 years brings; I know that it will be full of fun and adventure!

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Start of Fall

As we enter the fall season, yes I know there are still a few more days of summer left, I'm starting to feel a little bit better about things. I am still not 100% normal, but things are getting better.

I still have this antsy feeling that is hard to explain. I keep feeling like I should be doing more. I research things to do, new races to try, all while realizing that most of these things aren't going to happen this year. I think that with all of the training that we did for our Ironman, and some traveling, that we really need to be at home the majority of the rest of the year. We only have two more races on our schedule (we'll add our yearly 5K in December, but that's local) and other than Thanksgiving, those are the only two times we will be traveling until 2015. I think our dog, Bernie, appreciates that.

We have been building our mileage back up, and speeding up in the process. Last week, every single one of my runs (and Mike's, we ran separate once) were under 9 minute average pace. Including a mid-week 10 mile run! I'm not really sure what is going on, but I like it. It also gives me more confidence to go for my goal at the Philadelphia Marathon in 10 weeks.

Even though we are officially in the "off season" for triathlon, we are still doing all three sports. I feel better when we swim, bike and run. I think that, unfortunately, open water swimming has come to an end for the year. We might be able to get one or two more in for the year, but since we only have sleeveless wetsuits I don't foresee much more than that.

 Mike looking sharp in his new Ironman Lumberjack jersey

Sunday we got in an almost 50 mile ride and even though it was a bit chilly and windy, it felt really good to ride "long". I hope that we get to continue riding outside for awhile because I'm not ready for the trainer just yet!

 It's almost our "in real life" friendiversary!

The start of fall also brings with it race registration for next year. We are already registered for one 70.3 in June next year and over the next month or two we'll be registering for quite a few races! I'm particularly excited about one in Alaska, can't wait to see Crystal and Joe!

 We'll be volunteering at this spot again

Mike and I will also continue our yearly tradition of volunteering for the 100 Mile Triathlon on Lake Ontario. Next year we are planning on racing it, but for now we'll be the best volunteers that we can be! We also have plans to cheer some friends on at a few races this fall, I'm excited!

I am thankful that we have quite a few things planned throughout the rest of the year to help me get back to normal.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How am I Really Doing?

The short answer: alright.

The long answer:

After our Ironman, we spent the next day going to the Athlete's Village one more time to buy some official "Ironman" gear (it didn't feel right buying too many things prior to the race, so we bought most of our stuff after). Then we left town and our first Ironman experience was really over.

I was relatively sore the next 2-3 days so it didn't really bother me that we weren't working out as much and that we were easing back in. Going back to work was a bit rough, because it meant that my summer was over.

After a short 1 mile OWS race, with age group wins, the post-Ironman blues really started to set in.

I feel like I am in a fog and I can't get out of it. Even the start of marathon training hasn't brought me out of it. Our runs are going really well and I thought yesterday that I felt better after a great early morning run, but then the feeling left me.

 First ride back after the race

I have cried a few times, for pretty much no reason other than I think about our Ironman, the training and all of the time that we put into it. I don't want to be sad about it, I want to be happy that we accomplished our goal and that now we can move on to bigger and better things.

Unfortunately, there is always the part of me that worries that it will never be the same again. That I will never get that feeling again, and in all honesty I still haven't gotten the "I am amazing" post-Ironman feeling. I know that it is a big deal, we accomplished something that not many people can say that they have and we did it well.

I never in a million years thought that I had a 13:20:28 first Ironman finishing time in me. I should be really proud of that fact. Some people just hope to finish, and others don't even finish what they started.

I felt the same way after our first marathon, which did not go well, so I know that the post-Ironman blues will dissipate eventually. Mike and I have a lot of fun things coming up, a half marathon, a marathon and all of our triathlons next year.

I'll just keep trying to get back to "normal" (I am far from normal) in whatever way that I can, and for now be alright with the fact that it is going to take some time.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

What I Learned While Training for an Ironman

I can't stop talking about my Ironman experience just yet. Training for, and subsequently finishing, an Ironman taught me a lot about myself, and the people around me. Some of these things are good and some of these things are not so good, but important lessons nonetheless.

You can achieve anything, with hard work and motivation. 

Who would have thought I would be here, even just a few years ago? Not me.

Finishing an Ironman, my dream for so long, taught me that I can achieve anything that I put my mind to - with the right amount of hard work and motivation. I truly believe that anyone can do anything, but if you aren't motivated to do it then it probably isn't for you. Not everyone WANTS to become an Ironman, or even race a triathlon, and that's completely fine. However, do not say that you CAN'T because you can, especially if it is something that you really, really want.

Training for an Ironman is hard, the race is even harder. 

While Mike and I had an amazing training cycle for our first Ironman, there were times when it didn't feel like everything would come together for race day. But, it did. Our schedule included 2-3 days of swimming, 3 days of running and 3 days of cycling. Our long runs got up to 20 miles and our long rides got up to 103 miles. We trained in the pool, on the trainer, on trails in the snow, in lightning storms, in extreme heat and wind. So much wind (the winner of Ironman Louisville said it was windy, I invite him to come to Western New York and say that again).

 Right when it was getting tough

The race, while at times seemed effortless (and much easier than I thought it would be at certain points), also brought challenges. Luckily, we raced a 100 mile triathlon during training so we had somewhat of an idea on how swimming, biking and running that long would feel, but we were Ironman newbies. Swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and running 26.2 miles is HARD. I even said to Mike the second time that I saw him on the desert-like run course, "this is hard".

Just because it is hard, doesn't mean it isn't worth it. 

The race, really the entire experience, was the most rewarding thing I have ever gone through in my life. Other than our wedding day, it was the BEST day of my life. Sure it was difficult, it is supposed to be and if you think it isn't going to be - you are going to be in trouble. Seeing everyone out on the course, working toward a common goal, is the most amazing thing ever. The man who helped me fix my chain, the people that I talked to on the run course, all of the participants, spectators, volunteers and race officials - they make the race and the experience so worthwhile.

 No words

It's hard to describe the feeling, I'm still working on it but just trust me. Worth. It.

You will have haters.

We didn't experience any "haters" in regard to us finishing our Ironman, those people probably just kept it to themselves, but we did during training. Training for an Ironman requires sacrifice, some sacrifices that are hard to make, but are necessary for us to be successful at what we are pouring our body, mind and soul into for 6+ months (and that's only officially). Would I have liked to have been able to go to everything that we were invited to while we were training for an Ironman? Sure! Was it realistic? No.

There were negative comments made about some decisions that we made while training, and I chose to ignore them for the most part. Does it hurt me that people don't understand that what we were doing was a big deal? Yes. Does that make me feel bad about what we decided to do? No.

 At one of the few things we did go to, and we left really early because we had an 18 mile run the next day

In the end, we just have to move on and know that what we did was right for us. This next year, with somewhat less training, we hope to be able to do more of the things that we didn't get to do this past year.

We also know, that we won't always make everyone happy and that those people aren't really a part of our life anymore for a reason.

At the same time, some people will go above and beyond. 

The support that we had from some people, during training and the race, was phenomenal. We had people willing to train with us all the time, I don't think a week went by without at least someone coming to one of our workouts with us.


Just some of the support we had during our race

So happy to have my family there, the first triathlon they saw us race in!

Not everyone may get WHY we do this, but a lot of people cared enough to support us regardless. An Ironman is a confusing thing, people don't get why you would put your body through something like that for hours and hours. However, knowing that we had people behind us, no matter what, was enough.

And finally, it re-confirmed something that I have known for awhile:

I love this lifestyle.

I can't see my life without some form of triathlon, endurance racing, training, running, swimming and cycling in it. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Ironwoman Wednesday - Life After Ironman

Ironwoman Wednesday is a weekly linkup on a variety of triathlon-related topics. It is similar to Tri Talk Tuesday that a few other bloggers started, but the more people talking about triathlon the better!

Gabi at Lean Green Island Girl, Michelle at Ironwoman Strong and I are all officially Ironwomen!

 Like the change?

How has it already been a week and a half since our Ironman? I still can't believe that it is truly over.

Right after I finished my 140.6 mile victory lap

This Ironwoman Wednesday post is hard for me, it is the last one and it means admitting that our dream of becoming an Ironman has been realized and it is time to move on to other things. For the past 6 months, Mike and I have been officially training for Ironman Louisville and now that it is over, I feel a bit lost. I feel like we should be swimming, biking and running to the fullest, but with going back to work and our bodies needing less intensity/volume, that just isn't possible.

Since our Ironman, Mike and I have biked once (15 miles), swum once (1 mile OWS race) and run once (3 miles). Luckily, for me, Mike decided that he wanted to do the Philly Marathon in November so we have our next big goal that we are officially training for as of this week. We are taking, a bit, of time to ramp back up to the higher running miles, but we do not have any official swim or bike workouts planned. We will try to continue to swim and ride outside as long as possible!

So in the short term, the "what's next?" for us is the Philadelphia Marathon on November 23rd, our fourth marathon attempt. I have an idea of what I would like to try for, but I need to wait until I get deeper into training to see if it is possible or not.

 In the morning before starting our race

In the long term, or next year, we have races planned. We are already registered for a 70.3 race in the north country (Hague, New York) in June. We are planning on racing a few more long-distance tris (70.3s, 100 mile and another special triathlon), plus a few road races. We may not race a stand-alone marathon next year, but we'll see.

I'm sure you are wondering, but probably not since I have already answered this question numerous times on the blog, if we are planning on doing another Ironman or not.

We definitely are.

When we do one will depend on how our plans for next year pan out. If we do not get into some races we are planning for next year, we will do another Ironman next summer/fall. If we do get into the races we are planning for next year, we will do our second Ironman in 2016.

Since we both race, it is unlikely that we will do an Ironman every year. It is expensive and does take a lot of time and effort (which we love but I don't think it is financially responsible for us to plan on one every year). We are also planning on going to Alaska to see Crystal and Joe next year, as well as, go to Maine to see my parents in the summer.

 About to jump in!

For now, I am feeling a bit sad. I miss the intensity, I miss hitting new distances on the bike, I miss the long training weekends and just everything about the training. The race was the icing on the cake. It still hasn't fully hit me that I accomplished something major, I'm hoping it will eventually, so I am also a bit sad that I haven't had that feeling yet. Maybe I won't, the cons of being an endurance junkie I guess.

That's why I know another Ironman (or two or three or four, you get the idea) is in our future. Exactly when that will be is up in the air for right now, but I am excited to continue our adventure.

The faces of two Ironmen

We are no longer "from couch to Ironmen", we are Ironmen. We are just going to become better, stronger, faster Ironmen in the future!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Escape from the Judge Race Recap

Even though Ironman Louisville was only a week ago, Mike and I raced yesterday!

Two years ago, Mike and I raced in the SkinnyMan sprint triathlon (our second triathlon ever) and we later noticed that they had an entire race weekend. In addition to the triathlon, they put on a swim event, bike event (discontinued this year) and run event. 

This was the 10th year of the race weekend, and it was the last. After 10 great years they decided to discontinue the races.

I had a yearly goal of participating in a swim-only event and I knew that this race might be our only chance, but with race date only a week after our Ironman I didn't know if it would be a good idea. Finding out that it was the last year to participate solidified that we were going to try, and worst case we would just float in our wetsuits and use our arms!

Mike and I picked up our race packets on Friday on the way to Mike's parents' house. We spent Saturday at Saratoga Race Track and then drove to our hotel (about a 3 hour drive).

 The three of us before the race (I pulled a Mike, and tried to put my wetsuit on with my shorts still on)

The swim event started at 8am, but we woke up at 6am so that we could park and get to Clift Park in time to pick up our timing chips. Our friend, Greg, was also racing and we found him a little while after we had arrived.

On Friday when we picked up our stuff we found out that we were not going to be on the Judge. A unique part of this race is boarding the "Judge Ben Wiles", a boat, and arriving to the deep water swim start that way. Only 100 participants can board the boat, for safety reasons, and the rest of the participants board buses to a local country club in Skaneateles.

We weren't really happy that we weren't going to get to board the boat, but we knew it would still be a fun race. Luckily, on race morning the announcer said that if there was room left after all the original participants with a "JB" (Judge Ben) on their wristband had boarded, other participants could board the boat to capacity on a first come, first served basis.

 We're on there somewhere

Greg went over to the sidelines near the boat and Mike and I joined him, we figured why not try! After only 65ish people got on, we moved to the front and all three of us got on! You don't get to start from the boat, but it was still a fun ride out to the start location.

Once we got to the start location, everyone on the boat jumped off. The water temperature was good and we were able to wear wetsuits. Mike and I swam to the start and positioned ourselves in the front. We chatted with another guy before the start and then it was time to swim!

Since it was only a 1-mile swim, we knew it was going to be a bit of a sprint. I had a goal of placing, I wanted overall but would have been happy with in my age group, so if I felt good I was going to push it. This was only our second workout after our Ironman (we rode 15 miles on Thursday), so I wasn't sure how it was going to go.

 Waiting to start

After the horn sounded from the Judge, we were off! It was raining and windy, but luckily the current was with us for most of the race. The start, for about 2-3 minutes, was a bit congested. It took me a little while to find a position but then I had clear water. I just kept the buoys to my right and tried to get as close to them as possible (but the wind kept pushing me away from them!)

I knew I wasn't in the front but I could tell that not many people were around me. One guy was swimming near me almost the entire race but because of the waves and buoys to the right, I kept breathing mostly to the right. Half way came, indicated by a yellow buoy, and then I just tried to get to the 3/4 mark indicated by a turn in the course.

It felt like it took forever to get to that point, but then I went by it. There was a boat blocking people from cutting the corner and then the conditions got worse. The chop was stronger in this section and at one point I said out loud (probably underwater), "alright already". I knew there wasn't much left, I hadn't looked at my watch at all, and eventually I could see the stairs with volunteers.

You can tell we're triathletes, caps off!

Happy about a successful swim

I got to the end of the water and grabbed the railing at the stairs. Everything was really slippery so I was careful not to slip on my way out (some people fell) and then I ran toward the finish line. I saw Mike on the sidelines and I crossed the finish line!

I could see some women had already finished and Mike told me he thought he was in the top 25 and that I was in the top 40. We cheered our friend, Greg, on as he crushed his swim and then we went to look for the results.

I had finished in 26:21 and Mike had finished in 24:23, not bad considering the conditions! Mike was 13th overall, 9th male and 1st in his age group and I was 34th overall, 13th female and 1st in my age group!

 Cheese-face, as Mike calls it

Sweeping the top of the 25-29 age group!

We watched the final participant cross the finish line and then waited for the awards ceremony. We finished race morning with some breakfast and then went home.

Overall, it was a great experience and I'm sad that they are discontinuing race weekend in Skaneateles!