Wedding Bells and Chamois Time

This past weekend was a long one! When you head into a big weekend of training, it’s hard to say how you’re going to feel when the days are done. Add my best friend’s wedding to the mix, and you really are entering the unknown. I am happy to report that I made it through in one piece….

Most importantly from the weekend, Kelly is married! Unlike the movie with Julia Roberts, this day went off without a hitch! She looked beautiful in her wedding gown. Shopping for her dress took her ages, but it looked like it was worth it. She said she got the idea for it from some of the dresses on Winnie Couture’s website (HTTPS://WWW.WINNIECOUTURE.COM/STORES/WEDDING-DRESSES-BEVERLY-HILLS-CA/). Finding inspiration for your wedding dress can be tricky, but looking on all different wedding websites must work!

A strapless bridesmaid’s dress isn’t necessarily the number one pick for a triathlete in swim camp (hello, broad shoulders), but some better posture on my part probably would have helped too… The day was amazing though, the venue was perfect and everyone looked like they were enjoying themselves.

As the newlyweds headed off to a tropical paradise for their honeymoon on Sunday, I also headed off to….a different sort of paradise. I had the pleasure of making my first trip for the year to Leone’s Spring: a cyclist’s paradise.

Located somewhere along the MD/PA border along the rolling country roads, this is always a fun treat on a long ride. And a long ride it was – I set a new personal distance record of 121 miles….and I did it solo! I won’t get into how long exactly that took me, but let’s just say it was a lot of chamois time…..I’m pretty sure Hillary’s hubby Maik, the GCM himself, would be very proud 🙂

I thought the solitude of such a long day would bother me, but I have to say I was enjoying myself out there. Ironman training is all about taking things step by step. Sometimes that step is a day, sometimes it is as small as a pedal stroke. If you can keep that in mind, you can get through even the longest days. And of course, a little inspiration from the performances of Hillary’s other athletes/friends doesn’t hurt one bit! Well done ladies!

Six Week Itch

I am starting to feel the burn as I’m now 6 weeks out from an IM, with 1 half and 2/3’s of a half to go on the way there. My attention span is wavering and I am feeling like I am constantly late, rushing, packing, unpacking, washing clothes, and eating. And, I think I have swimmer’s ear – which I’m about to try to cure with olive oil because google says so. And then the icing on the cake (literally) came with my Birthday Club e-mail from Baskin Robbins, offering me $3 off a birthday cake. Didn’t they used to send you a coupon for a free scoop? Why do I need $3 off an entire cake? I want a scoop!

But Haley had a good point about having an arsenal of happy thoughts on hand for tough training blocks, or races, or really whenever. So here are mine (albeit in brief since I have about 3 more minutes until bedtime):

1. Free Slurpee Day is coming up…and they are debuting a new sugar free slurpee! Yes, I realize this still probably falls into the category of things that aren’t great for me, but still.

2. Lots of friends are racing this weekend at Columbia Tri and IM Texas and I cannot wait to watch in person and online!

3. The frozen yogurt place in my neighborhood has a punch card system, and I am on my bonus punch! That means I can go and get a cup as big as I want with as many toppings as I want for free!

4. My best friend kelly is getting married this weekend!

Me and Kelly (red dress) and friends before a dance in high school.

A Crew’s Perspective

This past weekend I had the privilege of heading down into the Massnutten Mountains for some quality trail time. This trip was focused around the Massnutten Mountains Trails 100 mile run. Francesca has been a close friend, confidant, and coach, to me throughout the 6 years I have known her and Gill, but I had never had the opportunity to crew for her at a race before. After not being able to make it to Charlottesville to volunteer with either the Charlottesville Marathon or the Bel Monte 50 mile this spring, I basically told them there was no option but to let me come down and help 🙂

The drive down to Woodstock is actually very quick from Baltimore – about 2 hours – so I headed down early on Saturday morning. Gill and I went out to mile 33 and began the “hurry up and wait” that crewing is all about. Frannie came through and looked great, but it was clear the temps were rising and the heat would factor into the day. She moved through the next section quickly and was looking strong. At the next aid station, 59 miles, she was about 50/50 on how she felt, and mostly just wanted to eat popsicles. Unfortunately even I know that popsicles aren’t the most calorie rich foods!

On to the next aid station where we noted that this was the first one where a pacer can join the runner. Initially we planned for me to begin running with her around mile 69, giving me 30(ish) miles of running. We opted to start me at the earlier point though (63), in hopes of keeping her spirits up; if i needed to stop earlier that would be an option for me. We had about 90 good minutes of daylight and made it up the first long climb ahead of us without needing headlamps. Slowly the darkness set in though, and despite having saved up conversation topics for weeks, eventually the hours gave way to nothing but the sounds of the whippoorwills around us, the dull roar of trucks miles below us on I-81, and the occasional snake (yes, I saw a copper head, and yes, I thought it was a rattlesnake because it was definitely rattling!) In the first few segments the climbs were strong and I was barely keeping up on the flats and downhills. Slowly the time on her feet began to take its toll though and things shifted to a more gradual, deliberate pace.

It is not hard to tell the moment when the runner begins to enter the “dark place.” I haven’t approached this subject much because the words to describe both entering into it, and coming out of it, always seem so illusive. But perhaps because on this trip I was not having to focus on my own race, it gave me some more time to ponder the subject.

Initially when I began running 100 milers, I thought it was special because of the number. I thought man, 100 miles. In one day. That is just freaking cool. There is something about that number 100 that can trick you into thinking that it IS about the number. As I have come to know now though, it’s not the number 100 that’s significant. What is significant is that the distance of these races is enough to ensure that you will have to dig deep. You will have to find motivation in yourself or else you simply won’t succeed. Not that this isn’t true for an Ironman, but I do feel that it is easier to feed off of external motivation in an IM. The crowds, your fellow competitors within arms reach, the cheesy signs from the fans – taking these all in throughout the day offer distractions and are quick and helpful reminders of why you’re out there. From my experience, the Ironman has its dark moments. But in a 100 miler, you have your dark hours. An Ironman can beat you down mentally. A 100 is going to beat you down, cover you in mud, make you step in horse crap on the trail, have ticks crawl in your hair, make you jump over snakes, let you slip into icy cold river water, and then tell you that if you make it through the next 6 miles in 3 hours that will be a *fast* time. When you deal with the low moments of an Ironman, you are constantly surrounded by people, by stimuli, who can help you trigger thoughts which will allow your brain to function through a thought process of how to make things better. Or, at the very least, to remind you that as long as you keep moving you will arrive at the finish. I have a had moment in every 100 mile where I have done where the (somewhat) irrational thought crosses my mind that no one may ever find me ever again out on the trail – I’ve gotten lost and am so many miles from where I should be that they will never find me again. It’s that ultimate moment of self pity and sadness and overwhelming exhaustion, compounded by the feeling of isolation and believing that there is no one within reach.

But, this post isn’t meant to be a comparison of sorts between the two sports. I am simply hoping to offer my own general experiences between the two. There is no doubt in my mind that the tools I have developed from running ultras has helped me become more successful in triathlon.

One of the biggest tools to success in both races is that you have to develop an awareness of yourself and your body to identify key moments that can make or break your race. Throughout all of the physical activity, you have to be able to perform mental checks on what is going on, remove yourself from it all, and evaluate. Are you setting yourself up for failure or success with your nutrition right now? Are you pushing the pace you should be? Are you listening to your body? Being able to separate yourself from the physical pain of the competition for a moment, answer those questions for yourself, and then go on to make the necessary changes is part of being successful. At the end of the day, you knew at the start line that 100 miles wasn’t going to feel good. So expecting that when you’re 80 miles in is slightly delusional.

One of these key moments for Francesca happened sometime after mile 83. We had about 6 miles to go to the next aid station where Gill would be. I knew it had come to a point where no matter how many stories or cheesy jokes I told, getting her to turn her mental state around was only going to be able to come from her. I was just along for the ride, and to make sure she didn’t fall off the trail. Those six miles were very, very long. I think the only words that were really spoken were  “I need to stop for the bathroom”, and “how much longer do you think it is?”

I didn’t know what would happen as we trudged down into the aid station and she sat down. But, Frannie did. She looked at me and said “Thank you, but I need to go on my own now. I need my music. And I don’t want to see either of you until the finish line.” (There was one more potential crew stop). Gill and I looked at each other, shrugged and nodded, and proceeded to make sure she had everything she needed to go on solo. It didn’t need to be discussed, but it was clear to me now that she was going to make it to the end. Whether it was competition, pride, or anything else, her reason had been found and she used that to overcome everything else.

Gill and I took the opportunity to grab a couple hours of sleep, shower, and head to the finish line where we arrived just in time to see Frannie cross the line, just over 26 hours.

Thank you to everyone at the aid station who helped us along the way!! It always brings a smile to my face to see my ultra “family” and the outpouring of support from everyone is just unbelievable. See you on the trails!

New Kid on the Knox – Rev3 Knoxville Race Report

Life has been hectic since getting back home (at 1:30am Monday morning, no less!) but it has provided me some good time to gather my thoughts on Rev3 Knoxville, which also served as my first Rev3 event.

The verdict? AWESOMENESS.

The weekend started early on Friday morning as I picked up Ryan and Ed in the Godesky family Subaru. I had borrowed this car from my parents in an effort to preserve some life in the Tracker I usually drive. Once the bikes were properly bungeed and the healthy snacks were within reach, we set out and things were uneventful until just south of Roanoke. That’s when we began to notice a sound. At first, it was just a noise that I could cover with the radio. Then it was a noise that made us go “hmm….I wonder what that noise is.” Then it was a noise that was like “ummm is there a helicopter landing on the roof of the car?” After it escalated to that, we did stop and to our dismay, 2 of the 5 lug nuts on the rear left wheel were missing. And the bolt had sheared off as well. And a third lug nut was so loose I could spin it with my fingers. Yikes! Luckily we were in the South where people are friendly so finding some good help wasn’t hard to come by, and we got things secured enough to make it to Knoxville. It did, however, mean an early wake-up call on Saturday to get to the Subaru dealer for repairs. But the Knoxville Grayson Subaru deserves a huge shout out for getting things fixed so quickly for us!!

I’m not sure if I was just out of practice with the pre-race routine, but somehow we managed to allow our packet pickup, workouts, bike drop off, and pre-race preparations take all day. It wasn’t until 6pm that we were finally able to sit down and breathe! We had a great dinner at the restaurant in the Hilton (eating at city square meant an hour wait!) and got some sleep.

It was kind of nice to be able to “sleep in” a little bit for a race – the 5:30 am wake up call was not bad at all. Race morning we walked down to the transition and set up our stuff (note – Rev3 lets you just lay out all of your gear, and you can just throw your bag in the corner – no need to deal with packing bags and dropping them off super early). As we made the walk over to the swim start I started to feel something…..NERVES! I am not sure if it was just because it was the first race of the year, but my blood pressure was definitely on the rise. Luckily, Ed had arrived and his parents came along to spectate (Thanks guys!), so they provided me with a great distraction while I waited for my wave to get into the water.

As soon as I jumped into the water, my nerves disappeared. With all this swimming lately I think I’m just feeling more at home in the water! Then I did something I haven’t ever done before – I took a spot on the front line. My plan was to go out hard, and try to get on someone’s feet in the front group. When they sent us off, this plan worked pretty well. I was working hard to stay on feet, but I was okay with that. I figured that before long the pace would settle in and we’d relax. Just as that was happening, we came upon the stragglers from the waves in front of us, and I lost the feet I was swimming on. I don’t think this was a big deal though as I had a good rhythm going and I just pushed on. I felt like the swim was over quickly and this was confirmed as the volunteers pulled me out of the water (and I landed on the dock stomach first with the grace of a large seal) and I glanced at my watch: 30:29! I was ready to retire from the race a happy woman right here, as this was a 5 minute PR for a 1.2 mile swim. I have never cracked 35 minutes – let alone getting close to 30! Alas, I opted to continue with the race and I made the long run up to T1. I decided to take off my wetsuit on the dock, then run with it in my hands and I think this was beneficial as I seemed to be moving much quicker than those whose stride was still confined by the rubber.

I hopped onto my bike and got ready to roll through the hills of Knoxville. Ryan and I had previewed the first 10 miles of the course so I knew I was in for a ride that was right up my alley. As I rode over the railroad tracks a couple miles in, the magnet on my wheel slipped so my computer went kaput and wasn’t going to be offering me any information on this one. I debated stopping to fix it, but really I don’t use those numbers to change how I ride anyway, so I figured I would just ride on feel. After about 10 miles in, I was caught by a few men and we played a 46 mile game of leap frog for the rest of the ride. I made sure to keep it simple on the climbs – small ring and steady pace – and then on the descents really worked to hold speed. This is somewhat tricky as the course has a few sharp turns at the bottom of descents but I can’t say enough good things about this bike course. Rolling country roads, some good shade on the climbs, I absolutely loved it and felt right at home after training on Baltimore County roads. I was passed by only one woman toward the end of the ride, but I had to just hope that I had held a good pace. As I crossed the bridge back over into downtown Knoxville I checked my watch and knew a 2:45 was within reach, so I hit that last mile hard going into T2. I came off the bike feeling great and not knowing what to expect for the run course. I was throwing on my running shoes in transition when the woman who passed me came over and asked if she could help me get anything ready for the run. Wait, what? Don’t help me! Get out there! Go run! I told her. She laughed and told me that she isn’t able to run, and was just doing the swim-bike today. Floored by her kindness I thanked her and said I was ready to roll and headed out.

In case you are out there wondering what to expect, do not be fooled by the first 2.5 flat miles of the run! The hills on the back-half are relentless and keep you honest. At the turnaround I saw the 2 women ahead of me – well ahead of me – and I also saw that I had a decent cushion ahead of fourth. I allowed myself to relax just a little until the flat roads returned where I tried to turn it up a notch. Judging from my splits I think I was definitely suffering a bit from the heat and the hills, but overall my run was solid for the day.

I headed into the finish line – with Ryan and Ed at my side of course (another great feature of the Rev3 races….who doesn’t want to cross the line with their friends?!) I saw a 5:06 and was told I had in fact claimed third place overall! I was overwhelmed (in a good way!) with the awards swag, AND picked up some great BBQ that was catered at the finish line for the athletes.

Unfortunately it was all over too soon and we were back in the car for a rainy drive to Maryland. But, I can say that without a doubt I am counting down the days until Quassy and the next Rev3 adventure!

Thanks to all of the Team Rev3 sponsors who helped me finish this race strong! Blue Seventy, Swiftwick, Pearl Izumi, NormaTec, Powerbar and Trislide – You guys are the best! Thank you!!!!!

Party Knox

First tri of the year means….

-Packing everything I could ever want, need, think I might need, maybe use if it’s -10 degrees, maybe want for after the race if it’s raining, maybe want for after the race if it’s much hotter than forecasted, maybe want if during the race while at mile 20 of the bike I have “Call me Maybe” stuck in my head, and…well, you get the picture.

-Pre-race Pedicure!

-Checking the weather forecast on weather.com…..and weatherspark.com…..and weatherunderground.com….because you never know.

-No expectations! Just ready to race hard and see where we are.

-Being SO excited for my first Rev3 event!

-Distracting myself with what will be amazzzzing races for my friends and coach at IM St. George, Australia, and Wildflower!

-More distracting myself in the form of Fantasy Giro d’Italia! If you’d like to get in on the action enter a team (and do it soon!) on velogames.com and then join the league I’m in! Just use the league code 03190205. And yes, it is awesome.

Knoxville bound tomorrow! Good luck to all those racing!

Food Update!

I wanted to update everyone on my progress toward becoming a healthier eater.

There have been some good things. For one, I have done really, really well cutting out the soda. With the exception of a couple cans of Coke that came after/during a long ride or run, I haven’t been drinking much soda at all. The only way this has been somewhat doable, is with NUUN. I like basically any type of flavored sports drink, but having to carry powders around and a bottle to be able to mix them in is just inconvenient enough to keep me from doing it. BUT, stashing tubes of NUUN – totally doable! The Lemon Tea  flavor has been my jam because it has just a little bit of caffeine in it to keep me going through the day. But, the Strawberry Lemonade flave is also to die for.

The candy intake has been better. Trying to start this right around a major influx of Easter candy certainly did not help! But, I have at least gotten myself to the point that when I see candy, I can get away with just a handful, or just a scoop….or whatever. I’ve been able to resist downing an entire family pack of fruit filled-Twizzlers. And my Easter basket lasted more 2 weeks!

Some of my other new staples have been quinoa (which I will forever just pronounce like it’s spelled because for the life of me I can’t see how those letters make keen-wa), potatoes, and sweet potatoes.

Jenni S. also sent me a delicious recipe via Twitter…if it can be said in 140 characters you know it’s easy to make!

Eating more salads is also getting better, as with the fruit intake…but there’s a lot of work to still be done there. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will my good eating habits.

Friday morning I am leaving for the road trip to Rev3 Knoxville and I have to admit I’m a bit nervous about finding healthier eating options on the road.

Any suggestions or tips for healthy eating while traveling/road trips?

 

Banging on a Rock

After having the best swim of my life (this can happen fairly frequently when you have only been really swimming for a year) this week, I was excitedly discussing with Coach Hillary the progress. In this convo she passed along another Biscwelsiek Gem: Swimming is like banging on a rock.

I love when I get these words of wisdom from Hillary, but if you’re like me you may need a bit of an explanation. So you bang on a rock with a hammer and nothing seems to be happening, but really you’re making little cracks. Finally, one day, those little cracks equal a big crack and a huge chunk falls right off.

Well, I’m happy to report that a big chunk has fallen right into the pool. And it was one well deserved chunk if I say so myself considering I’ve logged over 225 miles in the pool this year.

The conversation progressed the next day with Dave, who gave a further explanation: “Have you ever [cracked concrete] for a day?  You take the sledgehammer and you hit and it looks like nothing happened.  You do it again and you see a dent, maybe a chip.  Three or four more hits and you get discouraged.  Maybe the 9th or 10th hit and you start to see a crack.  Your enthusiasm is renewed.  By the 20th or 25th, you have the feel even though your hands have long since blistered and your back aches.  Eventually a big chunk breaks off and you can pick it up and toss it aside.  Once you have defeated a solid piece, the rest becomes merely an exercise in persistence.”

I promptly played the girl card as my reason for never having the (clearly exciting) opportunity to crack concrete. And I think, for now, I’ll keep my concrete slab as the pool because I see some more cracks to get after 🙂

Half Full

Half empty: A fire in the city blew out the power for the gym last night, and the pool pump wouldn’t turn on this morning == swim fail.

Half full: It was a swim-only day so I can still get it done this afternoon!

 

 Half empty: Doing the workout in the afternoon means I had to cancel my massage and pay a fee for cancelling within 24 hours.

Half full: I was able to reschedule for tomorrow night and get the fee waived!

 

Half empty: After the swim fail I was locked out of the house!

Half full: I had an entire hour to get ready for work….my hair looks extra nice today.

 

Half empty: An accident on 83 made my commute a parking lot.

Half full: I wasn’t a part of the accident.

 

As you can see I’m working hard here to see things Half Full around here….which reminds me….have you put the Rev3 Half Full race on your calendar yet? Held in October (great weather), on a challenging course (keeps ya honest), and for a great cause (Ulman Cancer Fund)….what more could you want?!

 

Westminster Main Street Mile

Wanna know how to make an ultrarunner sore? Make them run a mile!

Wednesday night was the annual Westminster Main Street Mile. A downhill mile, to be exact. My running group did this event for the first year last year and after PR’s all around were set, we vowed to come back. This year’s weather wasn’t quite as favorable – chilly and rainy – but downhill is downhill so it would still be quick! Last year I ran a 5:36 here, and was the 6th female. It was literally my first “fast” race, and knowing that I have put in some speed work this year, I was hoping to better that time. But, a mile race doesn’t quite fit into Ironman training too well, so I’d be racing on tired legs after another speed workout completed that morning. Thanks Coach! 🙂

After thawing my toes with a quick warm-up, then jogging the mile up to the start, I lined up with 25+ other Falls Road Runners. Yes, we rolled deep. It was awesome. The bullhorn sounded and we were off! Well, one guy was more down, than off. He was the only casualty of the wet roads I saw as I hurdled over him. The first quarter has the steepest part of the hill, hence my 70 second split. I began to slow up as the road levels and rises a bit through the ¾ mark. My arms went numb, my lungs began to explode, and I wondered for what seemed like forever why people actually enjoy this feeling. The timing mats were finally in view, and I was out-kicked by a 13 year old boy as I crossed the line: 5:15:59. A whopping 21 seconds faster than last year (but still 6th place!). I know I can’t expect that sort of improvement every year, but it definitely felt pretty good. Maybe one day I’ll even learn how to run it and not positive split by 15 seconds?

The best part of the night was still to come – the ice cream sandwiches! Chilly night or not, I was getting my reward for that run. The group then headed over to the local Irish pub where I ordered vegetables instead of fries with my chicken sandwich. See….I’m learning!

Note in the picture below: 13 year old who beat me, PJ – who inspired me to stick with him and run faster than I thought I would, and sneaky tall Ed who runs so fast he has 75 seconds to finish and come back and cheer us in!

Rev3 Run Across America Weekend Recap

Wow….where to even begin. I have had trouble wrapping my mind around how to write about the past amazing weekend with the Rev3 Run Across America – I can’t even imagine how the others who were there for all 3 weeks will do it! My story begins on Friday afternoon. I had originally planned to drive my car down to meet up with the group. After a series of events though, it became clear that if I brought my car down we’d have too many cars and not enough drivers. So I rented a car instead and headed down to Bluefield, WV. Knowing that I would be arriving sometime close to midnight, I had called ahead to the hotel asking about a shuttle from the rental car return to the hotel. According to the woman who answered the phone there would be no taxi available due to ‘something very bad that happened in town awhile ago’ but she offered to use her personal vehicle to scoop me up. Great! However, when I drove up to the airport and gave her a call, there was no answer. I was totally stood up! I looked inside though and it appeared a man was still working at the Hertz desk. Why he would still be working late at this tiny airport with no commercial flights was beyond me – I started walking up to the building. As I did that, the man abruptly got up, turned off all the lights, and went into the back. What. Seriously, am I in a scary movie? I ran back to the car and put my pepper spray in my pocket. I called the Hertz desk, and potential-ax-murderer man answered the phone. He confirmed the same story that there really were no taxis available, but offered to drive me to the hotel if I wanted.

Great.

Note: I do not suggest doing this if anyone else finds themselves in a similar position. However, I will point out that I sent a text with his license plate number so that people would be aware who kidnapped me.

As I settled into his car with my hand on my pepper spray, he looked at me and smiled and said “Haven’t ya ever seen the movie Deliverance?” My heart rate was through the roof, and I vowed to never get in a car with a strange man again if I could just get to my hotel safely. My prayers were answered and it turned out this man was harmless (at least this time) and I arrived at the Econo Lodge safely! My room was even complete with a wall of mirrors – woohoo! Classy, I know.

Saturday morning when the vans pulled in  to scoop me up I couldn’t jump in fast enough. My remark of “I’m so happy to see people I know!” was met with a few looks of bewilderment as they were like “wait….you don’t know us.” But, I felt like I did already, as Rev3 has a way of making all things feel like a family affair. I was welcomed into the van of runners with smiles and many faces happy to see me….or maybe just happy to have some fresh legs on board 🙂 The starting point of the day was in Bluefield, and I quickly learned the ropes: Jump out of the van when it’s your turn, run until you get to a water bottle, and then get in the van that comes to pick you up. Repeat. Again. And again. And again. At some point you drive the van. Quick lunch stop. Run again. Don’t run on I-81 (Oops!). Run some more. Camp out in the Walmart parking lot and invade Applebees. Sleep. Repeat 🙂

I was lucky enough on Sunday to even get to run one of my legs through Charlottesville and pretend to be back in college. But perhaps what I enjoyed more than that was some of the long country roads in Virginia. These longer solo segments in the quiet really shed some light on what this was about, and gave you time to clear your mind and reflect on why our group was running across the country. It was a constant reminder that even when it became tough to finish your miles, there was someone out there who is fighting a much tougher battle with cancer. It was truly an honor to get to run on behalf of so many who can’t, and for so many who face a battle that makes a few miles a day seem like nothing. On Sunday we ran for Ellen, and you can read about her story in Stephanie’s blog post.

All in all, my time on the trip was filled with a lot of miles, high fives, honking horns, hugs, cowbell, and most of all laughter. In order to accomplish something like this I think that Rev3 made it clear that you have to keep your sense of humor, and always remember why you’re out there. Thank you to the gang who welcomed me on this trip and made it such a worthwhile cause for me to be a part of.

Although the journey across the country is over, the fight against cancer, of course, is not. If you would like to donate to the Ulman Cancer Fund, please do so through this link. Every little bit helps!

Thank you for reading!