Ironwoman Dreams

If I can do this, anyone can.

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Pinspiration Pains: A Body Image Story

I sincerely wish that I could be joking with I say that looking at the health and fitness-related posts on Pinterest makes me want to cry. I don’t know why it’s such a shock to my system, when I should know better, that women all over the country are looking at, taking in, and sharing body-shaming propaganda that helps perpetuate negative feelings about body size, shape, weight and fitness level.

“5 moves to get rid of those thunder thighs”

“Burn 500 calories in just 30 minutes with this workout!”

“Supermodel exercise routine”

“Target that lower tummy pooch with these moves”

“Get flat abs in 30 days with this diet”

“Obsessed is a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated”

“You Earn Your Body”

“Train Insane or Remain the Same”

I read this stuff and take it personally, because it’s addressed to me (and you, and every other woman who isn’t a “supermodel”). Reading these lines tells me I should somehow have to feel inadequate because I’m not flat-bellied, super toned or skinny. It’s hogwash. When I think of how long it’s gotten me to be able to brush aside these kinds of messages, to embrace me for me, I seethe at the thought of how other women are reading these and taking them in. This stuff is utter JUNK FOOD for the soul. It does immeasurable unseen damage.

I want to scream from the rooftops: “Ladies, men, you are good enough! Fitness and health comes from the heart, and not from wanting to look like some digitally rendered genetic freak!”

Since screaming on rooftops of L.A. is probably grounds for incarceration, I’ll just post a request here:

Ladies and gents, I implore you, please stop posting, pinning, re-blogging and sharing social content that contains body shaming language and impossible fitness or diet routines; instead, try sharing loving, inspirational health and fitness posts. Let’s lift each other up instead of breaking each other down, shall we?

Thanks. I’ll come down from the rooftop now.

You can do it!!!

You can do it!!!


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Raw: A Diet Story

(Sorry for the lack of pix lately–for random images of fruits and veggies, please see Instagram) ;p

Day 1 Raw Report: In the weeks leading up to this raw diet, I’ve experienced a strong case of post-IM depression. It was all I could do to remain upright and not drag myself around like a midday slug. There were moments when I refused to connect emotionally with anyone at any time. I just wanted to be alone. But, then, when I was alone, I felt crushing loneliness, the kind that almost makes you physically ache.

The night before the morning of my raw “cleanse”, I was up and down all night, having nightmares and existential panic attacks. My alarm sounded at 5 a.m. and I almost, almost retreated back to sleep instead of getting ready for swim class, but I knew that I needed to get back in that pool (“Three weeks off becomes three months off”, Coach Brad had stated, and it rung in my sleep-addled skull).

One small banana pre-swim, instead of a small granola bar. Still, my energy level dropped mid-swim, while we slogged through stroke and bilateral breathing drills again and again. Let me say, for the record, that drills are not my thing, although I did get pretty good at that stupid Shark Switch drill that Holly always managed to stick into those IronTeam workouts.  I will admit that the Extended Doggie Paddle drill that Mikey made us do really helped with my catch and pull, but, still…Grr.

After the swim, I came home and made myself a raw protein shake with raw protein powder, a banana, and this new probiotic coconut water I had picked up at Whole Foods. For the record also, probiotic coconut water is sick. It’s like sticking a straw in a coconut, only to discover that someone has vomited in it. Not doing that again. Nope, nope.

I managed to slug down that whole shake (shudder), and then packed up some snacks to prepare myself for the long journey of potential starvation: one peach, two Clementines and 21 raw almonds. You never know what the day can bring.

This was also the first morning I’d be without my beloved coffee. Let me say, again, for this record, I LOVE coffee. I love how it tastes, how it smells, I love how it gives me that little pick-me-up in the morning, after I’ve been up at some ungodly hour of the morning for a workout. Coffee is my friend, and I was going to have to do without it for two whole weeks. Sadness.

Green tea was a poor substitute, a pale charade of a caffeinated beverage. I was practically falling asleep in meetings later that morning. Luckily, I managed to stay awake through lots of water drinking (and trips to the loo), and by consuming a Clementine and some almonds.

For lunch, I am lucky that our cafeteria has a salad bar and fresh fruit. I grabbed a cup of assorted melons to accompany my spring mix, broccoli, onion, tomato, olive, and sunflower seed salad, sprinkled with lemon juice. To drink, (regular) coconut water.

By the time I returned home, I was exhausted. I didn’t even have the energy to tidy my apartment. Sloggy, slow, still depressed, and feeling bloated, I mashed an avocado with some lime juice and garlic, and smooshed it into some raw kale for dinner. I ate the remaining peach for dessert and felt disgustingly full.

Today (Day 2), has been slightly better. My sleep was still crummy, but my mood is a little bit elevated, so that’s good. I’m hoping that getting a good night’s sleep will help regulate things a bit. I have a bike ride slated for tomorrow morning. We’ll see how it goes…

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The Weighty Aftermath: A Post-Ironman Story

When I started this journey, I definitely had an image of what an IronWoman looked like –rippling abs, lean, strong limbs, sun-kissed skin—but, as time stretched on, I discovered that chiseled muscles were a lot harder to get, and that extra fat was a lot easier to gain than I thought.

You might say: Whaaatt? You burned, like, 12,000 calories in a single weekend, and you GAINED weight?  How is that even possible?!?!

When you look at things from the perspective of how much exercise you’re putting your body through, it seems unfathomable that a person could ever eat that many calories. Still, as we all know, those pesky calories can add up, and, if you’re not careful (which is difficult to be when you’re training , and I’ll explain why), you will end up consuming more calories than you burn, even (and especially) in the final weeks of training.

During the first 3-5 months of Ironman training, I began to lose a bit of the bulge that I’d accumulated over the holiday season (I stepped on the scale in December, only to be greeted by quick and dirty 10 lbs of post-marathon flub).  While training continued to ramp up, I started to feel a bit more “back to normal”, size-wise. I followed my cravings, and, mostly, my cravings steered me toward healthy foods, like protein-packed salads, or low-carb items like meat (I was never a big meat eater before, but I craved steak like crazy).  Most of what I craved wasn’t heavily fatty or carb-y, although I did enjoy dessert more often because, heck, when else would I get that kind of caloric “freebie”?

Somewhere along the way, something began to change. I began to crave carbs like a ravenous sugar monster. Sweets, cookies and pasta didn’t stand a chance against my crazy appetite. I could eat a huge plate of pasta and NOT be disgustingly stuffed afterward, merely pleasantly satisfied. It was a problem. My body began to respond, and puff up, and my jeans got tighter.  At first, I told myself that maybe it was just water weight from all of the electrolytes we’d been consuming, but pretty soon, the weight gain was undeniable. This past month, I had to squeeze to button jeans that had previously been baggy on me.

Why did things switch? Well, I am not a doctor, but I have a theory. While cycling, triathletes must consume a cocktail of calories, carbs and electrolytes, typically in liquid format, and, on really long rides, some of us also consume some kind of high-calorie bar. We consume, on average, about 300 calories/hour on that bike. For a five-hour ride, that’s 1500 calories of pure sugar.  Yes, we need it, and yes, we use it, but that sets the body into motion for craving high levels of sugar to sustain itself.

During the week, my body screamed for sugar. On top of that, the sheer amount of exercise caused the hunger beast to rear its head 24/7. At times I would eat a full meal, only to have the wild hunger beast clawing at my stomach an hour later. It was insane.

It wasn’t so much what I ate on weekends, but what I ate during the week, that, I am pretty sure, caused me to pack on weight. Work’s cafeteria became a way for me to dive into all of the forbidden foods I would never have consumed regularly pre-IM training: creamy fettuccini alfredo, savory crepes filled with cheese and egg, burritos with cheese and sour cream, au gratin potatoes (you get it—the cheese and carbs are kind of my thing). At night, I could gulp down a whole package of organic whole grain mac & cheese, or a huge plate of cheese ravioli. And let’s not forget dessert: a giant cookie every day at lunch, and some sort of chocolate or ice cream at home.

No, I didn’t really try to curb my eating habits while training. I had come so far after my binge eating problem to train myself to listen to my body and what it was craving, that I didn’t want to be unnecessarily hard on myself. It wasn’t like I was gaining a huge amount of weight, and, by the time I realized it, the season was almost over anyway. I figured, “Eh, let me have this one time in my life to eat whatever I want, whenever I want. When am I going to have this opportunity again?”

 So, here we are, at post-Ironman weight, a number of which I have no idea, because I never step on a scale (I’m guessing 15 lbs, since it takes 15 lbs to go up one whole pant size). Still, it’s not the kind of weight where it’s very noticeable to the outsider, the kind of weight where mean girls talk behind your back about the expansion of your rear view. Ideally, I’d like to drop 20-25 lbs to be the best me I can be. Here’s the rub: the cycle of carb addiction. While I’m no longer consuming vast amounts of sugary beverages every weekend, my body still likes carbs a bit too much and wants me to eat them.

I’ve dealt with this before, when breaking my binge eating cycle (also mainly due to carb addiction), and I’ll go about changing my habits the same way that I did before. For two weeks, I will go on a raw food “cleanse” (I hate that word—it’s so hippie dippy), to eliminate all of the effects of the processed and refined sugars and foods in my body. It worked magnificently last time, and I was able to crave healthy foods again afterward. Unlike crazy L.A. dieters, I don’t expect any huge weight loss, but if that kick-starts me and makes me feel a bit less bloated and gross, then, yay.

It’s not any strict diet, but simply raw fruits, veggies and nuts, in unlimited supply (except for avos, coconuts, nuts and bananas, which can be really caloric), with a naturally sweetened, low sugar protein shake (made with water or juice) for breakfast, plus plenty of sleep and regular exercise. Any condiments are limited (although red and white wine vinegar and lemon are sometimes okay).

Afterward, I will incorporate cooked foods, spices and more proteins for a week, and, eventually, will go back to eating select whole grains, and even the occasional treat, listening and keeping an active dialogue with my body to figure out whether I really NEED a certain food, or whether it’s just a passing craving.

Luckily, the exercise will be ramping back up as well. Last week, I had a fun hour+ long bike ride with friends (and Coach Brad, who made us do one Amalfi hill loop-grr), and this morning I got in a 25-min run (which was much less painful than I thought it would be). This week, it’ll be swimming, more running, more cycling, and maybe some Pilates thrown in, just to mix it up. Let the reverse taper begin!


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Lost In A Dream: A Post-Race Story

One of the most common ailments of Ironmen and women is “The Post-Ironman Blues”, usually a combo of melancholy, restlessness, and mental strife that comes after devoting your mind, body and spirit to something for nine or more months, only to have it all end abruptly after one colossal tidal wave of a day washes over your life and strips it bare again.

The hilarity I find in this is that we spend these nine months fantasizing about what our lives will be after it’s all over, and we have “all of the free time in the world to do whatever we want.” I dreamed of re-organizing my apartment, taking hikes with the dog, getting back into Pilates, painting, taking woodworking classes, music concerts, going to art shows, enjoying the beach, and so much more. One week post Ironman, I have made no moves to do any of these things. I still can’t get enough sleep. Furthermore, this void, this nothingness, feels unnatural. I thought that I could go back to being the me that I was before I started this. The truth is, I cannot go back. Something in me is forever changed. I don’t know what that means, and how I can fit into the “normal” world again, but I guess that it’s safe to say that I feel a little bit lost.

The only thing that I have planned is a marathon, because I know for certain that running is a part of me now, but what else? What next? Who am I? What do I want? These questions I never thought that I’d be asking myself at 33 years of age. I thought that I’d had these things figured out before now. Now, without that looming goal in front of me, and all of the little goals in-between, I’m having to re-define myself.

Of course, people keep asking whether I’ll want to “seek revenge” on the Vineman course next year. While there is a part of me who wants to know what it feels like to cross an Ironman finish line, I felt happy with everything that I accomplished. I have no regrets out there on the course. If I hadn’t finished the bike course, I would have been filled to the gills with regrets, but I accomplished what I set out to do. So, what next? Do I pick out another Ironman and set my sites on it, or do I find other goals and come back to it later?

It’s all a big question mark, but I do know that I’m no longer the same person I was when I started this journey. I am more patient with myself, more grateful, and tough as nails, to boot. I can do anything that I put my mind to. The world is my oyster and I have a feeling that there are still a lot more pearls to discover about myself.

What now?

What now?


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Living Your Dreams–Vineman 2013: A Racing Story

Before I launch into my epic racing tale, I’d like to rewind for a moment. Up until January 2012 I held a deep, dark secret: I had never ridden a bicycle. I just never learned. When I asked my mom why they never bought me a bike or taught me to ride one, she just said, “Hmm…I don’t know. I guess that you never showed any interest.”

Obsessed with horses, I wanted a pony, not a bike, I’m sure, but still it’s not a legit reason not to learn. Still, I spent much of my life lying about my lack of bike riding skill, making excuses as to why I couldn’t go on rides.

“Oh, let’s walk instead. I just really like walking.”

“But, it’s eight miles away.”

“I REALLY like walking. I’ll be fine.”

Thin excuses, at best.

I had told myself that I’d learn by age 30, that I’d let my embarrassing childhood secret go on long enough. Then, life got in the way and I let another year and a half go by. And then I decided to take a class offered by REI, which began in a local marina parking lot.

After 31+ years of non-riding, I was up and pedaling within 30 minutes. All that ridiculousness for nothing!

I remember the first time I fell. I took a turn a little too sharply on my brand new hybrid bike, wobbled out of control, and went down.

…And then, the first time I tried a road bike, I ran into a sign and sprained my wrist. The following road bike attempt, I fell three times (once in front of an EMT vehicle).

In spite of all of the tumbles, I decided to take on an Ironman, where I would be spending most of the race on my bike. I joined Team in Training’s Greater L.A. Ironteam, where I knew that I would get the support that I needed to get me through the race. Still, there were many challenges along the way that I had not prepared for.

Every single morning before a bike practice found me fighting the urge to lose my breakfast, dreading the challenges of the ride ahead: the cars, the unknown routes, the real possibility of falling, the stress of climbing those hills. Still, somehow, I managed to force myself to drive to the practice location, hop on my bike, and join the team on their workout.

I remember that January morning, in Palos Verdes, where, after learning to clip into my pedals, I fell over twice within the first two miles of our 40-mile ride. As I sat there on the sidewalk, I thought, “This isn’t for me. I’m not an IronWoman. I can’t ride a bike. I can’t do this. I can’t even stay upright.”

But Coach Jason and Coach Riz didn’t let me quit. They stayed with me and helped me face my fears. Even after falling again and cutting my leg deeply on my chainring, I churned up those tough hills and gave everything in my heart out on that pavement. It was then that I realized that I had what it took to take this journey.

Remember this? (photo credit: Jason Schneider)

Remember this? (photo credit: Jason Schneider)

That stupid bike and I, we’ve had our moments. We’ve had mechanical issues, flats, body cramping, knee pain, saddle pain, and all sorts of interesting problems. In spite of these things, I kept on going. Then, just when I was getting comfortable, feeling like, YES, maybe I could do this Ironman thing, I took a hard tumble on the Pacific Coast Highway, three weeks before my race. Not only did it mess up both of my knees, but also my shoulder and neck, which suffered whiplash from hitting the ground at 16 mph.

What pain?

What pain?

Fast forward to race day. I had spent 8 months being nervous about making the bike cut off, and, now, I was even more afraid that, with my shoulder injury, I wouldn’t make up enough time on the swim. As I suited up for the swim wave, tears began to form, and butterflies were doing the electric boogaloo in my stomach.

My teammate, Marianthe, and I took a couple of minutes to dip into the water to the right of the swim start, just to get ourselves acclimated and calm nerves. It helped a bit to be in the water. Either way, this race was happening, so I needed to accept my fate.

5 a.m. in transition with Coach Holly (pre-freak-out) (Photo by Christopher Trent)

5 a.m. in transition with Coach Holly (pre-freak-out) (Photo by Christopher Trent)

Post-freak-out, pre-swim, with some of my TNT Viner ladies!

Post-freak-out, pre-swim, with some of my TNT Viner ladies! (photo by Christopher Trent)

Everyone says that the Vineman swim is the best swim, ever: glorious trees, warm, clear-ish water, a great current on the return, and a narrow path to keep zig-zaggers like me from swimming way too far out. I still zigged and zagged a bit, but was luckily able to realize it before I swam onto shore like some kind of beached river whale. I took it easy, slow and steady for the first loop, minding my shoulder and dodging stupid people who were standing up and running in the shallow water around the turnaround buoy. Near the end of Loop One, some dude jammed his elbow into my pinkie and ring fingers, and, for a split moment, I thought they might be broken. Luckily, they weren’t, and I was able to shake it off and keep swimming after several dozen panicked and limp strokes.

Some of the men were fairly aggressive swimming at Vineman, but, they weren’t nearly as terrible as some of the people at Wildflower. I had my feet grabbed a few times, but managed to kick the grabby hands off and swim away before they could push me or dunk me to swim over me. On the home stretch, I pushed it a little harder, and began kicking my legs to get them ready for the bike.

Coach Holly and Jason cheered enthusiastically when I popped out of the water.

“Under an hour and a half!” Holly shouted. My actual time was 1:26:40, but I wouldn’t find that out until later. Phew! I had made up enough time to give myself a head start on the bike!

And, oh, looky! I got my pic in the paper!

And, oh, looky! I got my pic in the paper!

Now for that stupid bike. I pushed it up the little hill out of transition, hopped on, and i was on my way. I decided to spin easy for the first hour as I wheeled along the route. However, I found that, even easy spinning felt a little tough. My bike squeaked oddly up the first several climbs, but it had been misty damp out, so I figured it was probably just the moisture getting into the works.

You'd almost imagine I liked that thing.

You’d almost imagine I liked that thing.

I trusted that I would get my cycling legs back, but things still felt quite tough. My hip and legs were feeling a little crampy, as they always did on the first 25 miles of a steadily climbing ride, but I told myself I was only going to stop once every 25 miles, and, then, only for about a minute. I stopped, stretched, regrouped, and kept on pedaling. From mile 25 to Geyserville, at about mile 35, I felt like I was crawling along at a snail’s pace. Barely topping 12 mph, 9 mph on hills, I felt nervous about my time and about what was actually going on with me, but tried to put on a brave face as I passed Coach Jason and Coach Dave near the aid station.

“Looking strong!” Dave called out.

I felt a bit stronger, holding a 15-16 mph pace until I hit the infamous Chalk Hill turn, where a series of rollers transformed into the ride’s only Category 5 climb. I saw coach Amy at the bottom, who leapt into the air when she saw me pass. As I climbed up the steep part of the hill, I saw all of our teammates names chalked on the road and heard cheers and cowbells around the bend that I knew were coming from our amazing supporters.

They cheered for me as I churned the rest of the way up that hill, my teammates Lisa, who was dressed as a unicorn, and Sheree, who was dressed as a Ninja Turtle, running up the slope with me as I reached the top. If you’ve never had people cheer for you while you’re doing something really tough, it helps, believe me. I pushed just a little bit harder as I reached the crest.

Up the first big climb with a Ninja Turtle and a Unicorn by my side! How many people can say that?!?

Up the first big climb with a Ninja Turtle and a Unicorn by my side! How many people can say that?!? (photo by Christopher Trent)

Before I knew it, I was midway through the bike. Coach Holly told me I had made it in over an hour before cut-off, meaning I had made the first bike loop in just over four hours. Things were looking good. In fact, they were looking great. Yayyy! Phew! Yayyy! The trees looked a little bit greener and more beautiful, the air felt cleaner, and the sun felt as if it was smiling on me as I coasted along the course.

Happy go lucky!

Happy go lucky!

I was sailing along for a while, until I again reached the rollers, and the squeaking got a bit more squeaky as I worked the pedals up a moderate climb. Finally, I stopped the bike and took a look, just to see, if maybe something had been knocked out of alignment. Sure enough, upon closer inspection, I discovered that my front brake had been rubbing the while time! At this point, I’d gone 70 miles with a rubbing brake, which, without a doubt, slowed me down and caused unnecessary fatigue, not to mention angst.

Things started moving much more quickly after that, I was hitting 17-19 mph consistently, but everything began to fall apart soon after I hit the pre-Geyserville hills again. This time, my saddle was hurting, my foot began to burn, and my legs were feeling trashed. By the time I got to Coach Jason, I started losing my composure.

“Now is not the time to fall apart,” Coach Jason stopped me as my breath began to stutter, before I erupted into sobs. “You can fall apart at the finish line, but not now.”

I sucked it up, buttercup.

He informed me that Coach Dave was waiting with his bike at the bottom of Chalk Hill. By the time I got there, my legs felt dead. I didn’t know how or if I was going to be able to negotiate these climbs.

Coach Dave was waiting for me, as promised. As we began to ascend, my climbs on the rollers began to slow to nearly 5 mph.

“Dave, I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t know if I can climb Chalk Hill again.” I called to him.

“Yes, you can do this. I’ve seen you do much harder things than this!” Dave called back to me, his bicycle weaving slowly in front of me as he spoke. “Don’t let your mind win!”

I kept pedaling.

My right thigh seized midway through the climb and I had to stop just before the steep part. Dave encouraged me onward, and, somehow I made it up the hill, up to where my teammates were still cheering for me and running alongside me up the rest of the way. I’m SO incredibly grateful for those people.

It wasn't pretty, but, luckily, I had minions and superheroes by my side!

It wasn’t pretty, but, luckily, I had minions and superheroes by my side! (photo by Paiwei Wei)

I’d like to say that the last 12 miles were cake, but I stopped a bunch more to relieve the pain in my foot and saddle area, even though I knew that I needed to buy as much time as I possibly could getting in.

Sometimes you have to push past the pain.

Sometimes you have to push past the pain. (photo by Christopher Trent)

I’m happy to say that I did it, I made it! I got off that stupid bike and made it onto the run! Yes! Yes! Yes! Did I mention that I made it off of the bike? Yessss!

I returned about a half hour before the cut-off time, giving myself four hours to transition and run 17.5 miles before the 9 p.m. cut off preceding the last loop of the marathon.

Holly helped me run out of transition, at about a 10-min pace, but I quickly fell apart. My legs felt like jelly, my stomach was utter grossness. My body was exhausted. It was the worst feeling I’d ever experienced. I ran into the second restroom out of transition, which left me feeling a bit better for a while, but my body gave me no option but to walk, a lot–or, if I did run, I wasn’t going above an 11 min pace.

Not feeling so hot here.

Not feeling so hot here. (photo by Paiwei Wei)

Luckily, my teammate, Bill, was out there on the run, helping me pick up the pace a bit and keeping me focused on running. We hit up to a 7-min pace on a downhill, but that quickly slowed to a 10-min pace once we hit the flat again, and then, eventually, back down to a power walk. My body felt like shutting down. I had never felt so awful in my life.

Putting on a brave face at the turnaround.

Putting on a brave face at the turnaround. (photo by Paiwei Wei)

By the time I neared the 13.1 mile turnaround, I realized that I had 45 minutes to make it back 4.5 miles to meet the 9 p.m. cut off for my last loop. There was no way I was going to be able to make a 10-min pace for 4.5 miles back at that point. Coach Adam, Coach Amy, and our fundraising captain, Megan, ran with me, piping out music through their phones, singing hilariously inappropriate IronTeam marching cadences (thanks, Amy), but I knew I was doomed. At the 17.5 mile turnaround, they took my chip, and, with that, my long day was over. No finish line glory for me.

I guess that I expected to be more upset about not getting to cross the finish line after nine months of training for that one moment. For some reason, I wasn’t. Sure, it was a little bit disappointing not to be able to call myself an “IronMan”, and, sure, it stung a little bit to see my teammates cross the line and have that colorful purple and green medal hung around their necks, but, those final moments, that last lap, didn’t add up to all of the accomplishments I’d achieved over the past year of my life.

A medal, the title of “Ironman”, the “M Dot” tattoo, all of those things were all more for other people than they were for me. Those things were just trinkets, physical objects to prove that I’d completed a feat that only .01% of the population has attempted. What really mattered, what really counted, was all of the personal victories leading up to that moment.

Some of my teammates cried for me at the finish line. I guess they thought I was losing out on something. Maybe, for a brief, fleeting moment, I felt like a failure. When I realized that I’d come so far, only to be unable to finish the full race, I felt my heart sink, but, then, remembering why I was here and everything I had been fighting for, my heart filled with pride.

No one can say that I’m not a fighter. I accomplished what I set out to accomplish: I made the bike cut-off. The one thing that I feared that I couldn’t do, I did. What am I going to do, cry because I didn’t finish an Ironman? A whopping 132 miles is nothing to sniff at. Plus, if we’re really haggling, if this would have been a 17-hour “M Dot” race, I would have finished, no question.

It sounds trite when people say that it’s not about the destination, that it’s about the journey, but, in this case, it’s about every fall, every cut and scrape and bruise, every cramp, every gut-wrenching sob, every second that I felt like I couldn’t pedal another stroke. It’s about the scary downhills, and every teammate and coach who encouraged me to keep facing those fears, and never, ever to give up. It’s about the biggest lesson I’ve learned: to be forgiving of myself.

Ironman isn’t about being the fastest or the best at anything. It takes 140.6 miles of traveling to learn patience, pacing and to focus on what’s really important. It is about the small, minute by minute victories, rather than the final fanfare and glory. In the end, how can I feel anything but accomplished and successful?

The gratitude I feel after having this experience is bigger than this whole universe. And I know that I couldn’t have done it without some of the most amazing teammates and coaches a girl could ask for.

It wasn't quite the medal I was hoping for, but after 132 miles of a 140.6 mile race, I'll take it.

It wasn’t quite the medal I was hoping for, but after 132 miles of a 140.6 mile race, I’ll take it.

I would like to thank:

Coach Jason: For believing in me, and for scraping my carcass off of the pavement more times than I can count, for keeping me from having epic meltdowns on the bike, for being the voice of reason, always, and for genuinely caring about each and every one of us. You made me feel safe.

Coach Dave : For being the mushiest drill sergeant I know; able to fix anything, from broken bike parts to broken spirits. I don’t know what I would have done without seeing you on Chalk Hill at mile 100. I’m so grateful that you never let me give up.

Coach Amy: Because of you, I will never again curse hills without referring to a “big bag of d___ks!” Seriously, you embody perseverance, and the whole “suck it up, Buttercup!” mentality. I have seen you push to limits that would leave most 6’4″ male triathletes pale and crumpled on the side of the road. You have been an amazing inspiration and friend.

Coach Emily: We’ve come a long way since that creek ride in Culver City, where I did my best to keep my fear of careening off of the path into the ravine hidden as I struggled to keep up along the way. You’ve always been the one with the best quotes, and, most of all, you get me, in all of my abstract metaphorical dreamer logic. I always felt like, even my weirdest thoughts about this experience, you understood, and you always had great feedback. I’m so happy to have had you as a coach and to have witnessed your incredible victory at Vineman this year.

Coach Holly: Gah, ocean waves are coming! Where’s Holly? Oh, okay, she’s right there–Phew! You were an awesome guide through my first several ocean swims, where I wasn’t quite sure if I would make it out of the surf in one piece. Or on my runs, when I wasn’t sure if I could get my legs to move at my usual pace. Somehow, whenever we ran together, my legs responded and I started having fun on the run again. You helped take the “suck” out of most of my workouts.

Coach Adam: Philosophy, jokes, and an unforgettable speedo, Adam, you are the smiling face that always picked me up from dark places. We always shared our hatred of our bike nemeses, and our love of hitting the pavement on our own two legs. You kept things light with your incredible positivity and amazing spirit, and kept me going.

Coach Quinton: You helped drag my whining carcass across 80 miles of California coast. Always calm, patient, and collected, acting like hoards of traffic or monstrous ocean waves were no big deal, you always helped me keep my cool when things were a little chaotic (and, at least, when I wasn’t keeping cool and sobbing my guts out, you were just out of earshot).

Coach Pete: The guy who taught me to be proud of myself, to set my positive thought wheels in motion. While you weren’t my official coach this season, you were an amazing supporter and friend. Thanks for reminding me that triathlons can be fun.

Coach Rob: Yeah, you left us early on in the season to coach another team, but you were always around to support us during our races and on the pool deck every Tuesday. Your silliness and crazy, crazy athleticism are unforgettable. Because of you I MAY think about a 50-miler (not a 100-miler, because that’s only for complete loonies).

Coach Riz: While I was so, so sad that you weren’t going to be my coach anymore early in the season, I experienced my most life-changing moments with you, and I am SO grateful to have you as a supporter and friend, all the way to the end. You helped me to see the strength within myself. You are a natural coach, you are amazing, and I “heart” you so much!

Coach Brad: While you were never MY coach, you cheered me on, advised me and encouraged me through tough times, like Vineman training weekend, when my nutrition got the best of me. You helped to remind me to believe in myself. Even though I didn’t finish, I still believe in myself. I didn’t quit, and, going home, that feels like a win to me.

Coach Mikey: Remember when I could barely swim across the pool last year? Wow, we’ve come a long way! I never thought I would swim a 1hr26min Ironman, and that it would be EASY! I had you in my head the whole time. Every time I swim, I always think, “What would Mikey tell me to do?” We’ve looked for “sea ponies” in the ocean, and you helped me to learn to be patient with myself. You helped me to relax, have fun, and enjoy every workout. I can’t wait to get back into the pool with you guys! ❤

To my Vineman teammates (Marissa, Marianthe, Laura, Tiffany, Rona, Naomi, Beth, Amanda, Lisa, Elissa, Ben, Renee, Alex, plus Jane and Amy R-G): I thought I was going to be lonely, the only slowpoke cyclist remaining in our small team of fantastic athletes, but you all were so supportive and made me feel included, even when I wheeled in and you were all sitting around, having finished with your post-cycle run. I am so proud of all of you and am glad that I’ve made some incredible lifelong friends.

To my TNT teammates and Vineman cheer squad (Lisa, Sheree, Bill, Diallo, Mary, Trey, Tim, Raul, Pete, Lindsay, Clare, EWS, Jared, Chris & Lisa T., Matthew, Bobbi, and Megan): There is so, SO much love for the support I’ve received from all of you along the way. And for the cheerers, way to suck the “suck” right out of a Mile 100 hill, or an Ironman marathon! I’m so lucky to have you guys in my life.

To my supporters and all of you who have been following me along this journey: I couldn’t have done any of this without you. My heart is exploding with gratitude. Whether you’ve been reading my blog or requesting updates from me at work, your interest in my experience has meant an insurmountable lot to me. I value all of you and hope to have the chance to catch up and spend quality time with each and every one of you in the upcoming months.

So….what’s next? Am I going to try again? I think I’d like to. I’ve batted around the idea of doing IM Cozumel next year, which has a flat bike course and a lot of cool stuff to look at. Truthfully, though, I don’t know how I feel about doing it all over again, and without a team to support me. I don’t feel as though I need to prove anything, but it would be nice to just go on and finish what I started.

For now, I’m just going to enjoy a few weeks of recovery and then gear up for the Half Moon Bay Marathon, at the end of September. Plus, summer’s almost over and it’d be nice to maybe go and enjoy the beach for once too. 😉

Thanks again for supporting me. I will continue to write in this blog to keep people apprised of my journey as it continues on.

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Nerves: A Pre-Race Story

Less than a week to Vineman, and it’s really here, it’s really happening. Nine months of slaying fear dragons and getting knocked about, and here we are. It’s strange when you’re training for something for that long. It feels like you’re just going to be in “training mode” forever and that, somehow, the actual day of reckoning will never arrive, but will simply loom, mirage-like, on the horizon. Now the illusion is materializing, and, with it, of course, comes a windfall of hard realities.

My anxieties over my bike time have always hovered in the background, as I have watched my teammates become amazing athletes and cyclists, and I’ve stayed lagging behind, repeating Teddy Roosevelt’s words, “Comparison is the thief of joy” in my head as my mantra. Now I have to face the hard edge of truth, that, I’ll have little margin for error on that bike. Come hell or high water, I have to push, push, push, through pain, through tears, through any random curveball that comes my way.

Last weekend, Coach Jason told me to “keep moving forward”, no matter what. Even if I do face dire challenges that put me in the position of not being able to make that bike cutoff. “Don’t stop until they come sweep you off the course,” Jason advised.

So many of my coaches and friends have told me that they key to accomplishing what I want to accomplish on that bike course lies in my own tangled brain. I should believe, with my whole heart, that I can finish this bike leg, that I can make the cut off. So, when all else fails, I must arm myself with facts:

1) I have been training all season long for this race. I have the strength and endurance within me.

2) I know that I can finish 100 miles in 7.5 hours WITH lots of long stops, so there is no reason to believe that I cannot finish 112 miles in 8.5-9 hours.

3) Race day will provide lots of motivation and adrenaline, and Vineman is a beautiful bike route to provide distractions.

4) I cannot gauge my performance based on what happened at Vineman Training Weekend. Besides the temp climbing to 104 degrees F, my Accelerade did not absorb, causing me to bonk early on. Note: Prior to bonking, I was making good time out on the course.

5) I cannot compare myself to others. As long as I remain within my own pace requirements, I can focus on enjoying the day and appreciating everything that I’ve done to get here.

I will try to keep this logic in my back pocket. I think I will write “Believe” on my arms to keep me in a positive head space during the ride. Once the ride is over, I get to jam on the run (and by “jam” I mean keep a steady 10:30 pace throughout, if possible–Vineman’s run is a little bit tough).

I suppose that, even typing through these thoughts, I feel a bit better. Rather than letting my emotions gulp me down into a neverending rabbit hole of strained nerves and sick stomachs, I’ll try to remind myself to get back to the real world and look at the evidence of my own success.

And, again, so what if I don’t finish? Anything can happen on race day. It’s a long a$$ day. What happens? Well, yes, it’s disappointing to have to come home with a medal-free neck, like I did at Wildflower, but, really, was the medal the point of all of this? You don’t get to wear all of the things that you have accomplished on the outside, but they still show. I walk a little taller now, fear challenges a little bit less, I live with the knowledge that, if you really want something, you can go for it with your whole heart, and you can achieve things you never imagined you could do. I live with the knowledge that I’m tougher than I look, and that I have the strength to weather any of life’s natural disasters.

Of all of the strengths I’ve gained during these last nine months, the most powerful is the strength to believe in myself.  With that strength, I’ll keep the forward momentum.

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One More Day: A Hero Story

Hey all,

I have another great story for you coming soon after an epic-ly tough weekend (including the infamous 5/3 brick)!

Just a reminder that I’m going to be swimming, biking and running in my first Ironman in TWO WEEKS in order to raise money to fight cancer!

I’m still miles away from my fundraising goals and I could really use your help. Please become MY superhero and donate what you can to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society here:

Thank you in advance for being awesome! 🙂