Post-Race Activity.

How do you spend the first weekend after an Ironman event? With no eight-hour bike ride on the schedule and no need to be home particularly early on Friday night, I made a point of having some fun.

Last night, Erin, Jeanie and I went back to trapeze. The idea was that we would do a release move – that we would do exactly what we did last time but that we’d be caught in the air by another person. The thought of that terrified me, but I agreed to try. When we Trapezearrived at the new location, we saw that the trapeze was set up outdoors rather than indoors under a tent like last time. We also had a different group of instructors and six other people who were there as part of our class. They walked us over to the low hanging bar to practice our moves before heading up to the apparatus, and I froze. I could not for the life of me convince myself to get back up there, so I didn’t. I sat in the bleachers and took photos and videos of Jeanie and Erin while they and others performed. That felt right to me. I felt calm as soon as I made that decision, and since I’m trying to trust myself these days, I went with that feeling of calm. But Jeanie and Erin did the new moves and did beautifully. I’m so proud of these girls and in awe of their bravery and ability. As for me, maybe next time I’ll give it another try.


Then this morning, Jeanie and I met on Lady Bird Lake to walk. Yes, walk. I had my coffee and camera in hand, and we walked and talked and toured the newish boat house and took pictures and had a wonderful morning. Then we went to Austin Java for breakfast and more conversation. I love running and working hard, but I also love just being. This morning was exactly what I needed, and it was a treat to spend that time with my friend. Thank you, Jeanie, for spending the morning with me.

After my morning with Jeanie, I came to the office. I’m working a bit and then hope to catch up with another friend or two this weekend. Tomorrow I’ll gather with my Ironman crew for a post-race celebration poolside. All of this is good stuff for a first post-race weekend.

But I’m not just thinking about the weekend. I’m looking ahead now. That’s something I haven’t really done or wanted to do in a while, but I’m finally ready to think about what’s to come and how to make the most of it all.

I’ve mentioned before that I turn 40 this year. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to mark the occasion. My original plan had been a trip to Vienna, but I’ve decided to put that off for a bit. Instead, I’m going to climb Kilimanjaro. I’ve never been to Africa, and I’ve honestly never even had a desire to go to Africa. But I do love challenges, and I’m all for having new experiences and listening to my heart. Almost out of nowhere, my heart is telling me to go to Africa, so that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to spend my new years on the mountain, and after the climb, I’ll do a brief safari before returning home.

To say that I’m excited doesn’t adequately capture what I’m feeling. For the first time in months, I sit in joyful anticipation of the time ahead and the experiences it will bring. That, my friends, is a lovely place to be.

The Story Behind the Story.

Yesterday, I posted a race report about last Sunday’s Ironman. This morning, as I was running with my friends and wearing the awesome shirt I was given at the finish line of the race (pictured below), it occurred to me that there are many stories within and around my story about Ironman that I didn’t tell. Here are some examples.

  1. The night before I flew out to Coeur d’Alene, I went to see Megan Hilty of Smash at the Topfer Theater. She spoke and sang and made me laugh. I loved it, even though it meant getting home at midnight before an early morning flight.
  2. In Coeur d’Alene, we got lucky with the weather. It rained Wednesday, Thursday, Friday morning, Monday, and Tuesday. Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday (race day) were perfect.
  3. There were 848 first timers in the field. Mike Reilly likes to call them Ironvirgins.
  4. Five people lost over 70 pounds training for this race. Of those five, three people lost over 90 pounds. The biggest loser lost 175 pounds. He jokingly said he lost 175 pounds twice because he also got divorced.
  5. After the opening dinner (where these statistics were handed out), Mom, Jeanie, Malinda, Brian and I were walking home and narrowly avoided getting hit by a car that had hit a parked car and was speeding away from the scene. He ended up speeding a bit too quickly and skidded into a pole and then proceeded to run off on foot. Brian chased and cornered him until the police showed up. That was way too much drama for my taste and frightening to see how close we were to getting run over by a car on the streets of Coeur d’Alene.
  6. The oldest male competitor (a 72-year-old) got hit by a car during the bike portion of the race. As of Monday morning, he was in the hospital but doing well. I hope he has since made it home and is well on his way to recovery.
  7. During the last couple of hours of the Ironman, the pro winners come to the finish line to hand out medals. So when I crossed the line, Heather Wurtele put my medal around my neck. I love having that experience. I suspect they are as exhausted as the rest of us, so for them to stand out there for hours late at night dancing and cheering with the crowd and handing out medals is pretty amazing. Thank you, Heather. Your presence meant a lot to those of us who finished late in the day.
  8. In the line for finishers’ store, I stood behind a woman I had met this past August in the Canada finishers’ store line. This is sometimes a crazy small world.
  9. At my rental house, I didn’t have wireless Internet so I was disconnected the entire week except for my phone. It’s been a long time since I went without Internet access for so many days. I kind of liked it.


Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2013.

What can I say? It was incredible. In terms of time, it was my personal best – 15 hours and 58 minutes. Though it rained on us the first few days we were there, the rain broke, and the weather ended up being perfect for race day. My body both held up during the race and recovered incredibly quickly afterwards. And mentally, I felt like myself again.

That’s the short version.  Here’s a little more detail for those who want it.

The water was in the low 60s for the swim. For the first time ever, they did a rolling start instead of a mass start, which means we got started with the race a bit before 7 in the morning and a 100 or so people entered the water at a time in a constant stream. I think the rolling start gave us more space overall, but I still got whacked a time or two. Once in particular, I thought I had a bloody nose from  getting hit in the face, but I didn’t. I had a really good swim and got out of the water feeling strong.

The bike was tough. It was a two-loop course with very few turns. Much of it takes place on a rolling highway that has some challenging long, gradual climbs. I had a strong first loop. By the second loop, I could feel the hills more, and I had moments of desperately wanting to be off the bike. But by the time I rolled back into town to finish the bike, I felt good again. I felt strong and fast and chipper, which is a good way to finish the bike and get started on the run.

My goal for the run had been to run the whole thing. I almost accomplished that. I ran most of the run, but I walked up the one really big hill on the run. Overall, the run was the hardest part for me. About five or six miles into the run, I felt a little off. The folks who had applied my sunscreen for me when I was starting my run told me that my skin felt too cold. I decided to start anyway and to just be aware of my skin and body temperature as I went. There were medics all over the course, so I knew I could find help later if I needed it. Eventually, I could tell something wasn’t quite right with me, but I kept going. I didn’t feel terrible, but I didn’t feel well. Thankfully, I saw my friends out on the run. One of them (Jeanie) even lapped me. She finished the race as I was starting the second loop. I was very proud of her and incredibly jealous. But I started the second loop and got to visit with my mom and my coach for a bit as I did so. Both of them helped me to stay motivated, and I pushed. I pushed myself hard, particularly given that I didn’t feel quite right.

The best part of the run was the last seven blocks leading up to the finish. People were cheering and congratulating me. I knew I had a chance of having a finish time that started with a 15, which had been my goal. I could feel the tears coming on. I could hear the folks in the grandstand long before I could see them. I felt proud, and I felt grateful.

This was my fourth Ironman finish. Every race is special in its own way, but this race felt personal. I turn 40 this year. It’s been an emotionally challenging first half of the year knowing that I’m aging and that I’m doing so alone. I never expected to be single at 40. I certainly didn’t expect it over the last few years. This year, I have had moments of sadness unlike any that I’ve experienced in the past – moments when I couldn’t see past the sadness – but I kept seeing this race. I knew it was on my calendar. I knew I was committed to doing it with Jeanie and Malinda. And I knew it had the potential to lift me up like nothing else can.  It did just that.

There is something magical about an Ironman finish line. There’s something magical about deciding to do something challenging and sticking with it day after day, hour after hour, and moment after moment. The intensity, the struggle, the pain, and the thoughts that clutter the mind at the start evaporate at the finish. All that’s left is joy. Pure joy.


Are We There Yet?

Yesterday, after spending the morning doing a swim, a bike and a run as my last longish workout, I went to a swim shop to pick up a new cap and goggles. I wanted a back up set for my race, just in case. While I was there, I saw headbands with great phrases on them. I put two of them together and snapped this photo.


As I prepare myself mentally for my race next week, these phrases speak to me. I know I’ll have moments of doubt – moments where I tell myself that I can’t go on, that I can’t take getting kicked one more time in the water, that I can’t pedal another stroke, or that I can’t take another step. When any of that happens, I need to tell myself these things. Shut up and do it. You must.

This morning, I met my friend Erin on the trails and we ran some intervals together. My taper has worked. I felt a spring in my step. I hit the intervals I wanted to hit, and it felt easy. I think I’m ready.

This afternoon, I’m doing laundry and packing. I’m determined to be mostly packed today because I know tomorrow and Tuesday will be busy at work. I don’t want to be stressed about finding time to pack. It’s nice to have the time at home with Bread and Butter, and it’s exciting to get myself together for my fourth Ironman. Five years ago, I couldn’t imagine doing one. I certainly still find it hard to believe I’ve done three and am on the verge of my fourth.

I was thinking this morning as I ran the trails about the first time my friend Teri introduced me to Lady Bird Lake. It was 1999, and it was known as Town Lake at the time. She showed me the three-mile loop. Somehow she had convinced me to do a marathon training program with her. I was just getting started and couldn’t remember the last time I’d run three miles. But we went out there and she showed me where to turn to stay on the trails. We started at the Mopac footbridge and ran counter-clockwise. We were just past the boat dock when Teri told me that we were coming to the final bend and the homestretch. I thought, “We can’t get there soon enough.” I was dying, gasping for air, struggling to stay with her.

Now the three-mile loop is easy. I’ve run the trails and that particular bend hundreds of times. It’s fun to see how far I’ve come and how much my perspective has changed.

I’m giddy. I look in the mirror, and I see how strong I look. I look back on my training notes, and I know I’ve done the work. I feel rested and anxious to get on with the race. Jeanie, Malinda and I leave on Wednesday to head to Coeur d’Alene. As far as I’m concerned, we can’t get there soon enough.

Goodbye For Now, Bike.

My bike is out of my hands. I dropped it and my gear bag off tonight with Tri Team Transport for a safe journey to Coeur d’Alene. This race is happening!

Last time I went to Coeur d’Alene, I was super nervous dropping off my bike. I remember that my hands were shaking as I tried to fill out the tags that would be attached to my stuff. Today, I wasn’t nervous. I calmly packed my stuff, loaded my car, and headed to the drop off point. I could feel my energy rising on my way there. And as with St. George, I forgot to give my bike a good luck kiss. But that’s okay. My bike and I understand one another. I know we’ll be fine.

Something has happened to my energy today. I think it has everything to do with my lunch with my friend Ginger.

I got a text from her this morning inviting me to lunch. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to go because of work, but it worked out. I started out updating her on me. In other words, I started out complaining a bit. But eventually the conversation turned to her and the wonderful things happening in her life. As we spoke, my spirits just lifted.

I can’t really explain it except to say that it felt good to be in the company of a dear friend. It felt good to be heard and understood. It felt good to listen. It felt good to laugh. Time with Ginger was exactly what I needed.

After lunch, I went back to work in a much better mood – a much better place mentally. And then tonight, I got to prep my stuff for my race, which just excited me more. I can’t wait to get to Coeur d’Alene. I’m ready for it.

Be safe, speedy bike. I’ll see you next week.

Backwards or Forwards?

The week before I leave town for my big race, work has gone nuts. Isn’t that how it goes? Still I managed to sneak away briefly yesterday to attend Capital City Toastmasters. And I’m so glad I did. Corky took us through a great meeting that consisted largely of table topics. He posed “simple” questions. Hot or cold? Wet or dry? Male or female? Big or small? My question? Backwards or forwards?

Kick me in the gut, why don’t you?

I want so much to go back in time. Back to college when I was rushing through in three years to become an adult. I would choose differently and spend time abroad for no reason except to spend time abroad. Back to my twenties when I was choosing people who never quite loved me. I would choose differently so as not to waste so much time and effort on those who did not reciprocate the feelings I had. Back to my early thirties when I had a fantastic group of friends from church that I pulled away from when our group grew and turned into what the church called the “singles” ministry. How I hated that term. I would choose to stay a part of it and not let a word and the awkwardness of people pairing off in that environment affect my friendships. Back to the last few years when I found someone I could really love who I believed could really love me. I wasn’t confident enough to dive in the way either of us needed me to. I would most certainly choose differently there.

I want to go backwards and fix these things. But that’s now how life works, is it? Forwards is my only option. So forwards I go.

But what does that mean? What’s ahead of me? I wish I knew. All I can do right now is focus on one thing at a time. Right now, that thing is Ironman Coeur d’Alene.

This time next week, Jeanie, Malinda and I will be in Coeur d’Alene. We’ll be settled into our rental homes. We’ll be preparing to drive the course and prep our gear bags. We’ll be going for bike rides and testing out the water temperature in our wetsuits. (I did finally get a new wetsuit.) We’ll be trying to stay calm in the days leading up to the race.

I don’t know what I would have done with myself these last six or eight months if I didn’t have Coeur d’Alene ahead of me. It’s given me something to focus on and work towards. It’s forced me out of bed and into my life even when that was sometimes the last thing I wanted.  I’m grateful for the timing of this race. I’m grateful for my focused preparation. I’m grateful for the experience I’m about to have.

When I look forwards, I can only see to this race. I don’t know what comes after that, but I know I will continue to move forwards.  “Striving for possibilities beyond Ironman” – that’s the subtitle of this blog. Those are my words. After this race, I’ll have to give some real thought to what those words mean to me now.

I look forward to finding the next thing, whatever that may be. But for now, I continue to focus on a successful taper, careful packing, and my adventure back to Coeur d’Alene.

It’s been five years since Jeanie, Erin, Malinda, Robin and I first did this race. I have looked back each year on the anniversary of the race with much joy. The first anniversary. The second anniversary. The third anniversary. The fourth anniversary. I’m curious what the fifth anniversary will hold for us. All good things, I hope. Smooth water for the swim. Minimal wind for the ride. Fresh legs for the run.

Forwards we go. Forwards I go. To Coeur d’Alene.

150 Reasons Why I Feel Ready.

I rode over 100 miles today! 

I needed that. I have done some long trainer rides, but I hadn’t been out on the road for more than five hours. Today, I did a two-part ride to give me the time in the saddle that I knew I’d need to build my confidence. I rode from my friend Fred’s house out to Parmer, a ways past 2238, which was something over 60 miles. Then I rode the dam loop, which is 43 miles. 

I was tempted more than once to cut it short, but I didn’t. Last year, when I was racing Canada, I had quite a bit of confidence on the bike, in part because I had done a tough half, a double dam loop ride, and a 100 miler. I haven’t done a double dam this time but I did want to get my 100 miler in. That was a huge physical and mental accomplishment today.

Plus, I ran for a solid 50 minutes afterwards. Last year, at most I would run 10 or 15 minutes after a long ride. A couple of weeks ago, I did a crazy long trainer session of seven hours followed by an hour run. Between that and today’s workout, I’m feeling pretty proud.

I felt ready last year. I think I may be more ready this year. I’m leaner than I was. My running has improved drastically. That I’ve done longish runs after long rides astonishes me because I usually do at least some walking the first hour of an Ironman run.

I need to think goals now. I have some goals for before the race and for during the race.

First, the “before” list:

  1. Figure out the wetsuit situation. My wetsuit split at St. George. A sweet friend has given me hers, so I need to try it on and see if it fits. That’s a good project for tomorrow.
  2. Figure out nutrition. I need to write down my plan and study it, so I don’t forget nutrition on race day. I tend to get so focused on what I’m doing that I forget to eat or drink. I don’t want to make that mistake this time.
  3. Pack early. I’d like to get my gear bag and suitcases packed by next weekend. I’m going to be out the night before I fly, so I won’t be able to do last minute packing unless I decide to stay awake all night. To that, I say a big fat, “No!”
  4. Clear my head. At St. George, I didn’t do a good job of clearing my head, and it showed. I need to go into this race with a clear mind and total focus.

During the race, I’d like to:

  1. Have fun. I have a lot of worry associated with these races. More specifically, I have a lot of worry associated with the clock that governs these races. If you don’t make the cutoffs, your day is over. I worry about the clocks a great deal. I’d like to worry a little less.
  2. Push myself harder than I have before in any race. This is related to the clocks. But it also has to do with wanting to run as much of the run as I can. I do walk the aid stations because I can’t eat or drink and run at the same time. But aside from the aid stations, I want to run. If I can run for an hour after these long rides, maybe I can run for six hours.
  3. Be in the moment. I want to enjoy the trip, the people who are making the trip with me, the time spent driving the course, my workouts while I’m in Coeur d’Alene, the time spent getting my gear bags together, the opening dinner, race morning, race day, post-race celebrations, and the closing dinner. I want to appreciate all of them and not be thinking about anything else.

The race is two weeks from tomorrow. My body is ready. I’ve got a little work to do on my mind, but today was good for it, and I think it’ll be ready too.

Sometimes You Get What You Need.

I didn’t sleep well Monday night. Not at all. Right as I was going to bed, I got an email that I wrestled with all night. That’s one reason I should never check emails – work or otherwise – right before going to bed. It’s hard sometimes to sleep after knowing what’s there and what awaits you the next day.

I managed to get up early Tuesday morning because I was meeting my friends to run. Tuesday night, I went to bed early and actually slept pretty well, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the deficiency caused by Monday night. Normally, on Wednesdays, I do an early spin class at the gym with my friend Jenny. But this week, I texted her at 4:40 when my alarm went off to tell her I was bailing, and I slept about another four hours. It felt wonderful.

Given my weekend training fiasco, I knew I wanted to ride Wednesday morning, even though I’d blown the spin class, so I did. I rode Creek Road out near my house. I had a couple of hiccups on the ride. My computer on my bike stopped working, and I dropped my chain once. Other than that, it was great. Being out on my bike on a workday morning was a treat I haven’t enjoyed since my time in Portland last summer.

On Wednesday night, I celebrated an amazing friend’s birthday, which meant another really late night. So this morning, getting out of bed at 5:10 when my alarm went off was a challenge. But I did it. I ran just over nine miles this morning. I did the roughly five-mile loop on Lady Bird Lake twice this morning, once with the girls and once alone. Usually, my speed drops off a bit once the girls leave and I’m running alone, but I was steady today. That felt like progress to me.

Not a bad training week so far, huh? To make it even better – that email I got Monday night? It got worked out today. I am so grateful.

That’s a pretty darn good week, if you ask me. Now excuse me, while I go pass out though it’s only 8:15 pm. I could use some good sleep, and I think tonight I’ll finally get it.

Onward and Upward.

Since writing yesterday, I’ve managed to spin, run and swim. I did a spin workout at home last night, and then I ran this morning with friends and swam afterwards. I’m well on my way to feeling much better about my focus.

I’ve received much support and a little grief from yesterday’s post. The skeptical among you think it wrong to focus so heavily on races, especially to the point of favoring them over relationships. I get that. I do. On a recent trip, I read an article – I think it was in Runner’s World –  about an injured athlete who thought maybe the injury would give her an opportunity to address that problem of over-identification with sporting events. I recognized myself somewhat in that piece as I swore at my hip that was bothering me at the time. I hear what you’re saying now.

But I have to say that there are worse things I could do than focus on a race or two. And I’m certain – absolutely certain – that Mike Reilly has never once said to anyone, “You are an Ironman!” and then followed it up days or weeks or months or years later with, “Well, I’ve changed my mind. Maybe you’re not all that.”

So, onward and upward.

My coach Natasha reminded me this morning that I have one more week of hard work before my taper begins. She also reminded me that the weather in Coeur d’Alene will be significantly cooler. I checked. The highs are around 80 and the lows are around 50. That’s pretty darn perfect for this race. It’ll be fun to pack for cooler weather after some of the heavy Texas heat we’ve been experiencing.

I get on a plane two weeks from tomorrow. Onward and upward indeed.

Where Is My Reset Button?

Surely, I have one, right?

Last week, I was doing so well, training hard and feeling great about my race that will happen in less than three weeks. Then the weekend came and my focus went to hell. I did wonderful things this weekend, including dinner with some great girlfriends, a kick off event for a friend who is running for state representative, a party to celebrate a twentieth anniversary of two people I adore, time with an old friend I hadn’t seen in probably twenty years, and time reading an incredible draft of a book written by someone from my high school. It was all really good stuff, but I didn’t train one bit. I didn’t swim, ride or run all weekend. And I should have. What happened?

My heart got in the way.

I got into a bit of a spat with someone on Friday afternoon. I spent Friday night waiting for a phone call that didn’t come. I spent Saturday dwelling on those two things and Sunday trying to figure out why it all bothered me so much. My heart wasn’t in my training or my race or anything that builds me up. It was focused on others – situations I can’t control and people whose actions I don’t always understand.

I don’t have time for this. I don’t have time to let my mind wander into the depths of hell worrying about what I said or did that might have offended someone or thinking about where I went wrong and what I can do to make it all better. These next few weeks are my time to focus and enjoy the Ironman experience I’m about to have.

This month is about Ironman Coeur d’Alene. I’m lucky to be healthy enough to race despite some recent concerns about a rogue hip. I’m lucky to be racing my fourth Ironman with my friends Jeanie and Malinda and even my coach, Natasha, who has helped me improve immensely over the last twenty weeks. I’m grateful to have my mom and my dear friend Rey on the sidelines cheering for me at that event.

I get to do this race twenty days from now. Not everyone can. Not everyone has the time, the resources, the support, the desire. But I do. I’m incredibly lucky that way.

So please, if you see me over the next few weeks descending into what my friend and teacher Jeanne refers to as a spiral mind f*ck, go a little Moonstruck on me and tell me Cher-style to snap out of it. Because right now, I don’t have the energy to fight for those three little words we all love to hear. They are wonderful, and I want to hear them again one day. But right now, I’m working towards those four words that a small percentage of people on the planet ever get to enjoy – the four words that made me believe that anything is possible.

“You are an Ironman!”

Say it to me again, Mike Reilly. Say it to me again.