>The Story of Us

>Yesterday I set out for an “easy” long run. Mostly easy in the sense of logistics and familiarity with the course because I picked my favorite tried and true route: AT from South Mountain to Weverton Cliffs, and back. 14.1 miles out, 14.1 miles back. Water and bathrooms at the start and midway. The toughest part of this run for me has always been the first three miles. Before my body really gets a chance to warm up, I’m climbing South Mountain. And for those of you who haven’t done it, it feels like it goes on, and on, and on. For a small mountain, it sure is relentless. As I ran yesterday, I was brought back to a day almost exactly five years ago to my first ultra: JFK 50 mile.

I realized yesterday as I ran that I have never really shared on the blogosphere how I ended up at the start line on that crisp November morning. So, here it is, my story of how I began my love affair with ultrarunning. My “Story of Us.”

The story actually begins in May of 2005. I was playing club lacrosse for Navy at the time. We had finished regular season and were starting the prep for Nationals in a couple weeks. We were one of the favorites to win that year, it was a great time for us. It was a Sunday, and I had to come back to school early for practice. I had left that morning after making plans with my teammate Jen to have her help me out with my chemistry homework after practice. I came to practice that day ready to play, but I knew that something wasn’t right. Our coach struggled with how to tells us the news that would end up changing our team forever: Jen had been in a skydiving accident that day. She was in a coma, and things didn’t look good. The ironic part of it all was that she had told a few of us she was going to go skydiving for the first time that day, but we were under a strict oath not to tell coach because we knew she wouldn’t allow it.

Things from there were a blur. I guess we went to nationals, and I guess I played. Honestly, it was the furthest thing from all of our minds. Jen was in a coma for several days, and as she came out of it they noticed severe brain damage. For the next five months she was in the VA hospital in Bethesda. In true Navy fashion, they had no sympathy for most of us in the situation. Every week I snuck out on a “really really long run” through the gate and into my mom’s car in side street. She’d drive me to the hospital and I’d go sit with Jen for an hour or two, then come home. Many of the other girls on the team did the same. We’d call other people and put the phone up to her ear and swear we could see that she recognized the voices. Every week we swore she squeezed our hands a little harder, or opened her eyes a little bit longer.

Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. In early October her parents made the decision to remove Jen’s feeding tube. Within a few days she passed away. Everyone on the team handled things a different way. I was close to Jen as a teammate in a way that is special and rare. Her, myself and my best friend Dani composed the best damn navy women’s lacrosse defense that school had ever seen. None of us had real prior lacrosse experience, none of us ever knew what play was what, but we had heart and we worked hard. And we worked well together. The three of us looked out for each other in a way I have rarely seen teammates do. Watching Jen yell at the ref after I got slashed in the face and broke my nose was one of my favorite moments. She had a temper that even the Officers at school were afraid of. More than once Dani and I had to step in and make things right between her and coach. Our defense was inseparable that season before she was hurt, and I didn’t know how to do it without Jen. I didn’t want to. So, when Fall had come, I just didn’t. I didn’t continue to play lacrosse. I could not suit up and play without Jen.

Eventually the Navy caught on to the fact that I wasn’t really playing a sport anymore. Playing a sport or going to intramurals was a requirement of the school. I was stuck and had to do something, but I couldn’t step back on that lacrosse field. One of my friends suggested to me that I run. I knew I wasn’t fast enough for cross country, and intramural cross country was a joke. No, they said. The marathon team. The problem was they had already run their fall marathon – the only thing left to do was either run the JFK 50 mile and do well enough they take me on the team, or run a marathon by myself and try to qualify for Boston (the true requirement to be on the team).

So that was that. Three weeks before the 2005 JFK 50 Mile, I was in. And somehow I managed to dupe 3 other of my teammates into the race as well. We formed Team FISHDO (F___ It, Sh*t Happens, Drive On…Jen’s famous saying) and got ready for the race by running one 16 mile run. I don’t even think all the girls did that.

And there I was in November of 2005, hiking up South Mountain and watching people run by me up the mountain. How can they run the whole way up? Right then and there, I made it a goal of mine to one day be strong enough to run up that mountain. On that day though, I struggled to find the strength to even finish the race.

Back to 2010. By the time all of this went through my head, I realized I was halfway up South Mountain. For those of you nerdy graph and chart people, click here for the link to the route with the elevation profile:
I realized at that moment, that I could run the whole way. It wasn’t easy and it certainly wasn’t fast, but I did it. I got to the top in 31 minutes. Over the past 5 years I have probably run that mountain 15 times; my previous attempts had taken 40-42 minutes.

In the past five years, ultrarunning has taught me that I’m stronger than I think I am. It’s shown me that even when things are seemingly at their worst, they won’t stay that way. The mountains and the trails will be there no matter the season, no matter what life has thrown at me.  They will be there to calm me and comfort me. To prove that the world is bigger than just me.

In the past five years I’ve learned that sometimes you won’t be able to finish the race. Sometimes the hard work you’ve put forth still isn’t enough to win. Sometimes you have to walk away, and try again the next day. And sometimes, it just might take five years to finally finish what you started.

Navy Women’s Lacrosse, Spring ’05

>Truth & Consequences

>As racing season comes and goes, I look around the usual blog roll and see alot of…..well, a lot of “what could have beens.” Failure is always an interesting things to watch people encounter. Most times when people do fail, everyone side steps the issue very delicately, never saying the word out loud. We are afraid that by reminding each other of a failure, one won’t see it as an opportunity to get better, but rather a strike against them. What people often don’t realize is that just because they failed to reach a goal, they, as a person, are not a failure. But yes, they still “failed.” And that’s okay.

Failure inevitably happens to me throughout the racing season because, for me, the race is what matters. When you race about once a month, not every race will be the perfect one. Yes, the training is the journey. The training builds character and makes me who I am. The training makes the racing worth it. But, in the end, the race matters. I train TO race.

Failure happens for a reason. Whenever something doesn’t go as planned in my races, it’s important to me to reflect. Why didn’t things go well? Nutrition? Over training? Under training? Mental approach? There is always, always a reason. I don’t believe in just having a bad day. Especially in endurance events, some portion of each day will be unpleasant….that’s inevitable. If you train well, you will be able to adapt to any conditions in a race – heat, snow, downpour, stomach issues – and overcome them. If you train well, you will have your worst days in training, not in the race. If you pay attention to your body, you will avoid injury and become stronger throughout the training process, not weaker. I believe these things because I truly believe in the training process….I have to.

As athletes, we will fail. We will work our asses off, race, and not do well. But instead of wallowing (you’re allowed a day or two), instead of just saying you had a bad day or the conditions weren’t on your side, accept the fact that you failed. Accept that in at least one respect, you did not prepare enough. And that’s okay. That’s part of being an athlete, shoot, that’s part of being a human. Competition exists because in every race some will fail, and some will win. But when you’re not the winner, you know it wasn’t your best effort. Your training partners know it. And they know you deserve to get out there and show everyone what your best really is.

There will always be an excuse, if you look for it. Don’t look for the excuses, look for the reasons (because there is one), and then make a change. Make yourself stronger for the next time you compete….because you will. And maybe that race won’t turn out like you want either. But that’s why we do what we do. If I was already as fast as I ever wanted to be, I’d be sitting at Mad River right now in my Ravens jerseys talking to dudes who probably couldn’t even tell me what 3 sports are involved in a triathlon.

But, I’m not. I’m laying on the couch with The Stick, rubbing out my legs and debating if I can hit a ride this afternoon after a long recovery run this morning. Because in the past year, I’ve had some great races, but I have also failed. And I’m making changes and training smarter and I’m looking forward to my next race.

In order to avoid failure at HURT in January, I have my work cut out for me. I know what I need to do to get there, and I know the time it will require from me. So here’s my shortlist of reasons to get out there and train this fall/winter, despite the cold. Or the darkness. Or the cold darkness.
-Fall. Leaves. In the Blue Ridge Mountains. Even in Patapsco.
-Sweating on crisp mornings and not feeling like you just lost 1/2 your body weight.
-Knowing that you’re now stronger than everyone who DIDN’T get out of bed because its 40 degrees and raining.
-More running with a headlamp. Because hey, night runs are fun.
-The heat training in the sauna feels best after a long run in the cold.
-Not having to carry bajillions of gallons of water with you for your long run.
-Without the summer leaves, getting to see how far the view from the top *really* is.

>Ironman Wisconsin Race Report (finally)

>So, three weeks after IM Wisconsin seems like a good time to sit down and write my race report. Before I pick it apart, I want to first say I’m very happy with how I did there. A 15 minute PR on a harder course is what I would call a success. I came away from the race very happy about 2/3 segments, and am not bothered by the third. This race showed me that if I decide to make the time to do some serious work at the distance/sport, it would pay off. After Louisville last year, I wasn’t sure if I liked the distance. Kind of like after Western States I wasn’t too sure about the 100 mile distance. But, after Old Dominion, I was sold. Granted I didn’t have a 6 hour PR at IM Wisco but it helped me see the promise of the distance. I felt like this race kept me humble and was quick to show me the areas where I didn’t train hard enough. But, it allowed me some slack and let me perform well in the areas I had worked on. My sub-11 finish is still illusive, but I know that when I make the decision to go after it, I can do it.

Now for the nitty gritty stuff. The race starts at 7am. I walked over to the start and went to my bike first. I was happy to find that my tires were still inflated this year. The part I did have some trouble with was the aero bottle. This was going to be my first ride with it, and as I stuck in the full bottle I realized 2 things – one, I hadn’t cut the straw or adjusted it to be comfortable while I ride, and two, I just plain hadn’t installed the bottle holder correctly because when it was full it kept wobbling and falling out. I used my imagination though and was able to facet a quick fix that I figured would get me through the day. I found the body marking, and headed down to the water. The sunrise this morning was Amazing. watching the safety people paddle out as the first light came up was calming. The calm didn’t last long though, as they started forcing us into the water around 630. Determined to hold off getting into the 67 degree water as long as I could, I slowly pulled on my wetsuit and headed towards the back of the line of 2500 athletes. I ended up entering the water around 645, which still felt pretty early to me. I swam out to a floating dock about 100 meters away and huddled with everyone else trying to keep warm. My plan for this was a risky one, and I knew it. I was going to start as close to the front as I could get, without actually being in the front. My reasoning was that although I’m not the fastest, I’m confident and able in the water. If I could just hold on to the crowd, I’d get swept through the swim with the pack. The cannon went off and my theory was tested. The first 800 meters felt like an out of body experience. Everything you hear about it feeling like a “washing maching” is really the best way to describe it. Punched, kicked, and frustrated – but I was staying calm and collected. I was close to the line of the buoys, and uncomfortable as it was to swim in the group, I knew I was making good time. The turns were pretty rough. Everyone would finally stretch out and then we’d all group together again. At the end of the first lap I checked my watch – 34. Wait….what!? That’s faster than I’ve every swum in a race. That allowed me to relax. I knew I would swim a little slower than that, but I still had a lot in my little arms, so I relaxed and didn’t think much about it. Before I knew it I was heading in to the shore. Seeing a 1:11 on my watch as I was exiting was unreal to me. I ran up the ramp (very dizzing) and into the Monoma Terrace. While this makes it a long transition, its really well run and the volunteers are awesome. They got me my bag flawlessly and I was out the door on my bike.

This was where my fun was to begin. I was confident in my biking abilities but I was also a little weary after I heard so many stories about how hard the bike course was. So I wanted to relax for the first loop and just get my rhythm. There isn’t too much to report. The support out on the course is awesome. On all the climbs you have great fan support helping you hammer up it. And the volunteers were great at the water stops too. The sun came out and it started to get a little warm. I was drinking as much as I could. Unforrtunately my old TT bike had 3 bottle holders, and now I was down to 2. This is definitely something I want to fix, as I could have been drinking a lot more. Still, I was eating well and felt pretty good. I was passing a lot of girls in my AG and that was a confidence boost too. I hit each of the three segments pretty much at an each equal pace. My computer read 19.2/19.2/19.0. Ultimately the results show me a little slower – either way thats a darn good ride for that course.

Now time to tackle the run. Inspired by how good I felt last year getting off the bike I was expecting the same here. It couldn’t have been more different. Right off the bike my legs felt like bricks. I wasn’t able to gain any sense of my pace and I just felt like I was working too hard. As bright and sunny as that day was, I was starting to have some trouble shaking the clouds from my brain. I would like to think this is where my time spent alone in the mountains during ultras pays off. As bad as it was, I knew 2 things. One, this too shall pass. I still had 4+ hours ahead of me, and I would not feel this bad the whole time. Two, if I keep moving, I’m probably not going as slow as it feels. Sure enough, I realized I was still making about 9:15’s. That allowed me to shake the bad thoughts and relax a little. Despite my plan to run through the aid stations because I had a hand bottle, I let myself walk through them just for a mental break. As I was returning to state street on the first lap, I felt loose and excited. I was almost there.

Almost. Thirteen miles of Almost.

Heading back out on lap 2 my stomach started to get queasy. Of course – now my legs feel good so it only makes sense the stomach would fail me. 18 miles in and I couldn’t take a sip of water without it coming back up. Looking back, this is clearly dehydration. The lack of the third bottle on the bike had finally caught me. Again, I knew a couple things. One, this too shall pass. And two, stopping for 2 minutes to regain my composure will cost me a lot less in the end than struggling to get through 6 miles. So, I walked through the aid station at mile 6, got some food, and sat on a curb. Only for two minutes. But I sat, kept my head down, and got myself together. I was 6 miles from a finish. 6 miles from a PR. 6 miles away from being an Ironman. Mind over matter, I got up and shuffled. I hit the turnaround and realized i also needed to hit the bathroom. In one minute I was in and out and felt MUCH better. My stomach got whatever it was out, and I could move at a decent pace again. I still had to stop and walk every mile, but at least when I ran I could move. This was also when Erin Feldhausen caught me. She leapfrogged with me and knowing she was up there kept me moving. Before I knew it I was back on State Street heading to the finish. Once again, I was an Ironman.

Despite my 4:18 marathon at the end, I was able to see how far I’d come from the last year. I was 30th/13th/13th and 13th overall in the AG of 100+ people. My bike efforts over the past summer had paid off. The only blip in the training – a lack of brick workouts and long runs – was evident. But, you can’t expect something to be there when you didn’t train for it. I couldn’t expect my marathon to somehow have gotten faster without doing any speedwork. So that’s okay. And shoot – somehow I got faster swimming without ever actually swimming. Woohoo!

Would I recommend this race? ABSOLUTELY! The people in town were amazing, the town itself was fab, and I had a total blast. Definitely more challenging course than IMLOU, but the essence of the race makes up for it! And a special thanks to Erin for making me feel so welcome there, cheering me on, and being there for a hug at the finish!

>Throw your hands in the air, if you’s a true player

>Once I arrived in Madison, my game plan changed a bit. Now, everywhere you turn, your enemies are waiting. They are watching your every move. They are checking out your bike, your clothes, the food you’re eating….everything. These are the people that you want to beat in the race.

Now, I know that sounds a bit extreme. But, it’s true. Once you arrive at the race destination, it’s time to switch gears and become the One That’s Feared. You’re the one who goes into their room with a large black box and comes out 15 minutes later with a fully assembled baller bike. You don’t need a mom or a boyfriend to carry your bags to check in while you walk your bike. You carry it all and make it look easy. When you’re lost looking for the check ins, you’re the one who doesn’t look lost. You’re not affected by the long lines, the slow moving families accompanying their racer, or the cluster-F* that is gear/bike drop off.

You have two faces. One is your bright and shiny smiley face. This is for the registration people and volunteers, the grandmas and grandpa’s who ask children, and the babies who are smiling at you as their parents drag them along.

The other is the one is the face you use when you’re talking to competitors, who will inevitably see you as this uber able, confident, sweet person and want to know more about you. This face is calm and friendly, but stern and serious. It says “I’ll humor you now, but I won’t when I pass you on the bike tomorrow.”

So far, things in Madison have been good. The city is awesome! I could have definitely gone to school and loved it. Probably would have ended up with my nose pierced and a little hippy boyfriend though. The weather was grey this morning, but has shaped up beautifully and the sun is out. This transition area seems HUGE so that will be interesting. I ran down to the water this morning and got in a little swim. Water was cold – but I think that is mostly because I have been swimming in a 85 degree pool all summer. But swimming with a wetsuit has never felt so awes; hopefully that gets me through tomorrow.

Eyes clear. Heart Full. Can’t lose.
(I know, I’ve been watching too much Friday Night Lights!)

>Alyssa’s guide to traveling/racing alone, part one

>It was Ínevitable. When you do more than 10 races a year, you are bound to have to travel to a big race alone at some point. I have been very fortunate in that it has taken years before I’ve been faced with this. But, the earth finally spun one way, aligned with Jupiter’s moons, and here we are. In light of this monumental event, I will be updating this with tips and tidbits of things that I encounter along the way. Like everything in life, there’s a right way and then there’s Alyssa’s way – so here we go:

-Dress for success. This is not the flight to show up for unshowered and in sweats. You need to look good. If you look good, you feel good, yes, but more importantly people like to look at you. If people like to look at you they will be more inclined to help out and carry your heavy suitcase for you. Or buy you a beverage from Starbucks. You do not have to spend a small fortune on designer goods to look good though. One of my friends works in the fashion industry and she told me that according to some of the Luxurytastic reviews at BeleneChandia blog, there are plenty of websites out there like LuxuryTastic that offer replica designs of all the latest fashion must haves. So, whether you have always wanted to own a Gucci bag, a Chanel purse, or a piece of Louis Vuitton luggage, there is a good chance that you can find a replica piece at a fraction of the price. Replicas have come a long way in recent years, and some of them are almost as good as the real thing, so do not be afraid to shop around to build a collection of chic designer clothing and accessories.

-Part of dressing for success is this: wear flair. No, not TGI Friday’s vests and buttons flair. Athlete flair. This can be a slippery slope though, as you do not want to look like a douchebag. This means avoiding the shoes with bungee laces, and the wicking race shirts. Instead, find a simple cotton T from when cotton was cool. Something low key, maybe a nice blue or gray. Do not forget your compression socks though! A lot of people find that compression socks can make a big difference to any aches or pains. And if it works for them then good! Because we all need some relief from the stressfulness of traveling. I always seem to find myself stocking up on everyday compression socks for women before a trip. You want something another athlete will recognize and respect you for. It says “I’m going to a race, do you want to be my friend?”

-Dont be on your phone. Traveling and racing alone is like being on a first date – same phone ettiquette applies. People won’t interrupt you if you’re texty texting away. And you want people to interrupt you – that old man sitting beside you can not only tell you about his time in WWII, but also about the time he drank his own weight at a bar in Madison. You want to know where that bar is.

-Ask lots of questions. When you travel alone you will be confused. Maps aren’t always available, time zones are weird, and you’re going to need answers. The best way to get the answer is to ask. However, rushing up to someone, bumping them with your backpack the size of a 3rd Grader with an LLBean bag, and yelling the question is not the best approach. Scout out the terrain. Look for someone who works there, speaks your language, and brushed their hair this morning. Approach them with a smile, and ask them something easy. What time is it, what city am I in, who do the Packers play this weekend? They will know the answer and this will immediately boost their confidence. Now they are ready to tackle the more difficult questions: I have 12 minutes to get to Gate F6, can I do this? Where is the best place for a breakfast sandwich? Or, can you help me carry this? Again, between your looks and their newfound ego, you’re a shoe-in.

-Bring snacks. This is not so much important for traveling alone as for life in general. Snacks keep your blood sugar up so you’re in a good mood. They’re good conversation pieces with attractive people around you. Everyone likes snacks, easy morale boost.

More to come. The journey to IM Wisconsin has only just begun 🙂

>QOTD

>Some inspiration for those doing IM Louisville tomorrow. Good luck, race hard, have fun 🙂

“You’re not going to make it if you don’t have a passion for it. You’ll find a time in a race when you’re off form and running 10th or 12th place. If you’re doing it for cash and not for love, a negative thought will go through your head and it will kill you, destroy you, and you’ll never get back. It’s particularly cruical in the Ironman, where there are six times in every race you enter a dark place of doubt and must have that passion to overcome.” –Brett Sutton remembering his words to Chrissie Wellington in 2007 in 17 Hours to Glory

>I say, You say, we all say Luray.

>This past weekend I kicked off my traithlon season with a double header – the Luray International Triathlon on Saturday, and the Luray Sprint on Sunday. In 2008 I did the olympic distance and knew that I would like to come back and try the double. Friday afternoon I headed down to Luray with a couple friends to stay in the “Hilltop Hideaway” house that was rented for the weekend (pics to come soon). Seeing as the weather wasn’t the greatest most of the weekend, I was glad not to have us all stuffed into a hotel room the entire time. Instead we got to watch a lot of movies, play with sweet toys, and sleep in bunk beds!

Anyway, back to the race. Going into it, I felt pretty good. Despite having only my road bike to race on right now, I figured my bike and my run would be solid, and my swim would be what it was….probably not that good, but it’d get me there. The first tri of the season is always a ltitle nerve racking, but before I knew it I was in the water, swimming my little arms off. I came out just over 28 minutes, which comparitively ended up being a very good time for me. I hopped on my bike and took off, hoping to gain some ground on the girls ahead. While I did catch a few of them, a strong headwing on an already tough course gave me a run for my money. By the time I hit the run, my legs were spent. Although, I didn’t know it until after the first lap. Having friends out on the course certainly helped as I was struggling to get through the second loop. But, I made it and came through in 2:44. 

Wait.

What?

I did a 2:34 here 2 years ago, and I am in better shape right now! A little bummed, I have since perused the results and have concluded that the hard bike this weekend took its toll on everyones bike and run. And, the swim was a different course than 2 years ago. So really, no room for comparison. Especially considering the winning women’s time this year was a 2:36 (I ended up in 7th).

After a solid mexican feast, we headed back to the cabin to relax. Before I knew it I was waking up again though, this time for the sprint (whew). I was the only one of the crew doing the double, and I was pretty thankful to have friends out there rooting for me, especially in the pouring rain that Sunday brought us. By the time the race actually started though it was mostly dry. My swim felt strong, and getting onto the bike I was almost tentative after the “disappointment” I felt like I had the day before. But I just put my head down and got through it, ready to see where I stood when I was on the run. Surprisingly, I wasn’t too far behind the leader. However, in that span of a couple minutes was about 6 other girls. My legs were feeling the effects of a week of training and a race the day before, and I came through the line in 1:36, ending up in 12th place overall.

Overall, it was a good start to my season. Unfortunately, the way things work out my next race is the big one. But this isn’t the time to start doubting myself. In the next couple weeks I’ll finalize my plan for either a new bike or turning my road bike into something race-worthy. Hopefully that will let my mind rest a little more and allow me to get in the last 2 big weeks of training.

>Making plans and being awesome

>So as much as it stinks to have to plan races out months (or a year!) in advance, it actually is for the best because it does allow for the time to prepare for the events. So, this month I have begun to peice together my 2011 race schedule. Not to be ignored, of course, are the 3 big races I still have coming up this year – IM Wisconsin, Mt Masochist 50, and Hellgate 100K. Originally I had planned to “race” MMTR and Hellgate hard, going for broke in each of these. However, about a month ago, I got a crazy idea. I began itching for another 100 miler in the plans. Then when I really got thinking, I was reminded of an offer my friend Ryan Schmidt had thrown out when he moved to Hawaii with his family – that they would be out there if I wanted to come run the HURT 100 to help.

Now, HURT falls into it’s own little category in the 100 milers: Hard. The course record for the women is set by a certain woman who has won the race the past 2 years, and also won Western States this year in 19 hours. Her time on the HURT course is just over 24. That means this course is tough. Still don’t believe me? Take a look at this picture, showing what the course is famous for – the roots!

Oh, and there’s the 24,935 feet of climb and 24,935 feet of descending to deal with.

But, this race is also well known for being an amazing weekend to take part in. The “hawaiian spirit” is in full force, and from what I can tell, the runners all become family for the weekend.  So, this past weekend I found out that I had indeed been accepted (via lottery) into HURT. That means MMTR and Hellgate will still be in the works, but will be training weekends with long runs the next day. One thing is for sure – to be successful in Hawaii, I have to learn to be on my feet for a long time. I am certain that I will be running through the night, and want to be coherent when I get to see the beautiful sunrise the second day of running.

HURT comes at a weird time (Mid January) so this will be the first year I train fully through winter and don’t take December off. But, I plan to take February easy, then in March start easing into training again to prepare for Eagleman in June. Then maybe a few of the favorite summer tris, and then I’ll switch back to ultras, and look for a mid-to-late fall 100.

Looks like I’ll be a busy girl for awhile 🙂

>QOTD

>

“The title ‘world’s greatest endurance athlete’ some writers have
given to the Ironman champion is wrong,” she said. “I don’t want to
sound egotistical, but it is not that hard a race to finish. I have done
the Western States 100-mile run and the Iditasport, 100 miles on
snowshoes in the Alaskan wilderness. Both of those involve much
less intensity for a much longer time. The thing that is truly difficult
about the Ironman is the intensity. The Ironman distance demands a
lot, but what sets it apart is how fast they go. No other race gets that
good an athlete on that kind of course. You add the fatigue from the
swim, the fatigue on the bike, and the fatigue on the run, and what
results is a huge fatigue, an exponential multiplier of fatigue.”
–Sally Edwards, a pioneer in women’s endurance sports (taken from the book 17 Hours to Glory)
 
 
Dear Triathlon Spirits,
 
On September 12, please give me speed.
 
xoxo,
Alyssa

>Can’t be tamed

>There are 2 things I love about the sports I do. One, is winning. The other, is getting my butt kicked so much I don’t even know why I bother. In the past few weeks I have had the chance to experience both.

First, the ass kicking explained: This summer I have found a spot in my heart for cycling. Maybe it was the buildup behind Lance’s “final” Tour. Maybe it was boredom from all the running miles in the spring. Maybe it was the new road bike I got myself for my birthday. Whatever the cause, I have ridden more miles in the past month than I did all of last summer before IM Louisville, times two.  Yeah, that much.

And, it’s awesome.

I am truly enjoying learning the process of cycling. With a little bit of work, I have already come so far. But, that has come at a price. This is the first year where I have trusted myself to go out and ride with groups. I have always worried about getting dropped, but also about my own bike handling skills. Now I am comfortable on the bike, but still get dropped. Alot. By people who you would look at on the street and never know how fast they could ride a bike. No matter how good I get at this, there is always someone better. And someone a lot better. And someone a lot better than that person. Cycling is humbling, but it is also exciting and fun. It reminds me of the days when I’d do 2-a-days with the high school soccer team, going all out and feeling so tired and beat down that you can’t move. But you don’t want to stop either. Because getting your butt kicked every now and then is a neccessary evil for an athlete.

Now, for the winning part. Last weekend I ran the Rosaryville 50K. Being the 2nd year that this race was offered, I figured it would stay pretty low key, giving me a good shot to go for the W. I headed out to Rosaryville State Park that Sunday, set out a cooler of goodies on the loop (3 loops of 10ish miles) and headed to the start. I had to get through 1 loop on my own, then my awesome crew of Arjun, Jen and Cheese were coming out to run the others with me. And its a good thing too, because I started that first loop and certainly had my doubts about the day. My legs felt horrible going downhill which is never a good start. Plus, it was getting hot fast. I made it through though, and Cheese and Arjun jumped in for round 2. The first 5 miles with them to the aid station were good, I was still able to run comfortably. However, in this time I tried to take a GU and realized that it was just not going to happen. I had been drinking Perpetuem, so I was getting good calories that way, but I was still looking for a few extra. At the aid station I pounded mountain dew and like a gallon of water, and felt strong for a mile or two before my stomach really started to get upset. But, taking it slow and walking a bit, I got myself under control. Cheese and Arjun brought me in that lap to swap with Jen. At this point I started feeling really bad again. The next few miles were a huge struggle. Jen was great, just reminding me to keep sipping on water and saying I was doing well . We hit the midpoint aid station and I was just so thirsty again I couldn’t get enough water. I refilled the bottle though, packed my sports bra with ice (it really was hot….like, texas….or africa hot as Lance would say) and went out for the last section. I’m not sure if it was mentally knowing it was almost over, or I had finally found a balance of calories and liquids that worked in that heat, but I was able to run a good pace in to the finish. Coming in to the final aid station I was told I was the first place woman. I kind of laughed and told Jen that wasn’t right. I was thinking I was 2nd or 3rd, possibly even 4th. It was real confusing though because 2 other races had started behind us, so the women who passed me could have been running other distances. Sure enough, as I crossed the line in 5:16 they announced me as the first female! And, being only the second year and having beat last year’s woman’s winning time by 3 minutes, I know have the female Course Record too – pretty sweet.  They did awards as people finished, so I collected my bling and headed to Wawa with the crew for some much needed food and bevs. A great day all around!

“One of my favorite things about cycling is that it can reward suffering with joy. Another thing I love about it is that it often rejects those who don’t understand this. Cycling teaches you that there’s such a thing as necessary suffering and such a thing as unnecessary suffering, and that sometimes a short cut is a dead end.”
– Bike Snob NYC