12 Things That Keep This Runner Happy and Sane

I’m sorry my blog has been silent for so long. I wish I could say it’s because I’ve been off on some far-flung adventure, but the truth is I’ve been in a funk. I don’t want to get political, but the madness that has enveloped our country has left me frustrated beyond belief and struggling to weave together sentences I’ve felt worthy of sharing, knowing what readers want most is to be inspired.

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While my head and heart still continue to wrestle with a tangle of emotions, the one thing that consistently unravels all the BS and brings me back to my usual happy center is my fitness.

I’m sure you know what I mean when I say pure joy washes over me in the simple act of moving my body, breathing hard and sweating it out. It’s the perfect reminder that no matter what’s going on in the world, there will always be remarkable moments of aaaaaaaah that fill me with gratitude and remind me that life is freaking great.

Here’s what else is keeping me happy and sane….

1) Breathing in crisp, fresh air and reveling in the beauty around me, and exhaling all traces of the day’s latest toxic news. Being a speck in the universe always has a way of keeping things in perspective.

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2) Setting goals–especially ones that make me stretch beyond my perceived boundaries. One in particular has me fired up right now–trying to qualify for Boston, and I’m happy to report I’ve got Matthew Tague in my corner again coaching me for a late spring marathon. My gut tells me this is the year to finally make this Boston thing happen, and I’m happily working my butt off to get my feet moving faster again after a year of Ironman endurance training. I think I can. I think I can. Bring. It. On.

3) Celebrating tiny victories like choosing a healthy kale, raspberry smoothie with protein over a vanilla latte, or a platter full of veggies during the Super Bowl instead of a pizza; or dumping Facebook off my phone to distance yourself from the craziness; or getting in bed early to immerse myself in a phenomenal book instead of watching mind-numbing television, knowing I’ll be far more inspired and also sleep better.

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4) Coaching young runners and being surrounded by unrelenting joy and pint-size goodness. Kids always have a way of showing you how to be in the moment and enjoy what you’re doing while you’re doing it. There’s no overthink anything. There’s just unbridled energy and enthusiasm as they take on new challenges, and a huge sense of accomplishment afterward when they realize they can do hard things.

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5) Acting like my shoe size, having a blast running in the pouring rain and reconnecting with my Oregon roots.

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My poor dog wasn’t born with webbed feet like me, so although he’s a good sport, he still usually gives me “the look” on days like this.

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6) Racing! While I always know it’s going to be a sufferfest, racing gives me a chance to push it hard, see where I’m at with my fitness and also celebrate our running community. There’s no happier place to be than the end of a race when everyone is flooded with endorphins and reveling in camaraderie while celebrating a sense of accomplishment, knowing they’ve started the day off in all the best ways.

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7) Surrounding myself with a multitude of badass athletes in our local running community and being inspired by their energy and unstoppable attitudes. There’s no better way to keep you focused on being the best version of yourself than Continue reading

Ironman Swim Tips for Newbies

Training for your first Ironman can often feel daunting, but as somebody who recently finished her first Ironman, I want you to know that it is abso-freaking-lutely doable if you put your head down and do the work. The minute I crossed the finish line and experienced the thrill of hearing Mike Reilly call out my name, I knew I wanted to pay it forward and share what I’ve learned with others who might be starting their Ironman journey or those who are contemplating signing up for their first.

Here’s what I learned about the SWIM...

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• If you’re not a swimmer when you start your Ironman journey, you can, and will be one, if you make the commitment to put the time in in the pool.

• When you first start, you might be discouraged by how hard it feels, possibly being out of breath after just a few lengths of the pool. Don’t despair, it does get easier. Just keep at it. The more time you spend in the water, the better it will feel. REALLY.

• Celebrate each tiny victory. Some days it might just be getting to the pool. Other days it could be swimming one more lap or taking a few seconds off your 100. Or it might be that it felt a tiny bit easier or your stroke felt a little smoother. Celebrate it all. You are making progress, and that progress will eventually add up to you toeing the line of your first Ironman.

• Like all disciplines of triathlon, the key is to build up slowly and steadily so you avoid injury. The path to the starting line is long, so be patient.

• Consistency is key. I repeat, consistency is key. Don’t short-change yourself by skipping swim days.

• Watch as many swim technique videos as possible and read articles and books with tips on breathing, sighting, kicking and stroke technique.

• If you can join a master’s swim class, or take lessons from a coach, you will have more fun and perfect your stroke much faster.

• It helps to have somebody videotape you so you can see how you swim and what you can do to improve.

• The more relaxed you are, the smoother you will be and the faster you will go. It’s about alignment and gliding, not thrashing frenetically.

• Scope out more than one pool and have their schedules printed or handy on your phone. This will give you a back-up plan if your first choice is unexpectedly closed. You don’t want to give yourself any excuse for skipping your workout.

• Keep an extra suit, goggles, cap and towel in your car in case you get all the way to the pool and realize you forgot these essential items. Your mind will get fuzzy at times in the midst of intense training, and you will forget things. Again, no excuses.

• If you find it boring to swim laps, music helps A LOT. A waterproof iPod can change your outlook on pool time.

• Fins, paddles and kick boards can all help keep it fresh and also help you get stronger in the process.

• Investing in a tri watch like a Garmin 920xt or Suunto Ambit 3 can be a good motivator and also be extremely helpful in keeping track of your times and distances.

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• If you loathe the first few seconds of plunging into a cold pool, you’re not alone. EVERYONE hates it–even Olympians. You just gotta suck it up Buttercup and get through it. It helps to do it as quickly as possible so you get the initial shock over with and get on with your workout.

• Your new perfume will be Eau du Chlorine no matter how hard you scrub after your swim or how much fragrance or lotion you slather on afterward. Get used to it. It will remind you of your awesomeness.

• It’s essential you find goggles that fit your sweet face so you are comfortable in the water. It may take trying several different pairs. What works for one person doesn’t work for another. Swim masks worked for me and it took trying six different pairs before I finally settled on them.

• Your hair will likely feel like straw and possibly turn a new shade of green. Getting your hair wet and putting conditioner on before you put your cap on will help.

• If you have long hair, you might want to use a cap made specifically for long hair (yes, they make them).

• Once you become a strong swimmer in the pool, practice open water swims often. It’s a completely different beast than the pool (ie: no lane lines and nothing to hold onto) and you will feel much more confident on race day knowing what to expect. Doing this with a group will give you the best practice.

• Invest in the best wetsuit you can afford. It’s all about comfort and buoyancy. While the least expensive version may be tempting (believe me, I get it), the next step up will likely last longer and make your open water swims much more comfortable.

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Photo credit: Ironman Instagram

• You will likely want to eat everything in your refrigerator after you swim, but keep in mind that swimming doesn’t burn nearly as many calories as running or cycling. No fair, I know, especially since swimming feels like it should burn triple the calories. Refuel once you get out of the pool, but do it wisely so you don’t sabotage your body with unhealthy choices.

• If you swim in an outdoor pool, don’t neglect sunscreen. While having SoCal swim tan lines might make you feel all Ironman’ish, having melanoma will take all the fun and coolness out of it. Be smart. You’re going to be in the pool for hours during this long journey to your first Ironman.

• Your shoulders will ache at times as you push beyond your previous boundaries. Stretch them, ice them, and get a massage if your resources allow for it. It’s all about recovery and being able to get in the pool again to put in another solid workout.

• The swim is a great time to get into Zen mode and focus on your mental game. Your stroke and breathing can be hypnotic if you get in the right frame of mind. Practice mantras, count strokes, sing songs…this is what will help you on race day too.

• There will be a point somewhere along the way where your dread for going to the pool suddenly turns into something else. Yep, believe it or not, you will eventually start looking forward to it, as it feels good to glide through the cool water and get into a rhythm that makes you feel strong and smooth.

• The day you suddenly swim the full 2.4 miles in training is one you will never forget. From that day forward you will carry a massive bucket of confidence with you from which to draw each time you need a boost.

• Remember the swim is the shortest portion of the race. You absolutely need to train hard and respect the distance, but keep in mind that it will be over before you know it, even if it takes you the full two hours and twenty minutes. I will share more about race strategies in another post. In the meantime, believe in yourself that you WILL be able to do this, and keep putting in the work. You’ll be be surprised at how strong you will become, both mentally and physically.

As you begin (or continue) your first Ironman journey, know that I am rooting for you all the way! When you use your doubts and fears to fuel your motivation, you will suddenly discover that you are unstoppable. Now go out there and get it!

Tri on my friends…
xo Becky

PS: Next up will be Ironman Bike Tips for Newbies. If you missed my first post in this series, here’s the link: Things I Know for Sure About Doing Your First Ironman: THE JOURNEY.

Things I Know For Sure About Doing Your First Ironman

finishtimeWhen I turned 50 earlier this year, I decided to finally give myself the gift of chasing after my Ironman dream — something I’d been carrying with me since I was a teenager. I knew I wanted to be an Ironman in 1982 after watching Wide World of Sports on a Saturday afternoon and being bowled over by Julie Moss’ awe-inspiring race in Kona and her legendary crawl across the finish line.

It took me 34 years to build up my nerve, carve out the time, and mentally prepare for a year of training in my single-minded pursuit of becoming an Ironman, but it’s truly one of the best things I’ve ever done.

My way of showing gratitude for the gift of this journey and all the people who helped me along the way is not only to thank each of them, but to pay it forward and share what I’ve learned with others who might be contemplating their first Ironman.

Because you learn A LOT in the course of a year of training, I’m going to break it down into a series of blog posts covering the journey, the swim, the bike, run, nutrition and recovery, mental toughness, race day and the afterglow.

First of all, if you’re reading this, most likely you’ve taken the most difficult step of this entire journey — believing in yourself enough to hit the registration button. Even if you nearly peed yourself in the process, screamed, “Holy Crap, what have I done?” and laughed uncontrollably as you headed for a massive glass of wine and a box of chocolates, YOU DID IT!!! My hat is off to you. You are on your way!!!

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If you’re still building up your nerve, but have a burning desire to become an Ironman, don’t ignore it. It’s something you’ll never regret. And if you’ve been putting it on the back burner, waiting for the perfect time to do it, please know there is no perfect time. There never will be. Life always throws challenges our way. That’s one of the many reasons crossing the finish line is so freaking exhilarating and empowering.

Here’s what else I learned while doing my first Ironman…

The Journey

• It may sound cliche, but Ironman truly is a journey in every sense of the word, as you will travel to the farthest reaches physically, emotionally and spiritually, learning more about yourself than you ever imagined as you train for one of the most demanding endurance events of your life.

• It’s important to surround yourself with people who believe in your dream as much as you do.

• Do your “Ironman thing,” and do it with the passion that fills your heart. Life is short and this is a huge, life-affirming goal, so wear it on your sleeve and enjoy every second.

• Start where you’re at, not where you want to be. Slowly, steadily build and you will get there faster than if you jump in beyond your fitness level and get injured. Remember your number one goal is to get to the starting line healthy.

• Be patient. It may feel like it’s taking forever, but you will suddenly start cranking out mileage you never imagined.

• When you first start, you will likely be exhausted (All. The. Time.), and you will wonder how the hell you will ever do this thing called Ironman. It will pass after a few weeks though, as your body adjusts to the demands you are placing on it. In no time you will forget all about it because you’ll suddenly be on fire, getting stronger with each workout.

• Focus on the journey and not the race. The race itself is just one day, but the journey is made up of hundreds of days and likely thousands of hours. After all, if you’re not enjoying the journey, what’s the point?

• Don’t be afraid to share what you are doing. You never know who you might inspire, and the support and encouragement you receive along the way is immeasurable.

• You will find extraordinary beauty in your pursuit of becoming an Ironman — whether it’s in nature or people, or in simple moments that take your breath away. Don’t forget to stop and appreciate it. These are the moments that make your journey worth it all.

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• You do not have to be a certain shape or size to become an Ironman. You will see every kind of person imaginable on race day. Big, small, old, young, ones with naturally functioning legs and arms, some with prosthetics. Some of the biggest people on the race course have some of the strongest glutes and the fiercest hearts.

• Even if you stink at one of the disciplines at first, you WILL get it, and you will never regret the time you spent getting better at it while chasing after your dream.

• There will be days when you simply do not want to train, when you’d give anything to sleep in, then lounge around sipping coffee instead of dragging yourself to a cold pool or spending hours on your bike. Learn this mantra early in your training: “Don’t think. Just Go. Don’t think. Just Go.”

• The other mantra that will help you is “One day, one workout at a time.” Simply focus on what you are doing while you are doing it. If you start thinking too far ahead, you will get overwhelmed by the shear magnitude of what Ironman training requires. When you break it down to one single workout, it’s absolutely doable.

• Ironman does not happen without the help of others. Somebody along the way will give you advice, motivate you, perhaps even train with you. Many people went out of their way to help me reach my goal–from family and friends to my coach and teammates to employees at our local bike shop and running store to complete strangers. You will be floored by others’ enthusiasm for what you are doing–especially those who could never imagine attempting an Ironman.

• Never, I repeat NEVER forget the people around you who are helping you reach your goal. Be grateful. Show your appreciation. Do what you can to keep your family’s life in balance while you train. Your support crew will most likely be pulling yeoman’s duty during your Ironman journey, so it’s important to let them know how much you appreciate them.

• A coach makes a huge difference. Having somebody in your corner who pushes you, inspires you, reels you in when you’re on the verge of overdoing it, who answers every dumb newbie question (there are no dumb questions), and who prepares you mentally, physically and emotionally for the biggest athletic event of your life is worth every penny. If you’re thinking of going it alone, you can, but think again. You won’t regret it, even if you have to skimp somewhere else to pull together the funds to make it happen.

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• Finding the RIGHT coach is crucial. Make sure you are on the same page with your expectations, personalities, and styles. If you need a lot of hand-holding and cheerleading, be up front. Most newbies do. I know I did. Find a coach who is accessible and excited to hear from you. Once a week emails may not be enough to stir your motivation when the going gets tough. Being accountable to somebody who’s rooting for you all the way makes you want to get the work done no matter what.

• There will be high “highs” and low “lows” mixed in with a whole slew of ordinary training days during this long journey to the starting line. The lows are what make the highs all the more exhilarating, so keep that in mind as you work your way through them. Look at the lows as a gift because finding the grit to power on in the face of these challenges is also what’s going to make you unstoppable on race day.

• Don’t shy away from “bad weather.” There is no such thing. Wind, rain, cold, heat, humidity…they’re all your friends during training as they will make you stronger and prepare you for the worst. You will know you’ve faced these elements during training so you’ll be able to handle them again if they rear their heads on race day.

• Don’t ignore your core. It’s what will carry you through to the finish line. Strengthen it and the rest of your body will stay healthier and also become more powerful.

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• Recovery is king and makes all the difference in staying healthy. Train hard, but recover even harder. That means focusing on the essentials: rest, hydration, nutrition, and restorative stretching, foam rolling, and whatever else makes you feel balanced and whole.

• Documenting your journey lets you appreciate it on a whole other level and live it more than once. Whether it’s simply writing in a journal, snapping photos along the way, or full-on blogging like I did every week, you will always be able to remember the highs and lows and the multitude of memorable moments, even when your rides, runs and swims all start to blur together.

• Your skin will take a beating. Between the sun, sweat, chlorine, wind, salt water and other daily factors, you will look in the mirror and wonder, “Whaahappen?” Take care of your skin, but also recognize that what you are working toward is far greater than any new line on your face. You will also have a beautiful glow that radiates from within because you are so fired up about what you are doing.

• Brace yourself for the laundry. It’s epic. Your shower curtain rod will become a perpetual drying rack as it holds multiple pieces of of tri-related items…kits, swimsuits, sports bras, bike and running shorts…the list goes on. It’s all part of it. Accept it.

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• The logistics of training can be time-consuming, especially if you’re disorganized. Most triathletes are Type A, but if you’re not, this might be the time to ramp up your organization and planning skills. Keep your gear in one place, know your pool schedules, have your nutrition and water bottles prepped, make sure your Garmin is charged and your clothes ready. Prepare as much as possible the night before so you don’t waste precious time in the morning digging around for essential items. Training takes enough time in itself. You don’t want to pile on additional hours each week because you’re disorganized.

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• You will miss a workout every once in awhile. DON’T FREAK OUT. The journey to Ironman is long. If you’re sick, on the verge of injury, have an important family commitment or an intense day at work that leaves you walloped, it’s okay to skip it once in awhile. Don’t make it a habit, but don’t beat yourself up either. Sometimes the stress of trying to squeeze it in in the midst of chaos makes it worse, and sets your body back. This is another reason a coach is so helpful, especially one who understands your life outside of training.

• Joining a charity team for your first Ironman will make your experience all the more powerful because not only will you be changing your life during your journey, but the lives of others. That, my friends, is an extraordinary feeling. The support and camaraderie of your team will also boost you tenfold on race day. I chose to raise funds for Smile Train, a phenomenal organization providing free cleft surgeries for kids around the world. I can’t recommend Smile Train enough for what they do for children, and also what they do for the team.

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• Flexibility will keep you sane. Things come up, and you’ll likely need to switch your training schedule around once in awhile. Being rigid and stressing about it is not only counterproductive, but often unnecessary as you’ll most likely still get in all the work, perhaps just in a different order. Bend like a willow so you don’t break like an oak.

• You will have doubts and fears on occasion, questioning your ability and/or your sanity in training for an Ironman. That’s totally normal. Fear is a fantastic motivator. Use it to fuel your training instead of letting it paralyze you. Remember, as you push beyond your comfort zone, “Don’t think. Just Go.”

• Never forget that it’s pretty freaking awesome that you GET to do this. When you hear yourself say, “Ugh, I HAVE to go for a run or swim,” remind yourself that you are one lucky chica to be able to do this. Changing that one simple word is a powerful way to shift your entire mindset.

• Learn to laugh at yourself. You will undoubtedly make a few rookie mistakes during this long road to the starting line, and when you do, it’s best to find humor in the moment and be grateful you were able to get it out of the way before race day. Also, remember everyone was a rookie once and everyone has a “Rookie Mistake” story.

• Treat this journey as if it’s the only one you will ever be able to do in your lifetime. You will appreciate it all the more. You may fall in love with IM and go on to do twenty more, but for your first one, relish every second, even if it’s a sucky training day, even if you’re cursing at a flat tire, even if your muscles are screaming at you. Remember this is a once-in-a-lifetime, mind-blowing gift you are giving yourself.

As you begin (or continue on) your first Ironman journey, know that I am cheering for you every step of the way, and so are all the others who have come before you. You will never regret your decision to push yourself beyond your perceived boundaries. When you do finally go the distance and cross the finish line, every limitation you ever placed on yourself will suddenly be shattered and you will know deep inside that anything is possible.

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Tri on, my friends…

xoBecky

PS: In my next post I will be sharing what I learned about the swim during my first Ironman. For all of you swimmers who are self-described non-swimmers or still “works-in-progress,” know that if I can do it, you absolutely can do it. There’s hope for everyone. 🙂

Fellow Ironmen, what would you add to this list? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Race Report Ironman Arizona 2016

“Becky Aaronson from Santa Barbara, California….YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”

Those are some of the sweetest words I’ve ever heard, ranking right up there with “I do” and “It’s a girl!”… life-changing words that will forever be tattooed on my heart.

Let me start at the beginning though. Since many of you have followed me from the very beginning of this epic journey, I want to share the final details with you so you can cross the finish line right alongside me. Your support and encouragement have meant everything to me this year.

This is looong, so buckle up, grab a cup of coffee or tea and kick back. If you only care to read about the race, you can scroll down to where it says RACE MORNING.

PRERACE

I left Santa Barbara early Thursday morning and arrived in Tempe in the late evening after a long 8-hour drive, including a lovely traffic jam through much of Phoenix. Needless to say, I was glad when the eagle finally landed at the hotel and I was able to crash for the night after unloading an absurd amount of gear.

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Friday morning Matt wanted me to get on my bike, so I went for an early morning spin, trying to steel myself against the shocking 43-degree temperature (I know, I’m such a weenie Cali girl now). Yowza. I immediately started worrying about the weather on race day, knowing it would be a loooong, miserable bike ride if it stayed like this.

Swinging by the Ironman Village though, erased every ounce of discomfort I had that morning. I still had goosebumps, but it wasn’t from the cold; it was from knowing my Ironman dream was finally going to become a reality.

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Later that morning after a quick breakfast, I walked back over to the village to meet my Smile Train team, get checked in, and pick up my race packet.

I don’t think there’s any more electric, eclectic, or neurotic place in the world than an IM expo, with hundreds upon hundreds of Type A, amp’ed up people in all shapes and sizes, wearing all things compression, milling about, out of their minds, having trained long and hard for months on end all to reach this one point.

Being part of Smile Train’s Team Empower made it all relaxed and fun. My awesome Smile Train ambassador, Jeff Krebs, warmly welcomed me, walked me through the entire check in process, then snapped a picture of me in front of the team banner.

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Matt had warned me about the expo before I left Santa Barbara, explaining that it can be a huge energy suck if you’re not careful, so after picking up my race packet and swag bag, going to a required athlete’s briefing, and spending way too much time shopping in the IM merchandising tent, I hoofed it back to the hotel to get out of the sun and put my feet up. It had gone from 43 to 80 degrees in a matter of a just few hours. Gotta love the desert.

I made a concerted effort to stay hydrated all day and eat small amounts of healthy food throughout, but I was running low on energy. I was glad I’d chosen to stay at a hotel with a full kitchen so I could avoid the hassle of trying to figure out where to eat for every meal. I whipped together a sandwich and chilled until later in the evening when I went back for the opening ceremony.

I also worked on getting everything organized for the next day’s practice swim and gear drop, and prepared for my family’s arrival later that night.

Even though I’ve been told I’m the queen of organization (aka-a nutty list-maker), I found one of the most challenging parts about doing an Ironman was mastering race day logistics and organizing all my gear for it. It sounds simple enough, but a lot of thought goes into it.

Unlike a sprint or an Olympic tri where you simply have your checklist, mark everything off, then throw it all in one transition bag and go, for an Ironman, you have to divide up all your gear into the five bags you’re given at registration: a bike bag, run bag, special needs bike bag, special needs run bag, and a morning bag.

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Most of it’s straight forward—helmet, bikes shoes, shorts, etc all go in the bike bag, running shoes etc. in the run bag. The tricky part is trying to think through nutrition and the special needs bag, especially knowing you won’t get your special needs bag back at the end. It’s like trying to use a magic ball to predict what you think you’ll need, and hopefully not waste a bunch of stuff.

My husband and daughter flew in late Friday night, so I didn’t get to sleep until nearly midnight—not good for the night you’re supposed to get your best sleep, knowing you’ll never sleep well the night before your event. As with this entire journey though, I decided that if I didn’t let it matter, it wouldn’t. I rarely get solid sleep anyway. It was great to have the loves of my life and #1 Support Crew with me, so it was worth every lost zzz.

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Saturday morning, I got up early to do another short ride and a run, and then headed back to the race venue for my practice swim in Tempe Town Lake. My family and I also attended our Smile Train breakfast, sign making, and awards ceremony.

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It was a huge relief to have the practice swim go well. Everybody had been talking about how miserable the water was the year before, so I was thrilled the 63-degree water felt much less shocking than our ocean water at home.

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Aside from the actual race event, one of the most special parts of doing Ironman Arizona was being part of Smile Train. We had 115 team members who raised over $600,000, providing 2,400 kids around the world with new smiles and much brighter futures.

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I was proud that with the help all of my amazing supporters, I was acknowledged as being the 5th place overall fundraiser on the team, raising $9,170, which will provide 36 1/2 new smiles. It made this event all the more meaningful.

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After our team gathering, we were led on a VIP tour of the transition areas. This may not sound like a big deal, but it helped ease all our anxieties about the unknowns. The race coordinator also answered a plethora of questions about rules and logistics—yet another little perk of being part of this team.

At the end of our Smile Train gathering, I racked my bike in transition, then walked with my family back to the hotel to rest before returning once AGAIN to drop off my gear bags.

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I had this shirt made back in January to celebrate my 50th birthday and my journey to Ironman Arizona. It seemed appropriate to wear it again on this day. I received more than a few knowing smiles from people who could appreciate the “Keep Calm and BRING IT ON” sentiment.

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By the end of the day my Garmin told me I’d walked over 20,000 steps—not exactly staying off my feet like Matt and several other people suggested, but that’s the best I could do.

Around 8 pm, after chilling with my family in the hotel for the remaining part of the afternoon, they left to go check into another hotel for the night so I could have the room to myself and get into my Zen race space.

This was right as our dear friends, Kimberly and Sullivan, swung by to say hello, after having just arrived from the airport. They were like a warm blanket of comfort and positive energy. I’m still completely blown away they flew to Tempe just to cheer me on.

Wow, just wow.

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RACE MORNING

No surprise, I didn’t sleep the night before the race (I never do), but I did catch a few zzzzs off and on, then popped out of bed at 2:30 to force myself to eat breakfast.

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OMG, my big day had finally arrived!!!

In between eating my delightful breakfast of Ensure, white toast with jelly, and applesauce (ack!), I did a whole lot of deep breathing, stretching, visualizing and getting my water bottles and nutrition ready for my bike and my run bag.

Four thirty arrived in a blink, then it was time to head out the door to walk to the race venue. It was such a surreal experience silently walking in the dark with all kinds of Ironman zombies, completely lost in their thoughts.

The transition area brought us all to life with volunteers in neon orange shirts buzzing with energy, reminding us they were all there just for us.

I went directly to our VIP Smile Train tent and was greeted by our energetic organizers, Lindsay and Kristina, who were wearing crazy wigs and tutus, along with several ambassadors. They had a full breakfast spread ready for our supporters, private porta-potties just for our team, and a fantastic cheering area for our families and friends to base themselves throughout the day.

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After placing my water bottles on my bike and dropping off my special needs bags, I pumped up my tires, then got body-marked by a hilarious volunteer. When I told her my age so she could write it on my calf, she screamed, “Girlfriend, you are soooo NOT 50. No way. You go get it, girl.” LOL.

I also tried to keep my wits about me in the midst of all this and do all the things I needed to have a successful day, like eat a PowerBar and sip on water so I wouldn’t bonk on the swim.

Then it was back to the Smile Train tent where I prepared to put on my wetsuit. Butterflies were getting busy in my stomach, so I borrowed a Sharpie and wrote BELIEVE in big letters on my arm and JOY on my right hand, symbolic of what I hoped for the day, and also initials for Jeffrey, Olivia, and YES!). On my other hand I wrote “Fly Tough Bird,” a little shout out to my dad who would have appreciated this day and this journey on so many levels.

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Right as I started to head to the swim, Jeffrey, Olivia, Kimberly and Sullivan arrived with hugs and good wishes. This was such a special day for all of us to share together, and I was so appreciative of all they had done for me all year, liquid drops of happiness poured down my cheeks.

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After snapping a few pictures, we heard the cannon go off for the pros and I suddenly realized I had spent so much time with my peeps that I needed to rush to the other side of transition to find my place in the age group start.

SWIM

The swim start was self-seeded, meaning we placed ourselves with other athletes who’d likely swim at about our pace. I had planned to be in the 1:30 group, but couldn’t push my way up through the sea of wetsuits, so I settled in with the 1:40 group and decided not to stress. I knew it was going to be a long day anyway, and preferred to pass people rather than have them swim over me.

As I waited in line with all the others, I made sure to soak up every moment. The sunrise was beautiful, and the weather was perfect—low 50s and partly cloudy. The best part was knowing we wouldn’t be swimming into a blinding glare the first mile.

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Photo credit: Ironman Instagram feed

As I looked around, only one or two people looked relaxed. Everyone else seemed like they were trying to manage their own fears and/or expectations. One young woman was crying, several were nervously shifting their weight from foot to foot. One was singing to himself and another neurotically adjusting her wetsuit.

A few dudes pushed their way through the crowd in a brash, entitled kind of way, which didn’t sit well with people who had made sure to get there on time. I just tried to stay in my calm happy bubble and force myself to chow down a Gu and some water so I wouldn’t bonk. Stay grounded and focus on what you need to do to make this a great day.

When it was finally time to jump in the water, I had this moment of terrified euphoria, like I was taking one of the biggest leaps of faith in myself I had ever taken.

“It’s just another swim,” I told myself. “You got this. You’ve done the work. NOW GO GET IT!”

And in I went. Sure enough, I did have it. I felt calm, strong and steady, even when I got clobbered every once in awhile. I had mentally prepared for much worse, so when it only happened a few times, I didn’t fall apart. Just keep going. Just keep going. Stay strong and steady. Relax. Enjoy this moment. You are doing it!

When I reached the first red turn buoy, just before the half-way mark, I glanced at my watch. Thirty-eight minutes. I knew I had this. I even had space to get into my regular swim groove…at least until somebody swerved in front of me or suddenly stopped for no apparent reason. Then I’d have to regroup and dig into my stroke again.

When I saw the final red turn buoy, it felt like a mirage. I thought I still had quite a ways to go, so you can imagine my joy. As everybody else saw the swim exit nearing and heard the loudspeaker booming, it suddenly became chaotic with people trying to sprint to the end, arms and feet flailing in all directions. I tried not to get caught up in the craziness, but rather stay centered until the end.

When I reached the bottom of the stairs to exit the water, I was giddy with relief. A volunteer reached down to give me a hand up and as soon as I reached the top, I found myself doing a full-on happy dance, throwing my arms up in the air and yelling “Yesssss!” I felt like I’d just won the day, getting through what I thought would be the most challenging part of the race for me, and doing it nearly 50 minutes faster than the cut-off time. Halle-freaking-lujah!

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I high-fived a whole line of volunteers who were cheering us on, then took off my Garmin (celebrating my 1:33 time) so a volunteer could help me get off my wetsuit before I jogged along to grab my bike bag and continue on to the changing tent.

For those who have never done an Ironman, I have to share the unique detail of the “wetsuit strippers.” After you get your arms out of your wetsuit, they have you lay on your back with your feet up in the air and quickly peel off the rest in the matter of seconds before helping you back up and sending you on your way with your wetsuit.

I can’t even begin to tell you how awesome the volunteers were at this race. So Kind. So positive. So energetic.

The only thing that happened is that when the fabulous volunteer helped pull me up out of the water, I must have turned at a weird angle because I felt a sharp twinge in my hip flexor and inner thigh, like I’d strained a muscle. Yowza. Not good, but I tried not to think about it.

Instead, I focused on the task at hand, getting changed, sunscreened, fueled, and out the door without forgetting anything in the midst of lots of action in a crowded tent.

I wanted to be comfortable on the bike so I opted to put on dry bike shorts instead of wearing wet tri shorts for 112 miles. I also slathered Traumeel on my knees, which get cranky on the bike, and also slapped some on my hip flexor and inner thigh in hopes that would help ease the wonkiness.

BIKE

A volunteer ran to my bike to unrack it for me. Then I mounted my Garmin on it, which took FOREVER, then eventually ran my bike out of transition and hopped on. Woohoo!!!

Jeffrey, Olivia, Kimberly and Sullivan were right there cheering along the narrow shoot leading out toward the street, which fired me up even more.

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Then it was on to the first 38-mile loop and the biggest mental challenge of the entire race. Pros were already on their second or third loop and speedy age groupers were finishing their first loop as I was heading out.

I’ll be honest, this course is tough—not because it has crazy elevation or technical turns—but because it’s monotonous and you always seem to hit wind, no matter which direction you’re going. It’s also tough mentally, knowing you’ll be doing the same loop three times, and the first half is uphill.

About 4 miles into this ride, I was starting to get seriously worried about my hip flexor/inner thigh. Riding in the aero position was miserable. This is NOT happening, I told myself. No way. No how. Just relax and it will go away. Pain is your friend.

But it did not go away. It got to where I could only ride in an upright position, which I knew was a big waste of energy and would surely slow me down, especially with the wind, which picked up as the day went on.

I stopped at one of the first aid stations and tried to stretch it out, but it didn’t help, so I hopped back on and kept going. At the turn around spot at the top of the Beeline Highway, I got off my bike again and tried to massage my hip and stretch it. It also didn’t help.

Thankfully it was mostly downhill back into town. It was just the mental boost I needed to take my mind off the discomfort. The other thing that lifted me right back up was the raucous crowd cheering as I came in to start my second lap—especially my personal fan club. They were THE absolute best.

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With each lap the wind got a little stronger, and the road thinned out as the pros were already on to the run, and many age groupers were finishing up their final lap. Clouds were looming and rain was threatening.

Believe it or not, despite all of this, I was so appreciative to be there competing in my first Ironman, I could not stop smiling. Seriously. My face actually hurt from smiling all day.

The other thing that made me smile was remembering that my brilliant coach, Matt, suggested I throw some ibuprofin in my special needs bag in the unlikely event I might need it on race day—something I never would have thought of as I rarely ever take it.

Reaching mile 56, the half way point, was like reaching the Holy Grail. I dug into my special needs bag and quickly popped three Advil, hoping and praying it would do the trick.

Sure enough, not much longer into the ride, everything turned around. I can’t say the pain completely disappeared, but enough to ride in the aero position again, and enough to put the zip back into me to zoom back in for my final loop.
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Once again, my peeps re-charged my batteries with their crazy cheering and chanting. And then it was back up the damn Beeline Highway.

This time I knew I was 2/3 done though, and I knew all I had to do was get to the top and it would all be downhill. Also, I think the Advil must have launched some serious happy mojo in me because I was suddenly humming Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. You think I’m kidding, but I’m not.
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I was also cheering for tons of people, especially all my Smile Train teammates, and I even started passing people on the way back. My goal was not to stop on the final lap, but I could never bring myself to pee on the bike like most do. Instead, I opted for what felt like the tenth porta-potty break.

The one thing I was diligent about during the ride was staying hydrated and fueled so I wouldn’t bonk and so I’d be prepared for the run, but when you’re drinking 24-30 ounces an hour, you gotta “go.” Let’s just say this did not make for my speediest ride, but I got it done and I did truly enjoy it, bumps and all.

RUN

I was so stoked to finally be off the bike, I was loopy. Fortunately, all the volunteers guide you along the way and get you to where you’re supposed to be next.

This time it was back to the changing tent with my run bag. Off with my bike shorts and on with my Smile Train tri shorts. And lots of Icy Hot sprayed on my knees and hip/thigh. Then run shoes, visor and my hand-held water bottles and off I went.

Well, almost.

A frantic volunteer ran into the tent yelling, “Who’s #533?”

“That’s me,” I hollered.

“Do you want your Garmin? You left it on your bike.”

“Oh my god, YES…”

Before I got the “please” out she bolted out the door to get it for me, returning in a sweat.

Did I mention the phenomenal volunteers?

At the expo when we picked up our race packets, inside we found a green wristband with instructions to give it to a volunteer who made a difference in your day. This was the person. Having my Garmin made a huge difference in my run, and I have her to thank for it. Sadly, I was long into the run before I realized I forgot to give her the band. 😦

The first mile of the run was what I expected, a peg-leg run that soon eased into a regular gait. I was stoked to finally be passing people, making up time from my bike. This race wasn’t about beating other people AT ALL, but it definitely gave me an extra mental boost.
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After a short out and back jaunt, Mile 4 brought me back to my cheering squad. The Smile Train tent was rocking and lifted me ten feet off the ground. Olivia had a megaphone and Jeffrey organized the group, all chanting, “Becky. Becky. Becky.”

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It would be another 9 miles before I’d loop back around and see them again, but each aid station was just 1-mile apart so there was support all along the way, even on the “lonely side of the lake.”

I felt surprisingly strong, and was happy I never hit “dark moments” for which I’d mentally prepared. I saw tons of people battling demons all along the racecourse, walking, limping, looking miserable, and barely hanging on. Maybe it was popping  more Advil at the halfway point, but somehow I managed to skirt the darkness, and for that I’m grateful. I tried to offer encouragement to as many people as I could, and even handed out Tums to those who were losing their cookies.

I fueled almost my entire run with the unlikely combination of Coke, chicken broth, water, Red Vines, and pretzels. Who would have ever thunk?

Somehow my stomach survived this wicked combo, and only had me seeking out a porta-potty a couple times along the course.

You’re going to think I’m nuts, but the run actually went by much faster than I ever imagined. Between the rocking aid stations, my cheer squad, and simply knowing every step was bringing me closer to hearing those magic words at the finish line, I was never discouraged. Not for one minute.

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In fact, the last 3 miles I started picking up the pace and quit stopping at aid stations all together. “Whoa girl, you go,” I heard more than once. “You got this. You look strong.”

The last mile felt like it took three days, but I could hear the finish line and knew that I would soon become an Ironman, which gave me a huge lump in my throat.

Every step was a mix of agonizing joy, my body ready to be done, but my spirit totally on fire.

A flood of thoughts and emotions washed though me. At one point my mom popped into my head. She was never athletic so when I grew up doing sports, and later running marathons, she’d always worry and say things like, “Don’t overdo it, Becky,” which of course made me want to push harder to prove that I could overdo it and be just fine.

After powering on from 7:00 in the morning until 9:30 at night, I chuckled and thought, “Look mom, I’m overdoing it again, and I am more than fine. In fact, I’ve never felt better or more alive!”

The last turn into the long finisher’s shoot was magic. Throngs of people were cheering and high-fiving me as if I were the first place finisher.

Then I heard Mike Reilley’s voice call out those magic words, “Becky Aaronson from Santa Barbara, California…YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!”

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Holy crap, I did it! I threw my arms in the air and celebrated every second of that electric moment.

Any limitation I had ever placed on myself had just been shattered.
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A volunteer placed a medal around my neck and then my peeps bombarded me with flowers and a massive bottle of champagne…the perfect exclamation point to an incredible journey.

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“Life isn’t measured by the breaths we take, but the moments that take our breath away.”

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I never want Olivia to feel like she shouldn’t “overdo it” because as we know, some of the best things in life happen when we push beyond our limits. I was ecstatic she could experience this with me…not to mention, the love of my life, Jeffrey, who was the true super hero of this year, pulling yeoman’s duty so I could make this dream come true.

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Here’s to dreaming big and surrounding ourselves with people who believe in our dreams as much as we do.

Thank you everyone for all your love and support this year and for believing in me.

And a HUGE shout out to Matthew Tague for being a phenomenal coach. He’s one of the biggest reasons I arrived at the starting line in one piece (no minor miracle for this injury-prone runner). Not only did Matt put together a training schedule that fully prepared me physically for this race, but he also continually reminded me to work on my mental game, and all the little details of race day like nutrition, clothing, and logistics. Most of all, he reminded me to appreciate the journey along the way. That my friends, I did with ease.

xo Becky

Ironman Race Week: Wrapping it Up with a Bow

It seems fitting that my last week of training in Santa Barbara ends on a beautiful note, a final gift that wraps up this entire journey with a dazzling bow. I did my last run on Tuesday just as the sun was setting so I could practice running in the dark again. This is what I was given. Life is definitely good, my friends.

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Yesterday, after meeting with Matt for a final powwow to go over my race plan and talk logistics and mental strategies, I did a short ride…a quick little spin to get my legs moving…stopping at Butterfly Beach to savor the end of this epic year of training. Aaaah, what a gift this has all been. I don’t take it for granted for a second.

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Then is was home to try to jam all this stuff into my transition bag. This just makes me laugh. And believe it or not, it all fit!

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Getting pumped along the way…writing few notes to myself on my water bottles to remind me to be in the moment and enjoy it all. My family wrote on all my others, which makes them extra special.

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Since this blog is part part sharing with you, and partly a journal for me, I continue to jot down all the details so I remember it.

Here’s what this week’s schedule looks like as #533 zips off to Arizona:

Monday: Swim 2250 y
Tuesday: Run 4 miles
Wednesday: Bike 45 minutes
Thursday: Drive to Tempe
Friday: Bike 45 minutes
Saturday: Practice swim in the lake, Bike 30-45 minutes with surges, Run 10-15 minutes with surges
Sunday: Race Day!!!

I’ve received so many wonderful emails and encouraging blog and FB comments, I’m truly blown away. This is one of my favorites notes I received in the mail–awesome art and words of encouragement from one of my former running club kids. So incredibly sweet. Thank you Theo! It means a lot.
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And a gift left on my doorstep from my BFF, Kimberly. Yep, I was welling, especially when I read the inscription. xo
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Thanks again for all your support, encouragement, advice and love everyone. It has fueled me all year and it will fuel me to the end.

Now it’s time to get this show on the road and do this thing!!!

xo B

Parting thought….

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Ironman Arizona Race Week: Raffle Winners

As I pack up all my gear to head to Arizona tomorrow, I want to pause for a moment and acknowledge all of my Smile Train Team Empower supporters and fundraising raffle winners.

As of now, we have raised $9,070.00 for Smile Train, which will provide 36 (and 1/4 more) kiddos with new smiles and new leases on life.

This is so freaking amazing, people! You helped me nearly double my original goal.

You have no idea how much this fills my heart. We are changing 36 lives FOREVER. These kids will now be able to eat, drink, and speak properly, and they’ll be able to go to school and go on to live happy and productive lives. You are making what would have been very difficult lives much brighter.

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Small gestures really can make big difference, especially when we join forces. This is proof.

Now….without further ado…drum roll please…

The winner of the raffle for the $50 Jane restaurant gift certificate and bottle of wine is….LORI ONISHUK.

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The winner of the $25 Amazon gift card for those who donated between $100-$249 is…ERNESTO PAREDES

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The winners of the $100 Amazon gift card for those who donated $250 or more are…JOE & MARIA FAZIO.

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Thank you to EVERYBODY who contributed to my fundraising efforts so far. I will be carrying all your good wishes and awesomeness with me on race day…

“A friend,” Merrill & Geraldine Aaronson, Lucas Meisel & Family, Roosevelt Running Club Spring 2106 team, Roosevelt Running Club Fall 2016 team, The Gaitan Family, Joe & Maria Fazio, The Malina Family, Heidi Jensen, Anonymous, Hensley & James Peterson, The Whelan Family, Cisco Matching Gift, Ana Martinez, DDS, Ernesto Paredes, The Tuckman Family, The Cowgill-Pichla Family, Artaz Heating-Plumbing, John Ellis & Tami Snow, Tim Green & Jo Haemer, Griffin & Chloe Miller & Family, Laura & Chad Bergerson, White & Grube Orthodontics, Betsy Sweda, Kim Shlens, Janet Cook, Tom & Lindy Melberg, Martha & Don Jefferson, Geoff, Jen & Mia Brown, Lori Onishuk, Elda Rudd, Jessica Risko, Whitney Bruice, Ruth Weber, Stella Pynn, Drea Schettler & Tim Strand, Greg Hall, The Rybnicek Family, The Clyne Girls, Kids Corner Coyotes, Claudia Drynan, The Battles Family, Stephanie Trager, McNees Family, Margo Rose, Tammy Gerenser, Jessical Mireles, Leo Schumaker, Chrissy Leonard, Justine Hamilton, The Park Family, Monica DeVreese, Mark & Gina Fennell, Heine-Twins, Erica Storm, Liz Mikkelson, Maude Williamson, Mark & LeAnn Green, Kromann Family, Jill Deering, PhysioPhyx, Christina Jaramillo, Kimberly, Anonymous, The Bartholomew Family, The Voigt Family, Randy Glick & Laura Jensen, The Mansbach Family, Jim Sloan, Namita Patel, Anonymous, Krista Kieding, Stephanie Christoff, Rena Heinrich, Cheryl Hutton, Teri Malinowski, Anonymous, Bruce & Regina Davis, John Herzog, Scott Kadous, Nash Jimenez, Curly Guillen, Carlos Gomez, Anonymous, Anonymous.

If for some reason, you haven’t been able to contribute yet, but would still like to, IT’S NOT TOO LATE! Here’s the link to click to donate: BECKY’S SMILE TRAIN PAGE.

Okay, awesome peeps, it’s back to packing for me. I head out early tomorrow (woohooo!!!) and will be posting on Facebook and Twitter when I can. I’ll be blogging (if the stars are aligned), but no promises…at least until I’m across the finish line. My main focus will be to be in the moment and soak it all up while I’m there.

Until next time…
With love, hugs, and heaps of gratitude,
xo Your Soon-To-Be Iron(Wo)man Becky

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Week 45 of Ironman Training: Visions of BadAss-ness

During this crazy week of political and emotional upheaval, I’ve tried to stay focused on all things positive and keep my eye on the Ironman prize, but man, oh man, it has been tough. I’ve definitely shed a few tears and simmered in some dark moments as I’ve contemplated the state of our nation, but thankfully, exercise always brings me back around.

The other thing that has soothed my soul is pouring my energy into creating a vision board–a simple, empowering reminder of how I’m going to make this BadAss Iron(Wo)man dream come true. No. Matter. What.

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Being a visual person, it’s helpful for me to write down my goals and remind myself of my race plan and how I’ll handle the challenges of the day.

The background of my vision board is a portion of artwork created by my daughter with geometrical rainbow-colored fish that look like arrows pointing forward–the direction we all hope to be going. Every time I look at my board, I think of her and remind myself that I’m still one of the most important role models in her life, which makes her the number one reason I will never give up.

GRIT is what it will take to get to the finish line, a word I will not forget for a minute during IMAZ, especially as it also reminds me of my husband, my rock and north star, who is the epitome of grit. I will be carrying his love and support with me all along the way, as well as his grit, just as I have all throughout this journey.

The word COURAGE on my board reminds me of my friends, the Reeder-Riechels, as that little scrap of paper is something I tore from a card at their home during the holidays last  year. It simply said, “Take something you will need in the new year.” I have leaned on that word more times than I can count this year, and I will certainly be leaning on it heavily on race day. Did I mention these awesome friends are also flying out to the race to cheer me on? Unbelievable.

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One week from now I will be on the Ironman Arizona course (holy freaking craziness!!), taking each challenge as it comes.

My main goal is to try to enjoy and appreciate every single moment as I finally get to live out my Ironman dream–something I’ve carried with me since I was a teenager.

The race itself is truly a victory lap, a celebration of all the hard work that’s gone into this year, and a big “BOOYAH!” that I made it to the starting line in one piece–no small feat for this injury-prone runner.

I have Matthew Tague to thank for that. His outstanding coaching and his wise counsel have kept me moving forward, even when things got bumpy on occasion. I feel incredibly lucky to have had him in my corner during this journey.

As  I get prepared to head to Arizona next week, here’s what my final full week of training looked like during this taper phase:

Monday: Swim 3500y, Run 1 hr 15 minutes on a flat/rolling course
Tuesday: Bike 3 hours with 2×20 min hard efforts
Wednesday: Rest (beach walk)
Thursday: Run 30 minutes
Friday: Ocean swim
Saturday: Brick–Bike 60 minutes, Run 5 miles
Sunday: Rest (optional bike or swim)

Here are a few snaps from the week…

I usually run in the morning, but it took me all day to get out the door on Monday, so I had the joys of an evening jaunt. I opted to run loops around Sheffield Reservoir, which is mostly flat with a few small rollers.

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I was handed this lovely gift of color during my run…another opportunity to revel in gratitude…
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Tuesday was election day AT LAST. Halle-freaking-lujah! I wasn’t quite sporting a white pantsuit, but I did wear my white tri suit in honor of this historic occasion. I saw countless women wearing white on their morning runs, too, which made me smile.
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My 3-hour ride went by in the blink of an eye and ended at the rainbow sculpture along Cabrillo Blvd. It’s funny how 3 hours on the bike once felt like two days.
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Wednesday was a scheduled rest day, and I was thankful because, like many of my friends, I was exhausted from the election and trying to keep it together while struggling to explain it all to my daughter. A beach walk with my husband brought a tiny bit of solace.

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Thursday I did a short morning run with my big brown doodle, then another sweet evening run solo…this time around the Rose Garden and trails next to it, where the sky showered us with magic once again. When life feels insane, the best thing I can do is sweat, breathe deeply, and remind myself about the larger universe.
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Friday morning I had the joy of doing an ocean swim with my friend, Whitney Bruice. She has been super supportive all year long and has made a big difference in helping me get stronger in the water. It was especially awesome of Whitney to do this at 7:00am on her day off. Rock star status!
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I was thrilled to discover the new wetsuit Jeffrey bought me as another sweet show of support, fit perfectly and was more comfortable and buoyant than any I’ve ever worn. Yay! It may not make me faster during the race (or maybe it WILL!!), but it will definitely make me more comfortable.
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Saturday I did my final brick workout, a short 1-hour ride and 45-minute run. Zip. Zip. and Done. I got to try out my new team wind jacket and arm warmers to make sure they’d be comfortable on race day, along with some new socks. This was cutting it a little close for trying out new things, but it all went well.
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I am ready to roll. Let’s do this thing!
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As I sign off for the week, I can hardly put into words how much I appreciate all of you who have cheered me on, given me advice, hugs (virtual and in person), pushed me to be stronger, showered with me love and support and come along on this epic journey. It’s humbling, to say the least. My heart is full.

Next time you hear from me, I will be heading to Arizona to get ready to do my victory lap. I’ll be arriving Thursday evening and spending a couple days getting dialed in for the race on Sunday. My swim wave will start around 7 am and I’ll have until midnight to cross the finish line.

If any of you are interested, you can track me during the race via the Ironman website. My race bib number is #533. And don’t forget, I will be taking every single one of you with me, so fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a wild ride!

xo B
PS: This is your FINAL CALL if you’d like to donate to my Smile Train fundraising. Several of you have mentioned that you’d like to support my effort. Today is the day to do it. So far we have funded 36 kids for life-changing cleft surgery. How exciting is that?!

For my SB friends, as my final push to Arizona, I’m raffling off a $50 gift certificate to JANE restaurant and a bottle of wine to raise more funds for Smile Train. Each ticket costs just $5. All you have to do is go to my fundraising page (click link HERE) and make a donation and you’ll automatically be entered into the drawing. The deadline to enter is 5 pm TONIGHT. The winner will be announced TOMORROW, November 14th.

For those of you who don’t live in Santa Barbara, I’m raffling off a $100 gift card to Amazon for anybody who donates $250 or more and a $25 gift card for those who donate $100–$249. I’m just about four smiles away from reaching the $10,000 mark, which would be mind-blowing if we could reach that. That would mean 40 kiddos would have their lives changed FOREVER when I cross the finish line…because of YOU!

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PSS: As always, if you missed any of my previous posts about Ironman training, you can click on the links below:

Kicking off My Journey to Ironman Arizona
Week One of Ironman Training: Believe
Week Two of Ironman Training: The Power of Friends
Week Three of Ironman Training: I Think I Can
Week Four of Ironman Training: Progress
Week Five of Ironman Training: Wind at my Back (and Front) and Peeps by My Side
Week Six of Ironman Training: Baking a Cake
Week Seven of Ironman Training: Courage
Week Eight of Ironman Training: It’s All About the Base
OMG, You did WHAT?! (AKA Sleep Deprivation + Training = Embarrassing Moments)
Week Nine of Ironman Training: Growing Pains
Week Ten of Ironman Training: Trust
Week 11 of Ironman Training: Speedbumps and Breakthroughs
Week 12 of Ironman Training: A Bundle of Sticks Can’t Be Broken
Week 13 of Ironman Training: Spring!

Week 14 of Ironman Training: Rollercoaster
Week 15 and 16 of Ironman Training: Staying Happy and Healthy

Week 17 and 18 Ironman Training: Inspiration and Purple Rain
Weeks 19 through 21 of Ironman Training: Transitions

Week 22 and 23 of Ironman Training: Holy Epicness…Julie Moss
Week 24 of Ironman Training: Consistency is the Key
Week 25 of Ironman Training: Embracing New Challenges
Week 26 of Ironman Training: Hills, They’re What’s for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
Week 27 of Ironman Training: Taking This Show on the Road (Tri-cation!)
Week 27 of Ironman Training: High Altitude Tri-cation
Week 27 of Ironman Training: High Altitude Fun Continues
Week 28 of Ironman Training: Rocky Mountain High
Week 28 of Ironman Training: Finishing Aspen Strong
Week 29 and 30 of Ironman Training: Rollercoasters, Crazies, and Comebacks
Week 31 of Ironman Training: New Heights
Week 32 of Ironman Training: 100 Days to Go
Week 33 of Ironman Training: The Art of Recovery and Balance
Week 34 of Ironman Training: The Magic of Firsts
Week 35 of Ironman Training:Chasing the M-Dot with Toughness Training
Week 36 of Ironman Training: Miles of Opportunities
Week 37 of Ironman Training: IMAZ Training Camp and Tempe Tri Race Report
Week 38 of Ironman Training: Much to Celebrate and Carpinteria Race Report
Week 39 of Ironman Training: Why I Tri and Try
Week 40 and 41 of Ironman Training: Think Like a Dog and Train Like a Mouse
Week 41 of Ironman Training: Mind over Muscle
Week 42 of Ironman Training: #533 is Savoring the Last 23 Days Until IMAZ
Week 43 of Ironman Training: The Joys of Joy and Peak Week
Week 44 of Ironman Training: Holy Freaking Craziness