>Goals Schmoals

>I am a big believer in goals. I think that quantifying what you want, visualizing it, and mostly just having that goal stare you in the face everyday will help you get there. Not that I’m discounting the hard work, but seeing it every day really is a big motivator. When I was trying to qualify for Boston with my first marathon, I had the time “3:40” taped up just about anywhere imaginable (well, considering I was at the Naval Academy that was like 2 places otherwise I got in trouble) so I would see it several times a day. By the time the marathon rolled around, the number didn’t scare me; I was prepared, and I believed that I would do it…..and I did.

TWSS also values goals, and at our awards night each December we write them on little notecards that Ryan saves for us to look back on at the end of the year. Interestingly enough, I was pretty far from most of my goals for last year. But, that is okay. I aimed high, and I missed – but that doesn’t mean I didn’t do some sweet things.

For 2010 I set myself some pretty lofty goals again. They are:
-Overall Female Winner at 3 Days of Syllamo (March)
-Overall Winner at Old Dominion 100 Mile
-Sub 10:45 at Ironman Wisconsin
-Sub 3:30 Marathon
-Sub 8 at JFK

Looking at these, I may very well be setting myself up for failure to meet them once again this year. But I’ll do my best to get there. There are a couple major changes I’ll be making training-wise to reach these goals. One, I am going to work closely again with Francesca Conte to coach me through OD 100. She coached me through GEER and I know that it significantly improved my performace. After that, I still was using her as a coach and mentor, just not as seriously (my focus was the IM). I know that she can get me into the shape I need to be in to be able to beat the whole field at that 100. Even without a win, I would like to see how well I can do at OD, get my confidence up a bit for 100’s, and then in 2011 go for a bigger race.

Because I will be following her training plan seriously, I want to hold myself more accountable for my training. My training logs have also taken the backseat since GEER. I will hopefully use this blog and another online tracker to keep track of my mileage and training. To get ready for both the 100 and the IM, every mile and every minute will count, and I don’t want to cheat myself.

The Ironman is probably my loftiest goal out there. To get there, it’s pretty simple: I need to swim, bike and run like the baller I know I am.  1:15/5:50/3:40. Boom.

For the marathon, going sub-3:30 has been a long time coming for me. I know I can do it. Heck, I know I could run a 3:20. It’s just a matter of making myself run faster when I train. Running faster is something I can do. I don’t neccessarily like it – but to get to my other goals I will have to do it. The plan for that is to run a half in March to get a time that automatically enters me in the NYC Marathon. If that happens, I will run NYC, skip JFK, and then run Hellgate 100K in December. If it doesn’t happen, I will decide between JFK and Mt. Masochist as a 50 miler for November.

Only 4 more days till the training cycles begin!

>Thanks for the memories

>Just kidding. My memory is horrible, I remember next to nothing. But I think I had a good time in 2009, so I’ll take a brief look back and look at the highs and lows (low low low).

High Point: PR at Holiday Lake 50K in February. Dr. Horton’s (hears a who?) races are always pretty competitive and attract a lot of wild card younger marathoners, so getting in the top 3 there and breaking 5 hours was sweet.

Low Point: DNF at North Face in May. No one wants to be a quitter.

High Point: THE JAMS!  2009 has been a sick year for music, especially with the ladies T. Swift and Lady Gags releasing sweet stuff nonstop.

Low Point: Mile 35 of Western States. Puking, hot and tired. Enough Said.

High Point: Finishing Western States. Rivals winning GEER for my favorite ultrarunning moment.

Low Point: Ryan getting hit by a car. Even though it didn’t hurt me physically, it hasn’t been fun to see a friend have to go through that. He was setting himself up for a baller year, and not being able to see him finish it is sad.

High Point: Qualifying for Clearwater. I never thought I would get there, and I probably never will again, so it was nice to have my 15 minutes of fame.

Low Point: Getting out of the water at Louisville to discover my jacked up rear wheel was flat….before it left the rack.

High Point: Ironman Lousiville. Alyssa, you are an IRONMAN! Not only that, but having 2 amazing friends surprise me and come out for the race was awes.

Low Point: Work was a drag. I was unable to be positive in a lot of other areas of my life because work was getting to be very frustrating and stressful. Buttt…..

High Point: I got a new job! I will be kicking off 2010 as a Data Analyst & Technical Writer for a defense contractor in Hunt Valley, so that should be a good change of pace and hopefully something that I enjoy.

Low Point: DNF at JFK. Again, it’s never fun to quit. Especially when you’re going for a 5th finish and final race of the year. OHhhhhhh well.

High Point: Some baller performances by my bffs on TWSS. A few standouts: Chrissie at NY, Bren at National, Ben at JFK, Ryan finishing Eagleman standing (haha), Zero’s IM……the list goes on.

Low Point: Getting tired. I had more struggles with my mental racing game than I usually do this year, espcially post-IM.

High Point: Getting more comfortable in the pool and on the bike. I’m beginning to actually enjoy these workouts now and am looking forward to the spring and summer when I can get out there more. Hopefully will be able to save for a new bike in 2010 as well!

Low Point: Missing the Majumdar wedding due to my little race. Still feel bad about that one!

High Point: I’m 24 years old and did I mention I’m an Ironman and a Western States finisher? Damnnnnn son. I’m a sexy biatch.

>To Rash Field, Fort McHenry, and Natty Boh

>As I write this, I am sitting in a sweet loft in downtown Toledo. Toledo? Why Toledo? Well, it just so happens that my good friend Dani’s sister lives out here. I consider the Garcia girls to be my own sisters, and Alicia has lived out here for a year and a half now and I haven’t come out to visit. When I realized a couple months ago that I was long overdue for a real vacation – with no racing, no activities, no nothing planned – this seemed like a good option. Of course, it’s no Barbados or Costa Rica, but it will be sweet because everything I do ends up awesome.
Anyway, after eight hours in this city I wanted to write this post to give Baltimore some props. In the short day I’ve been here, the only thing I have noticed as a common thread between the people I’ve talked to is that they apologize for their city. No one can believe we came out here for a vacation. They say things like “I don’t really know what you’ll find for fun” or “I’m sure where you’re from is much more exciting.”

Now, if they hadn’t said anything, it’s not like I would have thought Toledo was my next life destination, but I certainly wouldn’t have thought that there was “nothing to do.” Which brings me to my realization that Baltimore is awesome. Sure, the traffic blows downtown and operation orange cone is quite possibly the worst idea ever. But, we’re damn proud of our horrible traffic patterns and our homeless people. We’re indescribably loyal to a beer that isn’t even brewed in our city anymore. We know that the dolphin show really is sweet enough to warrant the $50 per ticket it costs to see it. In fact, we believe it so much we write that Baltimore is the greatest city in America on benches all over the town.

So to everyone in Baltimore, keep believing in your city. Because, after all, it could be worse….you could live in Toledo.

>Oh Holy Night

>My favorite part of running at night is getting to look in people’s windows and seeing them going about their lives, watching TV and knitting, having dinner, etc. Creepy?

>For every 99 times

>Well, my race season didn’t quite end as expected. No one really wants to go out on a low, especially not a DNF. But in an effort to not be like anyone else, I went ahead and did that for 2009. Last Saturday I went out to JFK attempting…no, expecting….my fifth finish on that course. Everything went as planned. In fact, the race was going better than planned. I was slightly ahead of pace at mile 9.4 and felt great through the end of the trail section. In fact, I’ve never felt so good on that course before, ever. I was able to run with Frannie and Gill (Charlottesville Running Company/Bad to the Bone) for a bit on the trail which was a good time. I stuck to my nutrition plan, felt great, and hit the towpath in 10th place female.

Within 2 miles on the towpath, I knew it wasn’t my day. My legs were simply tired. Although I managed to stay on pace through mile 27, it was taking twice as much effort as it should have been. Slowly, the wheels started to come off the wagon. Not only my legs were tired, but I was sleepy tired, my stomach started acting up, etc…..I had been beat mentally. I took a little time at mile 27. What was I doing? I had just raced an awesome race last weekend. I had come to this race for no other reason than I paid the money to do it and I wanted a 5th year finish so entering would be easier in the future. Long story short, I weighed my options, and decided that the strain on my body just wasn’t going to be worth it. Besides, I had a pretty exciting race with the leaders I wanted to catch up to to see. Not to mention Ben was running his first 50 mile – and was going pretty darn quick. So, I hopped in the car with my parents and headed to the finish line. I got to see some pretty good looking and quick dudes finish, plus BEN did an amazing job finishing 8th overall!!!! Claire also finished her first 50 mile that day with a solid time under 10.5 hours!

Looking back, of course I have the lingering thoughts of “maybe I should have stuck it out.” When I get these, I force myself to look at the positives from the year: Winning Seneca Greenway 50K, a 50K PR at Holiday Lake, WESTERN STATES! age group win, IM Louisville finish, and of course my trip to Clearwater. It’s no wonder I was just plain tired.

Looking ahead, my spring season will be pretty light racing wise, but I will be training pretty heavily for my big 3 next year: 3 Days of Syllamo, Old Dominion 100, and IM Wisconsin. As per Coach Frannie’s request, I will be taking the rest of the year off of serious training, so I am ready to go for next year.

>Bank Closed

>I know what you’re thinking – She’s alive?!?! She’s posting again?!? All my prayers have been answered!!!!

Well, get ready because this has potential to be the longest post ever!

It’s true folks, I’m back after a brief sabbatical. Alot has happened since September 24th. I went down to Charlottesville and manned the Bald Mountain aid station for GEER this year. It was nice to not have to run, especially since it was another rainy and cold year 🙂 And, it’s always good to be able to give back to this sport which has given me so much.

But enough of the sappy stuff. Where the heck else have I been? I admit, I have been pretty unmotivated lately. From February until IM Louisville, I was racing frequently and was having a pretty baller year. After the Ironman, I had some weddings and nonsense to partake in, and I knew that my next race wasn’t until the middle of November. I didn’t really want to keep training hard for another 10 weeks, so I took about 3 weeks off for a break.

Then after the 3 weeks, I found it really difficult to get back out there and train. Fall had come, the temps were lower, and it was getting darker earlier. I was wishy-washy for a couple weeks, maintaining my fitness but not really putting in any super hard efforts anywhere. I felt out of shape, even though I knew that wasn’t the case.

So I did the only thing I knew to do – I signed up for a race. I did the Mountain Madness 50K up in NJ. My thought process going into the race was this: it’s a good long run before JFK, it’s in NJ – will probably be flat and fast, it’s a loop course, maybe I can get a PR. As I am driving up to NJ the morning of the race, the sun is rising, and I slowly start to realize where I am going – to the sister mountain range of where the North Face Endurance 50 Mile was held this May, in Bear Mountain, NY. Shoot. Apparently RD’s mean “mountains” when they use that word in the name of their race!

My other misconception was that it was a loop course – turns out it’s not. I have no idea where I got that idea. So there I was, prepared for a completly different race than it was going to be. I had even made drop bags accordingly! I found myself without a nutrition plan or a race plan anymore, but it was perfect weather for an ultra, and I was itching to be out on the trails. I looked around and decided there were some dece runners but that I could compete, cut my losses and agreed to myself to make it a good training run if nothing else.

We went off, and sure enough, the trails were just as bad as at NF. Technical is an understatment. But I decided early that I wouldn’t let these trails hand me another DNF. I think the first 8 miles took me something absurd like 1:30, to give you an idea of the difficulty. I took one wrong turn early, but only lost about 5 minutes on that. I also took a hard fall early, ripping my sweat CXW tights that I love! I got to mile 14 and felt pretty miserable – my legs were tired and my stomach was iffy. I ran into Brad, who had decided to drop there about 45 minutes prior. Shoot. I need to finish now! So I left there and about 30 minutes later….I was back. WTF? I must have missed a turn, but I wasn’t the only one because some guy I was a couple minutes behind did the same thing. We hooked up with a group headed by a “local” who showed us the turn we missed, and I just kept running. I ws able to get my stomach back under control, and my legs started to feel good too. My feet were still hurting on all the rocks, but that’s no surprise. I think the last 3 miles of that course were the longest I’ve ever run, and I hit the finish line in just over SEVEN hours – definitely not a PR!

But anyway, it was a good race because I was able to get back into racing mode, pick myself up and be ready to get into it for one more month and two more BIG races. And then I realized that one of these races is the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS. woops. I had not swum, nor had I biked outside once since Louisville. My bike wasn’t even in once peice. Operation “uh oh” began. I got back on my bike (once!) and started getting up in the mornings to get to the pool. Then, wouldn’t you know, I get a call one day from the PR company for Ironman. Would I be willing to interview with the Baltimore Sun? Photo shoot? Heck yes! I had no idea what that would mean or where that would lead, but I was all in. Long story short, I ended up with a sweet story on the front of the sports section in the Baltimore Sun, as well as the COVER and article inside the “B” newspaper. Oh, and they would film me throughout the race for the possibility of a TV spot! It was pretty darn cool. Now I had my family and friends, as well as the entire city of Baltimore behind me for this race!

Now I will fast forward to the race. Arrive in Clearwater Thursday evening and am greeted by strong winds and a rough looking ocean. Yikes. Friday morning brings a little more calm, but the swim is still moved to teh harbor side instead of the ocean! This is awesome news for me, as I will no longer have to deal with rough waters or a wave beach start – a huge help for a weaker swimmer! I put together my bike, relax at the pool, do some shopping at the expo, and get a nice Italian dinner. Oh, and HULK HOGAN and his daughter Brooke was at dinner a table away from me! If that doesn’t say “you’re going to have a sweet race, I don’t know what does.”

Saturday morning: the alarm goes off at 4:45. Do the usual of eating oatmeal and braiding my hair. Start getting anxious. Go check on my bike one last time (the tires are still full, so no more problems like at Louisville, woopwoop!). I head down to the start with my dad, only to find out they are about 25 minutes ahead of the projected wave start times due to the TT start. I say goodbye, yank on the wetsuit and jump into my wave. Standing in line waiting for my start, I had my “Miley moment”…

‘Cause all I see are (cervelos)….
I guess I never got the memo
My tummy’s turnin’
And I’m feelin kinda homesick
Too much pressure and I’m nervous

Holy cow, what was I doing. I wanted to come here? Look at these girls – they are German! They must be quick! But then …

And the DJ dropped my favorite tune
…Calll on meeeeeeeee, call on meeee, calll on meeeeeeeee……
MY JAM! At this point, there was only one thing to do….
So I put my hands up
They’re playing my song,
And the butterflys fly away
Noddin’ my head like yeah
Moving my hips like yeah
And boom, I was in the water! Not gracefully of course as it was mad rocky and shallow so we all had to do a buttslide off the dock. But there I was, basking in the sunrise in Clearwater, FL, swimming 1.2 miles. It was over pretty quick…I swam the usual 36 minutes and change. The ramp up out of the water was super steep and super slippery it was weird. Ran into transition, they had professional wetsuit strippers, went into the changing tent, through on my helmet and bike shoes and went off on my bike. This bike course is notoriously fast, and it proved itself true with my race. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get into a group of any sort (yes, drafting is illegal, but if you can’t beat ’em…join ’em). But either way I knew I was still moving pretty quick, and had the wind my way for the second half. I started calculating my splits and didn’t really think I was doing the math right until the end, when sure enough, 2:38 was my split! Wow…10 minutes faster than Eagleman! I knew a PR was well within reach, but it was getting hot and I still had a pretty tough run ahead of me. This run boasts 4 large hills….one bridge you cross over twice (back and fourth) that has something like a 5.6% incline or whatever. Who knows. It was a long hill, and there was no shade. The volunteers were awesome and kept the ice, sponges and cold coke coming. I struggled a bit miles 4-6, and I think that was mostly because I wasn’t covering my hydration or salts for the heat that was there, but I caught it early and was able to bounce back, finishing the 13.1 miles in 1:51. Not to shabby – a 5:11:41 finishing time, 8 minute PR!

Again, the race was a spectacular experience. There’s no other sport where I would have the opportunity to race against the best in the world…and they really were out there last weekend – winning time was somewhere around 3:34 which is CRAZY! I was able to enjoy another couple days on the beach and see Bryan and Emily who recently moved down there! All in all, a great experience, and one I probably won’t be fortunate enough to qualify for again until I’m like 65.

Now it’s on to JFK in two days, until 2009 races are over. The field out there is pretty competitive and its going to be great weather for the race, so some fast times should be dropped!

>Safety First!

>Because yesterday was the one-year anniversary of Jen being hit by a car and a couple months after a car got hit by Ryan, I am inspired to write a post on safety.

Also because yesterday this article ran. This morning I woke up and was relieved to read this one.

So anyway, here is Alyssa’s Safety Nuggets:
-Look both ways before you cross a street.
-Continue to look both ways as you cross the street if it’s a large intersection.
-Never trust drivers who wave you across the road.
-If you do get hit, propel yourself into a cartwheel. You will escape with only a bad head wound and a fractured foot.
-If you hit a car on your bike, you’re pretty much screwed. Wear a helmet.
-In fact, wearing a helmet while running is also pretty safe.
-Just wear an everyday helmet.
-If you are going running in a remote area, bring a friend.
-Plan ahead. Bring enough food and water so that you could survive another few hours than you think you’ll be gone.
-If you do run out of food or water, do not separate from your friend! This is retarded. Search for it together.
-You should only separate from your friend if they can’t go any further because they are sick or hurt. If that’s the case, put them in the shade and have them stay put while you go get help.
-Always tell a friend where you’re going when you go running alone
-Always tell a friend when you are going on a date with a weirdo.
-Don’t take candy from strangers.
-Don’t go to workout with a large man who claims he wants to put you in a fitness calendar.
-If it feels like a trap, it is a trap.
-Don’t do anything you wouldn’t tell your mother about.
-If you are ever in trouble, just wave your arms and say “this is only a dream” then run far far away.

>It’s like that.

>Just wanted to point out some super awes results I almost overlooked from the weekend. At the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile in DC Ben Nephew/Leigh Schmidt/Michael Wardian went 1, 2, 3. All of 7 seconds separated Ben and Leigh, who have been battling all spring and summer in their own MA trail series races (Ben won that little humpty dumpty 11 mile race I did up yonder) and then our own local ultra fav M. Dubs was just under 4 minutes behind. Must have been a heck of a race!

>Who’s that chick that’s rockin’ kicks?

>After Louisville, I made the conscious decision to relax for a bit. Part of this decision was because of a few activities I had on the horizon: Dani’s wedding, kicking off flag football season, and a couple weeks of long hours at work. I wanted to recover well from the IM, and make sure I had the energy and the mental desire to put in one last hard training block this fall for upcoming Clearwater and JFK.

Those weeks of rest are over, however, and it’s time to get back to the grind. Part of getting back to it has been thinking about next year. I have only a couple races left now in 2009, and neither of which was a focus race for me for the year; those are behind me now, so it only makes sense to start planning the next. Plus, I have to start registering for them now, or I won’t make it in them. I have a couple core goals for next year; one of which is to really get after it in the IM distance. I signed up for IM Wisconsin 2010, and I’m pretty pumped about it. I really think that if I set my sights on that race (and don’t randomly decide to do Western States 8 weeks beforehand….) I can really make some moves. Looking at it now, my goal would be: 1:14/5:55/3:40. Yes, you read right, I have managed to convince myself that I can go sub-11.

My other big focus of the year will be on 3-Days of Syllamo in March. The distances of this race can vary depending on weather and trail conditions, but essentially it’s a 50K on Friday, 50 Mile on Saturday, and 20K on Sunday. You add your times together and the lowest combined time wins. Some pretty legit women have been known to show up for this weekend, so it will be a good test for me. The past 2 years Ashley Nordell has not only won it for the women, but she swept first place for females in all the races. If I can’t win it, my goal would at least be to prevent a sweep like that!

Knowing that I need to be in peak shape for a March race is a little daunting – I am not ready for hard training in the winter. But, whatevs, I’m awes and I will do it. My plan for the rest of the year is to do 2 three week training cycles leading up to a mini taper for clearwater that will extend into JFK (sounds so easy….). Then I will take the usual week off during Thanksgiving before getting back into it in December. I will hopefully be pacing a friend out at Hellgate 100K, and there are a couple new 50K’s I have my eye on. More than anything else I just want to be refreshed and ready to go come Jan.1st.

While I’m on the topic of race planning, I am also eyeing up what will be my big race for 2011. I know many of you don’t really understand the need to plan so far in advance, but this one will require it: Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc. This is a race I’ve heard murmurs of before, but never really had any desire to do it. Until now. What changed my mind? Krissy Moehl.

One thing is for sure – this race is hard. It’s a 103-mile circumnavigation of the Mont Blanc massif, stretching across France, Italy and Switzerland, with over 31,000 feet of elevation gain. The difficulty of this is pretty much why I’ve never really sat down and thought about entering. But after reading all the reports and articles about Krissy’s win there this year, it’s changed my mind. She finished the race in 24:56:01 – first female, first American, and 11th overall in a race that started with over 2,200 people. Not only that but she beat American favorite Scott Jurek….gotta love when the girls win 🙂

Looking just at this picture of Krissy coming into the finish line got me inspired to run this race (photo credited to Justin Bastien):

And then to read her race report just continues that feeling.

So there I was, all sorts of pumped up, trying to decipher the French website and find out how to enter so I can plan ahead for next year, and I hit roadblock #1 – qualifying. Shoot. They have an interesting system. Basically, they have a list of races, and then give them points on a scale of 1 to 4 based on difficulty. 4 being the hardest, 0 means you are a sissy and should find a harder race. Most of these races are in Europe, with about 50 or so being in the US, mostly the west coast. You need 4 points, accumulated from 2 races at most, to be “qualified.” And then I saw it – Western States 100 Mile…..4 points! woop woop! Also they give you a couple years as a grace period so I can use my ’09 run for it. The race holds registration in 2 waves – first you pay a smaller fee to put your name in with your qualifying information. Then they look at the numbers and do a drawing if there are more prospective runners than there are spots. So of course this may be a lot harder than I think to get into, but hopefully not. I couldn’t read the French on the website so I’m not sure if they have any stats as to how many applicants they have for the race each year.

I realize that’s a long way off, but at least it gives me something to look forward to! And the work to do well there really will require another year and a half of training, so here I go 🙂

>Ironman Louisville

>Ever since I saw the footage of this moment in 1997, I wanted to do an Ironman. Even being twelve years old, I knew that there was something special about an Ironman. These althetes aren’t doing it for the money, or the prestige; triathlons (especially then) were still relatively unknown to many. I knew that there had to be something more to this event. When I started running ultras, I finally was given a glimpse at what was so special about endurance events. Still, I knew that I wanted to do an Ironman to really understand it, and experience it for myself.

Friday: Arrive in Louisville at around 11am with my dad. After a brief scare where my bike was about 30 seconds away from going to Vegas, we made our way to the Hotel. We were staying at the Steelbach Hilton, right downtown, adjacent to 4th Street Live! Little did we know, this would also serve as the finish line for the IM. I went to check in, and we did some walking around to see the city. Everyone we saw was in town for the race. It took awhile to do the race check in, then we went on a little jog, and before I knew it it was time for dinner. Went to the Red Star in the 4th street live area. While we were sitting up there, I looked up at the Improv club’s lineup for the weekend and saw that Arj Barker (plays Dave in Flight of the Concords…the friend they meet when they move to NY) was headlining. So my dad and I decided to get tickets to the early show there, and that would leave us about an hour or so to watch the free Sister Hazel concert right outside! This decision turned out to be a good one. The show was super funny. Also not too inapprop (which would have been kinda awk with my dad there) and then we made it outside to see Sister Hazel in time to see them play All For You and Your Mistake! woop woop. After that it was time to call it a night and get some rest.

Saturday: Woke up earlyish so I could get to the practice swim for 8:30. Since the swim is in the Ohio River, it was only going to be open until 10am, and I wanted to get about 1000 meters or so in. The swim went well, but I did notice the current of the river…I swam upstream about 15 minutes and it only took me 10 to cover the same distance on the return trip. After that, we went back to the hotel and I put my bike together and took it for a quick spin to make sure it felt right. Then it was off to the Old Spaghetti Factory for some good old carb loading. After that we did some more walking, and went back to the expo. I didn’t have time to really shop around on Friday, so I did a little more of that. At one point we ran into the comedians from the night before outside the hotel! We chatted with them for awhile about the race, and they were some pretty cool dudes. I will prob facebook friend them. The rest of the day is a blur – got my transition bags and bike to the transition area, took a little nap, had a solid Papa Johns dinner (that’s the only thing I could trust my stomach with…my nerves were way out of wack and my stomach was feeling it) and went to bed.

Sunday: THE BIG DAY! Woke up at 4:15. Did the usual routine of braiding my hair, and forcing 2 packs of oatmeal down. Walked over to the T2 area to check my bike. This is where the problems began: I found my back tire flat. Ughhhh not good news. But, at least I found it early, right? The bike tech guys were awesome and got it changed quickly, and I headed over to the swim start, about .75 miles up the road. Went through the body marking, and before I knew it it was 6:40 and I was in line on the docks for the start. This is a time trial start, so they were sending us off of 2 docks. Everyone asks if you dive or jump – and I definitely jumped because there were mad people in the water below me. I would have def landed on someone slash dove right on top of dudes if I dove. So I jumped in around 7:01, and there I was. Even though I was really close to the front, it still felt like a million people were around me. I tried to find a rhythm, but between all the people, and trying to swim up the current, it didn’t feel very smooth. Just as we were nearing the far bouy for the turnaround, I was confused as I saw some peoples shins and knees right at my face when I went to breathe – wtf? It turns out we were swimming right over a sand bar and people were walking. So I joined the party, but it was over too soon – back to swimming. Lots of swimming. I knew I wasn’t going very fast, but at this point there wasn’t much I could do. I got in around 1:24, which was about 10 minutes off where I hoped to be. However, with the current and no wetsuits, it wasn’t surprising.

T1 went smoothly, I was basically just grabbing my helmet and my race number and heading out on my bike. This was the first time in a race I was getting on the bike with my pedals clipped in, and I managed to pull it off, but about 50 yards out of the chute something didn’t feel right. With the crowds of people still all around me, I pulled off to the side with a sinking feeling. I reached back and felt my back tire…sure enough, completly flat. Ahhh. Panic mode set in. I yelled into the crowds if anyone had a pump. At this point, I didn’t think it was the tube, so my only hope was going to be if I could get it to hold enough air to carry me through the bike. A long shot, I know, but I wasn’t exactly going to throw in the towel right there. Luckily, someone had a pump and I got the air back up to 120 and was on my way. The peope who gave me the pump didn’t exactly look confident for me, but I assured them that I would just have to bike faster to get done before it flatted. I think I must have actually believed this because my first bike split was pretty quick (note: can’t go by the computer split as I lost some minutes due to the stopage).

I settled into a rhythm as much as I could as I headed out into the first loop. I was extremely nervous though about the tire. I figured I had 2 cartridges with me, so if I could make each pump last me 45 miles, there’s a good shot I’ll get in. This bike course has a pretty dece mix of flat and hills, and after about 35 miles I noticed that I was dragging up the hills. I pulled off at a minivan with some dudes next to it, and asked if they had a pump – miracle, they did! I got off and pumped up the tire again…it had falled back down to a pressure of about 80 so I was still super nervous. However, after that it was like a brand new bike and I was back in business. I still had a quite a ways to go though. Throughout everything, I made sure to eat and drink as much as possible. It was a chilly day at points with the wind and being wet still from the swim, but I knew I was working hard nonetheless and needed to maintain my nutrition. I mastered the art of refilling my water bottles on the bike (more difficult than I thought without the aero bottle!).

After about 75 miles I felt the bike dragging again, so once again I pulled off and found a pump. Again, the pressure had dropped, but this time only to 90ish. I felt like Mike Zero with the tire that just wouldn’t stay full, but whatevs, I finally thought I was actually going to make it through this bike. Hopped back onto the bike and just kept chugging along. At about mile 80, I started to feel this horrible pain in my right knee. It’s something I’ve only felt one other time on the bike, so it worried me, but there wasn’t really much I could do.

Then, as I come down the road, I see these 3 random dudes. One of them is wearing short shorts and is swinging his shirt above his head. “IS THAT HER?!” I hear. Holy crap. It is none other than Ryan, Brennan, and Brennan’s friend!!! I don’t usually like surprises, but this one was awesome. It came at a time when I was about ready to start coasting, and it pumped me back up to stay in the race. I was shocked, flattered, and just so happy to have them out there. Five hours before when I got on the bike I wasn’t sure I was going to finish; now, I knew that I would make it with them right along with me. I could finally taste the end.

Unfortunately, I still had another 22 miles to bike and then 26 to run. I finished the bike in 6:13, which made me pretty happy. That was what I was hoping to ride if I had no problems, so I think if everything had gone well I could have taken some minutes off that. I proceeded to have the worst dismount ever off the bike, changed into my running shoes, and hit the bathroom before I started to tackle the marathon. My legs felt great, all things considered. It was nothing like the problems I faced at Providence with the run, so that was a relief. I ran into Ryan, Brennan & Co again as I headed out, and with a high-five I was off.

It’s evident that I felt good for the first half of the marathon looking at my splits. I was running 8’s for awhile before I fell to about 8:30’s. Around mile 9 I had a stomach problem and had a quick bathroom emergency. I only lost 3 minutes though and was able to keep moving pretty quick. Around mile 13 I got passed by some really hot girl. Ryan and Bren were right there, and I tried to stay with her because I figured at least then while they watch me plod along they could watch her as well. I managed to stay with her for all of…..200 meters before I decided that was not a good idea. It didn’t matter though, because Ryan and Brennan were still the best fan club I could have asked for. Singing, dancing, yelling slightly innappropriate but hilarious things — they pulled out all the stops and people LOVED it. I got a few men who double checked that I was friends with them as they were scared I was being stalked, but when I assured them they were harmless I had countless people tell me how lucky I was to have such great support, and they couldn’t have been more right.

At mile 14 I hit the turnaround….this was some sort of cruel punishment as you actually go right by the finish line. This is when it really started to hurt. I knew I was on pace to go under 12 hours, but I also knew I could easy let that slip away if I lost focus. It was time to just do what I do and get the job done. When I hit 24 I was just so excited. There were about 5 of us who had been mostly together through the run and were at this point together, and were encouraging each other to push through and just get there. When I rounded the final turn and saw the Ironman arch up ahead, I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to just take it all in, the crowd, the cheers, the athletes out there with me, everything. Being at the finish of an Ironman is truly a remarkable experience. I crossed the line in 11:51:43 with a huge smile on my face and a feeling that is just impossible to describe. The words “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!” rang in my ears. A volunteer was with me right away, making sure I was okay and getting me water and coke. A couple minutes later I found my dad and made my way to a curb to sit down. I felt “okay” but was a little bit woozy, and I knew I needed food. Luckily, the guys came to my resuce with some chips, and a little bit later I was on my feet getting to the hotel for a much needed hot shower.

Later that night we all had dinner at an Irish Pub right at 4th Street Live. The cheers of the crowd never died down – I have honestly never seen such a high level of energy be maintained for so long. Looking at the faces of the people coming in, and exchanging congratulations with those finishers standing next to you is the best feeling ever. The race certainly took its toll on me. I would have liked to stay out and cheer on people until the end, but I was just too tired. I went to bed, and woke up this morning feeling surprisingly good. My dad and I killed some time with breakfast and packing up before heading over to the awards ceremony banquet midday. I think this is where it finally hit me that I was an Ironman finisher. Watching the video of the race was the first time I felt emotional about the race, as I relived my race with the other 2400 finishers.

All in all, I ended up 7th in my age group. I was 5 minutes away from a top 5 finish. Of course, there are plenty of “what-if’s” that go along with this race, as I am sure every competitor has. But I know that in each moment of the race, I put my cards on the table and did my best. In the end, that’s all I can ask for and I am happy to have had the opportunity to be out there, and the support from my friends and family to help me along the way.