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!

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Race Report Ironman Arizona 2016

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

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

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

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

PRERACE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wow, just wow.

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RACE MORNING

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

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OMG, my big day had finally arrived!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo credit: Ironman Instagram feed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BIKE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUN

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

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

Well, almost.

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

“That’s me,” I hollered.

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

“Oh my god, YES…”

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

Did I mention the phenomenal volunteers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xo Becky

Week 25 of Ironman Training: Embracing New Challenges

I’m now well into my sixth month of training for Ironman Arizona, and the one thing that remains constant is that every week there’s a new challenge to embrace. Sometimes it’s physical, sometimes mental, sometimes logistical. Figuring out ways to take on these challenges head on and overcome them is one of the many reasons this Ironman journey is so gratifying.

This week my biggest challenge was staying consistent with my training while doing a road trip to Palm Springs where we visited Jeffrey’s parents for Father’s Day weekend. On the surface that might not sound terribly difficult, but between heat, sleep deprivation, and battling to maintain healthy nutrition, it all added up to being a whopper.

We packed up Saturday morning and hit the road, only to be stuck in horrible traffic from the get-go. After about an hour we realized that at the rate we were going it would take us 6-7 hours to get there instead of 3 1/2 to 4, so we turned around and came home.

Sunday morning we got up super early and tried again, hitting the road before most people were awake. I had a short 40 minute run on my training schedule, so I got that done at 5:30 before loading up the car.

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After the initial pain of getting up, I love early morning runs. They stretch me in all the best ways.

It was wonderful to spend time with Jeffrey’s parents, but like many parts of the country, Palm Springs was in the middle of an insane heatwave the entire time we were there…

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Although frying our noggins in the heat was often unpleasant , it gave me the perfect opportunity to do some warm weather training (cup is always half full, right?). Absurd, I know, but I do believe it was good for me. If it happens to be hot in Arizona on race day, I’ll know I have at least trained a little in those conditions. And of course, it’s also important to embrace the challenge of being uncomfortable during this whole process. After all, going 140.6 miles in one day is bound to be uncomfortable at times.

Here are a few snaps from my sizzling morning run. It was already 95 degrees at 6:30 am.

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Sucking it up, Buttercup, and getting it done with a little 6.2-mile jaunt.

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This was my reward…a “special delivery” iced latte from my peeps and a dip in the pool.

After my morning run, a few hours later it was time to hit the pool for my swim workout. Palm Springs has a beautiful Olympic-size pool, and I had the luxury of having an entire lane to myself. So nice, even if it had reached 118 degrees by then.

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I swam 3275m with a 1000m time trial and 10 x 50 m with hand paddles…actually 11 because I lost count. My pace was a tiny bit slower than usual, but I’m chalking it up to the affects of my morning run and perhaps being a little dehydrated. There are no bad training days though. I got it done, enjoyed much of the process, and feel fortunate that this awesome pool was available; otherwise I’d be swimming endless laps in my in-laws’ backyard kidney shaped pool. And yes, I’m sporting 5,000 lbs. of sunscreen. I also wore a protective sun shirt a bit later too.

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The last night we were there, when we returned from a delish dinner at LuLu’s, the skies grew smoky, an eerie reminder of wildfire potential. We had just left a wildfire near Santa Barbara and now there were some burning near LA. It’s going to be a long summer.

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After packing up and heading home the next day, I was never so grateful to run in our cooler coastal weather when we arrived home. As the fog started rolling in, I logged 5 miles blissful miles along the beach. Aaaaaah.

I was also extremely happy to eat “normal,” healthy food again. My husband spoils me terribly, making me a Breakfast of Champions every morning: oatmeal with fresh fruit, almonds and peanut butter. How did I get so lucky?

Breakfast

Yesterday’s new challenge was doing a blood lactate threshold test on the bike. You may remember I did one on the treadmill at The Lab in early March (click HERE if you missed it). This new test is meant to help assess where I’m at with my fitness and indicate what heart rate zones I should aim to train in on the bike and run. The test comprised a 10-minute warm-up, then while keeping my cadence consistent at 85 rpms, increasing resistance every three minutes, pedaling until I could no longer keep the pace. At the same time my heart rate was logged, my finger was pricked to draw a blood sample, and I was asked to express my perceived rate of exertion on a scale of 6-20. It was all very cool, and tough at the end when my mind wanted to keep going, but my legs and lungs were screaming to stop. Thanks to Bentley Nunes from The Lab and Bruce Davis and Matt Tague from Hazard’s for making this a great experience, even when it became a sufferfest.

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Bentley taking a blood sample while I spin.

After my test, I went for a half hour jaunt along the waterfront…a little shake-out run…so nice…I love this town.

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Running in my rabbit duds. Love my “bunny hop” tank. www.runinrabbit.com #borntorunfree

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Here’s what this week’s training schedule looks like:
Monday: Run 1 hour, Swim 3275 m
Tuesday: Core, Run 45 minutes
Wednesday: Bike 75 minutes
Thursday: Lactate threshold test, Run 30 minutes
Friday: Swim 3100y, Bike 1 hour
Saturday: Bike 90 minutes, Run 75 minutes
Sunday: Bike 4 hours with climbs, Run 25 minutes

It’s hard to believe it’s Friday already! I’m looking forward to some longer workouts this weekend, ones that will continue to challenge me and push me to grow. And in case you think all I do is train, here are a couple snaps from the week that prove otherwise. It’s all about balance. My daughter and her friend begged me to go boogie boarding with them on Wednesday. How could I resist these two?

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And yesterday my husband I celebrated our wedding anniversary with some bubbles and a picnic at the Rose Garden. It’s the little things. Seriously.

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Parting thought…as I sign off, I wanted to share something I saw the other day on the Women for Tri Facebook page. This just made me laugh. I think we can all apply this as we get pumped up for the day . 🙂

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Thanks to all of you, my adorable badass friends and family, for coming along on this Ironman journey with me. Your support is like the caffeine in my morning cup of joe. It doesn’t get any better.

xo Becky

As always, if you missed any of my previous posts, you can click on any of 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 Eleven of Ironman Training: Speedbumps and Breakthroughs
Week Twelve of Ironman Training: A Bundle of Sticks Can’t Be Broken
Week Thirteen of Ironman Training: Spring!

Week Fourteen 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 Fourteen of Ironman Training: Rollercoaster

This week has whizzed by so quickly and has been such a rollercoaster, my head still feels like it’s spun around backward. Today is my rest day though, so I finally have a chance to slow down and chill. When weeks spill over with activities, commitments and appointments, it reminds me that often the hardest part of Ironman training is simply chiseling out the time to do the workouts, then of course finding the energy to complete them.

This week, after regrouping from spring break, I was up until the wee hours several nights working on taxes and getting our beloved Roosevelt Running Club organized for its kickoff. Needless to say, when my alarm went off early Monday morning, I felt like I needed a caffeine IV drip to drag myself to the pool. Settling for a mongo cup of coffee, I piled into my car and gave myself a pep talk the whole way (“Don’t think, just go. Don’t think, just go. You got this.”)…only to arrive to this…

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Argh. Clearly, it was time to dig even deeper. Fortunately, when I posted this on Facebook several friends immediately offered back-up solutions. It was like there was no way they were going to let me fail at training. Thank you friends! Especially Greg, who offered a guest pass to the tennis club near our house. He even swam laps in the lane next to me. So, so nice.

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My beautiful “back-up” swim location at the Tennis Club.

This workout reinforced mightily though, that sleep deprivation has no place in Ironman training. Every lap felt ten times harder than normal, and with my fuzzy brain, I kept hitting the wrong buttons on my Garmin. I also realized I mixed up my swim workouts so I did Wednesday’s instead of Monday’s. Not the best way to start the week, especially since my ride afterward wasn’t much better. But I got it done, and that’s all that matters.

Here’s what this week’s schedule looked like:

Monday: Swim 1800y, Bike 90 min.
Tuesday: Run 60 min., Bike 75 min including 20 minutes of hill climbing
Wednesday: Swim 2300y
Thursday: Killer Kate’s strength & stretch class, Bike 60 min.
Friday: Swim 1000y, Bike 4 hours, Run 20 min. off the bike
Saturday: Run 90 min with 2 x 10 min pick-ups
Sunday: Rest

Tuesday’s run and ride weren’t much better than Monday’s after being up late again, but what made them better was bumping into several old neighbor friends along the way. On Jesusita trail I ran into Kathy who was hiking with a friend, and although we only talked for a minute, her sweet words of encouragement helped lift my feet a little higher.

Then in the evening after slogging through my ride, especially up Gibraltar, I rode down the street where we used to live and bumped into several old neighbors. Chatting with Ruth for a few minutes put everything into perspective. She never has anything but kind, encouraging words, and her strength and positive energy are palpable. Many of you who live in Santa Barbara may have heard the recent devastating news of the murder of Dr. Henry Han, his wife and 5-year old daughter. Well, Dr. Han was the lovely human being who was helping Ruth kick liver cancer’s ass. Now she’s not only grieving with so many others, but starting all over again with her treatments. My “tough training problems?” Clearly laughable. Ruth is an Ironwoman every day whose fortitude is no match for cancer or any other challenge.

After chatting with Ruth the evening before, my rollercoaster of a week started on the upswing. Continue reading

Week Ten of Ironman Training: Trust

Taking on a new adventure always involves trust on some level– whether it’s trust in yourself, trust in others or trust in the process. Ironman training requires all three, and that’s what I’m focusing on this week. Now that I’m fully into week ten of training, I’m trusting more and more in my abilities to pull this off in November. I’m visualizing myself crossing the finish line and seeing myself in various parts of the race, believing that I’ll find strength and extra fuel in the tank when I need it most.

The ability to trust comes from putting in the work each day. Each mile or lap completed adds another drop of confidence in the “HELL YES I CAN, and WILL” bucket. It also comes from trusting your coach and the process, even if it’s different than what you imagined or what you’ve done in the past. Trust is opening yourself up wide to possibility and believing with every fiber of your being that you will succeed.

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Here’s what this week’s schedule looks like. It’s a recovery week so it’s lighter than usual, then next week it will ramp back up.

Monday: Swim 2400y, Bike 75 minutes
Tuesday: Run 60 minutes
Wednesday: Swim 2500y, Bike 60 minutes
Thursday: Run 40 minutes, strength/Pilates
Friday: Swim 1500y, Run 60 minutes
Saturday: Metric Century ride in Solvang (70-miler)
Sunday: Rest

Happy Girl: Last week I mentioned my growing pains from pushing my body in new directions. Even though I’m diligent with my recovery (good nutrition, stretching, foam rolling, resting, etc.), I knew a massage is what I needed most to loosen up my IT Band, shoulders and psoas. Yesterday my lovely and talented massage therapist, Stephanie Trager, worked her magic, and batta boom, I’m ready to roll again. Thank you Stephanie!!

Gear I’m loving this week: I’ve talked about this before, but small details can make a big difference in endurance training. This week I bought a new swim cap. Big whoop, I know. But this one is for long hair (I didn’t even know they existed until I read it on the Women for Tri FB forum), and it has made a huge difference in eliminating a minor annoyance when I swim. My old ones would start to slip off after every so often so I’d have to stop and adjust them. A new cap that stays in place, topped off with goggles that no longer drive me insane or leave me looking like I’ve been punched out (Aqua Sphere Vista), this mamacita is finally settling into her swimming.

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Breakthroughs: As you know, swimming has been a huge challenge for me, but I am slowly making progress. This week I finally broke a 2:00 100y pace, which is still slow by speedy people’s standards, but it’s an improvement for me, especially since it was done in a 25 y pool, which involves three turns. Small victories. That’s what keeps me going, so join me in a virtual high five this week! Woot! I also got a tiny bit faster on my bike. Double Woot!

Highlights: This week I enjoyed my first ride on Gibraltar Road, a steep, scenic road in the mountains of Santa Barbara. I’ve heard about this road for years, but never ventured up until now. Silly, silly me for waiting so long. It was spectacular. I’ll be honest, I was bit intimidated by the thought of tackling Gibraltar, always hearing people talk about as if it were Mt. Everest, and also reading about gnarly crashes on it, but I trusted that I was ready and able to check it out. I only went part way up because I’m sticking to my training plan, but it was not nearly as difficult as I thought it was going to be. Definitely a good challenge, but well within my abilities, and well worth the effort. I’m already looking forward to doing it again.

The view part way up Gibraltar Road.

The view part way up Gibraltar Road.

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Challenges: Last week I shared my lactate threshold test with you (click HERE if you missed it). Now that we have the numbers, Mike has me running at a much slower pace than I’m accustomed to, to keep my heart rate below 140 (Zone 2). I never imagined this would be difficult. In the past, I’d just go out and run, cruise along at a comfortable pace, and enjoy my time on the road or trail, not giving much thought to my HR. During my last run on Tuesday, however, I kept having to slow down, and I never got into a comfortable rhythm. This will take some practice and patience, and will take reminding myself to trust the process, as it feels completely counterintuitive, even though intellectually, I know running in Zone 2 is good for building aerobic fitness, fat-burning capacity, and endurance. Ooooooohhmmm.

At least I had this to look at while I was forcing myself to slow down on my run.

At least I had this to look at while I was forcing myself to slow down on my run.

Looking forward to: This Saturday I’m participating in the Solvang Metric Century, a 70-mile organized, supported ride north of Santa Barbara. Don’t ask me how they figured that math, but I’m just going with it. This will be 20 miles farther than I’ve ridden in years, and once again, I’m trusting in my ability to do it, and enjoy the process. Treating it like a long training ride will give me a good opportunity to practice my fueling and hydration for race day. Think sunny thoughts! The forecast is calling for rain (only 30% though).

Smile Train Update: It was an exciting week in the fundraising department. We raised another small bundle to help fund more kiddos for corrective cleft surgery. We’re almost half way to funding our 9th child! Thank you Kim Shlens, Whitney Bruice, Tuckman Family, McNees Family, and Laura & Chad Bergerson for your helping making a difference in the lives of children. We are now at 42% of our goal of $5,000, which will fund 20 kids for surgery. If you’d like to be a rock star supporter, please CLICK HERE TO DONATE. And don’t forget, anybody who donates $250 or more (the cost of one new smile) will be entered into a drawing for a $100 Amazon gift card. If you donate $100-$249 you’ll be entered into a drawing for a $25 gift card.

Thank you once again for all the support you’ve shown me over these last ten weeks, whether it’s words of encouragement, advice, “likes” on my blog showing me you’ve swung by, or simply sharing in the process. Trust in myself also grows from surrounding myself with people like you who support me and my goal, and have no doubt that I will reach it.

xo Becky

And as always, if you missed any of my previous posts about how this big Ironman adventure started, 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 Five of Ironman Training: Wind at My Back (and Front) and Peeps by My Side

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Heading out on last Saturday’s beautiful, windy 3-hour ride.

Okay people, where did January go? I can’t believe an entire month has already flown by. It seems like yesterday the ball was dropping in Times Square. But here we go….

HELLO FEBRUARY!

And HELLO Week Five of Ironman training! As we like to say around here, Keep Calm and Bring it On!

I’ll be honest, last week was a toughie for me–mostly logistically–squeezing in workouts between lots of different obligations–from junior high school visits to mid-week ballet performances and chaperoning a group of international dancers, to driving back and forth to LA twice in one week. Throw in the usual, everyday things and the hours disappeared faster than you can say swim-bike-run.

The circles under my eyes may have grown a little darker last week (also thanks to my damn goggles), but I did get it done. Every single workout. BAM. BAM. AND DOUBLE BAM.

And now I’m looking forward to what this week holds in store.

Here’s my schedule:

Monday: Rest (♥♥♥), gentle yoga am, core & stretching pm.
Tuesday: Run 50 minutes, Killer Kate’s strength & stretch class, swim 600 y, core & stretching pm.
Wednesday: Swim 2250 y, bike 2 hours moderate, run 20 minutes off the bike, core & stretching pm.
Thursday: rest, core & stretching pm.
Friday: Run 40 minutes, swim 2400 y, core & stretching pm.
Saturday: Run 70 minutes, core & stretching pm.
Sunday: Bike 3 hours with some hills, core & stretching pm.

Challenges: The weather got a tad insane last weekend. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like 3 feet of snow falling or anything like that, but we had some gnarly wind and a boatload of rain in a short amount of time (thank you El Nino). It was the kind of weather that took down a massive eucalyptus tree at my gym.

Normally I do my long runs on Saturday after coaching our Coyote kiddos, then do my long bike/run combo on Sunday, but I decided to switch it up this weekend to avoid Sunday’s unfavorable forecast for riding. And boy am I glad I did. Sunday’s rainy run was epic! It was the kind of run that was so ridiculously miserable, it was hilarious. Pelting sideways rain, puddles as big and wide as lakes, and the #*!&% wind blasting. It was awesome Iron training, and even though it was brutal much of the way, I was happy to be handed this crazy gift. If weather like this shows up on race day, I will be prepared.

Ironman Training Rain Run

It was when my phone started beeping a National Weather Emergency Alert that I stopped to see what might be headed my way. It was only a flood warning so I snapped this ridiculous picture for posterity and kept going.

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Not surprisingly, I saw more than a handful of runners out there logging their miles, including my Iron friend, Jenni Miller! Go girl. Lake Placid will be no match for you!

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Credit: Real Time Runners

Gratitude: I know I’ve mentioned my peeps before, but my husband deserves an extra shout out this week. The support he showered me with over the weekend is something I’ll always remember. First, he changed his plans to go to LA for an important photo/art event he attends every year, so that I could go on a long bike ride on Saturday (instead of rainy Sunday). Not only that, he did all the taxi’ing of our daughter to and from her dance rehearsals and helped her organize a big school project. Then on Sunday after my loony run he had a hot bubble bath waiting for me and a hot, spicy lunch. It was such a sweet surprise. Love and support like this makes this journey all the more memorable. My friend Jenni commented, “Sounds like you have a good iron family!!!” She couldn’t be more accurate. Although I’d change that to a GREAT Iron family. Believe me, I don’t take it for granted!

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This is one of my favorite birthday gifts I received this year. Thank you Abraham Family for having my back and keeping me fueled!

Favorite gear this week: While I’ve been training in a lot of headwinds lately, Tailwind Endurance Fuel always has my back. Monica DeVreese, co-owner of Santa Barbara Running turned me on to this over a year ago (thank you Monica) and I’ve used it ever since. I like it because there aren’t a lot of fake colors and sketchy ingredients in it, and there are enough calories and carbs in it to forego additional gels and chomps if necessary. It also happens to be quite yum…as sports drinks go.

Heroes: When I’ve been out running, on more than one occasion I’ve cruised past women who made me feel compelled to holler, “Great job! You are my hero.” Most times I receive bright eyes and an appreciative smile. Other times I receive a quizzical look, like, “Why are you calling me your hero?”

Who are these women, you ask? Continue reading

Week Four of Ironman Training: Progress

It’s hard to believe we’re already into Week Four of Ironman Training! After having a lighter “recovery week” last week, we’re ramping up the volume again this week, and I’m buckling up, both mentally and physically, for more challenging distances and additional strength work. Every time I complete a workout though, it adds another drop of confidence into my Iron bucket. With the help of Coach Mike and the support of my friends and family, I will get to Arizona one day, one workout at a time. #ithinkican.

Here’s what this week’s schedule looks like:

Monday: Rest day, core & stretching pm

RestDay
Tuesday: Run 50 minutes followed by Kate’s strength & stretching class, core & stretching pm
Wednesday: Swim 2200y (1.25 miles) followed by bike for 2 hours, core & stretching pm
Thursday: Run 30 minutes followed by Kate’s strength & stretching class (or yoga), core & stretching pm
Friday: Swim 2400y, core & stretching pm
Saturday: Run 70 minutes, core & stretching pm
Sunday: Bike 3 hours followed by a 20 minute run, core & stretching pm

Gratitude: I feel incredibly lucky to live in Santa Barbara where we’re able train year around. While our badass friends on the East Coast and other parts of the US are digging out and/or suffering through endless workouts on “dreadmills” and indoor trainers, we’re flitting around in shorts and tank tops, cranking out miles without having to give it too much thought. Believe me, I don’t take that for granted. I count my blessings every day…especially when I’m greeted with a morning like today.

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My morning run along Shoreline Park

Highlights: Last Friday I had the pleasure of hearing six-time Ironman World Champion, Mark Allen, speak to our Santa Barbara community, which was both inspiring and enlightening. It was interesting to listen to his philosophy, relive the epic 1990s showdowns between Mark Allen and Dave Scott, and see what goes into being an Ironman Champion. The timing of this presentation was perfect for this Iron hopeful, especially while being surrounded by the incredibly positive energy of our Santa Barbara running community.

Breakthroughs: During last Sunday’s medium’ish-long 2-hour bike ride, I think maybe a tiny bit of “Iron” mentality started to kick in. I felt strong on a hilly course, and was super happy when I was blasted by headwinds both ways so I could practice riding in the wind. Sick, I know. The 3+ mile run afterward felt effortless too, which was a good confidence booster while I get my running legs back.

Challenges: Balancing training and “life” while getting enough sleep. Time seems to evaporate so I’m focusing on getting more efficient with dumb stuff like having gear organized, routes mapped out, and fuel and post-workout snacks ready so I have more time for everyday stuff like making lunches, doing laundry, getting work done and spending time with my family. I can already tell this is going to be important as we start adding more and more training hours into the program. Sleep is still marginal, but fortunately, I’m quickly learning the art of the nap.

Favorite Gear this Week: My Zensah compression calf sleeves. I wear them often, especially during a long ride and after a run. Aaaah.

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Zensah Compression Calf Sleeves

Fun Tidbit: On Saturday mornings I help coach our SB Running/Kids Corner Coyotes youth running team with Nash Jimenez and Monica DeVreese. Last Saturday we had the privilege of participating in a fun event at Westmont College, put on by the Santa Barbara Track Club. Super star decathlete, Tom FitzSimons, broke the Guinness World Record for the most high-fives in 60 seconds as he blazed around the track, high-fiving 385 people, smashing the old record of 240. It was a fun to see so much community support.

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One For the Road: By now, I’m sure most of you have heard about Ludivine, the 2 1/2 year old bloodhound who came in 7th Place during an Alabama half marathon, but if not, it’s worth a peek. It will make you smile. Here’s a link to Runner’s World.

Ludivine

Finally…exciting news…we’re 23% of the way to reaching our goal of funding 20 kiddos to have life-changing cleft palate/lip surgery from Smile Train. Thank you Seana for your recent contribution, and to many others of you who have verbally pledged your support! I can hardly wait to announce when we fund our next kiddo (we’re only $125 away right now). If you’d like to help support me as I raise funds for this awesome organization during my Ironman adventure, please click HERE to donate.

Once again, thanks for coming along on this journey with me. I hope you know how much I appreciate you!

If you missed any of my previous posts about how this big adventure started, 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

xo
Becky