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...

carppool9616

• 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.

SwimGear

• 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.

imaz_swimstart

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!!!

SetaGoal

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.

MaroonBells

• 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.

GibraltarMatt

• 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.

sideplank101916

• 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.

Laundry

• 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.

Gear4116

• 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.

smiletraincheckin

• 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.

finishsm

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.

headingout

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.

chillybikeride

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.

smiletraincheckin

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.

gearbags

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.

ironsupporters

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.

jeffreysign oliviasign

wetsuitchange

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.

practiceswim
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.

smiletrain
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.

staward
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.

bikeimvillage

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.

livingmydream

geardrop

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.

supportcrewselfie

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.

230alarm

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.

lindsaykristina

sttent

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.

believe
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.

kimberlysullivanoliviab
preswimfamily
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.

swimstart

imaz_swimstart

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!

swimexit
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.

bikestart
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.

bikeloop
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.
bikebeeline

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.
bike

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.
run3

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.”

run

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.

oliviamegaphone

run_halfway

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!!!”

finishsm
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.
finishtime

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.

champagnefinish

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

oliviahugfinishline
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.

oliviajeffreyfinish

finishflowers
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.

finalrunleadbetter111516

lastrun111516  finalrunstearnswharf111516
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.

finalride111616
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!

gear
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.

waterbottle
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.
theosnote
And a gift left on my doorstep from my BFF, Kimberly. Yep, I was welling, especially when I read the inscription. xo
braveenough

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….

goingtosucceed

 

 

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.

visonbaord

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.

couragememe

gofearlessly
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.

shadowrun11716
sheffieldrun11716
I was handed this lovely gift of color during my run…another opportunity to revel in gratitude…
sheffieldrunsky
sheffieldrunclouds11716
sunsetrun11716
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.
electiondayride11716
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.
rainbowarch
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.

postelectionbeachwalk11916
beachwalkj
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.
rosegardensunsetrun111016
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!
whitneyoceanswim111116
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.
oceanswim111116
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.
smiletraingear111216
I am ready to roll. Let’s do this thing!
brickrun111216

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!

remarkablememe

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

Week 44 of Ironman Training: Holy Freaking Craziness

Holy freaking craziness, people, we are almost there!!!! AND I’m still in one piece! I’ve worked my tail off this year, and my heart and mind tell me that I’m more than ready to go. No matter what happens on race day, they’re going to carry me to the finish line. #MindOverMuscleBaby

Bring. It. On.

I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m a little bit excited, and my body is feeling great. After Monday’s final epic 9-hour workout, which kicked my butt, I’m in taper mode, scaling back, recovering, recharging, and getting fired up like never before. It’s all part of the process, and it’s giving me time to stop and pinch myself.

This is really going to happen!

I’ve got news for you…YOU are also going to be doing Ironman Arizona, because I’m taking all of you with me on race day. I’m going to carry all the love and support you have showered me with and I’m going to lean on you when I need it most. Together we are going to get this thing done, hopefully with a huge smile on my face.

If you want to know what’s in store for us, you can take a peek at last year’s IMAZ YouTube video. Goosebumps!


As I continue to work toward getting to the starting line, here’s what this week’s schedule looked like (October 31st-November 6th):

Monday: Epic Day Metric Ironman (swim 1.5 miles, bike 70 miles, run 16 miles)
Tuesday: Swim 2000y (recovery), core
Wednesday: Run 30 minutes (recovery pace), core
Thursday: Swim 2000y (recovery), core
Friday: Bike 45 minutes on bike trainer, core
Saturday: Bike 45 minutes, Run 30 minutes off bike (pushing faster on the second half of each), core
Sunday: Rest/recovery, stretch class, core

Last Monday was a trial run for what’s to come on race day…a mini Ironman. Once again I practiced everything I’ll do on the course from nutrition to clothing, pacing to mental strategies. I cannot sugarcoat this training day. It was tough. Actually, parts of it were brutal, mostly because my knees decided to be unusually cranky. BUT, I got through it by digging into my bag of mental tricks. Done. Done. Done. BAM.

I tried to time it like IMAZ so I got up before 5:00 am to eat breakfast: toast, Ensure (ack), applesauce and a few sips of coffee, then sips of Tailwind on the way to the pool. I got in the water a little before 7:00, when my swim wave would be starting in AZ. I had hoped to make this an ocean swim, especially since my sweet husband bought me a new wetsuit as another phenomenal show of support, but after our recent rains (yay!!), the bacteria levels in the water have been really high. Don’t want to risk getting sick, so I opted for the pool.

The swim, for the most part, was fine. I got it done in 55 minutes (2:05 pace), still not Michael Phelps pace, but I’ll take it. I just jumped in and started swimming without a warm-up, which never feels great, but because that’s what it will be like on race day, I wanted to see how it would feel…although I’m sure it will be a lot more shocking in 63 degree water temperature and nearly 3,000 people splashing around. 🙂

After quickly changing, I zipped down to East Beach where I based myself for the bike and run. It was a gorgeous morning, so it was hard to feel anything but gratitude for this day.

startmetricim103116
Feeling optimistic and ready to roll at the beginning of this ride…

bikestart103116
For the ride I did two 35-mile loops down to the Rincon and back, a route I’ve done numerous times. It’s not completely flat as a pancake, but as close as I can get around here, with a just a few minor hills in Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria.

It was just me and the open road…and a lot of time on my hands to try to ignore my cranky knees. I gave myself pep talks, thought about all the cool people in my life, sang, and mostly visualized race day and how I’m going to rock it.
longroadbike103116
The other thing I focused on was my nutrition. You can’t zone out too much because if you forget to eat or drink, you’ll pay for it on the run. I try to drink one bottle of Tailwind every hour and wash down a Gu energy gel with water about every 45 minutes. I also pop a Skratch Lab chew, pretzel, or bite of a PowerBar into my mouth here and there. It’s a fine balancing act staying fueled, but no overdoing it so your stomach doesn’t go south on the run.

I have to admit, I was doing a major happy dance when I finally got off the bike a little more than 4 1/2 hours later. Then it was on to the run.

I don’t know why, but this was one of the hardest runs I can remember doing in a long, long time, sixteen long miles on concrete. I’m attributing it to cumulative fatigue from weeks and weeks of training. Let’s just say, I dug out every mental trick I had to get through this one.

By now, you already know what a nut I am, so I might as well share the one thing that got me through this run (besides drinking Coke (ack!!!)…it was remembering five words my dad said to me at the very end of his life when I was a young college girl…

“You are a tough bird.”

Those five words have gotten me through a lot in my life, and they were especially helpful on this run. It wasn’t a speedy pace, but I got it done, at times visualizing a giant bird carrying my dad on its back, lifting me up by the back of my tri top and carrying me along. My legs suddenly felt lighter, my knees less angry, my spirit stronger. And then, batta boom, finally, this run was logged in the books.
runfinish103116im
Next time, I’ll be swimming 0.9 miles farther, biking 42 more miles, and running another 10.2 miles, but I know I will get it done on race day, in much better form, because I will be rested and ready to go. I already feel like a new person from this recovery week. Woot!!

Recovery weeks also allow you to do things that have been hard to jam in during regular training weeks, like an afternoon stroll along Shoreline Park with my main squeeze, and a relaxing lunch date afterward.

datewalk11416
And surprising my sweet girl by cleaning her bedroom as my way of saying, “Job well done for working so hard in school.”
bedroomfairy
mulligan
Wednesday evening’s recovery run was relaxing and rejuvenating as I cruised along the soft grass while Olivia was at ballet…aaaah.
eveningrun11216
The other thing I could do this week with my extra time was focus on my Smile Train fundraising. I have been completely blown away by the support I have received this week for Team Empower…30 people have contributed to Smile Train and funded five more kids for life-changing cleft surgery. My heart is full!! As of now, 29 children will have their lives changed when I cross the finish line. All because of YOU. That is freaking amazing!!

teamempowerbiketrainer
Friday’s sweatfest on the back patio.
biketrainer11416
Saturday morning I joined my family for the first time in ages for a little outing to Farmer’s Market, then a sweet breakfast date at Recipes, home of some of the best coffee in Santa Barbara, and the most wicked cinnamon buns you’ll ever find (shhhhh….don’t tell Coach Matt).
farmersmarket11516
farmersmarketcarrots11516

My True North (and South, East and West)

My True North (South, East and West)

farmerspeeps11516
breakfastdate11516
After morning family fun, I had my own fun…burning off that cinnamon bun with a short brick workout…45 minutes on the bike, followed by a 30 minute run, pushing the last half of both so I finished strong. I felt fantastic, having had such a rejuvenating week.
bikerun11516
eastbeachlifeguard11516
Then to top off this awesome week, it was date night at the art museum with this guy. Life is good…
datenight11516
Today is a rest day, with specific instructions from Matt to nap, go for a walk and eat good food. I’m liking this taper thing! I’m also heading to a stretch class, which always puts me in my happy place. 🙂

Until next time, fabulous peeps…we are getting so close, I can almost hear Mike Reilly’s voice! Let’s do this!

xo B
PS: In case you missed my Facebook posts, 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 winner will be announced on November 14th. $5 from many different people can add up quickly, and make a huge difference in a child’s life.

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 42 of Ironman Training: #533 is Savoring the Last 23 Days Until IMAZ

There are only 23 days to go until I’m standing in my wetsuit at the start of Ironman Arizona!! I have goosebumps just thinking about it. You might also hear a symphony of butterflies flitting around in my stomach as you read this — all good stuff, and part of the process as I revel in joy and excitement of the challenge ahead.

What made it feel “extra real” was receiving my official race bib number last week: #533. It’s my lucky number too, harkening back to my early basketball days when I sported #33 on the court, just like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who I idolized. Ha ha. Nerd Girl. It’s the little things people!!

imracebib

I can’t think about the race too much though, because there’s still work to be done in the next 23 days. Right now I’m at the pinnacle of my training before I start tapering. For the last six days I’ve been hitting it hard, and now I have a day of rest before I start ramping it up again for this weekend’s 9-hour swim-bike-run metric Ironman training day (1.5 mile swim, 70 mile bike, 16 mile run). Today’s rest day is the reason I’m finally able to carve out a little time to catch up on my blog.

One thing I wanted to share was this sweet little nugget. I was honored to be featured by Smile Train in their Ironman MilesforSmiles campaign recently. It tickled me because I love what they do. My quote is a little hard to read on the photograph, but this is what it says:

“I choose to race with Team Empower for my first Ironman because it combines my two favorite things: my love of triathlon and my love of helping others. It’s pure joy being part of a team that’s working hard to improve the lives of others, knowing our efforts will make a tangible difference, providing new smiles and much brighter futures for children all around the world.”

milesforsmiles
I know you may be sick of hearing about my Smile Train fundraising (hopefully not), but if you’d like to support my efforts for this fantastic organization, you can click HERE and make a tax-free donation. Only a few more smiles to go until I reach my new fundraising goal of $7,030! And only 2 spots left in the drawing for a $100 gift card (for a donation of $250 or more) and 3 spots left for the $25 gift card (for a contribution of $100-$249).

Here’s a quick glimpse of last week, which was both tough and fun–the perfect combination. It included participating in the Santa Barbara 100 bike event on Saturday.

Monday:  Swim 3600y (2 miles), core, massage (aaahh)
Tuesday: Run 30 minutes, Swim 1000y, core
Wednesday: Bike 2 hours, run with my kids at running club, core
Thursday: Swim 4500y (2.5 miles), core
Friday: Rest, core
Saturday: Santa Barbara 100K, followed by a 10-mile run, core
Sunday: Bike 2 hours on a hilly course, core

I just have to take a minute and give another HUGE shout out to this awesome person, my massage therapist, Stephanie Trager. She has been an integral part of keeping me healthy and injury-free this year. It’s a delicate dance of pushing hard to get stronger and fitter, often ignoring all the aches that come with the territory, while also making sure you take care of your muscles and joints when they let you know you’ve tango’ed a little too much. Stephanie always gets me back up and running so I can keep moving forward. I’m so lucky to have her in my corner. Thank you Stephanie! Not to mention, I get lots of love from Murphy when I visit too.

stephanie101716

Stephanie and Murphy

Even when my body is a little cranky, I still try to find joy in each of my workouts. Tuesday I did a quick 30 minute run before my swim, and cruised along one of my favorite locations, the bike path along Butterfly Beach in Montecito.
bikepathrun101816
agaverun101816
rose
runbutterflypalms101916
butterflybeach101816
I haven’t been able to make it to Killer Kate’s strength classes very often anymore due to scheduling issues and recovery days so I’m trying to be diligent with core strengthening at home. I do a daily “short and sweet” routine which includes push-ups, planks, side planks, donkey kicks, bridges, clam shells, 100s and squats, and hope this truncated effort will still carry me through.

sideplank101916 plank101916
It’s hard not to laugh when your big brown dog is in your face while you’re trying to do push-ups.
pushups101916
Much of the week I neglected to take pictures, which is unusual for me, but I did snap many on Saturday during the SB100 bike event.
teamempowersb100bib
This was a fantastic event with several options in terms of distance and climbing. Many of my hardcore friends did the full 100 miles with 9,000 ft of climbing. I opted for the more sane choice (100K with 4,000 ft.) and followed it up with a 10-mile brick run.

It was a gorgeous morning, and fun to see so many friends out there participating.
sunrise102316
sb100sunrise102216
The event started and finished at Leadbetter Beach, with over 1,000 riders taking part.
sb100start
Once again, this was a chance for me to practice my race day nutrition, clothing, pacing, etc.
sb100start102216
While a century ride isn’t typically a “race” per se, this event had an element of competition, especially for the full century distance, where riders raced to the top of Gibraltar. OMG. Brutal. Bravo to those studs who took it on.

I pushed my pace throughout the 100k ride, but also stopped at two of the four aid stations to refuel. By the end of 64 miles, my legs were definitely feeling it.

My brick run afterward was a toughie, but I got through it, reminding myself that it was bringing me one step closer to IMAZ. I chuckled when a couple cyclists pedalled past me while I was running and said, “Wait, didn’t you just do the 100? You are crazy, girl.” Yep, we’re all crazy in our own way.

I was happy to have this one in the books…whooped but stronger for having knocked it out.
sb100finish
And my legs were happy to have an ice bath in the ocean afterward.
icebathpostriderun
The topper to the week was getting on my bike again the next day for a two hour hill ride. Matt had a special name for this workout, which I probably shouldn’t repeat here–ha ha, but it was essentially meant to continue toughening me up both physically and mentally.

As I was trying to rally up some motivation in the morning, I had to tell myself, “Don’t think, just go. Turn your brain off and just get it done.” It was a really good day to practice all my race day mantras and visualization strategies too, as I huffed up each hill. My mental bag of tricks is getting larger by the day, and I’m sure I’ll be relying on all of them on race day.
bike102316
Surprisingly, two hours went by relatively fast, and I ended up enjoying much of this ride. Here’s a view of one of the more mellow roads I cruised on–East Mountain Drive–so sleepy on a Sunday afternoon. Thanks Matt for making me get my butt out there again when I wouldn’t have otherwise.
bikemtdrive102316
As I count down these last 23 days, I’m trying to savor each workout, each challenge and each moment that brings me closer to crossing the finish line in Tempe. I’m breathing in courage and exhaling fear. I’m fueling my mind with positive imagery, picturing myself loving every minute of the race, while preparing myself for the reality of the most grueling athletic event of my life. I’m continually reminding myself that I’ve put in the work, so no matter what happens on race day, I’ve done my best, and my best is good enough.

When I started officially training back in January, I had no idea just how much I would love this journey. Sure some days have been more challenging than others, and muscles have complained here and there, but I have never felt more grateful for my health and fitness and for all the people in my life who have made this epic adventure so special.

I’m one lucky chica, and I don’t forget it for a minute.

Until next time…happy weekend to you all!
xo B

PS: 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 41 of Ironman Training: Mind Over Muscle

Thank you IMAZ training for reminding me once again that I can do hard things. Yesterday I had a 6-hour triple brick workout (bike-run-bike-run-bike-run) and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it because before I even set out on this long day, I had a knot in my calf the size of a baseball. You know, the kind of knot that keeps you up at night and leaves you walking like a pirate with a peg leg. I decided to get on my bike anyway, and see what I could do, hoping it would magically work its way out. Well, you know what happened…the rest is history. Done. Done. Done. Done. Done. Done. #mindovermuscle #doepicshit(asElkeoftensays)

finalrun
It definitely wasn’t easy, but I had no illusion that it would be. I didn’t get started until nearly noon because I had a meeting to attend at 10:30. It was a late start to a long day, but I’m glad because it mirrored what race day will feel like, especially running in the chilly evening.

As all my endurance athlete friends will attest, when you’re out on the road for a long time, you get to see and experience a boatload of interesting things.

Here is just a sprinkling of what I saw yesterday:
A ukulele club performing at East Beach
A wedding
A vintage military plane flyover
A lacrosse tournament
The tiniest little guy (2 years, if that) riding his scooter in the middle of the bike path, blissfully zigzagging, oblivious that he was about to get taken out multiple times while his parents were staring at their phones
Teenage boys doing flips off sand dunes
The Vietnam remembrance wall
A drum circle
Tourists in their tourist bubbles
Surfers riding perfect waves
Drivers opening car doors without looking to see a cyclist coming (eek!)
My coach! What a surprise to see Matt’s smiling face in the middle of my second brick as he seemingly appeared out of nowhere while I stopped to snap a picture of these flowers. His words of encouragement added another dollop of fuel to my motivation. Thanks Coach!
flowershb
A car full of teenage boys, music blaring, crossing over a double yellow line, recklessly trying to pass four cars at once (sadly, I think we’ll be reading their obits before long)
Fellow IMAZ’er, Elda Rudd, running along the bike path (so bummed we didn’t coordinate our workout!)
A street band entertaining passersby
A gorgeous sunset over Butterfly Beach
sunsetbutterflybeach
Stopping for a minute to drink in the moment.
bikebutterflybeach
People taking a bazillion selfies (including a couple of my own-ack)
Lovers embracing
Several runners out doing their long training runs
The Maritime Festival
harbor
shoreline
A group of dudes hanging out at Leadbetter, and me overhearing, “Dude, that chick has been running for hours. I saw her when we got here a long time ago.” 🙂
The wind…the #%$! wind…which I consider a gift, even if I loathe it, because it’s helping me get stronger and preparing me for race day. It reared it’s head big time on my last brick. Brrrr. Glad I had a wind jacket.
sunsetbikepath
A STUNNING full moon rise…the kind you see in children’s books…the perfect end to a perfectly challenging and fulfilling day.
moonbikepath
Good night moon.
moonrise
As cliche as it sounds, doing your first Ironman truly is about the journey. The race is one day, but the road to the starting line is hundreds of days and thousands of hours. It’s important to love, appreciate, and honor all the ups and downs of those training days, even on toughest ones. Otherwise what’s the point? I can honestly say, this journey has far surpassed any expectations I ever had. Just learning that I can bike and run for six hours with a knot in my calf taught me something new: our mind is by far our strongest muscle.

Only 35 days to go now!!

Until next time, my friends…
xo Becky

Week 40 and 41 of Ironman Training: Think Like a Dog and Train Like a Mouse

Have you ever noticed how smart dogs are? After running and playing hard, they know exactly what to do: chill. There’s no overthinking it. There’s no multi-tasking or contemplating their never-ending To Do Lists. There’s no, “I should be doing this” or “I should be doing that.” They simply drink a little water then plop down and snooze…usually for a very long time. And then they repeat it, usually after convincing their humans to feed them and give them a little massage.

I’ve decided I need to start thinking more like a dog as we head in to the last 37 days (!!) leading up to Ironman Arizona.

Train hard, turn my brain off (and the news), rest, recover and repeat.

doodles10316
What made me think about this, besides watching my big guy take his rest and recovery seriously, is that after several weeks in a row of flying high, traveling, doing races and events, and hitting it hard with my training, my body has decided to let me know it has been working hard. It’s been creaky and cranky, and to top it off it has decided to sport an annoying head cold.

I know, wah wah wah…BIG DEAL.

I couldn’t agree more.

Although it’s inconvenient and slightly annoying, it happens to all of us, and I realize it’s something I signed up for, so there’s no complaining. The trick is to figure out how to keep the momentum going despite these minor niggles.

Our bodies have a way of letting us know when we need to scale back, and that’s what I’m doing. I’m honoring it for how hard it has been working, treating it like royalty, and cutting myself some slack. My smart coach has helped in this department too. Matt insisted I take the entire day off yesterday to rest. That’s why I’ve had time to write!

I’ll be back at it today though, nearly powered back up to 100% again. And tomorrow I’ll be taking on the six-hour triple brick workout, which has me giddy. As this mouse meme below suggests, workouts like that may be tough, but they will definitely make me stronger, both physically and mentally! I can hardly wait.

For the next five weeks, my plan is to train like a mouse and think like a dog until I get to the starting line in Tempe.

whatdoesntkillyou

Here’s what last week’s schedule looked like if you’re interested:

Monday: Swim 30 min, Bike 60 minutes, mini massage from Stephanie on my cranky legs and hips
Tuesday: Run 75 minutes on a rolling course
Wednesday: Yoga and also launch the fall season of the Roosevelt Running Club, one of my fav kids running teams (!!)
Thursday: Bike 1 hour, Run 1 hour, Swim 40 Minutes
Friday: Bike 3 hours on hilly course, Run 45 minutes off the bike
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: Bike 45 minutes, Stretch class 60 minutes

Here are a few snaps…

Monday I had to deep to find my mojo on a tough day. I thought adding a little Tempe training camp and tri swag would help put me in the right frame of mind while I rode on my trainer after my mini massage.

biketrainertempe10316
A little swim afterward felt good on tired legs–especially using a pull buoy! Ha ha.
swim10316
Tuesday’s run put me in my happy place once again. It’s hard to go wrong on Mt. Drive when you have a view like this.

run10416mtdrive
Wednesday was bittersweet, as my favorite yoga instructor, Erin DiAngelis, taught her last class at the Y. She’s moving away, and I will miss her terribly, but I’m also filled with gratitude for all the joy and positive energy she has brought into my life. Good luck on your next exciting adventure Erin! The world is your oyster, my friend.
ErinYoga
Wednesday we also kicked off the 10th season of our Roosevelt Running Club–something that has brought tremendous joy ever since I created this program with my husband when our daughter was in 3rd grade. There’s nothing like sharing your passion and seeing that spark of excitement in the next generation of runners!
coachbecky
Like many of you, whenever I run I try to focus on the beauty around me and appreciate how lucky I am to be able to enjoy it. It feels more and more important these days as we slog through one of the most vile presidential elections I can ever remember. Although I try to shake it off and clear my mind when I run, I often find myself fighting to keep that heavy fog of negativity from invading my happy place. Is anybody else feeling this way right now?

I’ve always been eternally optimistic (probably annoyingly so), but this election seems to have brought out the worst in our country, and it weighs heavily on my mind, especially raising a daughter who is watching it all unfold. I guess that’s when I really need to focus on the beauty around me, including those people in my life who always remind me that daily acts of kindness and compassion are far more powerful than any sleazy political statement could ever be.
runflowers10616
On Friday, I had another 3-hour hilly ride with a transition run afterward. Once again, this took some digging, but I got it done. Here I stopped at the top of Ortega Ridge Road to refill my torpedo water bottle before zipping down Greenwell, continuing on to Carp, then circling back through the hills.
bikegrenweel10716
On the way back it was the usual tour of 192 with side jaunts up Shephard Mesa, Toro Canyon, Ladera Lane and Ortega Ridge again.
bike19210716
And then a late afternoon transition run off the bike afterward along Chase Palm…

runcloudsv10716
I have to admit, I was very happy to be done. Sometimes during challenging weeks, you just have to stop, take a deep breath, and remember how far you’ve come, and celebrate all the things you’re able to do now that you weren’t when you first started, even if you know you still have a ways to go.
brickrun10716
Saturday was my day off, and I was happy to be able to volunteer at the FoodBank to help sort and box donated food, which will feed hungry families in Santa Barbara County. My friends, the Mansbachs, have organized Family Day at the FoodBank on the second Saturday of every month, and lots of awesome families come to volunteer. It’s easy, uplifting, and always worth the 2-hour investment of time, knowing that this simple effort will make a difference in our community.

foodbank
Even though I rested on Saturday, I had the energy of an armadillo on Sunday as my cold, which had been niggling me all week, walloped me good. I opted to ride on my trainer instead of the road (much easier to have Kleenex handy), then I went a super mellow 1-hour stretch class to try to find my Gumby oooom.
trainerride10916
Then Monday rolled around again (already–time is flying!!!)….

Here’s what this week’s schedule looks like:
Monday: Run 2hrs 45 minutes
Tuesday: Bike 1 hour, Pilates/strength
Wednesday: Yoga, Run 45 minutes and run with my kids running team
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Bike 1 hour, Run 30 minutes
Saturday: Bike 1:3o, Run 40 minutes, Bike 1:30, Run 40 minutes, Bike 1:30, Run 40 minutes
Sunday: TBD

As I’ve been trying to get back to 100%, I’ve been resorting to wheatgrass juice, perhaps the most foul tasting thing on earth, but packed with so much good stuff, I’m suffering through it. It definitely falls into the “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” category.

wheatgrasswheatgrassbenefits
As many of you know if you’ve been following along on my blog, I’ve trained in lots of different conditions since January to try to prepare for whatever might be thrown at me on race day. I’ve weathered torrential rain, excessive heat, freezing cold, blasting wind, hills, flats, high altitude, open water…yadda yadda. I can now add illness to the things that won’t stop me on race day, having run 17 miles with a fairly unpleasant head cold on Monday. One step at a time, you just get through things.
longrun101016
I was glad to have this one in the books, especially with the wind adding to the “fun.”
longrunwind101016
Tuesday, after a short 1-hour ride, I went to one of my fav Pilates classes with Kristine, then lifted weights before heading home to recover like a dog. I’m still trying to master the art of the nap, but all I can do is keeping practicing. 🙂

weights10516
doodlesrecovery
Wednesday I went to yoga, and although the new instructor wasn’t remotely close to being as phenomenal as Erin, I still got in some stretching and strengthening so it was worth the effort. It was especially good before I did my run, and also ran with my kids at Running Club, where they chased me with abandon in a rousing game of tag. Love these awesome kids!

As we head into the weekend, I’ll be thinking about three things: training like a mouse, thinking like a dog, and fundraising like a champ — a champion for kids that is, who need our help. I couldn’t be prouder to be a member of Team Empower and raise funds for Smile Train, an outstanding organization providing life-changing cleft surgery for kids around the world. The difference this simple 45-minute surgery can make is immeasurable.

smiletrain

To date, I’ve raised enough funds to provide 23 new smiles for cutie pies around the world. My goal is 5 more smiles.

I leave you with this exciting news: one of my supporters recently pledged to donate one new smile ($250), and also to match five more smiles. That means any time someone makes a contribution of $250, he will match it so two kids will have life-changing cleft surgery instead of just one. How remarkable is that?!

I hope you will consider making a donation. There are only 5 weeks to go to make this happen. We can do it! And of course, ANY amount helps, from $2 to $2,000. No amount is to small or too large. Today is a great day to give up your Starbucks in exchange for helping a little one!

Here’s the link to make a donation: BECKY’S SMILE TRAIN PAGE.

Thanks for considering, and thank you for being such powerful, positive forces in my life. Your simple acts of kindness and support remind me that no matter how bonkers our world can get at times, if we surround yourselves with good people, our lives will always positive and meaningful.

Until next time…here’s to keeping our chins up!
xo Becky

doodlessun

PS: 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 39 of Ironman Training: Why I Tri and Try

Endurance athletes are often asked, “Why?” … as in “Why in the world would you possibly want to do this?” Or “Why would you spend so many of your precious waking hours training?” Or “Why would you put your body through this?”

Everybody’s answers are different, or course, for pursuing an Ironman, an ultra or any other endurance event, and many reasons are complicated, but almost all involve the joy of a challenge and the pursuit of health and fitness while pushing personal boundaries.

My reason for tri’ing involves all of those things, but on a more basic level, it all comes down to one simple reason: I do it because I can.

At 50, I still have the outrageous gift of health, which I never EVER take for granted– especially having a father who only lived to 51 and mother who only lived to 70. Many people take this gift for granted and quickly discover their lives become more and more limited.

Being healthy, trying new things and pushing well beyond my comfort zone makes me feel alive like nothing else. As does being scared poopless and figuring out ways to keep moving forward, despite it. That’s why this Ironman journey is so meaningful to me.

biggestchallenge

The other “Why” I get is, “Why would you add fundraising and philanthropy to your plate when you’re already performing a juggling act trying to find enough hours in the day to train while writing and managing all of life’s other joys and responsibilities?”

The simple answer is “Because I can.”

Being able to do something for somebody else, and help make a difference in the world, even if it’s a tiny difference, is really what it’s all about. People helping people–plain and simple.

The bigger question is why wouldn’t you help if you could? Why wouldn’t you help a little cutie pie who had the misfortune of being born with a cleft lip or palate? Why wouldn’t you try to piece together $250 for a 45-minute surgery that would completely change the trajectory of his or her life?

SmileTrainPicWhen I joined Smile Train’s Team Empower, my goal was to meet the team minimum of raising $5,000, which would provide new smiles for 20 kids. Anybody who knows me though, knows that doing the minimum isn’t my style. Like all of you, when I’m in, I’m in 100%. In this case, I’ve decided I’d like to be in 140.6%, in honor of the 140.6 miles I’ll be tackling on November 20th in Tempe. If I meet that goal, that means 28 kids will receive life-changing surgery. How cool is that?

Once again, it comes down to, “If I can do more, why wouldn’t I?”

With just 49 days to go (!!!), I’m reaching out to all of you to ask for your support. If 10 people donate just $25, another child will be able to face his or her future with a bright, confident smile instead of being kept out of school and hidden away in shame. That, my friends, is big stuff. You don’t have to be wealthy to help make a big change in someone’s life. You just have to be willing to say yes when small opportunities arise. This is one of them.

I hope you will consider contributing. Together, we truly can make a difference.

Here’s the link to my fundraising page: BECKY’S SMILE TRAIN. It only takes a minute to donate. And don’t forget, anybody who donates $250 will be entered into a drawing for a $100 Amazon gift card. Those who donate $125-249 will be entered into a drawing for a $25 gift card.

•  •  •

Now that I’ve shared the reasons I tri and try, I thought I’d let you in on a bit of fun news. This email arrived from USA Triathlon on Wednesday. It seems I’ve qualified for the 2017 National Championships in Omaha, Nebraska. Talk about a surprise! I’ve heard Omaha is one of our country’s garden spots, so perhaps it might be time to venture to Nebraska. 🙂 Who else is going to Omaha in August?

usatchampemail

The other exciting thing that happened this week is that my tinted goggles finally arrived! After two races of swimming into the sun completely blind, this totally made my week. It’s the little things, I tell you. You may remember when I first started training, it took me months, and at least 6 pairs of goggles, to find ones that fit my face. These are slightly bigger than my clear ones, which are women’s, but it seems they don’t make tinted ones for women (really?). The dork factor is high with these, but fortunately, they work. Hallelujah!

aquaspherevistagoggles

As I keep on keepin’ on with my training and fundraising, here’s what last week’s schedule looked like:

Monday: Rest/recovery day
Tuesday: Swim 40 minutes
Wednesday: Run 2 hr 20 min (14 miles)
Thursday: Swim 45 minutes, Bike 1 hour on the trainer
Friday: Run 30 minutes, Swim 30 minutes
Saturday:
Bike 5 hours (80 miles)
Sunday:
Rest/Recovery

Here are a few snaps from the week…

Wednesday’s long run was a hot one, as I intentionally ran in the heat of the day again to get my body accustomed to the challenge. It also gave me the opportunity to dial in my hydration, nutrition, and salt intake–all crucial things when you’re going to be in motion for hours (and hours…and hours).
runleadbetter92916

run92816
It said 79 degrees, but it felt more like 89 to me.
runtemp92816
Besides running in the heat of the day, the other thing I did was run the entire 14 miles on concrete and asphalt to simulate the pounding my body will take on race day. Up until now, I’ve mostly been running on grass and trails to try to avoid injuries, with a few miles of asphalt mixed in along the way. The IMAZ run course is similar to our bike path along Cabrillo Blvd–lots of concrete. After doing this run, I remembered why I hardly ever run on this unforgiving surface anymore. From here on out, I’ll have to be extra smart with recovery. Ice may become my best friend. 🙂
runconcrete92816
Luckily the next day was a pool day…
swim92916
And a bike trainer day…

trainerride92916
It was nice to be able to spin and crack open this new book, which I’m enjoying.

trainerridebook92916
Friday was another swim and run day. Sometimes I feel like I live out of my car as I’m always headed somewhere with a swim bag or a bike and always a plethora of water bottles.

swimbag93016
Before my swim, I did a quick shake out run from the Y in Montecito down to the Biltmore and back.

rungarmin93016
It was another beautiful, warm fall day.

run93016ybridge
Sometimes I missing having real seasons in California, but it’s hard to complain when you get to train on days like this.
run93016sanysidro
Yesterday morning I set out early on my 5 hour ride. It was a spectacular day and another great opportunity to practice everything I’ll be doing on race day, especially my nutrition, which is the crucial fourth element of triathlon. I’m learning it’s all about timing and focus, ingesting calories and carbs before you’re hungry (not always easy) and staying ahead of dehydration and salt depletion. You can’t just space out and let your mind wander or you’ll pay the price at the end of the bike and/or on the marathon run.

Breakfast was the first order of the day. To properly fuel and avoid gut issues, most people have to get up and eat at least a couple hours before working out so everything has a chance to digest. For me, this meant 4:45. Even two hours early wasn’t quite enough time for my stomach, so it looks like it will be a 3:00 am wake-up call for me on race day.

sunrisebike10116
I began my ride at East Beach and pedaled down to the Rincon area, 20 miles away, then looped back around and did it all again. The IMAZ bike course is a series of three 37-38 mile loops, so I thought it would be a good idea to simulate the course and also keep working on my mental game. Yesterday’s ride had a few more hills than Tempe, but it’s the flattest course I can find around here. Doing loops also helped with logistics as I could replenish my hydration after the first loop. I apologize for the TMI here, but the biggest challenge with drinking 128 ounces in 5 hours is that you have to pee A LOT. I’m told that athletes just go on their bikes during the race (eeew), but I wasn’t quite ready to practice that just yet, so having a bathroom at East Beach was also appreciated. 🙂
waterbottles
rinconride10116
bikerincon10116
It was a gorgeous morning, and although a few parts of my body were being cranky, I was still smiling, knowing I’m one step closer to crossing the finish line in Arizona.
smiletrainbike10116
As we head into Week 40 of training, I’m staying focused on the process — one day, one workout at a time, and doubling down on nutrition and all things recovery-related. By focusing on the process, or journey, rather than the outcome on November 20th,  I will stay in the moment and enjoy what I’m doing while I’m doing it–even if it is a sufferfest at times.

I’m also going to focus on raising funds for 8 more kids so they receive life-changing surgery from Smile Train. I can think of no better fuel to keep me going! If you feel so inclined, your contribution would mean A LOT. Once again, here’s the link if you’d like to help make a difference: BECKY’S SMILE TRAIN.

Thanks for your support and generosity and thanks for continually being there for me! Sharing this journey with you has been one of my greatest joys.

Until next time…
xo Becky

Smile Train Ironman Arizona

PS: 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