Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Pre Race Fuel by Monique Ryan

This is THE BEST article I've ever read concerning what and when to eat before a race.   Thank you, Monique Ryan from Runner's World Magazine, for making it so simple!

Perfecting Your Prerace Food Strategy

What and how much should you eat and drink for your prerace breakfast?

October 15, 2012
Media: Perfecting Your Prerace Food Strategy
If you're like most runners, you spend the final days before your half- or full marathon feasting on high-carbohydrate foods. But a good nutrition plan doesn't end with that last plate of pasta the night before your race. Just as important is your prerace breakfast, which helps restock the liver glycogen (or stored energy) that got depleted overnight. "Liver glycogen keeps your blood-sugar level steady during exercise," says Jackie Berning, Ph.D., R.D., sports nutrition and metabolism professor at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Your morning meal provides fuel for your brain, helping to sustain motivation and concentration during a long race. But just how much should you eat on race morning to optimize your performance? Probably more than you think. Here's how to choose the ideal amount and combination of foods and fluids to power you through to a strong finish.
The best prerace breakfast consists mainly of carbohydrates, since they're digested most rapidly and are your body's preferred fuel source, says Penny Wilson, Ph.D., a Houston-based registered dietitian who works with endurance athletes. Small amounts of protein will help stave off hunger during the later miles. Limit or avoid fat and fiber; the former takes too long to digest, while the latter can cause bloating and GI problems. "I recommend foods like a bagel and peanut butter, oatmeal with milk and dried fruit, or yogurt and toast," says Wilson. Other good options include a banana and high-carb energy bar, waffle with syrup and strawberries, or even a bowl of rice.
For runners who tend to feel queasy on race morning, sticking with liquid carbs can help prevent GI problems while still providing energy and hydration. Smoothies, juices, and sports drinks all pack quick-digesting carbs that empty easily from your stomach, says Wilson.
While your usual bagel and banana might power you through a morning of meetings, it's not enough to fuel you through a half- or full marathon. Research shows that consuming 1.5 to 1.8 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight is ideal for improving performance, says Berning. For a 150-pound runner, that translates to 225 to 270 grams of carbohydrate–or about 1,000 calories, which may sound like a lot just before a hard effort. The key is to get that meal in early–three to four hours prerace to be exact, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. That gives you enough time to digest so your stomach will be fairly empty and your muscles and liver totally fueled. If you're not sure you can stomach 1,000 calories at once, you can divide them up into two smaller meals, says Berning. In that case, eat 200 to 400 calories four hours before the start, along with 12 to 20 ounces of water or sports drink (giving you plenty of time to hit the porta potty). Between 90 minutes and two hours before the start, eat most of the remaining carbs–again, choosing easy-to-digest options.
Since many races start at 8 a.m. or earlier, you'll have to set your alarm for a very early wake-up to hit that four-hour window. If that's not realistic, you may choose to eat your entire prerace meal just two hours before the start. But because you'll have less time to digest, eat only one gram of carbohydrate per pound of body weight (or 150 grams, or 600 calories, for a 150-pound runner)–sticking with foods and liquids you know are very easy on your stomach. Since you're consuming less, you do risk running out of liver glycogen, which will cause your blood sugar to plummet and may mean you hit the wall. So be vigilant about fueling early in the race (consuming 30 to 60 grams of carbs per hour) to keep your energy levels high.
Finally, have your last 25 to 30 grams of carbs 30 to 60 minutes prior to the start. This could be an energy gel or chews (with 12 to 16 ounces of water) or 16 ounces of sports drink. "This provides the last shot of fuel to hold you over until you get into the rhythm of fueling midrace," says Berning.
Berning also stresses that every runner has different food and fluid tolerances, which means a plan that works for one runner might spell GI disaster for another. That's why it's key that you practice your prerace meal strategy during training. "The stomach and gut need to be trained to handle food before a long run," says Berning. She suggests trying different combinations to find the one that works best for you. And once you find the perfect mix, stick with it. "Eat the exact same meal on race morning that you practiced with in training," says Wilson, "and you'll be set."
Can't stomach one huge morning meal? Divide it up. Here's how a 150-pound runner would fuel
3 to 4 hours prerace
1 cup cooked oatmeal with 2 tablespoons honey 62 g of carbs
6 ounces yogurt 17 g
1 large banana 31 g
2 tablespoons raisins 16 g
4 ounces juice 14 g
12 to 20 ounces water 0 g
Total Carbs = 140 g
90 minutes to 2 hours prerace
1 slice bread with 1 tablespoon jam 28 g
24 ounces sports drink 47 g
Total Carbs = 75 g
30 to 60 minutes prerace
1 energy gel or serving of energy chews 25 g
8 to 12 ounces water 0 g
Total Carbs = 25 g
Recover Right
How to eat and drink after you cross the finish - right away and beyond
Focus on carbs
Eat half a gram of carbohydrate per pound of weight. For a 150-pound runner, that's 75 grams, or the equivalent of a bagel and banana.
Eat protein
Consume 15 to 20 grams of protein to kick-start muscle repair. Get it from a high-protein energy bar along with fruit, or a PB&J.
Drink up
Aim for 20 ounces of fluid. Including 200 mg of sodium or more will boost fluid absorption. Try sports drinks and recovery shakes.
But skip the booze
You're already dehydrated. Wait at least several hours, till you've had a chance to rehydrate and refuel, and then toast your finish.
Keep it going
For the next 48 hours, continue to focus on eating plenty of carbohydrates and modest portions of high-quality protein.
79% of runners always have breakfast in the morning before a race, According to a poll on
EAT BETTER: If you're prone to midrun GI trouble, try cutting back on fiber, caffeine, and artificial sweeteners, all of which can exacerbate symptoms.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Skins Vs. CEP

 Let's talk compression.  I, for one, am all for it.  I believe the hype, the claims, the promises.  Compression works for me.  I love it when I run AND when I'm recovering.  But I've become a bit of a compression snob.

Exhibit A:
Here are two types of compression gear that I wear.  The top pink sock is by CEP, a company who started in medical grade compression and moved into the lucrative athletic wear department. Their stocking are ribbed and have graduated compression, which means they are tighter down toward the feet and less tight up by the calves, allowing for the blood to move more quickly back to the heart.

The calve sleeve below pinkie is by Skins.  Skins began as an athletic wear compression company from the get go.  The model I own is a stirrup sleeve, which allows an athlete to wear any sock he or she desires while working out while providing compression to the calve muscle and legs.
I enjoy both items.  But I have some opinions of my own.

First, for pure compression, I believe the CEP socks are overall, the better sock.  They are TIGHT and a chore to put on.  And they make my legs feel good long after I am done with my run.  For me, they are the best choice for RECOVERY, especially.  

The SKINS socks, on the other hand, are SUPER comfortable.  They glide right over your calve and the fabric is soft and smooth -- kinda like wearing stretchy pants.  For me, the SKINS are the easy choice to wear during a long run, while the CEP is clearly the choice post run.  

There is a big thang coming to town on March 2nd, called The Phoenix Marathon.  I have been doing all of my long runs with the compression socks --- so far so good.  I'll keep you posted on the progress. My legs feel pretty good during my runs.  Stay tuned for more updates on gear that works.  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Workout Within A Workout = Efficiency

Trivia for the "non-swimming" folks out there...swimming 3000 yards (something many of our 10 and unders and masters do each workout) in a 25 yard pool equals 120 push-offs (each wall)-----or the equivalent of a 20 minute squat workout in the gym!

Impressive, right?  That's a Facebook post from Tall Paul, one of the great coaches at Mesa Aquatics Masters in Mesa, Arizona.  Paul Smith is a living, breathing example of how swimming will keep you lean and in shape.  He's a lifelong swimmer and has cultivated his passion for the water to everyone who is willing to give swimming a try.  You can read more about him here:

Paul has passed along quite a bit of his wisdom to me, when I took a coaching position with MAC this summer.  Among his favorite pointers:

*  You have to slow down to speed it up when it comes to swimming. Technique technique technique! 

*  After technique has been improved, swim different speeds and distances every workout.  Make one day an interval workout, one day a distance, one day a tempo and one day a recovery swim -- similar to marathon training.

*  Don't give up on FLIP TURNS!  Work on these regularly.  Their benefits include breathing control, streamlining, and feeling that fast, underwater form when you push off the wall.

*  Swim toys are fun.  Use fins, snorkel, buoys and paddles regularly in your workout.  They help!

* And lastly, join a Master's Team near you today.  You won't regret it.  

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas Gift Ideas For The Cycling Enthusiast

Lets face it:  fashion is fun. And when cycling and fashion mix, an athlete is left with a collage of spandexy, wicking-ish, colorfully body hugging wonder wear. I have a special love for the bright orange kits worn by those crazy Basque riders from Spain.  Eustakel Euskadi cyclists are fierce competitors in the cycling world.  Their in-your-face orange jerseys scream LOOK AT ME as their riders scale the mountains of the French Alps like they were butterflies.  Everyone needs one.

Sacha just brought these babies back from said Basque country.  Never-been-worn, tags still on them, authentic European cycling gear.  She's selling the jerseys and bibs  for $70 each.  Contact her at to pick yours up today.  

Euskatel cycling jersey plus bib shorts.  Unisex size medium

Bilboa jersey, red and black, spectacularly awesome!  

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ironman Arizona -- My Perspective

I watched this year.  I saw the first trucks full of gear -- ice chests, tshirts, kerosene stoves, can openers, pallets of water - pull into the dusty lots near Tempe Beach park one week before race day.  The Aid Station rental rigs were lined up in organized rows and filled with everything necessary to accommodate an IM athlete throughout the day and night of November 18th.

I saw the "site" build up.  The gates, the tents, the scaffolding, the finish lines.  I witnessed Tempe Beach come alive for Ironman week.  The ant hill stirred on Thursday morning with athletes anxiously arriving to register and realize their dream.  Friday was a repeat of Thursday:  registration continued and the village grew.  Saturday: bike drop off, excitement grew, and no one slept.

Sunday:  Race Day.  My day started at 4a.m.   Athletes began arriving soon after.  The light towers illuminated the transition areas.  I could hear generators, the snap of bike pumps,  but voices were hush and tensions were high.

At 6:45 a.m. first the cannon boomed-- pros swimming away in the sunrise.  Then, the age groupers tentatively hopped into Tempe Town Lake.  No one ducked their head underwater at first.  Too cold.  Too nervous.

A second cannon blasted at exactly 7a.m.  Overhead the whirl of a helicopter announced itself to all the spectators -- something big was happening.  Ironman Arizona 2012 was underway....and so it began.

Through the next 22 hours I witnessed the best of human spirit.  The joy of completing the swim.  The agony of missing cut off times.  The fatigue of riding and running in full sun, then twilight, then darkness.  In my ear, the radio kept me up to date with the action on the bike and run course: "Comm, I have athlete number 1012, a DNF" as participants recognized their limits and passed their chips to staff members.  Others were injured, and some, spent.  But most carried on.

A few of us waited at the run cut off point at 10:15p.m.  "Sorry, you may not start your third loop".  There were tears of defeat, but also of accomplishment.  You've come so far... be proud of this much now.

As thousands of athletes crossed the finish line, Mike Reilly never wavered with joy and elation, announcing to the victors: "You are an Ironman!"  The crowds swelled in the early evening, then waned in the later hours.  Amazingly, they grew again at midnight as the last participants made their way across the finish line -- each with their own story of how and why they got to this place.

And then, as loud as it had been for an entire 17 hour day,  the hush fell once again.  And lone athletes crossed unannounced and unrecognized.  For any who made it after midnight, the staff dropped what they were doing an applauded.

From 12:30a.m. on,  it was all torn down and cleaned up as quickly as it was built up the week before.  Mylar blankets were gathered, food was collected, participants picked up their belongings, others braved the serpentine lines of 2013 registration. And Tempe Beach was back to normal.

Witnessing an Ironman start-to-finish is a life-changing experience.  It is a testament to the kindness of strangers.  It is the the realization of dreaming big.  It is the accomplishment of a goal thanks to personal determination and guidance from the race directors, volunteers, family and friends.

And just like that, the circus packs up and moves on.  It will happen again in 364 days for 3,000 more people who need to hear that cry..."You are an Ironman".   And those of us who are athlete junkies will be back again for more.

I can't wait.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday, November 9, 2012

I Like Reason #1

See more at 

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Some times things don't always go as planned, but you find the inner strength to complete your goal, anyway.  Here's Greg's race report from Ironman Florida.  We are proud of you, Greg!

When I signed up for Ironman Florida it was to be my piece de resistance, the bow on top of my Ironman career.  While it was not much of a career (3 races), I was hanging it up after this race.  At this stage in my life with family, church and work, I just couldn't handle the training load for full Ironman races.  I had really wanted to get a good time and this was the race for it.  My first Ironman was all about finishing.  I didn't know what I was doing and I was just trying to finish for the incredible goal of simply being an Ironman.  In my second IM, I was definitely racing, but doing the inaugural Ironman St. George was not about getting a good time.  The course had over 10,000 feet of climbing on the bike and the marathon was uphill or downhill the entire race and included incredibly steep climbs of 8% in a few places.  That is a tough course for a normal marathon, yet alone as part of an Ironman.

So Florida was to be it.  I would nail this race and get a fabulous time as I retired from Ironman racing forever or for at least a very long time.  I worked with a fabulous coach this year (Matt Dixon at Purplepatch fitness).  I bought a power meter to govern my effort on the bike portion. I was ready to go.  Mike and I had a pacing plan that got us to under 10:00 hours.  We knew it would be tough and the weather would have to be good for it to happen, but we both felt like it could happen.

Once Saturday morning came, we knew the weather gods were against us and the 10:00 hour goal would be tough.  The ocean which had been totally calm on Friday was in turmoil on Saturday morning.  There were big swells coming in that lasted the entire swim out to the turnaround. The temperature was climbing all week and peaked on Saturday.  I think the official temp was 85, but it felt hotter to me.  Away from the coast on the bike, it was definitely hotter.  The humidity rose like crazy on Saturday too.  I don't know why.  It had been pretty dry, but Saturday morning, everything was wet from the moisture in the air.  It was even foggy in places.  Mentally - I was okay with it. I adjusted my expectations.  I would still be really happy at 10:10 or 10:20 or even 10:30.

In brief, things went okay during the early part of the race.  The swim was tough, but I felt pretty good as I got through it.  When I stood up, I was at 1:11.  Little slower than projected, but okay.  Got on the bike and felt good.  Unbelievably though, my power meter did not work.  It has never not worked on any ride before. I was so frustrated because I literally bought it for this race and had my entire bike strategy was set up around holding certain power and cadence levels.  I had to push it out of my mind after 5 - 10 miles because it was bringing me down.  I was so frustrated, but mentally, I had to push it away.  I basically would just use perceived effort and mph as my gage like I had done in the other Ironman races.  Overall, the bike went well.  I realized that somehow my timing chip had come off so that is why nobody was getting updates on my splits.  My wife was worried that I had crashed, but I was okay.  It was a great course, but it definitely got very hot.  The wind really picked up and I felt like we fought some heavy headwinds and crosswinds.  Still, I was coming in around 5:15 and I felt good.  I had some fatigue in my legs, but I was ready to run.

I had trained all summer to run a 3:30 marathon.  I had done it on several long training days in the Arizona heat.  I was ready for that pace.  I knew I could back off if necessary and still come in around 4:00 hours.  Because of the heat and humidity, I realized early in the marathon that I would probably have to back off.  It was going to need to be a 3:45 - 4:00 marathon.  That is okay - I would still come in around 10:20 - 10:30 overall and be really pleased with that. Got to the turnaround at 6.6 miles and felt pretty good, but the stomach was tight.  I was not able to get in much water, Gatorade or Coke.  There was no way food was going in.  I saw Mike at the turnaround and I was about 2 ½ to 3 minutes behind him.  Based on all of our training, I expected to catch him during the 6.6 - 13.1 mile stretch. I figured we could run together for a while and make sure he got to his Kona slot (which he did - he got passed in the last 300 yards which meant he didn't win his age group, but still got 2nd and a spot to Kona - yea!)

On the way back, I really started to not feel good.  I was getting very nauseous. My pace was dropping.  I still felt like I could bang out a 4 hour marathon, but it was going to hurt.  At the half way mark, I was getting bad.  I saw Demi and Vicky and told them I was hurting.  I knew I need to walk a for a minute.  I thought I would walk and then settle my stomach and then get back to it. That is when I started throwing up.  Basically, over the next 13 miles, I threw up over 25 times. I lost track in the high teens, but it was definitely over 25 times.   My body literally shut down.  I had to lay on the ground a few times for 10 minutes or so because I was so dizzy.  I couldn't even walk at times. Several times, the volunteers or spectators would tell me I needed to drop out and get medical help. I needed to DNF.  I really thought about it. I wasn't trying to prove anything.  My "good time" was out the window.  I had already finished two other Ironman races so I didn't need to finish for that.  I really didn't want to quit though. I wanted to finish.  There were several times that I didn't know if I could.  I didn't think I could walk the distance.  I literally could not run anymore.  My body would not let me.  I did try a couple of more times, but I would cramp immediately and then throw up. I tried to slowly get fluids in me on several occasions, but I would only throw it up a couple of minutes later.  At those moments, when people around me were telling me I had to quit, it was very tempting.  Even when there were only three miles left, I didn't know if I could finish. I was still debating in my mind if I could go on because of the dizziness I was feeling.  I would just pause (or throw up) and then slowly keep moving. Lots of life lessons there - not the throwing up part.

This is why I say it was a spectacular success.  In many ways, this embodies the true Ironman spirit.  I was done.  I didn't think I could go on, but I found the internal strength to keep going.  This was different from other races where you are in pain and want to stop, but that is more based on the pace.  In this case, my body had shut down, but I found a way to keep going. I walked the entire second half of the marathon. I had to stop several times.  I threw up many times along the way. With the throwing up, it meant I had no liquids or nutrition for about five hours, but I kept going.  The second part of the marathon took me over 4 ½ hours to finish. That is a long time. It felt like forever.  What that means is that people who were just getting off the bike when I was half way done with the marathon still passed me in the marathon.  The swim and bike portion took me about 6 ½ hours and the marathon took me about 6 ½ hours.  Definitely not to plan.

I feel okay about this though.  Of course, I am very disappointed that I didn't get my solid Ironman time.  I feel like I never lived up to my potential at the Ironman distance, but I am not hanging my head.  Just to finish in the condition I was in is very inspiring to me.  I realize that nobody else will fully get that, but it means something to me.  I really should have quit, but I kept going.

Thanks, Greg, for your honest and sincere report of your race.  You're a three-time Ironman finisher.  And no one can take that away from you.  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Austin 70.3 Dave's Race Report

I asked David Turner to share his report of the Half Ironman in Austin, TX last weekend.  He gives a nice, detailed outline of a race that summarizes the day perfectly.  The race is point to point with two transitions but only one mile from one another.  The start is in Walter E. Long Lake with a counter clockwise trapezoid swim.  Then,  exit to T1 and ride a single loop 56 miles around the Austin countryside.  Arrive at T2 near the Luedeke arena and start a three-loop run that ends indoors in the arena itself.  
David Turner and Andy Potts


I woke up at 4:30 to get all my stuff out to the car and get some breakfast in me.   Quinoa, flax cereal and almond milk, as usual.  It was 45 degrees – luckily I had brought some cold weather clothes for the morning – toque, sweatshirt and sweatpants and a Nike fleece running shirt.  It kept me pretty warm but I could have used some gloves.   It didn’t get light until 7:20 and the first wave started at 7:30 so we were in the dark most of the time.  T1 had decent lighting but I should have brought my headlamp.  Not enough pumps in the Transition area either – I had to get in line and wait a while.  Still had plenty of time to get it done.   A lot of stickers on the ground so you had to carry your bike around the transition area to avoid a flat later on.


My wave started at 7:45.  Swim was wetsuit legal with the water temp at about 71 degrees – amazingly the water was warmer than being on shore!  We got in right before and everyone was commenting on how great it felt.  The gun went off and the feeding frenzy began.  I got kicked in the goggles once pretty hard.  No damage, though.  One guy was on my tail for a while and I kicked him right in the head and thought I had cut my foot.  I kept a strong rhythm, though and got into a good groove.  Sighted every 5th stroke, which was good and kept me straight.  Left the water with a PB of 42:13 so I was very happy.  Wetsuit strippers rule!  Glad they had them.  T1 time was 7:28 – a little long but with all the extra gear it makes sense.  Better than ‘56 miles of miserable’ on the bike….


Fortunately I had brought along my winter riding jersey, just in case!  I chose not to wear anything under my wetsuit so I could be as dry as possible for the bike.  I threw on my tri-jersey and then put the bike jersey over top of it.  Thanks to Andy Potts suggestion, I had grabbed some Mechanics Gloves at Sears to keep my hands warm.  Wool socks also, which helped, but two covers would have been better.
The Bike route reminded me of Calgary.  Meandering hills – rollers throughout.  The only difference was the road conditions – they were bad!  Lots of cracks, indentations, etc. from the drought conditions.  It felt like Bush Highway most of the way.  I tried to fuel to my plan -  ½ a Bonk Breaker every half hour and top it off with Nuun flavored water.  It worked well during the bike – but I would really tell during the run.  Finished with a 3:07:10 on the bike. – not my best but it felt right.  After all, I was really worried about the run (see my previous report for IM 70.3 Boulder).   T2 time was 8:55 which was longer than I anticipated but that was because I had to wait for the port-a-jon.


I started the run feeling good.  Each loop was about 4.3 miles and there were lots of spectators and people with dogs, etc. that helped motivate me forward.  With three loops, it made for a lot of aid stations and a lot of people around you – a little crowded for one part as you had two lanes of runners flow against one another as well as part of the cycling route on the same road!  Again, the road conditions were uneven, rocky and there were a couple of parts with potholes, sand and even grass.  Almost needed trail shoes!  Lap one was good, lap two was OK and lap three was hard (no surprise).  At this point, the colder weather was GREAT!  A cool breeze kept us from overheating and that made a big difference for me.  At mile 12, though, my legs started to cramp.  First time that has ever happened.  I walked for a while and then muscled on to the finish.  2:14:34.  A PB for the ½ marathon in an Ironman 70.3 race.


Total race time 6:20:20, which is were I always seem to end up.  Very happy with the time and felt somewhat redeemed from the Boulder race.  I ended up 93 out of 194 in my age group and 1074 out of 2500 or so participants overall.

After finishing, I was VERY light headed and my cramps up and down both legs began to get bad.  I got some salty BBQ beef in me and some chips to counteract them but I had to sit for a long time and go short distances due to being as light headed as I was.  Probably the worst I felt after a race ever….  Took me a few hours to recoup and I was good as new for Dinner at Whole Foods that night.


I give this race a solid ‘B’ Grade.  It was a well organized race in a neat city.  Probably my favorite swim of all – warm and nice.  Nothing scenic about any part of the race, though.  Boulder, Calgary and Boise are all prettier overall courses.  Volunteers were good but not great. This is just a good, solid race.  I had a great time and I am really glad I did it.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Different Kind of Race

The Ultra Marathon.  The Tough Mudder.  The end-all-be-all Ironman triathlon.  We've done a pretty good job developing the longest, most difficult, most extreme physical challenges that have ever been organized on the earth.  There's cycling races, marathons, swiming events all designed to crush our limits and create new ones.  As endurance athletes, we accept these dares, we train, we prepare and we conquer.  And afterwards we give ourselves a big pat on the back for a job well done.  We walk tall with a medal around our neck and flash that tattoo on our calf which documents bragging rights for the rest of our lives. 

But there are other races going on out there.  The race for time with family when someone is suffering a fatal disease.  The challenge of dealing with a debilitating divorce.  The stress of children or friends or family who are experiencing loss or depression.  And the endurance test of watching a parent's memory, and their recognition of you, slip away forever. 

Life is our true test, our journey, our race.  There are times when we are anxious, treading furiously  hoping above all things that we can keep our head above water.  Exhaustion, sadness, fatigue are all parts of our story.  But so are moments of joy, happiness, and elation.  For all the work we put into THIS race, there is no medal, no podium, no victory t-shirt. 

Which is why we should enjoy the races we CHOOSE to enter.  Chip time and clock time don't need to define who we are. 
I am a RUNNER. 
I am a SWIMMER. 
I am a CYCLIST. 
There may be asteriks next to these definitions.  *Boston Qualifier.  *Kona Participant.  *LOTOJA podium finisher.  *Leadville BIG buckle. 

But there are no asteriks next to: 
Son of an Alzheimer's Dad
Wife of a Husband with Brain Cancer
Dealing with Depression
Parent dealing with a child's depression

For these friends and family members, your journey makes me most proud.  And you deserve the medal.  Keep on keepin' on.  Your race may never be over. 

But you are the true winners in my book. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Secret Race --- Amazing!

It's been quite a while since I was so wrapped up in a book that I wanted to stay in bed, turn on the reading light and spend hours at a time devouring every word of a well written story.  Wow!  Daniel Coyle you know how to write!  And Tyler, you know how to spill the beans.

Like an undercover agent, Hamilton describes the tainted blood, sweat and tears surrounding his years in The Tour de France.  The cast of characters include some of the biggest names in the cycling world including the Big Dog, Lance Armstrong.  Hamilton guiltily admits doping in any way that would keep him boosted just enough to avoid suspicion come drug testing time.  The lengths he would go to for EPO, testosterone and intravenous blood collection are shocking.  

If you're a fan of cycling at all, this book is one I would HIGHLY recommend.  And if you're not a cyclist, the story line will still hold your interest, and concludes with a moral that the truth will set you free.  

Thank you Tyler for telling your story.  The cat is out of the bag now.  As for Lance, you were the best of the best -- especially when it came to doping.  But you instilled a love of cycling in me, and I'll always be grateful for that.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Read This Twice -- It Makes A Lot Of Sense

Here's some great advice from Olympic Gold Medalist Misty Hyman.  Hyman is a fellow coach at MAC Masters.  She's got the knowledge and the expertise to help any swimmer improve their stroke.  She knows the secret to any great swim is the kick...

In my experience, most pullers have trouble getting propulsion from the upward motion of the kick, known as the upkick. The upkick is in either flutter kick or butterfly kick when your legs come up behind your body in a straight position. A lot of people think of this motion as resetting the leg for the next downkick which is when the knee bends and whips the foot towards the front of your body and towards the bottom of the pool. The mistake many make is that they rest on the upkick and work too hard on the downkick. This puts most of the stress of the kick on the quadriceps which are large muscles in the thighs that require a lot of oxygen and can tire quickly.

A more balanced kick can be much more sustainable and effective. The key to a more balanced kick is twofold; being able to engage your glutes (your rear end muscles) and hamstrings (muscles in the back of your thighs) and opening up the hip flexors (muscles in the front of your hip). If you are lifting your leg up behind you while it is straight, you must use the muscles in your hamstrings and your glutes. A lot of us forget how to use those muscles or are just so tight in our hips that we can’t.

You can’t engage your glutes in an extended position if your hip flexors are too tight. Your hip flexors are a group of muscles located in the front of your hip where your upper thigh meets your lower abdomen.  There are a number of different ways to stretch your hip flexors. My favorite is a
kneeling lunge as shown to the right. It is important to keep your  lower abs tight to support your lower back. Lean forward in the position until you feel the stretch in the front of your hip. If your front knee goes over your front toes step the front foot forward more. Practice contracting your glutes while in this stretch. To increase the intensity of the stretch resist your knee into the ground as if you are trying to
pull the knee towards the front foot. I recommend resisting the knee for five deep breaths then
relaxing deeper into the stretch for three breaths. You can alternate this stretch with a hamstring stretch by simply straightening the front leg and moving the hips back over the bent knee. To increase the intensity of this stretch keep the back straight and lean forward over your front leg. Perhaps even bring
your hands to the ground. Keep your front toes pointed towards the sky. Hold this position for five deep breaths. Then repeat the entire routine three times in a row. Do this at least three times
per week.

Stretching is an important part of any swimming routine. Gold Medalists Jason Lezak and Dara Torres consider stretching an indispensable part of their dryland regimen. Jason stretches 3 times per day, and Dara stretches over an hour per day! Stretching for just 15-20 minutes each day can significantly improve your swimming especially your kick. Ask your coach for other great swimming stretches that you can do!

It is often difficult to engage new muscles when we are in the pool, because we naturally revert back to the habits we have had since we were very young. It can be helpful to simulate a proper kick motion out of the water in order to change our technique in the water. This is one of my favorite dryland exercises. You will need a medium sized inflatable exercise ball, often called a physio ball. Place your lower abdomen on top of the ball with your hands on the ground right under your shoulders. It is similar to a push up position, except the ball is under your lower stomach and hips. Extend your legs straight out behind you. Then do  a flutter kick motion in the air. Make sure that the leg that is going down towards the ground is bending to create a whip motion as you extend your toe towards the ground.

When your leg comes back up, make sure that it remains straight until it reaches its highest point which
should be slightly above your hip and body. Remember the self-talk, “Whip (bend the knee) down, lift up straight.” Alternate this motion with your legs as if you were kicking in mid-air. Be sure to keep your head in a neutral position in a straight line with your body. Keep your abdominal and back muscles engaged throughout this exercise to avoid injury. Balancing on the ball is part of the challenge of the exercise. At first the coordination is a challenge, but with practice it will become more natural.
Do this exercise for :30 seconds at a time then rest. Start with one set of :30 seconds the first time. When you are ready, build up to two sets of :30 seconds and then eventually three sets of :30 seconds. Do this exercise at least three times per week for 4-6 weeks. When this becomes moderately easy you can try the same exercise, but with your legs together for butterfly kick.


STRETCH!  Go to yoga on a regular basis or get stretched from a certified stretch therapist.
STRENGTHEN!  CrossFit helps strengthen the glutes, the hamstrings and the overall core.

You can kill two birds with one stone at Build Up Crossfit in Mesa.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Behind The Scenes...IMAZ 2012

I've got a new job.  A bit overwhelming and a bit under prepared but none the less, I'm now an official employee at:

Ironman Arizona is November 18th and from now until then, I'll be eating, drinking and sleeping Ironman.  We've got big things to do: logistics, volunteer assigning, doling out foundation monies, and making this event run like clockwork come race day.

A word about those foundation monies.  Ironman does a fabulous job of giving back to the community.  If you scratch their back, they'll scratch yours.  Charitable organizations with non-profit status can bring volunteers to the race in November, and in return, receive a sizable check for their charity as thanks for their services.  It's a beautiful thing.  To find out more just leave a message on my blog and I will get you all the information.

For now, I'm answering emails, checking on numbers and ticking off to-do lists.  Just a hint for anyone participating in or volunteering at an event as big as Ironman --  READ the information guides.  Most questions about the course are already answered in the athlete manuals.  Take the time to peruse these before any event.  There is a reason they were compiled for over 2000 athletes and 4000 volunteers.

Soap box done for the day.

Look for me if you're coming to Ironman.  I'm the tall one, probably sleep deprived, but happy to be surrounded by amazing athletes, selfless volunteers and thousands of cheering fans.  See you in T-minus 45 days!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Saturday, September 29, 2012


by Dawn Brooks

Yesterday I competed in my second olympic-distance triathlon. It was an amazing experience. I didn't have my normal entourage of friends with me yelling and cheering me on, but I had my coach Lorie Tucker and a few other friends giving me positive energy and encouragement. But what made the experience completely awe inspiring is right as I was stepping in the water, I saw the first of the parapalegics swim in and get lifted onto the platform. WOW! I had to remove my goggles and wipe a few tears at the sight of these amazing athletes. People ask me why I put myself through all the training to do these types of races and this is exactly why…I get to be in the presence of truly amazing people. I am surrounded by people with such drive and focus. They set a goal and do everything in their power to achieve that goal. I am honored to be in their presence.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tashina Said It Best

I took these words straight from Tashina's instagram this morning.  I couldn't have said it better myself! Congratulations to all the finishers, but especially to my own athletes, Dawn Brooks,  Simon Beltran, Jeff Louden and Dallas Louden.  

This morning we started the day off early down at Tempe Town Lake to watch my dad, my brother, sister-in-law, and close friend compete in the Nathan's Olympic Triathlon. These types of events are so inspiring and the people are one of a kind. They come in all shapes and sizes, wear all different styles of clothing, and prefer different brands of shoes....but one thing that they share is the love/drive to compete and finish this race that they set out to do for their very own personal reasons. 

I had the chance to witness bike wrecks, cramped up legs, tired bodies, tears of doubt, family members screaming trying to bring out that last ounce of strength for someone they love struggling through the last hour, and others just simply walking off the course and quitting before they even had a chance to finish.

For those that finished, whether fast or slow... they finished. I saw a dad that appeared out-of-shape grab his little boy's hand as he hobbled the last 100 meters, obviously hurting and drained of any energy, look over at his son and said with tears in his eyes, "Dad made it, I finished." He not only won in his son's eyes but conquered the inner battle that fought back everyday, the one that told him to quit. 

I also saw a women run in with four kids cheering her on who were proud to call her mom and welcomed her victorious smile with open arms.  When others give the excuse of kids as a reason not to stay healthy, she made it her reason. She became an example to her children far greater than she and we could ever dissect. She is strong and proved to them that you can accomplish anything that you set your mind to. 

Experiencing these little lessons in life renewed my commitment to strive harder everyday for the goals that I put in place for myself. It doesn't matter how strong, in shape, out of shape, 10 kids, no kids, 20 years old, or 100 years old....set a goal and don't stop until its done. I, for one am grateful for the father that I have.  When I was young, he never let me quit anything and proves day in and day out that he holds himself to the same standard.  I'm a proud daughter that will forever stand at the finish line cheering him on.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The S.C.A.R. Swim Challenge

S.C.A.R. is an open water swim adventure through Saguaro, Canyon, Apache and Roosevelt (S.C.A.R.) lakes in the beautiful desert canyons on the lower Salt River, spanning more than 40 miles.  The first three lakes went dam to dam.  The last swim at Roosevelt Lake was a 10k under the stars and finishing beneath the iconic Roosevelt Bridge.  This open water staged swim was cold, windy, dark and rough at times.  But in the end, an unforgettable experience.  Stay tuned for plans for 2013's S.C.A.R. adventure.  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

What Do YOU Choose?

Heavy hearts came together this week over the passing of Rob Verhaaren.  Between his death on September eighth and his funeral on September 15th, friends and family paid tribute to this gentle man, friend, father, husband, son and cyclist.

There were intimate gatherings of those involved in the LOTOJA race, who met to mourn in a smaller setting.  There were Rob Verhaaren memorial rides.  And there were quiet reminders of Rob's 43th birthday on September 13th with celebratory candles placed in front of his home.   
And the funeral, well, that, my friends is one for the record books.  Bridget, (not Bridgette), gave the most amazing tribute of her husband and best friend. Bridget is STRONG.  And I know Rob is proud of how she is handling all of this.

Perspective hit home for me this week, with the recognition of another tragic event:  9/11.  Each year the City of Tempe, AZ displays almost 3,000 flags in their beach park to honor each of the victims who died in the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.  The HEALING FIELDS is quite a breathtaking site.

The 8-foot high flags are tied with name placards which tell where the victims were working at the time of the deadly attacks.  And as the flags flapped in the breeze as I walked through the ailes and rows of these visible displays of life, I had an epiphany:  you can die in a building, at work, at a desk, or you can die riding a bike through the spectacular scenery of southern Wyoming.
There will always be reason to fear.  There can always be excuses to NOT do something.  But I'm choosing to live.  And to ride.  And to make the most of my short visit here on earth.   There is something in the blood of every cyclist, runner, swimmer, mountain climber -- that CRAVING for the wind at your back and fresh air in your face.  We WANT to tackle something bigger than us.  We NEED to crest the mountain peak.  We DESIRE to cross the finish line.  We want to LIVE.

And so, with new perspective we carry on.  And take with us the traits that Rob has so vividly reminded us:  keep things in balance, spend time with those you love,  serve others,  prioritize the important stuff, and most of all -- follow your heart. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Rob Verhaaren

I've been staring at an empty screen for awhile now, trying to put into words how I feel.

Yesterday afternoon, around 4:30 p.m., my husband I and received a mass text from a cousin:  "Pray for Rob.  He's been in a terrible accident.  May not survive."  Rob is a dear friend and fellow cyclist who was racing LOTOJA (stands for LOgon TO JAckson)-- a 206-mile cycling event that winds from Logan, Utah to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

We had several friends competing in the event.  All of them had to put in mass miles on their bikes, a tricky situation here in Phoenix where summer temperatures rise to more than 100 degrees often before nine in the morning.  Many LOTOJA cyclists would start their long Saturday training rides at 10p.m. and finish at dawn, just to avoid the brutal heat.

The texts quickly turned south:  "He did not survive."

It is believed that Rob had swerved to avoid a pot hole near Hoback Junction, just 18 miles outside of Jackson Hole.  The swerve caused Rob to hit and fall over the guard rail of a bridge that was +-100 feet above the Snake River, where the water depths are only six inches deep.

When you get this news, suddenly time stops, sounds mute and you deflate into a whisper of numbness.  Rob is gone, leaving his beautiful wife Bridget and their three kids, Ansel, Helena and Karl.

Here is where I'm going to tell you my beliefs, you can tune out now if you'd like.  I believe Rob was greeted by family and friends on the other side.  I believe my father, who also died in a cycling accident, may have been there to welcome Rob, as well.  I believe that God has a plan for both Rob and his family.  For Bridget, it may be a difficult and emotional road ahead.  But it will be worth it.  And she will have God, her family and her friends by her side to bring peace into her life.

And what about cycling for me?  Am I done for?  Is this sport just too dangerous?

Rob and I each bought beautiful new Cervelo S5s on the same day, at the same bike shop just three months ago.  We were excited for each other, and compared bar tape choices and color of pedals -- just to see which looked better.

That bike has renewed my joy of cycling.  I get excited and happy to head out for a long ride with friends.  I have started commuting into work on it, just to spend more time in the saddle.  Five a.m. is never too early to start a morning workout when you have such a beautiful piece of equipment waiting for you in the garage.

I guess I just have to say TBD.  The roads are getting more dangerous.  Distracted drivers with cell phones are a huge issue for bikes on the road.  And, quite frankly, I am sick of friends and family losing their lives on a bike.  I just don't know.

Today, though, we will remember Rob.  The amazing friend, father and husband he was.  He took the time to take his family around the world where they discovered together the culture, beauty, cities, and landscapes of other continents.  He taught them to believe in a higher power and to remember the values of home, family and faith.  He taught them about heaven, and instilled in them the knowledge that he will see them again someday.

Thank you for being such a special person in our lives, Rob.  We are better off for knowing you.  And give my dad a hug when you can.   

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Do You Need A Bike?

Sacha is selling her carbon fiber Argon bike.  It's a 54cm frame with Dura-Ace components and she will include Speedplay pedals. The bike is a 2004 model and has been meticulously maintained and always stored indoors.   Contact if you are interested.  She is asking $1200.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Which Does What Mean? Running Definitions Courtesy of Runner's World Magazine

The Phoenix Marathon Team takes sixth place overall at the Hood To Coast Challenge, with over 1,000 teams at their event!  Thanks for sharing via Instagram, Dave!

Whether you're following advice from a coach, or mapping your way to your next race via a pre-printed workout plan, you need to KNOW the difference between a tempo run and an easy run.  Here are Runner's World's definitions of each type of run in a typical marathon plan.  Know your stuff --  a run without a plan is just a mindless workout.
REST:  No exercise at all or nonimpact cross-training, yoga, or swimming.
EASY RUN:  Running at a conversational pace, rest, or cross-train with a sustained aerobic effort.
HILL:  Run the hilliest course you can find, sustaining an even effort as you climb and descend.
HILL REPEATS:  Find a hill that takes at least two minutes to climb: mark off a short repeat halfway up from the bottom.  Warm up for two miles then run to the short mark three or four times.  Jog down to recover.  Then run to the top, jog down to the short mark, then sprint to the bottom (without slapping your feet).  Repeat three or four times.  Finish with three or four sprints up to the short mark.  Cool down with two easy miles.
MILE REPEATS:  Warm up for one mile, then run one mile at 10-K pace.  Jog a half-mile.  Repeat as directed.  Cool down with one easy mile.
LSD: Long, slow distance runs build endurance.  Run them at one or two minutes slower than marathon goal pace.
MP: Marathon goal pace.  Warm up for one mile, then run your target speed.  Cool down with one easy mile.
YASSO 800s:  Warm up with easy running, then run 800 meters at the give time that's "equal" to your marathon time.  So, if your goal is 3:45 marathon and the workout calls for "9 miles + 6x Yasso 800s" run 6x800 and run each 800 in 3 minutes 45 seconds.  Recover with 400 meters of jogging and walking.  Then repeat the cycle.  Cool down with easy running.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Judy Conquers Ironman Mont-Tremblant

My humble and modest friend Judy just crushed the course of Ironman Mont-Tremblant in Quebec, Canada last weekend.  She finished in a time of 12:50!  Way to go Iron Girl!  We are proud of you!  Here's her race report...

My Ironman Mont-Tremblant Race Report
Race Day:  Sunday, August 19th, 2012
It was over a year ago, that I decided that I would tackle my second Ironman.  The New York City Ironman and the Mont-Tremblant Ironman were announced at the same time.  I looked at both websites and knew immediately that I wanted to race in Canada.  Everything about it seemed like I would be in for one epic adventure - and an epic adventure it was!

The list is long of people who helped me throughout my training process.  I have kept a list of each of those people, and hopefully, they know who they are, as I could not have done this race without them!

I began training in January, as I was would be doing the Oceanside 70.3 race in March and then Vineman 70.3 in July.  These two races would be great indicators as to how my training was progressing.  Those experiences, in themselves, were great teaching tools to get me to the start line of Ironman Mont-Tremblant.

I arrived in Mont-Tremblant on Thursday prior to the race.  This was a very long and rough day of travel.  With flight delays on every portion of the race, a long wait to get through customs, and then finding out the car rental company that I had made my reservation through did not actually have a car for me, I was spent.  While trying to figure out what to do about the car situation, I happened to see the guy from Enterprise-Rent-A-Car that had helped me in June when I flew up to preview the course.  I said hello and explained my situation.  He had me follow him to the Enterprise counter and within minutes, had a car for me, and at a fraction of the cost it normally would have been.  (I almost always use Enterprise.  When I was booking my car for this trip, this other company - that didn’t end up having a car for me - was significantly less expensive so I decided to try them instead of Enterprise.  Lesson learned there!  Stick with what you know to be a quality service so you don’t have to be worried about things when you arrive!)  I got to the hotel where my reservation was made and they ended up sending me to another hotel, who sent me to a third hotel, where I finally had a room.  In Tremblant, you use a central reservation group to book rooms.  This means that your reservation may say one hotel, and you end up somewhere else, which is exactly what happened to me.  By the time I finally got to my room it was almost 10pm and I was exhausted!  I had planned to be there around 6pm.  Things change, and I just rolled with it.

Friday morning, I put my bike together, which was a first for me!  I have only traveled to races where my bike arrived still put together!  I did what I knew how to do and then met with my coach, who helped me with the rest of it.  It was great to have him there!  It was a relief to know that I had some friendly faces there and that they knew how to help me with the little things!  He got everything dialed in for me and then I headed back to my room.  I went for a short run down to the swim exit area and just chatted with a few athletes who had just come out of the water.  All reports were that the water was great!  I did a bit more running and then went back to my room to just chill out and relax a bit.  My room overlooked the mountain behind the village and I just sat with the patio doors open, enjoying the fresh air and the sounds of excitement in the air.
I then decided to go for a short swim to test out the water myself.  I always like to swim at least once in a new body of water so that there are no surprises on race day.  The water was just as everyone said - GREAT!  It was about 72 degrees and clean.  You can see the bottom for a good portion of it.  I probably only swam about 500 yards or so before getting out.  My coach said that two days before is the most important for rest.  I opted not to take my bike out on Friday, and instead went and got checked in.  Registration was a very smooth process and it was fairly quick.  If there is anything I have learned over the years, it is to NOT go first thing in the morning when registration opens.  Instead, wait a few hours and you can usually walk right through, which is what I did.  Perfect!  

The Athlete Welcome Dinner was Friday night - UNBELIEVABLE!  The energy was alive and well.  I was fortunate to be given a VIP bracelet to sit in the middle, close to the stage.  The banquet was in an enormous tent - the biggest I’ve ever seen! There was some local talent that brought everything to life.  They were drummers and they had their presentation nailed down and choreographed.  It is very hard to describe.  Pictures don’t describe it and even the short videos I took can not give you a true sense of how incredible these performers were.  UNREAL!  It was an amazing way to start the evening.  
Like most banquets, they had a few speakers, a few videos, and of course food.  Dinner was a fantastic spread of French-Canadian Fare while still giving it that pre-race meal feel.  Meats, salads, fruits, veggies, etc.  Delish!  At the conclusion of the dinner, everyone gathered outside at the Ironman Stage where they had another performer play for 90 minutes, followed by a spectacular fireworks show. Because a majority of the athletes stayed in the village, the sheer number of people that stayed for the entire evening was quite impressive.  Usually once the banquet is done, everyone goes their separate way for the night.  I would guess that there were at least 1000 people that stayed until after the fireworks.  And then......time for bed.  We are all told that Friday night is the most important night of sleep, since most of us can’t sleep the night before the race.  All week I had had restless sleep and dreams of different aspects of the race that woke me in the middle of the night.  Friday night was no different, but at least I got a mostly solid night rest.

On Saturday, I did short bouts of each discipline.  Biking to make sure all my gears worked and that everything felt comfortable, running to loosen things up, and then....the swim.  Wow, what a difference a day makes.  The water was SO CHOPPY when I went down to swim.  I debated on whether or not to even get in, but decided that if it was like this on race morning, I would want to be prepared.  So again, I swam about 500 yards or so.  That was enough for me.  I had my fingers crossed at that point that race morning would prove to have perfect water conditions.  
I put all my gear together that needed to get checked in and then headed down to get my bike and gear checked in.  They transformed the banquet tent into change tents and the gear bag area - brilliant!  It was perfectly set up!  The only thing left to do on Saturday was to eat some dinner and go to bed early!

More than anything, I was excited to be racing.  I thought I would be super nervous, but I wasn’t.  This is another first for me!  I got up, ate some breakfast, did some stretching, made sure I had everything I needed, and headed down to transition.  The great thing about staying at the village is that I was able to walk everywhere and didn’t need extra travel time.  The other bonus is that they have a little tram that takes you from the top of the hill down to the bottom, where transition was.  So, I hopped on the tram and got a ride to the bottom.  The first thing waiting for me at the bottom of the hill was the bodymarking volunteers!  Got myself marked and headed towards my bike.  I made sure everything was set with the bike, headed to my gear bags to put a few odds and ends in each one, and then back to the bike.  I put my wetsuit on, put on an ample amount of bodyglide, and walked to the swim start.
The swim start was about ½ mile from transition.  I had my extra tennis shoes with me as well as a cheap pair of flip flops.  I walked over in my shoes and then changed into the flip flops when I got to the beach.  I used the bathroom, took my warm comfy clothes off, put them in the dry clothes bag, dropped them off, and headed to the beach with my swim cap and googles.  It was a cool morning - about 49 degrees or so. A nice volunteer helped me get zipped up and I was ready to roll.  

When the gun went off (or rather, they had to yell ‘GO’ because they were going to use a cannon, but spectators would not move far enough away from it to be safe to fire), I let the fast swimmers get on their way and then started my day - just a long, catered training day, right?!  Because it was a one loop swim, the field spread out pretty quickly, which was great for me.  I found some bubbles to draft off of and just found a groove and kept swimming.  I felt great in the water.  Oh, by the way, the water was completely flat race morning with not an ounce of wind to stir things up!  Again, what a difference a day makes!  There were only a few points of congestion but I didn’t get worked up about it.  We were all in it together.  The turn buoys were far enough apart that we weren’t swimming on top of each other to make the turns.  Swimming has never been my strong point, so for me, it is a matter of getting it done.  I ended up out of the water slower than I anticipated, but close to what I expected.  Once out of the water, you have to run ¼ mile to transition.  This is part of the reason for my 8 minute T1 transition! I don’t regret taking the time to put arm warmers on - AT ALL!  The water was 73 degrees race morning, but getting out of the water, the air was only about 50 degrees.  When you are wet, that is pretty cold!  

On to the bike course!  I had driven the bike course when I came in June and now would experience it by bike!  Most of the roads have been freshly paved without a crack in the road to get stuck in!  I got to the mount line, only to find my chain had come off.  How in the world that happened, I have no idea.  I quickly got it put on and was off.  This bike course is absolutely beautiful and mostly fast.  There are some rolling hills to keep things exciting.  The first loop was fantastic.  The real challenge on both loops are the hills that come at the end of each loop.  There is about a 6 mile stretch where you do nothing but stair-stepping hills that are all between 10-12% grades.  Let me tell you, those hurt!  The first loop wasn’t so bad.  The hills were tough, but seemed to go well.  Getting out on to the second loop was a treat.  The wind had picked up a bit - not bad, but enough to notice - and we had a little bit of a drizzle here and there.  I’ll be the first to admit that there was some drafting going on.  There were some draft packs that were probably 20-30 strong going the opposite direction of me.  I was mildly jealous!  Again, it was still fairly fast, all things considered.  And then....those nasty hills come back for round two - and they came with a vengeance.  On the second loop, I had in my mind something my coach had told me in a previous conversation - that it is ok to suffer and that you should push yourself a bit.  Well, I think I may have done this a little too early in the game.  I pushed through the wind and the rain and then hit the hills.  I didn’t have a whole lot left in my legs to get up those hills.  While I never had to get off and walk my bike up the hills, it did cross my mind more than once to do so.  If it weren’t for the amazing scenery and perfectly paved roads, I might have gotten a nasty attitude.  Instead, I just smiled and enjoyed the pain.  This is possible, I promise!  The best part about climbing those hills at the end of the loop, is that you then get to come down them and into transition!  I love to go fast - sometimes clocking well over 40 mph!  It is a fast descent into transition.  I don’t regret the extra minute I took to change out of my tri shorts and into some running capris.  I wanted to be comfortable on the run and felt that getting out of my shorts would be a good strategy.  This ended up to be a wise decision.  

And now, we run!  While I knew my run wasn’t what it was 3 years ago, I still felt really good going into the race.  I had run the course in June so I knew what to expect.  What I didn’t do in June was swim and bike before the run!  It is MUCH tougher after those two disciplines are behind you!  I hit the first hill.  There were so many spectators that I couldn’t pull myself to walk, so I inched up and up until I got to the top and could cruise down the other side.  You then go up and down a few more hills before getting to a really nice, flat trail-like section.  It is packed dirt with a layer of small gravel on it.  It is really great for running on!  Not to mention, the scenery in this area was amazing.  Streams, lakes, golf course, and a canopy of trees overhead made for an ideal course.  
And then the rain came.  And it came and it came.  This is when I was glad I was in my capris.  While I can’t say that they kept me warm, I was certainly warmer than I would have been had I not changed. What was rough was that the shoes I wore have ventilation in the bottom, so water was coming into my shoes from the puddles below and the rain above.  I was carrying some serious extra weight on my feet.  Coming to the end of the first loop, and running up and down all those hills a second time, you come back to the village.  Instead of going left to the finish line, you go right and head back out onto the course.  Running through the village with the entire route lined with spectators made you feel like a rock star!!!  It was energizing and made heading out on the second lap a happy thing!  There were some tough moments on that second lap.  Moments when I had to really dig deep to keep myself moving forward.  Moments when the rain was coming down so hard I wondered what in the world I was doing.  I reminded myself that before I came I told several people that if it started raining, then I would just start singing!  So, that is what I did!  I put a smile on my face, and just sang some tunes in my head to keep myself moving forward.  At every aid station, I drank the chicken broth, which saved the day!  The sodium helped tremendously.  It was what kept me going.  

For me, it has always been the end of the run where it is the toughest to keep the mental game in tact.  Some times have been more successful than others, but I knew I was still in the time frame that I wanted to finish and so I was able to stick with it.  There were a few people I knew who were racing and seeing them gave me even more energy to finish.  Before you run downhill to the finish line, you have to run up a pretty good hill.  I walked and I was completely ok with that!  Once to the top of the hill, I started my run down through the crowd-lined course, and smiled my way across the finish line!  Mike Reilly was there to bring me in and said, “Judy Stowers from Scottsdale, Arizona - YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”  It was an emotional moment for me in many ways.  I had come to accomplish this one goal of finishing, and I did it!  I don’t have my finisher picture yet, but I know I am smiling in it! :)

After finishing the race, and putting my dry clothes on, I ended up sitting in front of heating lamps for almost an hour to try to warm up.  I was cold to the core.  I finally pulled myself away and got back to my room to shower and into warm clothes.  One of the best things about an Ironman race is the last hour watching those people cross the line.  When I mumble to myself about having a few extra pounds on that make racing harder, I look at some of those people crossing who have an extra 100 or even 150 pounds and am both amazed and humbled to see them finish.  It is an exciting hour of bringing those final finishers in!  I finally got back to my room and into bed around 1am.  I slept like a rock!  

My body feels pretty good considering what I put myself through.  The only lingering ailments are some body aches/cold symptoms that I’m sure came from the water and from the rain.  I did take a quick trip to the top of the mountain to take in the views of the area on Monday.

The race was an amazing experience from start to finish.  Despite the rain and a bit of wind, I could not have asked for a better day!  I loved every minute - even the painful portions!  I passed almost 500 people on the bike and another 100 on the run (amazing since that was my slowest marathon EVER).  Guess I need to work on that swim!  The community has embraced the event and come together to make it a spectacular experience.  The government has poured millions of dollars into road improvements and other things to make the race safe and comfortable.  It is a challenging course through and through, but it keeps it an honest Ironman course.  While I am now retired from the full Ironman distance races, I will definitely come back to Mont-Tremblant whether for vacation or to cheer on other athletes as they race!  

Que lindo es sonar despierto.
How lovely it is to dream while you are awake.

Dreams That Have Come True