Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ironman Florida

Ironman Florida- Full circle

Admittedly the allure of completing a full Ironman distance race has been the fear and the fuel behind my journey this season.  After surpassing my wildest dreams in completing a Half Ironman after my knee surgery, thoughts began to creep in about "could I" dare to dream.  Being accustomed to injury and knowing I was tempting fate pushing beyond the half distance I still could not put the thoughts aside.  With the progress I had made during the summer, the durability I had gained, and new found confidence, there was only one way to find out. DO IT.  Tim assured me he could get me across the line and that was just the goal.

To back up a bit…about half way through the season my goals began take shape; a clearer picture arose.  What was motivating me?  My entire motivation to get to this point was a matter of doing things I didn't think were at one point were even possible:  Complete an Olympic distance triathlon...check, qualify for Pro license...check, complete a Half Ironman...check.  The Ironman distance seemed to check that box for me and continued to motivate the daily grind....IF I could do this it seemed to me to be the absent piece of the puzzle.

So we trained and trained, more than I ever have. There were tears, doubts, worries, fears then things seemed to click.  Paces were dropping, watts (well they weren't getting much higher but they were holding for longer), swimming was consistent.  I went in to Ironman Florida feeling confident in the training but just plain nervous about the unknown of the actual race.  I'd done 2 x 2hr long runs as my max.  What would that last hour + feel like in the marathon?  Would the knee hold up?

I waited to sign up until the day before the deadline for two reasons 1.  Was I actually going to do this? 2.  Would I stay injury free?  So nervously I hit the enter button on the computer, and confirmed my registration with Hearther Fuhr.  It was happening...

Rachel Jastrebsky and I made the 13h car trip to Panama City the Wednesday before the race.  Rachel is such a positive athlete, lots of enthusiasm and support and she quickly calmed my nerves as we joked and chatted the entire trip :)

Anthony and my Dad set out a day later (military calls) and met us Friday before the race.  I was overjoyed having my two favorite guys there to sherpa and help with logistics pre race.  I go through the usual meltdown i.e.- wheel choice, gear choice (as it was going to be quite cold), tubular spare, garmin malfunctioning.  Something always goes wrong and it was reassuring knowing I had Anthony and my dad!

Something new this year that seems to really calm my nerves is having an actual race plan.  Tim's pre race call is a saving grace.  I know longer have to think to much about that part.  He gives me a play by play of HR's paces watts and contingency plans for the day.  Did I mention I love my coach!

Race Details:

Woke up Saturday morning to 20mph sustained winds, 25-35mph gusts and 40deg temps.  For someone who despises the cold this plain STUNK!  We made our way to warm up only to find about 5minutes later after being crushed by unrelenting waves and current that the swim was cancelled.   While I never truly fear any swim conditions and was prepared to gut it out, it was definitely the right call.  The safety personnel were overturning in kayaks and to put those folks at risk, let alone all of the other athletes with differing swim abilities would have been a mistake. It was the right call, we adjusted thoughts and prepared for a TT bike start at 8am.


Brrr.  that's about all I have to say!  Kit, Jersey, wind vest, arm warmers, ear band, gloves, compression socks, toe warmers.  Seriously??!  The first 25miles was almost all head/cross wind and I knew I was in for a long day.  Rachel passed me within the first few miles and was looking strong.  I just decided to focus on my watts and nutrition.  Too bad my HR wasn't registering (oops, reset the garmin and forgot to pair it the day before).  No need to panic, this was a long day.  I've ridden long rides this summer and felt pretty confident I could go on RPE/watts although tough in the wind.  I'd say after about mile 80 I was feeling pretty strong.  Made one pass on the bike and two passed me.  It was great to see Anthony and my Dad on the course snapping pics and cheering.  Apparently they found a spot to go "off roading" in our new Truck ....boys.

The last 25 miles with the exception of  a small out and back were tail/cross and you could really fly! This was fun and gave me a chance to prepare to run without having to work too hard those last miles on the bike.  Getting into unknown territory soon and I wasn't sure what to expect so I played it a bit cautious the last 10miles.


I had strict instructions with HR and pace during the run.  Tim and I both knew I hadn't done the volume to support a fast marathon but we knew If I paced it right it wouldn't be a slow death!  My first mile split registered 10:09 and I started to worry- later to find out this was wrong!  I picked it up before realizing it was impossibly wrong and settled into my pace thankfully.  I came off the bike in 5th and stayed in that position for the remainder of the race.  After the first half marathon I thought, here we go- the unknown, focus!!  It was great to see Rachel on the course cheering;  she was killing it. Also to see so many fans dressed in Halloween costumes.  It appeared to be quite the party.

Coming through the finishing shoot I was elated.  A high five from Anthony and a huge grin on his face, I could feel how proud he was.  This was as much as a victory to him as to me.  He's been there through the ups and downs, decisions, indecisions and unknowns.  He' s the one who motivated me to continue this journey and I'm so thankful for his support.  Rachel waited at the finish line and a huge embrace was in store.  We've spent countless hours on the road together and we were equally happy with our/eachothers' performances.  What a day!  I've truly come full circle in this journey after a devastating knee injury in 2011 and now training successfully and executing an ironman against statistics with microfracture surgery.  I truly couldn't have done this without the team behind me.

Lew Hollander, Ironman Legend

What's next?
Well, that's a funny question...... Technically I didn't do a "full Ironman" and that was the goal.  In some thoughts I feel a little disappointed about that but completing the marathon was really the big accomplishment in my mind.  I still have a few questions unanswered…. Who knows.......will see.

Thank you:
Anthony for your unwavering support
Dad for always being there no matter how far
Family and friends for the encouragement
Tim Snow for the guidance and patience!
Qt2 systems- Truly a program I believe in: Jesse, Caitlin, Rachel (Coaching, Nutrition plans)
Zoot Sports- Apparel, kit, gear
Village Bicycles- Walt Garner- Keeping my bike rolling especially the new Di2 two days before the race!
Bon Secours in Motion PT- Julie Blandin- Your knowledge and dedication priceless, Keeping me injury free and moving correctly this season
Bon Secours Personal Training- Aaron Ransom- Strength and power! Thank you!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Challenge New Albany

Challenge New Albany Race Report:  (skip down to where it says "race report" if you don't want to hear the long version below)

I decided to head to New Albany after plans for Vineman fell through.....erg, well I never made them.    The back story involves a very panicked Michelle after Eagleman, an annoying shin injury, and being WAY to nervous to book travel, accommodations etc for 3 to California and back sheeesh!

A week prior to Eagleman I started to feel some pain in the outside of my shin (distal third of the fibula for those medical) after riding long (thanks Tim for the 5 hour rides....) and running.  I was hoping it was some sort of muscular strain but found some pin point tenderness along the bone.   Panic mode set in as I am frequently injured and am all too familiar with the sensation of a stress fracture.  I wasn't quick to dismiss the pain as was my former MO and rested it pretty heavily leading up to EM.  Luckily during the race I had no pain whatsoever and just chalked it up to some inflammation that needed a good only hard and fashioned ass kicking on a hard day....

A few days after EM while doing some recovery runs on our beach Vacation in Sandbridge I started to feel the pain again but more intense, YUCK!  A panicked email and text to Tim, we decided to shut it down as I was convinced it was another stress fracture (he thought otherwise).  It is pretty rare for that to happen in the fibula as it is considered a non weight bearing bone but if a freak injury was going to happen, it would happen to me.  I spent the better part of the following week at BonSecours in Motion PT with Julie Blandin looking at mechanics of the foot and ankle, taping my arch and coming up with a stretching / strengthening program for the lower leg.  Turns out the dorsiflexion in my left ankle was considerably different compared to the right and the lack of motion was causing unusual pronation on the left side. A few days of the "foot binding" and lots of ankle bands later and I was feeling OK but not confident in Philly (2 weeks after EM).  I hadn't run at all practically and wasn't sure I should race but Tim felt I was on the mend and we decided to give it a whirl.

Philly went pretty well considering and things were continuing to improve with PT but nervous me felt a 2 week break from running was in store to make sure the injury didn't linger.  That meant Vineman was out so we shifted focus to 2 weeks later at New Albany.   Having lots of family in the Cincinnati area, it would be a good way to swing in for a visit.  My mom's two sisters, lots of cousins, my 94yo grandfather and my Dad's brother all live in Ohio and we took the opportunity to visit with them all in the short trip!

Since Anthony would be seeing Lanie off to TN for the school year and her summer with us was coming to an end, he stayed back and my dad decided/was asked to accompany me on the trip as Sherpa.  Side note.....growing up my dad and I traveled to lots and lots of swim meets together as I recall, so he was no amateur to the sherpa-ing business.  He made the trip down from DE (5h) then we were off on Thursday (10h) to Cinci.  My cousin Jason and his wife Julie who summer in Clearwater FL were gracious enough to lend their home to us for accommodations, thanks guys!

Friday morning after a LONG car trip we met up with cousins Robin and Kristen + 3 hilariously energetic kids.  I mean they were diving off furniture, bombing down play sets and full of fun stories, love it!  We spent the afternoon at the pool chatting and playing and then headed to Aunt Jan's for dinner.  Great fun catching up and for me, spending time with family was the most enjoyable part of the trip.  Only wish we could have spent longer time together!

Saturday morning was brunch with Grandpa and Marilou- Great catching up with these two in Loveland....

I got word from Anthony shortly after brunch that Lanie had gotten 3rd pl female in her kids Triathlon!   After spending the summer enjoying the swim team, Lanie went from barely getting across the pool swimmer to placing in swim meets (diving off the block and doing 50m freestyle), I mean holy cow!!!  They decided to sign up for a kids tri the day she flew back to TN up near BWI.  She rocked the race, even clipped in on the bike .. Love her!

Oh, yeah the race report, almost forgot!

Pre Race: 
Pre race was felt with some anxiety about the 2 transitions but having done Giant Eagle the year prior I had some familiarity with the swim course.  After visiting my Uncle Chris (post cholecystectomy) in Dayton Saturday morning, once we got to New Albany there were lots of logistics to figure out.  I hadn't tested out my new Blueseventy Helix and PZ3 thanks to Qt2 and wanted to get in for a quick dip.  It was windy and skies began to look ominous but I was at least able to figure the wetsuits are amazing but my goggles were fogging like no other. Panic.  Quick trip to the expo and new goggle purchase, crossing fingers the decision wouldn't come back to haunt me.

I had been feeling pretty tired leading up to NA.  The overload weeks just about killed me this time around and I hadn't been "nailing" any workouts.  I was worried something might actually be wrong but a few blood tests at the doctor and everything checked out so we are chalking it up to a tough work/ train schedule and the heat/humidity of summer all catching up with me.  A rest break was in need after NA both mentally and physically.

Pre race pro meeting: check, shoes etc dropped off at T2 :check, dinner with dad and off to bed.  As most of you who know me know that I don't sleep AT ALL the night before a race.  Tim says I just "rest" the night before but I don't actually sleep!  Well this night was the exception.  A good 5 hours I calculated, maybe 6 and for me that's progress!!   We headed to swim start with plenty of time to test the new goggles and rack the bike and I was feeling more calm than usual.

I got a good warm up in the lake with fellow QT2er Amy Javens and we were ready to start.  Beach start into the lake, we made our first right and were off.  I made it to the first buoy with the front pack and was struggling for position getting kicked out on the left.  Rather than struggle I decided to get in behind the girl to my right only to find  a few minutes later she lost the pack and I was stuck as well.  I made the move around her on the long straightaway (rectangular course) but could see I wouldn't make it back up to the pack.  Ah, come to think of it I wouldn't have been able to hang on with the likes of Meredith Kessler or Haley Chura anyways!!!! So solo I was again for the rest of the swim, aye aye of these days hopefully I'll catch some feet.  

Oh my love hate with the bike.  I love to bike but I'm just not as strong as these girls.  It's a work in progress and I know results won't happen overnight.  The course was fun, lots of turns, country roads and great support by local police and well marked turns by the Challenge Folks.  As I'm usually never riding with anyone, I worried at EM that I had gone off course.....not here.  I got passed by 2 girls and passed 1 (first time ever).  That did give me a little confidence.   The course was actually a lot more rolling than expected.  I was in my small ring a bit but we got a few good downhills as well.  There was some technical riding through some potholes and rough roads which made it hard to open up but all things considered I did like the course.  The last 10m or so were fairly flat on highway.  There were some ominous clouds and wind that picked up and I thought for sure I'd see lightning so I really tried to pick it up leading into T2.

Nutrition:  3 bottles Ironman Perform.  1 power gel w/caff, 6 Cliff Shot bloks, 1 saltstick

I headed out on the 2 loop run course feeling great.  I'd only completed 2x 11mile runs in the two weeks leading up to NA due to the shin injury so I worried this was going to hurt (endurance wise).  Tim gave me some parameters to stick with so I wouldn't hopefully blowup.  I looked down at my first split 6:10 and thought on snap, oops!  I brought the pace back for the first lap feeling strong, grabbing gatorade endurance at all of the aid stations.  I ran in to Reese McGregor whom I went to High School with heading in to lap 2, crazy!!!  We high- fived and I was determined to try to catch a few girls in sight.  Then I fell on my face.  No seriously, I fell hard and it happened so fast before I knew it my face was about a centimeter from the pavement.  Dang it Michelle, get it together!  My left knee stung but no blood, I tried to play it off like no one was watching but a few runners around me from the olympic race were gasping in horror...."are you ok".  "yes thanks" embarrassing I put my head down and charged on.  I was able to make 3 passes putting me in 6th and I really fought the last 3miles to keep position as I could see 7th on a couple of the turns.  The lack of consistent run training was felt that last 5k as my legs became sore and my HR was creeping up.  Crossed finish in 6th to see fellow Hampton Roads Athletes Adam Ostot (6th pro male) and Daniel Balin (1st masters) who had crushed their own races!

Run Nutrition:  Gatorade endurance at aid stations, 2 power gels w/caff

We packed up and headed off pretty quickly after the race.  Long trip and work to look forward to!  Thanks to the Challenge Series for putting on a great event and I encourage others to sign up for this race!

Many thanks to supporters:  Zoot Sports/ Team Zoot MA,  Qt2 systems and Coach Tim, Blueseventy, Shimano, Village Bicycles, InMotion PT- Julie Blandin, ISM, Powerbar.  Many thanks to my DAD for making the trip possible.  Love you pop!  Thanks to Anthony for talking me down as always....nerves and lack of self confidence, you are my rock.

Next up.......TBA

Summer Pictures

Monday, July 28, 2014

Philly Tri Race Recap...errr a little late

Ah, Philly, the city of Brotherly Love.....I've done this race now 4 times and each time have grown to love it more.  I wouldn't say I had a breakthrough race (as I'm learning that may take years in the pro ranks), but I did have fun on the bike and run, a far cry from last year's near puking episode at the finish line.

Philly is a great race for many reasons.  It usually falls on my Birthday weekend, and one might ask, what better way to spend your birthday than with pre race anxiety, no alcohol and an 8pm bedtime!!!  Anyways, Philly is only about a 20min drive north of my parents' place in DE and it's always a good weekend to celebrate, race, and flood my parents' house with 2x 80lb dogs, a 10yo high energy pre teen, and bags of gear, clothes, bikes, pumps, wheels etc.  BOOM "we are here!!!!" honk honk honk!!  My parents are troopers for putting up with the chaos for the weekend.
Mom after doing her workout!

I was fortunate to swim at my old summer club Saturday, The Graylyn Crest Gators, and my old Coach Stan welcomed my sister and I with open arms.  Always great to see him, the old stomping ground and catch up on local news.  So many fond memories in that place from sun up to sun down all summer long.   I can still smell the hot dogs on the bar-b-q and feel the wrinkle in my skin from an all day affair at the pool.  Love that place!

Race morning was the usual + 2 (Harley and Gunner) cramming in to the Xterra with Anthony and My Dad on the "early crew", my Mom, Lanie and Liz to follow later.  Transition was flooded with superstars (Alicia Kaye, McLarty, Matt Reed, Potts, Dye).  A bit overwhelmed I got on the first bus and headed to Swim Start.  Swim was rough for me again.  Just feeling out of breath and not able to get a rhythm....still need to sort this out.  Swam solo until the last turn and exited with Liz (new friend and PSU alum).

Liz and I biked together most of the ride (legally), getting caught up in a few age group men on the second lap but avoiding major disaster.  The bike course is windy, curvy, up and down and I must admit, although I've done it a few times, I still done have the guts to really go for it like on a road bike. (wimp).

On to the run I felt like I was flying but really only managing 6:30ish pace.  Just didn't manage to make a real dent in the field that was really stellar.  I was happy with the effort but knew there was more work to do, strength to build.  In the end 9th Pro and a 2min PR on that course.

Oh, and I almost forgot.....Julie accompanied the cheering squad (see below) and has been quite the traveler this summer.  Fashioned on an old race belt below and often seen on the sidelines (literally hanging out of the netting that corals the bike in/out or run in / out, this jet setting American Girl may be spotted at YOUR next race.  Disclaimer....try not to burst out laughing like I did seeing this doll hanging from the rigging "cheering".  (My sisters can't get enough of where we can place Julie on the course).

Many thanks to Anthony, for dealing with me race week (not always the most pleasant) (ball of nerves), My parents and sisters for their support. Lanie for her cheering/ and Julie the American Girl Doll.  Not least is Tim Snow, for dealing with my aches and ailments, scheduling changes and panic emails ( I didn't run at all barely between eagleman and Philly)(more on that later).

Thanks to
Qt2systems/ Coach Tim
Village Bicycles
Bon Secours In Motion PT/ Julie Blandin
FTE Masters Swimming/ Steve Hennessy

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Eagleman 70.3

Well, I toed the line at my first professional race June 8th at Eagleman!  To give a little back story.....I started working with a new coach early April.  It's not that I disliked my old coach, I just felt there was a need for change, especially after my hip injury, and I began to have doubts as to whether I could really be a successful short course triathlete.  My questions I make my body do something I'm not designed for?  Am I limiting myself based on fear of distance due to my previous knee injury?  Can I do a half ironman?   Well, my questions were soon answered when I began to work with Tim Snow at Qt2 systems.   They have a methodical approach, an algorithm, a formula, sweat tests, heart rate parameters, you name it.  What I was looking for in a coach was someone to guide my training to race the distance best suited by my physiology and strengths. i.e.: if I wasn't meant to be a sprinter, why kill myself to only get to a certain point.  With a few quick test sets Tim quickly informed me I was better suited for 70.3 but more so for ironman.  The thoughts that I had about myself, body and training were, in turn, correct.  We came up with some short term goals.

1.  Run further i.e- run pain free and consistently without injury
2.  Gain confidence in my running
3.  Become a more durable athlete- STRENGTH
4.  Maintain swim fitness
5.  Do A LOT of biking, and I mean A LOT

After the Rev 3 series cancellation for Pro's we quickly changed our game plan 4 weeks before Eagleman.  Eagleman it was!  I was informed this race would be about execution, not necessarily about results given I'd been running after the hip injury since April giving me only about 10 weeks of run training and a long run of 12 miles just the week prior to EM.   I learned lots of fun things in the 4 week build.....overload training (20hrs), a nutrition plan (that's a lot of salt) and a new affection for training solo with the Eric Church pandora station and a lonely country road down to Elizabeth City and back!  I put my head down and did the work, all the while I was lucky enough to have Anthony here holding down the fort.

On to the race......

I had a rough night prior to race day....the usual "can't sleep", toss and turn with nerves.  I SWEAR I didn't sleep a wink.  Although the day prior had been fairly relaxed with Anthony and Lanie cracking jokes left and right to keep things light, I just couldn't darn sleep!

Swim Start:  this comes quick when you are second wave off. Unfortunately only about a 5min warm up and we were off.  Not sure what happened here, as swim typically is my strength, I totally panicked at the amount of feet and struggled for clean water when I should have just put the head down and stayed with the pack.  I went left, lost the pack then swam solo the entire way. UGH this stunk!!!  I was super disappointed with the swim and knew right away I had made a mistake but for whatever reason I just couldn't hang with those girls on that day...... onward!

Bike:  I was given pretty strict instructions to hold a certain watt and HR so I quickly set to dial it in.  I knew we'd have  a head wind to mile 30 and so I tried to keep cadence up and focused on nutrition ( 3 bottles of perform, 1 gel, 6 cliff bloks, 2 salt stick) for the ride.  I made the mistake of putting a water ONLY bottle on my bike (lack of sleep) so I tossed it at an aide station and picked up a bottle of perform, crisis averted.  Several women passed my on the bike which always is a bit of a disappointment but not today.....with my instructions I was hoping to set myself up for a good run.  Not knowing if I could even run 13 miles, I knew blowing up on the bike was not worth it.

Run:  On to the run, once my favorite discipline, has been an area of constant concern and heartache.....from the knee surgery, the hip stress fxr and lack of serious run training in almost 3 years, my confidence really lacks here.  Leading up to EM I'd only really done zone 1 running which although consistent, isn't fast.  I settled in to the pace Tim prescribed and checked the HR frequently.  I was given instruction to open it up a bit after mile 6 if I felt good and I did!  I was able to negative split the run with room in the tank.  As I was running down the finishing chute I still couldn't believe I'd raced a half ironman.   True, I wasn't competitive in my first Pro race but heck,  4 weeks of true half IM training and my longest run in 3 years, YES that is success in my books!

1.  I've raced a Half Ironman and I survived with no knee pain or swelling
2.  I need to make the swim pack- ouch
3.  My bike just needs to get stronger......c'mon legs
4.  I never in a million years thought I'd be here able to do this again, I'm grateful.

Thanks to Anthony my rock and number 1 supporter, without him I would have probably given up a while family for driving up from the beach at 2am to watch me race.  My dad for his fun photos,   Coach Tim for all of the support and communication, The awesome kit borrowed from Rachel Jastrebsky, Qt2 systems, Powerbar, Zootsports, Bon Secours in Motion PT. The Cantrell Center for Physical Therapy and Postural Restoration.