Ironman Lake Placid July 23, 2017: One of My Toughest Races

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Ironman Lake Placid is one of the oldest and most historic Ironman events. It is also a beautiful race set in the New York Adirondacks. Lake Placid, New York is also home to the 1932 and 1980 Olympics, so it is steeped in rich sports history.  It is a special place for so many athletes. And being mountain people, we felt right at home. 

We signed up for the 19th annual Lake Placid Ironman after our first Ironman in Mont Tremblant Quebec last summer. While we had a very successful first Ironman in Canada, we wanted to do the Ironman that many of our local friends love and rave about. We have friends who have done this event 3 to 11 times, so that says a lot. Lake Placid is a special race with an incredible atmosphere. We both love this area and hope to be back someday.

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Scott and I both had a tough race in Lake Placid, but I was especially disappointed with feeling sickly on the bike with stomach issues and a very bad headache. And then I had escalated stomach problems on the run. I later learned that there might have been a virus going on during the Ironman weekend. That would make sense with my symptoms during the race. I also got very sick after the race on Monday night into Tuesday with flu-like symptoms, another severe headache, diarrhea and major dehydration. So perhaps I was affected by a virus.

My last 7-8 miles of the run were very rough and I had to walk for the first time ever in a marathon. It was more of a combination of walk/run, but things got dark and ugly at the end. I almost didn’t make it to the final run around the oval. I did cross the finish line, but it was so tough just to get there. I learned a lot about myself that day. No matter how miserable and bleak things feel in a race, I can always push forward. And that was what I did in Lake Placid. I soldiered on until I eventually crossed the finish line! It was a long day but I did it!

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I knew going into this Ironman my shot at a Kona qualification for the Hawaii World Championship was going to be tough with a very stacked field. My age group F45-49 had over 165 women on the initial participant list. But I was still hoping to come into the top 5. That did seem feasible if I had been healthy on race day. But on the last 3 miles two women in my age group ran by me and left me in 8th place overall. The shocking statistic was that I still had the fastest run split in my age group even with being passed at the end. Those women must have started ahead of me in the rolling start swim. But a top 10 finish out of 149 women who finished is still a solid accomplishment. An 11:30 Ironman time at Lake Placid is still respectable.

Scott had some stomach issues on the bike and run as well, but it was the warm sun that caused his Ironman marathon to unravel. But he did finish strong and persevered like a true Ironman. That day we both became 2x Ironman finishers.

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We stayed at the Lake Placid Club Lodges which are older ski-style condos right on Mirror Lake Drive. Our condo was shared with our good friend Seth. Jamie who organized the condo was supposed to be our other condo-mate that weekend but an achilles injury left him side-lined. The condo was spacious and had the potential to be a great place. However cleanliness was the main complaint. We arrived to find potato chips and pretzels all over the rug. After walking around barefoot for an hour or so we both were shocked to discover both our feet were black! I don’t think the floors or carpets have been cleaned in over a decade! The main positive aspect about the condo was that we were just a few minutes walk from the swim start and about a 10 minute walk from transition. It was super convenient. We left our car parked all weekend.

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We brought Carin’s magic lasagna and vegan donuts and pastries like we normally do for a big race. We also followed the same nutrition plan that brought us both success in Mont Tremblant last year. So what went wrong? I have done a lot of speculation. Scott thinks I ate too many shot blocks too fast on the first few miles of the bike. Lisa felt that I didn’t have enough water with the carbs/sodium in my drink mix and shot blocks. Perhaps I did have that virus that was going round. Either way, I will be looking closely at my nutrition plan for my next Ironman. It’s very tricky to get nutrition right during such a long race. But I did it last year and I’ll do it again.

The Swim

The swim was the big surprise of the day! While it was still a stressful and difficult swim for me, I did better than expected. Based on what I have been swimming in the pool and our open water swims, a time of 1:15 to 1:20 seemed realistic. While these are not competitive swim times, I was thrilled to make that goal. And my time ended up being a 1:16:53 which for me was almost a 10 minute PR from last year. I was 37th in my age group but I am usually far behind when I get out of the water in a triathlon. I was still pleased with seeing progress in my Ironman swim!

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My coach, Lisa wanted me to start up front with the hour to 1:05 swimmers which felt very aggressive for me. I wanted to start with the 1:15 to 1:20 people but I decided to listen to my coach as she has so much experience! It was a bold move but it might have made my time a bit faster as I never had to swim around anyone slower than myself like previous triathlon swims. But I did have constant contact, causing me to stop several times and it was extremely difficult for those 2.4 miles!

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The rolling start had 10 swimmers go off every few seconds and this still made for a crowded, chaotic swim. I started on the right side and got to swim along the famous cable for most of the first lap out. For the first few minutes it was great swimming along the cable and not needing to sight much. But then came the people behind me swimming faster and wanting that line as well. I constantly had people hitting my feet and lower legs and swimming all around me and passing me. These were the faster swimmers and I felt like I didn’t belong there. I dealt with this for most of they way down before turning. I only got punched in the head once and luckily was OK. I did deal with a lot of other body contact mostly from being surround by more aggressive males in the green caps. It got so bad that I decided to swim left and stay more on the outside.

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Swimming away from the cable and line of buoys did help but there were still a lot of people and chaos around me. I felt the swim was also very choppy with all the swimmers. No smooth sailing on this swim. But I was doing OK and kept pushing along. Getting around the buoys at the end was also messy and crowded with lots of feet in my face and more contact but I stayed out of trouble. At one point I noticed the mountains in the distance and thought it was such a pretty swim. But then I had to get around the last turn and buoy before heading back. After this I found more clear water. There were times heading back where things weren’t so congested and stressful. But then I’d have more people catch up to me and pass me. I don’t think I ever passed one person on this swim!

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I was happy to finish the first lap, get out of the water and “re-set” myself. This time I started on the left away from the cable as I just didn’t want all the body contact. I didn’t want to fight to be close to the cable. It was still hard and I was still anxious. I was not enjoying one minute of that swim. Again there were a few times I’d get surrounded, hit hard and have to stop just briefly, but not as bad as the first lap. Again I made it safely around the last turnaround buoys.

On the last lap back all of a sudden a large group of faster swimmers swam right around me and past me. But it was very distressing getting stuck in the middle of them and they swam very close to me with plenty of body contact. I’m guessing they were from the next wave after mine. Eventually they were gone. I would sometimes find some clear water and kept going on the final lap back to shore. I would try to stay on feet when I could but I’m still not good at that. Closer to the finish it got really crowded again. The last few hundred yards were a mess with bodies everywhere wanting to finish the swim like myself.

I was so happy to get out of the water and find the wet suit strippers. I finished a very tough Ironman swim and was looking forward to getting on my bike. I didn’t know my time, but did stop my Garmin watch. I preferred to find out later after the race so I didn’t have any added anxiety during my bike leg. But my time was almost 10 minutes faster than last year so that is a win for me!

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Scott had a very tough swim as well but still swam a solid time. He also lined up with swimmers that were just a little faster than him since I was instructed to do the same. He described his swim as a “scrum”. It was violent and aggressive and he got hit hard a few times where he had to stop and re-group. He would have been faster without these incidents that caused him much anxiety. Scott is a strong swimmer and pushed through a really tough swim. I’m so proud of him. He still had a good swim time and was almost 7 minutes faster than me!

The Bike

The Lake Placid Ironman bike course is famous for being very hilly and challenging. The Ironman website states the total elevation gain at 6,898 feet. We spent a weekend in Lake Placid riding the bike course a month before the race so we were prepared. It’s actually a great bike course with a lot of variety so it was easy to break up in chunks mentally. However most of the climbing comes during the last 19 miles of each lap.

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For me the challenge came when I got a screaming headache in the back of my head on the flat section after the long descents. And this very distracting headache stayed with me the rest of the bike leg. I also noticed I wasn’t feeling right and something was really off. I was riding on 4 out of 5 cylinders (metaphorically speaking). And to make matters worse I had a few waves of minor nausea and threw up in my mouth several times, even on the second lap. It wasn’t bad enough where I considered pulling out of the race, but I did wonder many times how I would get through this Ironman bike!

Considering I was unwell on the bike I didn’t have a bad bike split but I was still about 13 to 18 minutes slower than I had hoped and expected. My bike time was 6:13:16 hours. Out of 149 women who finished I had the 14th fastest bike split. That is definitely a disappointment since I had the second fastest bike in Puerto Rico last March. And I used to be a solid hill climber back when I was a competitive cyclist 20+ years ago. So I was having a very off day for sure! Even my coach was surprised I didn’t at least do the bike in 6 hours.

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The climb out of town wasn’t bad and I was riding as expected. I was conservative up the long climbs but steady and strong. It was cooler with plenty of cloud cover but the climbing kept me warm. The new one mile out and back section was flatter and fast and uneventful. The aid station at the end was in a good spot and I picked up my first bottle of clear water for my front bottle.

After the beautiful iconic Cascade lakes, I was ready for the descent which I took conservatively. It was cold, a bit windy and not very enjoyable. I stayed out of trouble and rode to the right hand side avoiding the guys going down the hills at dangerous speeds. There will always be a few riders who take crazy chances like that. Once I got into Keene after the long descents I felt so cold and my hands started to get a little numb. So I worked hard on the flat section heading north towards Jay. Much to my dismay it started to rain and I had trouble getting warm. Luckily it wasn’t a long shower which ended before Jay. That was the last of the rain for the day. I did warm up but started to feel ill as I mentioned above.

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I was still riding steadily but remaining conservative in my efforts on the Au Sable Forks out and back. This is a longer section with some gentle rollers. The road conditions are a bit rough but the potholes and large cracks were filled in with tar. I was playing leap frog with one woman in my age group. I was also trying not to ride with any packs which did happen a few times on the Rt 9N flat section. I always did my best to get through the packs or just stay back. I eventually lost that woman on the final climbs up the Notch.

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Once I turned right on route 86, the climbing began and I just rode steadily and conservatively. I was still feeling badly with my headache and having minor bouts of nausea but just kept soldiering onwards. My legs were doing pretty good which was a nice surprise but I just couldn’t get the rest of myself to feel good. The climb through the Notch had a nice tailwind and I was thankful for that! I was riding steady and smart for my current state. The bear climbs finally came and even those really didn’t feel that tough. Mamma bear and baby bear were fine and I enjoyed all the crowds and support on Papa bear before heading towards Mirror Lake Drive. Before turning off Mirror Lake Drive I was so happy to hear some friends of ours cheering me on!

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I got my special needs bottles after completing the first lap near the oval and this was a very smooth, efficient process They had my bag when I pulled into Special Needs! The volunteers are amazing! I wasn’t feeling terrible when I started my second lap but knew I was still not feeling 100%. My headache was still going strong and I was feeling the first lap in my legs on the climb out of town.

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The wind picked up a bunch going by the Cascade Lakes. And the descent was windy and long! Again I stayed out of trouble riding conservatively on the right hand side. And again there were more crazy dare-devils riding dangerously fast down the descents. There is about a mile of rough section and both times I was very conservative on this section. I was actually surprised there were no lost water bottles here.

There was a head wind on the flats heading to Jay and Au Sable Forks. But I just kept pushing onwards and trying to maintain a decent pace. It was again crowded on this section but I never really felt stressed out like I did in Puerto Rico or last year on the Mont Tremblant bike course.

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Again I did my best to be strong yet smart on the final 19 miles of climbing. I was trying to appreciate all the signs and crowd support along the way. I also tried to appreciate the stunning views of Whiteface Mountain. My legs were still doing OK but I was feeling the fatigue of the final climbs. And my headache was still persistent. I only had maybe one more wave of minor nausea and then it seemed to subside on the last 12 miles. I was actually surprised that I was still cruising along on the Notch section. I wasn’t killing it, but I wasn’t dying either. My legs were actually feeling better than last year at the end of the MT bike course. There was still a nice tailwind so that did help my bike speed!

I was so happy to get up the three bear climbs and make that right hand turn on Northwood. Again the crowds were really awesome on the Papa Bear hill. I was pretty happy cruising along Mirror Lake drive as I’d soon hand off my bike to a volunteer. It was exciting to hear my named called out as I was riding through the last few turns in town just before the transition area. The crowds were really cool! The whole town comes out!

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Scott was a good five minutes faster than me on the bike similar to last year’s Ironman. But he also suffered a few bouts of nausea as well. So maybe he had a touch of the virus like myself. He still had a strong bike split and paced himself well. I’m proud of him for riding so well in spite of a tough day.

The Run

I was very happy to be back in the transition tent and very pleased to see there were very few women in there. I had a wonderful volunteer take care of me during my transition, helping me sort out my stuff, spray on sun screen and fetch me water after I ate a gel. She was a gem and even packed up my bike gear. The volunteers are truly some of the best in Lake Placid!

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I was a bit worried to discover that I was feeling rather badly starting my run. Last year I felt good starting my run and was thrilled to be finally running. Running is what I do best! This year I was feeling rough right from the start. It also felt very warm and humid this year as the sun was shining  brightly. But I was very concerned that my whole stomach hurt and felt crampy. It was almost like I had a small bowling ball in my stomach. I was hoping this would go away but it never really subsided causing me much discomfort during this run. My headache seemed to be gone so that was a plus!

My goal for the Lake Placid marathon was to run a pace of around 8:10 to 8:20 minutes per mile which felt realistic especially since I ran so well last year in Mont Tremblant. Lake Placid is a very hilly course with two good climbs on the end of each lap. Overall I was running well until about the last 7-8 miles when things fell apart for me. I’ve never had to walk during a marathon until this one and it was really tough mentally. I ran a 3:47:03 marathon which is still a good time for such a challenging course. And I was shocked to discover that I had the fastest run time in my age group. Even with two women in my age group passing in the last three miles! They must have started ahead of me in the swim as mentioned above.

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The run started with the steep down hills out of town and some flats and then a good downhill before turning onto River road. These two miles were my fastest, but I still tried to have a nice controlled conservative pace. During mile 3 on River road I noticed I my stomach was still feeling crampy and bloated, but I was running at a good pace. On these miles heading out on River road I kept slowing down my pace a bit since I was concerned about not feeling well on the run so early. Again I was feeling really off. But I just kept running steadily and smart. My paces heading out and then back on River road averaged about 8:09 to 8:21 pace. I felt like I could maintain this but it would be very difficult the way I was feeling. I would have to dig deep! I was taking ice and putting sponges down my jog bra to keep cool. This helped a bit but didn’t help my stomach. I was taking gels every 30 minutes and water at each aid station.

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Running back up the first hill towards town after River road didn’t go that badly and I even ran slowly and very conservatively up the steep hill into town and up to Mirror Lake drive. I was able to run about an 8:35 pace on this section from River road to Mirror lake drive. Heading back on Mirror lake drive I managed to do an 8:10 pace which was surprising. My legs were getting fatigued and tired but was still running well even if I wasn’t feeling well. It was great to see Chris and Jess on the course in town. Chris yelled out that I was crushing it. The down hills out of town were slower this time with a pace ranging from 8:12 to 8:20. I knew I was slowing down and my body was heading into survival mode.

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The next couple miles on River road felt rough and warm. My stomach still felt really badly like I still had a small bowling ball in there. Miles 16 to 18 were the last miles where I was purely running. My paces were slowing a bit to 8:23 to 8:32. I decided I would walk the aid stations when I was almost at the turn around. This was a good idea and I drank more water and even started drinking a bit of coke (just a few gulps in each cup).

I remember feeling really awful at the turnaround but kept running. However about a mile or so heading back I just had to walk a little bit. And then I got to an aid station which allowed me to walk again. I was trying to run to each aid station but eventually I had to walk/run in between the aid stations. I was trying to run very slowly instead of walking, but my legs would not let me do that. I either had to run my normal cadence or do a power walk. It was awful. It was almost as if my legs would hurt trying to run really slowly. I would try and run the same pace as a slower runner but either had to pass them or just walk. Very frustrating! 

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Once I left River road, I had to power walk up the first steep hill. Many other people were doing the same. I started to run again on the flats and a woman in my age group ran with me for a bit. She said I was in 5th place. That gave me some spark but then I had to walk the steep hills heading into town. She passed me running very slowly but I was in agony. My body was shutting down and I couldn’t stay with her. With less than 3 miles to go it was pure survival mode. Even power walking through town and up the little Mirror lake drive hill was rough. I was power walking almost bent over. It was so ugly. The crowds were kind and encouraging. So many people were cheering me on! I was humbled by the kindness I received when I was suffering so much out there.

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I did more of the  walk/run on Mirror Lake drive. My body was still shutting down. I was so happy to see the turnaround on Mirror lake drive. I knew I just had about a mile to go. Another woman in my age group ran by me on the way back. At this point I didn’t care anymore. I was getting worried about just getting to the finish line. I was deep in the pain cave!

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Once I got onto the Oval I was so relieved I didn’t have to run around the entire thing! I knew I only had a few hundred yards left. I was stumbling and in sheer misery. It was hard to appreciate the final red carpet hurting that badly. I heard Mike Riley pronounce my name wrong and tell people to “help this one in”. I almost ran into the photographer, but did cross the line. I fell right into Marty and Kristen’s arms (both volunteering as catchers). What a relief. I made it!

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Scott had a tough run once the sun came out in full force. But he was smart about doing a combination of walking and running. He is a hero for finishing after he had such a tough day as well.

Overall it was one of the hardest and most challenging races I have ever completed. But I am so proud of myself for finishing and not giving up when things fell apart at the end. It was a crazy, hard day but we both did the best we could that day. I personally left it all out on the course. I had nothing more to give when I crossed that finish line!

I do feel this is an amazing  race. They do an incredible job with this Ironman in Lake Placid, NY. It’s so well organized and the volunteers are amazing. Thank you to everyone who made the day possible. Someday I will return to Lake Placid and redeem myself. I am not done with this Ironman. I will race these hills again when I am ready. Next year we are looking at doing an Ironman in Europe. Life is short and we want to do this while we can!

Next for 2017 is the Worlds 70.3 in Chattanooga, Tenn in early September. This will be my first age-group world championship race. It will be interesting and a great experience!

Thank you Lisa for getting me to the starting line and helping me through a minor injury the last three weeks heading into the race. I could not do this without you!

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Thank you Kristen for the plaque! Means so much to us!

Happy Birthday to Scott who turned 49 at midnight of the Ironman!

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The Wicked Hot Ironman Puerto Rico 70.3 Race Report March 19, 2017

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We finally made it to the Ironman Puerto Rico 70.3 this past March. I originally signed up for this half Ironman back in September 2015 when I was recovering from my severe stress fracture in the top of my femur bone. I thought it would be healed in time to race in March 2016 but I just wasn’t quite there yet. I had just started back up with my running but nothing more than maybe 7 to 8 miles at that time. So we deferred our race to 2017. Luckily for a fee, the race directors let you do this. So I was very excited and grateful to have completed this awesome race successfully. And because it was during my birthday week, that made it even more special.

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I highly recommend signing up for this half Ironman.  It was such a well organized and challenging race. It’s a true gem in a beautiful place. We both would go back and do this again someday. We loved Puerto Rico, the people and meeting so many racers from all over the world. It was such a great experience on so many levels. It’s a difficult race, but the volunteers are excellent and the crowds on the run were very supportive.  It’s all about the run at the end which is very hot, super hilly and quite humid. It was my slowest half marathon and slowest long run in a long time but it was still an awesome run course and I loved it! The 2 weeks in Florida were helpful in acclimating to the Puerto Rican sun and humidity. I’m so glad we were able to do our Florida trip right before flying into San Juan.

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My goals going into this 70.3 were not really set in stone as I didn’t know how I would do in March especially traveling to such a warm climate after sitting inside on the bike trainer all winter. I was hoping to hit the top 5 but I surprised myself by placing second in my age group which is a tough one: Females 45-49. These old birds (myself included) are a tough crowd and are fiercely competitive. So when I found out I was second back in our hotel suite, I was thrilled! I ended up with a qualifying slot for the 70.3 World Championships in Chattanooga, Tenn this September, I was so happy! Only 30 spots were available to about 1,500 athletes and initially only one was allocated to my age group. But since there was an extra slot from one of the older age groups, it went to my age group which had about 75 women. And I was awarded the slot. Yippeee! Smile

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My new friends who live at the Caribe Hilton

We flew into San Juan on Thursday night with both our bikes in their strong sturdy Bike Alan cases. Traveling with two bikes and luggage is a challenge but after flying to Florida and then to San Juan we were becoming pros at this type of travel. Racing in Europe doesn’t seem so daunting after you do this a few times. We stayed at the Caribe Hilton which was the race headquarters and conveniently located to the swim exit, transition area, and the finish line. This is a very nice hotel beach resort with beautiful grounds right on the ocean. We even saw the actor Ron Perlman and his cute little doggie a few times who likes to stay there. However it’s an 80 year old hotel (first one in Jan Juan) and not all the rooms have been renovated. We upgraded to a very nice suite which was a bit costly but we were told it was much nicer than the room we originally booked. There were a few minor problems, but overall we were happy with a gorgeous view overlooking the beach and ocean. I loved sitting on the balcony and enjoying the fantastic views. And the extra space was very nice and helpful with two bikes and lots of gear.

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View from our hotel suite

Friday and Saturday were focused on preparing for our race. Friday we went through athlete check-in and hit the Expo and Ironman store which is always lots of fun and amusing. It’s like black Friday for triathletes when shopping for race shirts and all sorts of fun Ironman gear. I’ll admit I had a ball in there Smile. We later swam a few laps in the photo above which was really wonderful. It was a little wavy but not bad due to the barrier. The water wasn’t too warm but did feel lovely. And I got to test out my new fancy Roka skinsuit for the first time. The big job for Friday and Saturday was fueling and carb loading for the race. I eat like it’s my job before a race and felt we did a good job. We also did a nice run on Saturday morning, checking out the swim start which was less than a mile from the hotel. Cycling in San Juan is a bit dangerous but now they have bike lanes going into Old San Juan. Still we just did one short easy ride around the transition area to make sure our bikes were good to go. Getting our bikes to transition on Saturday afternoon was our last big task before our final epic dinner in Old San Juan before the race.

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We were up early on race morning to get our running and cycling gear into the transition area at 4:30am! I felt more nervous and apprehensive about this race compared to the half and full Ironman in Mont Tremblant last year. I am not sure why. Maybe I felt that so many other athletes we know were tracking us. I was also nervous about my swim after working so hard with Lisa and Dave. Would I let them down? Would I be slow without a wetsuit? I was also nervous about the heat and the run. And I was nervous about how Scott would handle the heat after a brutally hot day last year in Mont Tremblant for the 70.3. And to make matters worse, I ended up with real dairy milk when I asked for soy milk for our oatmeal. Luckily I don’t think I had enough to really make me physically sick. But I did feel a bit nauseous and worked up that morning, even walking to the swim start. I was really feeling badly at the start due to nerves. However, that all changed once I started racing!

Swim

The swim takes place in the protected waters of the Condado Lagoon but then finishes in the ocean waters which are a bit choppier. I thought this was a beautiful swim and loved the lagoon. It wasn’t very deep and it was really neat seeing the bottom only a few feet down once we got towards the Dos Hermanos Bridge. I read several blogs and race reports and everyone seemed to agree that it was a very calm swim except for the currents under the bridge. For our race, the waters were calm and nice until heading back towards the bridge where it got a bit choppy the closer we got to the bridge and ocean. And once we got past the bridge, the waves were bigger and the current was strong. I felt like I wasn’t going very fast even though I could see the swim exit. But we were told in the athlete briefing to just keep swimming and we would all get there even if it didn’t seem like we were moving.

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Swim Start beach on Saturday morning

The one big problem for me was that only the pros were allowed to have a warm up swim and I need about 1,000 yards to truly feel good and warmed up. So my strategy was to start out a bit more mellow to avoid any panic attacks like my previous 70.3 in Mont Tremblant last June. I started a couple rows down on the outside closest to the beach. Each wave started in the water but it wasn’t cold and we could touch the bottom. It was very pretty and I loved the views of the hotels along the lagoon. My wave had combined all women aged 40 to 49 so there was a lot of us in bright green caps!

I didn’t have any panic or anxiety attacks in the beginning and it didn’t take as long to settle in and just focus on swimming. But I am still not a confident triathlon swimmer and I let people cut me off and take my water. I am not aggressive in the swim portion and I need to learn to hold my own. Lots of women passed me because of this.  After about 10 minutes, I was starting to feel decent and tried to pick up my pace. This was gradual but I felt like I was getting faster after 20 minutes. I caught up and passed a few women in the previous wave that went off 4 minutes before us. But eventually the fast swimmers from the next wave passed me too. Turning at the buoys was a bit messy and chaotic but the second one went better.

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Heading back felt like a long stretch. It got choppier and wavier as we got closer to the bridge and ocean. There were a few women in my wave who I swam with for the stretch back. They seemed like decent swimmers and I felt like staying around them wasn’t a bad idea as I didn’t have to sight as much. Sighting was harder with the waves and I had to take my head out of the water higher (back to my bad habits and this probably slowed me down). But I was keeping up with the same small group of women. I felt someone on my feet for a good stretch heading back and got a bit annoyed as they kept hitting my feet. So I sped up and kicked a bit hard to get away. Other than that it wasn’t too violent or aggressive out there. (Scott said his wave was violent and very aggressive with kicking and punching)

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Scott is such a strong swimmer! He rocked this!

The waves and chop increased by the time we got to the bridge and the current was going against us. This swim was nowhere near as bad as IMMT but still slow going on the last stretch. Underneath the bridge it wasn’t as scary as I had expected due to the strong currents. After the bridge it was wavier as we were close to where the bay meets the ocean. But it was great to finally see the end of the course. I swam hard still around the same three women in my group. I was so happy to get out of the water and surprised it took me a little over 42 minutes. I was almost 5 minutes slower than MT 70.3 but this swim was without a wetsuit and the bay wasn’t as smooth as I had expected.

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Overall it was still a successful swim. I didn’t have any panic attacks. My official time was 42:20. I was 29th out of the water which is what I normally do.  It was my first swim that was partly in the ocean. It was also my first real open water swim of the season. Lisa says my swim is still a work in progress. Scott had an amazing swim! He swam a 33:48 which was a great time for that particular swim. I’m so proud of him!

The run from the swim exit to the transition area was about 700 meters and many people including ourselves had a pair of shoes near the swim exit. I’m so glad we had the shoes since it was such a long distance to cover barefoot. We purchased some cheap Walmart running shoes in Florida for under $20 each, but they were comfy and did the job!  I probably lost a minute weeding through the crowd of people and putting on my shoes but they were easy to find. The race director encouraged this as running on a small pebble or rock could ruin your whole race day even though the roads weren’t that bad at all. Better to be safe than sorry! So my transition was 5 minutes and 48 seconds.

 

Bike

My bike ride was the big surprise of the day. I honestly didn’t know how this would go as there were just so many variables. I had only been riding my bike on the roads in Florida for two weeks and spent the rest of the winter on the computrainer down in our basement.  I had my best bike performance since my stress fracture in 2015! Lisa had me working very hard on the computrainer. I was feeling strong from pushing some long difficult intervals with high wattages. The four hour windy bike ride we did with Lisa and Kate in Clermont was also very helpful as my key training ride before tapering. But without any big hills or substantial climbs, I didn’t know how I would do since hills were what I did best 20 years ago racing.  I surprised myself and rode very well and strong on race day. I biked my way into 6th place from 29th with the second fastest bike split in my age group (the fastest woman was only around 30 seconds faster).

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For the first 15 to 25 miles it was quite stressful and difficult dealing with a crowded course with packs and constantly leap frogging the 3rd place woman, a few other women and a big pack. The pack was frustrating because I would pass them and then they would pass me. I had to keep slowing down and speeding up. It wasn’t fun and I was not a happy camper. This situation seems to be normal on Ironman branded courses with a lot of racers. But I was riding strong and seemed to feel decent. And for a while I was averaging a good pace (21-22 mph). But I did have a little tail wind or favorable cross wind on the way out. I was riding well but still being a bit conservative as I was expecting some places to be very windy but it was never too bad. Perhaps all those crazy windy days in Clermont, FL made race day in Puerto Rico feel reasonable.

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On the first loop heading back a motor cycle came up to the pack that kept leap frogging me and gave one girl a blue penalty card. She was annoying and blatantly riding with the pack. Didn’t these people go to the athlete briefing?? The race director and referee were very clear about the drafting. The large packs of riders and constantly worrying about a penalty card cost me a few minutes overall since I had to keep slowing down and backing off.

On the second loop it wasn’t as crowded and the pack seemed to have dispersed a bit. I was still riding well and keeping on top of nutrition and hydration. I filled up my front bottle with water 3 times after I finished most of the tailwind in it. I felt I did a really good job with my shot blocks and taking in enough Tailwind and clear water.  It was getting hot and I was prepared for the rest of the ride and the run to come.

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The roads were quite rough in several places on the loop and that wasn’t fun as I kept worrying about my wheels or getting a flat. And during the second time on the loop there were lots of water and gatorade bottles on the ground and I almost hit a couple of them. This was very nerve rattling, but I stayed upright. It was a little windy right by the water heading back both times but not too bad. I would be riding between 20 to 21 mph in the windy, rougher sections. And about 21-22 mph on the favorable sections. This is fast for me even on the flats for a 70.3.

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On the final 10 to 15 miles I had to fight a bit to keep up my speed as the fatigue was settling into my legs. I was also getting warm out there. The sun was getting strong and there was not much shade at all on the course. And it was getting humid! Also my neck was so darn uncomfortable in the aero position. I got out of my aero bars a few times especially up the small rollers at the end to give it a break. The last couple miles are slightly frustrating as I didn’t know how the course ended and kept thinking I was at the end but would have to make another turn. However, it did end and I was so happy to see a respectable time on my Garmin. It was my best ride in a long time! My official time was 2:41:13 which was 20.84 mph and was great for March!

The third place woman Ayesha was the one who played leap frog with me for most of the ride. For the last third of the ride she was ahead of me but I caught her on the last few miles. I ended up just a few seconds ahead of her. She was faster in the transition area by almost 2 minutes! (yikes) But I knew I would meet up with her on the course. I wasn’t worried as the best part of the day was about to happen! I love to run!

 

Run

The run was epic! It was a beautiful out-and-back course in Old San Juan with much of it having ocean views and great crowd support.  And we ran it twice! The run is a beast and the race director built it with the purpose of being super challenging.  It’s extremely hilly and I felt like I was either running uphill or downhill. And the heat was brutal! It was in the mid to high 80sF but the humidity was killer. And I think being closer to the equator makes the sun feel like you are in an oven. Even the local racers felt it was very hot!  It was a crazy hard 13.1 but it was awesome! I was so hot out there, but I still loved this run!

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So this was the hottest and hilliest 13.1 run I’ve ever done in my life! But I did prepare for the conditions. We both did a bit of sauna training after our masters swims a couple weeks before heading to Florida. I also made sure I did a few runs in the hot Florida sun including some hard intervals. I was still a bit slower than anticipated but overall I had a good strong run in spite of the conditions. My run placed me into second place and my run was the second fastest in my age group. The winner from Bermuda ran over 4 minutes faster. Coming from Vermont, I’m OK with that, especially for a March race.

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Lisa suggested starting off at 8 minute miles which seemed reasonable. My first mile was around an 8:04  and that felt like I was pushing things a bit so I backed off a little so my next couple miles were around an 8:11 to an 8:17 pace. And that included climbing the “wall” for the first time. It was slow and very steep but I ran up it conservatively concentrating on good form, high cadence not pushing too hard. And this worked well. The next part of the course still had plenty of climbing but it was more gradual and I regained my pace. I was doing a good job of taking water and ice at the aid stations. And I was diligent about taking a power gel every 20 minutes (alternating between caffeine and non-caffeine).

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The “Wall” – we walked the course on Monday

Eventually I was on a good downhill and then another steep downhill on the dreaded cobblestones. They weren’t as slippery as I had been told but I was still slower and careful on them. Then we ran under the gate and out onto the Paseo Del Morro which has been nicknamed the “microwave”. It was hot but not quite as brutal as I had anticipated. It was the only section that was “flat”. I wasn’t able to run faster but was still pushing a respectable pace of around an 8:15. I was hoping to see more feral cats but only saw one orange kitty from the corner of my eye. The cats that live out there are protected and fed.

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Running back up the steep cobblestones was difficult and slow going! And then back up the next hill after turning left was hard as well. But this small section had some shade. Many athletes were walking but I just jogged up steady trying to stay light on my feet. I was still 20170320_114228doing pretty well as my pace evened out to an 8:31 after all that climbing. Heading back on the main road to the finish area was still hot and oppressive, but I was still trucking along. I was still running up a gradual hill before running back down towards the finish area. When I was going back down with a mile to the finish on the first lap, I caught up to the 3rd place woman Ayesha. She was a local woman and many people knew her on the course. She was also pushing a good pace of around 8 minute miles or slightly faster. I stayed behind her for a bit as it seemed like a good pace I could handle at that moment. At the aid station close to the finish we both took water and ice. So she knew I was right there and we went back to playing leap frog which was fine by me.

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We ran up and down the cobblestones!

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The “Microwave”

On the second lap I lost Ayesha going up the gradual hill in the beginning by the water. And then I never saw her again. It turned out I was over 3 minutes faster on the run so she 20170320_122002must have slowed way down. I eventually forgot about her as it was getting really hot and I was wondering how I would handle the hills again. I did OK on the “wall” but that mile was a little slower and my overall pace even after running a while was closer to an 8:45 as opposed to an 8:17 on the first lap. But then I recovered with an 8:02 mile following that. It must have been on the flat “microwave” section. This felt hotter on the second time around and I was getting very uncomfortable. I was actually worried about the next 5 miles and maintaining my pace. But I knew I could suck it up for 5 miles. Running is what I do best!

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Running jogging back up the steep cobblestones was slower than the first time. Everyone else was walking. I just focused on a nice quick turnover and one foot in front of the other. The long climb back up to the aid station was also more of a jog and the next gradual hills were slower too. My overall pace was about a 9:12 on that mile which wasn’t bad as my initial pace going up the cobblestones was around 11 minutes per mile! eeeeek! Glad I picked it up. My next mile up the gradual hills on the main drag was about an 8:14 pace which wasn’t bad and I realized I wasn’t going to fizzle out or have a bad ending to the day.

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The last mile I tried to savor the experience and take in and appreciate the sights and festive spectators. I was in Puerto Rico doing an epic race! How many people get to experience this!  We are so lucky! And I felt decent at the end and picked up the pace a bit. I think my last mile was around a pace of 7:20 and 7:30. But it was a gradual downhill. Much to my disappointment we did have to run back up that short little hill at the end when we first started. And that felt a little rough. But I knew I was almost done. I ran strong to the finish. I also celebrated by smiling and raising my arms with excitement and happiness. I was so thrilled to finish. It was a great run! It was my slowest half marathon with a time of 1:47:35 but it was my most memorable one for sure. And I’m proud of this one! Scott had a tough run in the heat but he didn’t get sick like his previous 70.3 last June. He was conservative and took it slowly as he still has troubles in the extreme heat. But he is a champ for finishing well!

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Awards Ceremony!

On Monday we spent half the day walking the race course and exploring Old San Juan being tourists.  We probably shouldn’t have walked so much and let our legs recover. I wasn’t feeling too sore, just a lot of fatigue in my quads mostly from the bike ride. It was so fun to see the sights. Plus I wanted to meet some of the feral cats that I didn’t see while running on the “microwave”. Later I did get into the water and swam a few recovery laps from the hotel beach. That felt nice and relaxing after a long day of walking.

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On Tuesday we did a little snorkeling in the morning over at Scuba Dogs which was right by the race finish area. They were great and I felt confident to snorkel for the first time ever! It was nice and relaxing and we saw some pretty fish. I also saw fish when swimming laps on our beach area by the hotel but with the snorkeling equipment it was easier to see the fish.  Later in the afternoon we sat by the ocean on the hotel resort grounds and drank several delicious pina coladas! It was the only time we truly indulged in fancy drinks like that. It was an amazing afternoon and we both enjoyed it so much! Sometimes you just have to live a little! Smile

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My new friend Igor the Iguana

On Wednesday we celebrated my birthday by hiking in the El Yunque rain forest. We rented a car for the day and drove 45 minutes out to the beautiful national forest. Getting there by 9am in the morning was the smartest thing we did all week! Later in the day hordes of tourists were parked all over the place!

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We hiked about 2.6 miles to the top and had amazing views from the tower. The trail was a lot of fun and I enjoyed being in the woods so much. There were only a few people we passed and for the most part it was nice to be alone in the rain forest. It took longer to get back as we made one wrong turn and ended up hiking about 6 miles. It was not really a problem as I was surprised at how well my legs had recovered by Wednesday.

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Food and Beverage Report

We found a couple great vegan-friendly restaurants in Old San Juan. Our hotel had several restaurants but only the Pina Colada Club had a clearly marked vegan black bean burrito which was very tasty. We ate that one 3-4 times! The Palmeras also in the hotel served breakfast.  Before the race we ate their oatmeal and bagels. They did have soy milk. They had a huge buffet with fruit and we were allowed to take a few bananas. The hotel also had a full service Starbucks which was so awesome. We discovered they had this “Perfect Oatmeal” which was great breakfast food. They also had plain vegan bagels which were fine with jelly. And their soy lattes tasted just like the ones at our local Starbucks.

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Café Berlin was our go-to place for good hearty vegan meals pre-race. We had dinner Friday and Saturday night there. They have several clearly marked vegan options. We even had this great pasta dish with vegan sausages. We also got back there for a nice hearty lunch on Monday after walking the race course! And they had a few yummy vegan desserts. I loved the chocolate cake!

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For my Birthday dinner we ate at truly special and unique restaurant that was also very vegan friendly. The Verde Mesa provided a lovely dinner experience for us both.  I had the special chickpea cous cous dish that was splendid! The only downside was that there were no vegan desserts. The service was excellent and the hostess treated us so kindly especially learning it was my birthday. She even prepared special cocktails for us.

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Overall it was truly a wonderful week in Puerto Rico. I can’t say enough good things about Ironman Puerto Rico 70.3. The people love this race and take pride in their local event. The race organizer does a super job. It turns out that triathlon is a popular sport in Puerto Rico. There were many tri-clubs from the Island and so many locals who participated in the race. It was also the Pan American Tri Club Championship and Puerto Rico did very well.

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For me it was a special race on many levels. I had a breakthrough in my bike and felt so good about finally having a respectable performance. I had a strong run in very difficult conditions. I have work to do in becoming more confident in my swim but it is progressing.

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I miss Puerto Rico and hope to go back again someday!

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Ironman Training in Clermont, Florida March 2017

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Beautiful sunsets on Lake Minneola from our cottage

Once again for the second year in a row, we flew down to Clermont, Florida in March. The goal was to get a couple weeks of warm weather training in before flying off to do Ironman Puerto Rico 70.3. This year we rented a small, cozy, rustic cottage right on Lake Minneola 20170316_073127which was about an easy 10 minute drive from the National Training Center. This spot was excellent as we were right on the bike trail which was also great for running. Scott and I worked remotely and also fit in our training. It was tricky but we got a lot done on both fronts. I worked with Lisa and Dave many days on my swimming which was super helpful. It was also really wonderful to do some road riding on our tri-bikes instead of the computrainers. We knew the run portion of the Puerto Rico 70.3 was going to be wickedly hot and hard. So being in a warm climate and doing some workouts in the heat was part of the plan to acclimate better.

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This year we flew with both bikes instead of bringing just mine and renting a bike for Scott. It’s definitely stressful and difficult traveling with two bikes but everything went surprisingly smooth, even with the airlines. Scott is now an expert at breaking down and building back up bikes quickly! There are advantages to being a bike mechanic 20+ years ago! It can cost between $75 to $150 per bike, one-way depending on airlines. Next time we race far away from home, we might try one of the professional bike transport services especially for Ironman events.

 

Swimming

The first week we had swimming lessons almost every day from Lisa and Dave and a couple more the following week before heading off to Puerto Rico. They are truly awesome at swim coaching and I definitely found some much needed improvements in my swim stroke. I’ve read that swimming is over 80% technique. I still have a long way to go before I will ever be at the top of my age-group in the swim portion of half and full Ironman events. But it’s getting better and I’m making improvements in technique and efficiency . Lisa says my swim is a “work-in-progress”. It’s not easy learning to swim from scratch at age 41 but it is possible to improve and get better. It just takes a lot of hard work, dedication and support. I like to say “it takes a village”.

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Thanks Lisa!

 

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The National Training Center 50 meter pool is a gem!

 

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Swim training with Scott, Len, and Ivan

 

Biking

It was so enjoyable to be able to ride on the quiet Clermont roads which always feel so much safer than riding in Vermont. We would start out on the bike trail right from our cottage and ride out onto more rural and country roads. While it was a bit busier on the weekends, it never felt crazy or dangerous. And drivers in Florida are much nicer compared to the hostility we face on our local roads here in the Green Mountains.

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On our first Sunday, we did a four hour hard training ride with Lisa, Kate, Scott and Dave. Kate is a pro so we were nervous about the ride but we all rode strong that day. group rideAnd it was SUPER windy as well to make it truly challenging. Lisa said the winds were like Kona that day. This was the key ride before Puerto Rico. I’m so glad I got to do this ride outside in the warm Florida sun. We also got out during the week days but nothing longer than a 2 hour ride due to working most days on our laptops. I really enjoy riding in the Clermont/Minneola area. There are good sized rolling hills and quiet roads for working on time trialing and harder intervals. And it was always nice to see so many cyclists all the time while riding. A lot of pros spend their winters in Clermont. The Florida drivers out there are used to seeing lots of cyclists to they are generally polite and give us room. They don’t seem to mind sharing the road.  

 

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Running

Clermont has a lot of great places to run including the bike trails, the Apopka Trail, the Clay trails, Lake Louisa, etc. This year we didn’t have time to do the Apopka trail which we ran last year. I was disappointed about that, but sometimes you just can’t do everything. And we also didn’t get a chance to visit Lake Louisa State park and try the trails there. We visited twice last year but still haven’t run there. Hopefully next year! I highly recommend a visit to Lake Louisa State Park.

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Scott finishing up a nice sunset run after working

Most of our runs were right from the house after our bike rides. And it was so convenient to jump right onto the beautiful bike trail and run along Lake Minneola. The highlight of the running was our last Sunday run at the Clay trails. These were located off of Route 27 heading towards Lake Louisa State Park. They are a very popular running spot with very little car traffic. The trails are really just bright orange dirt roads out in the countryside. It truly feels like you are running in Africa or somewhere very remote. I loved running here!

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Food and Beverage Report

Clermont, Florida is not known to be a vegan mecca or even very vegan friendly. Luckily there now is a new wonderful little vegan restaurant that opened this past February. Loving Heart was located a couple miles from our cottage on Route 50, closet to Route 27. This is one of our favorite vegan restaurants! We were so excited to have delicious, healthy, and affordable vegan meals. We ate there almost every day. This is a family owned restaurant and everyone made us feel so at home. They were very excited to learn we are Ironman athletes and even asked to have a photo taken with them.

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We also had delicious vegan, curry tofu pizza at Mellow Mushroom in Orlando, Florida. This is the second year in a row we visited this vegan friendly pizza joint. They have decent beer on tap and the service is friendly. This is a chain restaurant but still recommended if you crave vegan pizza. There are a couple in the area but we visited the one on International Drive both times. Scott LOVES vegan pizza! Smile

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One other vegan restaurant we visited was called Ethos Vegan Kitchen which was located in Winter Park (north of Orlando). This was a super fun restaurant with delicious vegan comfort food. It was worth the 45 minute drive from our cottage. It was a Sunday afternoon at 4pm and the place was hopping! I’m sure most people weren’t vegans and probably didn’t understand the restaurant was meat-free. The food was good and the atmosphere was very trendy and hip. I think people just thought it was a Greek restaurant. I’m glad they were busy! I’m sure they are enlightening people that vegan food is fun and fabulous! Smile

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Overall it was a great two weeks in Clermont this year! I was sad to leave our cozy cottage by the lake. I truly hope to be back next year! Details on Puerto Rico will be coming soon.

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A Soaking Wet Mont Tremblant Ironman Race Report August 21, 2016

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It was a long and difficult journey to finally do my first full Ironman. Scott and I started our Ironman quest almost two years ago. We both signed up for the 2015 Mont Tremblant Ironman and trained all winter and spring.  At the end of June while participating in the 2015 Mont Tremblant 70.3 I had to stop after a mile of running due to a severe stress fracture in my hip (femoral neck). I was out for a long time which was devastating for me. I also came down with pneumonia and gave that to Scott as well. So neither of us were able to do the Ironman last August. We both recovered and my body did heal. I started the run/walk protocol in late January of 2016. I also began working with one of the best Ironman coaches who helped me arrive at the starting line healthy. And this was an amazing challenge. She was patient and worked with me closely giving me very smart training each week. Thank you so much Lisa! I couldn’t have done it without you!

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 Around midnight! Exciting to watch the last finishers!

After a very hot Mont Tremblant 70.3 in late June 2016, I was prepared for another warm race day on August 21! I made sure I got outside enough during the hotter days to better acclimate. I was running and cycling well in the heat during training. I was ready for whatever mother nature sent my way. But I wasn’t expecting to be cold and wet for such a long time. The weather for race day was treacherous. I couldn’t believe it! When we first learned of the rain on Sunday, we thought it might work to our advantage living in Vermont and dealing with a lot of crappy weather in northern New England. I used to love cold, rainy bike races twenty years ago when racing on the New England circuit. I thrived on those long rainy bike races during the early spring season! That wasn’t the case when we had monsoon rains and high winds during the 112 bike ride. It was cold and rough. I was miserable on the bike for over 6 hours! Apparently I can’t handle the cold like I did when I was much younger! Luckily I ended up having a good run after a very challenging swim and bike. My run saved the day and I ended up salvaging my whole race! Scott did extremely well handling the weather on the bike and had a stellar first Ironman. I’m so proud of him!

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Being a numbers person and Financial Analyst I will get right to the results and race statistics:

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With only 40 Kona slots (for the Age-Group Ironman World Championship in Hawaii) this year, there were only two up for grabs in my age group (F45-49). While it was a little disappointing to have missed by two places, it might have been a blessing in disguise. I’m not sure if I would have been mentally prepared to do this all over again in 7 weeks! But my close 4th place left me hungry for a Kona slot in 2017. I honestly thought I had about a 40% chance this year of getting one, but I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself for my first full Ironman. Mont Tremblant had a highly competitive field of women in my age group this year! I would have gotten 3rd in the F40-44 age group! I do feel that with more work on my swim and more time pushing out the high wattages on the Computrainer, next year could be a possibility for me!

IMG_5497 Taken 2014 during our first time to Mont Tremblant – Favorite part of run course!

Scott and I drove up to Mont Tremblant on the Thursday before the Ironman. This time the drive was uneventful except for heavy traffic around Montreal. But it wasn’t as bad as June! Once again we stayed at the Homewood Suites by Hilton at the top of the Mont Tremblant ski village. We enjoy staying here since there is a good sized kitchen and separate bedroom. And the staff is always friendly and helpful. And it’s one of the quieter spots. Noise was never really a problem which is key for us. It was so nice to arrive a day earlier than originally planned. On Friday we had time to go wetsuit shopping at the Expo, pick up our race packet, swim and then relax later in the afternoon. We even took a nap before the athlete dinner and briefing.

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Friday swim at the Exit Beach with some of Lisa’s other athletes

Saturday was a busy day with a group bike ride and then a group swim. During the 8am bike ride with Lisa and her other athletes, I discovered my bike wasn’t shifting properly due to a bent derailleur hanger. It was a bit stressful while Scott tried to fix it. We had someone else look at it after the ride. It wasn’t possible to get a replacement but I was told it would be OK during the race. For the most part it was fine until the big hills at the end of the 56 mile loop. More on that later. Our Saturday late morning swim went well. I had purchased a new fancy wetsuit because I was worried about some tearing in my older one. Long story but I ended up wearing something new on race day! The new wetsuit felt great swimming with Lisa, Scott, Kelly, Page and Carolyn. I even thought I felt faster in this new wetsuit. Lisa said I was doing great since I was keeping up with her on the way back toward the shore. After the swim and long walk back to the hotel, we ate a big lunch and got our bike and transition bags ready to drop off. The evening was more relaxing. Our main task was making our water bottles filled with Tailwind and sorting out our bike nutrition. We actually got a decent amount of sleep that night. 5 hours is a lot for us before a race!

group bike MT Saturday “activation” bike ride with Lisa and her crew

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We were well fed the days leading up to the Ironman. Carin of Sweet Pea made us another “magic” vegan lasagna and amazing vegan pastries. Mariah made us the most awesome fried vegan donuts.  Thanks so much ladies!!!

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The Swim

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After a disappointing swim at the Mont Tremblant 70.3 due to anxiety issues in the beginning, I prepared well for the full Ironman swim. Lisa had me doing more intervals in the open water and specific training in the pool as well. I had a new plan for the Ironman swim and felt ready! While my time of an hour and 26 minutes is a very slow swim, I am very proud of my swim that day. My goal was around a 1:15 to a 1:18 which was very reasonable. However, this Ironman swim turned out to be very wavy, choppy with big swells at the far end of the course. It was the craziest and toughest open water swim I have ever experienced. The female pro winner of this year and last year said it was rougher than any ocean water swim she’s ever done, so I felt better hearing that. Many people were reporting times of 5-10 minutes slower. While it wasn’t raining yet in the morning, we were very concerned when we felt the wind walking down to the start beach. I knew it would be a choppy swim with the wind but couldn’t believe the swells at the far end of the course. I kept thinking to myself, “how is this even possible in a lake”??!! But that’s what happens when a storm is rolling into the area!

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This time I started on the far left side a few rows down to stay out of trouble. It was great to meet up with Jenn while lining up. We both went to the left side. And this plan worked well for me. I had no anxiety attacks like I did in June. I also did a better warm-up before the race with a few quick bursts. The big thing for me was not starting out too fast. I’m a slow starter and usually don’t feel good in a swim until about 10-15 minutes into the swim. For the first part of the swim I was almost enjoying it. I had more clear water to swim and felt more comfortable. I was constantly sighting and finding paths to swim even if there were still a lot of women around me. We had close to 300 women in our wave but it wasn’t as bad as I expected. Starting off on the outside made a difference for me.

After about 15-20 minutes the waves were getting progressively choppier and bigger. I expected there to be a lot of chop but not that much! I kept plugging away and focusing on the task at hand. I was starting to pass the slower women in the 35-39 age group and a few men in the 50-55 group. I even caught up to more women in my age group once I was warmed up. Once I got close to the last buoy before turning right, the swells became huge and ridiculous. I was moving up and then back down as if I was on some amusement park ride. I was worried I might get “seasick” or nauseous out there but luckily that never happened. Swimming across was difficult with many bodies, congestion and the big waves but I finally made it to the last turnaround. I was still passing people which was sometimes a nuisance but I just kept moving forward the best I could.

scott swim Scott rocked the swim. While a few minutes slower due to the huge waves, he swam strong!

When I rounded that last turnaround buoy I couldn’t believe how far out I was from the line of buoys heading back. The wind and waves were pushing masses of us swimmers way out from the line back to shore. I felt a bit of panic at one moment when the closet buoy looked very far way. I swam in a diagonal direction picking up the pace and finally got closer to the line of buoys. I then stayed close to the buoys on the way back. This presented me with more people to swim around but I did find clear water many times on the way back. I was still passing a lot of swimmers in other age groups which was getting tiresome with all the waves and chop. At this point I was taking things one buoy at a time. This was a good strategy. As I was getting closer to the shore I could see the blue arch and hear the cheering. This was exciting and I felt relieved to be close. I eventually made it to the shore.

The one alarming thing was that I felt my right calf  muscle cramp up a few seconds before I stood up. I thought I felt the sensations that happen before a cramp on the way back a couple times. But luckily it happened at the very end. And then I was fine running to the wetsuit strippers. Crisis averted! I didn’t know my swim time as I couldn’t see it on my Garmin even though it was recorded. If I had known I had swum 10-11 minutes slower than planned, I would have been stressed on the bike. Ignorance was bliss! I ran on the red carpet to the transition tent very happy I had finished a very tough swim. I saw Lisa and Dave and gave them a smile and “thumbs up”.

 

The Bike

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The 112 miles on the bike were the toughest and most miserable part of the day for me. I am proud of myself for staying strong mentally and keeping safe on a very treacherous day. Heavy rain, wind and dangerous road conditions made this one of the toughest bike races I’ve ever done. And I have much experience racing in the rain from 20 years ago. Another challenge for me was that I never felt comfortable on the bike due to a sore neck (partly from the wavy swim) that seemed worse being cold on the bike. While training rides were also uncomfortable, this was by far the worst of any ride this summer. Between the cold, nagging discomfort and not feeling safe, I never felt like I rode well or fast enough. It was as if I was running on 3-4 cylinders compared to 5. It was like I just didn’t have any energy or passion on the bike that day. I’d like to think it was from the brutal elements. My goal time was between 5 hours and 50 minutes to 6 hours if it was windy. I was a little disappointed in taking a little over 6 hours and nine minutes to complete the bike course. But it was a super challenging day on so many levels. I am so grateful I did finish safely!

scott bikeScott looking mean on a wet, soaking day! 

The rain didn’t start until about a few miles on Route 117. At first I thought this might be to my advantage and just took it as it came. There was a good tailwind heading out on Route 117 which has some fast sections and down hills. After the turnaround, the ride back on Route 117 was difficult as the rain and wind got stronger. The headwind was ferocious! Heading back on Monte Ryan the roads were getting dangerous with deep puddles and many riders taking the descents too fast. While the course didn’t feel overly crowded on this race, there were times of congestion with many riders of varying levels of bike handling skills. This sometimes made me nervous and conservative with my own descents. I’m a good bike handler in the rain, but I didn’t have a lot of faith in some of the other riders. This was stressful. And I was growing colder!

Luckily the end of the first loop finishes with a 6 mile rolling climb up Chemin Duplessis. I knew I would warm up on the steeper sections of the long climb and this was the case. Unfortunately I discovered that my shifting issues were back. I couldn’t shift into the second and third easiest gears up the hills without a lot of skipping. Luckily I could get into my granny gear which was fine for 8% grades. As long as I shifted smoothly and easily, I was OK. I had to be careful and mindful to get safely in and out of my granny gear. I was so happy when I finally came to the turnaround to the start the crazy fast roller coaster ride back down Duplessis. Sadly there was a very bad crash that I passed on the way down the long hill. The race director was out in the middle of the road trying to get riders to slow down. I was very rattled seeing someone in a neck brace as the result of the crash. I tried not to loose focus and continued with my own race. I truly hope the crash victims are OK. My thoughts go out to them!

84_3rd-116977-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1360_072704-3227749 Monsoon rains and wind on the bike!

It was a bit daunting to think I still had to ride the 56 mile treacherous loop again! I picked up two more of my water bottles at the Special Needs station in the beginning of Monte Ryan. I was doing pretty well with my nutrition plan. But it didn’t help the fact that I was once again very cold. The big rolling hills on Monte Ryan were making me even colder and I was worried about how I would get through the second loop feeling this cold. I was breaking on the down hills due to the big puddles but also because it wasn’t quite as cold when I went downhill slower. No wonder I had such a slow bike split!!  (just under 3 hours the first loop)

Luckily I started to warm up on Route 117. I even settled back into my aero position and kept moving forward. Surprisingly my neck pain subsided a little and I focused on trying to pick up the pace a bit. It seemed like there were less riders on the second loop which was helpful. Overall Route 117 was rather uneventful aside from the weather conditions which were still rainy and windy. After the turnaround, the headwinds were still brutal and felt much harder with tired legs. After about 4 hours I caught up to Kelly who luckily was wearing a jacket. Being from Florida, she had a very tough day in the cold but stayed super strong! I’m so glad she finished!

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The way back on Monte Ryan was once again cold and dangerous with more puddles on the roads. Again I was careful on the descents especially the last one which was very sketchy (single file only) with at least 5 inch puddles and slop. Again I was happy to get to the base of the Chemin Duplessis hill climb. As I was heading up, I heard Scott call my name on his way back down. I couldn’t believe how far ahead of me he was!! But I was also happy for him. I knew he’d be doing well in this weather. He is an awesome rider in the rain. The hills felt much harder this time around and my legs were very fatigued! I was wondering how I would run a marathon after this! The turnaround seemed to take longer! Once I was heading back downhill, I was so happy to be almost done. But I knew I had to be careful on this very dangerous section of the course. I new that if I stayed out of trouble, I would be running soon! Once at the bottom, I turned right towards the transition area. I was thrilled to give my bike to a volunteer. I saw that my bike was under 6 hours and 10 minutes. I was OK with this slower than planned time. I was actually worried it might be more like 6 hours and 20 minutes from being too cold on the second loop. I took off my bike shoes and ran on the soaking wet carpet into the transition tent. My lower back was screaming and I wondered again how I would run a marathon feeling like that!

scott more rain bike

I got into the transition tent and saw my friend Jenn who was pulled from the course. They thought she was going to get hypothermia as her face was turning blue. I was stunned and a little confused in the changing tent. I felt so sad for her. But I’m glad she was OK. I somehow put on dry socks, running shoes, visor and my belt. I ducked into a port-o-potty which took an extra minute but was so worth it as I felt so much better. And then I was off to do my favorite sport!!

 

The Run

Running is what I do best. My first Ironman marathon is one that I am very proud of after a very tough swim and bike. I had no idea how it would go as I was heading out on the first mile. I was happy that my back and legs were doing OK after previous doubts. I was actually surprised at how well I felt after such an ordeal on the bike. It was drizzling and raining lightly and I was feeling comfortable. Not cold and not too warm. As I ran by the lake with the boats to my right side, I felt so happy to be on the run. This is my favorite part of the course and I tried to savor it before things got too hard.

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My goal was to run between a 3:30 and a 3:40 marathon which Lisa felt was realistic for my first Ironman. So I was thrilled to have run a 3:37:09. Surprisingly my run was faster than 6 of the 10 pro women who participated. And my run was among the top ten fastest runs of the female Age-Groupers. I just wish I could get my swim and bike to be stronger! That will come in time!

I was feeling pretty good on the first few miles into the village of Mont Tremblant. However I was also cautious about keeping my pace conservative. My plan was to run slower the first few miles but this was harder to do as my legs kept turning over smoothly and easily. When I got to the paved bike path, it was very crowded and difficult to constantly pass people. I was running around and in between people. I felt like a broken record saying “excuse me”, “coming through”, “on your left” hundreds of times.…..But I did my best to be polite, supportive and kept moving at a good pace. I slowed down for water at the aid stations but kept on moving forward and efficiently. I did run with one nice younger woman in pink who was setting a good smart pace. On the way back after the turnaround I took a turn to lead and set the pace. But eventually I did loose her and never saw her again. Before the turnaround, I did finally see Scott again on the run and he was looking strong. He was a few kilometers ahead of me and I knew I would catch him eventually. I looked forward to that!

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The course has a pretty out-and-back section on a gravel path along Lac Mercier. I was still feeling decent at this point (around mile 9). An older woman caught me, passed me and then seemed to settle down. I was staying close behind her. I thought she was in my age-group so I hung back a little. She was setting a nice pace and it was helpful climbing the hills back out of the village. As we headed back downhill by Lac Tremblant I was still feeling good and eventually passed her on that short steep hill by the swim start. Later I learned she was over 50! Nice job Judy! In about a kilometer I was running through the ski village on the cobblestones with cheering crowds lined on both sides which was fun. I was feeling tired and my legs fatigued but knew I could handle another 13 mile loop even if it did feel like a daunting task. I am a marathon runner and have done this before!

scott run

On the small steep hill near the swim start beach, Dave was yelling out to me that I was running into 5th place and that my run was the second fastest in my age group. I told him I thought I was slowing down but he said it was OK and to just keep going. This news gave me a bit of a boost. I still ran conservatively up the gradual climb to the village. I was still going at a good pace of around 8-8:30 minutes per mile. On the bike path I had some of my fastest splits at around 7:47 minutes per mile. The bike path was still crowded and I was still constantly trying to run around or through people running side by side. And this stretch really felt tedious this time around. But I kept focused and my legs kept doing their job even with the fatigue growing in quads. I finally caught Scott on mile 19 and he looked very good and strong. He was sticking to his plan and running very well. His 4:24:55 marathon was well paced and he finished strong that day!

scott finish

After I passed Scott it seemed to take longer to reach the turnaround on the bike path. I caught up to another woman to see if she was in my age group but she was 41 and I just stayed behind her for a few minutes on the way back as her pace was good. But then my legs wanted to move a bit more quickly so I passed her. I did pass one woman in my age group on the way back along the bike path. My pace was much quicker so I wasn’t worried about her trying to stick with me. The out-back-gravel section by Lac Mercier was uneventful and I noticed I was still doing OK even with all the fatigue. I couldn’t wait to be done but was realizing I only had about 3+ more miles to go. At this point I was taking things one mile at a time which is what I do on the last 5-6 miles of a marathon. The climb out of town was slow and tedious. Before I turned left onto the bike path with the pretty views of ski trails, I took my first cup of Pepsi. With 2 miles to go I really didn’t want another gel. I’m still not sure if the Pepsi helped but it didn’t hurt or bother my stomach. I then took another Pepsi at the next aid station at the bottom of the hills leading out of the village. After this I passed Susan C who ended up as the 5th place women in my age group. I was running a good bit faster so I didn’t worry about her. I knew I had this!

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My run up the short steep hill by the swim start was very slow and hard! I almost walked because it might have been faster! But since I never had to walk, I didn’t want to start on the last mile or so! I knew if I found this hill very difficult, so would any other runners behind me. Running up to the ski village was super tough! But at this point I was so close and the discomfort was overridden with excitement of the finish line. It was such a great feeling running on the final stretch on the cobblestones through the ski village. The crowds were amazing and all cheering. I loved hearing my name! (our names were on our bibs) I felt like a super star running to the finish! I heard Mike Reilly call my name vaguely. I ran through the finish and was caught by a couple volunteers. I left everything out there and had nothing more to give! It was a wonderful and very emotional feeling. Lisa and Dave were right there too which was so awesome. I love them! Receiving my medal was also very special as I have dreamed of that moment for the last two years! I was very happy to learn I was 4th in my age group out of almost 100 woman after a very challenging day. I would get onto the podium this time and was thrilled! It was OK that I didn’t get a second place for the Kona spot. Next year!

Scott finished about a half hour after me. I sat at one of the tables eating food and talking to other athletes. Lisa was so kind to bring me a plate of food. It was so great that there were some vegan salad options (cous cous, pasta, quinoa, fruit, chips). I was so happy to see Scott after he finished. He looked so fresh. I kept joking that he looked as fresh as a daisy! He’s a champ!

me and scott finish

Afterward we took some time that evening to lug our bikes and gear bags back up to the hotel. After a much needed shower we headed back out to meet Dave and Lisa for a beer. We hadn’t enjoyed a beer since the Mont Tremblant 70.3 in June so we were really looking forward to this! The big basket of fries tasted amazing as well. I believe our bodies were craving fat and salt after such an ordeal.

20160821_230332 20160821_232619 Post-race celebration

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After celebrating with a beers and fries we headed down to the finish line to cheer for the last finishers before midnight. This was so much fun and very emotional seeing these amazing people finish a crazy long day! Some people were out there for almost 17 hours! I can’t imagine being out there that long even if the weather had been nice! My hat goes off to the last finishers! Huge Congratulations!!!

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20160822_110818  This Ironman goes all out for everything! Brunch!

me podium 4th place Awards Ceremony on Monday morning after the brunch

Monday afternoon was our time to relax and do a few touristy things in Mont Tremblant. We rode the gondola up to the top of the ski Mountain which was beautiful and so enjoyable. It was a cooler day and very chilly at the summit. So we headed into the lodge, purchased a couple beers and chips. We found a warm, sunny, quiet spot by the windows and savored the beautiful views. We talked about our next Ironman. We also talked about how amazing it felt to finally become an Ironman! One of the biggest accomplishments for both of us! I still couldn’t believe we finally did it!

MT view from gondola View from the Gondola

That evening we treated ourselves to a lovely dinner at Coco Pazzo, a fancy Italian restaurant right in the ski village and a minute walk from our hotel. Scott jokingly called it “Coco Expensive”, but it was the only place in the village with a clearly marked vegan dinner option. And it was a delicious pasta dinner with fresh vegetables and the best tasting sauce. With warm soup and a tasty glass of red wine, we were very happy sitting outside waiting for the main entre.

dinner celebration

While it was sad to leave Mont Tremblant the next day, we did enjoy lattes in the morning and then smoothies at Fluide, the juice bar right in the ski village. After two hours of packing, we checked out and headed to the village of Mont Tremblant to walk around and check out an art gallery. We found a great place that had awesome vegan burgers and good local beer!

me tuesday vegan burgers

scott au coin pub We highly recommend Au Coin for a great vegan burger and local beer!

 

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Overall, words cannot describe how awesome it was for us to become an Ironman! It truly is an amazing accomplishment. I will always treasure the memories of our first Ironman experience. While the swim and bike were true tests of our will, the whole race gave me more confidence as as athlete and overall as a person. There is no greater lesson than doing your first full Ironman and the training that it takes to get to the starting line. It’s a life-changing journey! And this was one Ironman people will be telling their kids and grandchildren in years to come!

I want to send out a huge thanks to the amazing volunteers, the tireless Ironman staff, and the lovely people of Mont Tremblant. I can’t imagine how other Ironman events could top what they do in Quebec! What a truly spectacular event! Thank you to everyone who made the day possible!

We are signed up for the Lake Placid Ironman in July of 2017. We both can’t wait to begin another Ironman journey. We are also singed up for the Ironman 70.3 in Puerto Rico which will take place in March 2017. For the next two months, we will enjoy some downtime, trail running, mountain biking, gravel grinding and of course much swimming with our beloved masters group!

medals

Thanks for stopping by!

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The Hottest Mont Tremblant 70.3 Race Report June 26, 2016

Mt finish me

Finishing the Mont Tremblant 70.3 (half Ironman) triathlon at the end of June was a huge accomplishment on an unseasonably hot summer day in Quebec. But most importantly it was crucial for me to cross the finish line this year after a big fat, heartbreaking DNF last year due to my stress fracture disaster. As mentioned in previous blog posts, I unknowingly had a femoral neck stress fracture going into the race. The breaking point must have been when I attempted the run last year and had to stop after a mile of severe pain. It was physically painful but more so mentally as my full Ironman dreams were crushed that summer. Crossing the finish line this year was a celebration and confidence builder in my Ironman journey.

scott finish

This year race day was very hot! By the time I was well into the run, it might have been in the mid to high 80sF with plenty of humidity. For us folks who live in the Northeast, this is super hot for racing! Regardless of the exact temperatures, the run felt like a furnace. Even the bike was hot and a bit uncomfortable especially at the end. While this was a super tough race day, I am very happy with my performance even if there were areas needing improvement. My awesome coach Lisa keeps reminding me of how I was out of commission for almost 8 months and doing the walk/run protocol into late January/early February. I might have been a bit undertrained but I was healthy and ready to race! Due to the heat, Scott had some stomach issues and got very sick after 2 miles of running. While he is very disappointed in his run, I consider him a hero for finishing and being so tough on a very difficult day.

2016:

results 2016

2015:

results 2015

While my internal goal was to place in the top 3 of my age group, I was less than a minute from 4th place. Lisa was still thrilled with my 6th place finish of 141 women in my division. And considering I’m still coming back from a severe stress fracture, I am happy with my results. Although being so close to the podium had me a little disappointed the night after the race. Had my swim or bike been a few minutes faster I would have gotten third place. The first and second females were former pros according to Lisa and have been racing triathlons for many many many years. Triathlon is still new for me and I have a lot to learn. It’s quite a journey! But hey! I did have the fastest run in my division (and faster than a few pro women) so that was comforting!

tram view MT

View from the Tram – We loved riding this!

MT village

 Mont Tremblant Ski Village

Mont Tremblant is a beautiful four season resort with triathlons in the summer and skiing in the winter. The center for all the Ironman action takes place in the ski village at the base of Mont Tremblant ski area. Lac Tremblant is at the base of the resort and creates some of the most beautiful scenery. We love this area north of Montreal. It is considered one of the nicest Ironman destinations. We stayed at the Homewood Suites by the Hilton at the top of the village which we highly recommend. We also stayed there last year and enjoyed the big suite and lovely hospitality. The locals are really wonderful and love the Ironman races.

MT and lac MT

Mont Tremblant and Lac Tremblant

We left Vermont on Friday morning and got up to Mont Tremblant in the late afternoon. Due to the Quebec holiday and construction we did sit in traffic for over an hour and a half once out of Montreal. It was the worst traffic we’ve seen in years! Hopefully we have better luck this August for the full Ironman up there. This year there were many more racers and athlete check in took a long time and the lines were long. Last year, we blew right through. Get there early! Saturday was busy but a fun day. My coach Lisa was representing Subaru and was one of the spokes people so I got to see her a few times that weekend which was great. Her and Dave were there to give us pointers for the Saturday swim.  We also had a good chat that afternoon about the race. She reminded me of what a gift it was to be there this year healthy and able to race. She also reminded me to celebrate, smile and have fun out there on race day. It really is a gift to be able to do this kind of endurance event. We are truly lucky!

scott transition area Transition area before the race

 

The Swim:

me and lisa pre MT 70.3Myself and Lisa at the swim start 

The swim was almost a disaster in the beginning. Lisa told me to go out fast the first 400 yards which is what a good triathlete swimmer should do! However, I learned that I still have trouble in pack swimming especially in the beginning. I lined up in the middle front row which was my first mistake. Last year I had a pretty good swim experience (slower but steady) where I started on the inside and gradually built up speed. I’m not an aggressive swimmer and I had trouble with 141 women this year swimming all around me with no clear path to go. It was total chaos and I had anxiety issues. I couldn’t find a straight line to swim so eventually after 5 minutes or so I just took a sharp turn right and swam on the inside of the buoys like last year (this is legal but you have to swim on the outside of the last buoy). I still felt terrible for a while and had trouble breathing and getting into a rhythm. I even had thoughts of quitting triathlons due to the swim. And there were moments I felt like I didn’t know how to swim anymore. It was very unsettling. But I told myself I would get through this and I just kept swimming. There were a few times I would look ahead and see the endless buoys and wonder how I would make it to the turn. I eventually settled down and made it to the first turn.

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It was a sunny day this year as opposed to the cloudy start last year. This was challenging as the sun was in our eyes and it made it hard to see other swimmers and the buoys. At one point I was close to a kayak on the outside and knew I had to swim closer to the course. I was still swimming with other swimmers but a bit too far outside. I was encouraged when I started catching the slower swimmers in the next age group. But it was also tough when the fast swimmers from the age group behind us went by me. I never did feel like I was enjoying the swim like previous triathlon swims but I kept working hard and making my way. Once I turned the last corner, I was heading back to the shore. This leg went much faster and it seemed I was at the finish sooner than I anticipated. It was still tough with so many bodies all around me and I was still constantly swimming around people or having people bump and push me. I was worried my swim was going to take well over 40 minutes but when I got out I was shocked to see a bit over 37 minutes! That is not a fast time but considering my rough start, I was very happy with that time. I was two seconds faster than last year. So I do have a lot to work on in regards to my triathlon swim.

scott swim

Scott has gotten very fast in his swim over the last year but he also had anxiety issues like myself in the crazy beginning. He said he did the breast stroke for the first two buoys before he settled down. He still had a fast swim but was close to 4 minutes off his time last year. We both have some work to do on getting through the chaotic swim start of a triathlon.

 

The Bike:

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The bike went well for me in spite of being over 9 minutes slower than last year. Many factors contributed to this significant variance (I’m a financial analyst and love this kind of analysis). Firstly last year was cool and the winds were calm. This year it was hot and quite warm when I started my ride. The sun was out in full force. And the head winds coming back on Rt 117 were fierce this year. Everyone’s bike time was slower this year. Because it was going to be a very hot day, I also rode more conservatively than last year. I also slowed to take water at all aid stations; sometimes just taking a few sips and pouring it down my back to cool off.  I’m also coming back from a big injury and I am still not quite at 100% of my potential fitness compared to last year. Again, Scott and I had almost identical bike times last year and this year with just a few seconds apart from each other. He is faster on the flats and down hills and I make up the time on the big climbs at the end.

scott bike

Like last year the course was very crowded but that is to be expected with one of the most popular Ironman 70.3 events.  I didn’t get stuck in as many packs as last year but it was still a bit stressful at times making sure not to get a penalty for drafting. I was constantly passing people on the bike and making sure I was getting by within the 23 second time limit. I was also getting passed by some very fast guys in the 40-44 age group.  I didn’t ride with many women this year compared to last year. There were a couple where we took turns passing but I did finally leave behind one woman for good on the run. I was wondering where the females in my age group were. It was hard to tell without the ages being marked on the calves like some triathlons.

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I was smart about nutrition and taking in lots of fluids. Your nutrition will always show up on the run so I must have done a good job with my shot blocks and sports drink and taking water at the aid stations. I mentally noted many times I was still feeling OK throughout the ride even while it was getting warmer. I even did well up the hot hilly section at the end. These long hills are similar to our hills here in Vermont so it felt like a regular training ride. I was conservative in the heat but felt I was riding at a good pace. This part of the course was crowded as well. Once I turned around and went back down the hills, I rode very carefully and stayed out of trouble on the descents. Many triathletes do not have strong bike handling skills. So I stayed out of my aero bars and played it safe to avoid collisions. Sadly there was a very bad crash going down that hill later on which involved several riders. I heard it looked very bad. I wasn’t able to find out if everyone was OK. My thoughts go out to these athletes. It is a very scary and sobering reality of triathlon, especially with so many riders out there having varying degrees of skills. Once I got down the hill, the transition area was about a mile away and I was thrilled to be almost done and in one piece! I was a bit disappointed in my slower time but I knew I did my best to be safe, healthy and ready to run in the heat.

 

The Run:

The run is always where I shine in a triathlon! Even with a competitive cycling background, my true talent is running. Last year I didn’t make it two miles before I had to stop with a stress fracture. This year it was so amazing to run past that place of agony and continue on without any pain. I made a note to myself to feel gratitude about my comeback this year. It was a special feeling being out there that afternoon! Our health is our wealth and being healthy this year was such an amazing gift! This 70.3 will always be special for me with such a strong run a year after a devastating injury.

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The plan was to start out conservatively at maybe 8 minutes per mile and see how I felt. While I always run much faster in cool temperatures, I was running well in the heat compared to most out there that day which was a pleasant surprise. Maybe I am pretty good in the heat! But I always respect the heat and ran the first couple miles at a comfortable 7:55 pace. There were also some small rollers in the beginning to slow the pace down a little bit. Going through the quaint town of Tremblant, it was so great to see so many people out to support us with cheering and even water hoses. The crowds were so enthusiastic and I loved hearing my name called out (our names were on our bibs). The aid stations were abundant on the course with plenty of water and ice. I was even putting ice down my jog bra and down the back of my shirt. I would pour water down my back at almost every aid station and run through every hose. This is key in order to get through a hot running race.

A good chunk of the run is on a newly paved bike/rec path which is really awesome. It was hot with not as much shade as I had expected but I could get into a good rhythm running between aid stations. I was feeling very hot and the sun was oppressive but it was all manageable for me out there. I felt I was in good control of myself and pacing well. I was surprised at how many people I was constantly passing. Strong, lean, muscular men were being left behind. This was a good confidence booster for me. I was finally realizing I that was getting my running fitness back.

I saw Scott on the way out while we were on the bike/rec path and caught up to him on they way back. He was having a tough time running and walking. He said he was OK so I continued onwards. I knew he could always walk the last 5-6 miles if worse came to worse. He’s tough! I was still surprised I was doing so well averaging between paces of 7:30 to 7:43. I was getting pretty hot with 4 miles to go so I just took it one mile at a time. At one point I looked up and saw the ski area and thought how beautiful this course was. I was also impressed by the beauty when running along Lake Mercier. It’s truly a gorgeous run!

85_3rd-95225-FT-1312_084768-2054006

As I made my way through town I was so happy to run through more hoses to cool off briefly. It was a gradual uphill which felt very hard. I did manage to catch up to a woman in the 35-39 age group. We ran together until the last half mile before the village. We exchanged a few kind words and I introduced myself. It was nice to run with Lisa and have a bit of support the last few miles. It was the most interaction with anyone I had during the whole race. Before running through the village she took off to catch someone in her age group. I was thrilled to finally get to the village but knew the last hill up the cobblestones was going to be challenging. But I did pretty good and even passed a couple runners. It was hot and hard but I was elated to be almost done. It was such a thrill on the final stretch with the cheering crowds. I was gaining on a woman and decided to sprint to the finish and overtake her at the very end. I didn’t know if she was in my age group or not and didn’t want any regrets. So I ran like a mad woman to the finish. It felt great to cross that finish line! And having Lisa there at the finish was icing on the cake! Thanks so much Lisa!

 

beer MT scott vegan burger

 Post race beer, vegan burger and fries at Fat Mardi’s

 

Me MT village post race

Post-race shopping in the village

Overall I highly recommend coming to Mont Tremblant to do a sprint, 5150, 70.3 or a full Ironman. The course will be crowded and there is always the danger element on the bike course, but it’s special place to experience. Just be careful and stay out of trouble on the bike course! The race organizers in Mont Tremblant are amazing and the volunteers are the best ever. This is probably one of the most well-run 70.3s in the Ironman circuit. And the people in the town love the racers and the events. You feel truly welcomed in Mont Tremblant. Thank you to all the wonderful volunteers and the people who made this happen.

Me post race swim lac tremblantSwimming in Lac Tremblant the morning after the race!  

While I still have more training and work to do on my swimming, I am excited to come back in August for the full Ironman Mont Tremblant! Stay tuned!

medal mt

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The Cold Wet Race Report: Stowe Triathlon 5-15-2016

group bike stowe tri

Nice Photo from the Stowe Triathlon facebook page

Last weekend we both raced in the Stowe Triathlon in Stowe, Vermont on 5-15-2016. Our friend Scott M. has been raving about this early season sprint triathlon for a while now. Last year it didn’t quite fit into our training schedule and I am not a fan of triathlons with a pool swim to be honest. But this year I am returning from a very bad stress fracture in my hip which I incurred last summer (femoral neck). This was my first race in almost a year. So it was a good tune up and great mental practice for our upcoming half and full Ironman in June and August this summer. Plus it was very close by!

The Stowe Triathlon is a fun local event. It is simplistic without timing chips, but it is still well organized and the volunteers are super friendly and do a great job. Thanks everyone! The race is held out of the Swimming Hole which is an athletic facility with a beautiful 25 meter pool. This is where I learned to swim back in the winter of 2012 after incurring a 3 month long running injury. So this pool is near and dear to my heart. It’s very clean, clear, and has views of Mount Mansfield and the ski trails. If anyone had told me I’d be racing in it someday, I would have thought they were crazy as swimming 10 laps was a big deal back then.

group photo pre swim scott M and Julie

 Julie, me, Scott M. and my Scott – thanks for the photo Barbara M.

Since I am a numbers person who loves race data I’ll give out the statistics right off. I was the second female overall. First place went to our awesome local professional Ironwoman, Jessie Donavan. She’s amazing! I had to fight for second place as Julie is super strong and was only about 49 seconds behind me. Scott was the 5th male overall and beat me by a few minutes. Congrats Scott! Here are the top ten results (out of 52 people). The run time includes the transitions. The bike course was different this year and the cold, rain and wind made the times slower than last year from what I understand.

swim             bike                               run

1  289 Arthur Mathisen      40-49 M   1  7:08     2   35:03    1   42:11    2   19:46  1:01:57
2  270 David Connery         40-49 M   13  8:16    1   34:50   2   43:06    5   21:25  1:04:31
3  291 Scott Moylan            40-49 M    7  7:36     3   37:04    3   44:40    6   21:31  1:06:11
4  279 Sean Fleming            30-39 M   3  7:18     4   39:01    4   46:19    3   20:17  1:06:36
5  393 Jessie Donaven         40-49 F   11  7:59    5   39:35    5   47:34    9   22:31  1:10:05
6  283 Scott Holsten            40-49 M  10  7:55    6   40:46    6   48:41   12   23:58  1:12:39
7  264 Walter Bean              15-21 M   14  8:32   10   43:41   8   52:13    4   20:45  1:12:58
8  300 Chris Shaffer            40-49 M  16  8:43    9   43:33    9   52:16    7   22:06  1:14:22
9  282 Joyce Holsten           40-49 F    17  8:47    7   42:48    7   51:35   10   23:24  1:14:59
10 386 Julie Viau                  30-39 F    8  7:45   13   45:54   11   53:39    8   22:08   1:15:47

We arrived at the Swimming Hole a bit too early which is usually how we roll when it comes to races. I like to have plenty of time to get organized and warmed up. However because the pool swim had 5 different heats, I didn’t start racing until after 9am. I was in the 4th heat. And my short quick warm up in the pool was about an hour and a half earlier. So I recommend getting there a little bit later for the next time.

The Swim

my pre swim start

The swim was 500 meters (10 laps) which is now very reasonable for me. However, this was not a stellar swim for me even with all the master swims in Williston week after week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and many Saturdays. Without a proper 1,000+ yard warm up with a few sprints, doing 10 fast laps cold was hard for me. This is because I have anxiety issues in the beginning of triathlon swims. My heart rate spikes in the beginning if I go out too hard without being warmed up and I have trouble getting it to back down. Plus I am a long distance person with all my sports so sprinting is never easy or natural for me. So without a good warm up right before my heat, I had to start out slowly and build up. However my heart rate took a while to stabilize and I was never able to swim as fast as I am capable of doing. This is an area that truly needs work on my part. On a positive note, It was great to share a lane with Julie who is such a fast swimmer. Luckily she only lapped me once Smile.

swim start stowe tri

The only true problem with the swim was that my counter only counted 9 laps when I was finished with 10. So I swam another lap. But after that I showed the counter that my Garmin had down 550 meters. And Julie vouched that she only lapped me once, not twice so I did indeed swim my 10 laps. This caused a problem for the bike race as my name wasn’t called off when it should have been and I ended up riding 10 seconds after my real start time. It wasn’t a big deal as it wouldn’t have made a difference on my placing 2nd. Overall while my swim was slower than I had hoped for, it was a great learning experience for sure!

The Bike

me on bike pre race

Thanks Barbara for another good photo – I wore a running jersey over my tri kit

Once I dried off from the swim and got dressed it was drizzling lightly outside. The big question of the morning was “what are you wearing for the bike?” It was 45F but windy with the potential to rain. And once I got out there it started to rain pretty hard. To make matters worse my Garmin didn’t get satellites after the pool swim so on the first mile of the bike I was playing around with scott and scott on bikes my Garmin on dangerous conditions pedaling fast. After turning it off and back on and setting the lap button I finally had GPS to see how fast I was going and log my ride and heart rate. So while the course is supposed to be about 14 miles I am not sure on the exact distance. This was a surprisingly slow bike ride compared to what I have been doing in training. But the rain and wind slowed things down a lot for me. The wind made my race wheels feel like sails and pushed me around throughout the course. And after finally healing from a broken hip, I didn’t want to take chances on the wet roads. I was rather conservative on the downhills (not a flat course) on Barrows and Luce Hill roads. And I didn’t rip through the turns either on my skinny slick tires. I had so much more to loose than gain out there. But heck it was still a good ride and I passed so many people. I passed Julie and the fastest female swimmer somewhere before the turnaround on Nebraska road. And I was the second female cyclist out there and 7th overall with the men. I did enjoy riding back and forth with one guy on a fast looking tri bike. It was nice to meet Chris after the race who was just head of me by 37 seconds overall.

The Run

me at finish stowe tri

Barbara is awesome for taking this photo! Thank you!

My run can be analyzed as a great run or my slowest recorded 5K at 21 minutes and 16 seconds (per Garmin). However after all that I’ve been through the last year it’s a true gift that I’m racing at all right now.  11 months ago I had such a bad stress fracture in the top of my femur bone (hip) that I was on crutches for almost 12 weeks and not able to run for 7 months. And when I think about doing the run-walk-run-walk protocol only a few months ago, I am so happy to be currently uninjured and getting my running legs back!

This was my first time being sidelined for over 7 months and I kept forgetting it would take a while to get my fitness, speed and endurance back. While my awesome coach Lisa is helping me make a comeback, it doesn’t happen overnight. However when I finished the 5K portion of the triathlon, I was very disappointed because I was about a minute slower than previous sprint 5K races. I had forgotten how far I had come this year. Of course being cold from the wet bike ride, it is no surprise I wasn’t running faster. The brutal weather certainly made a dent in everyone’s times! And speaking of times, my transition time from the bike to run was over two minutes as my hands were almost too cold to tie my darn running shoes! (speed laces are coming for future races!)

My first mile started off at a 6:30 pace which was a bit overly ambitious. My pace eventually ended up being around 7 minutes for the first mile which was not terrible but I didn’t feel I could run much faster without blowing up. I felt like I had an empty “gas tank”. The next mile wasn’t a whole lot better but I trudged onwards. It was nice to see Jessie Donavan running well on the way back. After I got through the turnaround I saw Julie rounding the corner. I knew I had to pick it up or I would loose my second place. I kept thinking of what Lisa would do so I really pushed hard. Still I wasn’t running that fast. The last mile was hard but it was better than the first two at a good sub 7 pace. It is also slightly downhill so that helped! I looked back on the last 1/3 mile to see if Julie was closing in, but luckily she wasn’t in sight. I felt some relief but still pushed hard to finish strong. My overall pace was a 6:56 after hitting my Garmin.  That is slower than my normal half marathon pace but I now realize it was the best I had in me on that cold typical New England day.

me getting award st tri

Thank you Jeremy Bradley for putting on such a nice local event! Well done! And thank you for a cool prize. We have been enjoying Jenga made by Burton Snowboards. While Jessie was the overall winner and fastest in the 40-49 female age group, I was given the prize for that age group. But I’m still happy with being the second place overall female after a tough, cold and wet day at the races!

I can’t forget to mention the best part of the whole day! I really enjoyed hanging out with Scott M. and his family, Julie, Jessie and many other nice triathletes. Even when race conditions are difficult and challenging, it’s the people at the races that makes racing so much fun and fulfilling!

scott and scott Scott and Scott talking shop!

Thank you for stopping by!

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Femoral Neck Stress Fracture: Rising from the Ashes

me crutches IB

 Swimming at Indian Brook Reservoir right after incurring my stress fracture (big no no)

I’ve had a lot of injuries over the past 5 years and have always gotten right back to business and training. But a femoral neck (top of femur bone) stress fracture was the worst injury of my athletic career. About a year ago in May 2015 I started to have some right hip soreness. By the end of May after a 5 hour hard bike ride and 1 hour run, I had a very sore right hip. And from there it never got better. I thought it was a strained hip flexor and did take a week off from running. However the soreness persisted mostly when I attempted to run. My mileage was so much less than marathon training but my body was just tired from the many hours of swim/bike/run. I still wanted to attempt the Mont Tremblant Half Ironman on June 21, 2015 which was the biggest mistake and the day where the bone definitely “cracked”. I did have a decent swim and a good bike ride but after a mile into the run I was limping pretty badly. I couldn’t believe how painful it was to run even slowly! At about 1.7 miles I had to stop and have a volunteer drive me back to the medical center. My hip seized up so much that I couldn’t even get out of the golf cart and had to have a wheel chair. It was one of my toughest days not being able to finish a race and incurring such a severe injury.

me tri bike MT 70.3

 Mont Tremblant 70.3 bike course June 2015

A week later I had an appointment at Dartmouth Hitchcock in New Hampshire for an MRI. I was crushed when I received the bad news that morning from my doctor. I would be on crutches for the next 11-12 weeks. It was bad, very very bad. A femoral neck stress fracture can take anywhere from 4-8+ months to heal. It’s one of the worst injuries a runner can receive.  I was crushed as my Ironman dreams went down the toilet for that summer. I new it would be long time before I could run. And to add insult to injury I came down with a bad case of pneumonia. I’m not joking! I had hit rock bottom. For July and August I was injured and sick, living mostly on my sofa. And much to my fear I gave Scott my pneumonia so he was not able to do his Ironman either. It was a real sh*t show at our house last summer to say the least. It couldn’t have gotten much worse.

In regards to training, I bit off more than I could chew that spring. I thought I could handle a full time job along with a 20-26 hour training week. Boy was I wrong! I also made a few training errors by moving some running hill work right before a 16 mile club time trial on the bike. And my body may not have had enough time to recover for the big weekend of training. The doctors said they believed it was over training that caused my stress fracture. Also I might have been slightly underweight as well. My body BMI was well under 20 and many coaches want their female triathletes to be at least 20. My blood work came back stellar and my bone density scan was normal for a female in her mid 40s. I just did too much. It happens. There was a well known female pro triathlete who also had the same stress fracture as me last summer. And I have learned that this type of stress fracture is not uncommon for runners and triathletes.

cross bike maine  me in ocean

Maine in September – doing a little too much!

The body does heal and I did get better slowly. By the end of December my 3rd MRI showed more than 90% healing. My doctor was trilled with that since my second MRI in September showed the fracture line had increased. That was bizarre since my hip was feeling progressively better and I was walking around, running on the Alter G (at 20-30% of my body weight) doing some easy fat biking and swimming. It was hard to be patient but eventually I did get better.

me mtn bike rail trailMountain biking on the Rail Trail from Morrisville, VT – Oct 2015 

me running on bike path feb 2016

 Running on the Burlington Bike path in February 2016

me riding in Morrisville easter

Riding from Stowe up through Hyde Park in March 2016

I hired a wonderful new coach who is now working closely with me and watching my training almost on a daily basis. I feel I’m in good hands and trust her completely. She gave me my first easy week of training in January 2016 to be cautious. I started with the walk-run-walk-run protocol and eventually by February I was running outside without walk breaks.  I had also done a lot of “jogging” on the Alter G up to 95% of my bodyweight by the beginning January. But it was exciting to finally be running outside. We had a mild winter here in Vermont so there were many days where it wasn’t too cold to run. We also purchased a treadmill which has been a huge help in the road to recovery. I have never been a fan of the “dreadmill” but as I get older, I really have no interest in running when it’s –7F or in other silly winter weather. The computrainer is another important tool that has been helping me regain my bike fitness. Hard wattage workouts are new to me but very effective. I know they have been a huge help. And I can’t forget to mention the master swims on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The training and friendships have been one of the best parts of my week for the past 6+ months!

us in FL by lake

In March, we decided to visit my new Ironman coach in Clermont, Florida for a week. I wanted to work on my swimming and ride my bike outside in the sun. Vermont winters are long, dark and difficult and this was exactly what I needed. I also did get 3 very nice runs done during the week while still being conservative. The week was beautiful with temps in the mid 80s and sunny every day. It felt like paradise and I was happy all week long. I flew my tri-bike down and Scott rented a nice tri-bike during the week (he had to switch it with a road bike on the last 2 days due to a race and it being rented). We rode every day on the nice quiet back roads in Clermont and Minneola. It was nice to feel safe on the roads down there. The pool at the National Training Center (NTC) was the best aspect of the trip. It was our first time in an outdoor 50 meter pool. And I had swim lessons with Lisa and her husband Dave almost every day. It was super helpful! They are great teachers!

me and lisa pool

National Training Center in Clermont, Florida with Lisa

me lake apoka trail scott apoka trail

Running on the beautiful Apopka Loop Trail outside of Clermont, Florida

scott alligator lake louisaNo open water swimming for us in Florida!! Lake Louisa State Park

When we got back from Florida we began to volunteer each Friday evening during the next four weeks for Swimming Saves Lives. This is a volunteer program through the US Masters Swimming and it helps teach adults to learn how to swim. I’ve gotten so much out of our own masters swim program that I feel the need to give back! It’s a wonderful program and this was our second year helping people in the water. While it does benefit so many people (nationwide), I feel that I get a lot out of this program as well. I love helping people get involved with swimming, biking and running. It’s my true passion. I loved working with my student who was so eager and excited to learn to swim. At the end of the 4 weeks, she was swimming freestyle all the way across the pool. It was so satisfying for both of us. I look forward to helping out again next year and teaching more people how to swim and save their life!

SSL group foto

I recently got back from a business trip out in San Jose, California. My training has been going so well the last couple of months that I wanted to make sure I was able to run and swim out there between the conference and socializing with clients and co-workers. I did find another outdoor 50 meter pool at the San Jose University Aquatic Center and the Guadeloupe River trail, both close to the hotel and convention center. I always do love training in new places. I even had one of my awesome co-workers join me on a swim workout and early morning 8 miler! Thanks again Mike M!

San Jose Aquatic center

Guadeloupe river trail san jose

The Guadeloupe River trail was a bit sketchy in the morning with homeless people sleeping on the side which made me sad . I was glad to have company on Thursday morning. The pool was big and uncrowded, but not quite as clean as it looks. Band aides and bubble gum were among many things sited on the bottom of the pool. But it is a university pool, not the National Training Center. Still it was awesome to swim outside after being indoors all day at the conference.

Now that I’m almost back in full force there is a lot going on in May. On May 1st I finally participated in the Waterbury Gravel Grinder dirt road ride. It’s not a race but sorta is a race! I had a lot of fun riding Scott’s new Litespeed gravel bike since he was flying back to Vermont that morning. I’ll probably blog more about this when I do it again next year. It was great to see many cycling buddies.

me chris john gravel grinderWaterbury Gravel Grinder – post ride with Chris and John

So now I continue to train for the Mont Tremblant 70.3 on June 26, 2016 and the Mont Tremblant 140.6 on August 21st. I’m so excited to do our first Ironman together! And I have unfinished business at the MT 70.3!! Next week is the local Stowe Triathlon Sprint. That will be a good little tune up and super fun day. I haven’t raced in almost a year so it will be exciting to see how I’m coming along with my fitness. I’m not quite 100% yet but I’m getting there thanks to Lisa. I’m making a comeback! Stay tuned!

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