Rev 3 Maine: Becky vs. the Ocean Part 1

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I was going to start this blog entry by stating that I hate the ocean, but that would not be true. I am simply terrified of the ocean. That is a very different thing than hatred.  The ocean also can be magical and breath taking and exhilarating (more on this later).  But on Sunday I was clearly fixated on terror.  I believe this buzz feed articles sums up my feelings best..and yes I admit that using the word f**k as a descriptive noun for the ocean speaks to me…thanks buzz feed.

Buzz Feed: Why no one should mess with the oceans?

 

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12 foot waves that spell instant doom!  This is what I saw originally with this picture.  Yeah, no, just little kids playing in the ocean.

 

I believe I somewhat doomed my swim start for Sunday on Saturday by heading to the beach to investigate what the swim start would look like.  See figure and caption. I now see that I was looking at small children and adults playing in gentle waves; however, at the time, I saw 12 foot waves crashing down on the heads of innocent bystanders.  My ability to skew reality when it comes to water is exceptional.  And so these two thoughts were in my head on Sunday morning:  1.  the ocean is huge and scary and who knows what’s out there and 2. the monster waves (that only existed in my head) are going to take me out. I attempted to shake off these thoughts with a warm up on race day, but no, I knew I was going to have a rough go of things when I was gasping for air 30 seconds into my warm up just because I was so frightened. I think the only thing that perhaps got me through the swim at all was getting to see the Jacksons pre-swim.  If you read my Lake Placid race report, I am clearly fans of the Jackson family🙂  Very fun. So back to the swim itself..I ran down the beach as I have practiced, I even successfully dove, I took a few strokes and was feeling amazingly good, and then all the thoughts I had above came rushing back and I was paralyzed.  In a new awful swim start first, I actually screamed, twice in fact. Thankfully ,no one was even remotely close to hear this because, horrified by myself, I decided I should start swimming again before anyone did notice and that was that.  In my feeble defense of this swim, I actually am a much stronger swimmer now than I once was. I was able to catch up to the ladies in front of me, I put down a time that would have been good for me for not standing still for 2 minutes two years ago, and ,although I lost any and all hope of the draft speed I had been banking on, I at least had others to spot in the water and work around. So there’s that.

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Have I mentioned how awesome I think Chris and Diane Jackson are..they are pretty awesome.

And so onto the bike.  If only I could shake off a bad swim instantly, but no, the reality is that mentally a bad swim throws me off my game and physically a panic attack usually leads to an inevitable asthma attack.  On the plus side, I did listen to the sage advice of the physicians in the medical tent after Lake Placid who informed me that if I was starting to have an asthma attack, maybe I should consider using my inhaler rather than just carrying it around with me. Brilliant.  This really does/did help, go figure.  And so I did not ever fully regain my rhythm on the bike, and I rank this as a very sub par race effort, but I was definitely pumped to pull myself together enough to only barely miss the bike time I was aiming for.  Also, I feel this is my moment to give a small PSA.  In a moment of complete annoyance, and I admit there may have still been some residual swim anger, I pulled up next to a gentleman who was drafting a woman blatantly up a hill and said “Sir, you are insulting everyone else who is doing this race by drafting like that” and then I rode away.  Boom! If you draft during a triathlon, you totally suck and should quit triathlon immediately (I know this sentence is not exactly mature, I am ok with that).

 

And then the run, my first love <3  I was super looking forward to this run…so imagine my disappointment when an old toe injury from last year did not just bother me, but came back with such force that my foot literally gave out 4 times.  That was unfortunate.  But the plus of this is that my tolerance for physical pain is amazingly high. Emotional pain..not so much..but physical pain…I can endure more than most. I once won a duathlon with a fully broken shoulder (yes, I also realize how amazingly stupid this makes me). And so although the toe did slow me down since I could not push off fully, I just tried to stay relaxed and rather embrace the pain to run through it. Clearly this completely failed when the foot gave out, but otherwise I just stayed in my zone and managed the fastest run split of the day for the women by a significant chunk of time. I would have liked to have kept things under 7 min pace rather than at exactly 7 min pace, but beggars cannot be choosers when dealing with an injury.

And this brings us to the finish.  Twice last year I finished a half ironman in 5 flat.  So frustrating.  And with Rev 3 Maine, I at long last broke the 5 hour barrier.  Yes!! 4:54.  Sure, the day was far far far from perfect, but my totally awesome coach tells me this just means I can still go fast even when there are set backs and thus even more time can be cut. Logically I now want to go out there to get back to work, but my body and mind are having none of this so far this week.  Stupid body. And before I conclude this race report, I totally need to thank Brooke for being a badass athlete and an awesome friend who knows my personality better than I even know myself at times.  And when I crossed the line she was waiting there for me and that was awesome. I hugged her and almost cried as I saw the 4:54 on my watch and completely ignored/blew off any and all volunteers. Brooke and I vowed a month ago that we would go to Maine together and kick ass and take names and both finish the day on the podiums.  Done!  Brooke in 1st for the aquabike and  me in 3rd for the triathlon. Clearly, this is a sign that there should be more awesome Becky and Brooke races in the near future.

At long last, I want to re-visit the topic of oceans. Sure, terrifying is my main descriptor, but the ocean also holds amazing things such as rainbow colored fish, and dolphins, and manatees, and turtles, etc etc.  And with the ocean comes beaches, which I hear can be rather amazing…potentially as amazing as mountains..and thus these are a few of the beaches currently on my list of places I am naturally curious to explore…

 

Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain…

…but happiness and growth occur while you’re climbing it. -Andy Rooney

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I am going to roll two races into one report in as short of an amount of time/space as possible.  But the end result is exactly what Andy Rooney says, and who would have ever thought I would start anything with a quote from Andy Rooney? I am just as surprised as everyone else here. So to counter that I am also going to disperse some quotes from runners/cyclists here and there in this entry. That is sure to make all of us feel better.

I had a/am having a hard time writing about these races because I have not been entirely well.  Not crazy, just not entirely well. I needed these races to get grounded again and that’s what they have done. Mission accomplished. So without further ado and without going into too much detail…race reports…

The White Mountains Triathlon

This race is f**king hard.

That is all.

OK, just kidding, I can probably expand slightly on that🙂

I honestly rank this race among my new favorite races of all time, right next to IM Wisconsin, IM Mont Tremblant, and basically any race in Bend, OR. The swim. I was freaking out. The swim prior to this..IM Texas..stood still for ten minutes. I continue to hang my head in shame over this. So yeah, not totally optimistic here, but I still was hoping for the overall win. Logically this served to increase my normal level of social anxiety by a factor of pi. So when I overheard girls making fun of people who enter these races to win them, I joined in the laughter and also made fun of said girls. But I am that girl, I did enter to win. Confusion. Clearly self confidence is not my forte.

So the swim.  I still hate the water and that’s about that.  On the plus side, I did not have a panic attack.  I did however swim somewhat by myself, not even remotely in a straight line, and not in proximity to any other humans, which maybe is not optimal for swimming 1.2 miles in the shortest amount of time possible. What can I say, the swim is a work in progress.  The swim start is about 500 meters down a gravely road from transition.  Most people put running shoes at the bottom to change into. I of course decided I would rather have my feet bleeding than to sacrifice time to putting on shoes. Who needs shoes? So I get out of the water 38 long minutes later and the race for me began.  On to the bike!

Picture3The bike was amazing and awesome and beautiful and I loved every second of it. My only extra comment on this is that there was a KOM competition. I am still applauding myself for my self restraint on this climb because part of me desperately wanted another polka dot jersey.  But I did not jump on the climb, and at the top, I had this very weird moment of deja vu where I felt like I had been in that precise position at the top of that climb before.  Apparently, I felt this because I had been in that precise position at the top of that climb before. Go figure. You would think I would have remembered this before the race.  Nope. According to Facebook, I rode that exact same road the only other time I stayed for an extended period of time in NH. Awesome. What a fun surprise. So I completed the  bike and as always had not even a remote idea where I stood in the race.

Regardless of where I think I am in a race, when it comes to the run I am very much go hard or go home.  I heart running :) This is not to say I was not just as miserable as everyone else coming off of a stupid hard bike onto a stupid hard run, but 3 miles into that run I sort of never wanted to stop. I was running, and the world was breaking someone else’s heart. And this is logically when one of the other women shouted at me that I was about to take the lead.  I responded in my normal calm and collected manner…by shouting at her “really, that can’t be true, that’s awesome, I should keep going!”  Sigh. Still not good with the self confidence thing.  And so I ran my heart out…until mile 11 when yelling for water the volunteer instead panicked and tripped. me.  That hurt.  Blood everywhere.  And I responded, classy as ever, by screaming a the volunteer that I was in the lead and she was screwing up my race.  I really still have not recovered from losing Rock N Roll USA last year in part because of a volunteer.  I must learn to let this go.  Mental note.

And so my typical anti climactic finish.  In both 2014 and 2015, I was asked to re-create the finish at two races I had won because the volunteers did not see me coming in for the win.  Twice.  This time was even less climactic than those races. I crossed the line and asked the 15 year old volunteer if I got the win and she responded with “um no, there are tons of people ahead of you.”  Hmm. I was initially a bit deflated by this, but turns out, she thought I was finishing the olmpic triathlon in 3 hours and change.  Nope.  I ended up in 11th overall for the men, first overall woman…by 13 minutes.  So see above where I screamed at the volunteer….perhaps that was a wee bit uncalled for.  Rock N Roll USA..must learn to let this go🙂 If I keep repeating this phrase, maybe I will let it go?  Who knows.

The White Mountains Triathlon was not only awesome and fun…but the prizes were just badass. I took home a custom Adirondack chair plus cash for the fastest run prime. If anyone out there is looking for something more challenging than Quassy on the East Coast …this is it. Do it.

Ironman Lake Placid

I raced ok :)  I have a bad habit of downplaying my accomplishments, this is also a work in progress, sort of like letting go of my anger towards the volunteers that hindered my ability to win Rock N Roll USA, but different.  If anyone had seen me before this race, like right before this race, or the day before this race, they would have questioned whether I would even survive the day.  I am not overstating this.  I really was a train wreck going into this race.  And with that I am giving a HUGE shout out to the Jackson clan for providing me with some much needed company and an introduction to some fantastic pizza the day before the race until Jennie and Kristin were able to take over Sherpa duties.

Picture1Jennie and Kristin.  I cannot overstate my love for them.  Jennie, I know how hard it was for her to be there and not be racing with the pros.  Kristin, she would rather be at a beach…and in a location with cell phone service. I know that both of them had to sacrifice a bit of something to be there for me and so when race day came I knew I had to find a way to pull myself together for me and for them. And it still blows my mind that these two incredible people are my closest friends.  And so to go from crying and thinking I belong doing color runs 5 min before the race to division winner, that was one of the best journeys I have ever had and a memory I will never forget.  Here are the race highlights from each leg.

Swim:  I was not going to announce this publicly, but f**k it, I enjoyed the swim. I may never say that again. Ever. I have been swimming at Walden Pond with my Boston friends all summer and when I rolled into the water I just pretended I was in my normal position behind my friend Steve just trying to hang on.  And hang on I did. And it was awesome.  I am not pretending I swam fast with this.  But I swam exactly what I told people I needed to swim to qualify for Kona.  This never happens. I also sort of set a half swim PR and an Ironman swim PR.  Frankly I was so excited by this alone that I wanted to give everyone a high five when I got out of the water.  I found out after the fact that Kristin sent out a text that read “Becky is moving her arms, she’s having a good swim!”  Yes, that’s the low bar my friends and I have set for my swim success and I nailed it!! 🙂

Bike:  The trouble with not eating and being an emotional mess the day before a race of this length is that on the bike…this can get the best of you. I had to up my calorie intake rate to every 15 minutes.  This may sound appealing to some, for someone who struggle buses to eat on a regular basis daily, not so fun.  But I was on a mission.  I took Gatorade every other station, I grabbed extra cliff shot bloks, I did whatever was necessary and just kept hammering away. I still felt a little deficient the last 20 miles, but then again, the last 20 miles are almost always not pleasant, so I just did my best to minimize the damage. So aside from the food, I as always had technology completely fail me.  I did remember the bike computer this time..only to discover the power meter batteries were dying…sigh.  Some day I wil do a bike with power and it will be awesome!!  Thankfully, the bike still rides without a power meter, and I wrapped up the bike with the 3rd fastest split in the division and a move to 9th place  (from 41 out of the water, yes, that is a “good” swim for me :)).

Run:  I got off the bike and ran into the transition tent and honestly almost cried.  Everything just hurt.  And then I heard Jennie telling me to stop being as asshole and start running.  This, at the time, was only in my head, not in person.  But I know my favorite person well enough to know this is what she would say.  Those first 10 miles off of the bike I really thought I was barely moving and in my head I thought my race was over.  The calorie defecit from the day before was kicking in, I knew I would need my special needs bag for extra salt sticks, I was super dizzy, and I was starting to have an asthma attack.  And then I saw Jennie.  She yelled at me that I was running faster than anyone in my division..by a lot.  I tried to tell her I felt terrible and she promptly cut me off and yelled “you are at mile 13 of Ironman, you should feel terrible!!”  Love between friends. Because this is me and Jennie, there were probably some swear words in there between the two of us, but I shall not put them in writing.  I ran around the corner from her and someone was playing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”  That is basically the Jennie and Becky theme song.  And then I saw Kristin who also screamed her head off at me to keep running.  And so run I did.  I put down the hammer going up the rest of the false flat to the turn around and somehow managed a couple of splits in the lower 7s around miles 15 and 16. By the time I came back around again, I apparently was doing well because Dave runs into the road and screamed in my face “Becky, you are going to win your divison , you need to run now!”  Well, you don’t need to tell me twice.  I finished the run in 3:31, although I love this time, I admit that I want to be under 3:30 and I am probably going to obsess over this until Kona.

This was my favorite Ironman finish ever.  I felt awful those last 2 miles and just kept thinking I need to get the win, for Jennie, for Kristin, for me.  And that was all that was in my head. And when I went into the Oval, I somehow knew I had it.  Pure happiness.  …and then this was followed by me collapsing into a wheelchair and some blank spots in my memory. But when I started to regain airflow to my lungs I kept yelling at the docs that I needed to go because I belonged with Kristin and Jennie.  Seeing them waiting for me at the fence near the finish…I honestly think that was my favorite moment of the whole day :)  And ladies, I promised you I would dance the Carlton if I won division and I sadly forgot to do this from the confines of my wheelchair.  But Kona, the Carlton is a go! Jennie, have the camera ready!vDNZM1D

OK so that is pretty much the race re-cap.  Minus special thanks to some people who were left out of the race report in and of itself. Mary Eggers deserves huge props for helping me with my swim at training camp and keeping me motivated up to race day.  Tina Caldwell showed me how to run fast off of a bike. Chris Boudreaux convinced me that even I can handle 4-6 minutes of panicked swimming…and I am thanking him in advance for putting up with me up until (and past) Kona. Leslie gets a virtual hug because she is just so inherently awesome that I can’t help but smile every time I see her (even if it did not show on my face during the race).  Team Hatfield gave me some much needed pre-race love.  And last but not least, I am thankful for my team and my awesome teammates.  I have stated this repeatedly on fb, but sharing the podium with Meg Pennington-unforgettable.  I will always cherish that memory.

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And so to go back to Andy Rooney and his growth in the mountains.  I have come out of these two races not so unwell anymore. I am happy and healthy and totally pumped to be traveling to paradise with my two favorite people…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reclaiming my triathlon mojo: Ironman Texas

I have Picture2admittedly been apprehensive about the upcoming triathlon season.  In large part this is because I spent a significant portion of my last two, A-priority races vomiting on myself. This is not ideal. But in general, last season I was more or less just going through the motions with triathlon. What can I say, I was distracted, I had other things on my mind. This does not mean that I stopped training or that I was not competitive, it just means I would show up to races as late as possible before transition closed, I would potentially have a panic attack in the water while pondering the other things on my mind, I would do my thing,  I would retreat to my car for cookies, and I would go home (see all previous race reports for verification :)). I was hoping that Kona would break this spell, but nope, too busy vomiting. And so logically I decided to start this season off with a full Ironman. Brilliant.

In the interim between the Miami marathon and the Boston Marathon training run, I had way way way too much time for self reflection. I had moments of severe doubt where I would just give up racing all together and start doing charity walks and color runs. And if you are not a competitive runner, I am sorry if I just insulted you, but it is what it is.  I had multiple people tell me that running and triathlon do not define me and question if these things actually made me happy. I had one person tell me that these things do not define her so she quit doing them just to prove the point (which to me went a long way towards contradicting her point, but whatever). Well, having had time to self reflect on this, I think that the notion that running and triathlon do not in part define me is ridiculous. Also, I feel like a link to Jennie’s blog is necessary here, because I suspect (translation: know) she feels the same. Sure, I do things other than running and triathlon, for example I go into a lab as a senior scientist every day..and then proceed to rap along with notorious BIG in front of the other scientists. But I think the latter also in part defines me. My point is that, at the end of the day, everything I do in part defines me. And running and triathlon, they are a huge part of my life, and to lose them or give up on them would be like giving up on part of myself.  And that’s the crux of the matter, even now as I still obsess over my last race, and I wonder why I put myself through this, I know why, this is what I do, this is one of the primary reasons I get up in the morning, it’s part of who I am. Reference to the last race Jennie won in 2015, the Jingle Bell Half (ish..it was short..there’s no denying this) Marathon, and see accompanying picture.  Jennie was doing her first race that involved running in approximately forever, and I had a cold and was thus reduced to breathing through what felt like a small straw, and so there we were at the starting line screaming at each other and then hugging each other and then apparently trying not to cry (again, see the picture). Basically, neither one of us was exactly thrilled to be there (translation: we wanted to be anywhere else) but then the gun went off and all that went away. I led for the first 4 miles and then Jennie took over and that’s how we finished.  We both suffered horribly through that race, Jennie from not having raced in a long time, me from not being able to breathe, but the end, the end was perfect. And the memory makes me smile and reminds me what the two of us are capable of, particularly with our forces combined and while sporting zebra print capris.  Would Jennie and I still be good friends if we were not both runners who had long term debilitating injuries who were both in bike crashes bad enough that we could have just as easily not survived? Would we still be good friends if not for running and triathlon? The answer is that I have no idea because the question is stupid. These two things are part of what we are, so sure while we are also both socially awkward and have a profound love of Zoolander, we also are runners and triathletes.

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The start of the Jingle Bell Half Marathon, Jennie and I were clearly thrilled to be doing this.

So back to the point, after reassuring myself that I do want to continue with triathlon, I needed to find the mojo again.  Step 1 to this was verifying that I could in fact still run despite basically no run training and coming off of an injury that severely hindered my Miami marathon performance. I also wanted to verify that I could potentially enjoy myself during a race again after the misery that was Miami. So logically after a long run of 13 miles I showed up at the Boston Marathon dead set on doing something that was not a full marathon race but that also gave me a little boost to my self esteem.  A very fine line to walk (or in this case run).  First of all, the wait before the marathon was fantastic for the first time ever.  I spotted two guys hanging around in full disposable lab coats to stay warm, and I thought this was brilliant!  And I wondered why on earth I had never thought of this.  Next year, definitely next year. Anyways, shooting the shit with fellow scientists who also happen to run 2:40 something marathons,  never a bad thing. And then the run itself.  I did not have optimal self control, some self control, but not optimal.  This is the first time in as long as I can remember that I did not run the first 5k in 19 minutes, so there is that? :) But yeah, I probably could have done better, so after doing the first half in 1:28 , I thought I could either ruin my race at Texas by doing the marathon in under 3 (because not having a sub 3 marathon under my belt this year makes me mildly crazy) or I could shut off the gas around mile 18 and just call it good.  I chose the latter, and as luck would have it, I was not the only one to make this decision. And thus began 8 awesome miles of not giving a f**k. So the end result was that I learned that I can still run, and that apparently I can still have fun during a “race.”  Mission accomplished.

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I showed this picture to my physical therapist post race. She told me that we looked like two elite athletes taking a casual stroll during the Boston Marathon and that we were complete assholes. Yup, that about sums it up. 

And so on to Texas!  Well, I wish I could announce this was a stunning success and that I crushed each and every aspect of this race and loved every minute of it.  No, this did not happen, but I did remember that I totally love triathlon..and I proved to myself that I can still ride a fast bike and run a fast run during an Ironman. And to do that coming off of an injury where I could not actually train the run, sort of awesome. In retrospect, my expectations going into this race may have been a bit high given what I was coming off of, but at the same time, I think I put myself in a good place moving forward, sort of, hopefully, knock on wood.  The not so great parts of the Texas trip.  First of all, I booked a hotel back when I had two mortgages. And then I forgot that I had done this. To say I stayed at a questionable establishment would be an understatement.  There were 3 free channels of porn and prostitutes seemed to abound, I think that is probably all I need to say on this topic.  But turns out that this does not make for quiet nights. And then there is swimming.  Oh swimming. I had already in part psyched myself out going into this race, but to hopefully alleviate this I tried to find a place to do an open water swim the Thursday before Ironman. And that is what brought me to location pictured below.  Yup, an RV park south of Houston with Twin “Lakes”.  Houston and I have different versions of Lakes because if I can swim across Picture1something in 9 minutes, nope, not a lake.  Anyways, I logically saw this closed sign, shoved some money in the mail box, and then edged my way around the fence.  I then could not employ my normal strategy of just staring at the water hoping it will go away …because I slipped and slid all the way down the mud on the side of the lake and landed butt first in the water.  HAHA.  But I swam in this black warm muck and did not freak out so I was mildly hopeful for the race.

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Open water swimming in Texas, not exactly a Great Lake, not exactly Walden pond, but I was told there were no alligators and no paddlefish in this one, so there was that.

And then race day came. This is the closest I have come to bailing during a race. Ever. This is not a good thing. I had a moment where I thought my mojo would be lost forever in a lake in the Woodlands. While waiting for the rolling swim start the man next to me told me that it was like lemmings rolling into the water and people just get run over and it is worse than mass swim starts. I found this lemming analogy to be amazingly accurate, but still, not good to go in with this image in my head. So the first few strokes I was fine.  Totally fine, and then I started thinking how I am not a swimmer and how maybe I do not even belong in triathlon, and I could not get a grip on how ridiculous these statements really were and then things spiraled out of control.  I am trying to actually explain this for the first time ever because recently I have come to realize that people do not understand my fears and how one just shuts down in the water.  I am not sure this explanation will do the trick, but I am trying. So once things spiraled out of control, my general fear of drowning in open water came up, and that’s when I completely shut down. I just stood there. The race passed me by. I could not seem to gain control of myself enough to move forward at all. Minutes later I tried again and I made some progress, only to take in so much water, that I panicked about drowning and had to stop yet again. And again I thought of quitting. But then I decided I would just pretend I am on my bike and carry on, so that’s how I started swimming again. I honestly pretended I was already on my bike. And the odd thing is that I can actually swim now.  So once I calmed down and was moving, all was fine. I got kicked in the jaw and was not even phased. All told, I suspect I cost myself 10 min, and these 10 min likely cost me a trip to Kona, but there’s nothing to be done about this now, and I just need to figure out how to have this not happen in the next race. Right, so, the bike and the run. The bike sucked cause of all the traffic, but it was awesome cause of all the turns!  Who are we kidding, I love me a turney bike course :_)  Or as Jennie said, “this course was made for someone who texts while on the rollers.”  #truth.  A great reminder of my triathlon love. If only the bike course was 17 mi longer, but the race directors handled all the obstacles that were thrown at them to still put on a challenging race, so I am not going to complain about this. Plus, I have been told on good authority that no one likes riding these last 17 miles anyways.  And so the run. I was told before the race that running in Texas is f**king hot. Turns out, this was totally true!  Sigh, all my aspirations of setting an Ironman run PR went out the window approx 10 seconds in, but this does not mean I rolled over and died. I upped the food, salt stick, and water intake and started plodding along. Turns out this plodding was faster than a lot of other women, so I am semi patting myself on the back for that. I had no idea where I was in the race going into the last loop (of 3 loops), just that I was somewhere between 5th and 10th.  This is a big window, but nothing ventured nothing gained, so I wanted to give this last race effort my all. Somewhere around mile 18-19, I was joined by a friend who was awesome enough to give me a flask of redbull from his special needs bag. If you are reading this blog and not aware of my feeling on redbull, well, then you basically do not know me at all. And then the storm came. “Storm” does not do this justice. There was hail and lightning and rain and general confusion. Some people stopped, the volunteers were giving conflicting information, basically it was a complete and utter mess. I opted to keep running. This was not the popular choice, but given uncertainty, I am always going to choose to run. Well, that flask of redbull, that friend, totally saved me. I clutched that thing like it was the last piece of food on earth because that was all I had to get me through the last 6 miles.  And so concluded another Ironman. I moved from 49th out of the water to 20th off of the bike to 9th after the run. That is a solid come back.  And although I did not have the swim I wanted, I think I did verify that I belong in triathlon and that I am capable of racing a solid Ironman.  I logically talked to Jennie ASAP (an accomplishment in and of itself because this was the first time the two of us have ever talked on the phone, our hatred of phone calls is a topic for another day) who assured me this was a badass return to Ironman and who informed me that she would be telling me I am a f**king unicorn if needs be when we get to Lake Placid to ensure I do not muck up another swim. :_)  What are friends for. Long story short, the mojo has been located, I am as surprised as anyone that it was in Texas, and I am super antsy for the next triathlon on the list.

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Texas is f**king hot.

 

 

 

 

 

A brand new day

radinI have admittedly not written a blog entry in approximately forever. Although I will keep my completely honest feelings to myself, I do find writing to be rather cathartic and helpful towards my emotional well being.  So logically, I have not written in this at all since returning from what was potentially the worst “race” I have ever had in Kona. And thus, I have basically just existed in a state of denial and suppression since October, which has not served anyone well, particularly myself.  But yesterday, for the first time in a long time, I felt like I would be OK, and hence the song choice and the return to writing (click here for the entire song rather than the corny picture).

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That blur is me finishing Kona, the only time during the entire race where I was moving faster than recovery pace. The announcer said, “if you want to finish under 12 you need to hurry.” I logically started sprinting and heard the announcer say “that should do it.” 11:56. Nailed it.

First, quick race recaps. Kona. Last year I returned from Rock N’ Roll USA so incredibly angry and frustrated at the Rock N’ Roll organization and myself that I did not think I could possibly be any angrier about a specific race.  I was wrong. In this particular case, I am not angry with the WTC, just myself, but the feelings are similar.  I went into Kona feeling slightly over trained and a tiny bit injured, but with the knowledge that I was also more fit than I have ever been in my entire life. As the last race of a very long season, a bit of over training can be overcome, and I was hopeful for a solid race. You can never go into an Ironman completely confident that you are going to get the outcome you hope for, but my race was more or less a catastrophe from start to finish. There are two points during the run where the ocean is straight ahead of you, and both times I simply wanted to keep running and make the suffering end. After the race, I received many messages from people saying how I should be honored just to finish and how many people cannot even compete in an Ironman. Although I understand these sentiments, this does not offer me any consolation. I have completed many Ironmans, and I am not competing against the people who have never done a triathlon. When I race, I aim to do the best that I personally think I am capable of, and if I do not achieve that, I am not going to be happy. 567f6c5fcdd794006f5cff8946ecb887465e4baaa70a53cf6d42e3da57b0bb36

I returned to Boston from Kona heart broken to say the least. I am willing to admit that I have been on an emotional struggle bus since arriving in Boston, and I was looking for Kona to at least pull the struggle bus out of the ditch and back onto the road again. And before people jump to conclusions on this statement, I do not regret my move to Boston or my departure from academia. My struggle bus journey has much more to do with my continual discomfort with regards to making friends and maintaining friendship than with my career decisions. When I decided to look for industrial jobs, the only places willing to give me interviews were in California and Boston (despite my desperate attempts to return to Madison). I have no desire to move back to the west coast, nor does the idea of training in the sun all year round appeal to me, so I turned down the California interviews. So Boston.  As for academia versus industry, many people told me when I decided to depart academia that the grass would not be greener on the other side.  Well, rest assured, all of those people were wrong. From my now more knowledgeable position, the grass in industry is well watered and fertilized, while the grass in academia is just a tumbleweed blowing across the desert.

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Not to put too fine of a point on this, but this summarizes my feelings of industry versus academia.
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Post Miami Marathon, glad to have made the podium despite everything, and feeling very cozy in my new Wattie Ink gear!

Logically, when I returned from Kona, I dealt with these feelings  of disappointment  by doing what I always do, I ran. Literally. I signed up for the Miami Marathon with a mission to get onto the podium, and I signed up for two more Ironmans, with the clear goal of returning to Kona. During the build for Miami, I ran around 24 mi for my long run each weekend followed about 3 days later by 6-10 x 1 mi repeats at sub 6 min pace.  I very rarely share anything about my training, but I am going to hope that anyone who just read this thought “wow, that is just stupid” because really, wow, was that stupid.  After the last set of 10 x 1 mi repeats, my entire right leg just stopped working.  I toed the starting line of that race only able to bring my right leg forward through sheer will power.  Thankfully (or not so thankfully?), I did not notice my injury during the race because I was too distracted by getting sick from the bacterial and viral infections my body was trying to ward (unsuccessfully) off.  I made the podium, but I ran the slowest marathon time I have run in several years, I was bleeding from places people should not bleed form, and I could not pee for several days. After a much needed trip to the emergency room, combined with two different types of antibiotics, I still could barely walk, and decided it was time to call a spade a spade.  I had run myself into the ground and come back from Miami emotionally and physically broken, not an improvement from Kona.

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Given that tomorrow is the Boston Marathon, I figure this is the most appropriate picture to show off just how much of a badass my orthopod is. Yup, this is her. Winning the Boston Marathon.

Having admitted that maybe something is off🙂, I made approximately 10 phone calls (I do not have words to express how much I hate talking on the phone) and was finally referred to “the best non surgical orthopod in Boston”.  I was of course dubious of this statement, but low and behold, my orthopod is a total badass!!!  Not only that, but she diagnosed my right leg as a complete and utter mess (ok, there was some more technical words used than this), she sent me to an amazing sports physical therapist who used to play lacrosse for USC, she hooked me up with a sport nutritionist since I am not keen on eating, and she is sending me to a sport psychologist to deal with the fact that only on rare occasions am I willing to admit that I am a moderately ok athlete. She also gave me the courage I needed to hire a coach who is more in tune with the needs of a female athlete. Thankfully, all of this coincided with me being accepted onto Team Wattie Ink, basically the best triathlon team ever, with the greatest sponsor ever. And so here I am, on the eve of doing the Boston Marathon as a training run, still feeling mildly broken, but also feeling for the first time in a long time that all hope is not lost with regards to me being a successful athlete.

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Proof!  This is me swimming, in a swim meet! I know, crazy, right?

On a final note, after calling a spade a spade, I was left primarily with swimming. I think if you have read any of my previous blog entries, my feelings on anything related to the water have been made abundantly clear.  And yet, I now at times love swimming.  Yes, this is true, and no, I have not hit my head.  This may in part be because of my new swim-focused triathlon coach, but mostly this is because I have discovered that swimmers are basically awesome human beings. This past week I went to a get together at a pub with the North Suburban YMCA swimmers, and when I got up to leave, one of the women hugged me and told me I never need to feel alone in Boston again because they are my family now.

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The Jelly Bean bike, almost ready for a group ride debut!

And with that, my normal defenses that I use to prevent myself from making and maintaining friendships fell away.  Both swimming and friendships are uncomfortable for me, but no one ever said that discomfort is a bad thing.  I am a triathlete focused on Ironman, clearly I have accepted that some level of discomfort leads to good things.  One of the swimmers is also a cyclist, and so I have found myself itching to jump back into group riding/racing again lately. Frankly, I think my coach would perhaps prefer if I did this in a controlled setting rather than jumping into every fast group ride I happen to see out on the road🙂
So yesterday I took my newly built Jelly Bean bike out for a spin to assure myself that I still have bike handling skills that are above most triathletes (yes, this is a very low bar).  And as I rode over gravel and dirt and practiced bunny hopping pot holes of various depths and widths, I  found myself looking forward to my next few months in Boston and smiling.  Today is indeed a brand new day.

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face…

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This is more or less how training and life has gone for me in the last month. I have not missed a workout to be clear, it just has not been pretty.

I “moved” to Boston one month ago and I leave for Kona in one week.This weekend, courtesy of friend Jennie Hansen I read this article by Brett Sutton pertaining to the stress age group triathletes encounter while working and training for Kona. Although, I can relate to almost all of this, there are no contingencies for what this experience is like when you have a type A personality and then completely switch careers and decide to move to a new location without actually having a place to live while training for Kona. How many people are actually stupid enough to do this? In true Becky form, I received the job offer from PixarBio in Boston while in the emergency room (see previous blog entry if you are not familiar with this trip of an ER frequent flyer). So there I was, sitting in the emergency room, telling my new bosses that I am totally in and can start ASAP…but that I am currently in the emergency room and therefore cannot sign the contract…and while I was saying that I asked if I could have one week off, one month after starting, to race in the Ironman world championships. Go hard or go home people.

Although I have many weaknesses and vulnerabilities, I tend to not admit them to the general public, but in this case I am willing to call a spade a spade.  The transition has been stressful. I pondered expanding upon this, but instead I would hope that people can just sense that me admitting to this means that I have been more or less been so on edge for the past month that I have wanted to punch everyone in the face (this is the general theme for this blog entry). I have  in fact repeatedly sent Jennie texts that say “I hate everyone.” Classy. And so, training for Kona when you have no home in a place you are not familiar with and a job that you know nothing about, let me tell you about that Brett Sutton.

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This was my initial hotel set up, I have since moved one of the bikes from the desk to the bed…to make room for my rollers and trainer🙂

Week one.  Limited to no sleep right after racing a half ironman, my coach gives me the longest week of training I have had in over a year. Awesome. I am staying at an extended stay hotel about 25 mi from where I am working, and I get in on Tuesday night and cleverly unpack such that my bikes are basically encompassing the entire room. Wednesday morning, I wake up at 3 am with this brilliant plan that I will drive to Woburn, half way ish between the hotel and where I will be working, run for 2 hours with intervals, do some swimming drills for kicks at the Woburn YMCA, and still be able to make coffee with a friend near my new job at 7:30 am. What actually happened was that the stress and exhaustion from moving and starting a new life led to a full blown panic attack such that for the first time in ages I almost fainted multiple times during this run.  Logically, I then also got lost multiple times. So at one point I was grasping a wall, on a street I did not know, trying just to stay upright.  Not my finest moment.  I then basically stumbled into the Woburn YMCA, with no time for swimming, and asked the guy for membership so I could shower. The poor man then watched me turn white, slump forward onto the counter and start to faint.  Sigh.  Again, not my finest moment.  On the plus side to all of this, he felt so bad that he waived my joining fee!  Score! This run basically set the tone for the rest of the week. My weekend ride to the Wachusett Mountain involved setting a new low power number for an endurance ride for the year, countless stops to look around wondering where I am, and bonking at a gas station in Concord where I yet again purchased sour patch kids to salvage my ride. At the end of all of this I get an email from my coach that says “for anyone else I would have reduced the hours for this week, but I figured you would find a way to make it work.”  Damn him for always being right.

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This is not actually one of the houses I run by, but this is in the same neighborhood. You get the picture, this house is so big, it’s just stupid.

And so commenced the next 3 weeks where I continued to train even more than that first week, while working 11 hour days and trying to figure out how to deal with a 45 minute commute that does not end with puppy licks, but rather people above my hotel room that sounded like a heard of elephants. Slowly but surely I started to find my rhythm. I bought a head lamp and reflective gear for the first time ever so that I can run near where I live because apparently Boston suburbs are not keen on shoulders to the roads or street lamps. I admit that this was also not a smooth start.  I have an odd fear of bears based on a run in with one in New Hampshire (before the move) and there is always things rustling around in the trees.  And then, there are the mansions. Or large multi million dollar Boston houses. Apparently all of these houses have sprinkler systems that go off between 4 and 5 am.  I still jump approximately 5 feet every time one of those suckers goes off. I have also discovered that I can ride my bike towards New Hampshire, and although based on the store I stumbled into during a particularly shaky 6 hour ride where the women had more hair on their faces than their heads, these people may be more redneck than in rural new York, I rather love going there. And then there is swimming.  I have admittedly been swimming terrible.  I miss my swimming friends, my

Walden pond. I like swimming here, and yes I choked a little bit admitting that.
Walden pond. I like swimming here, and yes I choked a little bit admitting that.

pools, my swimming coach.  But then there is Walden, and although everyone on the planet (where the planet is the greater Boston area) goes there, I relent that I rather love swimming there.  Plus, since I like to avoid all random triathlon talk with strangers, I am forced to not just stand idly by the water as I am prone to do. And more recently I have discovered that I rather like sharing a lane at the Reading YMCA (because it turns out that the Woburn YMCA pool is 85+ degrees, WTF) with a guy who sports a snowman swimming cap.  I admit that I have a thing for snowmen, plus this guy is clearly from the south, which just makes the cap that much better.

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I will also be getting on the plane in this attire, with Xanax firmly in hand.

So here we are, still working all the time, still not adjusted, still without a permanent home. And after all those weeks of training more than I ever have, ever, I wish I could say that I am feeling great at this second, but instead I have a foot injury and a cold. Sigh.  And then next week is Hawaii. Although in theory, if we pretend I am not racing in a race I actually want to do well in, Hawaii in and of itself sounds nice, there are two problems with this. First, my fear of flying. Second, my fear of sharks. So for me, step 1 is just getting to Hawaii…and managing to get off the plane while still in a Xanax induced coma.  Step 2 is not coming out of the water last because I do not want to be marked as easy prey.

Magnum PI. Lately I have been watching this due to limited options on the hotel TV, but last week there was an episode where he swam with sharks..in Hawaii. Not cool Magnum, not cool. Thanks for feeding my fears.
Magnum PI. Lately I have been watching this due to limited options on the hotel TV, but last week there was an episode where he swam with sharks..in Hawaii. Not cool Magnum, not cool. Thanks for feeding my fears.

OK so now that I have gotten all of my stress and my fears out of the way, let us discuss the last paragraph of Brett Sutton’s article which states that Kona is “just another race.”  No, just no. Perhaps for some this is true, but not for me, not this year. Kona for me is a culmination of one of the hardest years I have had emotionally and mentally. I need this race.  If this race had a face, I would want to punch it, as we know, such is my way🙂.  And for the first time ever, I am at a job, where although not everyone understands my lifestyle, I am part of a team, and, everyone, across the board, supports me. That is beyond words amazing. I in fact will be rocking PixarBio tattoos and stickers throughout the race.  Just thinking of them makes me smile.  So despite all the

Although I am hoping for a rainbow and unicorns sort of day in Kona, this pretty much also sums up how I felt for much of this year :) So be it.
Although I am hoping for a rainbow and unicorns sort of day in Kona, this pretty much also sums up how I felt for much of this year🙂 So be it.

stress of moving and starting a new life and not having a home, while training for Kona, I would not have done anything differently. Accepting this job, in this city, while sitting in the ER after one of he worst training days I have ever had, was hands down the best thing I have ever done just for me.  And even though I am not able to see this clearly right now, part of me knows that for the first time in a long time, I am actually very race ready. Ironman Hawaii may in fact be a rainbows and unicorns kind of day.

Peasantman Triathlon: A Tribute to Two Triathlon Badasses

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Dirty Harry, the original badass.

In starting this post, I logically felt the need to check the definition of “badass” on Urban Dictionary to verify that my friends are indeed badasses.  The top definition of badass according to this clearly reputable website is “ultra-cool motherf***er”.  Yes, We all know that I use that particular word freely, but I am going to refrain from putting it in print. Examples of badasses, again according to Urban Dictionary, are Dirty Harry and Jules Winnfield.  Given that my Dirty Harry collection is on permanent standby for bad days and that I cross stitched a good friend a picture of Jules from Pulp Fiction saying “speak English motherf**er” for Christmas, I think it is safe to say that (1) this is a perfect definition and (2) the two women/triathlete in my life that I am dedicating this blog to qualify as badasses.

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Kristin and I have been the first central NY residents to do an open water swim for the past two seasons. We like to tell ourselves that this makes us not wimps, but in reality this probably makes us extremely stupid. But either way, we clearly survived.

Peasantman was my last race before moving to Massachusetts to kick start a do-over in my life as a scientist. To say I was not enthusiastic about racing would be a complete understatement of what I was feeling.  But given that I stopped to ponder my life during the swim portion of the last two races, I felt like I was at least entering this race at a step above that. And so this is where the two badasses come in. Without going into too much detail, because I am inherently uncomfortable with emotions and feelings, I have spent most of the last year re-evaluating my life, and when most of the dust had settled, Kristin White and Jennie Hansen turned out to both be rather awesome as **** (and this phrase is actually a subtle reference to a Green Day Album of the same title, see here). Two incredibly different individuals, minus the badass triathlete factor, but I am lucky enough to have both of them in my life. So why would I mention this in reference to Peasantman, well, they both know exactly how to motivate me, at this race specifically and in general. Jennie and I have the same basic strategy for races, approach the swim with happy, calm thoughts to survive until the real race begins; think of people that make you angry on the bike; and then get to the run and all is good because it is the run. Having said that, I also emulate Jennie in telling myself not to be an asshole in the swim; getting dropped by other people and swimming sadly off the back seemingly  makes you an asshole. And then this brings us to Kristin, she is the only person in my life who is actually allowed to make fun of my swimming handicap and that is primarily because I know she will take down anyone else who tries to mock my ability. I love this. We also have forced each other through many a long run where neither of us could talk simply because that would require more effort. And during the run of races, when I am starting to run out of gas, I can hear her first telling me that I can run like the wind off the bike and then, if things continue to deteriorate, I hear her saying that I need to not be a wimp. I swear that fear of her making fun of me for being a wimp on the run has put me on the podium in most races this year. So there you have it, there are other things I always think about while racing that I will likely never share, but these two ladies certainly counted for a lot when I hopped in the water to do my last race as a New York resident.

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This is what happens when you conclude an awful 5 hour ride and then say something that sounds more or less like “well, training cannot possibly get worse today, so I might as well go for a run.” Turns out, training can get worse when you make stupid statements like that.

And so the swim.  To give a little background to my positioning and thought process at the start of the swim, aside from my general “why is there water in front of me” attitude, I had a bit of an accident two weeks before this race.  See picture, but long story short, I broke a bone in my face above the nasal bone and had to have the skin glued back together. Oops.  Ah, as long as I am giving shout outs to Kristin and Jennie…my initial response to this accident was to run back home after failing to understand why the cars kept stopping and staring at me even after I said I was “fine”…and then rather than look in the mirror I texted Jennie brilliantly with “I refuse to look in the mirror because I had an accident and I am worried I may have to go to the emergency room.”  If you do not look, it is not real? And then, after looking and receiving verification from Jennie that it was as bad as anticipated, I sent a text to Kristin as my default local person for emergencies to say that I needed a ride to the ER.  Unfortunately, Kristin was in the midst of her own never ending 6 hour workout and so her response to hearing my text notification was to ignore it thinking that I was just rubbing it in that I was done already. Ha! Nope, not the case🙂

I am posting a picture of the swim start because for the first time more or less ever I think I actually somewhere among this first large group of people Will wonders never cease.
I am posting a picture of the swim start because for the first time more or less ever I think I actually somewhere among this first large group of people Will wonders never cease.

So for this swim, I strategically positioned myself at the very outside of everyone with the thought that getting kicked in the face with a broken frontal bone was perhaps not smart.  But then again, do I ever make truly smart decisions while racing?  The race started and less than a minute in, I heard the wise words of Jennie saying “f**k it and stop being an asshole”, so with that I did not panic (I said these things while still sticking to the original strategy of thinking of happy thoughts), decided I did not care about the broken bone, and found a pair of hard kicking feet to draft off of. The downside to this was that the man I chose to draft off of swam to the wrong set of buoys, that was unfortunate, but on the plus side, this was still faster than I could have done going into the current solo.  And then on the way back, with the current, I figured I could take it from there and I left that man in the dust!  I just gave myself a selfie high five for this. If you have read how my last two swims have gone, this was a well deserved selfie high five. Not exactly a best swim time wise, but to come out of the water 9th out of 36 for the women and 28th out of 103 overall, I was admittedly prettyexcited. And I did not fall backwards while trying to get out of my wetsuit as I did during my last race. I think this deserves a much smaller selfie high five.

The Mennonite women in Penn Yan also qualify as badasses in my eyes, as they rode over the surrounding hills with ease, in 91 degree heat, while wearing dresses.
The Mennonite women in Penn Yan also qualify as badasses in my eyes, as they rode over the surrounding hills with ease, in 91 degree heat, while wearing dresses.

The bike, not much to say here, I was more or less alone the entire ride, just me and the volunteers who could not seem to hand me a bottle at any speed greater than 15 mph. The highlight of the bike was that I got to pass a horse and carriage!  Yup, definitely a first. And watching the Mennonite women ride bikes in the opposite direction was sort of awesome. The fact that I was so aware of this does not really help the general sense that I did not bring my A game to the bike yet again. At the same time, I did not exactly bring my B game either. I am including a picture of my Garmin data with this blog. Not because there was anything spectacular here, but because you can perhaps tell why I ended up with one of the faster bike splits despite a not so great wattage. In the Garmin profile, you can clearly see where someone turned on the oven…and with the oven turned on..off went my power and my speed. I am not overly keen on heat regardless, but I also had in my mind that I did not want to suck on the run because sucking on the run during a half or full ironman is just miserable (I suspect several people nodded in agreement upon reading this).

Half way through the bike, someone decided to turn on the heat. And henceforth my power and speed plummeted from upper end tempo to just riding along.
Half way through the bike, someone decided to turn on the heat. And henceforth my power and speed plummeted from upper end tempo to just riding along.
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I rarely include pictures of me actually racing, so here you have it, me finishing up a long, absurdly hot day. The look on my face says “I cannot wait to get the cookie in my car.”
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The happy faces of two people who firmly believe that ice cream can indeed be considered a meal.

Ah yes, the run, what should be my bread and butter. Did I mention it was hot, it was too damn hot. The bread and butter were more like toast and butter. Thankfully, I had armed myself with gummy sour lobsters provided to me by Jennie. On the downside to this, I dropped approximately half of these lobsters all over the course. If you know me, this is really not that uncommon, I always drop something. So in this race, if you saw the lobster, it was an indicator that I was there. I see this as being sort of like the plastic lobsters that they hide at Trader Joes.  Anyways, the volunteers were not overly keen on actually handing out water and ice (and apparently there was coke that was hidden from sight?), but eventually I found my rhythm despite the heat and lack of hydration. And the last 3 miles, I picked up the pace, with the thought of earning the ice cream I was planning on getting with Jennie later in the week (ice cream and cookies and sandwiches are fantastic race motivators). I truly thought that I ran slow at this race, every time I saw the women running behind me, I could have sworn they were gaining on me. As it happens, I apparently had no grasp on reality at that point of the race since I ended up with the 3rd fastest run split overall. I think a little bit of delusion is to be expected on a 91 degree day.

Mmmmmm....Ice cream.
Mmmmmm….Ice cream.

I crossed the line in 2nd for the women (5th overall), promptly grabbed my award from the queen (yes, there was an actual queen waiting to hand out awards), and hobbled quickly to the transition to grab my things and return to the cookie I had stocked in my car (see above for insight on food motivation) and the never ending misery of packing up a 3 story house. I admit that I would have liked the win at this race, but sometimes you just need to call a spade a spade. I knew the girl who beat me was also out for the win, and on this day, she definitely handled the heat on the bike infinitely better than I did and just out-biked me in general…and I still do not want to talk about me versus her during the swim. Having said that, I am going to call this race a substantial personal victory.  My swim time still stood out like a sore thumb among the other race leaders, but a much less swollen sore thumb than usual; I may have given up a little on the bike, but I raced how I thought I needed to race; and I fought the good fight on the run fueled by gummy lobsters.

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Gummy lobsters = supreme race nutrition!

I am coming to terms with the fact that the move to Boston more or less marks the end to my racing season before Kona.  My coach is happy about this since (1) he did not want me to race again anyways and (2) he believes I have done well this season from marathons-triathlons with 4th place overall as my “worst” finish. I however am not as happy. Not only because I could have used one more race to work out the kinks and chase down some of my demons, but because I already miss the two badasses who keep me motivated when the going gets tough, and I mean that as applies to more than just racing. Thankfully, I have already scoped out solid runs/rides for when they visit (there are good places to swim, but that still involves water).  And I will most certainly be looking to them for support as I head into Ironman Hawaii. And on a final note, if you are reading this and do not understand why exactly Jennie and Kristin are badasses, aside from the above mentioned attributes of awesomeness, then you should do some googling.

The Battle at Musselman Triathlon

THERE ARE LOTS OF SWIMMING STYLES - but there is only one style of drowning

Ah yes, the battle against swimming was continued in Seneca Lake at the Musselman Triathlon. And as the picture above may suggest, so far swimming is kicking the s**t out of me, but I am hopeful that, like many things in life, this will eventually turn around so that I am instead punching the swim in the face. I would in fact like to be the Chuck Norris of swimming.9d9a671a3247b17be8039ec571dca27b

In the interest of full disclosure, the swim in and of itself did not get me down this time, but my head got in the way…again…for the second race in a row (if you know me, you can perhaps hear all the choice swear words that accompany this sentence). I have generally avoided putting long races on the schedule in July that I hope to take seriously because this is often my most stressful work month. And yet, this year, I decided a smart thing to do would be to have three of the most mentally draining weeks I have ever had and then throw a half ironman on the schedule last minute (and now you can picture me shaking my head at myself). My coach’s advice to this was to simply focus on the task at hand. Ah yes, if only this was so easily done and I could push a button to make this happen.

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This pretty accurately describes my sentiment during the Musselman swim this year.

Musselman started and I actually was swimming with other women towards the front. Believe me, this was just as surprising to me as anyone else. I focused on my coach’s words and stayed the course. But sadly, this lasted all of 2 minutes, and then all of the thoughts I was working hard to not focus on came back into focus. And by “came back” I mean that these thoughts punched me in the face repeatedly until my positive mojo deteriorated into thinking that me swimming was/is potentially the stupidest thing in the entire world.

But as seems to be my thing (along with having the meltdown in the first place?), I found a way to regroup. I thought of the normal things I like to think about when I feel like I need to crush a race, I thought about how my swim coach was going to roll his eyes at me and make fun of me relentlessly if I did not get the swim done, and I thought of how one of my good friends was likely about to join me on the struggle bus when her own wave for the aquabike went off. And with that, I opted to slow down the heart rate, regained the ability to breathe, and commenced swimming. Low and behold, best swim finish ever. Top 15% of the women and 9th out of 35 for my division. I am embarrassed to admit this (and yet I am going to to all of social media?), but I glanced at my watch as I saw the finish to the swim approaching and thought my watch said 37 minutes. So I started swimming desperately with the thought that I must keep this under 40 minutes or I will want to swim to the bottom of the canal and stay there. But turns out, the watch said 31 minutes, oops🙂. Safely under 40..and 35 apparently. Slightly short course, but I take what I can get when it comes to the swim.

If only my swimming adventure ended there, with me thinking, huh, what might happen if I could maybe not stand still for over a minute in the middle of the water during the swim start.  But no, the hot mess that was my swim continued, as I made my way to transition and proceeded to somehow get completely stuck in my wetsuit..and then in frustration toppled over backwards. Classic. Once I finally got the stupid thing off, I  threw it into the ground in the middle of the aisle in frustration. So I would like to take a small moment here to apologize to anyone who happened to trip over a wetsuit that seemed to belong nowhere while running through transition. Yup, I am the jerkface that did that.

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If the course was the pancake flat course I had envisioned in my head, this would be a very ugly and deformed pancake.

And then the bike. I was seriously full of many delusions this race day. For some reason, I had convinced myself that the Musselman course is pancake flat. This is not to say that the course is hard, my long rides are very often over 1000 feet of climbing per hour, but to say that Musselman is flat is seriously just a fantasy. I have done this race twice before, and I apparently decided on race day to completely forget about all previous race experiences. Crushed by my own delusions, I did not ride at the speed or wattage I had hoped, but I did maintain my secondary goal of not letting any women pass me. I say this with one notable exception, aforementioned good friend, Jennie Hansen, caught up with me towards the end of the bike as I knew she would if I was not spot on and she was destroying the course. I rank this as one of the best moments of the race. Mainly because at Ironman Mont Tremblant, when Jennie and I did not know each other well, I tried to cheer her on as she ran passed me and I tried to say something that amounted to “Get it done, Jennie” but what came out was something between a groan and a grunt.  Who knows.  And this time, I believe that Jennie tried to cheer me on, and what came out (at least in my head) was the same sort of noise. Regardless of what we attempted to say to each other, knowing that she was supporting me was awesome and I took this into the run. Well, I took this into the run after I took a few minutes on the bike to swear at the bee that stung in the middle of my right thigh right after Jennie passed. Not cool bee, not cool.

And so began the last leg of what turned out to be a very challenging day. I actually love the Musselman run course, with the exception of the hill on the grass before mile 3, where each time I am confident I am going to stroke out and that is going to be the end of my race. The other two times I have done Musselman, I was surrounded by other people on the run course, but this time I was more or less completely alone. I had no idea why this was until mile 4, when, as I was slowly plodding along, a woman jogging in the other direction yelled at me that I was in 3rd place overall for the women. Huh, that was a pleasant surprise, so apparently I was lost in the no man’s land in front of many of the other women but behind the men that started in the wave before me. And with that information and still feeling angry from the Rock N’ Roll USA Marathon (apparently that is an anger that will never go away), I decided I had better turn on the gas to ensure that no one came along to steel my thunder. I suspect that the same anger led me to swear angrily at the 80-90 year women manning the volunteer station outside of the senior citizens home at mile 8 when they handed me gatorade instead of water (I just mentally cringed, I am sorry senior citizens of Geneva).

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3rd place overall at Musselman next to some triathlon badasses.

And that is how Musselman concluded.  I made the podium with some pretty impressive women that I respect greatly, and I got to hang out with one of my favorite people who won the Aquabike outright with conviction. So I may have lost the battle to the water, but for the overall battle, I am going to say this was a decisive win.