Racing with F2C Nutrition and DG Multisports

Racing with F2C Nutrition and DG Multisports
Photo by Craig Thorsen

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Sub freezing temps? Pull out the yoga pants

I woke up this morning to a text message from my dad, who by 7am, had already been outside for a walk. "Walk was cold, but ok in treed areas. VERY cold in exposed areas." My WeatherChannel app had given Spokane just a measly 3 degrees with 10mph winds. Yet I looked out my window and saw clear skies, which could only mean the sun would be out in likely no more than an hour.

For me, the sun is everything. I got out of bed and tried to ignore the fact I had a long run scheduled today. Because my coach had designated this week as a recovery week, my long run wasn't nearly as long as it has been on weekends past. I just had an hour and fifteen minutes. Recovery weeks are tough for me, but today, I felt thankful for a short long run.

Maci looked excited. I've decided that weather conditions and temperatures don't phase her. She'd already been outside to pee this morning, but apparently didn't remember how quickly she ran back into the house and darted under the covers. When the running clothes come out, and when I'm changing into them, she's ready for action. 

This morning I added a few extra layers. Over my Elements long sleeved t-shirt, I added a heavier top and windbreaker. I don't have a balaclava, so I improvised and shoved my head through the right pant leg of one of my stretchy yoga pants. I used the left pant leg to wrap around my neck and tada!, a new form of versatile running clothing was born. Maci and Bryan weren't nearly as impressed, though I felt pretty clever by my creativity.

Maci and I headed out the door. My biggest concern with Maci revolved around her staying warm, namely making certain her ears didn't succumb to frostbite. Because we were starting from home, we had the opportunity to go out and back, and the loop could be made into a 30-, 45- or 60-minute run. Depending on how Maci looked, we'd turn back for home.

It soon became apparent I was hardly the leader of this run. Maci's energy and enthusiasm in the face of 3 degrees kept me smiling (under my yoga pants, of course) and a desire to ignore the cold for a memorable run outside with my most loyal buddy. She kept herself 5 feet ahead of me, though enjoyed taking occasional offshoots out into the woods to chase a scent, poop, or find me a stick.

An hour had elapsed, upon which we found ourselves back in the warm interior of the house. I took the opportunity to check Maci's ears, only to find they were warmer than my hands. The pads of her feet looked fine, too. Seeing that Maci was more than ok, I took inventory of myself. It wasn't until I peed that I realized my coldest parts were my butt cheeks. The yoga pants had worked sufficiently well, as I could trace, with ice, an outline of my mouth.

I had every intention of leaving Maci to warm up while I finished the last 15 minutes of my run, but she'd have nothing of that. She couldn't contain her excitement. The way her body wiggled suggested her enthusiasm had escaped her tail and warmed her muscles back up again. Maci slipped out the door before I could even get through it, and we were off for our last jaunt in what seemed to be colder temperatures than what we'd just ran in for the past hour.

Currently, the couch feels pretty comfortable, especially as we soak in the heat from the fireplace. Our breakfasts settle in our tummies as we watch the sun flit in and out of the swaying branches. Just give us some time to recover. We're already looking forward to next time.

Post run, Maci finds the benefits of a warm blanket and fire, made
even warmer after 9+ miles, 1 hour 15 minutes, of 3 degrees and sunshine.


Friday, November 29, 2013

A new year...a new team

About a month ago, I started filling out applications for sponsorships and teams. It can feel tedious and make you question how legitimate you really are. I found myself answering questions directly related to triathlon (i.e. How will you, as well as (insert company here) benefit from this sponsorship?). Other questions, however, make you wonder exactly how your answer will make you more appealing than someone else vying for the same position. For instance, does the super hero I resemble really matter when it comes to how well I'll use my nutritional product?

I'm beginning to think questions pertaining to super heroes, wrestling ring names, and theme music really have nothing to do with my qualification, but more to do with keeping the evaluation team awake. If that's truly the case, I'll divulge my wrestling ring name (I used a random name generator because, let's face it, I'm just not that creative).

Meet Portly Angel.

Ok. So, that didn't exactly float my boat (seeing as though I keep training 10-12 hours a week to resemble anything other than something "portly.") Thankfully, one of my applications hit a note with the evaluators, and I can call myself something far better, far more tasteful instead. I'm not sure what drew their attention to my application. My race results? Volunteer experiences? Pictures?

This 2014, I'll be racing with a team organized by Chris McDonald, the Australian professional best known for his 6 Ironman wins, two of which happened this past summer in a span of just 4 weeks. I'm still working at growing into the name that represents this team. Big Sexy Racing is comprised of two adjectives that have never found themselves in a sentence with my name in it. In the last few weeks, however, those same two adjectives have held me more accountable to my training than my race schedule ever has. Yet when I start reading the race plans of all my teammates, I'll be damned if I'm not trying to add another event somewhere in my race lineup.


I can't wait until we start posting race results. I'm convinced I probably fall in the lower third of this group as far as race performance is concerned. Time will tell, and I hope that with the help of Derek Garcia of Garcia Multisports, I can surmount that dang hill that's kept me from consistently placing on the podium. This year will be different. 


Meet the new Big Sexy. 






Monday, November 11, 2013

The mountain bike...and my pup

During the ride, she never stops (unless mom makes her
pose for a picture). 
The seed was planted last year around this time, and it took me this long to buy myself a mountain bike. While not brand new and not top of the line, it has served as my alternative to indoor trainer rides so far this fall and hopefully into the coming winter. Maci might be the most excited about this proposal. Usually, I haven't even mounted my bike before her whimpers of excitement escalate into barks of impatience. Before long, she's sprinted down the driveway, knowing I'll have no trouble catching her.

To fly as fast as my energetic vizsla. That has most definitely been the highlight so far. I've not yet found my gut to feel fully confident navigating steep downhills, especially when the trail is riddled with rocks and roots. Call me a pansy, but the visions of risking injury keep me well within myself. If I'm not afraid of tipping over sideways and sliding down the embankment, I'm certain I'll accidentally hit my front brake and find myself cartwheeling down it instead. (Thank you, but no thank you.)

After the ride, she'd like Bryan to start the heater ASAP and
mom to wrap her up in a blanket.
Uphills present a different story. I remember scaling my first significant one last week. Even in a low gear, my legs felt worse than they do when I'm climbing hills on my Quintana Roo. I looked down at my heart rate monitor to reassure myself I was, indeed, in my zone 4. For me, this has been the weirdest sensation to overcome: going not more than the pace at which I run, but feeling as though I should be flying based on the work I'm putting forth.

Maci couldn't care less. On trails that allow for her to run alongside me, she will. Other times, she'll catch a glimpse of something off in the woods and sprint a short detour before catching back up to ride my hind wheel until a hill slows me down so she can pass. I think she feels the greatest sense of superiority when she runs just ahead of me, keeping me at her own pace. If Bryan joins us, she keeps pace with him up ahead, but is sure to check back with me who inevitably brings up the rear.

And so, we continue to experiment with the mountain bike. I hope the snow holds off for a few more weeks, but if it doesn't, the studded tires wait down in the basement to make their grand appearance. The shorter days have made riding after work a bit of a challenge, but the brightest of bright lights will soon arrive in the mail. Based on the reviews, it sounds as though I'll more closely resemble a glowing orb from outer space than a cyclist on her way home. Once home, I've found incredibly good meals waiting in the crockpot. Nothing like homemade soup after a chilly ride through the woods!

Once home, she can't wait to head out for a ride all
over again.
To have the energy of a vizsla.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Coeur d' Fundo 2014

A little over a month ago, I remember cruising over Lake CDA in a similar ferry so I could swim back across the lake in the CDA Crossing 2.4 mile swim. That day presented us with beautiful clear, sunny skies, but water that roughened us up a bit. Yesterday, the lake looked unmistakably angry: whitecaps as far as the eye could see. Yet I had no intention of swimming across the lake. Instead, I found out the minute I stepped off the ferry in Harrison that I'd be swimming around the lake--on my bike. Bryan and I had originally intended to ride the Gran fondo of 108 miles, contending for a medal that signified we'd completed more than a ride, but a race against the clock. However, the fact that we'd just come off a long triathlon season, Bryan had just returned from a business trip to Boston with a cold, and the weather was striving to chase everyone back home, we opted to ride the Centro route instead. We figured 47 miles would provide us with enough of a workout to make our time worthwhile.

Off the ferry, we started out on the Trail of the Coeur d' Alenes for Plummer and then turned north toward CDA. Riding the highway back felt fantastic. If the falling rain hadn't already soaked us to the skin, then commuters did a heck of a job splashing us with standing water from the roadway. It felt comical, really. To think I paid 90 bucks to drive all the way to CDA and ride in such conditions for shits and giggles: I must be stupid.

We rode back into CDA, embellished with road grime, snot, and spit all over our faces and clothes. The finisher announcer seemed more excited about our entrance than we did. Bryan and I rode side-by-side down the finisher's chute, and the announcer--despite his attempt to encourage us to make a competition out of our finish--could not convince us to sprint any more. We'd already ridden our butts off to make a longish ride "short."

Soaked to the skin, we headed into the Plaza shops to eat our post-race brat, potatoes, and pastry. We began to shiver and waited...and waited...and waited for our dry clothes we'd dropped off in Harrison to arrive. After about an hour, we shuffled to the truck and took advantage of Bryan's heater to warm up. Another hour had passed with us sitting in the truck, finally recovered in warmth. Bryan stepped out into the drizzle and wind to retrieve our bikes. Figuring our clothes had likely arrived by 2 hours, Bryan dropped me off at the entrance to the Plaza shops. I raced by three security guards in a sports bra and bare feet, weaved through others enjoying beer and food at Oktoberfest, grabbed our bags, and met Bryan again as he circled around with the truck. Done!

We missed out on the beer and the conversation afterward, yet we had done our best to enjoy a day filled with extenuating circumstances. I hope to have the chance to race either the Medio or Gran distances next year. May the day supply sunshine and warmer temperatures!


Sunday, September 15, 2013

My second attempt at Vegas World Championships 70.3

For the better part of this summer, I tried to capitalize on the heat by doing as much running and cycling as I could in the middle of the day. My coworkers and patients thought it ridiculous when I wandered off out in the 90+ degrees for a run over my lunch break. When my coach encouraged me to do my midweek long/tempo runs in the heat of the day, I started to question myself, too. I remember dreading the end of my long day at work, knowing I had to start home but stop near Mead High School first so I could run.

I rode during the hottest parts of the day, too. Having the extra wind against my face certainly helped, but the sun is hard to ignore as it penetrates my skin.

All for a decent race in Las Vegas for the World Championships. I swore I would not succumb to and cripple in the heat like I did last year. I hoped my experience would help me find the finish line in a little better shape. This year, I did.

Bryan and I arrived on Thursday, which gave me a little more time to prepare mentally. As luck would have it, Las Vegas was experiencing some kind of a storm system that provided increased cloud cover and thunderstorms in the afternoon. The only real rain we encountered, however, fell on Saturday when we dropped my bike off in T1. Rain in Vegas? 
Photo by Bryan Rowe. Transition area Saturday afternoon.
Race day morning the clouds had opened a little wider, and we walked through a downpour as I made my way to transition to load up my bike with nutrition. Never did I think I'd see rain like this here. It felt great: wet, but warm. Yet I couldn't help but wonder what this would mean for the roadways. I'd never really raced in conditions like this. Exactly how hard could I safely push it on the downhills? Especially with standing water in the roadways. Does hydroplaning happen on a bike? 


Lake Las Vegas Resort. 
Just like last year, I found myself in one of the last swim waves to start. Bryan and me waited on the bridge that overlooks the swim start. Puddles of water surrounded us as the roof appeared to have some leaks. When it was finally time to stop watching other competitors start with their waves and begin to don my BlueSeventy swim skin, I could feel the nerves begin to swell in my gut. With his last few words of encouragement, Bryan saw me off as I walked down to my wave of yellow swim caps. Volunteers herded us down to the murky, cloudy, smelly water, and I assumed my position on the far right side of my wave near the red buoy. The gun sounded, and I swam hard to fight for someone else's toes on which to hang for the entire swim.

Race morning. Overcast and raining!
I found the ramp to the exit of the swim in just over 36 minutes (still, slower than what I wanted even for a non-wetsuit swim). It took me a little over 4 minutes to run around to the other side of the lake, find my transition spot, and then run all the way up out of transition to the road. It's a ridiculous transition. Nonetheless, I made it out and onto the wet roadways. I hadn't ridden more than 2 miles and I'd already passed about $600 worth of sunglasses dropped in the road.

This bike course reminds me so much of St. George's. It is compromised of many medium-length hills of moderate grade. After a significant climb out of T1, you enter Lake Mead National Park. I felt great as I passed plenty of people on my way out and then upon turning around back toward Henderson. It turns out you can go pretty fast even on wet roads (thankfully those without any tight corners), and I don't think I hydroplaned.

By mile 37 of my bike ride, the rain began to dissipate and the sun found its way through the clouds. Sure enough, Las Vegas wasn't going to let me get through this race without suffering from some of its notorious heat first. I could feel the sun start to warm my skin, and by the time I found myself running down the first hill of the run course, I could feel myself begin to sweat. Time for ice!

My goal for the run was to never stop running. I had a goal pace in mind and was able to stick to it until mile 3 when, what felt like every muscle in my legs, began to cramp and seize up. I started to walk into the aid station and took down some coke and water. Upon beginning to run again, I realized my legs had settled down and I was back to attempting to maintain my pace. Bryan had told me I'd moved up from 29th out of the water to 17th off the bike in my division. I wondered how many spots I could move up on the run.

By the second lap of the three-loop run, I could begin to feel my pace slow. I willed myself to keep running no matter how much it hurt. Before long, I had reached the final mile of descent to the finish line. Once across, I couldn't help but feel a sense of relief that I'd never have to race this course again. The 96 degrees I experienced on the run didn't compare to last year's 106 degrees, but it was enough to convince me I don't need to come back for a third go-around.

I found Bryan past all the athlete support tents, who told me I'd passed 5 more girls to finish 12th in my division. I felt most pleased with the fact that I'd shaved off 26 minutes from my time last year.

A season is done; a year's hard work of training completed. Upon returning home, I sought out Melinda at Elements Therapeutic Massage for a work over. Now, it's time to make the best use of my offseason!


Post race recovery: Pool side and dessert!




Saturday, September 7, 2013

Training weekend in Whistler, B.C.



This post comes a few weeks late, but because I'm racing the World Championships 70.3 tomorrow, I figured I better get after this post before it's too late. So, let me tell you about my training weekend in Whistler, BC!

After a long day at work on Wednesday, August 21st, Bryan and me continued well into the day and night to arrive up in Whistler, BC at approximately 2:30am Thursday morning. We could only enjoy the scenery up until Penticton, at which point the darkness began to overtake us with about 4 more hours to go. Crossing the border proved somewhat of a minor fiasco. The officer asked us to drive around "back" to have our backgrounds checked. I only had three states to list off of prior residency in the last 18 years. Bryan, on the other hand, couldn't even remember them all. What proved worse is, apparently, another Bryan Rowe exists with a DUI on his driving record. It wasn't until Bryan provided his social security number that the officer let us go after about a 30-minute delay.

We woke up the next day feeling incredibly sluggish. We rode the first out-and-back of the bike course and felt nothing but admiration for a place ensconced in trees and embellished with streams and rivers. To surround ourselves with Ironman athletes, yet not feel the pressure of an impending race made for quite a "vacation." We could enjoy our surroundings, yet feel motivated to make this weekend a training weekend, too.



Friday, we swam in Alta Lake, the location of the two-loop swim course. We swam later in the afternoon, which meant we enjoyed choppy waters and threatening storm clouds. It made for a slower swim, but I felt blessed to have the buoys already set out to follow around the lake. Locals warned us of the risk for swimmer's itch, but I knew after setting foot in the water that it felt far too cold. It reminded me more of Lake CDA's water temperature than it did my usual training hole, Bear Lake. You'll notice the mountains in the backdrop in the picture below. I couldn't quite enjoy the views while swimming, but taking the time to do so when we finished felt well worth our time.


Saturday, we rode part of the second out-and-back of the bike course toward Pemberton. We had initially intended to ride the whole thing, but I must have felt anxious to get back to Whistler. Flying down all those hills (I should say, one BIG hill) meant we had at least an hour worth of climbing to get us back home. In the end, we missed riding the only flat section of the course, the portion they call the meadows. Upon turning toward home, we realized we didn't just have a hill to climb, but a headwind to push through as well. I'm hoping these kinds of winds only crop up later in the day, as it was well into the afternoon by this point.

Race morning, Bryan and I woke up at about 3:30am to head down to the Run Special Needs Bag drop off at T2. We didn't get to see all our TriFusion teammates, though we did have a chance to wish Ben Greenfield well as he headed off to the swim start. It felt very rewarding to have the opportunity to smile at every athlete who handed me his or her bag and offer calm reassurance to faces filled with incredible anxiety.

After our two-hour rotation, Bryan and me headed out on our long run to tour the longer portion of the run course. By the time we made it out toward the Sea-to-Sky highway, athletes had already found their bikes and were riding out the first part of the bike course. We loved the run course. You get a little bit of everything: running through town, through the woods, and along several lakes. It's likely the run course that helped us solidify our decisions to sign up for next year.

This may be how we feel about what next year's training is going to require. Yet again, one must not ignore those mountains!


Saturday, August 24, 2013

I'm on Summer time

Just as I feared, nearly the entire month of August has already passed me by. I sit in Whistler, B.C., which means Ironman Lake Stevens 70.3, the CDA Scenic Challenge Olympic Triathlon, and the CDA Crossing 2.4 mile open water swim have already come and gone. While much has transpired in my racing, an additional boat-load of activity has occurred outside of that arena as well. I've started full- time work as a physical therapist, hired a coach to help guide me through my training endeavors, and continue to train upwards of 12-15 hours a week in preparation for Vegas World Championships.

To say I've felt busy is an understatement. I never thought I'd forgo not one but TWO scheduled massages because of a bike ride that ended up falling on the same afternoon. When I finally made the time to visit Melinda at Elements Massage, I literally melted into the table with relief. My muscles felt so completely entangled due to nearly a month without proper attention, that it took everything I had to tolerate 80 minutes of massage.

Nevertheless, let's briefly look back at each race I've neglected to fully review:

First, Lake Stevens 70.3 looked much better when both eyes had contacts instead of just one. I remember passing the 5mile marker, thinking back to last year, at which time I was still scratching at my eyeball, wishfully thinking that if I could just find my contact, I'd significantly decrease my chances of flying off the road while trying to navigate one of the turns. I never found it because it was still hiding in my swim goggles back in T1.

This year, however, I felt far more comfortable on the bike. The mist in the air caused more trouble for my sunglasses than it did by making the roads wet. In the end, I shaved off exactly 14 minutes from my bike split last year to set me up for a faster run off the bike, too. Even though I managed to run 3 minutes faster than last year to come in under 5 hours (a new PR), I barely missed a top 5 finish by 10 seconds.

In the end, the race felt bittersweet. I'd PR'd my half IM time by over 5 minutes, but I still fell short of an age group podium finish.

Photos by Craig Thorsen




The TriFusion crew would take second place in the
TriClub competition! (Not pictured: David Dennison).
The frustration would continue in my second race, the CDA Scenic Challenge, Olympic Triathlon. I raced back on the bike from a mediocre swim to put me in the top three overall, only to lose my podium finish on the run. While I finished 1st in my age group, I felt most satisfied that I'd finally overcome that tough bike course by beating last year's time by over 4 minutes.

Photo by Bryan Rowe.
Finally, my summer wouldn't be complete without an open water swim event. Having done this swim last year, I looked forward to another go-around this year. However, once out in the middle of Lake CDA, I realized just how choppy and relentless this lake could be. The water conditions this year made last year's look pristine. Yet the choppy water didn't overshadow the fun event itself. From the ferry ride over to the lounging by the lake with breakfast afterwards, the swim was well worth it. I felt satisfied by a time that mirrored my Ironman pace.

The view from the shore after our finish.
Thankful to be done!
Now, I look outside the window to see it's raining in beautiful Whistler, B.C. I have a 40 minute run and a 3 hour bike ride lined up, both of which Bryan and me plan to do on the IM course. So far, we've felt nothing but admiration for this place. I will likely find myself in line to sign up for next year on Monday. More on that later!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Call me Ironman


I wish I could stop and rewind the video of the last 4 days. Truth be told, the excitement in the days that follow an Ironman almost rivals the incredible emotions of the day itself. Perhaps this is why every attempt—up until now—to sit down and organize my thoughts on paper has proven fruitless. Too many thoughts, too many memories struggle for attention in an attempt to claim the spotlight of a day filled with highlights.

I look down at my hands and realize I still have them both. Each still exhibits 5 fingers. My feet still work, and every single toe still has its toenail. I remember once hearing that racing an Ironman will shave off about 2 years of your life. I guess after finishing, I thought the loss would be a little more tangible. Sure, my muscles screamed with every step I took. My abdominals seized with every inhalation. My gut rejected all my stomach contents when I got home (I thought I’d be sleeping on the toilet Sunday night). I’m still nursing a blister the size of an apricot on the bottom of my right foot.

My legs have finally recovered, making walking more manageable and descending the stairs a little less hazardous. I haven’t died from diarrhea, or broken anything to make my life any more difficult. The sunburn on my back has even started to fade into a nice tan.

Yet what scares me most about this wave of Ironman frenzy is the fact that, not 24 hours had passed since my 11 hour and 10 minute day of racing, and I was hungry for my next Ironman. I must be sick.
---
Rewind to 4 am, Sunday morning

Shit. I really do have to get up. Yet it felt almost mechanical. I felt calm. Getting out of bed, finding my clothes, heart rate monitor, and timing chip I’d laid out the night before. Go upstairs to down my breakfast of sweet potatoes with toasted pecans and raisins, two hard-boiled eggs, and a banana with almond butter. My breakfast that I’ve eaten nearly every morning for the last year would certainly carry me through to the starting line, setting me up for a perfect day filled with Bonk Breakers, GU Roctane drink and gels, and chomps. I gagged a little just thinking about trying to stomach it all.

5am

Bryan dropped me off to be body marked. I searched for Adam and Jen Little, found them, and thanked them for the early well wishes and calm demeanor I so much desired on such a crazy morning. My new Quintana Roo Cdo.1 still hung from its rack, waiting to be loaded with nutrition and water. When all was done, I realized it was time to find Bryan and get ready to swim.

6:30am

The starting gun would sound in just 5 minutes. I looked down at my toes, then out toward the pros surfing across the water. They’d just rounded the turn buoy to start their second loop, and the Under 60 minute swimmers in the group ahead of me began to nudge forward. I followed. It wasn’t long before I heard the cannon, and we surged forward as those ahead of me walked, then ran under the arch, over the timing mat, and plunged into the water. Not too crazy of a start, I suppose. Yet not 400 yards out, I felt as though I’d swam right into a blender. I searched for the edge of the mass in an attempt to find clean water. I stayed right along the buoy line to avoid being hit on the head or pummeled from behind.
 
Lap one finished, just one more to go. I jumped right back into the water and found the group to be a little friendlier. I remember thinking how it would feel to have to start a second loop. The thing is, I wasn’t thinking. I was doing. You just do it.

Far more open water appeared in front of me, which allowed me to lengthen my stroke and finally feel comfortable in the water. Before long, the final turn toward the shore arrived, and Kathi Best screamed at me from the sideline as I ambled up to the transition area to have my wetsuit peeled.


Swim start. Photo by James Richman.
 10:45am

My stomach was not cooperating. Even as I made it back through town after riding an entire loop of the bike course, my stomach felt distended. The Tums I’d eaten back in transition hadn’t seemed to calm anything down, so I ate more Pepto Bismol I’d packed in my Bike Special Needs bag. I could think of nothing better to do as I rode toward town for one last out-and-back on the bike. Every 20 minutes, my Garmin alarmed me to eat. Every 20 minutes, I cursed that stupid alarm, humoring myself by thinking, what can I serve you today? We have an assortment of Bonk Breakers and Chomps? Would you like Roctane Drink with that order?

Despite my stomach, I ate religiously. I downed some kind of calorie source with water and hoped my discomfort would subside by the time I made it back to town. I passed far more people on the second loop than I did on the first, certain I’d paced myself appropriately. Yet every time I passed someone who’d succumbed to a flat, I said a little prayer that mechanical trouble wouldn’t slow me down.



Photos by James Richman.

1:30pm

I managed a relatively smooth dismount from my bike but nearly collapsed once on my feet as a started running toward my Run Gear bag. Volunteers motioned me to the tent to change while I passed the long line of porta potties. I couldn’t help but think the time I likely saved by peeing on my bike. No pit stop for me!

One girl dug through my bag and found my Pepto Bismol. Yes please! The other girl helped take my socks off so I could don clean, dry ones. She attempted to pull them on, only to have my hamstrings spasm.

The three of us worked together to get me to the ladies with sunscreen. I took inventory as they washed me with it. My Garmin was set to Run mode, and I began to waddle down the chute toward town, only to have my stomach clench with displeasure. I carried two Roctane gels in my hands. Come on, just a marathon to go. Sounds ridiculous, right? Just a silly MARATHON! You wouldn’t believe me, however, when I tell you just how reassuring it was to say that to myself.

I passed my parents and Bryan as I ran up Sherman Avenue. Virginia Knight, my biggest cheerleader, and Libby Kalkoske, my most wonderful massage therapist, urged me onward up the road. Oh Libby, you have no idea how much I need you! 

2:30pm

An entire hour had passed and I’d only just passed mile 6. Holy crap. By this time, I’d consumed one gel and used every aid station up until now for water and coke. My stomach was starting to feel better but my legs quivered with uncertainty, as it felt as though a spasm would delay my already slow progress any moment. How I love that coke! I am now quite certain that I most definitely prefer it cold and slightly fizzy. I cannot adequately describe the pure disappointment I felt upon downing warm, flat soda.

4:30pm

Photo by James Richman.
Mile 19. Just pluggin’ along. I’d resorted to the fact this run would leave me incredibly disappointed with myself in the end. I couldn’t help but feel the need to walk, and when I did run, I ran far slower than I had planned to. If I couldn’t feel any worse, thank goodness porta potties were planted at the Mile 20 aid station. It soon became apparent my stomach had started digesting food again. The only problem was, the outcome wasn’t all that pretty.

Saved by the porta potty, I continued through the turn-around for the final stretch toward town. Just 6 more miles, Meghan. Walk a little. Run a little. Sip some coke. Then water. Then coke again. Again, bless the aid station at mile 24 for its porta potties as well. I think they smelled a little better than the one at mile 20 did.

Roger and Jessi Thompson caught me with just 4 miles to go. I remember Roger asking how I felt. Just 4 more miles, Roger. I’ll make it. They drove on a little further, and I made sure my pace mirrored more a run than a walk when I passed them stopped at the side of the road. I also made certain that when I passed Haley Cooper-Scott and her cheering squad the second time, I’d also be running. The look she gave me at mile 8 (I was walking) could not have been any clearer coming from a professional. Without the least bit of empathy in her face, she looked at me and said, “Run, Meghan.”

At mile 25, Kathi and David Cole motioned me forward. Cathy Stephens waved me forward, too. Steve Anderson found me while on his bike. “Come on, Meghan. You’re almost there.”

I ran.

5:30pm

I had just passed the Y in the cones that steered runners either right to go out for a second loop or left toward the finish line. This time around, I’d earned my trip to the left. Upon heading toward that final turn onto Sherman Avenue, how fitting the last person I should meet would be the guy who encouraged me to sign up for this race: Craig Thorsen. I’m doin’ it, Craiger! I’m doin’ it! And with that, a final handclasp, a last pat on the back, I made that final turn…
---
…Sherman Avenue. Last year while spectating, I remember looking down the street and wondered how it would look when I ran down it as a participant. I smiled. Spectators lined the streets as volunteers waved me onward toward the finish line. As I neared the chute, I saw Lora Jackson and Russ Abrams off to my right. I waved, smiled, and pumped my arm thinking: Yes…I’ve done it. I neared the finish line, and it felt as though people quadrupled in numbers. The bleachers were buried under hundreds of people, and all I had left to do was put one more foot in front of the other. My parents and Bryan stood off to my left, my mom’s face flushed with excitement. I’ll never forget the smile on my dad’s face. Bryan stood out in his bright green shirt, my unwavering companion in this life of Ironman training. Now, the finish line was all that remained. I barely heard Mike Riley scream my name as I collapsed into Adam’s arms. My day was done. Call me Ironman.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Just 5 more days: Ironman CDA


For those who know me, you'll never find me sitting on my ass doing nothing. I’ve done about all the things a girl could do in the kitchen (dinners are prepared three nights in advance…) I even found myself peeling oranges because I had no other fruit to cut up. My only explanation is that, food that is ready to eat is food more likely to be eaten. I've moseyed around the yard, pulling weeds and tending to the vegetable garden. Since I have nothing left to do, I thought I'd write a little something for you instead. (By the end, you'll likely have suggestions of things I can do). 

I still remember 15 days ago when I found comfort in the fact I could still count the number of days to Ironman with my fingers and my toes. It leaves me a little disconcerted that I no longer need my toes or the fingers on my left hand. Only five fingers remain.

For the last few days, a number of events have preoccupied my time. I volunteered at the TriFusion Kids Triathlon by setting up on Friday, only to parade all the kiddos through transition the following Saturday morning. Later that afternoon, my family accompanied me to Cheney to watch me graduate (FINALLY!) with my Doctorate degree. I don’t think the sun could have beat down on Roos Field any more strongly than it did Saturday. My fellow classmates and I roasted underneath our black robes and felt doctoral hood.

Sunday, I ran my last longish (1-hour run), swam my last longish (1.2-mile swim), and enjoyed an afternoon recovery bike ride along the Centennial Trail. Today marks the 5th day out from Ironman Coeur d’Alene.

While I’m on the downward slide of my 3-week taper, I allowed myself an early morning ride this morning. After last night’s thunderstorm, the fresh, clean smell wafting from the verdant forests of Riverside State Park helped me forget about the road grime that splashed up onto my jersey and legs. Never mind the fact I’d washed my bike last night (having nothing better to do). I had plenty of time to clean it up again this morning when I was finished.

I seem to be handling this taper without too many qualms. Perhaps my nerves are a little vexed, my mind a little uncertain, my muscles a little confused. Sure, I’ve cried more times in the last two weeks than I can remember crying in a 5-month span. What’s scarier is not knowing exactly why tears form in my eyes. All I know is: Sunday, I will run a race I swore I’d never do. I will showcase a body hardened by over a year’s worth of training. I will rely on the cheers, encouraging words, and fist pumps from a crowd filled with family, friends, and people simply inspired by the sport itself.

Join me in Coeur d’Alene this Sunday, June 23. When you see number 302, tell her to keep moving. Encourage her to stay within herself. Remind her she signed up for this out of her own aspiration. Tell me to breathe.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Breathless

When I look back at the past week, I feel as though I need to sit down and hang on to something sturdy. One week ago today, my parents and I flew down to Colorado Springs to watch my brother, Ian, graduate from the Air Force Academy. To say we felt “proud” is an incredible understatement, especially when we thought of all the times we prayed for his success in the face of difficult tests and physical measures. Heck, if he wasn't flying them, he was jumping out of airplanes!


Over 1,000 graduates in this year's class. It was pretty
overwhelming to watch them all march out onto the
field.
In the midst of all the pomp and circumstance that surrounded Ian’s graduation, I couldn’t help but feel slightly uncomfortable with leaving the predictable and structured life of Spokane I’ve come to adopt in the face of an impending Ironman that now stands less than 20 days away. Leaving for Colorado during the biggest weak of my training—my peak week—made me wonder if the “balance” people have encouraged me to incorporate in my life was really the best idea at this time. Yet being the pre-planner than I am, I managed to lie out a 20-hour training week that included daily runs with my dad and multiple trips to a nearby YMCA to use their pool and spin bikes.

A sampling of my mom's planning. Ever seen a
training plan like this?
Mom helped me by writing out an itinerary of the trip. She broke up each day into 1-hour increments, filling in the details with regard to when we needed to leave the hotel for certain activities on the base, when we’d likely be back, when we needed to meet family and friends for dinner, and (bless her) when holes in our schedule would allow for a quick hour of training.

Dad and I ran early in the mornings before most of the crew had even woken up; he drove me to the YMCA so I could fit in swims and time on the spin bike later in the afternoons. If trying to juggle family time with training wasn’t fatiguing enough, then training at 7400 feet of elevation certainly left me gasping for air! I didn’t notice it as much during our runs, but I soon realized more frequent breaks after shorter meter intervals in the pool would be necessary.

Least to say, finishing what I set out to accomplish down in Colorado felt incredibly rewarding. I did well balancing time with family and friends, celebrating Ian’s graduation, and maintaining a consistent training schedule with the help of my mom and dad. I may not have had enough time to reap the benefits of training at altitude, but judging by the way my long training days this past weekend went, I think mentally—if not physically—those four training days made me stronger.

I arrived home Thursday afternoon and, upon returning home, took my overly excited pup, Maci, for a much-appreciated run. We both enjoyed the cool, crisp evening air and warm sunshine as we ran through the woods of Riverside State Park. Friday morning, Bryan joined us for another run that instead, was laced with early morning bird chatter and the fresh smells of morning that only trees, flowering shrubs, and grass could create.

My greatest companion. She will go anywhere and do
anything with me. She may run 18 miles through the rain,
but she would much prefer to soak in the sunshine while
laying on my lap. 
To round out my longest training week to date, Bryan and me rode the Ironman CDA course on a mild, slightly overcast Saturday that left me incredibly happy with the way my body performed and responded to the nutrition plan I have come to adopt. Let’s just say I would be incredibly happy if race day could feel as good as Saturday felt. I rode my new Quintana Roo Cdo.1 Race bike; a fast, slick race horse that I’ve been getting to know for the past three weeks. Thanks to Bryan’s help adjusting the rear derailleur, it shifted and performed without a single hitch (as did I).

Finally, yesterday we drove out to run three loops of part of the 24-hour mountain bike course. I still tell Bryan: if we’d only started an hour earlier, we likely would have missed the extraordinary deluge that left all three of us—Bryan, Maci, and me—completely soaked to the skin. Out of the three of us, Maci looked the least bit happy. She couldn’t figure out why us idiots would go out for another loop when the car sat in the parking lot, offering refuge from the rain. Being the loyal pup that she is, though, she trailed behind and worked hard to “enjoy” yet another romp through the woods.

Eighteen miles, a load of soaking, dirty, smelly, running clothes later, we headed home to take warm showers (Maci included), eat a filling meal of steak and eggs, peppers and onions, and potatoes before heading out for one last training bout: four loops around Bear Lake.

We cajoled a fisherman to let us by his lines when he told us swimming wasn’t allowed on his side of the lake. We slipped into water that felt colder than last time. We busted out four loops around the lake even as dark clouds threatened us from the north. After just over an hour, my 20-hour week was finished.

When all is said and done, the “hay is in the barn.” I have nothing left to give. What is shall be. Now, to finish my internship this week, to graduate with my Doctorate degree the following week, and to feel fully recovered the week after that. So THIS is the life of an Ironman. Just give me a second...



…I need to catch my breath.




More pictures from an eventful time down in Colorado. Again, I couldn't be more proud of everything Ian has accomplished.
Ian is left-most in the front row.
Graduation day, marching out onto the field.
Ian and Jessica Bower, his beautiful girlfriend.



With Aunt Tamara and Uncle Bill.
Family.






Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Priest Lake Spring Festival Half Marathon





I found myself gazing out over the clear, translucent water of Priest Lake. My feet moved to the rhythm of my breathing, and if it weren’t for the tangible impact I felt of them hitting asphalt, I never would have known I was running. The cool air smelled fresh, as if no one yet had moved through what the trees and flowering bushes had worked all night to revive. A long time had passed where I have found the opportunity to escape and explore my surroundings with something other than my eyes.

Yet I looked ahead. Bryan Rowe didn’t know he ran just 50 yards ahead of me. At the starting line, I had told him to go on ahead, as I had plans to run my slower goal Ironman pace. However, I realized during our 2-mile warm up that my legs had some spunk in them. The only problem was, for the last 3 months, I’ve been walking a fine line between running too much, too soon, too fast and risking further injury to my knee.

An out-and-back course on paved roads with a few
hills to make your lungs scream a bit.
After the starting gun, I kept looking down at my Garmin to find the pace I wanted to run. Even after 4 miles had passed, I still wasn’t running slow enough. I told Bryan later, after the run: There is something about me and a 7:30-min/mile pace. Running anything slower than 8-min/miles feels too slow, while anything faster than 7-min/miles feels nothing short of uncomfortable. By the 5th mile, I’d relinquished the reins to my legs and ran at my 7:30-min/mile pace, which ultimately allowed me to catch Bryan. Just know, Meghan, this won’t work in an Ironman.

Nothing quite compares to running a half marathon course that makes you feel as though you’re on a long, scenic trail run. Unless you have the opportunity to run with that person with whom everything feels so perfect. Just like in the Tri Cities Marathon last year, it suddenly occurred to me by mile 7 that if you’d have only had a recording of our run, you wouldn’t have known two people ran together. Perhaps our staggered breathing might have given it away, but by the cadence and timeliness of our footfalls, you would have only heard Bryan’s feet. That’s because mine weren’t hitting the ground.

I took inventory of my body. Everything felt healthy and appeared to be working normally. The 5.5-hour ride the day before rattled my gut a bit, but nothing felt as though it would escape either end…yet.
Two women had the lead ahead of me, one of which I could see. I knew that while I had already failed to run the pace I had initially set, I could not forget the purpose of this “race.” I did not come up here to win, but to run a steady, constant effort at a pace that slightly pushed my limits. I certainly could not afford to hurt my knee any further. So I maintained my pace and enjoyed the views over the lake, smell from the woods, and cool breeze on my face.

Bryan and me passed the 10k turnaround point, and then we came upon the 5k turnaround. Here, I met up with a number of kids out to push themselves harder than many of them ever had. One little guy ran up to me and stuck with my pace until we’d just ran up the final hill toward the finish line. Another girl stopped running just ahead of me; we only had about 100 yards to the finish. I urged her onward, and she proceeded to catch me, run with me, then pass me after the final corner to the finish line. That a girl!

I by no means set a PR. I had no intention of doing so. What I did accomplish means far more to me at this point in my training. I ran faster than I should have, but didn’t suffer for it. I enjoyed the perfect run with a training partner who continually pushes me to be better, simply by keeping me company. I had the chance to participate in a race set in the most scenic of settings, the most friendly of small lake towns.

Third overall woman and 2nd place age group awards
to round out the day. Not bad for a training run!
 
Bryan enjoying some wood furniture made by one of the
vendors at the Spring Festival after the run.


Monday, May 6, 2013

A flip of a coin: St. George 70.3


Sitting on the plane, thinking about what I hoped to do this past weekend at Ironman St. George 70.3, I inevitably thought about everything I had working against me:
  1. This race is notorious for terrible weather conditions. The extended forecast predicted a day filled with sunshine, 86 degrees for the high, and mild winds of no more than 4 mph. Yet weather conditions can change in an instant; remember last year’s Boise 70.3?
  2. My new Quintana Roo Cdo.1 Race arrived to Fitness Fanatics earlier this week, but because I didn’t have the opportunity to test it out, I decided to forgo the chance to race on a fast, fancy bike. I opted to have Jim put the race wheels on my Seduze instead.
  3. Finally, how could I successfully run in a race of such touted difficulty when I haven’t had the chance to run consistently since the last month has required me to rehabilitate my knee? I fully intended to either 1) race the swim and bike legs, and then walk the run, 2) jog the course at a pace far slower than anything I’ve ever run, or 3) feel better than I’d hoped and walk-run as long as I could keep my knee pain at bay.

This race would be a test of my ability to hold back, to walk the fine line between participating and pushing too hard to cause re-injury. This race would be a mental battle with myself; a test to see how well I could stomach sticking to my plan of self-conservation while every other woman passed me. This race would likely leave me disappointed and slightly injured no matter how careful I tried to race.

Then I found a penny. Heads up.

The entire trip to St. George appeared to depend on the flip of my coin. Heads: Ronnie, Bryan, and/or me experienced a strong stroke of luck. Tails: the circumstances didn’t quite play to our favor. The weekend panned out like this:

Tails: All of our flights were delayed at one point or another. Bryan and me received notice at check-in that, due to construction on the Las Vegas runway, our flight that was supposed to leave at 11:40am was delayed by 2 hours. This threw a wrench in our plans when we were to meet Ronnie, who already planned to arrive well before us.

Heads: Our flight’s delay improved from a 2-hour delay to one of just over 30 minutes. We were back on track.

The view as we made our way into St. George.
Heads: The bikes made it through security without any damage. (If you’d have seen the amount of pipe insulation Bryan used to shroud his bike, you might have thought it didn’t stand a chance of anything touching it.) The security personnel who inspected them did a decent job of putting everything back into our boxes just as they’d found it.

Heads: Ronnie didn’t know that his decision to purchase extra insurance for our rental car would be the best decision of the entire trip. It turned out that, while driving the bike course Friday, a man in a white truck sideswiped our van in an effort to avoid completely rear-ending us. No worries: the bikes sustained no damage. The bike’s riders weren’t injured, either.

Tails: Friday morning’s practice swim in Sand Hollow Reservoir turned out to feel far colder than what any of us predicted.

Heads: Race day morning arrived with clear skies overhead. We felt virtually no breeze to speak of, and mild temperatures further encouraged our pre-race outlook for the day. My feet were pleasantly surprised by what felt like a slight increase in water temperature from the previous day. Upon starting off with the wave of 20-29 year olds, I felt light and buoyant in my Blue Seventy Helix wetsuit. I surprised myself with balls I didn’t think I had when I started out in the front of my wave, kicked it into high gear to avoid the mass commotion in the back, and rallied to find the bubbles of a girl just ahead of the open water I had laid out in front of me. I pursued her the entire swim, sticking like glue to the buoy line, rounding the corners with ease, and pushing it in to the finish. I heard Bryan yell out my name as I flew up the incline to my bike.

Sand Hollow Reservoir. This year, we were blessed with calm,
temperate water. Thank goodness.
Heads: Wetsuit off, socks, shoes, and helmet on, I busted out of transition in just over two minutes as I approached Bryan and Ronnie waving their arms just outside the chute. With a thumbs up and a “Get after it,” I headed out on one of the most scenic, challenging courses I have raced.

Heads: The hills I encountered in this bike ride didn’t bother me. Through all my training, I’ve come to realize I prefer climbing rather than trying to maintain a constant effort on the flats. Each hill presents a challenge of its own, and I usually achieve a significant mental boost by passing young guys on all the hills. This course presents hills of a steadier, gradual variety, epitomized by the final 5-mile climb at an average 5% grade up Snow Canyon.

Thank you, Quintana Roo, for supplying me with my new
bike. I may not have had the time to race on the new one,
but the race wheels sure felt fast on my old one!
Heads: A longer climb means a greater opportunity to pass more people. With that excitement, I posted a personal best bike split that beats my previous time by more than 15 minutes.

Tails: The long climbs encountered on the bike course weren’t confined to the bike course.

Heads: I came into transition off the bike after just having busted my butt to pass the leading 25-29 year-old woman ahead of me. Yet she beat me out of transition. I followed her up the first long hill out of downtown at a steady clip that I knew was too fast, but I wanted to gain a little bit more ground on her before I settled into my desired pace.

Heads: I caught up to her, kept up with her, and eventually overtook her by the first mile. My enthusiasm began to slowly build, as my left knee had decided to cooperate and felt great heading into the first major climb at mile three.

Tails: The small muscle spasms in both my quads, just over my kneecap, weren’t ceasing. I pictured myself succumbing to spasms that would leave me hogtied on the side of the road while I watched my competitors zip by me. I also couldn’t stomach racing so well to this point, only to walk/hobble/limp the final 10 miles.

Heads: The Roctane gels I consumed with every chance I had postponed disaster, mile by mile, until I realized I had just three miles left to burn.

Heads: Still, no knee pain.

Tails: The quick outshoot of an out-and-back before the final mile of downhill finish really sucked. To have finished all the climbing, only to be presented with one last punch to the gut, really didn’t feel fair at the time. My legs noticed, too. The spasms that had stayed confined to my quads suddenly spoke out from my right hamstring and calf. Again, visions of me having to pull off to the side of the road and watch the lead I’d created disappear, flickered through my head.

Heads: I prayed quite possibly my 73rd prayer of the race. I rallied. I flew down the homestretch to the finish line. I crossed it in a time I thought untouchable given the nature of this course. After 5 hours, 2 minutes, and 24 seconds, I smiled, walked over to the fountain in which every little kiddo was playing, and stood with outstretched arms as the water soaked me from head to toe. I felt like I was in the final scene of an action movie. I had conquered one of the hardest courses in the Ironman 70.3 circuit. I further earned the opportunity to compete in another of the hardest courses, Ironman Vegas.

Jackpot: The entire weekend itself. Bryan and Ronnie might possibly be two of the most hilarious travel partners known to man. We gave each other the support we all needed to get through a tough weekend, and we made the most fun out of every opportunity that we had.

 

I am grateful to Fitness Fanatics for helping me get all of my bike needs situated in a small window of time. I may have missed out on an opportunity to race my new bike, but I had all the help an athlete could ask for from some of the nicest people so I could be as best suited to race as possible.

Both Therapeutic Associates and Johnson Orthodontics helped fund my way down to race in St. George. Without their contributions, I never would have had the chance to put my training to the test. I look forward to working with them in the future to further represent them and all the great things they do for their clients.

Finally, other athletes from Spokane had phenomenal races, too.

Bryan finished in 5:25:15.
Ronnie finished in 5:14:46.
Jayne Anderson in 6:31:39.
Troy Nelson in 4:39:31 (Headed to Vegas World Championships).
Shaun Endsley in 4:53:25.

Pizza is my new pre-race food. It's also my post-
race food. Can't go wrong with pizza.