My Worst Nightmare Comes True…..

It’s odd how for a couple of weeks now I have been debating returning to my blog.  Well it looks like that time has come, not quite for the reasons I would have hoped, but nonetheless.

Since the Ironman I’ve been taking it much easier then when I was training for the event (and the scale sure does show it, sigh). I’ve enjoyed the lack of pressure though to follow a schedule. I have learned though that I do much better when there is a plan to follow. I’ve run two marathons since the big day…. The Steamtown Marathon on in my current residence (Scranton, PA) and the Atlanta Marathon (took advantage of being in Atlanta for work and stayed the weekend). I definitely had some challenges during both races but really just tried to enjoy the day and not care about my time. Both times ended up being fair given the challenges that the day held. I was just happy to finished my 12th and 13th marathons and add another medal to the collection!

This past week I decided I really wanted to start getting back in it and knock off a few of these pounds I had put on. Monday I hit the treadmill at the gym for a few miles (which I never do) but it was late after work by the time I got back and I also wanted to do some lifting at the gym. Tuesday morning I woke up early to hit the streets of Buckhead (part of Atlanta) near my hotel. It was still dark out but there was a ton of other runners and cyclists out on Peachtree Road. I caught an awesome sunrise at the end of my run as well! That same day after work, I hit up a local Planet Fitness to spend some time on the Arc Trainer. I also did some weights after as well as some ab work (even though you would never know lol). Wednesday morning I had to be at work early so a morning workout was just not in the cards. I thought I would force myself to workout when I got back after work, but I just couldn’t help but passing out in my bed. I was so exhausted. I went to bed at 6pm that night and pretty much slept until my alarm went off the next morning. Knowing that I hadn’t gotten a work out in the day before, I had my alarm set for 5am.

At about 5:30 am I threw on my running clothes and laced up my sneakers. I was wearing a pair of black Lululemon shorts and had on my bright yellow race shirt from the Steamtown Marathon which was designed to honor the victims of the Boston Marathon. I LOVED that shirt, one of my all time fav run shirts. I left my hotel room and started to head to the elevator. I got half way down the hall and realized I still had my engagement ring on and debated whether or not to go put it back in the room. Although I was in a relatively safe part of town, I still thought I shouldn’t risk it. I went back to my room and put it in the room safe. Ok, I was ready now. I took the elevator down to the lobby and walked outside. It was obviously still dark, which I expected, but what I hadn’t expected was the ground was wet. It clearly had rained over night and was still misting a little. I debated to myself going back up to the hotel gym and running on the treadmill. I remembered how much that sucked on Monday and told myself I was already outside and to toughen up and go. So once that pep talk was complete, I turned on my Garmin and waited for the satellites to acquire.

At 5:43 I hit the start button on my Garmin and headed down Lenox Road towards Peachtree. That entire stretch is uphill and enough to get your heart pumping. I reached the top and made the left had turn onto Peachtree Road in front of the Lenox Mall. I then approached the intersection. The intersection where my worst nightmare would come true. I was about .65 miles into my run and my guess is about ~6 minutes. It all happened SO fast but I will share what I do remember. It was a long intersection in front of the W hotel. The intersection had a crosswalk and a sign to indicate when it was the pedestrians turn to walk (this is a heavy pedestrian area). I looked up and saw I had the white walk sign, I also glanced both ways in the intersection and there was no sign of any vehicles. I entered the intersection and I’m pretty sure I made it at least half way through the intersection before BOOM! I honestly had no idea what had just happened. I felt a huge thud, and heard one too. I soon realized what was happening and that I had been hit. I smashed my head and then rolled off the car onto the road.

I don’t think I lost consciousness but a lot of things are still pretty fuzzy. A guy jumped out of the car and started yelling. I was already in tears and just trying to process what had happened. I remember standing there with my phone in my hand (which I always try to run with just in case) and trying to unlock it and call 911. The guy kept saying it’s ok, it’s ok, you are ok. I clearly knew I was not and kept trying to dial 911. He kept trying to touch me and I kept pulling away. I was definitely hysterical and he tried to calm me down but I had zero interest. I think I now know why I wasn’t able to unlock my phone, i kept dialing 911 as my unlock passcode rather than the actual passcode. It never phased me to hit the emergency button, clearly I was shaken up and not really thinking logically. I remember the guy kept telling me to get into his car and wait. I was at least smart enough to know that wasn’t a good idea. He kept asking and asking and I kept yelling no. I wasn’t about to get in a car of a guy that just hit me so he could drive my body away and dump me in a ditch somewhere (my thoughts at the moment). In true endurance athlete fashion, I remember then reaching down to stop my Garmin from recording my run (because obviously my time mattered, lol).

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Evidence of my epic fail of a run :(

I was thankful then that a couple of cyclists riding by stopped. I believe they are the ones that finally called 911. The one cyclist brought me off the road over to the sidewalk to sit and wait. He really tried to calm me down, which was no easy task. Especially as I looked down and saw my shirt covered in blood. I then touched my head and it was completely soaked in blood. It was then that I realized I was severely bleeding from my head. My hand, wrist, and arm were pretty scraped up too from where I finally hit the road. The kind biker told me to stop touching because it was only getting me more worked up. A few other runners had stopped too by now and were standing there looking at me. Eventually someone went to the hotel and got me some towels to wrap around myself to try and keep warm. I was really starting to stiffen up and the pain was really becoming unbearable. While we sat there waiting, the cyclist asked me if there was anyone I wanted him to call. I said Jason and dialed my phone for him. He told Jason I had been hit by a cab while running (I definitely don’t remember it being a cab, in fact I couldn’t even begin to tell you what the vehicle looked like, other than it was a car). Jason remained very calm when he handed me the phone and he asked if I was ok. He told me to stay calm and follow what they told me to do. I think this is when the ambulance arrived. (I never got a chance to thank the cyclists for all they did for me, I’m hoping that when I get the police report eventually I can figure out who they are so I can thank them myself).

The paramedic asked me my name and age and then moved me into the ambulance to look at me. After just a couple of minutes, he told me we needed to go to the Emergency Room and asked me if I had a preference. I asked him to use his own judgement since clearly I didn’t know any differently. I remember asking about a police report, but he told me the police hadn’t arrived yet. I asked if we could wait, but he informed me that I was heavily bleeding from my head and there was no time to wait. He said the police would eventually meet me in the ER with additional information. On the way to the ER I called my parents house to let them know where I was headed. My dad answered and I told him what happened, clearly they were still sleeping. Eventually he put my mom on who was very worried (by nature). I tried to calm her down. I even had the paramedic in the back of the ambulance talk to her to tell her I was going to be ok. I told them I would keep them posted as I knew more.

Eventually we arrived at the Atlanta Medical Center Emergency Room. I was wheeled into the hospital and suddenly surrounded by numerous cops with guns. Hmm, ok. I guess this is “normal” protocol in their ER. Please. Get. Me. Out. ASAP. I was wheeled into a room and a doctor came in to talk to me. He already knew what happened and starting to examine me. He pressed on all different parts of my body and I was in so much pain. He laughed and told me, if you think this is bad just wait until tomorrow. Awesome. He then started to move my hair around to look at my head. He responded with oh man. You got it pretty good (gee, thanks buddy). He was like we may need staples. Staples? in my head? Are you friggin kidding me? He said ok, well I can’t get to your head like this, so i’m going to get someone to shave some of your hair. Oh great, this keeps getting better.

In the meantime, a police officer came into the room and wanted to update me on the scene and provide me the case number. She was super nice. She told me that they had already reviewed the video camera footage on the scene to confirm that the driver of the car was at fault. It was nice to hear this confirmation, even though I was confident that I had the walk and there were no cars in sight when I looked. Now that I look back, I don’t even remember ever seeing any headlights coming or even hearing the car. Which is super weird since the streets were pretty calm given the time and I wasn’t listening to any music or anything. So weird. He must have really approached fast.

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I’m not sure why I thought a selfie shot was a good idea. I was going to send to Jason, but after looking at it, decided I looked awful…. Not a good idea :(

After some more time went by, a nurse walked in that had gorgeous long brunette hair. I was thankful to see that she would be shaving my hair because I knew she would understand the impact and be cautious, or so I hoped. I heard the buzzing sound of the razor for at least three minutes. If I told you I was FREAKING out, that would be an understatement. When she was done she showed me a handful of hair and told me she tried to take off the least amount possible.  i thanked her.

Later the Dr came back in to close the wound. Once the hair was removed, he was able to determine that the cut was longer rather than deeper. Because of this he decided against the staples (he said they would be more uncomfortable) and was going to stitch my head instead. Next thing I knew though, I heard him cutting. I instantly knew he was cutting more of my hair! I was like umm, hello? He said he needed to cut more because the cut went down further than what got shaved. He said the cut was pretty decent and just over two inches long. He kept telling me what a nice “goose egg” I had got. I should probably mention here that I have never gotten stitches before and this was about to be the first. Sigh.

He told me he was going to numb my head and I would feel a little pain. Well apparently my definition of a little and his are VERY different. After a few minutes he said ok, done. I was like done? That’s it? It’s over? He was like oh no and laughed. He then told me he was done numbing it and not stitching it. He hadn’t even started that yet! Ugh! So the stitching was awful and feeling the “string” going through my head as he pulled it tight was the weirdest feeling in the world, of and very painful. I swear it took forever. Then to make things even better, he was like, I will be right back, I ran out of string. WTH! Oh good, I will just hang out here since clearly i’m not going anywhere! So a few more minutes go by and then he starts back up again. Then another doctor came in and asked if he needed help. He said he was almost done. She then said, oh, I wasn’t trying to rush you. And I responded with, oh don’t worry, I am! Let’s get this over with! FINALLY he said he was done! I’m not sure how long it actually took but it felt like an eternity. Did I mention pain is not my thing? Nor needles? Yuck!

Since I mentioned I was going to fly home that day (my flight was already planned and at this point home was the ONLY place I wanted to be) the doctor said I needed to get a CT scan (this would also be my first). In addition, I got a tetanus shot as well. I again was sitting there waiting to be taken to the scan. At one point I lifted my head off the bed and looked backed. OMG…. there was blood everywhere that I was laying in. I nearly passed out. I started yelling for one of the nurses to come get rid of all of the towels and sheets. I must have yelled for five minutes. NO ONE responded. Mind you, I was the first room across from the nurse’s station. Finally this guy walks in and was like can I help you? I asked him to help me and then learned he was actually going to be the one wheeling me for the scans. He was so nice and helpful. I was so grateful.

Once we got to the CT room, I learned I would need to move from the bed onto the platform. WOW. I could barely move. I was so stiff and so sore. I suddenly understood the phrase “I feel like I got hit by a truck,” and yet it was only a car ;) The CT was pretty fast. He told me it would be up to an hour before the radiologist would read the results. He took me back to my room and gave me the remote for the TV. He was truly a blessing.

It wasn’t too long before the Dr came back and told me that the results from the CT were fine and that I could go home. He again told me how much worse the pain would be the next day and to take it very easy. He instructed me that I should get the stitches taken out in a week. I asked a number of follow up questions but he confirmed it was ok for me to fly home. I got up (very slowly) and took my bloody shirt with me and asked if I could take the blanket with me (oh and my bag of earrings that I had to take out for the scan). He said yes. I also asked if he could call a cab for me to take me back to my hotel. (I’m thankful I didn’t really know I had been hit by a cab because I probably would have been more hesitant to get in a cab again). The Dr brought me two numbers to call and I called for a cab.  I was then off to fill out the release paperwork.

This was an interesting process. I didn’t have my license. I didn’t have my insurance card. I mean, I have to imagine that happens, but it was like the end of the world here. Finally I was on my way and when I was done the cab was already waiting. When I stood up I nearly feel over. I was so lightheaded. I did not feel well at all. However, the only thing I could think about was getting home.

I got in the cab and told him he would have to wait for me to get my credit card once we arrived at the hotel. Again, he was less than pleased. Can’t a girl get a break? I felt like crap the entire drive back which took FOREVER because of the AWFUL Atlanta traffic. When we got there, I had an odd exchange with the valet guy, I learned more about this later. I slowly made my way to my room to get my credit card. Once I made it back downstairs and handed him my card, I was about to fall over. I told him I needed to go sit down. He told me to wait and I said I couldn’t. He then walked over and handed my card back. I was so frustrated with how un-accomodating some people were. Ugh. I sat there for a few minutes to pull myself together before I tried to make it back up to my room. I was in rough shape and I knew it.

I got back to my room and had about 90 minutes before I would need to head to the airport if I was going to make my flight. Given how I just felt, I had zero idea how I would ever make it through an airport. That is a lot of movement. I forced myself to drink some water and eat grapes thinking maybe I was dehydrated. I laid down for a bit but was hesitant about falling asleep while i was alone given the head injury I had. Before I knew it, it was time to pack my stuff if I was going to go. I sat up and really didn’t feel much better. I was so torn. I knew I was weak and wasn’t sure I could make it but I REALLY just wanted to be home with Jason. I decided I would try. It took me about 40 minutes to pack what should have taken 10 minutes. I also had to figure out what to do with my rental car. I will spare you the details on that one, what a mess, again, some people are just not helpful and accommodating.

I eventually made it to the lobby all packed up and hopped in a cab to head to the airport. I laid down in the cab because all of the bouncing around was just killing me. I quickly became exhausted while navigating through the airport, but nonetheless I made it. I had some help with my luggage since I had zero strength. I still can’t lift anything to this day. I was thankful for my first class upgrade that day. I was told by the Dr to ensure I told the flight attendant about my accident and where to find my emergency contact info in case something was to happen. Of course I then had to to tell her what had happened. She was so kind and brought me 6 pillows to stick everywhere. She was so kind. I was fortunate to have a nice guy sitting next to me that talked to em most of the flight to ensure I stayed awake. I eventually made my connection in Philly and was on my final flight home. I was glad to see a few familiar faces on that flight too which made me feel better just in case something was to happen.

When I got to the airport at home, Jason was outside waiting for me. I was sooooo glad to see him. As much as it hurt for him to hug me, there was nowhere else in the world I wanted to be in that moment. Seeing him made me grateful that not only had I made it home, but grateful for so much more. I was grateful that I was alive. I was grateful that I didn’t break any body parts. Although I was in so much pain and the pressure in my head was unbearable, I knew I was lucky. As my mom said, an angel was watching over me :)

Well, the Dr wasn’t kidding and Friday was very painful. I had a rough night and constantly kept waking up from the pain. My neck, shoulders, and back were in so much pain that no matter how I lied there, it still hurt so bad. I tried to get up and move around throughout the day but that proved to be a challenge. I was overwhelmed with so much love and support from family, friends, and coworkers. My support system is truly the best and I am so grateful. My phone was full of messages all day long, notes on Facebook, edible arrangements delivered from family and friends, and even flowers from work. That all really helped to put a smile on m face during some challenging moments. Every time that I wanted to complain about the pain, or cry when I found more hair that had been cut/shaved off, I thought about all of the kind gestures and couldn’t help but try to smile.

So why did I blog about this? Was it for sympathy? Absolutely Not. My goal was awareness. Awareness that every time we enter the road rather it be by foot or by bike, this is a real risk. It’s every runner and triathletes worst nightmare. But it happens. Unfortunately. It doesn’t make it right, but it sure makes it real. Do I wish I hadn’t gone for that run Thursday morning? Absolutely not. I was out doing something I love. Out trying to live a healthy lifestyle. Out to inspire others to chase their dreams while also being inspired by so many other athletes that I follow. I will not let that man that wasn’t paying attention that morning rob me of my dreams. He’s already taken enough, I refuse to give him more.

Love you all! XOXOX ~Jackie

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From my amazing coworkers :)

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The Big Day & A Special Surprise

WARNING: You may need a beverage in hand for this one…. It’s a long one!
And the alarm goes off. Hmmm 3:45. Awesome. Well the good news is I was out solid all through the night and I did manage to fall asleep at a reasonable hour. Oh and getting out of bed was made a little easier when I thought about what the day held. This was it. I have been training since March. Yes, it is now July 28th. I have had endless days of multiple workouts and early wakeup calls. Actually, I woke up earlier than this before to train in Orlando, so actually this isn’t too bad ;)
I had done a pretty good job of having everything for the morning prepared so that there was minimal things to think about. Of course, for the things that were left to do that I needed to remember, there was a list for that! My bike and gear bags were already in transition. I needed to take with me my bike pump to top off my tires, bike special needs bag, run special needs bag, morning clothes bag which would have my clothes for after the race as well, all of my stuff for the swim including my wetsuit, and my bottles filled for my bike to place in the holders. I put on my first set of race clothes that I planned to wear for the swim, my Garmin watch, my road ID, and my timing chip with a pair of flip flops. My family did a pretty good job of hustling to get ready as well before we all hopped in the car.
We had a quick drive to one of the parking lots where we would then take an even quicker bus ride down the hill to where all of the action for the day would be. When we got to the parking lot there was plenty of volunteers directing us where to park. It was still dark outside so we were guided by flashlights. I gathered all of my stuff and we hopped on the bus with other athletes and spectators. As we were getting on the bus it started to sprinkle. Hmmm well, this should be interesting I thought to myself. When we got off the bus I said good bye to my parents as they went to head over to the swim location to get a spot to spectate from. I told them I would see them once I dropped my stuff off in transition, etc.
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I headed over to transition just to learn that I had to go back on Main Street to get body marked first. I waited in a line of a couple people for a nice young lady to body mark me. She had super nice penmanship which is always a requirement for me! As I was waiting to be body marked I looked around me at all of the tired straight faces of all of the athletes. We all pretty much shared the same look. Once I got body marked I headed into transition to my bike. I pumped my tires to 120 psi one last time and put my bike bottles on the bike. I also realized that the sprinkling had stopped. Yay! I knew that rain was a real possibility for the day given the forecast. They called for temps in the low 70’s and scattered thunderstorms with an 80% chance of rain. If I rewind to Syracuse 70.3 when they called the race early due to thunderstorms, I couldn’t help but pray that the same wouldn’t happen today. My first triathlon we didn’t swim. My first half Ironman we didn’t swim. I was not ready to not be called an Ironman at the end of today because of Mother Nature. I was worried about rain on the bike course because of the steep fast descent into Keene. This would be even scarier on a wet road. I told myself that if it rained on the run, so be it, but just not thunderstorms so that the race would be cancelled. But again, I knew I had no control over this and I needed to focus on what I could control. With this is mind, I headed out of transition once I dropped my morning clothes bag off next to my other bags that were already there (run and bike).
Getting Body Marked

Getting Body Marked

I walked out of transition and met Jason at the meeting spot we has agreed to (thank goodness because there was so many people). At this point he had found my friend Matt. We walked over towards Mirror Lake Drive to find the bike special needs drop off bag. The volunteers were awesome in helping to facilitate and direct all of the morning activities. I handed my bag over and hoped that soon enough I would see it again. We then retraced our steps and headed further out on Mirror Lake Drive to drop off my run special needs bag. This was a bit further of a walk and this whole process of dropping off bags really took much longer than I had thought. I looked over to the swim area and already saw so many athletes in the water warming up with their wetsuits on. I was still a good distance from the area and carrying my wetsuit. Suddenly I felt behind. Once we reached the athlete split off I kissed Jason good bye and told him I loved him in case I couldn’t find him again before the start. At this point I had no idea where my parents were.
On My Way into the Mass

On My Way into the Mass

I started to eat my bagel and peanut butter realizing that it was already a bit later then I had hoped. Once I finished that I quickly put on my wetsuit, sunscreen, and body glide. I then realized I still had a bag of stuff and nowhere to put it. Shoot. I looked around for Jason and couldn’t find him. I asked some nice lady to borrow her phone so I could call Jason and have him meet me, which he did. It was also nice to see him one more time as nerves were really starting to kick in. I then heard them announce they were starting to move people out of the water and into the swim corrals. Sh*t! Time to get out of the water? I didn’t even get in yet! Now I am officially panicking and pushing my way through hundreds of people so that I can literally run into the water quick. I didn’t want to swim, but I wanted the water to get into my wetsuit so that my body could adjust to the temperature.  I had went with my sleeveless wetsuit to wear after the debacle at Syracuse 70.3 and feeling claustrophobic with my full wetsuit. I knew that I needed to get my arms wet and feel the water to feel comfortable. I made in quickly as I continued to keep fueling with a package of Honey Stinger chews. The majority of my fuel for the day was Honey Stinger products.  I no sooner got in the water, and got back out again. It was time to head over to my coral but first I was missing something.
I couldn’t start this race without saying goodbye to my parents and they were nowhere to be found. I again asked a random spectator to use their phone so I could text them. As I started writing the text all of the emotions that I had been controlling for days suddenly just all hit me all at once like a ton of bricks. As I wrote the text I wanted my parents to know that I loved them in case anything had happened. I’m a realist. I know that people die at triathlons, I have witnessed it first hand. While I have never let it stop me from doing them (I’d rather die doing something I love than the million other worst ways that people die), I still know that it’s real. Suddenly I found myself in tears writing the text. Partly knowing that there was a chance it could be a last goodbye but more so because I wished I had got to see them in person and say goodbye before starting the race. But at this point it was what it was. The spectators with me saw me get emotional and tried to comfort me. Another spectator wanted to take a picture of me to send to my mom, so she did. So great, as if my mom wasn’t already worried about me doing this (which I knew she was), now she’s going to get a picture of me crying looking scared to death. Nonetheless I felt better knowing that I had gotten to communicate with them. I thanked the spectators and went to get in line.
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It was now time to focus. Time to focus on my training. I am ready for this I told myself. With the new rolling start this year I had decided to put myself in the front of 1:30-1:45 corral. I had planned on swimming around a 1:30 and I wanted to be around those with similar paces to try and reduce getting swam over and kicked, etc. After getting in my corral it wasn’t long before the pros were off! It was about 15 minutes after the pros started before I made my way to the swim entrance and over the timing mat. This was it. 140.6 – Here I come! As I walked over the timing mat and entered the water I looked left and was able to spot Jason and Matt as well as both of my parents! Everyone was cheering and smiling and having them there to support me meant more then they will ever know. I slowly walked my way into the water a bit until the water was up to my shoulders and then it was go time. I put my face into the water and started to swim. It was a bit congested in the beginning but honestly it really wasn’t that bad. I’ve been at other swim starts that were way worse. I officially became a fan of the rolling swim, self-seeded swim start. I started a bit to the outside of the buoys but found myself making my way to the line. I had heard over and over again to stay away from the cord because it gets congested, but it was just so nice to not have to spot and I felt really comfortable. Stroke after stroke I just took the race one buoy at a time. One thing I did learn quickly from staying on the string was that this resulted in you coming head on with the giant buoys if you didn’t veer slightly off. I ended up taking a couple to the face but they really weren’t bad – just a bit of a wakeup call.
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We had 9 yellow buoys going out before hitting a red buoy to indicate the turn. There was then maybe 100m before the next red turn buoy to start heading back. The way back had I believe 9 yellow buoys before hitting another red buoy to indicate a slight turn around the dock to head to the swim exit. Ion the first loop of the swim I truly had one of the calmest most uneventful swims I’ve ever had and I was really enjoying it. There were a couple of times it go congested and I just crossed the line and swam on the inside for a few minutes until people passed by. This happened a bit more towards the end of my first lap as some of the faster swimmers were already coming around to complete their second lap since they had started much sooner. I was a bit jealous to think that they were completing lap two before I even completed lap one. But I didn’t let that bother me and I stuck to my race plan – calm and steady. Before I knew it I was headed towards the swim exit from lap one and I could hear Mike Reilly’s voice over the microphone cheering people on. Hearing his voice brought so many thoughts to my head and it was easy to get emotional. Again, I kept telling myself to stay focused on the moment that was in front of me. I swam as far as I could to the swim exit before standing up to walk out the remainder of the water to the beach. It was amazing to hear all of the fans cheering us on. The night before we had discussed me making a signal by forming a heart with my arms over my head as I got out of the water so it would be easier for people to spot me. Well, it worked because I was able to see my parents when I got out of the water! I was so glad to see them for those few feet that I walked along the beach before reentering the water for lap two. I looked around quick but couldn’t find Jason. I headed back under the inflatable swim start to get back in the water and could hear Jason screaming my name. I looked around back in the crowd but couldn’t see him anywhere. He continued to scream my name but again, I couldn’t find him. Then I turned my head and there was Jason – right next to me in the water standing with water up to his shorts! I was so happy and all smiles! He snapped a few pictures and I told him I loved him and then it was face in the water for lap two.
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For lap two I knew exactly what to expect from having completed lap one. I felt really good. I wasn’t tired and I was ready to get this swim done! I went back to focusing on one stroke at a time and one buoy at a time. The second lap was even calmer than the first lap as people were even more spread out by now. I felt good on the way out. On the way back I started to feel my arms getting a bit sore, nothing extreme but just sore. I wasn’t really surprised. 2.4 miles of swimming is A LOT of strokes. I have tiny bird arms. But I knew those arms could do it. On the way back I decided to try and speed up my stroke a bit knowing that I was on the homestretch. I later learned how apparently this really wasn’t true as my first loop was actually faster than my second loop despite me thinking and feeling the exact opposite. I guess I really was tired. Both of my swim loops were just under what I had predicted which I was thrilled about. I will say though on the second loop the buoys felt further apart although obviously that wasn’t true.
Soon enough though I was back to being able to hear Mike Reilly’s voice and I knew I was almost there. I headed in to the inflatable swim exit knowing that in fact this time it really was the exit. I had made it. Three years ago I couldn’t swim the length of a pool and now I had just swam 2.4 miles. Wow! As I got out of the water I once again saw Jason next to me in the water cheering me on. I was just absolutely glowing! The swim was now behind me! I “ran” over to the wetsuit strippers (apparently the PC term is now wetsuit peelers) and gladly sat down on the ground as they ripped my wetsuit off (if only it was that easy to put on). I thanked the awesome volunteers and headed down the chute for about a 2/10 of a mile run to transition. On the way I caught a glimpse of Andrea, Doreen, and Erica cheering for me! What a great surprise! I was just glowing at this point! I had also worn my Team in Training tri top so I had lots of people shouting the infamous “Go Team” at me. I remember thinking to myself I wish I had worn my TEAM gear for the whole race. I jogged up Mirror Lake Drive and headed into transition.
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It was very slippery running into transition from everyone before me being wet but the volunteers did a great job of telling us to slow down and be careful. I headed over to the rack that had my run bag, grabbed it, and then jogged over to the woman’s changing tent. This is the first race that I have ever changed clothes during or that even had a changing tent so I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. I will say, I wasn’t quite expecting what I had encountered.
I entered the tent and it was PACKED! There were women changing everywhere and all of the chairs that lined the tent were taken. There was barely even any space on the floor. I managed to find a tiny space to squeeze into as I opened my bag and started to get my stuff out. I took all of my wet clothes off and changed into my dry bike clothes. I was reminded of how hard it is to put spandex bike clothes onto a wet body. What a train wreck! I struggled through and had to not care that my naked butt was basically right on top of a number of other athletes. As I continued to struggle I could feel my body heating up. It was super hot and humid in the tent and just overall gross. I tried to remain focused so that I wouldn’t forget anything. Despite the overcast skies, I still applied sunscreen. I put my helmet on and threw all of the rest of my stuff in the bag to get out of there. I didn’t even put my bike shoes on because I just wanted to get out of the tent. I had to ask a volunteer what to do with my bag because I wasn’t sure where to put it. She took it for me. Once I exited the tent I swear it was instantly 15 degrees cooler. I stopped on the side and put my bike shoes on. I then headed down the chute slowly jogging as a volunteer announced my number so that another volunteer could grab my bike. When I got to my bike rack I saw that my bike was still there and a volunteer didn’t grab it, so I went and grabbed it myself. It was interesting to note that my bike was wet, apparently it had rained during the swim! I definitely had no idea but I was glad it had stopped! I was then off to the bike exit where I would hit the mount line and get on my bike.
Bike 6:49:03
Upon mounting the bike there was a steep couple of down hills with some tight technical turns so the volunteers told us to take it easy. As I came around the first turn I saw Jason and Matt cheering for me and taking photos! It was great to see them again since I knew it would be another 56 miles on the bike before I got the next opportunity to see them. I knew that the roads were wet and I needed to be cautious. I really just focused on one piece of the bike course at a time. I knew the course started out pretty simple until we got to Olympic ski jumps and would start doing some climbing. The climbing wasn’t bad because I knew what to expect. I followed what I was told and put the bike in a low gear and just took it easy and slowly spun up the hills. This really was my strategy for any of the hills on the course. Once we got past this it leveled out a bit before we would eventually make the steep descent into Keene. We hit the first aid station on the bike and my day almost quickly came to an end. There was a girl just seconds in front of me that went to grab a bottle from the aid station and completely lost control of the bike and hit the ground, hard, really hard. I swerved at the last minute to avoid hitting her and also being taken out. My heart was suddenly racing as I knew how lucky I was and I was so worried for her. I knew her day was probably over and I prayed that she was ok.
Heading out on the Bike

Heading out on the Bike

On the way out to Keene the views were just absolutely breathtaking. The water and the mountains were just amazing. The descents were fast but not too technical. On the first loop the course was a bit more congested so I braked a few times during the descents just to be on the safe side. I think I was also a bit extra cautious after still being shook up from the accident I just witnessed. There was actually a lot more cyclists around me than I had anticipated. I thought we would have been a bit more spread out by that point. I continued to walk myself through each part of the course and focused just on that section. I was very cognizant of my watch to ensure that I was drinking at least every 15 minutes and eating something at least every 30 minutes. My bike nutrition consisted mostly of Honey Stinger chews and Honey Stinger waffles. I also had Cliff kids bars which are delicious! I will admit it was hard to force myself to keep eating even when I didn’t feel like it, and I knew this would be a challenge, but I also knew how important it was to keep my energy up from fueling properly.
Before I knew it the pseudo flat part and descending parts of the course were over and it was time to start climbing. Now, I generally bike a good amount of hills because of where I live so I didn’t think any of the hills were too bad. Were they easy? No, but I was ready. There were some smaller hills spaced out a bit that people refer to as the “cherry’s.” After this section, probably around maybe mile 48-50ish I stopped at the aid station to use the restroom. It felt weird to get off my bike but I felt so much better. (I def haven’t mastered, nor even attempted, nor plan to, going to the bathroom on the bike. Gross. Don’t know how people do it).
Then the hills got a bit more intense and I asked the guy next to me if these were the “Bears.” He said he wasn’t familiar with the course. But just then, painted on the side of the road, it said Momma Bear. Alright these are the bears I thought to myself, just get through this and then lap one will soon come to an end. Momma Bear was annoying but nothing too bad. I didn’t think it was nearly as steep as some of the climbs at Syracuse 70.3. Next came Baby Bear which was barely a blurp. Once I got past that I looked ahead and saw Poppa Bear. Hmm, ok, this one was a bit bigger. However, suddenly I found myself feeling like I was in the Tour de France. Spectators had lined both sides of the hill and were literally screaming their faces off at all of us. I was so wrapped up in all of the support that I forgot I was even climbing. It was freaking incredible! Man, those fans were AMAZING! Before I knew it I had crested what I thought was the top and we made a quick right turn where I learned we were still climbing a bit. But the music was still going and the cheers were plentiful. I then truly crested the hill and knew the worst was over and I was headed back towards transition for lap two, but more importantly, to see my fan club first!
I headed up Mirror Lake and before I knew it I could see my entire fan club! They were just as excited to see me as I was to see them and all of the cheers brought a huge smile to my face! I suddenly got a huge rush of adrenaline! Simply amazing! They even had their signs out and were trying to sneak a few photos as well. I waved to them while being cautious to still watch my surroundings, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the moment. I continued on a few feet down the road to the bike special needs area. At this point a great volunteer greeted me with my bag. I refilled my bike bottles with the gatorade that I had in the bag (i’ve gotten use to what I trained with). I also attempted to take a few bites of a peanut butter sandwich I had made. My hope was to get some “real food” in me given all of the sports nutrition I had been eating. I also refilled the bento box on my bike with more honey stinger products and a bag of trail mix. At this point I welcomed some variety. I also pulled out of my bag a notecard that I had asked Jason to write something motivational for me so that I would have something to keep me going. I read the note – “Jac ~ You are almost there! So proud of you as your dream is about to come true…..” And then he drew an Ironman symbol on the bottom. I teared up reading it and got a bit emotional. The volunteer saw this and asked what I got. I said a few words to keep me going. He took the note from me and read it and was just as touched as I was. With that I set off to get back on the bike for lap 2.
Loop 1

Loop 1

Bike Special Needs Bags - 661

Bike Special Needs Bags – 661

Lap 2 fortunately was pretty uneventful. It was good in the fact that I knew what to expect from the course from the first loop, but I think that also made it feel longer. This time on the decent into Keene I was flying! I barely braked as we were far more spread out and I had plenty of space. My max speed I hit according to my Garmin was 39 mph! Wow! Pretty cool and scary all at the same time! I continued to keep forcing myself to eat and drink despite not really feeling like it. I also kept trying to get myself to focus on the moment. There were a few times on the second loop that the sky got really dark and prayed for the rain to just hold off a little longer until I got to the run. Fortunately, the rain did hold off. There is a section of the bike that is a longer out and back. On the way out I was starting to wear down a bit. It wasn’t necessarily that I was sore, but more so just kind of bored of pedaling. I told myself that when I got to the turnaround of that out and back section that I would read the notecard that my Mom had left me. When I hit the turn around point, which also had a chip sensor to capture my split, I pulled out the card from my bento box. It read “Dear Cupcake ~ We wish you the best of luck today. You are the sunshine of our life!! There is no doubt in our minds you will be an IRONMAN! We are here for you on your long journey! Keep your head up high. We love you!” More emotions over took me at this point and I stayed focus on just pushing through the bike.
With about 20 miles or so to go on the bike, I came up on a woman biking that had an Ironman Kona jersey on. I quickly recognized here as Tara Costa from the Biggest Loser. I had seen her at the expo a couple days before. I told her job job and what an amazing inspiration she is. She was super grateful and thanked me for my words. I pushed on past and was determined to just finish up the bike. I finally came up to the 100 mile marker on the ground. Wow! I have officially now completed a century ride. If you remember back, I had hit 98 miles on my longest training ride and decided to save the 100 milestone for a special day. Well, today was it and that moment was special. After that the last 12 miles dragged on for what seemed like forever. Sure, they are the hardest 12 miles of the course, but still. This time coming up on the Bears wasn’t nearly as exciting. With the threat of rain and people burning out from a long day, there was a A LOT less people out there cheering the second time. This time the hills were a bit more challenging due to fatiguing legs. I kept telling myself to push through them and then it was all flat before handing my bike over for good! I once again then headed up Mirror Lake Drive to see my family and friends! I knew exactly where to look for them as I figured they would be in the same spot as before. I saw Matt first as I came around the corner and he signaled for the rest of my family. They seemed kind of caught off guard to see me. I later learned that this was because my splits weren’t coming through in a  timely manner. In fact, they hadn’t gotten any of my splits from the second loop and had started to worry. They looked up and started cheering and I could tell they were glad to know I had made it back through 112 miles on that bike without incident. I was also beyond grateful for this as well. I waved again and headed about another 1/2 mile to a mile to transition.
Loop 2 - Almost There

Loop 2 – Almost There

T2 7:46
Coming around Main Street was amazing and all of the cheering was just incredible. When I pulled into the dismount area I was so grateful, and ready, to hand my bike off to a volunteer who would place it back on the rack for me (have I mentioned how amazing the volunteers were?!?) I then had another volunteer ask me if I wanted help getting my bike shoes off before heading into transition so I wouldn’t have to run with them on. Heck yea! He told me to put my hands on his back as he bent over and yanked my shoes off. Wow did that feel good to have those off! I thanked him and then headed for my rack to grab my run transition bag. I slowly jogged, grabbed my bag and then headed back into the dreaded changing tent. On the way I caught a glimpse of Matt and Jason across the street and yelled to them to get their attention! It was nice to catch a glimpse :)
Quick Glimpse in T2

Quick Glimpse in T2

This time upon entry into the tent it was a completely different scene! There was space galore and tons of open chairs. I got greeted by my own personal volunteer that helped me every step of the way. I cannot say enough amazing things about this woman – she was on top of everything. She dumped my bag out and helped me sort through what I wanted. She put my socks on top of my sneakers for me, she got out the food I wanted to eat, she even chipped my api belt around my waist once I was done changing my clothes. She rocked my world and was so helpful and patient. I was very grateful for a much smoother transition than what I had experienced earlier in the day. I took a few bites of a granola bar and then headed off! On the way out of transition I grabbed a cup of water to hydrate before hitting Main Street. It was now time for a marathon!
Run 4:46:13
The marathon wasn’t really what I referred to the run as. That just seemed too long. So I stuck to calling it a run. A run that had a few different segments to it. When I first came out on Main Street I saw all of my family again and I waived like crazy. I was seriously so full of smiles every time I saw them. No matter what pain I may have been feeling, it all went away when I saw them. I continued down Main Street which was lined with spectators. Such a great sight.
Heading out for the Run

Heading out for the Run

I then made my way around the first turn down to the aid station. My friends Andrea, Doreen, and Erica were volunteering at this aid station and I as able to see them. They were a bit surprised I think to see me so soon. They cheered me on and I remember Andrea telling me to take it easy and walk the rest stops and hills. It was a good reminder as I had a fast first few miles (I think I was just on such a high to be off my bike and finally be on the run, plus all of the excitement of everyone cheering). It wasn’t before long though that the cheering became more scarce as we headed deeper into the run. The aid stations were every mile and I tried to stop at every one to drink at least something. My ability to eat was getting more limited as my stomach starting catching up with me. I stuck with fruit (grapes and oranges) during the first loop of the run. I even tried to eat a couple of pretzels. On the first loop of the run I ended up running into random Buffalo guy that I ran close to during most of the Buffalo Marathon. Apparently we really did have similar paces, not just on the run. We laughed a bit and then proceeded on. I actually didn’t do as much socializing as I would have thought during the run. Everyone around me just seemed very focused. So, I went back to my focus of one mile at a time. It seemed like forever until we got to the turn around of the first out and back section, perhaps because of how lonely it was out there. I will say that the volunteers did a great job of calling us out by name (on our bibs) and cheering us on. That little extra boost really helped. Eventually we made it back to civilization and I was so glad to see people. I was happy until I saw this couple in the back of their car sitting on the ledge eating soft serve ice cream with rainbow sprinkles. What a tease! I joked with them that the sight was simply cruel and evil. I wanted ice cream! No such luck though and I pushed on.
I finally got to Main Street and saw my family. I told them all I loved them and stole a kiss from Jason. These guys were started to look tired too as it really is a long day. There is then a short out and back section on Mirror Lake Drive which is where the special needs bags are. I really didn’t need much from my bag as I hadn’t ate much. I grabbed some body glide and some licorice to give me a sugar boost. I also grabbed the other note that Jason had left me. It read ” …Now finish strong my Ironman and see me at the finish where I have something special for you! :)” It also said Jackie = (Ironman symbol). Aww how sweet! I instantly throughout of the Ironman necklace that I had picked out. So sweet! I must admit for a split second I thought maybe it was “THE Ring” but I thought there was no way he would write that on an index card. Additionally, we had talked plenty about this during the months leading up to the event when others questioned us getting engaged there, and Jason was passionate about it not happening. He didn’t want to take the day away from my accomplishment when I had trained for so long for that moment. Nonetheless I loved the necklace and was excited that it would be at the finish line for me!
Almost Done with Loop 1

Almost Done with Loop 1

My Inspiration

My Inspiration

I continued down the road to the turn around point before heading back towards Main Street. At this point of the road you could hear Mike Reilly’s voice announcing people as Ironman coming through the finish line. I teared up a bit knowing that I was one more loop away from hearing my name and my dream coming true. Wow. Crazy. At the end of the road it was marked on the road to head right to the finish line and left for the second loop. I wish I was heading to the right but I told myself soon enough. It also helped knowing that my family was over to the left and I would see them again. I went by them again as they were all smiles. I knew next time that I saw them would be at the Finish Line.  This time I headed off and noticed my friends had already finished volunteering at the aid station. I figured I would see them along the course and zoo enough I did. They were kind enough to jog with me for a bit and talk to me about the day and how I felt. At this point my stomach was really starting to feel like crap. All of the crap I ate all day was starting to catch up with me, “Iron Gut Rot” if you will. Andrea suggested trying to drink some Coke at the next aid station (which I eventually did but it didn’t really work for me – but I was willing to try anything at that point). I t was so nice to have their company for 5-10 minutes and then we said goodbye. I was then off on the lonely section again. I have to say at the this point I was ready for the run to be over. I really tried to focus on one mile at a time and just making it to the next aid station but my stomach was awful. One the second loop I didn’t eat anything. My stomach literally couldn’t handle it. I knew I was running the risk of bonking out from no energy, but at this point I knew I had enough time that I could walk and still make it to the finish line with plenty of time to spare. I finally made it to that first turn around and headed back. At this point it started to get really dark and eventually rain. The rain actually didn’t feel bad given my body being warm. I was just grateful that we had made it that long with no rain. At this point with about 7 miles to go I just hoped that it didn’t thunderstorm and they called the race. I had made it this far. I would finish. No matter what.
IM Decorated Front Lawn on the Run Course

IM Decorated Front Lawn on the Run Course

I tuned out for awhile on the run and just went into auto pilot. The second loop of the run contained a lot more walking than the first and my pace had slowed drastically. All of the miles that I had put my body through started to catch up with me. I then remembered that I still had my last note card from my mom in my belt. I pulled it out knowing that I could definitely use a pick me up. it said ” Remember there is always light at the end of the tunnel! Hopefully by now your journey is going smoothly. Think of happy moments. Keep your pace and don’t think about time, it’s not important. We will all be there at the finish line with open arms and tears of happiness! We love you!” Her words were exactly what I needed at that point and I pushed on while trying to smile. I eventually saw my friends again walking but I just wasn’t in a good place because of my stomach. They cheered me on and I tried to smile and push on. Eventually I made it back to the section that was more populated with spectators. I then eventually saw my friend Matt. I was so glad to see him as I needed to take my mind off of things. He jogged along side of me and I tried my best to hold a conversation with him despite my stomach hating me. I will say that having Matt next to me forced me to run a bit more than I would have if I had been alone – there would have a lot more walking. He told me that Jason was ahead waiting and that made me push on to get to Main Street. When i finally did see Jason I started to break down a bit and Jason saw it written all over my face. He told me to stay sting and stay focused and keep it together. I thanked Matt for running with me and told them both I would see them soon at the Finish Line. The “short” out and back on Mirror Lake Drive seemed like forever and was a  huge tease as once again I heard Mike Reilly’s voice. Soon enough I reminded myself, soon enough. Before I knew it I hit that turn around and was headed back. The spectators were great and the music kept me going. The rain had stopped awhile back but I hadn’t really noticed. I was clearly pretty out of it. As I once again reached that magic marking in the road of 2nd loop and finish line, I instantly smiled knowing that this was it. It was time for the finish line.
The Finish
As I veered to the right the fans were INSANE! Everyone was cheering and instantly every ache and pain I had was gone. Every long training day – gone. Every early morning wake up call – gone. I was overtook by emotions. This was it. This was what I had worked so hard for, for so long. My dream was real. This was it. I entered the Olympic Oval for that final 1/2 loop around the oval. The cheering, the lights, the photographers, it was all unreal. I came around the last turn and I saw the finish line!! Fortunately there was none right around me so the moment was all mine! As I came around Mike Reilly announced “Here she comes!   Jackie Stevenson from Mountain Top Pennsylvania…. Jackie…  YOU ARE AN IRONMAN! (Yes i’m sitting here balling my eyes out AGAIN typing this). I remember just taking in the moment. I could hear my family screaming for me but I couldn’t really see them because of the bright lights. I crossed the finish line and the “catchers” came up and grabbed me and walked with me. I burst into tears. It was real. It was true. Dreams do come true to those that work towards them. Hard work does pay off. I am an Ironman.
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Stevenson Ironman Lake Placid Results
The catchers put my medal around my neck (some pretty amazing bling!) They handed me a bottle of water. They asked me how I was feeling and I was still glowing. In that moment, nothing hurt – it had all vanished. They asked me what size finisher shirt I wanted and went over and grabbed it for me along with my finisher hat. They asked me if I was ok before letting me go on my own to grab my photo and food. I thanked them for everything as they congratulated me once again. I was still all smiles and just overtaken by emotions. I went and got my photo taken then went to scope out the food. They had pizza which had been my go to food while training for the Ironman. I grabbed a piece and took a bite before quickly being reminded that in fact my stomach still felt awful. I then caught a glimpse of my friend Brett and went over and hugged him. I gave him pizza as I’m sure he was starving and I had zero interest in eating. We chatted for a bit before I attempted to make my way out and find my family.
Once I finally figured out how to get out of transition, I looked around and couldn’t find my family anywhere. I then asked a nice guy if I could use his phone. We ended up chatting and oddly enough he knew someone I knew from the Scranton Running Company. What a small world. I used his phone to call Jason and then finally ended up spotting him. I hung up and headed over. My family was so excited to see me and I started to go through them one by one hugging them and thanking them for being there. I started with Jason’s family, then made my way to my parents, before ending at Jason. I was just so happy. My parents were so proud of me, it was written all over their faces and that meant the world to me. I eventually made my way to Jason who hugged me and kissed me.
He then reached in his pocket and pulled out a box. He told me “I hope I got the right one.” At this point I had been so distracted by everything that I had forgotten about what he wrote on the notecard. At this point my mind was still on the Ironman M-Dot necklace. He opened the box and I literally screamed. There it was. The ring I had dreamed of for the 7+ years that we had been together. He dropped down to one knee and asked me to marry him. We were both in tears at this point and I was just so completely surprised. I of course quickly rushed to say yes! Both of our families looked on as this special moment unfolded. He then took the ring out of the box and slid it onto my finger as it sparkled in the moonlight glow. It all happened so quickly. We grabbed each other and held each other close as we shed tears of happiness. It truly was perfect. We were officially going to spend the rest of our life together and I couldn’t be more happy. Our families clapped and cheered along with random people that were around us and had witnessed our special moment. One guy even whispered to Jason that he was making him look bad to his girlfriend. As I look back now, it was perfect. Everything about the proposal. It couldn’t have come at a more special time and created an unforgettable day that I will always cherish. Jason has always been my biggest supporter in all of my athletic endeavors and now I would have his support for a lifetime.
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We all gathered and took a few group pictures to cherish the special moment. It was then the conclusion of what had been a long and exhausting day for everyone. Jason’s parents headed to their car for an hour drive back to the hotel. I went and grabbed all of my stuff from transition which took a decent amount of time. Eventually I had all of my stuff and I made my way back to the shuttle to return to the car. There were no bikes allowed on the car so Jason was kind enough to walk my bike to the car. In fact, he ended up back at the car at about the same time we did. The road that our hotel was on was still closed due to the race (it was part of the run course). We ended up taking a back way to get as close to the hotel as we could and then park the car. We later went back at midnight to move the cars to the hotel. As we walked to the hotel from the car I saw the true athletes out on the course – the ones that were still going strong and pushing forward to the finish line. I cheered a good amount of them on before heading into the hotel. Their determination was truly inspiriting. I was grateful to have finished much earlier than anticipated and to be back at the hotel earlier than anticipated. At this time now I was starting to get hungry. I also knew I needed to eat or the next day would be rough. We ordered a few menu items to go from the Courtyard bistro before heading up to the room to unwind.
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One Last of Transition & the Finish Line

One Last of Transition & the Finish Line

My phone had exploded with messages. I was overwhelmed with all of the love and support from afar of people that had tracked me all day long on my journey. I had well over 100 messages between Facebook, Instagram, text messages, voicemails, etc. My sister had been an absolutely amazing supporter throughout the day. She thought I had my phone with me during the race, which I didn’t but kept posting awesome pieces of relevant inspiration. I knew she had wished she was there so that was her way of being part of the action. So thoughtful and greatly appreciated. Brett had also been posting updates to my Facebook page all day long including pictures that Jason had taken. There was lots of great comments that people left me. It’s funny. Sometimes when I posted about my Ironman journey on Facebook, or Instagram, or even my blog, I felt like people were sick of hearing about it. But really I didn’t do it to brag, I did it to keep myself motivated and hold myself accountable. So when I saw all of the kind messages and how many people told me I had inspired them, that was really the kindest feedback I could have ever gotten. This has ben a long journey, no doubt, but I have learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot about myself, and i’ve learned a lot about others. I’ve learned about who those people are that truly support me, and those that don’t. If I have convinced a single person out their to follow their dreams like I did, and not quit, and not doubt yourself, then it was all worth it. You really can do anything you put your mind to. And yes, I AM AN IRONMAN! XOXOXOXOXOXO
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The “Calm” Before the Storm

Yes, I know…. this post is long overdue…. Shocker! I have soooo much to write that the thought of sitting down to write this update has taken some time. Rather than completely overwhelming you with one post, I thought I would break it up a bit. I left off last with an early am Wednesday post after a sleepless night, so lets pick up from there up until Saturday evening. Race day seems worthy of its own post!

Wednesday

So Wednesday was just a normal day of working from home just trying to cram in a ton of last minute tasks before leaving for vacation. Sometimes it amazes me how much you can get done in a short period of time when you know you absolutely have to. After a kind of stressful day of that, I headed out to Harveys Lake with my friend Matt to get my training in. I had a 30 minute open water swim. It was a perfect day for it. Its amazing how much I have grown to enjoy swimming there. I would take that any day over laps in the pool. I stopped for ice cream on the way home with Matt to thank him for coming out to swim with me. Just chatting and relaxing helped to keep me calm before a full night of packing that I knew was ahead of me.

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Swim Done!

I posted in my last post how crazy all of my lists looked for packing. Well, putting it all together was even more crazy! It is amazing how much “stuff” you need to complete 140.6 and how much thought goes into it. A lot of stuff is “what if” or “just in case” but better to be prepared then wishing you had something. I made good progress though and felt confident that I was well prepared for race day stuff that I would need. However, when it came to packing other clothes for the weekend, I way overpacked. I just started throwing stuff in the bag knowing that the temperatures vary greatly up in the mountains. I guess better to have more than enough then not enough. I was pretty much done packing by the time Jason got home from golf. We had a huge fight which was exactly what I didn’t need. Clearly we were both pretty stressed out and emotional, which didn’t help matters, at all. But we made it through and finally apologized, like we always do. I was exhausted from not sleeping the night before so I was out solid that night!

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A view at all the race day gear!

Thursday

Thursday morning I woke up early to get my hour bike ride in. I wanted to get it done before heading to Lake Placid so that I wouldn’t have to worry about getting it in once I got there. I took one of my usual routes from the house which has some challenging hills. I took it easy and enjoyed the early morning crisp air. When I got back we loaded up the car. Talk about the car being FULL! There was barely any open space left in my little Fiesta (we took my car to try and save on some gas). Then we were off!

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Fully Loaded!

The car ride was about 5.5 hours but went surprisingly fast (perhaps the excitement). We stopped for lunch in Saratoga Springs which resulted in us getting wrapped up in some of the traffic from the horse races. It was pretty cool and I actually would like to go see them one of these days. We found this cute little pub to eat at called Merry Monks. They had tons of beer and I was so tempted to give in. I had been trying to reduce/eliminate my alcohol intake the week leading up to race day. At this point though, one beer wasn’t going to hurt, and in fact it would probably help take the edge off a bit. So, Cheers! It was the right decision. So, back on the road!

Shortly we found ourselves driving into Lake Placid the reverse way of the bike course. The views were just absolutely gorgeous! We saw so many runners and cyclists out that it all started to become real. We ended up driving past our hotel on the way to downtown Lake Placid. I wanted to go straight to athlete check in as it was about 3:30 and it only went until 5:00. As we turned on to Main Street I got my first glimpse of transition and where all of the action was already set up. The sight instantly brought me to tears. Of course Jason thought I was crazy crying over a few tents, but it was so much more than that. This is the place I had worked so hard to get to. I had countless 4 am (even 3 am) wake ups to make the dream of becoming an Ironman a hopeful reality.

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Welcome to Lake Placid!

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We parked the car and headed to packet pickup where I then signed away my life. I love the pages of information/waivers they give you and tell you to read and sign. Umm, really? As if I really care what this paper says right now. God only knows what I signed my name to. I couldn’t get them completed fast enough so that I could pick up my stuff.

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Signing my life away…. Literally….

I then went over and got my packet followed by my swim cap. I’ve done this a million times at other races, but I knew this was extra special. The volunteers there were also amazing and they were just as happy to be there as we were. Side note: I can’t say enough amazing things about the volunteers from the race. They truly were top notch. Not a single one of us would be an Ironman on Sunday without them. Truly. Incredible.

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Getting my wristband for the weekend!

We then headed over to the Olympic Oval where the Ironman merchandise tent was set up and all of the other expo vendors. We didn’t have much time and really never made it past the Ironman merchandise tent. Since this was my first Ironman, and I swore my only one I would ever do, I wanted to grab some stuff to remember the event. Fortunately I got an award at work this week (also great news, and timing) so I splurged a little bit! I really wanted a tri kit and cycle jersey which I got. Mind you, each piece was about a hundred a pop. Lets just say there is an INSANE amount of $$$$$$ in Ironman. Period.

It was then 5:00 and everything related to the race shut down for the evening. We went and checked into the hotel. I was fortunate to have been able to use points for a free stay when hotel prices are astronomical, if you can even find one. So, 100k points got me 5 free nights at the Courtyard (which was super cute by the way). We unloaded the mass amount of crap from the car onto a cart and headed up to the room. At this point I still had the second part of my workout to do, a 30 minute run. Jason was kind enough to join me. We used the run as a bit of an excuse to explore the area. I also later learned that part of the run we did was also part of the run course for the race…. umm including a monster hill! But I powered up it and felt good.

We got back and got ready then went to meet my friend Brett for dinner (he got in on Wed night). We had dinner at this cute restaurant called Liquids and Solids. I got an excellent vegetarian dish that was top notch. I know that I could never be 100% vegetarian, although I am inspired by those that are, but the conversation did come up at dinner. I was oddly surprised to hear Jason say that he would try and do a few days each week vegetarian and give it a shot. I was ecstatic to hear this as it makes it a lot easier to both be on the same page. So, hopefully more to come on that in the upcoming weeks! I also had a glass of wine at dinner. So good and so soothing. I was in a good place when we left dinner and headed back to the hotel. I slept solid that night too!

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Great view across from the restaurant!

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Friday

Friday morning we got up and luckily it was my rest day! I also woke up to awesome news that my story had been published in my local newspaper at home – the Tonawanda News! So cool! Ck it out at: Stevenson Ironman

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Article Preview

So Friday I tried to limit how much time I spent on my feet during the day. We headed to the expo and walked around to the places we didn’t make it the day before and I wanted to sit through some of the sessions.

I sat through a session regarding the swim which helped to ease my nerves a bit (which were doing surprisingly well). I will say though one of my takeaways from this session was with regards to a comment the swim director made. We really just don’t see things the same way. He kept saying that if your strategy was to break up the swim into pieces, you were setting yourself up to fail and that you needed to look at the entire 2.4 miles. I couldn’t disagree more. Who does any endurance event that way? He was clear that setting your goal on the next buoy was setting yourself up for failure. At this point I just laughed to myself and stayed focused on my strategy. Of course my goal was to finish the swim, and I would get there, one piece at a time.

After this session we ended up staying to listen to the pro panel. They kept us waiting for them but it was worth it. In the process of waiting I got to meet Mike Reilly – the voice of Ironman. WOW! What a nice guy! We chatted and then got a picture together. I even had him sign my Ironman backpack that I got as part of the race. Jason told him that every time I mention his name I tear up (holy embarrassing – but so true!). He told me that most women are more excited to see him at the finish line then their significant others – I could not confirm or deny if this was the case ;)

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Mike Reilly and I!

Finally the pros came on! Andy Potts was there (and his competition) and talking about his wishes to defend the title this year. It was just neat to hear their perspectives and know that their approaches to these races is so different than the rest of us that have full time jobs. Inspiring nonetheless though.

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Pro Panel

After the pro panel I was starving and we went to grab lunch with Brett. This ended up being a project. I must say that restaurant service in Lake Placid could definitely use some improvement. It was nice though to sit down and relax. While sitting there on my rest day, I continued to observe all of the insane triathletes flying up and down on the road by bike and foot. I started to question my rest day and started to feel intimidated by all of the other athletes. Its amazing how you train so hard just to second guess your plan in the final moments. I reminded myself to have faith in my training and to relax. Nothing I did at this point would matter or change anything.

We ended up hitting one last session about tips for spectating for Jason so that he would better be able to help my support crew on Sunday. It also helped to better understand the flow around transition. I had now been in Lake Placid for about 24 hours and I still hadn’t seen the swim venue. It was time.

We headed down to Mirror Lake and it was a zoo. It was a mix of families on the beach and in the water with their kids and crazy triathletes looking to get in that last minute swim. They had just starting putting up the giant tetrahedrons in the water but the smaller buoys that always line the course were up. The swim did not look that far to me, in fact the same distance at Syracuse 70.3 looked way further. The water was also just so calm and peaceful. I was not even remotely nervous about the swim, in fact I was looking forward to it.

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Tetrahedrons Pre Water!

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I was then headed back to the hotel to meet my family who was just arriving. I was so excited to have my parents there to witness this weekend that I had worked so hard for. I knew that the drive was long and that race day would be a long day for them, but it meant the world to me that they made it. When I arrived in the room I had also received flowers from my sister and her boyfriend Dan. They were gorgeous! I knew she was proud of me too and wished she could have been there. But I will say she was there in spirit all weekend and I knew come race day she would be watching!

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Friday evening was the athlete dinner in the Herb Books Arena (think Dream Team Hockey win). When we walked into the arena, the scoreboard was set to the winning USA score. So cool! Other highlights from the evening included Andy Potts lighting the Olympic torch which was pretty neat! The motivational video was also amazing as well as the people that got up and shared their stories. One of which I kind of informally knew through Facebook mutual friends and Team in Training. That night I got to finally meet Derek in person and was so touched. Derek was doing his first Ironman but had such a special journey to share. Derek is not only a cancer survivor but the recipient of a heart transplant. When he finished on Sunday (because there was no if), he would be the 2nd person to ever cross the finish line with someone else’s heart and the first ever in the US. Pretty freaking amazing. His story brought tears my eyes. He truly is a role model for the fact that you can achieve anything you put your mind to. He saw his story as an opportunity rather than a limitation. Something too many of us don’t do enough. The reception really was a great evening full of inspiration and I was so happy to be a part of something so amazing. Wow.

 

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Andy Potts lighting the Olympic torch

Derek and Mike Reilly - Amazing!

Derek and Mike Reilly – Amazing!

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Jason and I

As if that wasn’t great enough, I then headed over to the Lake Placid Brewery to meet up with my amazing Ironman friends. These are the awesome women that did IMLP last year and were giving me daily tips (I had mentioned this in a prior post). It was soooo great to see them!! I could genuinely see how happy they were for me and the journey that Sunday would entail. I also finally got the chance to meet one of their friends Erica that I pseudo knew of through Team in Training but never got the chance to really meet. We all had a great time just chatting but before I knew it, it was getting late. I should also note here that I fell in love with Andrea’s M-Dot necklace that she was wearing. She said that she had gotten it at the expo last year from her Mom. This will become more relevant later…..

My Iron Advice Crew!

My Iron Advice Crew!

Gorgeous night view of Mirror Lake

Gorgeous night view of Mirror Lake

SaturdaySaturday morning we were up early in hopes that we would be asleep earlier in the evening given the ridiculous wake up call that Sunday entailed. My workout for Saturday was a shake out of all three segments – short. I hopped on my bike from the hotel for a quick 20 minute ride on the course. Again, the course was filled with tons of crazy triathletes. Insert overwhelming/nervous/second-guessing feelings AGAIN. I got my ride in then my Dad and Jason met me to take my bike while I transitioned for a quick 10 minute run on the course. I wanted to take it easy but when I hit the one mile point and my Garmin went off stating that I ran it in 8:37, I was shocked. I knew I was running easy and not pushing at all. This is when I knew the taper was paying off and I was ready for race day. I went back up to the hotel to grab my stuff to head down to the lake to meet my friends for a quick 10 minute swim.

The swim was absolutely gorgeous. Yes, I used the word swim and gorgeous in the same sentence. I also got to see for myself what this “cable” was that everyone talks about. It truly does the line entire course and if you can stay on it, you really don’t need to sight….pretty cool! I had been told by a coach that on Saturday I was not to spend more than 2 hours on my feet all day. Well, I had just spent about 40 minutes of that time. I knew it would be tough, but important.

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We then went and grabbed an early lunch as we missed breakfast. Again, this was not a simple process and took much longer than it should have. After lunch we took my parents down to the expo so they could walk around and grab anything that they wanted. I also stopped to eye up the necklace that I had loved of Andrea’s. The woman at the counter was hilarious. I loved it but there was no way I was buying it before I finished the race. That had bad ju ju written all over it! So the woman grabbed a pamphlet and circled it about 100 times and even wrote Jason’s name on it. She called him over and gave it to him and was very clear on what I wanted. Stay tuned.

My parents and I headed back to the hotel then so I could grab my bike and finalize my run and bike gear bags for check in. I said good bye to Jason as he stayed down there with my friend Matt. I’m not sure why but I broke out into tears saying good bye to him. He told me it was okay and I managed to pull myself together. My dad even then proceeded to ask me what was wrong. And really, i had no good answer. So back to the hotel. I wanted to go through all of my bags one last time just to be safe. This took me about an hour or so and then I loaded my bike on the car and headed back downtown to check all of my stuff in.

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Wow, this became even more real. Jason and Matt me and helped me carry all of my stuff to the Olympic Oval. I got my bike photographed before being allowed in transition, my guess is for liability reasons (there is A TON of $$$$ in that transition area!) I racked my bike and then dropped off my bags. My bag rack was a slightly different style than the majority of them, but I think it helped in the long run since it was easier to find when coming into transition. And that was it, I wouldn’t see my bike or bags again until Sunday morning!

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Bike Photo Opp

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I headed back to the hotel to get back off my feet again (really tried my best to stick to that 2 hour cap). Shortly after Jason’s family arrived and we went down to the lobby to see them. It was so nice of them to want to be there to support me and I greatly appreciated the gesture. Jason wanted to take them before dinner to show them transition and the swim location. I knew as much as I wanted to go that I shouldn’t, so I sent them off and then went back to the room with my parents to relax.

Before I knew it, it was time to head to dinner, the day was just flying. We had a great dinner at Milano North with some carb loading action. I stuck to water for the evening even though a glass of wine did sound great. It was nice to just sit there with my support crew and take it all in. Jason did a toast for me and the Ironman. It was perfect. While I was at dinner my phone rang. When I saw who it was, I was absolutely glowing. Steve Heller was my first tri coach. When I tell you that he is the reason I was able to even toe the start line on Sunday, I mean it. This man has had an enormous positive impact on me with all of his motivation and patience. When I struggled (and I struggled hard) with learning how to swim, even up to days before my first tri, he was so patient and kept me from just quitting when I wanted to. He truly has been with me for every step of my triathlon journey since day one. To hear his voice on the phone and the confidence that he had in me for my race on Sunday just meant the world to me. More tears. Wow. Thank you Steve – you will never know how much everything you have done for me truly means. I can’t wait to finally give back and support YOU next year at that start line!

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Fueling the Support Crew!

Before I knew it dinner was over and it was almost 8:00. Time to head back to the hotel, finalize a few last minute things and head to bed. Surprisingly I was exhausted and was able to fall asleep before 10:00. It hurt to set the alarm to 3:45. Wow. And, before I knew it, that alarm was going off….. RACE DAY! Stay Tuned :)

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Packing and Course Preview!

Well, it’s official. I jinxed myself. Tuesday I thought about how well rested I felt and what a good night sleep I had gotten. Now, I sit here typing at 1 am (Wed) after having tossed and turned in bed for the past two hours. I finally figured I might as well use the time…. aka blog update… lucky you!

So this week is obviously not an intense training week as I am tapering, but rather what I would call an annoying training week. The workouts for Monday and Tuesday haven’t been horribly long, but consist of all three components. To swim, bike, and run all in one day requires a lot of stuff, a lot of planning, and a lot of coordination. And then, it kind of feels like a waste because its nearly over immediately. I get it though. The purpose is to keep everything moving without overexerting yourself. It is amazing though how hard it is for me to do less when my body is now used to so much more. Nonetheless, Monday and Tuesday’s workouts are complete and i’m looking forward to just a 30 minute open water swim this afternoon (Wed).

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Monday’s Workout

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Tuesday Workout – With a stop at the sauna after!

The other big challenge that the week has presented is preparation for the trip. It is unreal how much planning and coordination it requires to swim, bike, and run a cumulative 140.6 miles in one day. The crazy checklist maker that lies deep within my soul has come out full bore this week. I have an index card for anything and everything I could possibly need for race day: What to wear race morning, what to bring race morning, swim to bike bag, bike special needs bag, bike to run bag, run special needs bag, post race items, what to pack in my bike bento box, what to pack in my spi belt… I have lists that interconnect to other lists! But, I will say I feel much more prepared after spending the time to put this together. It also helped me make my shopping list (yes, another list) for what I still needed to get as I need multiples of so many things for each of these bags. I headed to Wegmans and Target tonight after my workout to pick up most of the items. I still have a couple to get at the running store before I leave. I could probably wait into the expo, but I don’t want to risk not being able to find something that I need. Ah and to think, I still need to pack stuff for all of the other days I will be in Lake Placid! That task also will be completed Wednesday. Lots to do still, but again, good progress!

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A view of all my crazy lists!

So I thought maybe a more detailed walk through of the course would be a good blog post so you can better understand what Sunday will entail and the venue. So straight from the IMLP website:

IRONMAN Lake Placid is the longest-running American event aside from the IRONMAN World Championship Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Located in the beautiful Adirondack mountains, it’s an accessible event for every athlete’s bucket list. 

Having hosted two Olympic Games (1932 and 1980), this charming town knows how to deliver a world-class athletic event. It’s also the home of one of the most challenging IRONMAN courses with its famous Adirondack climbs. Athletes begin with a two-loop swim in clear Mirror Lake, with the famous sight line lining the bottom of the lake. Transitioning in the Olympic Speed Skating Oval to the bike, the rolling mountain views provide a scenic backdrop. Two loops of 56 miles bring competitors back to the Oval once again, where they begin their 26.2-mile run through the town and around the lake. 

Lake Placid has the amenities of a large city and the convenience of a small town, offering high-end restaurants, shopping and world-class accommodations. It boasts equal parts history, uniqueness, and on-course personality. (Originally from: http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/events/americas/ironman/lake-placid.aspx#ixzz2Zw7Jcmg3)

So as it stated, the first part of the day is the swim. It is a two lap course (1.2 miles for each lap, 2.4 miles total). The swim is in Mirror Lake and absolutely gorgeous. The water is very calm and should be wetsuit legal with some cooler nights expected this week. New this year is a rolling start rather than prior years which had a mass start. This change is new this year to try and make the swim safer (which I am totally ok with it). So, starting at 6:30 am it will be almost like the start of a running race with self seeded athletes entering the water through a timing mat in a continuous stream. All athletes are expected to be in the water by 7am. There is a 2:20 minute cutoff for the swim. Also unique to this course is an underwater line that connects all of the buoys which simplifies sighting (love this!). After the first loop, athletes will get out of the water through the swim exit, run across the beach, and re-enter the water for lap two. Personally, I like this approach. I know that I can swim a 1.2 mile open water loop. Mentally I just need to remind myself that it’s the same thing, i’m just doing it twice. People claim it’s a fast swim with a whirlpool like effect created by the clockwise swimming of all of the athletes. I’m excited to experience it for myself. What’s my time expectation? I think somewhere between 1:35 and 1:40. This leaves me a good buffer from the cutoff.

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Swim Course – This year we go clockwise instead

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Mirror Lake

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Whirlpool effect!

So after the swim I head to transition and will get my swim to bike transition bag. I will take off my wetsuit and plan to change my clothes into dry biking clothes. I’m choosing to spend a few extra minutes to be comfortable. After all, it is a long day and i’m really racing to finish, not for a time. I want to enjoy the experience :) I will then throw on my bike helmet and bike shoes and then head out for a ride through the Adirondacks.

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Transition fully loaded!

The bike course is also two loops (56 miles each, 112 miles total). The course is known for some challenging hills later in the course and not only do you get them once, but you get to then do it again. The biggest thing I have been warned here is not to go out hard on the first loop or you will hate your life come the hills on the second loop. It’s easy to hammer on some of the sections but holding back will make for a better overall time. Coming out of transition their is a notable climb past the Olympic ski jumps. After that you head for Keene which is a few miles of downhill riding. Apparently you can hit speeds of 40+ mph. A little scary but also can be fun too! After Keene there is some flat and rolling sections where you can tuck into the aero position and just go. But before you know it starts the climb back into Lake Placid with it’s infinite climbs known as the cherry’s and the bears. First comes mama bear, then baby bear, then poppa bear (this is actually the background photo to my blog)! But, once you make it through there you are at the end of lap one and get access to your bike special needs bag. This is full of any special nutrition, refills, or any other items you may want access to that you packed. Just after this is also when I hope to see my support crew! It’s then off to repeat the course for another lap! As far as bike cutoffs go: The first bike cut-off is at the start of the second loop of the bike course at 1:30 p.m. (at Bike Out). Any rider who has not reached the start of the second loop of the bike by 1:30 p.m. will not be permitted to continue. The bike course will close at 5:30 p.m. Athletes arriving at the bike dismount line after 5:30 p.m. will not be permitted to continue. So how long do I think the bike will take me? I’m guessing between seven and seven and a half hours. Again, plenty of buffer here for the unexpected.

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Bike Course

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Bike View

After completing two laps it’s back to transition to get ready for the run. I will gladly hand my bike off to a volunteer that will rack it for me. I then get my bike to run bag. I will ditch my biking clothes in exchange for running shorts and a tank top and throw on my running sneakers. Again, i’m spending a few more minutes here to be comfortable in running clothes for the 26.2 miles that lies ahead.

The run is again a two lap course (13.1 miles each loop, 26.2 miles total, yes, a full marathon!). The run isn’t exactly flat but has a pretty good hill in it (that you get to experience twice). The good news is that it’s later in the first loop so you get your legs back first after the bike, but the bad news is that means you hit it again late in the second loop when you are absolutely exhausted. My plan is to walk the hills if I need to and save some energy. There are also aid stations about every mile and I will walk through them as needed as well. Similar to the bike, after the first loop of the run I will have access to my run special needs bag to restock any nutrition I may need or any other special supplies. I have been told over and over how great the support is throughout the entire course and can’t wait to experience it for myself. The nice thing about the looped course is how many times I will get to see my support crew and I know seeing them will give me that little extra boost I will need. Run cutoffs: The first lap of the run course must be completed by 9 p.m. (at Town Hall Outbound). The run course will officially close at midnight.

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Run Course

However, my total time needs to be less than 17 hours to be considered an official Ironman finisher (the exact clock time will differ depending on the time you entered the water). I’m estimating the run will take me somewhere between five and six hours. All of these times added together still leaves me about a two hour buffer. I’m hoping to cross that finish line somewhere between 9 and 10:00pm. God willing.

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Bike & Run Elevation Charts

So there you have it, that is what Ironman Lake Placid will consist of. I keep getting the question this week of “Are you nervous?” The answer: Surprisingly not as bad as I thought. Currently the quantity of excited feelings trumps the quantity of nervous feelings. However, i’m sure in the days ahead it will be a bit of an emotional roller coaster! One that I cannot wait to experience! So close!! Hopefully I fall asleep soon…..

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Trying to get in more fruits and veggies this week… Smoothie with self picked blueberries and greens!

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Homemade stir fry with fresh veggies I got at home from the local Farmers Market

Boilermaker Weekend Recap, Week in Buffalo, & 1 Week Countdown!

Hello blog followers! Please note, only 2 weekends and one week have gone by since my last post, i’m getting better ;)So after my last post I headed on Saturday morning to Utica, New York for the Boilermaker. Having lived in Syracuse for some time, it was always on my want to race list. The race also frequently appears in Runners World as one of the best races to do. Having now done it, I couldn’t agree more. What an amazing experience!

Upon arrival we headed to the expo to pick up our packets. For being a 15K race, the expo was much bigger than I expected with lots of vendors. With our packets we got a special Boilermaker Pint Glass, pretty cool! I found it a bit odd that you had to purchase your own medal if you wanted one (they only did finisher pins at the finish line), but then again it really was only a 15K. But nonetheless, of course I had to have one to add to the collection! Probably the highlight of the expo for me was getting to meet Danni from the Biggest Loser (last seasons winner). After waiting for a few minutes, we got a picture together and chatted about my upcoming Ironman. She is doing her first one in 2014. She wished me good luck and I was all smiles. Anyone that knows me knows how much I love to watch the show and how inspired I am by all of the participants. It was nice to know she felt inspired by me too :)

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Danni from the Biggest Loser!

The rest of the afternoon was spent hitting up the Saranac Brewery. We took the brewery tour and indulged in some beer tasting (I was carb loading!) I had such a great time and was excited to know that the post race party was also hosted by Saranac and promised a great time! After this we headed to the hotel to change quick and grab dinner at a great Italian restaurant at the Turning Stone Casino. My visit to Turning Stone brought me back to my college days and my roommates love for the dollar wheel!

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Saranac Brewery Tour

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Post Tour Sampling

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Dinner Overlooking the Kitchen

Sunday morning we were up early to head to the race. We parked at the finish area and hopped on a bus to the start. We got there early but it worked out for the better as we got a better position within our corral and no waiting for the bathroom. There was so many people, well 14K to be exact. The race attracts some of the fastest international runners from Kenya, Ethiopia, etc. so that was pretty neat to see as well. I had seen the elevation profile for the course and it looked pretty challenging. However, the long climbs also had long downhills so in the end, it would balance out a bit. My plan for the day was to use the race as a training run. I didn’t want to push and risk anything, but rather I just wanted to take in the scenery and enjoy the day. I did just that! I didn’t run with music (good practice for Ironman Lake Placid) and I just listened to the cheers and course bands. The streets were just lined from end to end with locals cheering us all on, it was truly incredible how the community lives for this event. I was so wrapped up in the entertainment that I really barely felt like I was running up hill (an awesome surprise later when we started going downhill). It was a VERY hot and humid day, after all it is the middle of July. However, the race was well prepared with water and ice stations every half mile. Yes, you read that right, every half mile. On the course I also had a first. I consumed by first race popsicle ever! Wow! I need to do that more often, what a great cooling sugar boost :)

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At the Start!

About an hour and 23 minutes later and 15K under my belt, I crossed the finish line! I felt great at the end. I could tell that I took it easy early in the race and still had a ton in the tank towards the end as I passed a lot of people, without even trying to. One thing that I found unique about the finish line (and each of the mile markers) was that they are permanent establishments in the community and exist year ’round. Just goes to show how this community really embraces this event. I got my finishers pin and then waited for Jason to finish. when I started standing was when I realized just how hot and sweaty I was. I was dripping sweat and my clothes were absolutely drenched. I was ready for the post race party!

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Finisher!

Jason finished (despite barely training) and we headed to celebrate. Saranac provided their wild hop pilsener for the party. They also had a band and was just a great environment. Since this year was Saranac’s 125th anniversary, after the traditional flyover, they conducted the worlds largest toast. The sun was baking us! After a couple of beers and grabbing some snacks, we headed to the car to cool off and head back to the hotel. It would be a quick stop before heading to Buffalo for the week!

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Finished! XOXO!

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Cheers!

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Awesome flyover!

We got to Buffalo early Sunday evening and were pretty exhausted. We headed to bed early so we could have a better day Monday. Monday was a rest day for me so we decided to do something fun. We headed to Becker Farms to pick blueberries and raspberries! What a blast, even though it was VERY hot out in the fields. We cooled off afterwards in the brewery with some beer and wine tasting. We walked around the farm a bit to check out all that it had to offer. It even provided a possibility of a future event venue ;) We then headed back to my parents house to relax in the pool.

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Monday evening I met a great friend from high school that has also gotten into triathlons. She introduced me to her tri coach and group she trains with. I really enjoyed the experience and got to meet some great people. Her coach has done Ironman Lake Placid before so I picked his brain a bit on what to expect and some of the lingering questions I still had. One part of our convo really stood out to me. He asked me when was the last time that for 17 hours straight, everything went as you planned? Of course my response was, never! He then said, well then why would you expect race day to be any different? Hmm good point. He was highlighting that stuff will go wrong, things you didn’t plan for will happen, and you need to be ready to just move on and put it behind you and focus on the path forward. I thought it was a good perspective and something I will definitely take with me on race day. My friend also let me borrow her pool card so I could swim, awesome!

Tuesday morning I got up and headed for my swim and bike ride to get it out of the way before spending the day with my mom for her birthday :) I swam at the University of Buffalo which has a great facility. The water there was much cooler then what I’m used to but the water was so nice. It didn’t have the heavy chlorination smell that the Y at home as. It was a nice change of pace. My ride was also great as I enjoyed riding out in the country a bit with super wide shoulders and the cars giving plenty of room, also a nice change of pace. The rest of the day was filled with with relaxation and celebration.

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UB Swim Workout

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Dinner with B-day Girl – MOM!

Wednesday I had another ride to do, about 90 minutes with some ladder speed work built in. Again, nothing too eventful here. Wednesday night I met the Buffalo Tri Club for their open water swim at Lake Erie. Oh my goodness. I was so glad that I went as I met so many great people. Some of them have done Ironman Lake Placid before, some are doing it this year, and some are also headed their to volunteer and cheer. It was great to share stories and meet some awesome people to have an eye out for in Lake Placid. I really wish we had a solid group like this where I live to train with. Made me want to move back to Buffalo, well maybe just for the summers :)

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OWS with Buffalo Triathlon Club!

Thursday I had a quick 40 minute (HOT) run in the AM before headed to Toronto for the day for some sightseeing with Jason (his first time). We had a blast despite the heat. I finally went up the CN Tower and took in the beautiful views. We also hit up the St Lawrence Market for lunch, the Distillery District, the Steam Whistle Brewery, the Eaton Center, and some leisurely walking around the city. While the day was exhausting, I was glad we did it!

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Upgrade for IMLP?

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Friday was a longer bike ride for me, 3 hours. I got up early to beat the heat and the wind that built up throughout the day. Although the riding in that area is pretty flat, the wind created a challenge for the day. I pushed through though and then spent the rest of the day relaxing with my bestie from home poolside. We caught up and it was just really nice. Reminds me that I just don’t go home to visit often enough. Late Friday afternoon I headed to a special meeting for an hour or two. More on this to come in an upcoming post (stay tuned!)

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Ninja!

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Yum!

Friday night we headed to Duff’s for some Buffalo traditional wings before the storm came. I knew there was a storm coming but never predicted it to be as bad as it was. The rain was insane and the lightening was even more so. Oh my goodness was it scary. Even scarier was the devastation to the area that we viewed the next morning. Our phone rang Saturday morning to let us know that the high school was being used as an American Red Cross disaster center for anyone that needed it. We were lucky that we didn’t lose power and damage was minor. Others were not so lucky :(

Saturday was another rest day for me and I gladly took it! The weather was still pretty yucky until early in the afternoon. I got up early and hit the Farmers Market to grab some great fruits and vegetables (I’m addicted to smoothies in the ninja lately!) After, I went with my mom to the local craft show, it’s one of our traditions that I love. Again, the weather didn’t really cooperate but we made the best of it, two trips later. Saturday afternoon the entire family hopped in the car to check out a local ice cream place i’d been dying to try. Everyone loved it! We even walked around a bit afterwards and took in some of the Erie Canal history on the lock system.

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Lake Effect Ice Cream – Yum!

Saturday night was a chill at home night with some great pizza from my fav pizza place in the world. I also watched the bike video of the Ironman Lake Placid course so that I could know what to expect. I felt kind of guilty watching it from the couch rather than on my bike trainer, but better than nothing.

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“Experiencing” the Course at IMLP

Today I got up early, well tried to, in order to take advantage of the cooler morning (lower 70’s). I had a solid 90 minute run and felt good. I even kicked it in at the end. I knew I would spend the remainder of the day stuck in the car for the drive home. We stopped in Syracuse for a quick lunch. We got home around dinner time and spent quite a bit of time unpacking the car and dealing with other unexpected tasks (I will spare you the rant). I sit here now blogging and reflecting on such a great trip. It was a great week with family and friends, as well as focusing on my upcoming event and remaining preparation. I realize there is a ALOT to do between now and when I leave for my even first thing Thursday morning. However I look at the clock right now and get goosebumps. At about this time next week, give or take, god willing, I will be crossing the finish line at Ironman Lake Placid and checking off an Ironman from my bucket list as I heard Mike Reilly announce “Jacquelyn Stevenson, you are an Ironman!” (Yes, I’m now in tears!) Wow. Stay tuned, almost there!

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Post Run Smoothie

16 Days and Syracuse 70.3 Recap!

Gotta love that each time I blog, I make this promise that I will update more often. Umm yea, clearly failed on that once since I went from 38 days to 16 days, whoops! Wow, so a lot has happened since we chatted last! Let’s run through week by week some of the critical events.

Week of June 17th (Continued from last post)

So, my vacation day that I took to get my long run in. The plan was 5.5 hours. I hit the road mid morning (probably should have gotten up earlier to beat the heat). I headed out from Kirby Park and felt pretty good but was kind of bummed that I was doing the ride alone. You would think after months of training alone, I would have gotten “used” to it, but no.

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A good reminder of why I was doing this ride….Ironman!!!

Around mile 52 was when disaster hit. I was riding along and suddenly it sounded like an explosion. I panicked and quickly unclipped. In an instant my rear tire was completely deflated. Effff! I hopped off the bike and began to take the tire off, time to put my tire changing skills to work. I convinced myself that I got this under control. So I got the tube out of the tire and started looking at the tire to see if there was glass or what had happened. At that point I see a giant nail right through the side wall of the tire. Great. Now what? I knew at this point that if I put a new tube in, it would just pop again from the pressure. Who can I call now since everyone is at work? Fabulous. I stood there for less than two minutes before spotting cyclists approaching me. Wow, really? What timing! The one pulled over and asked if I was ok, I said yes but I think my ride is done for the day. I told him the tire was shot and he told me he had just the thing for me. He reaches in his bag and pulls out a tire patch! Hmm, will that work you think? He said let’s give it a try. I didn’t have one, nor have I ever seen/used one so I let this awesome cyclist do the work for me as I observed and learned. When we glanced back, it appeared that one of his other riders got a flat also in the exact same spot! Well to make a long story short, once they changed the flat and rolled up to us, I realized it was one of my Team in Training friends and actually her brother who had saved me! Once we got the patch on the tire was still bulging pretty good once inflated. I knew I had about 5 miles to go until I could get to the local bike shop. I thanked them greatly and was on my way! That was probably the most nervous 5 miles I had rode in a long time as I prayed that I made it back to the shop. I did! $70 later I was back on my way (this was one expensive training day)! I ended up with about 88 miles before throwing on my sneakers for a quick brick run. I was feeling it! I was proud of myself though for dealing with what had been thrown at me and not giving up, which I thought about a number of times.

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Ride Summary!

As if this wasn’t bad enough, I was up first thing Friday morning to get in nearly a 3 hr run before headed to Cuse. Obviously my legs were very sore from the bike ride the day before, so it was a good test of running on tired legs. It surely wasn’t pretty, but nonetheless I made it. It was off to Cuse for 70.3 weekend!

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Run Refresh!

Friday when we got in to Syracuse we headed to Jamesville Beach for the expo and mandatory athlete meeting. I picked up my packet and was getting really excited! A long time ago I met a TNT lady via Facebook. She is also training for an Ironman and such an inspiration. She was also doing the event and I FINALLY got to meet her when I ran into her in the merchandise tent! So awesome! Later that night we met up with friends for a mandatory stop at Dinosaur BBQ! Great day!

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My Race Packet

Saturday morning we went and watched my friends son compete in the IronKids race. Oh my goodness, so cute and so much fun! I knew right then that the kids race would be more fun than my own! We squeezed in an afternoon swim in the reservoir where the swim would be. Key take away from that was that there is a TON of weeds in the water and made it challenging for me to swim. I was glad though that I experienced that ahead of time and could plan for it. In addition, I also checked my bike into transition which was mandatory. Later that evening a group of us headed to dinner for some mandatory carb loading once I had all of my race day stuff layed out. I had a great time and dinner as well as many laughs with great friends. Triathlons are so much more than racing, but really the people that make the journey enjoyable. Time for bed.

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Transition – Lots of $$$$$

So Sunday morning was an early wake up as we headed to the race. Upon walking out of the hotel, it was already in the 80’s and mega humid. OMG! This is going to be brutal! I won’t run through my whole race report here but just some key points. Really, the whole day can be summed up in one word, HOT! It was killer.

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Ready to Race!

My swim didn’t go as great as I planned or hoped. I had a minor panic attack when the gun went off from all of the people mixed with the mass amount of weeds at the start. My clostrophobicness really kicked in. Once I calmed myself down and was on my way, my heart rate was still really high but I pushed through the best I could. The swim felt long to me and I later in the day overheard a lot of other triathletes having the same conversation.

Fortunately the bike was pretty uneventful other than hot. I was used to most of the steep climbs so I was able to prepare myself for them. I have never seen so many people with very expensive bike (and aero helmets, aka coneheads) walking up these hills. It was a good ego boost as I powered by. I felt pretty fast on the bike to later on learn that I was faster in 2011. I got kind of depressed thinking about how my times weren’t better, but then needed to remind myself that I didn’t taper. In fact, I rode my longest training ride ever, and ran one of my longest runs just days ago. Well duh, no wonders my body is revolting!

So, it was onto the run. It was well over 90 and the humidity was oppressive. I seriously wanted to just die. It was brutal. You know it’s bad when you look around and not a single person in running up the hills. EVERYONE is walking. Ihad ditched my shirt in transition as the heat trumped not having abs of steel. The purpose of my bra on the run was not for support. It was to hold ice. Aid station after aid station resulted in cups of ice down my bra. As I ran, I sounded like a cocktail shaker (I learned of the chaffing this did later, ouch)! I also remembered how much I loved the ice sponges and suddenly they were stuck all over my entire body. I drank so much fluid on the run course that I could just see it all moving around in my stomach. So gross. I felt like crap, and yet was barely moving, awesome. This race was HOT in 2012 but not quite this bad. I found myself asking over and over again why I put myself through this a second time. In fact, now as I write this weeks later, I could see myself doing it again next year haha. Nonetheless, I made it to the finish line.

I was about ten minutes slower than the year before, but I guess with good reason. I was just happy to finish. I later found out that wouldn’t be the case for everyone (my friend included) as a ridiculous storm rolled in. The rain/thunder/lightening were scary for being out in the middle of a park. Although a tough decision to make, they called the race for everyone’s safety (a good call I believe). Rather than getting to celebrate with friends after the race, I ran (yes more freaking running) to transition to grab my stuff and head to the car in the pouring rain. What a mess. Well nonetheless a good training day for Ironman Lake Placid!

Finished!

Finished!

Race Bling!

Race Bling!

Week of June 24th

Another crazy week of training and back at in the pool on Monday after Cuse 70.3 There was no recovery day for this girl. Although I will say that I’ve grown to enjoy the pool for recovering my legs after running and biking. (Yes, I did just use the words enjoy and pool in the same sentence). My training plan for the week stated “These are the longest sessions you’ll do in prep for the race. Recovery week coming up…” Well, I was happy to see the word recover. But before getting there was a very LONG week. Some key workouts included a long swim followed by a 3 hour run. The next day contained a 6 hour bike ride. I knew I needed to get this bike ride in as the 112 miles of challenging course for Ironman Lake Placid still had me worried. The longest I have ever rode my bike was while training for this event. I’ve run marathons before, and although it won’t be the same, at least I’ve experienced it. Now, 112 miles on the bike is a totally different story.

I capitalized on the local bike shop’s Saturday Morning Ride (SMR) to kick off my 6 hour bike session. We did some serious climbing on the way out. I was happy to have one of my great friends join me. We got back to the bike shop around 2 hours and then he was nice enough to head out with me for another hour. At this point when I came back with him, I was about half way in. Only 3 more hours to go, sigh. I felt “good” though and tried to really keep up with the refueling. I had a granola bar, honey stinger waffles, and honey stinger chews (have I mentioned how much I love the Honey Stinger products)! I headed out and just hoped to have an uneventful second half. That was the case despite the heat and humidity continuing to climb. I made it! I hit 98 miles just about at the 6 hour mark. So why not 100 you may ask? Well the training plan said 6 hours and that’s what I got in six hours. Also, I’ve never done a century ride and felt like that 100 mile milestone should be saved for a special day and place, not circling Wilkes Barre. So, Ironman Lake Placid will be that special time and place!

I then threw my bike in the car and headed out for a 25 minute brick run. My legs felt heavy but I was still moving them. I felt slow but my watch surprisingly told me other wise. I was thrilled! I finished so proud of myself, so glad it was over, and so hungry! I have become so addicted to pizza after long workouts that it’s quite ridiculous really! Successful week and onto recovery!

A view from the bike this week!

A view from the bike this week!

Fun Swim with Friends

Fun Swim with Friends

Went to Brooks Trial Run at SRCO... Love My Free Towel... I LOVE Cupcakes and Running!

Went to Brooks Trial Run at SRCO… Love My Free Towel… I LOVE Cupcakes and Running!

Recovery Drink!

Recovery Drink!

Week of July 1st

Weeks goals: Recovery Week! It also says reduce food intake from last week, ha. I have been a non-stop eating machine. I will say though that I have dropped a few pounds along this journey and I can honestly say I feel better because of it. This week wasn’t really too eventful, especially with the 4th of July holiday.  We had friends up at the house to celebrate the holiday and had a great relaxing day.

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My Festive Fruit!

We were off from work Friday so we hit up the new trailhead right in Mountain Top for the Black Diamond Trail. It heads out towards White Haven and then you can pick up the Lehigh Gorge Trail. I traded in my road bike for my hybrid bike for the day. What a nice change of pace! It was hot and the slight gradient change made the return a challenge. Love sharing these days with my love XOXO.

New Trail!

New Trail!

Overlooking the railroad

Overlooking the railroad

A group of friends got together Saturday and headed out to Harvey’s Lake to join me for my long open water swim. I ended up swimming 70 continuous minutes (my longest ever in open water) and felt great. I really could tell that my time in the pool was paying off. I was also much more calm then I was at the 70.3. Makes sense, no people, no weeks, happy me. Once we finished we spent the rest of the afternoon floating in the water with some brews and lots of smiles. What a great day! I def need to do that more often!

My Tri Junkies!

My Tri Junkies!

Clearly the Distance is Off ;)

Clearly the Distance is Off ;)

Week of July 8th

This officially started the taper/race phase of my training plan. It stated: welcome to tapering! We’ll slowly reduce hours over the next three weeks, while keeping the sword sharp for race day. Well, I quickly learned that my plan and I define the word taper a bit different as I had some challenging workouts this week. I also, spent alot of time on the bike this week and had to do more consecutive days in order to save my rest day for Saturday and use my other rest day for the Boilermaker this Sunday. Yesterday was challenging. I had a 60 min bike at RPE 4-5 then a 2 hour run immediately after. I had debated going to Wilkes Barre to do the workout, but talked myself out of this. I love to bike and run flat terrain. But the reality is, that isn’t what Ironman Lake Placid is. If i want to be prepared for rave day I need to be ready for hills, hills, and more hills. So, I faced my fears and did this workout on the mountain right from my doorstep. It was challenging alright but I felt so accomplished once I finished. I was definitely sore and even found myself questioning the “taper phase.” Ha! But it was done.

Today I once again faced my fears and did my 3 hour long ride on the mountain. Hill after hill, climb after climb. But I fought through and even found myself exploring some new areas and learning how random streets connected. It was cloudy today which also helped a lot. I was able to finish the nearly 50 mile ride feeling pretty good but my legs were definitely sore from yesterday and today’s effort. I then had a short 20 min recovery run which couldn’t end soon enough. But, I knew once it was done that tomorrow is a recovery day! Wooo! I am also excited about the official start of my mini-vacation! A trip to Utica for the Boilermaker run and Buffalo for the week are ahead…. More on that in the days to come!

One of My Swim Sessions this Week

One of My Swim Sessions this Week

Other Items to Note

So as the title of this post states, I am now 16 days away from Ironman Lake Placid. This journey has been so surreal and full of so such a variety of feelings. I can’t wait! I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I can’t wait to have my life back and start some other things that I have slated. At the same time, I’ve become so used to this lifestyle over the past months that it will be odd to go back to one workout a day, and having greater flexibility in my workouts.

I ordered supporter crew shirts for event day and can’t wait for them to come. I have quite a few people joining me. Jason will be there, mom, dad, my friend Matt, friend Brett, and Jason’s parents. In addition two friends will also be there volunteering who did the race last year. They have been awesome in giving me daily tips from their lessons learned and answering all of my questions in the last 30 days leading up to the event. There is so much to know and understand to be prepared for race day, but each day I am that much closer! I also got my bib number for the race. I am #661… Sounds like an Ironman finisher, right? Chat soon :) XOXO

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Shirts for My Crew

Me Blogging Tonight! Hehe!

Me Blogging Tonight! Hehe!

Endurance Beast – 38 Days to Go!

Yes, that is what my training plan told me I am this week as I continue to approach max hours. As I sit here though, I feel like more of an eating beast. It’s amazing how hungry I constantly am from all of the calories I’m burning. So, big shocker here, but it’s been a few weeks since I’ve blogged so let me bring you up to speed on some key events/sessions.

Week of May 20th

Well the key event this week was the Buffalo Marathon as I celebrated my 30th birthday in my hometown. I really hadn’t planned to take the race seriously, I just wanted to finish my 10th marathon. With this goal, I headed to Niagara on the Lake for a day of wine tasting with some of my fav people. We had a great time. I avoided the carb loading and even had ribs for dinner. I got up early Sunday am and headed to downtown Buffalo for the start of the race. There were some extra safety precautions put in place after the Boston Marathon bombings and we even all wore Boston Strong tattoos. Jason came to the race with me to cheer which I always appreciate. I got started and felt strong. I got to see him quite a few times along the first half of the course which was awesome! I knew though that the second half I wouldn’t see him at all and it was just me and a bunch of crazy marathoners. I kept looking at my watch and was shocked at my pace and how great I felt. I have always wanted to break a four hour marathon but have come up short every time, once by just 32 seconds. Suddenly, I felt this goal was in reach and I kept pushing. At mile 20 where “the wall” usually bites me, I picked up the pace and pushed on. It was such a weird feeling. In fact, I’ve never not walked during a marathon (other than a couple water breaks) but that was the case this day. With three miles to go I knew I had it and I pushed extra hard to ensure I gave myself the best 30th birthday gift I could think of. As I came around to the finish line I saw my dad standing there cheering for me and it meant the world to me! A few steps later I saw Jason and I could tell how shocked he was to see me so soon. I finished strong and was glowing! It just goes to show this Ironman training really is paying off. I then went on to relax and come home to a surprise 30th party that my family through for me. They rock my world :)

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Niagara on the Lake Wine Tasting

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Buffalo Marathon Race Gear

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Buffalo Marathon Recap

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B-day Gift from the Fam!

Week of May 27th

A week at home! So nice to train at home. Nothing too exciting this, really just swim, bike, run, repeat, repeat, and repeat some more!

Week of June 3rd

Back to Orlando this week which meant really early morning wake up calls in order to get sessions accomplished before work. I actually grew to like the wake up calls at 4am as I knew I would have the roads mostly all to myself. It was such a blessing to have my coworkers bike and well lit areas around the Seaworld/Universal/i Drive area. I’m actually going to miss my little morning route! 

Had a little travel snafu coming back which resulted me taking my long run for the week indoors. Yes, that’s right… over 13 miles on the dreadmill. Talk about mentally painful and exhausting! But I fought through it because it needed to get done. I want to be an Ironman and no one ever said it would be easy. Sigh.

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Survived!

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Love my new waterproof iPod!

Friday we headed to Syracuse for the weekend. Saturday morning we ran in Paige’s Butterfly Run., a run that is near and dear to my heart. I met Paige’s father, Chris Arnold a few years ago while working at LM in Syracuse and the story just broke my heart. So every year we try our best to support the run and as a result, pediatric cancer. I had a great time, not quite as fast as I had hoped for but better than the year before. I got 5th in my age group, which I had hoped to place, but maybe next year. I had to remind myself that I’m focused on endurance right now and not speed.

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Paige’s Butterfly Run 5K Recap

Sunday I got my long training bike ride in via riding the Tour de Cure with an awesome friend. We rode the 62.5 mile course and we pushed. We averaged about 18mph which I was happy with. Instead of veering off to the finish line, I still had about another hour to put in per my training plan so I headed out to do that. I ended up with 75 miles that day, my longest ever. I was exhausted by the time I finished and my neck and back were killing me. But better to get that out of the way now! What a great weekend for my training!

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Tour de Cure Recap

Week of June 10th

Last week in Orlando. The humidity was starting to get killer and the post work storms every day were really forcing the early am workouts.

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Yep…Athlete Lap Swimming ;)

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The final early am ride in Orlando

My flights on Friday got all screwed up (as usual) but forced me to head to the airport mega early rather than get my long run in. There was no connection available so I was going to have to drive home from Philly, again. The good news here is that I was able to take in the Philly run scene. It was also a lot cooler and way less humid! I got my 2.5 hour run in on the Kelly Drive/Martin Luther King Loop and ended near the art museum. This is my second year in a row not doing the Philly Tri since it’s the same weekend as Ironman Syracuse 70.3, but I can say I really miss it! It was so nice to be in the area where I have so many memories from my first tri!

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Philly Run!

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Pink?

Sunday I took on my annual tradition of the Wilkes Barre Duathlon – a 5K run, 16m bike, and 5k run. I wasn’t sure how I would do since I’ve been beating my body up pretty good with all of the training but I was going to go out there and give it my best shot. And that I did. I pushed hard through both of the runs and the bike. Had my fastest time yet with shaving 4 minutes off of last years time. I got second in my age group and was the 8th female overall. Not too shabby :) I dedicated my 2nd place medal to my dad in honor of Father’s Day. 

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Wilkes Barre Duathlon Packet

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Let’s Du This!

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2nd Place!

Week of June 17th

I am finally home this week (likely for good until Lake Placid, fingers crossed) which really helps me focus on my training. It’s crazy that I have gotten into such a rhythm of planning each day to the minute to ensure I can get all of these workouts in! I can honestly say at this point since March, I have skipped less than 5 workouts total. Given all of the travel and hurdles I face regularly, I think that’s pretty darn good. Now, to just keep that up :)

So, tomorrow I am hitting an all time low in my training….I am taking a vacation day in order to get my long ride in. It was planned for this weekend but since I have Ironman Syracuse 70.3 on Sunday, that is just not going to happen. The only thing keeping me motivated to push through this ride tomorrow is the fact that they posted the athlete guide today for Ironman Lake Placid. I got goosebumps just scrolling through it (ok fine, in full disclosure I teared up too). 38 days to go!!

Fear the Cold, Not the Bear!

Wow! So much to report on today as I sit at the restaurant bar forcing myself to skip my first workout in ten weeks in order to recover and avoid injury. It’s amazing how hard it is for me to not do a single workout in a day. Feels so weird! But I must remind myself it’s for the best.

So I survived my swim focused training week and the run focused week. My run focused week included an extended workout in preparation of this weekends Buffalo Marathon. I fit in a 20 miler after getting back to the airport on Friday. It was UGLY but I knew I needed to push through if I had any chance at finishing this marathon. I quickly followed up with some chocolate milk for recovery and an ice bath. The ice bath was brutal but I can honestly say I felt sooo much better once I got out.

So in addition to my Friday night 20 miler, my weekend consisted of another challenge. Back in January I signed up for the Blackbear Triathlon in Lehighton, PA. When I signed up I clearly wasn’t thinking about the weather for a mid May race. All I was warned about was how hilly the bike course was (that certainly was no lie). So Saturday am I went to the YMCA to get my regular swim in according to plan. I then headed up to the race site to pick up my packet and check out what was ahead of me on Sunday. I got my packet and gazed out into the lake knowing that it was around 60 degrees (temp at the dock, colder where I would actually swim). They were having a swim clinic that afternoon and we were allowed to get in. Peer pressure got the best of me and I’m glad it did. I threw my wetsuit on and walked in. It was frigid, but not nearly as frigid as when it came time to put my face in. Oh My Goodness! Brutal. After about ten minutes I had enough! I headed off to drive the bike course with friends and check out the hills. On the ride I decided there was so much climbing that it wasn’t worth riding my Tri bike. The roadie it would be!

This decision was further confirmed on Sunday morning as I drive to the race site in the rain. What a mess! I never have thought so hard about bagging a race my entire life. Even up to seconds before my swim wave went off. I was really just scared for my safety, especially on the bike course with why would be very slick descents. I didn’t trust some of the other triathletes that won’t take it easy given the conditions in order to save a few seconds (us triathletes can be slightly stubborn sometimes, hehe).

Well nonetheless when my wave got called, I got in the water. Yep, still just as cold as I remembered from the day before, shocker. I gave myself a mental pep talk then put my head in. Brrrrr! But soon enough it was time to go and we were off. I felt strong swimming and really we were well spread out. I barely got kicked and quickly found my own little space which I maintained most of the swim. I focused on just getting to the next buoy one at a time just as I had been taught from the beginning. Before I knew it I was taking the final turn to head into shore. I looked around me and didn’t see many pink caps but rather the cap colors that started ahead of me. Could it really be? When I got out if the water I was greeted by cheers of my awesome friends. I then turned back to verify in fact that there were still plenty of pink caps (my wave) still in the water. I was right! Wow, I looked at my watch in disbelief that it read 30 minutes and some odd seconds. To put things in perspective, my first Olympic Tri swim was closer to 45-50 min. I guess all the time in the pool truly is paying off! At that point I was glowing and didn’t care anymore about the rest of the race as long as I finished safely.

I took my time in transition and then headed out on the bike. I definitely also took it easy in the bike. Honestly, there wasn’t many people around me to push me so I really just took my time and played it safe. There were some good hills out there but I pushed through. I saw a few wipeouts which just reiterated to me to take it easy. One turn had a steep climb after it and I witnessed numerous girls on the ground (I was glad I drove the course and knew to gear for this accordingly). The 25 miles in the miserable rain felt like it dragged on forever. It was also very challenging to see. No one said it would be easy though, right? Well I’ve never been so glad to get off my bike and head for transition!

I headed out after a decent transition to what I thought (and was told) to be a flat run. Ha! Fooled AGAIN! I was quickly greeted by a muddy trail with some rolling hills. I was covered in mud quick! We then headed a bit downhill then wrapped around the side of the Beltzville dam. Well I then came around a corner and then BAM! There was a massive rock covered hill to take you back up to the top of the dam. I loterally said out loud to the volunteer, this is a joke right?! I started to jog up but then figured my time was better spent walking and conserving some energy. Once I got to the top I started to kick it in the best I could. I pushed through and before I knew it I could hear the roar of the finish line. That gave me a little extra push to give what I had left and sprint to the finish. As I crossed the finish line I knew that I truly earned that medal that day! I was absolutely disgusting and couldn’t wait to get home and shower. All of my gear was a mess and loading it in the car was even worse. Gross!

So now you know why I forced myself into a rest day today, I think well deserved lol. This week is my bike focused week and the Buffalo Marathon on Sunday. Oh which reminds me that I omitted the near breakdown I had when the volunteer had to write 30 on my calf in permanent marker at the triathlon! Damn it I’m not 30 yet! Just give me my last few days to enjoy. Ok, end of rant :)

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Swim Focused Week – Eww

Well my recovery week went ridiculously fast, shocker. I spent the first part of the week in Fort Worth, Texas. Love to visit there! Lots of great convenient training options. I took advantage of a YMCA to swim a few blocks from my hotel. My Tuesday night workout consisted of an easy bike ride, so I grabbed a fun red bike from the bike share program and hopped on the road! What a great ride watching the sunset!

My week in Texas got cut short with an unexpected trip home for an interview. I’ll spare you the details of all the politics and just tell you that my fingers are still crossed none the less. So I picked up the remainder of the week training at home. Got a great run in around the neighborhood on Friday and felt really strong. Clearly some easier recovery days were paying off!

Saturday am I woke up early to hit the pool before heading out for a two hour ride on the local roads. I passed by the local bike shop ride and wished I had rode with them. One thing Ironman training is…. Lonely. I spend a lot of time alone with plenty of time for self reflection and debate. (Prime example: over analyzing my interview for days after the fact when it’s over!) I wish I had the ability to train more with others but it’s challenging when you are following a very specific plan. Speaking of the plan… Still going strong with no missed sessions!

So this week on Sunday I hopped a plane to Utah with my love. This was supposed to be my week at home but I decided to tag along on his work trip rather than being home alone. Best highlight of the flight…. sitting in front of Steve Carell in first class, then getting a pic with him at the gate in Atlanta! he had been in Scranton for The Office party to celebrate the show coming to an end! Pretty cool!

The elevation here is a but challenging on my training but I’m pushing through. I had one of the worst runs I’ve had in a long time on Sunday upon arrival. I hit a local trail in Ogden and just struggled from the first step through the last step 90 minutes later. BRUTAL! The combo of elevation, being cramped from sitting on a plane, eating not so healthy food before, and dehydration just kicked my rear. I looked at it from the perspective that I finished and would move on making better choices.

I found a great “surf n swim” in Layton to swim at. Imagine a giant indoor wave pool that gets converted to lap swim in the am! Love it and it’s only $3 a visit! This week is swim focused training which means at least one workout each day spent in the pool focused on endurance or speed. As much as I hate the swim, I know that come race day it will pay off (or so that’s the plan!)

Last night Jason and I headed to Park City for a little escape and some time together. We toured the 2002 Olympic winter grounds. So cool! The ski jumps and the bobsled track were just amazing! The Olympics are just such a huge inspiration to me. A girl can dream, right? We then headed over to Main Street for a nice walk and fabulous dinner. Such a great evening!

So where am I right now you may ask? Blogging live from my iPhone on a bike at Planet Fitness! I already hit the pool this am and now have a 90 min ride. Since I can’t be on the road (no bike this week) I decided to take advantage of this time to blog and catch up (I told you I would try and be more frequent ;) ) So I’ve never blogged from the app and don’t quite know how to put my pics in the post, so for now I will post them separately. Enjoy and have a great week! XOXO
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Whoops! 7 Weeks DONE! RECOVERY TIME!

Well I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I haven’t skipped a single workout in the first 7 weeks of my workout plan (GO ME!). The bad news is that I have skipped blogging on every one of those workouts. Ok, so time to bring you up to speed, better late than never right? Part of me can’t believe that 7 weeks are already done and then another part of me feels like I have been training FOREVER already.

 

I’ve had my fair share of challenges so far with balancing a lot of business travel with training, but I will say I think I’ve done a pretty darn good job of finding ways to make it work. It does however take a lot of planning and researching ahead of time (and some help from friends). Let me do a quick week by week walk recap.

 

Week of March 11, 2013: Home

Week one was nice to be home as I built a rhythm for how to get these workouts in and build the discipline I would need for the 20 weeks. I quickly realized that a lot of planning and tradeoffs would need to take place. Early morning wake ups were just the beginning and getting used to going to bed early, as quite frankly I was just exhausted. Not a lot of key noteworthy items this week but just happy to officially get through the first week.

 

Week of March 18, 2013: Fort Walton Beach & New Orleans

My first introduction to the challenge of training while on the road. The good news was that the weather was far superior to the snow that was happening at home. I found a local YMCA that allowed me to swim with my home membership which was great. I was able to run outside under the beautiful Florida sun. But, the drawback was that all of my biking was indoors at the gym. I made the best of it though and quickly learned just how uncomfortable the bike seats are at the gym for hour rides. BRUTAL! I had a great week in the sun with my love and even got some pool time. We had some great local meals and really just enjoyed the local scene in Fort Walton Beach/Destin. Friday we hopped in the car for a drive to New Orleans for the weekend. We drove through a few new states for me and even stopped for lunch. It was a nice road trip! The weekend in New Orleans was also nice with some amazing local food and beverages. The atmosphere in New Orleans always makes for a great escape. After a great week together with Jason, it was time for us to fly out and split ways once we got to Charlotte…. Home for him and Atlanta for me.

 

Week of March 25, 2013: Atlanta

Hotlanta! Best news ever is that my hotel had a lap pool, and a pretty decent sized one. Perfect for training! Another reason to love the JW. In fact, the concierge lounge at the JW Buckhead also had great healthy food options as well (compared to other Marriott’s). Although I love going home on the weekends to spend time with Jason, I decided to stay the weekend to focus on my training (and take advantage of the weather). I rented a road bike from a local shop called Silver Comet Depot (thanks to a recommendation from my co-worker Michelle). The shop was right on this great trail that was perfect for riding. On Thursday I picked up my bike and ended up joining an easy woman only bike ride on the trail for 20 miles. I had a great time and met some great people! Friday was on off day for us so I was invited to join a group of workers from my company for a group ride courtesy of Michelle. There was a 30 and 40 mile option and I ended up convincing myself to take on the challenge and go for the 40. It was a perfect course and gorgeous day. I had a lot of fun and felt like I got a great ride in. Saturday I also took advantage of the bike rental and headed to Stone Mountain to get a decent ride in. It was much hillier than I had planned for, but made for a good challenge. Sunday morning I also got in a quick ride on the trail before returning my bike. The Specialized rode bike came to grew on me. I was sad to have to return it, minus the pricey rental cost ($150 for 3 days). Although I had some great training, I missed home a lot and it felt so weird to spend Easter alone rather than with family. I made the best of it and mixed in some sightseeing. I hit up the World of Coca Cola, Piedmont Park, Atlanta Botanical Gardens, and a few great restaurants. I can say that I really enjoyed Atlanta.

 

Week of April 1, 2013: Atlanta

This week was a continuation from my weekend spent in Atlanta. Again, just continued to fit in those workouts and stick to the plan. An added bonus was that Syracuse (my alma matter) ended up making it to the Final Four, which happened to be in Atlanta. Jason and some friends from home came down to join in the festivities. They even had free concerts all weekend. It was a great experience, even if Syracuse didn’t end up making it to the National Championship. I even ended up running a Road to the Final Four 5K on Saturday morning to benefit the Coaches vs Cancer charity. It was a blast! I had a decent time and it made me feel good to know I pushed a bit too!

 

Week of April 8, 2013: Atlanta

At this point I was ready to go home. Four weeks straight away from home is a long time. I really tried to focus on my training and catching up on sleep. Nothing really all that notable this week.

 

Week of April 15, 2013: Home – Pennsylvania

This week flew by while at home but it was nice to have access to all of my regular training amenities, including my own bike.  I also had friends to train with which is such a nice perk to help mix it up a bit. My week started off with working from home on Monday and learning of the devastating Boston Marathon bombing. I couldn’t remove myself from the media once the news first broke. It seemed so surreal that an event that so many people dream of could become such a tragedy. I knew of a couple people running and my concern was instantly for their safety. I received numerous phone calls and texts from concerned friends, family, and coworkers wondering if I was there. It was nice to know that I was in many people’s thoughts. My thoughts and prayers were endlessly with Boston and those that were hospitalized. Although I was glued to the evolving events, I can honestly say that this wasn’t a complete shock to me. At many of the big races I have done in the past, NYC Marathon, Army Ten Miler, etc, things like this cross my mind. Mainly because it is such a large amount of people crammed into a small place. Although I had worried about this, it never stopped me, nor will it. In fact, Thursday night I sacrificed my rest day to head to the local running store, Scranton Running Company, for the monthly run around Scranton. However, this night had a special theme and was Run for Boston. The outpour of support from the community was huge and the largest turnout for the monthly event ever. They had special shirts that we all wore and said a prayer together at the beginning of the race. Several local runners that had run the race on Monday were there to support as well and share their terrifying stories. The idea of running for Boston carried into all of my workouts for the week and served as motivation that we are resilient, not only as runners, but as a country. Over the weekend I headed out with fellow TNT coach Matt for my first 50 miler on the bike. What a great ride!

 

Week of April 22, 2013: Orlando

I was happy to spend the week training in Orlando as to finally take advantage of some warmer temperatures. My amazing coworker, Allison (a frequent blog reader of mine) was kind enough to loan me her road bike to use. This is light years better than riding the bike at the hotel gym. I went with her to pick the bike up on Tuesday and it was a perfect fit. Between Tuesday and Friday I managed to rack up over 100 miles on the bike. One of which was a key workout for me, a 3 hour bike ride. I knew I didn’t have enough time after work to get this in before dark, so I forced myself to get up at 3am and ride the roads around the Disney/Universal/Seaworld area. It was actually a great ride with great street lighting, smooth roads, and minimal vehicles. In addition to all of the cycling, I took advantage of the YMCA Aquatic Center which had an Olympic distance (50m) pool. It was so nice to be able to swim longer with minimal turns. It took some getting used to, but I really enjoyed it. They also accepted my YMCA membership which was a nice perk as well. This week was overall the highest mileage and longest duration that I have had to date (and I left it). I had to do some re-arranging so that I could squeeze in my weekend race that I had planned, the St Luke’s Half Marathon in Allentown, PA.

 

St Luke’s Half Marathon will always have a special place in my heart as it’s the first half marathon course I ever ran. Not only was it race weekend for me, but more importantly for several Team in Training participants that I’ve been coaching this season. This season was a little different because quite a few of them trained on their own and our weekly TEAM runs weren’t quite what the usually are. However, I was grateful to have had the experience to get to know them and see them cross the finish line for a cure yesterday. We had a great inspiration dinner with the participants on Saturday and since I was the lead coach, I got to get up and say a few words. But before I did that, my tri coach Steve, the man that has got to me where I am today to undertake this 140.6 got up and said a few words. He mentioned how I had noted on Facebook a few weeks ago that I was amazed how far I was swimming and it was all because of him and his patience working with me. He also shared with the group that I’m training for an Ironman. But more so what struck me most was how he shared that he really misses coaching now that he’s taken a few seasons off and feels like part of him is empty. I have this same fear as I take this season off from coaching with no definite return in site. I just need to remind myself that I need to focus on a couple things and that I can’t do it all. If it’s meant to be, I will be back.

 

On race day I really didn’t know what to expect out of my body. I knew that I had pushed pretty hard in training this week and I also knew that I have a long journey ahead of me and didn’t want to get hurt. I figured I would just go out and see what happened, if I felt good, great if not, no big deal, just finish. I started out feeling strong and had a familiar face next to me from the start that I tried to keep with as we wove back and forth through the crowd. She is an Ironwoman, and in fact a large part of my inspiration to do Lake Placid as I followed her journey in 2012. I felt really strong until about mile 11 and then started to really feel the pace in my legs. I held back a bit and took some of the hills out of the parkway REALLY slow. I lost sight of Andrea for a bit but later regained sight in the final mile as I got a random burst of energy and pushed through to the finish. Not a personal record (PR) for this girl, a couple minutes off, but I was content with 1:50 and some change. I needed to remind myself all of the training I had done that week and that really helped put my time in perspective. I grabbed my medal, put it in my SpiBelt and then headed out to help coach the Team in Training participants  push through their final mile to the finish line. In return I ran up the last steep hill into the stadium about ten extra times (my legs are feeling it today) and I racked up about another  5 miles on the course just from going back and forth. But I will tell you that I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. To be able to help people get to that finish line made all the soreness worth it.  All around a great day! Then I went off to celebrate with a great group of friends over some brews. It was then time to head home and do laundry, then pack to head to Fort Worth this week.

 Thank goodness this is a recovery week!

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