Ironman Swim Tips for Newbies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo credit: Ironman Instagram

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tri on my friends…
xo Becky

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

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Things I Know For Sure About Doing Your First Ironman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tri on, my friends…

xoBecky

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

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

Week 45 of Ironman Training: Visions of BadAss-ness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few snaps from the week…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!!

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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.”

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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.

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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.
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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.

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It’s hard not to laugh when your big brown dog is in your face while you’re trying to do push-ups.
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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.
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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.
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The event started and finished at Leadbetter Beach, with over 1,000 riders taking part.
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Once again, this was a chance for me to practice my race day nutrition, clothing, pacing, etc.
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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.
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And my legs were happy to have an ice bath in the ocean afterward.
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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.
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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.
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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 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.

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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.

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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.

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A little swim afterward felt good on tired legs–especially using a pull buoy! Ha ha.
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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.

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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.
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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!
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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.
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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.
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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.
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And then a late afternoon transition run off the bike afterward along Chase Palm…

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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.
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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.
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I was glad to have this one in the books, especially with the wind adding to the “fun.”
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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. 🙂

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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.

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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

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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.

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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?

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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!

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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).
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It said 79 degrees, but it felt more like 89 to me.
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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. 🙂
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Luckily the next day was a pool day…
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And a bike trainer day…

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

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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.

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

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It was another beautiful, warm fall day.

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Sometimes I missing having real seasons in California, but it’s hard to complain when you get to train on days like this.
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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.

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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. 🙂
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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.
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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

Week 38 of Ironman Training: Much to Celebrate and Carpinteria Triathlon Race Report

The beauty of sports, triathlon in particular, is that it gives us much to celebrate — from the healthy community in which we immerse ourselves to the friends we make, to the adventures we pursue, and the boundaries we continually push all along the way. Even on our toughest days, it’s hard not to be filled with gratitude about our health and fitness, and be gobsmacked about the lifestyle we have chosen to live.

Last Sunday I had the perfect reminder of all this when I found myself wrapped in a blanket of positive energy while participating in the Carpinteria Triathlon.

It was an exquisite morning in Carp, as once again our coastline was brushed in a classic palette of pink predawn hues. The race started at 7:30, with my swim wave rolling at 7:42. I arrived in plenty of time to unload my gear, pump up my tires, and make sure my bike was in the right gear before I set up my transition area.

prerace_dawn
I chose to participate in the Olympic distance course–1.5K swim, 40K bike, and 10K run–similar to the prior weekend’s race in Tempe. Even though this was meant to be another training run, this time I felt a little more fire in my belly to compete, perhaps because I wasn’t starting the race depleted, like I did in AZ. I was well-fueled, relatively well-rested, and ready to roll.

When I staked out my spot in transition, I could tell there was a serious competitor next to me. She was the first to rack her zippy tri bike on the coveted end spot and was most likely out doing a warm-up run. Sure enough, upon her return, I discovered it was Mariann Thomas, one of our community’s fiercest triathletes and masters runners. She’s as nice as can be, but a warrior in competition.

transition
After chatting with Mariann and several friends, I got body marked, did a warm-up run, then scoped out the water. The waves sounded like they were crashing big over the dunes behind transition so I was getting a little nervous (as were several other women around me), but much to our relief, the water was calm and warm.

I did a short warm-up swim, which felt good, then I struck a pose — a “power pose” that is — ha ha (watch this TED talk video if you don’t know what I’m talking about), and in no time our wave of purple caps ran into the water.

It wasn’t until I reached the first buoy that I finally got into a rhythm that felt good. That’s where I found the feet of a big guy and began drafting behind him. As all of you strong, smart swimmers know, this is what you do to save energy. If you’ve been following along on my blog, by now you probably know that I’m still working on becoming a strong swimmer, so this was huge for me. In fact, it’s the first time I’ve ever drafted because I’ve always been afraid of getting kicked in the face. The guy in front of me was using all arms and barely kicking though, so I slipped in behind him and got pulled along. Now I understand what a difference it can make!

The first half of the swim faced away from the sun, so every once in awhile I’d pop my head up to make sure my guy was on track. He was a rock star “sighter” so mostly I kept my head down and let him do the work (sorry dude). After we reached the turn buoy though, and headed back into he sun, I was completely blind so I didn’t bother to look up any more, instead, following his feet, sighting along the beach at times and hoping for the best. It ended up making for one of the strongest longer open water swims I’ve ever had…that is until my guy, and a couple others, turned in too early, at the first beachball buoy. It took me a while to realize it because I couldn’t see, but squinting through my goggles, I suddenly realized I didn’t see anybody swimming toward shore. Shit. Shit. Double shit.

It’s then I tread water for what seemed like forever, raising my goggles trying to locate the other turn buoy and the rest of the pack. The lifeguard hollered, “Are you okay?” to which I laughed and thought, Not really–I just blew it, but you never joke about not being okay when you’re in the water. So……after the guards pointed to the other buoy, I took off to finish what I started, trying to get back into my zone and finish strong. My Garmin said I swam a couple hundred extra yards, and my time supported that notion, but eventually I got the damn thing done. The funny thing, is that even though it wasn’t fast by any stretch of the imagination, it was still faster than last week’s swim in Tempe (the cup is half full, right?).

I looked at it as yet another mistake to get out of the way before IMAZ. I think I’m good now. 🙂

Even though I was irked at myself, I shook it off in transition and didn’t have any other misadventures on the bike or run. I felt good on the bike, as I know this course well. In fact, I’d just done Toro Canyon and Ortega Hill on my “hill day” a few days earlier. Another woman in my age group and I duked it out over the first half of the course. She was quicker on the flats and I was stronger on the hills, so we kept passing each other. That is until we reached Ortega Hill and I took off. I even dug deep trying to shore up some nerves to fly down Greenwell, which in my mind, is in severe need of re-surfacing. I never saw my competition again after that.

But I did see another rock star athlete. As we turned back onto Linden Avenue and headed toward the beach and the transition area, I had the joy and agony of passing 12 year old Jacob Mansbach. This kid, and his 10 year old brother, Joe, are something. These two are not only already participating in endurance events beyond their years, and killing it, I might add, but they do so, in part to help raise money for our local foodbank.

Jacob started a team called Join Jacob several years ago, and with the help of teammates, he and Joe have since raised nearly $46,000 to help feed hungry people in Santa Barbara County. Very cool, no two ways about it, combining love of sport with love of philanthropy. My daughter and I had the privilege of being part of this team a couple years ago and it’s something we’ll always remember. If you want to see what the Mansbach Boys are up to and would like to support their efforts, you can click on this link to their fundraising page. JOIN JACOB

As I passed Jacob, I couldn’t help but cheer him on and celebrate his accomplishments, but also laugh and think, Holy crap, I’ve been training my butt off all year to do a friggin’ Ironman, and this kid, who is a full-time junior high school student, is already as strong as I am! We zoomed into transition together, then he zipped out much faster than me. By the first half mile I caught up and we chatted a bit, and I reminded him to stay hydrated and to pace himself. He clearly didn’t need any advice (!!) , but because I coached him a few years ago on a couple of my running teams, and his parents are my friends, I couldn’t help but feel like he’s still “one of my kids.” Needless to say, he knocked it out of the park, as did his younger brother, Joe. I’m so impressed with these two, and their parents, Jen and Mike, who support them in every way. Bravo Mansbachs!

1st Place Finishers!

1st Place Finishers, Jacob and Joe Mansbach

The run was hot (85+ degrees), but I felt confident on the course. I knew it well and I had prepared for the hills and heat, and the trails we would traverse. Before I reached 2 1/2 miles, Mariann Thomas came gliding past me in the opposite direction, gracefully heading to her 1st place finish. I wasn’t sure how many other 50-54 year olds were behind her, but my gut told me that if I really wanted it, I might be able to snag a podium spot, even with my swim fiasco. That is if I could reel some people in and not let anybody pass me.

Indeed, I was able to pass quite a few people along the way, including one woman in my age group (thank goodness they write our ages on the back of our calves). When I reached the turnaround and started heading back, I spotted my fellow “bike pal” competitor making her way to the turnaround. Even though I was probably half a mile ahead of her, it suddenly felt like she was right on my tail, and I had no idea if running was her “thing.”

The phrase that popped into my head was, How Bad Do You Want It, from Matt Fitzgerald’s excellent book on mental toughness, so off I went, ramping it up a tiny bit more with each half mile. With the downhill grade on the way back, it was easy to run negative splits, but feeling like my competition might get a second wind, I pushed it, running the final half mile at 7:26 pace, which is speedy for me these days.

It’s funny, I’m all about running my own race, never getting into other people’s heads, and simply “doing my thing,” often even cheering for other athletes as I race, but for some reason, my bike pal, who I’m sure is extremely nice, lit a fire in me that got me to the finish line faster than I probably would have otherwise. So thank you bike pal!

I ended up taking 3rd place in 3:07:59. The second place finisher from Virginia crossed the line 49 seconds before me, and Mariann Thomas finished in champion form with a time of 2:47:35. Way to go ladies! And way to go to everybody who participated in both the sprint and the Olympic. It was a fun community event that let us test our training and celebrate our efforts and each others’.

finishers

Top 3 Finishers. Notice Mariann finished so far ahead of us, she had time to go change her clothes before the awards ceremony. 🙂

I was happy to finish this race 18 minutes faster than my last one in Tempe, on a much tougher course. One small step closer to IMAZ.

Here’s what the rest of my schedule looked like last week:

Monday: Rest (recovering from epic training and racing in Tempe)
Tuesday: Run 20 minutes (only part of a longer scheduled run and swim) and get a massage (aaaah!!!)
Wednesday: Yoga, Bike 3 hours with hills
Thursday: Run 54 minutes with the last 15 minutes 7 x 1 minute hard (1 min rest)
Friday: Swim 3500y (wu: 300, ms: 3 x 1000, cd: 200)
Saturday: Bike 3 hours
Saturday: Race Carpinteria Tri

Here’s a quick recap of the week before the race if you’re interested….

At the beginning of the week I was beyond exhausted from my race and training camp in Tempe so I took Monday off completely. On Tuesday, I was still dragging, but had still planned to do a 45 minute recovery run and a 40 minute recovery swim before getting a massage. Sometimes life has other plans though, so I only ended up only being able to squeeze in a 20 minute run before the rest of the day unraveled. Sometimes you just have to roll with it.

Wednesday I was still fatigued, but I dragged myself to my favorite yoga class, as I knew that’s what I needed most. I moved through all the poses and got in some good stretching, but I can’t say I ever settled comfortably into my mat. Some days/weeks are like that though, and you just have to celebrate that you got your butt there. And that’s what I did.

After class I was still operating in low gear with a friggin’ 3 hour hilly bike ride still ahead of me, AND a flat back tire still to change from Tempe. Argh. This mama’s Namaste quickly went out the window as I battled my tire, feeling like a complete nincompoop and not having the patience to get it done. I finally I threw my hands in the air in an “Un-Iron(wo)man way” and said, “Screw it, I’m taking it to Hazard’s.”

If any of you have ever spent time in Hazard’s, you know the bike mechanics are max’ed all the time. This place is hopping. I felt bad waltzing in and hoping they could change my tire on the spot, but these guys are so nice, not only did Dino change it, but he gave me a tutorial, patiently walking me through the whole process and even having me do it myself. This small act of kindness was definitely something to celebrate as it made a huge difference in my day. Thank you Dino!

dino

Dino at Hazard’s

Even with Dino’s kindness, I can’t say I was stoked to do this ride–especially in the heat of the day–but sometimes you just gotta get rolling and turn your brain off. Don’t think. Just go. As I rode into the hills trying to turn my mental game around, it kept coming around to my coach, Matt. This guy has helped me get stronger with each workout, has answered all my dumb “newbie” questions, has pushed, encouraged, and inspired me, and has put together my weekly workouts, which always challenge me. Although I may have dropped a few f bombs along the way as I huffed up each hill, I got this ride done. And I only got this ride done because Matt was in my corner. I never would have done this on my own on this particular day with the way I was feeling. So thank you once again, Matthew Tague, for pushing me through the rough spots.

After dragging myself up Shephard Mesa. I'm smiling on the inside--really.

After dragging myself up Shephard Mesa. I’m smiling on the inside–really. Just don’t read the bubble coming out of my head.

Thursday, it was a running day. Yay! As we’re getting closer to IMAZ, we’re now focusing on specificity, and doing my runs on terrain similar to that of the Tempe race course, which is mostly flat. I chose to drive to Goleta Beach Park and run part on the bike path and part on the dirt path that parallels the bike path. It was warm and windy–perfect! Just like Tempe. Must have been because I wore my Tempe Tri shirt.

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I ended up running 6 miles with 7 x 1 minute hard efforts near the end. Woohoo! Love the challenge and the way I feel once it’s over.
goletarun92216
Friday was a swim day and Saturday was another 3 hour bike ride–this time on a flat course to keep working on my cadence. Once again, I zipped from East Beach down to Ventura and back on the bike path paralleling the 101. Forty-six beautiful miles in the books to prime me for the Carp Tri the next day.
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bike92316rincon
As I head into Week 39 of training, I continue to celebrate all of YOU, the people in my life who lift me up, support my dream and make this Ironman journey meaningful and fun beyond measure. I also celebrate all the small acts of kindness you have extended to me all along the way. It really does take a village to get to the starting line of your first IM. With just eight weeks to go, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about all of you, and celebrate the fact that I have you in my life!

Thank you, dear peeps!
xo Becky

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