Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Season of Possibilities-Merry Christmas 2013

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season.  Whether you are traveling to meet family for Christmas, planning a big trip for New Years or spending quiet time for self reflection, I hope this holiday is full of joy…and hope…and great possibilities for 2014.

It has been a strange few weeks since Ironman.  It seems that Thanksgiving appeared without warning this year and a shortened Christmas holiday season followed just as quickly.  Maybe it was because my world revolved around November 2nd…and anything after that seemed so …well…distant.

But as the holidays tumbled in including the celebration of my delayed 50th birthday, so many thoughts and emotions hit me head on.  I have felt very disorganized in my life and my world in these weeks because the structure of my workout life has been discontinued.  I still workout at the gym twice a week like clockwork but the long rides and runs and open water swim schedules are gone and I feel lost.  Rewind a few months ago and I would have given ANYTHING to have a weekend where I could just travel and see friends and go shopping.  Getting my nails done or just spending time with family seemed so impossible to fit in and now I have that time.

After a few weeks of parties and fun, I miss my triathlon life.  Do I miss 7 hours on a bike? Not really but I do miss the structure.  I know that triathletes need a mental break from all that…but maybe…just maybe…Ive had enough.

And it is in these days that I usually start deciding how my next race year will look.  Gone are the days of 20-25 races in a year (Yes…I actually had a year where I raced every other weekend…mostly half marathons) but doing long distance triathlon racing takes planning…well at least it does for me.  I am humbled to know those amazing people who can just …DECIDE …to go do a Half Ironman…and complete it with little preparation.  That is definitely not me.

The first part of my 2014 is pretty set.  I am excited and honored that dear friends who have a group of runners on a Ragnar Team have included me…this slow as molasses runner in their 12 member posse headed to Key West from Miami in February.  I am also very thrilled to be running my 6th and final Disney Half Marathon in January.  Why is it my final? Because I think doing 6 of the same race is kinda nuts…especially when they are running it where you work week after week.

In late February, a wonderful group of running buddies will be headed to the Gasparilla Running Classic to do a variety of distances.  I have decided to run an 8k and a 15k during the weekend and cheer on my friends who will be doing all 4 distances including a 5k, 8k, 15k and half marathon.

As the weather warms, Triathlon and the Tri With Sway Team gears up for the St. Anthony's Triathlon in St. Petersburg in late April and the Ironman Raleigh 70.3  Half Ironman in June.

Beyond that…well…you'll just have to stay tuned…as my mind is not made up.  Ill keep you posted as I always do :)

Merry Christmas..and Happy 2014. May the blessings of the special season show you that all things are possible.  May your dreams and possibilities come to fruition in this beautiful new year :)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The things we learn on the Journey of our Life-The Space Coast Half Marathon


That piercing alarm rang at 300am and it brought me back to the months prior to November 2nd.  I didn't struggle getting out of bed.  Getting up early just seems natural now...it just seems like normal.  And as I dressed for a half marathon that I had entered as an afterthought to my Ironman journey, I had to remind myself to respect this distance.  Yes, I have trained for longer...but to disrespect 13.1 miles is never a good idea.  Anything can happen in 13.1 miles...

And as I made the drive alone over to Cocoa, my heart was kinda heavy.  It's the first time Ive put on a race number since Ironman.  I am still struggling through the emotions of not completing a goal and today seemed so....I don't know....anti-climatic.

And that's crap...

There was a time in my life when 13.1 miles of running was a BIG deal...and honestly...  it still is.  As I stood in the sea of people and they sang the National Anthem, those familiar butterflies returned...and I was almost grateful.  It made me feel normal again...it made things feel real again.  Instead of sitting at home and pretending that endurance racing isn't important to me...today.... it emerged to the top of my list again...where it belongs.

I was alone for awhile before the start.  It gave me time to think...but soon a few friends walked by and we chatted and I found my friend Sandi in the crowd.  It was as if God was reminding me of races past...when Sandi and I would travel with friends all over the country to race half marathons and how much fun it was.  Sandi always says we are going to "slap that a$$ and call it Sally all the way to the finish line" and with that...the countdown began and we were off.

I have only done a few short walks since Ironman so imagine going into 13.1 miles...COLD.  That was me..that was today....but my mind grabbed the challenge as if I was back at Ironman Florida...but this time..with the energy I needed to pick up my feet....and for 9 miles...I ran...and I was focused...and I was consistent.  I didn't really talk to anyone on the course (except for my friend Mike and my fellow "tenacious turtle" training partner Bonnie).....I was lost in my thoughts...in the dream of Ironman...and I was feeling pretty sorry for myself.  And then...as always...God snapped me back to reality of my situation...

As I made the turn around and headed back toward the Finish line at mile 6.5, you are able to see the people who are behind you...and one by one....I was inspired.  I call them "my people" because these are people who are fighting the same fight I am...and I saw them by the dozen.  Large people...some walking a good solid pace while others were struggling to take the next step...but here they were...DOING IT...making a difference in their health and in their life.  One by one, they went by and I slowed down just to learn from each of them...to encourage them...and to remind myself...this was me when Ironman was totally out of reach.

And the tears fell.  How arrogant of me.  How could I act like I have when I have been able to accomplish so much.  NO...I didn't finish Ironman but the changes in my life have been so great. Im living a life I never dreamed I would.  I AM AN ATHLETE. Even with all the jokes of how slow I am, I still can do this....and more.

And then my friend, Vi showed up right next to me and we walked together for awhile.  She gave me a hug and encouragement.  This is a woman who did her first half marathon and full marathon in the same weekend...signing up for the Goofy Challenge as her first experience in the endurance running world.  She has completed 3 of those.  See..inspiration is all around us.

My body ached at mile 10...the lack of conditioning in a few short weeks was showing it's ugly head but I was able to push the discomfort aside and take in the beautiful views of the River in Rockledge..and then in Cocoa. The weather was overcast but it never rained on us...but out in the river it was pouring.  God wanted to make sure I had a clear view of what was important today...and he held the raindrops at bay.

And as I made the turn onto the boardwalk that lines the Riverfront Park, that finish line feeling struck me.  I did it...again.  I have completed dozens of half marathons...but this feeling doesn't get old.  The crowds are loud and crazy and having a blast waiting for their loved ones to finish.  I rounded the turn and someone screamed my name....I smiled.  I looked up to heaven and thanked God for the message...and the lesson of this day...and as I crossed the finish line...a beautiful 4 year old girl held out my medal....ahhh yes...that medal....and I was taken aback by the sweetness of the moment.

My friends Mike and Vi were waiting for me as they always do.  Photos and conversation followed and we went our separate ways and headed home.  As I drove home, the song displayed below came on the radio to recap my day.  It struck me so much, I had to share it.  I am learning so much on the journey of my life.....

More soon as the off season continues.....enjoy the music...and the Journey of YOUR Life...

***Check out: Jake Owen's "The Journey of Your Life" on YouTube.  I tried to embed the video here but can't seem to get it to work.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Finding my way...

Last Saturday.. it had been 2 weeks since I attempted Ironman Florida.  In the past, when I did not complete the race, I hid away from the emotions that obviously surround a major goal that has not been achieved .  I decided that this time, I would confront those feelings head on because...in the world of someone addicted to food...retreating means only one thing...the opportunity to try to make things better with a cheeseburger and extra large order of fries.

So here I am.  I have taken a beautiful vacation with my husband for our 28th wedding anniversary (which was Nov. 16), I have cheered on friends at the MiamiMan Triathlon (and they both did an amazing job with some iffy weather conditions) and I have spent time with my parents who were amazingly supportive.  I got to share a wonderful weekend with friends and their families in Miami and it made me appreciate the power of family and love and the human emotion.

And I finally sat down and really cried. I finally went through all those emotions I kept pushing down and away.  I let myself be sad...and then angry...and then frustrated.  While the Ironman world is celebrating their successful journey (and DARN IT...they SHOULD BE CELEBRATING!! :) )...I am at a loss as to what my path is suppose to be.  Did I make a bad decision to try to complete this goal again? Should I have just let it go a few years ago and focused on something else? Do I just accept that this goal is out of my reach?

Most importantly...where do I go from here?

The number one question I have been asked, of course, is when I will attempt this again.  If you asked me the day and even the week after the race, I told everyone that this was it...that I would not attempt another Ironman.  I felt that 3 times is ENOUGH...especially on my family.  They have put up with so much.

But Im stubborn as a mule (did you know they called my mother "Mule Mullin" in college...Mullin is her maiden name...it must be in the genetics) .  This makes this really hard to just give up on something.  I keep envisioning myself at age 80...or 90 with the regrets of not completing this...

Then reality starts to set in...

Im still overweight.  Im still only 4'11" and that's not going to change any time soon.  I have worked really hard this year and I am in the best shape of my life but it obviously wasn't enough to complete this goal.

I know for an absolute fact that I wish to continue towards my goal weight.  At least I know that weight loss is definitely part of my path..  I have plans for 1 Olympic distance triathlon, 1 Half Ironman, the Ragnar Relay to the Florida Keys and several Half Marathons in 2014 because I know if I don't have something to work towards, I will not stay focused on my fitness...

But this Ironman thing....sigh...it haunts me...

How do you let go of a dream?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Making Lemonade....Ironman Florida 2013


“I believe when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade...and try to find someone whose life has given them vodka, and have a party.” 
― Ron White

Ive been in this position before...sitting at my desk trying to assess my emotions about this life goal that I have had for years.  Ive written so much about it...I have been frustrated, angry, happy, annoyed and elated..you name the emotion and I have felt it,  but today..I sit here at a crossroads because I honestly don't know what to do next.

I could go the simple route and give you a race report...but to be totally upfront...I don't think the world is really that interested in how the roads were on the bike course, how the seas made even me, the person that loves the ocean and the water, shake in fear as the breakers crashed on the beach nor do you really want to hear how I struggled at mile 16...and 17...and 18...and 18.5 miles of the run..only to be stopped at about 19 miles of the marathon and not allowed to continue.

Yup...I didn't finish.

There...I said it. And look.....it's not fatal.  But there are a lot of things I do want to convey about my experience at Ironman Florida that far outway the finish line.  Of course....I would have given anything to cross the line...to have the medal and enjoy all of that moment...but I learned so much about me...and those with whom I race.

I learned that I have the most incredible teammates in the world.  They cheered ME on even when I knew they were hurting or struggling.  I learned that there are guardian angels on this earth that will take you through the second loop of a 13.1 mile run to try to help you to the finish line eventhough they have never gone that far on their own before.  I found that my Coaches have the biggest hearts in the world and were dying a thousand deaths to watch me get out of a van instead of walk across a finish line.  And I saw people..helping people...and I was in awe.  Even through the pain and the fatigue of going over 133 miles under my own power, I did not miss that those that came to cheer me on and to cheer on those on my team were there for me every step of the way.

If there is one thing that I can say about my race is that...I PROMISED myself...and my friends that I WOULD NOT QUIT...that they would have to pull me from the course...and that was indeed accomplished.  There are too many people out in this world who would give anything to have the ability to do just one of the events I got to experience on Saturday...and I would do them all a disservice  not giving my all ...in all three.

So...when I attended the celebration BBQ with my team the day after the race, those lemons I got handed on Saturday were turned into some pretty sweet lemonade...and they helped me add the vodka. We shared a few toasts, a few stories and I patted each one on the back...because.. damn it...they deserved all that and more.  They are pretty amazing people these Ironmen with stories all their own and I am honored to have trained with each of them.

What's next? I can't answer that honestly right now.  I do know that the weight loss journey continues until I reach my goal weight which is somewhere around 30 pounds from now....but I promise to always keep you posted.

Thank you for reading my blog...checking on me...sending me messages and virtual hugs.  You have no idea how much it means to me...

XX days until the next goal....I let you know.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Perspective....

Well...here we are...race week.  It's been a year since I stood on the beach in Panama City and dreamed of being an Ironman instead of a spectator.....I cried at the start...cheered like crazy during...and cried at the finish as the clock hit 17 hours.  Today, I packed my bags with all I will need for the race....and stood back and looked at my workout room.

This has been quite a journey.

As I looked around my workout room, I looked at the poster that started it all:  The Danskin Triathlon in 2000.  I looked at the picture of me crossing the finish line...and it was in the moment I was hooked on endurance sports.  Lots of 5k's, 10k's, sprint triathlons, olympic distance triathlons,  half marathons,  marathons, and 6 half ironmans later...I'm here...about to grab that goal I have wanted so much.

But I called this entry "Perspective" because today I learned of two friends battling for their lives.  One is now headed to hospice care...another with the diagnosis of advanced prostate cancer....one is only 17 ... the other an older father with grandchildren.  Two totally different scenarios but each with the same lesson:

Never take life for granted...

As much as Ironman is my life goal, I have to also focus on how far I have come in this journey and how blessed I am to be healthy and strong.  Coach Sway would often tell us that it's a gift to be able to DO THIS...and it never hit home harder than it did today.  It IS a gift...it is a blessing....I never want to take those gifts for granted.  I know what it's like to be in a hospital bed, unable to dress yourself with tubes and wires coming out of so many places...yet here we are...on the edge of a dream.

You better believe that as I go through each moment of Saturday's events, that so many people will be on my mind and in my heart.  The kids at Edgewood Children's Ranch, the children at Nemours fighting childhood cancers (we would ride past that hospital on workouts on many weekends)  For the children with parents in hospice care or those with Alzheimer's who don't even know their families.

And when I hit that finish line, you better believe that the one thank you that will go up will be to our Almighty Father...who let me still be here...who gave me a second chance...another life...a "rebirth day" on Dec 1, 1998...the day of my gastric bypass when my life changed forever...

Just 5 days until Ironman Florida

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The things I learned from my brother...


So it's early morning on Friday and I get this text from my middle brother David....

"Are you in town...would you like to watch me in a boxing match tonight."

For a moment, I thought this was a joke...but I knew that David had taken up boxing as a form of fitness...so...as a smile crossed my face, I accepted the invitation.

Heck...it's only fair...I was his original punching bag as kids...being the youngest and the only girl. But that's a totally different story (just kidding bro :)

Most of my Friday nights in the last few months have been pretty boring.  I eat early, I watch a little hockey and off to bed early so I can get up at 4am and get on my bike for a very long day in the saddle.  The thought of a Friday night out sounded great...and different...and fun....and it was!!

There were 4 matches with my brother's being the last and "main event" of the evening.  As I watched each set of boxers take the ring, I was intrigued...and then I was amazed...and then I was nervous.

My brother could really get hurt doing this...

After an intermission before his bout, he was finally introduced and with a huge group of his friends and family, we cheered him on.  He took the ring...the bell sounded...and the fight began.

His form looked great.  He looked strong and tough considering we aren't kids anymore.  A few good punches to his opponent and then...bam...his opponent landed a monster that sent my brother reeling.

I held my breath.

The referee gave him a standing 8 count and I thought for a moment, that this main event was not going to go well.  David collected himself and was strong through the rest of the first round.  At the break, he
got some great advice from his coach and a friend who use to box....and he came out swinging.  He connected...and connected and connected again until his opponent was on the ropes and got his own standing 8 count.  By the time the 3rd round came around, his opponent threw in the towel...and David walked away the winner.

No one would ever dream that Boxing and Triathlon have anything in common, but I learned so much from watching my brother attack this challenge.....so much that I can apply to this huge life goal of mine in a matter of days.

He entered the ring...was on the ropes and was even knocked for a loop but he never gave up and he ended up victorious.  I can see me at the low moments of my Ironman looking back at this sliver of time and feeding off that courage and being reminded that you can come back from a down moment if you don't let it consume you mentally.  You can gather up all your strength and hit it hard...and keep hitting it until your goal is achieved.  Boxing is nothing like Ironman ... but the guts to simply get in the ring or just get to the start line is the same....

My starting bell rings in 7 days....

Congrats to David Yergey...you inspire me.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

They worry like parents do...Meet Art and Louise


These are two people from an amazing generation.  To have seen what they have seen and lived what they have lived is an adventure too large and too vast to include in one blog entry.  They have lived through a war and been stationed in Germany, survived my father's law school experience, watched Disney being built and dedicated their lives to bettering this community and helping kids in need.

Oh yeah...and they raised 3 crazy children :) (No offense to my brothers Palmer and David...but you know we are a little crazy)

They come from a generation that never did such things as triathlon so when the suggestion was made that I would attempt an Ironman, they were not to thrilled with the idea.  When I didn't complete the first two times...they worried...just like parents do.  

And with all the "Missey, you don't need to do that" to now being supportive of this crazy idea of mine, they have continued to be the incredible role models I have looked up to and wish to emulate in most of the areas of my life.  There have been times that I  wanted to pull my hair out because my parents just didn't want to get onboard with this idea...but now I understand...

They worry.....A LOT!

As I made my way around the course at Ironman Augusta, my friends kept my parents informed of my progress...even leaving church to answer the phone for an update.  As much as they didn't like the idea of me doing this before, they have been great cheerleaders in recent weeks as the watched the transformation in me.  

Mom loves the idea that I can wear smaller clothes :)  Trust me...there is no better authority on clothes than my mom...:)

So I would be remiss and not taking a moment and thanking my parents for raising me....loving me.. showing me what true strength and leadership is.. .and being the best parents they could be from the greatest generation this nation has ever seen.

And please...stop worrying...Im gonna be ok....

8 Days to Ironman

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"Your Blog is "Wierd"..."

First and foremost...please allow me to explain...I know how to spell weird ... my 5th grade teacher Mrs. Holtzclaw would be so proud.  (BTW She's one of my facebook friends...is that cool or what?)

The reason it is misspelled is because this was the message I was sent on Facebook from an old acquaintance . Her comments continued with "Why in the WORLD would anyone want to go that far on a bike or run a marathon with all that.....STUFF?? Especially if they have a weight problem.

Hmmm??? Well....let's see... I had to take a moment to collect myself.  How do I respond to this? I could call her several words that would require a fine from my Coach and my mouth being washed out by my mother....or...

I could take this route...and be honest...

Why do I want to do an Ironman.  Im not your typical athlete...Im not a young puppy who is fast on the bike or run a 7:00 minute mile.  Im not a former AAU swimmer or super fast in the water....

But one thing I DO want to do....is give that girl sitting on the couch hope.

You know the one...she's depressed about how she looks.  She hates herself and thinks that one more bag of chips is going to make it all better.  She believe that black is slimming and that if she buys the clothes one size larger she can hide in them.  She wears her hair long because it she curls it and makes it big, it makes her look smaller.  She's the one that has the big personality...the great sense of humor...and can't stand to look at herself in the mirror. She's the one that can count the number of dates she had in high school on one hand but had a lot of friends who were boys.  She's been told she'll never acheive anything unless she gets "skinny".

That's crap.

I'm gonna do this for her because...that girl is me.  She's still here even though I have moved forward with most of my life and think differently now.  My race isn't about qualifying for Kona or making the podium (but damn...for those that can do that...I applaud you with all the strength I have)...it's about the push...the effort...the work...the sweat and the heartache.  It's about all the people that told me this would never happen. It's for that moment in the emergency room when my husband saved my life by getting me there just in time before my heart stopped. It's for the doctors that gave me a second chance .. Dr. Samuels and Dr. Ache...they gave me the tools to get my weight under control and to become the person I am today.

So...to my acquaintance who thinks my blog is Wierd... I have never been normal...don't want to be...and never will be because...I'm me...and I'm gonna be an Ironman.

Any more questions???

9 days until Ironman

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The final long workout weekend...

Ive been praying for this moment for months.  That moment when I got in my car and realized that the 7 hour bike rides, the swims across an entire lake and back and the run workouts that required multiple bottles of nutrition, energy gels and water were done.

And here we are.

It feels strange knowing that there is little more I can do now to prepare for this life goal that has eluded me for years.  All I can do now is do the shorter workouts, eat healthy, stay healthy, rest and sleep.

This phase of training is known as Taper.  It is when you let the body rest and recover for the big day ahead.  It is also known as "Taper Madness" because after months of trying to fit your workouts in around your life, you suddenly have all this free time.  For me, it will be a challenge not to try to fill that extra time with too much...and stay focused on the weeks ahead.  It means adjusting my eating...and not going overboard with food...because...for me....the more time on my hands, the more likely I am to stuff my face.

My bike workout on Saturday was solid but not record breaking.  We had an impromptu tire changing clinic at mile 55 of my bike workout and I realized that changing the back tire of my bike will take some serious brut strength.  My wheels are smaller than average and new tires on those wheels make removing the rubber a challenge.  I plan on practicing this a bit more over the next couple of days.

I was the last to finish the long swim on Sunday but I swam the best time I have all year.  I had to turn off those nasty voices in my head telling me "You're last AGAIN"...and focus on MY RACE and not be racing others around me.  Im racing the clock...and only the clock.  This Cinderella really NEEDS to find that finish line before midnight.

You can drive yourself crazy analyzing data...and trying to predict your finish time.  You can make yourself nuts looking at extended weather forecasts that call for wind gusts of 25 mph and cooler than Im use to temperatures.  One of the best pieces of advice I have gotten from several Ironman triathletes is "Stop worrying about the things you can't control".  You are presented with a day...and a set of conditions...and to quote Tim Gunn from Project Runway you gotta "Make it work people!!!"

Whether I cross that finish line before midnight or get beyond where I missed the bike cut off a few years ago, I have won either way.  The changes in me and my life  in this year are huge.  I wish I had the words to fully describe the person I have found in me in the last few months....sometimes there were moments that I couldn't believe that this was ME doing some of these things and achieving certain milestones.  There were times when I was presented with a difficult situation and I handled it with more grace than usual...including not stuffing my face.  I believe I am a stronger and  a better person because of this journey so whether they hang a medal around my neck...or take my timing chip at mile 19 and call it a day, I am so much better for this journey...with so many new friends, new skills, fond fun memories and more belief in me....

We're not racing for money people.....so we better be having fun!!!

12 days until Ironman




Monday, October 21, 2013

Oh Lord...Give me Strength...Meet Ben Graves


When I started this Ironman Journey more than a year ago, I knew that I would need help in the area of strength training.  I have a lot of fitness certifications, but even the pros will tell you, it's really hard to coach yourself.

I researched many options...the Y is a great environment, but none of their trainers hit the mark with me.  There are MANY options in my neighborhood of College Park for personal training but nothing seemed to be the right fit for what I was looking for.

An then, a new gym was opening up literally down the street from my house.  It was different.  Personal Training tailored to your goals and abilities...and I met Ben Graves.

Ben is like your local bartender...but what he serves up is a little stronger than you standard scotch.  We agreed on meeting two days a week to build up my strength, gain some muscle mass, work on core strength..and ... of course...help me lose weight.  He has listened to me whine, helped me through tough moments when I really didn't think I could complete one more sit up, one more rep on the leg press or one more minute on the rower (NOT my favorite piece of exercise equipment).  He has been flexible with my schedule and even served as a "water stop" on my long run workouts in College Park.  Ben is a constant professional....and aside from the evil kettle bell swings and walking lunges, he's a pretty nice guy.

The swimming, biking and running workouts are the heart of triathlon, but without the muscle to make it happen, approaching an Ironman is even more difficult.  I am very blessed to have found such an outstanding personal trainer with a gym environment that is challenging but not intimidating.  Without Ben's guidance, I would not be where I am today.

So thanks Ben and to all the great people at My House Fitness in College Park.  You guys have made such a difference in my Ironman Journey and are a huge part of my success in the completion of Ironman Augusta 70.3 and my future 2013 success at Ironman Florida.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Hard Part

It's not what you think...

Actually...it IS what you think...

On Saturday, I faced my biggest workout of the entire year.  A Triple Brick...consisting of 3-36 mile bike segments and 3- 1 hour run/walk segments.  A difficult day indeed...physically and emotionally.

I went into this workout tired and a little burned out.  Let's be honest...THIS has been a long triathlon season for me starting back in January.  I'm kinda tired of the weekend routine.  While the world is saying...."It's almost the weekend...YEAH!!!".... I'm saying "It's almost the weekend....YIKES!!"

I know...I know...would I like a little CHEESE with my whining???

The great workouts show you what you've got...and the bad ones show you who you are.  Sometimes, you don't like what you see in that mirror.  On Saturday, I wasn't too thrilled with the view I got after 72 miles on the bike.

I have a slight injury on my left foot...a cut or break in the skin that just won't heal.  It started to bleed..and I found the PERFECT reason not to continue.  By the second round of cycling and run/walking (ok more walking), my foot was just swollen enough to make my bike shoe very uncomfortable...

So why not just call it a day...

Not in Coach Trung and Coach Sway's world.

I am very blessed with great coaches that just don't take no for an answer.  I cried.  In front of everyone...I complained...I whined...but Trung gently pushed me along.  I got back on the bike and did 20 more miles.

I came back to the start.  I figured that 92 was a good place to stop.  Coach Sway didn't agree.

"You're gonna thank me on race day...now go out 8 miles and come back...16 total...that will complete your workout."

More tears...Why at this moment did 16 miles sound like 1600?  Why am I happy this happened?? Because it shows me what needs attention.  It's like tinkering with an old car and finding the ONE thing that is making it rattle...stopping it...and then it runs like a top.

I did those 16 miles.  I came in to hugs from Coach Sway and from some of my teammates who were not nearly as shocked by my tears as I was. I cried all the way home and even as I write this, I am emotional at the breakdown in my mental game as it relates to the mileage in this race.

If people ever tell you that Ironman or Endurance racing in general is all about the physical side, they have not dealt with the demons that give you every VALID reason not to continue.  Don't get me wrong, there are moments that physically, it is only smart to call it a day...but when you are pushing beyond your comfort zones, you sometimes have to tell those voices in your head to KNOCK IT OFF and just go forward.

I know it is now my race to finish or not.  There is no more endurance work I can do that will change my physical ability at this point.  As my friend, Rajesh told me, it's 80% mental ... 20% physical.  He might know a thing or two about running these races with physical limitations...check out

 http://www.ironman.com/triathlon-news/articles/2010/10/ironmanlife-rajesh-durbal.aspx#axzz2hhTDV18c

No more whining....plus the wine and the cheese arn't on my eating plan :)

19 days until Ironman

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My rock..my support...and the love of my life....Meet Steve Daly


I promise you...it will never be boring..!!
-Steve Daly...on the altar...after our vows 
on our wedding day...

After almost 28 years of marriage, I can tell you...he was right...but I can assure...I don't think he ever dreamed his wife would have the desire to be an Ironman.

If you think for a moment being the spouse of an Ironman triathlete is easy...you are indeed mistaken.  It's tough.  You wake up most mornings to an empty bed...because your spouse is probably at an early morning workout.  Traveling on the weekends, vacations and even birthday celebrations are postponed to make way for the Ironman "big event"... all the while asking your spouse to be patient with you as you go through this process.

I have asked my husband to go through this process three times.

And each and every time, he has been wonderful.  Don't get me wrong, we have had our moments of utter frustration where he said ENOUGH ALREADY...but we talked....we worked through it..and we survived it.

I wouldn't be where I am today without this amazing man who has been patient, supportive and downright funny at the moments I needed it most.

When I missed the bike cut off at my last Ironman, Steve met me in transition.  The ref was taking my chip and explaining that I would not be allowed to continue.  I shook the ref's hand..I was cordial.  He was doing his job.  How in the world could I be angry at a man who was just following the rules of the event? My husband appeared and said the one thing he could to make me laugh..

"Hey honey....you PR'ed"!!  (PR= Personal Record)

He was right in a way.  It was the farthest I had ever gone nonstop under my own power.  It WAS an accomplishment...but definitely didn't have the ending I was hoping for.  He was my shoulder to cry on, my pilot who brought me home and took care of me when I was so tired I could hardly walk and my biggest cheerleader when I decided to try this again.

To this day, he still encourages me...each and every day listening to what hurts, what workout I have and why I can't go somewhere with him over the weekend.  He has been so amazing, I find it difficult to put into words how very blessed I am to have a husband like this.  

So if you see Captain Daly cheering at Ironman Florida (and believe me..you will see him)...pat him on the back...he deserves it.  

I love you my Captain....words fail me.

Friday, October 4, 2013

It takes a Team...Meet the amazing people who "Sway"




Yeah I know...it's a small pictures...but then again...I'm blessed with a lot of people who are as crazy as me who like to "Sway".

What is this "swaying" you ask?? Well...it all began when two athletes were doing a swim workout and one asked the other if he "Swayed"...and the Tri with Sway Triathlon Team suddenly had a slogan....and a good one indeed.

I would be remiss in these weeks prior to Ironman to not thank each and every one of the people in this photo above (and some who aren't pictured) for their support and teamwork through this Ironman Journey. This is truly a team full of good feelings and kind support.  Don't get me wrong...we all have our moments when the f-bombs fly (my mother would wash our my mouth if she knew my language at times), tears will flow from sheer frustration and fatigue and absolute fear will grip an entire group (like the moment you see a teammate hit the pavement on her bike).  If we didn't experience the bad times, the moments of success and accomplishment would not be as sweet.

I have an interesting perspective in the back of the pack.  I get to enjoy watching those with a bit more talent, speed, youth and overall ability morph into incredible athletes.  It's been pretty amazing watching this transformation.  The members of this team signed up for a race and a life goal like Ironman with such unique and individual reasons...but came together and bonded to achieve that goal.

No matter what happens to me on November 2nd...whether I become and Ironman or not (and right now...I give myself a 50/50 chance)... I have learned so much from each of these individuals just by watching THEIR journey through the process of swimming, biking and running distances that we all never thought were possible.  Each of them are champions in my book...and I am so blessed to know them all.

So whether you ride so fast that I only get to talk to you BEFORE the workout....or you ride my speed and we share flat tires and broken chains....whether you lap me at track practice (ok...everyone laps me at track practice) or you are my running partner when we do interval training....you have made an impact on my Ironman experience and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.  Thanks for the highfives, the kind words, the kicks in the butt and for just being there.

29 Days until Ironman


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Slaying the Dragon...Ironman Augusta 70.3



“But it is one thing to read about dragons and another to meet them.” 
― Ursula K. Le GuinA Wizard of Earthsea


The dragons in this world are more than those in fairytales.  The dragons in my world appear in the fear that I am doing what so many people have said is impossible.  Slaying the dragon....that's indeed the goal.

A few weeks ago, I slayed a dragon that has haunted me for years...and that dragon is pictured above.  I hated the hills outside of Orlando...and the picture above is a map that visits ALL of those hills in one 78 mile bike workout.

Dragon #1...conquered and slayed.


And then there is Dragon #2...

Two years ago, I didn't finish Ironman Augusta.  Call me slow...call it a thunderstorm that shut down the course while I had about 1.2 miles to go to the finish line...I didn't step across the line...I didn't officially get a medal...and I had no finish time.  To me...that's a DNF...and it haunted me...

Until this weekend.

Two years and lots of sweat later, I awoke on Ironman Augusta 70.3 race day...terrified.  I won't lie.  Facing a race you know you have failed before is difficult but I learned long ago that if you fall off a horse, you better get off the ground and get back on...as soon as possible...or your nerve, your fear and your pride may not allow you to ride again.

I was NOT going to let that happen.

So, as I made my way to the race start, I fought to not THINK about the past and focus on the task at hand.  I had a lot of help and a lot of support.

My friends, Rene and Martha were there to be my support crew.  Armed with a boatload of positive affirmations, we made our way to the start and  they did a great job of keeping me calm.  My brother in law, Tom Daly, was racing in his second Half Ironman. Captain Daly is blessed with lots of talent and a mental game that would get him through without a problem and served as a calm example.  My team of 40, their support crew and cheering squads along with Coach Sway kept the start happy and upbeat.

I made my way to the water and sat down on the metal dock floating in the Savannah River.  The water was 69 degrees and I had only brought my skinsuit (a thin wetsuit instead of a normal warm thick wetsuit). Today would have probably been the day I would have broken down and worn a wetsuit but it was too late for that.  I splashed my face to get myself adjusted to the chilly water...and before I knew it....the gun went off and we were on our way.

In the Savannah River...you swim WITH the current so my swim time was VERY fast...at 33 minutes, I exited the water and was pretty happy with that time.  I was saving energy for what was to come.

If anyone ever tells you that Augusta is flat, THEY LIE.  Rolling hills were the description on the Ironman website, but I gotta tell ya...there were a few hills that felt like they would never end in those 56 miles....but....aside from those few, it was the first time in 13 years of racing that I ever felt as if the hills were easy.  Sure, I struggled up a few, but I kept my speed consistent...and made it back to the transition area in record time.

Off the bike, and into running shoes, I reminded myself that this was a "training day" for Ironman Florida so I made sure I had extra sunscreen, proper nutrition, and hydration.  I ran out of transition, and my goal of a Personal Record for this distance was in reach.  I began to run/walk and felt pretty strong.

Until mile 3...

Suddenly..my left foot was in agony...and the right was starting to throb.  I realized that my idea of getting a wide width shoe to compensate for swollen feet may not have been the best idea.  I was starting to develop some pretty major blisters...so I decided to walk....fast.  I looked at my watch and calculated each mile hoping that I could make my goal .....through mile 6 then 7 then 8 then 9....I am strong and consistent and focused.

Through that run, I saw our cheering section 4 times and each time they energized me to keep moving forward.  One of my friends even wore here LadyBug costume...because you know...ladybugs are good luck.  It made me smile and giggle.  My friends, Rene and Martha cheered and screamed.  They highfived me ...and it was like water to a thirsty soul...I got faster....and the miles clicked away.

By mile 12....It was my final pass by our cheering section and I saw our Coach....she looked at me and cheered....and thats when I knew...I was going to make it this time.  The tears came from nowhere. Really....I was really going to make it.  I was going to slay this dragon.  I was going to replace this bad memory with a good one. I was going to add another Half Ironman to the 5 I have completed on my own.  I kept moving.

As I approached the finishing chute, my team formed an arch for me to run through.  Can I tell you the feeling of that??  Can I express to you how special a moment that is to know that those people didn't just leave and go back to the hotel for a beer.?? They waited for me and for others that started the race later than me for our finishing moment...and there is nothing that can compare to that special sentiment.

I could see the finish line and hear the music.  My brother in law was running on one side...and friends Rene and Martha on the other.  My brother in law screamed "You're a DALY...RUN!!" My friend Rene screamed "You decide if the Boston Bruins are going to win the Stanley Cup...you gotta run"....and so...

For that final stretch, I ran, blisters and all....and crossed the line with a Personal Best Time.  By ANYONE'S standards, it was a slow finish time...but to me...it was MY FAST...MY GOAL and I had achieved it.  On this day, I was only racing ONE competitor...and his name was TIMEX.

As I crossed the line, I broke into tears.  Finally...at age 50...I completed another Half Ironman...and I was so happy.  I sobbed and hugged my friends....tears of sheer joy.

That night, I celebrated with a few shots of tequila and a medal around my neck.....but as sweet a day as this was.....it is not the BIG DRAGON that has to be slain.  That battle comes in 30 days......

30 days until Ironman Florida

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The "Cuban Connection"-Meet Rene and Martha Centeno



They say that sometimes you meet friends in the most unique situations...and my friendship with the Centenos is no exception.  It all started in the ER.

Yes..you read that right.  I was in Durham NC while I was attending a weight loss program known as Structure House and had gone out on a long bike workout (back then...a long bike workout was 25 miles) and I got run off the road by a pick up truck.  The guy never stopped and I buried my front wheel into the sand along the side of the road and went over the handlebars.  I was able to walk a 1/2 mile to a local convenience store out in the middle of rural North Carolina and get a cab back to my car...complete with one slightly damaged bicycle.

Upon returning to my apartment and having the medical staff at Structure House look me over, they thought it would be  best to have my now swollen knee looked at in an ER.  I headed to UNC hospital because they had the shortest wait time.

While sitting in a cubical waiting to get XRay'ed, I heard a gentleman speaking english and spanish next door.  He then proceeded to talk about Florida, and of course, I spoke up.  "Where are you from in Florida?" I asked...and a friendship with Rene Centeno was born.  We chatted about our home state, and how much he missed the sunshine...and talked about the travel business.  We exchanged cards...and before you knew it, we were having coffee and joined by his wife, Martha. A week later, my hubby was in town and the four of us headed to dinner and we became fast friends.

That was 3 years ago...and in that time, Rene and Martha have become some of my biggest cheerleaders in so many things: Triathlon, Weight Loss and Life.  Martha and Rene had never really been involved in any sort of endurance sports prior to meeting me, my husband and my friends in Orlando but before we knew it, they had signed up for their first half marathon...and Rene signed up to help Team in Training in North Carolina and did his first metric century bike ride in Asheville NC.  In those 3 years, Martha lost 40 pounds and became a triathlete...a runner...and learned how to swim beyond a dog paddle.  They became members of our Key West Ragnar Team in 2013 and have even run half marathons in Seattle, Disneyland and Disney World, and Virginia Beach.

Rene and Martha have watched me struggle with my weight and with my relationship with food but have always been supportive.  They started attending my races and when I decided to go for one more Ironman, they immediately purchased Ironman Support Crew T Shirts and promised to help out whenever they could.

And boy have they helped...from riding and running with me while in North Carolina to being my canoe escort during long swim workouts, they have consistently been there to help.  If you attend Ironman Florida or Ironman Augusta 70.3, you'll see them on the side of the road cheering like crazy for my team...and for me.

How blessed I am to know amazing people like this and to have friends like Rene and Martha...and those mentioned in previous posts.  I don't really believe I would have gotten to where I am today without them....

Oh...and the next time you see them, ask Martha about her experience paddling a raft...or better yet...ask Rene :)

Thank you guys for all you have done...and all you will do in the coming weeks....words can not really express my appreciation.


Monday, September 23, 2013

100 miles revisited...The Ride for Ronald Century Ride


A ride for more than an Ironman workout....A ride for a cause.  Well now...that's just right up my alley don't ya know!!  But as I stood in the twilight of a beautiful sunrise in Lake Nona yesterday morning...so many emotions hit me that I was unable to really communicate with those around me.

It's been quite a number of years since I did 100 miles on my bike.  The last time? Ironman Florida 2008...and...as we know ... that didn't end well.  The time before that?  Racing for another cause...LIVESTRONG and 100 miles in the hill country of Austin TX...with the names of Leukemia patients pinned to my back.  You visit those moments in your head as you stare down 100 miles.  And then suddenly, the cyclists before you start rolling...and you are on your way.

It was a beautiful day...cool in the morning...clear... and you could almost feel fall is trying to make it's way into the Florida weather pattern.  My riding partners were excited as they were about to complete their first Century Ride.

You gotta love those milestones.

There would be tears and frustrations...and pain and fatigue from all in the group. I would be called a B*tch in jest that made me laugh so hard I almost lost control of my bike.  We would stop to help a fellow cyclist that left the house without CO2 to fix his flat and our riding nurse soon to turn Ironman fixed the gentleman's flat in record time.  There would be stops that included peanut butter and jelly "toast" from the heat of the day and ice that went down the sports bra to keep us cool...and a "nature stop" that I needed that just didn't seem to come quick enough (note to self...don't go 68 miles without a rest stop)...but in the end...as we approached the finish line, we were one group .. excited and happy and exhausted.

And in my mind were the kids in that hospital next to the finish line fighting for their lives.  I couldn't complain during the ride today because I know it could be so much worse.  I could be in that hospital instead of pushing the pedals of that bike.  It was such a blessing to know that I could still go 100 miles...even at age 50...and even though the last 5 miles were painful, hot and down right uncomfortable, as we made out way up the last hill and could see the Children's hospital ...how could I complain?

We were definitely at the end of the pack....with just 5 or 6 rider completing this event behind us...but it's one more mental hurdle I jumped over with the help of Bonnie, Marie and Muki...my riding partners who all achieved a special goal today...

Just 6 days until Ironman Augusta 70.3 ... a "training day" that just happens to include a half Ironman.
40 days until Ironman Florida

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Hitting the Bricks

The Bricks...hmmm  brings up images of beautiful tree lined old world streets with worn but elegant stone and brick that pave the way.  It reminds me of what caught my eye about our home here in Orlando...the Old Chicago Brick exterior made the house seem sturdy and safe.  Bricks make just about any structure strong and stable and sturdy...

And in triathlon they do the same thing..

In Triathlon, a brick is putting two disciplines together in the same workout.  This weekend, our team embarked on Coach Sway's famous "triple brick" workout which includes 3 sets of biking and running.  For me, it was 18 miles on the bike, the a 2 mile run   x 3.....doesn't sound TOO hard if you have been doing long distance workouts...

Let me tell you...looks can be deceiving.

While the nation is starting to experience fall, Florida is still in the heat and humidity of summer so we are still starting workouts early....so it was up at 400am...breakfast...bike loading and then the 40 minute drive to an area very close to Walt Disney World.  These roads are relatively flat and low traffic...perfect for the workouts we had to do.  Sway was prepared for the heat with two pop up tents, two LARGE coolers of ice, ice water and chilled fruit to cool us off.

As we started of first brick, I felt fantastic....the air was relatively cool...no wind...and my legs were fresh from a rest day.  Gone are the days in January that a 20 mile bike was a long workout.  After months of training, 20 miles now feels pretty easy.

Making it off the bike and on to a two mile run, my legs felt awesome.  My breathing is good and my pace is...well...slow but steady.  I start to feel pretty confident about my training and my readiness for Ironman Augusta 70.3 .. just 2 weeks away.

I come in off the 2 miles and mount my bike again.  Brick 1 complete.  I head back out on the course and something in my mind clicked.  I knew the course...I knew what was to come and suddenly...it didn't feel as fun.  I was dealing with those negative voices in my head again.

The wind was picking up a bit and the temperature was starting to rise.  I checked my speed and I was a little slower.  I picked up the pace and focused.  The second round of cycling completed...it is now in the 90's and my body is hot and fatigued.  I grab that ice for my hat and all I can  muster is a walk....

Or was it all mental??

It's the voice in your head that tells you to go home and lay on the couch.  It's that little push from within that says ... "you can't complete this...you can't continue".  It has taken me months of training to turn off those negative voices and, even though, my "run" turned to a walk for 2 miles, I continued ...  heat and all.

By the 3rd cycling workout, the wind was a little stronger....but I was determined to finish this.  I can't tell you how many times I have talked myself out of completing workouts...but today I would not.  I was slower in this final bike section....but as I came in, a smile crossed my face.  I didn't stop.  I didn't pack up and go home.  I did what I came to do.

As I headed out on the run, the heat was incredible BUT....I continued to tell myself the same mantra that got me up Sugarloaf Mountain "You can do more than you think...' and I ran.  Sway was completing this workout as well and as she ran past me she told me "Dig Deep...Stay Focused"....and I did....I walked a bit but in the end I ran the last half mile in to complete my triple brick.  I can tell you in the past, that I have just stopped at the second round and did finish the 3rd but today...it was the mental training of Ironman that kicked in and help me push through.

Over 50 miles on the bike and 6 miles of a walk/run to the Ironman World sounds like an easy day...but for me it was pushing through the obstacles and getting those bricks stacked up....making me a little stronger with just 47 days until Ironman.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Learning from the past...and remembering those who helped me along the way



November 2008
600am


To those that tell you that Ironman is an individual sport, they have never been as blessed as I am.  This journey to Ironman started in 2008 with my first attempt and "Melissa's Maniacs"...a group of amazing friends who took time out of their lives to help me fulfill a dream.  I know this was a very long time ago but a lot of these people are still supporting my dream today...or have gone on to fulfill dreams related to endurance events: It's very important to me to thank a few of them because I wouldn't be HERE if it weren't for them.

Beth Crepeau (last girl on the right)
"Coach Beth" as she has been known will tell you that Ironman Florida inspired her to become a triathlete and then to become the Coach of the Lake Nona YMCA triathlon team.  She has participated at the Ironman distance and completed Ironman Florida 70.3.  Beth was a marathoner before...but it was this moment in time that brought her to "the dark side" of triathlon!!!!

Debbie Lewis (4th from the left)
A dear friend who went on to race a sprint distance triathlon, a half marathon for Team in Training and do countless 5k's for charity.  She was an amazing cheerleader and Ill never forget all the wonderful things she did for me during my first attempt at Ironman....many many thanks.

Sandi Fuller (3rd from the right)
My "marathon buddy" who taught me to "slap that ass and call it Sally" all the way to the finish line in more half marathons than I can count.  Sandi taught me that endurance racing could be a party...with 13.1 miles stuck in the middle.  We traveled throughout the US running races, drinking beer at the finish line and just enjoying the world.  Without her, I don't think I would have gotten over my fear of running long distance. Thank you for being there to make me laugh...and cry...and helping me believe in my dreams

Laura Stiles (5th from the left)
The woman who makes one of my FAVORITE foods for after ANY race: MACARONI SALAD...and who has endured her own "race" of surviving and thriving through a kidney transplant.  Laura's plain "say it like it is" language calmed me before a lot of races and gave me belief in myself when I thought these tasks were impossible...I have learned from her toughness...and I am grateful beyond words..

There are so many other folks that helped me along the way...and 8 more weeks until Ironman Florida...so stay tuned as I share and thank those have made this journey so incredible.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

It's the straw hat...Meet Mike and Vi Auld




I think a lot of us have friends that are recent in our lives, some that appear and then suddenly disappear for little or no reason....but then there are those few who have been around for a very long time.  I am blessed with two very special people like that named Mike and Vi Auld.

I have known Mike and Vi for over 20 years.  They have seen me at my heaviest weight...and they were there when I made the decision to have a full open RNY Gastric Bypass.  Mike will tell you that a major milestone in my weight loss was when he walked behind me and saw me bend my knees while walking for the first time.  At my highest weight, he said I walked like a "Weeble."

When I first started doing  endurance races, Mike and Vi made a point of being at almost every single race, camera in hand, cheering me on.  I started with the Danskin Sprint Race at Disney then went on to the Clermont Series of Sprint distances...then it was the St. Anthony's Triathlon and the Olympic Distance...and from there...it was Ironman Florida 70.3.  All the while, Mike and Vi were at every race cheering, screaming and telling me to "hold my head up" on the run.

When I made the decision the first time to run an Ironman, they did not hesitate...they promised to be there...and they were.  Not only did they volunteer to help in bike transition and other positions throughout the race venue, Vi brought groceries and cooked enough food to feed an army....athletes and spectators alike. When I didn't finish the first time, they returned with me the second time...and did the same thing again.

Mike has taken photographs that you will see on my Facebook page that no other photographer has ever been able to capture.  It isn't where Mike takes the photo...it's the EMOTION he captures in the photo.  The look on my face after finishing a windy bike portion of a race or the lean of a the bike making a  hard turn where I feel like I can win the Athena division of a race....he has been on the road....every time.

And how do I find Mike and Vi amongst all the spectator?? It's the magical straw hat.  I make jokes that it has certain powers of picking me out in the crowd and bringing me through the tough moments in a event.  I look for that hat as I exit the swim or transition...and I race towards it when the miles seem long on the run.

I am blessed beyond measure with these friends, Mike and Vi, and if you have the pleasure of running Ironman Florida, I hope you will look for them because, no matter who you are, they will cheer you on and make you feel like you're gonna WIN the race.

Thanks guys...I can not find the words to full express my gratitude for your love, your friendship and your constant support of my insanity in the world of Triathlon.  You are a blessing in my life.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Making it "over the hill"...

Hills seem to dominate my life lately.  The last few weeks, my coach has focused my bike workouts in the hills around Orlando...and honestly...it's not my favorite workout.  As a famous Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack said, you have to "embrace the suck"...and I have done a lot of embracing...

But the "hill" I stare at this week is a little different.  It's a hill that some doctors and professionals felt I would never reach.  It's a hill that, instead of feeling BAD about it....I am excited....thrilled and grateful about.

On Saturday, I turn 50.

There won't be a big party... there is another party going on that day that take priority over my birthday ...but as the date approaches, I am doing the happy dance.  I remember a conversation with a doctor just 15 years ago saying "You won't see 40."

Never say I CAN'T do something...

I may struggle...hell...I might make a total "asset" of myself...but Ill give it a shot and I might even keep coming back until I get it right.  Mega weight loss is a lot like that.  You lose a lot then you fall back and gain...you lose a little more...and fall back again.  That has been my journey to this place of training and racing and getting stronger.

As Ironman approaches, I keep focusing on this journey and I understand that Ironman is a pretty big long shot for someone built like me but so was getting to this place here and now.  No one thought I could get this far.  I had trainers that said it would be impossible to do what I have already done.  Ive watched others who had the opportunity I had back in 1998 give up and let the weight come back..let their fitness slip away...and there were times I wanted to do the same.  The couch looks pretty good a lot of the time but I somehow get out the door and get on the road....or on the bike...or in the pool because there is this burning desire to do what they said was impossible.

And Ive had a lot of help...

In the weeks ahead, I want to start thanking the people who have been patient and my rock solid support through my weight loss and my Ironman journey.  But for now, Im staring down that big 5--0 and pretty thrilled to be right here.

58 days until Ironman




Monday, September 2, 2013

The importance of a Team


Ok....I know...we all look crazy here...but after the day we had when this pic was taken...you might understand why.

This is my "pod"...my cycling pod on the Tri With Sway Triathlon Team.  These are the women that, when I finish the bike portion of the Ironman, I will have to thank with many many beers...and my hugs...and many tears...because I wouldn't be where I am now without them.

On Saturday mornings we get up at the crack of dawn to make our way to the hills of Clermont, Howey in the Hills and Tavares Florida to get stronger and faster on two wheels.  Our entire team meets up, gets instructions from Coach Sway and off we go in our selected groups.  We have been called the "Tenacious Turtles" or 4 M's and a B (Marie, Melissa, Melissa, Muki and Bonnie).

We ride together...and stay together....through dropped/broken chains, flat tires, dropped water bottles and..of course...my lack of speed. When I first started riding with these fine ladies, I was so embarrassed and disturbed that they would wait at each turn for me.  Slowly, Ive gotten a little faster so the wait time is not that long.

Climbing hills that are difficult even in an advanced cyclist's world is tough for a girl that is not exactly built like a cyclist but these ladies have made it fun.  They are the reason I get up on Saturday morning.

I have been on many teams in my days of attempting and completing events: half marathons, marathons, half ironmans and such...but never have I had people so caring and so nice as these folks.  All of our Tri with Sway team has this belief running through it.  I believe my friend Jim on the team said it best: one team ... one goal.

I had a rough weekend....I only completed 60 of the 80 miles because I decided to stop and help someone with a flat. On this rare occasion when I realized we could not fix the flat without help, I told the ladies to ride on...and with much reluctance ... they did.

One taxi back to our cars and an hour later, I continued my bike workout alone. On mile 50 of my ride, it began to thunder and by mile 52 it was POURING.  I was on a very hilly portion of the ride known as Dewey Robbins Road and going pretty fast down some hills in the rain can make ya nervous.  But, I wasn't alone....I looked up and friends Dwana and Jim were there in their van to check on me...just to make sure I was ok.

Pretty good group of folks don't you think.

Meanwhile, my pod had ridden on and ended up with another mechanical problem: Marie and a broken chain.  They found a cycling store and were able to get it repaired and continued on.  They never called it a day...they never considered quitting even though the hours on the road were getting very long.  They finished the 80 miles...every single one.  I met them 10 miles out in my car just to make sure they returned safely.

I guess the point of my blog is to emphasis that triathlon is an individual sport.  The race is just you and the course...but to GET to the race requires more than just yourself...it requires a team. Im pretty blessed in that regard.

60 Short Days until Ironman

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

And some days...you just come unglued

I think it is interesting when I read other people's blogs...or their Facebook pages that their lives seem...well...without incident.  They seem to NEVER have a bad day...a bad moment...a bad workout...everything is just wine and roses.

You won't find that here.

This blog is about the good, the bad and the oh so very ugly..and today...it got ugly.

Training for an Ironman is about the physical side of pushing your body past what you THINK you can do. The physical side is so important: proper nutrition, reduction in weight, lean muscle and cardio strength...but the mental side of Ironman is something that a lot of people don't talk about and today I saw just how important it is.

It's Tuesday..and Tuesday means TRACK PRACTICE. 6am...every Tuesday like clockwork.  My coach asked me to be there earlier because...well...Im slow...and we need to log some miles....soo...I hit the track at 530am...walked a little and jogged a bit more.  By the time the team showed up at 600am, Im pretty warm and Ive logged a little more than 2 miles.

What I didn't know and neither did the rest of the team was that we were going to do a Mile Time Trail Test.  Run a mile all out...as fast as your legs can carry you.

Hmmmm not so much.

After a weekend that included a 70 mile hilly bike workout and a 15 mile run (my longest run to date), my legs have felt like lead.  On Monday, I did a solid spin class and swim workout so there isn't any recovery going on here.

With all this on my legs, I started to run with the group...but my mind said NO.  I usually understand that I am going to be the last finisher of the test and for some reason, today, I just couldn't handle it.  The tears flowed.  I was so emotional over this one silly mile that I left the track and ran the mile time trail on the road around the track.  Anything not to be the last finisher....

I cried the whole way.  I realize now this emotion leaving me was all the fear I have of NOT finishing another Ironman attempt.  All the concern, the time calculations, the training, the questions from friends of "Well...do you think you can do it this time..??" finally boiled over in a very public way.

I came back on to the track and showed Coach Sway my time.  It was 25 second SLOWER than my time trail a few months ago but I got it done.  I was embarrassed and ashamed..that I had let this emotion just come to the surface like this.

But if not here, then when? Isn't that what training is about? You get stronger.  You get tougher and you LEARN about yourself...your limitations...what you head tells your body to do...and NOT do.
Your belief in your ability is AS important as your physical training.  You have to believe in yourself and I need to drop the vision of the past of having my chip taken away in bike transition and calling it a day.  This is a different year.  This IS a different person running this race in 2013.  Stronger, more knowledgeable and better coached (dare I say) than in years past.

Am I scared? You bet.  Is it going to be close? You bet.  But if you don't take these chances in life and set that bar just beyond your comfortable reach, what kind of life is it???

67 days until Ironman

Sunday, August 18, 2013

DLF>DNF>>DNS....The Hammerhead Ocean Marathon


August 17, 2013
758AM
The Hammerhead Ocean Marathon
Jacksonville Beach FL

After a great ride with friends up to Jacksonville, a nice dinner and a nice night's sleep at a nearby hotel, I am standing waist deep in the waters off Jacksonville ready to start what should be a 2.5 mile swim race..

I'm calm...some of the other folks about to start this adventure are not.  Some are doing their first ocean swim, some are worried about the wildlife in the ocean while others are just plain nervous.  I search myself and can not understand WHY Im not nervous...WHY Im not worried..

Maybe I should have been.

I was raised in the water as a kid.  My parents adored the Bahama Islands and I had the privilege that, to date, I never take for granted, to spend summers in these Islands snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing and living on the water.  We had a boat and I learned to conserve fresh water, that fishing could be your dinner and bad storms you ran from for shelter...

Hmmmm....fast forward from my childhood to the present and you'll understand why the picture above put great fear in me.

Don't misunderstand. The race did not start with a storm like this...it ENDED like this...and I was determined NOT to let it end my day, my race and not let me finish.

The race began and I headed out into the water and made the turn at one of only 3 buoys on the course.  After 12 years of racing triathlon, you would think that I could swim in a straight line even if there are NO BUOYS on the course...but I simply can not.  It is one of my major problems in the water.  I need something to shoot for when I swim and without it, my swim line is all over the place.  After 15 minutes in the water, I am still at the back of the pack, after 20, only 3 people are around me, after 30 minutes, Im alone except for a lifeguard in a kayak who informed me I was headed out to sea.  My line was way off and I need to come closer to shore.  At 48 minutes, i see the second buoy which marks the 1.5 mile marker and I am losing mental focus.  This race is seeming very long.

I keep swimming..and the kayaker stays with me.  Im wearing a GPS, so I can keep track of the mileage and realize that this is going to be a long morning.  At the 2.46 mile mark, I stop my watch so I have an idea of what my swim time will be for the Ironman..the watch reads 1 hour and 52 minutes...well under the 2 hour and 20 minute swim cut off.

I keep swimming.

I note the water is getting darker...and it rains...the rain stops..but it keeps getting darker.  I pull my head from the water and look around and the picture above is what I see.  I panic.  I see the final buoy that is suppose to be 2.5 miles in the distance and I go as fast as I can.  Two kayakers are now next to me and I know Im dead last....they stop me within 100 yards of the buoy and discuss if I will be allowed to finish...I begged...I pled...I put my head down and kept swimming.

I touched the buoy, made the turn and swam towards shore.

As I stood up, the wind is blowing and lightning strikes in the distance.  I run for the timing mat as my team who has waited for me on the beach cheers.  As I touch the timing mat, they run for cover and the rain comes.

Yes, Im crazy...but I am also blessed in so many ways.  Why?? Because I have dear wonderful people on a Triathlon team that will stand in the rain and wait for a slow swimmer.  I also had a wonderful lifeguard named Jack in a kayak that kept me going when no one else was around.  Im also very blessed because I was able to swim the longest swim of my 12 years of training 24 hour AFTER doing a 14 mile run.  I ended up covering what is estimated by GPS and my mapping software 2.89 miles in 2 hours and 17 minutes...

Oh .. and my team and I didn't get hit by lightning...a blessing indeed.

Today, I am tired, sore and have about six small jellyfish stings that have welted up to remind me of my adventure.  Would I do it again...you bet...but maybe Ill order better weather next time...


DLF = Dead Last Finish is greater than DNF = Did Not Finish which is even greater than someone who Did Not Start.

76 days until Ironman



Sunday, August 11, 2013

It's not the mountain we conquer...


400AM...Saturday morning....

I hit the snooze....REALLY?? REALLY??? Ugh, I lay back in bed because I know this Saturday morning will be different than most that other folks will enjoy today.  First, and foremost, they are still asleep.  This isn't the crack of dawn...this is the crack of night...the middle of the night...at least it feels that way to me.

As I roll over to have that every morning conversation of if I am going to get up and get my workout done, my "fuzzy alarm clock" reminds me that today I don't get to sleep.  My Golden Retriever, Finnegan, is one my biggest cheerleaders...he gets me up and going even when I don't feel like it.

But today is a bit different than other workouts Ive done.  Today...Im going to attack a workout that has put fear in me for 12 years of triathlon.  I have avoided it like the plague.  When my teams have had to go out and do this workout, I would be sick, out of town or otherwise "busy"...but today is different.  Im not training for a sprint distance triathlon...this is Ironman training and you don't miss major workouts less than 90 days before Ironman.

My fear?? Hills.  I hate them.  I'm horrible at them.  Ever seen an 18 wheeler climb a serious grade of a hill?? If you have, you now know what  *I* look like going up hills....slow....painfully slow...and not gracefully at all.  

Today I faced a 78 mile bike workout.  Just the mileage alone made a chill go down my spine as I drank cup # 2 of coffee...but the hills...Ugh!.  Yes...we have some fairly decent climbs in the Metro Orlando area if you go look for them...they are out in the Clermont/Howey in the HIlls area of Central Florida and have names like "The Wall", Sugarloaf Mountain and the three sisters of  Buck Hill Road.

With much trepidation, I loaded up the car and hit the road at 5am for the 45 minute drive to Dewey Robbins Road.  I am one of the first to arrive.  I hate being rushed when setting up gear for a long workout so I take my time...and take a deep breath.

To say I am the slowest on the team in an understatement but I have a small group that rides with me that could not be more understanding.  They wait...and sometimes I wait for them when they have technical problems: like flat tires, dropped water bottles or broken bottle cages.  It's all about helping each other and Im blessed that they are patient with this workout.  It's August...its hot...and for 78 miles on a bike...were going to be on the road for awhile.

The toughest climbs came early...first Buck Hill Road was the warm up with "the 3 sisters"...three fairly difficult climbs right in a row.  I decided to call them the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost because by the third, I was praying for guidance and asking God why in the world I thought doing this was wise.

I made it though the first set at a slow pace,which meant I lost sight of my group...so I pulled over and looked at the map to make sure I had not missed the turn.  As I stood there in the early dawn, I thought about it...I could just find my way back to my car...but there was this push to move forward from somewhere in me.

I made the turn onto Sugarloaf Mountain Road with three men who looked like they belonged at this venue.  They smiled, said good morning and must have seen the look on my face.  One smiled back at me and said "Come on, it looks worse than it really is." REALLY??  As I looked up the road, I started to truly panic.  Im over my head, I thought to myself.  Im going to make a total ass of myself.  I almost cried...but I downshifted, put my head down and focused on nothing but the power on my pedals.  Each stroke, I told myself "You can do more than you think...you can do more than you think....you can do more than you think..." I didn't look up...I was almost afraid to look up to see that I had so much more to go.  Finally...in the glow of the rising sun, I saw my coach Trung Lively waiting at the top.  I pushed a little harder...and at the top of the hill, you get that relief of the flat road...and I caught my breath.

I turned and looked back...Oh God...I did it.  I didn't stop...I didn't hesitate...I did it!!! And as I made the corner, there were my teammates, once again, waiting for me and I was so incredibly grateful.

There were pictures and high fives as we left the hill and continued on our route.  We made 4 stops during this ride and I had some mental struggles along the way where the body and mind wanted to stop but between my teammates and my self discussion, I moved forward.  With 10 miles to go, we saw our Coaches Consuela and Trung in their car waiting for our arrival at the last set of hills.  At Dewey Robbins Road, the temperature had passed 93 degrees as we made the final two major climbs of the day.  As I made my way up the last, the tears came.  15 years ago, I could barely walk a 1/4 mile in my neighborhood...and today, I rode a bike 80 miles in the hills of Florida.  To the rest of the world, I am the slowest...and they may not believe that I have the ability to finish ANY race...but today...this day...I accomplished more than I ever thought possible. 

My sincerest thanks to Coach Trung and Coach Sway...this was a major day for me.

83 Days until Ironman