Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Look Inside the Mind

Thoughts come and go from my Type A mind all the time. There aren’t many moments that I’m unplugged. It’s no surprise that I have a hard time turning my brain off and allowing myself to truly relax. Race week is my personality’s nightmare because it provides all the extra thoughts that you try your damnedest to avoid.

Going to work on Monday morning I had next to nothing packed for the trip. My friends, Nate and Trina, better known as The Tomatoes, were driving to The Woodlands and were coming by the house Monday night to pick up everything that wasn’t coming on the plane with me. Bike. Gear bags. Clothes. All of it. You know, you should be a bit more freaked out than you are about having nothing packed yet. The fact that you’re not nervous at all is a little scary in its own right. Meh, this ain’t my first rodeo, I’ll get it all done. Yeah, right. And when you get there you’ll realize half your shit is missing because you didn’t plan ahead you’ll unleash on some poor unfortunate soul.

As my bike, gear, and everything besides my carry-on departed my house on Monday night with Nate and Trina to drive down to The Woodlands, all I could think was: As long as I don’t see how everything is packed in the car I’ll be fine. But my camera needs to not be squished by someone’s heavy transition bag. OK remember to text Nate tomorrow and request that your Cannon be placed in a safe spot in the car.

When I marched into my basement on Tuesday morning at 6am to start my bike workout on the trusty ole road bike, it took all of .1847 seconds for me to realize that today’s ride WON’T be happening because my spare bike pedals are currently on Rob’s bike. And my actual pedals are attached to my TT bike that is currently sitting in Nate and Trina’s driveway about to depart for Texas. Seriously Megan? You woke up extra early to NOT ride your bike? How could be so forgetful and not grab your spare pedals? Sleep is like gold during race week. Every minute you can get!

On Tuesday night I sat down to my scrambled eggs and toast for Brinner and went through my last minute check list: Damn it Megan you forgot to send your Normatec Recovery Boots with Nate and Trina! I’m sure you can’t fly with those on the airplane, there’s no way! Rob got you this AMAZING Christmas gift JUST FOR TIMES LIKE THIS and you go and forget them. AH! YOU FORGOT TO TEXT NATE ABOUT THE SAFETY OF YOUR CAMERA. ::frantically grabs phone and makes sure Nate put my camera in a safe place.:: He responds with only the princess emoji. I respond with eye roll emoji. #myfriendsarethebest

On Wednesday morning my 5am alarm was practically sleeping in as I lay awake at 4am fearful I’d miss my alarm and start my travel day off on the wrong foot and create bad Karma for myself. Maybe if you get up and go to the bathroom you’ll be able to relax and sleep the last hour. NO! Don’t get out of bed, the more you move around the more awake you’ll be and you’ll never fall asleep. Don’t forget to throw your car charger in your purse before heading to the airport. Make sure to finish what you start at work today so that you don’t leave with extra thoughts hanging over your head all weekend. What time is it? 4:07. This is going to be a long day…

Focusing at work on a travel day before a big race weekend is practically impossible. But Wednesday forced me to get to work and use more of my brain than I was hoping for. Emails slowly started to trickle in and soon they poured in. Phone calls weren’t outrageous, just lengthy and mentally draining. I broke out my lunch at 10am because I felt I deserved a treat for accomplishing so much on such a challenging day for myself. And while I worked like a busy worker bee my phone buzzed occasionally with updates from Nate and Trina and Ryan (oh, did I mention that Speedy G decided to make the trip at LITERALLY the last second?), who had officially crossed into Texas and were approaching our final destination. While I was still practically sitting on the Wisconsin boarder. You’re missing everything. You suck.

Support systems can make or break an athlete. The truth behind this is unreal and I’m fortunate enough to have one of the best support systems. The world has went just over 13 months without my favorite water boy, but I’ve never felt more connected to him as I near a race day. I heard a car door shut and I looked out my dining room window, his wife was at my house, ready to pick me up and take me to the airport. This, it doesn’t get much better than this. This is what we call full circle. And as I hugged Joanell goodbye at the curb she told me, “Team Megan is so alive right now!” DO NOT CRY MEGAN! YOU WILL NOT CRY ON A CURB AT O’HARE!

Standing in line for security, it might have been one of the shortest waits I’ve had at ORD. But it felt like eternity. I swear if these people even THINK about taking away my Normatec Boots I’m going to come unglued and will likely be on the news tonight. 10 minutes later: fully through security and my gate is literally right in front of me. Well this is just to easy. I’m ready for a beer.

Security directly behind me
Gate directly behind this board

Sitting down to eat brings me more joy than I suspect most people get out of an airport burger. But this hit the spot. Except, I was sitting at table for 2 and there wasn’t anyone across from me. I wish Jacqui could have come. I miss my buddy. But Nate and Trina and Ryan will be there! And Rob will be there on Friday! Remember your boyfriend, Rob!? Yea, I know. But there’s a piece of the puzzle missing.. And this couple sitting next to me is CLEARLY ready to be done with their vacation. It’s like they hate each other. And that 5 year old who happens to be leaning over the back of his chair picking his nose while eavesdropping on the business meeting in front of me is just to cute.

Makes people watching that much better ;)
...even though I prefer this scenario from last year.

Boarding the plane my eyes were so heavy over tired. Finally, a chance to relax, and just.. be. Until we reached our cruising altitude and my body did that thing were I constantly twitch when on an airplane. My legs become twitching machines, reacting to every vibration from the engines. It’s almost like I have bit of electricity running through my veins. You are the worst relaxer in the world. Seriously. The lady next to you is practically drooling. I hope Ryan doesn’t fall asleep and lock me out of the house when I get there. Damn him, he better wait up for me. And with that final thought, I’m currently wide awake and typing away. Oh shit, the lady next to me just woke up, did she see what I wrote about her? Ha, it’s ok, people drool all the time. Mark is taking flight lessons right now, maybe he can fly me around to my races one day. No wait, that’s a scary thought. I don’t like being the car with him while he’s driving. I take it back, I’ll buy a commercial ticket forever.

If you ask my father about this “pre-race madness” he’ll have some stories for you. He does everything he can to stay far away from me during race week. I’ve had my moments over the years, freaking out about the most minute of details. I’ve gotten much better and would even consider myself RELAXED right now! But my mind, that’ll never stop. And there’s not much that can be done about it. After years of experience I know that all I can do is sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Race Ready

I swore when I signed up for Ironman Wisconsin back in September of 2013 that this would be a "one and done" kind of experience. Over the years since then, I've learned that I was the only one who thought so. Apparently those closest to me know me better than I know myself. Because here I am, 4 years later and I'm 10 days out from Ironman #5 (spoiler alert, #6 is on the 2017 calendar already too). I can't help myself really. There's something about the thrill of pushing my limits and the rush of crossing that finish line.

Crossing the Ironman finish line for the first time.
The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th time were just as exhilerating
It's been a hell of a winter, to say the least. I told Ryan after the Indianapolis Marathon was over that I was ready to put on my big girl pants and put in some serious work on the bike. And let me tell you, my world was completely flipped upside down. I wobbled off the bike after every single workout from December until March. I spent more time with my head down praying for the 15 seconds of hell at 160% of my FTP to be over. Only so I could spend 30 seconds recovering before the process started over at 170% of FTP. And then, the climbing. I swear, I climbed Everest this winter. So we'll just leave at this, Matilda and I bonded quite well this off season.

After one of our many 3+ hour bonding sessions this winter. Sweat rags and empty bottles galore.

Part of the bike recovery process was testing my limits in the pool. I told myself a while ago that this was going to be the winter I conquered the flip turn. And that I did. I SLOWLY started attempting to flip 5-10 times before and after my workouts after the 2016 season ended in August. In the beginning I felt nauseous and disoriented every single time. But the more I took myself out of my comfort zone, the more I created a new comfort zone. Before the New Year hit, I was officially comfortable flip turning and could do it without thinking twice. And guess what? It really does make you faster. My lung capacity has grown incredibly. My core is noticeably stronger. I also spent some one on one time with Ryan so he could point out a few flaws that needed correcting. Add on the fact that my recovery time within my sets was planned for less and less, and the next thing you know my warm-up pace is something I struggled to hold for longer than 100 yards a year ago.

Everyday getting closer to being a real swimmer!

And when I wasn't falling off my bike in the stationary position in the basement or pretending not to drown from taking in a metric shit ton of water up my nose in the pool from a poorly executed flip turn, I was running. And loving every second of my peace and serenity. I was so focused on improving my bike and my swim that I never truly felt that my run was moving forward. Instead, I felt like it was just staying still. Not getting worse, or making any huge strides. And it was, if you just looked at the numbers. But my bike intensity has recently skyrocketed, along with my swim. My body was truly being put to the test. And my run didn't suffer. Meaning, in some way, I was improving on the run. If my legs could still maintain a decent pace after the beating on the bike, imagine what kind of speed they'd give me when they're fresh!

My not so fresh legs carried me to a course PR at the March Madness Half Marathon

It's been a pretty eventful winter. We started the year off at the S-NO-W Fun Run in Lake Geneva.. (Where obviously the race is the most important part.)

Post-run, Pre-party!

No, we don't know the other people in this photo.
No one seems to remember why this happened either.

Oh right, maybe that's why..

And then of course we all got serious and hunkered down for some long group rides at Sammy's bike shop, with brunch to immediately follow of course: 

We're all about that F-U-N

And when there wasn't a group ride, I always had my furry sidekick to keep me company: 

Secret: She hates being trapped in the basement while I ride

I may have made a few bike accessory upgrades as well. I'll offer this sneak peak at my new aero helmet:

This is definitely more aero than my last helmet.
And when the winter got a little to wintry, the pool saw me more often than not:

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming :)

But last weekend, SPRING officially arrived and now you can't keep me inside, ever:

I took Matilda (my bike, in case you weren't sure) out for her 2017 Maiden Voyage on Sunday. The first outdoor ride of the year is always nerve racking for me. The comfort of a TV screen in front of me with my nutrition on a nifty bar stool to my left is suddenly removed and I'm out in the elements, ready to put my hard work to the test. But alas, the first ride of the year is done. And now I'm ready to focus my nervous energy on race day.

One of these is not like the other? Oops, my bad. 
Last year, Jacqui, Ryan and I conquered the Texas heat, twisting bike bike course, and of course, the weather:

Because pictures are a great way to make sure you packed everything in your transition bag
But this year, we're bringing friends! Fellow RyBread Racers and Lake Placid Housemates, the TOMATOS, will be joining in on the challenges that racing in Texas may bring:

Y'all are probably not gonna want those sweatshirts on race morning..
And yes, we all remember this moment from Ironman Texas just under a year ago:

Praying this isn't a repeat occurance
Jacqui and I have our flights booked for Wednesday the 19th to meet Ryan, Rob, Nate, & Trina in The Woodlands. But in a very recent turn of events, I might be boarding that flight solo. After a recent Spring Break trip to Boulder, Colorado, Jacqui is facing yet another injury and is still undecided if racing is her smartest option. Selfish Megan wants her to be in The Woodlands more than anything, because this sport is what has drawn us closest. And race day won't be the same without her. But Realistic Megan knows that if she decides not to race, she's making the smartest decision and setting herself up for an even bigger comeback. (Seriously, I pity the women that have to race against her when she's healthy.) If you're interested in the details to her story, you can read about it here.

You have no idea how much I want to re-create this picture next week.
In January I laid out some pretty lofty goals. At the time, thinking them made me squirm. But after the hay that's been put in the barn this winter, I can officially say with confidence, I'm ready to watch them play out. I'm ready to do what I love while my favorite Spectathlete dodges every obstacle thrown his way to make sure he finds me on that course. I'm ready to race.

Everything's faster in Texas

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Let the Madness Begin

Sitting down to write about a race after a long winter leaves me a little giddy. Because as far as I'm concerned, it's the most wonderful time of year.

We're officially on the back end of March and the clocks have been put back the way they belong. St. Patrick's Day has come and gone, (The day of my people! Erin Go Bragh!) and my racing shoes have seen their maiden voyage. My skin itches with excitement and all the cold dark moments of off season training are ready to be showcased. This, my friends, is the unofficial start to the racing season. The March Madness Half Marathon.

Last year this race meant more to me than almost any race I've ever completed. I was determined to hold a PR on this blistering awful course that tests my legs and mind, year after year. As I toed the line, I had a heavy heart as I raced with the memory of dear family friend hanging over me. And this year I'd be lying if I said that I was fully "prepared" for the race. Of course it's been on my calendar since New Years Eve, and I've been training my butt off (literally) in preparation for Ironman Texas in 5 weeks. But somehow, it seemed to sneak up on me. Life has been anything but easy lately, in every aspect of the word. My energy is spread pretty thin, so I was concerned that my focus wasn't where I needed it to be in order to succeed this year. I couldn't have been more wrong. 

A few days before the race, I mentioned to Ryan (coach Speedy) that I didn't think my run was where it needed to be lately. "I just don't feel like I'm in great run shape." Of course he did what every good coach does, he ignored my comment and told me it was time to PR.

Race morning arrived and Mark and I departed the house at 7am to find Lauren and Matt waiting for us. Mark wasn't racing this year, but always has required attendance if he's in town. We made some new friends, one of Lauren's friends had recently joined the RyBread Racing team and I couldn't be more excited about it! Kati is sassy and full of spunk and I know we'll get along quite well. I'm already excited to race with her more. As the time neared closer and closer to the start of the race, Kati and I decided to head out on a warm-up run with Lauren. In the 10 minutes we were out getting loosened up, I spotted Rob drive by as he flashed a wave out the window! Minutes to spare and my number 1 fan pulls it off again!

Kati and I picked up Jacqui and Matt and b-lined it to the porta potties for one last attempt to make ourselves a little bit lighter. Then, we all pealed our sweats and tossed them to our cheering squad and took off for the starting line. Jacqui and I slowed down as we approached the timing pads and I could sense her nerves. After all, this was her first road race in over 18 months since her long road with plantar fasciitis that she had recently overcome. The last road race she ran was actually with me... the Oakbrook Half Marathon over Labor Day weekend of 2015. After the race, we laid in grass in pain. Me, from general fatigue. Jacqui, realizing she had a new pain in her foot that wasn't anything she'd ever experienced before. Yes, there had been a few Ironman races since then, but in case you haven't noticed, this girl is meant to run. It's literally in her blood and I knew she had been anticipating this day for quite some time. I hugged her tight promised her that this race was hers.

The gun went off and I was shocked at how relaxed I was. Maybe it was how ready I was to be back doing what I love. Maybe it was the last minute kiss I got from Rob on the starting line (yep, he made it with seconds to spare, and sealed my luck with a kiss). Whatever the case was, I was ready to fly. Within the first half mile the crowds are heavier on the side of the road, and of course I spotted Speedy, his bike in the ditch and the camera in my face. It wasn't until then I checked my watch for the first time and noted that it was already time to dial it back. I'm sure you remember from last year, this course is made to eat you alive.

All smiles early on!

The first 4 miles quickly reminded me how easy it is to run to fast. I did my best to stay in control and considering I could have EASILY ran a couple of sub 7 minute miles, I didn't. My 7:23, 7:17, 7:16 splits proved that I had the control I wanted. Anything faster and I would have without a doubt ruined the rest of my day. Just after mile 4 I spotted Ryan on the side of the road again, all smiles and cheering his little heart out. This time, I wasn't able to muster up a ton of energy for him. Instead I ripped off my gloves and tossed them his direction.

Just after Ryan, I spotted Lauren, Mark, and Rob on the corner as I made the right hand turn into the continuous uphill battle for the final 9 miles of the race. I flashed a wave and made sure my head was on straight because soon I was going to need every ounce of mental strength I had.

Rounding the corner...

...and ready to take on the hills.
Just after mile 5, the course slowly but surely starts to make its way.. up. Literally. Hill, after hill. The first notable hill that leaves me giddy takes my breath away every single year is just after mile 6 and is called "Sneaky Hill" for a reason. It literally comes out of nowhere after you take a few quick turns and then BAM. You look straight ahead and all you see is concrete, no horizon. One foot in front of the other until the sky is visible again. Splits steadied in the 7:30's and 7:40's so I was more than happy that I was able to maintain a strong pace as the course tried to destroy me. "Substantial Hill" (mile 7) tested my knees considering the banked curve you have to climb. Once I hit the end of mile 8 I had relief in site with a nice downhill to coast and my cheering squad at the base.

They love me! They really love me!

Mile 9's ease could not have come at a better time. The cross winds from the field are generally manageable after the previous miles. And the flat roads are always welcome. I coasted back into the 7:20's and my heart skipped a beat. It didn't last long though, because "10 Mile Hill" was right in front of me. We're talking about a climb that lasts every step of a half mile and squishes any confidence you had leading up to it. Any time you've banked in the early stages of the race are about to be cashed in. RIGHT.NOW.

I dread the last 3 miles of this race. More than the last 3 miles of a marathon. Or the last 3 miles of an Ironman. Just when you think, "I've gotta be done climbing now." Think again. I knew a PR was likely not in the cards today, but a course PR was a different story. But once I hit mile 11, I thought, "Damn, maybe this year it's not meant to be." I creeped awfully close the an 8 minute mile and feared my course PR was in jeopardy. Mile 12 was no different. But then, the last water station gave me a little jolt. Shortly after tossing my water cup, I spotted Jacqui and Matt trotting towards me while out on their cool down run. Yes, cool down. Meaning they had both finished the race and had enough time to run a "slow cool down" mile back out onto the course to find me. Jacqui was all smiles and extremely giddy with excitement. She talked a mile a minute and Matt insisted I ignore the Wisconsin Badger conveniently placed in someone's front yard.
"If you yell I-L-L at them I know you're not working hard enough!" Jacqui said me. 
Little did she know, I had a hard time laughing at her. Every single step was focused on that finish line. Matt was not amused with my lack of oxygen so he started to converse with other racers. "Yea, we all went to Illinois and of course we don't like the Wisconsin Badgers.." Meanwhile, Jacqui talked my ear off. And all I could think was, "But, did you win the race?" I finally mustered up enough air to spit it out and she smirked at me with the biggest grin, "YES!"

And just like that, I rounded the final corner and the finish line was in site. Jacqui cheered me on every step of the way, insisting I had more push somewhere inside of me. And she was right, I did. My legs found a speed that I didn't think possible at that point in this race and soon enough, that finish line was behind me. 1:40:13. Good enough for a 51 second Course PR. I'LL TAKE IT. I guess I take back what I said. I suppose my run is up to par these days ;)

In the midst of all the crazy, this guy never disappoints  💖
We stuck around for awards while we nibbled on our warm salty pretzels (maybe the REAL reason I run this race, year after year). Jacqui claimed the overall female title while my new RyBread friend Kati took 5th overall (along with a PR!)! Meanwhile, Matt walked away with a pretty new PR and 7th place overall male!

Watch out guys, the champ is back!

 New fast friend Kati!
Such speedy friends I have..
We all closed off the morning with a celebratory brunch (obviously). The warm coffee hit the spot as I sat and enjoyed everyone's company and my body slowly began to cramp. But once this was delivered in front of me, I felt 0 pain:

I mean, can you blame me?
I've already sworn off racing all together about 10 times since crossing the finish line. In the 72 hours since the race, I have never felt THIS sore from 13.1 miles. I mean, today is the first day I've taken stairs normally and sat on the toilet seat without wincing since Sunday. Recovering from this race seems to get harder every year. And yet, I still can't give it up. Will I race next year? Ask me tomorrow. Probably not. Maybe. Likely. Yea ok fine, I'll see ya there.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some serious prep to do. As of today, IMTX is officially 1 month away. 👊

Friday, March 10, 2017

Catching Up

Yesterday wasn't my typical Thursday. I woke up at my normal time and had my routine breakfast. But I had the day away from the office and decided to knock out some doctor appointments that were well overdue. But the real purpose? I spent the day with a woman I've spoken highly of in the past.

My best friend from high school currently lives abroad in Tel Aviv with her husband. Professional careers uprooted their lives about 7 months ago and now Asia is the land they call home. But about a month ago, Kait decided she needed a dose of home. So she cashed in all the points she had and made her way back to the good ole USofA. It's safe to say that this move hasn't exactly been the easiest transition, but then again, when is an international move considered a simple task? Before the move, we were always scattered across the country so the distance wasn't something new to us. However for some reason when she left, I felt a yearning to be near her more than ever. We all know, I'm a worry wart. This is not new information to the world. The fact that an ocean separated us made me pay much closer attention to the international news. Communication has been tough, mostly revolving around emailing and texting. Until recently when I discovered the world of FaceTime Audio {hush, I'm not that old} and I heard her voice for the first time in over 5 months. I'm more of an old school girl, so I live for a spur of the moment phone call that lasts longer than I have time for. Hearing a loved ones voice is something that I cherish. So yea, that FaceTime Audio thing is GREAT for an international friendship, in case you're curious..

So yesterday was a day spent of catching up. We had no real plans, just be together. Of course I chauffeured her to Trader Joe's so she could pick up the necessities to smuggle back to the Mediterranean. I was expecting her to purchase a few small items, but it wasn't until her basket was overflowing that she was ready to head to the check out. Surely her bag will be over the weight limit on the way home. But I should have known, Kait has never been one to follow the rules.

Aside from our comical Trader Joe's trip:
"Have you ever tried this? Me either. I'm buying it."
"I used to stop and pick up this drink before practice EVERYDAY. I miss it."
"I wish this syrup wasn't so heavy, I can't lug this around the airport."
 - Katilyn Marie Eggers

I think my favorite part of the day was when we both laced up our running shoes. She assured me that she would not be able to follow my scheduled workout and that I was welcome to leave her if necessary. But she forgets, her 5'11" frame is meant to fly. Within the first quarter mile I had to tell her to slow down because our warm-up pace was just shy of what our workout pace was supposed to be. I'm just following you! she says to me. We slowed down for a mere 60 seconds before the pace skyrocketed again. And that was the last time I said anything about pace.

Every step we took, the deeper into conversation we became. And honestly, I completely forgot about the workout. It was almost like we unintentionally saved our most personal conversations for the run. Topics changed at the drop of a hat and were revisited soon again without missing a beat. It's safe to say that 2017 has been quite a year for the both of us, so our 7 mile run contained some pretty deep and heavy thoughts. At one point our serious conversation was disrupted by a crossing guard at a local grade school yelling at us, "You know it's safer to run on the sidewalk with all these crazy parents!" Lady, please, you're interrupting.

It's amazing to me what a pair of running shoes can do. As soon as our feet hit the pavement {and Kait's ankle clicked with every step she took} it was like the flood gates were open. Words flew without warning and paces were thrown out the window. But don't let her fool you, she was easily able to hold a conversation the entire time while keeping the pace below an 8 minute mile. Her athleticism will never cease to amaze me.  Over the years we've had a few of these catch-up-on-life-runs. The day before her wedding, we both lugged our hungover bodies as far as we could across Fort Collins, Colorado in an attempt to detox before the festivities started over in a few short hours. About 6 weeks before Ironman Maryland, I made a trip out to Baltimore to spend the weekend and log some miles with my Best Giant Friend. Of course when we both find ourselves in our hometown at the same time, we cruise the streets like we still own the place. And I will forever etch our catch-up-on-life runs into my heart.

We closed the evening with a little game of fetch with her family dog, Jane, while we eagerly awaited the unveiling of the 17.3 Crossfit workout. {Something I know NOTHING about, but find super intriguing.} While the extremely muscled man was writing the workout on the board, my mind was struggling to comprehend the complexity and I actually said, "I feel like I need a certain type of degree to understand this." I also had to ask the question, "So why is it called 17.3?" Boy did I feel dumb when I got the answer. Either way, good luck to all you cross-fitters on this weekend's 17.3!

She *might* kill me for this photo

On Monday, a piece of my heart goes back to Israel and life will continue. And I'm already counting down the days until our next catch-up-on-life run.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Saying Goodbye

I'm going to warn you from the get-go, this isn't the most uplifting read. But, it won't be long and I promise it'll be worth your while. A week ago today, the world lost a young man that the endurance community would have been proud to call one of their own. The kind that had a thirst for constant adventure and a zest for life that was admirable. That was Tyler.

Growing up, Tyler primarily lived with his mother, but frequented his dad's house on the weekends. His father was my next door neighbor. By default, we were instant friends. I remember summer days spent on our bikes cruisin' around the neighborhood and stopping at the local White Hen for a refreshing Slurpie. Summer nights were spent running around the baseball fields behind our houses chasing fireflies and playing Ghost in the Graveyard. 

The older we got, the less we saw of each other. Our high schools were big cross town rivals and our time together was often spent yelling cliche high school chants at each other from opposite ends of the gymnasium. After college, we very rarely saw each other. But our communication strictly involved all things endurance. Tyler made running a marathon look like a warm-up. The Ultra-Marathon was his forte. Whether it was on the road or on the trails, he excelled in distance. And he didn't stop with his running shoes. An avid cyclist and snow skier as well, he did it all. He even dipped his toes into the triathlon world more than once.

"BRB I'm gonna go run a quick 100"

I remember a few local races, watching Tyler approach the starting line, knowing that was likely the only time I'd see him throughout the entire race. Did I mention, the kid could kick it into high gear when he really wanted to. I remember how he always had a smile on his face. And he always wanted to know about my latest racing en-devours. And when you talked about any sort of challenging undertaking, his eyes lit up. And when he spoke to you, you could tell he was truly taking an interest in you. And he always called my parents Mr. and Mrs. Hode. No matter how many times my mother scolded him. "Tyler, please call me Vickie!" And I remember as he ran, his wild, out control, overgrown, curly hair flapped in the wind. And I remember how much he loved life and all that it gave him. A wife, a daughter, and one on the way. If ever there was a life taken to soon, it was Tyler's. 

In a few short days, Facebook will remind me of this heartbreaking memory

I couldn't tell you the last time I spoke to Tyler, which reminds me that I need to be more diligent with how I keep in contact with old acquaintances. Our last conversation was likely race related. And I can only pray that his final days were as joyful as when we shared the road together. 

If you have the means and can consider a donation to Tyler's wife and growing family, you can do so here. I'm about to lace up for my standard Saturday long run on the most perfect day in February, thanks to you know who.  And in a few short hours I'll be saying my final goodbyes. 

Cheers to one of the communities best.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Grind

Did anyone else wake up this morning welcoming February with open arms? I don't know about you, but I was ready for it. The start of 2017 left me feeling ready for another fresh start. A second chance, if you will. The day to day grind can be boring at times, repetitive if you will. And then there are the curve balls, which felt like everyday during the month of January. Everyone knows change isn't my favorite. I always do the best I can with what's presented to me, familiar or not. But if there's one constant that I've always had in my life, it's my running shoes. And as of late, that also includes my bike and my favorite swim suit.

Being active and running is more than just about "being fit" and "making sure I can fit into my jeans." Of course, I'm your average health nut that is still searching for a way to make Chicago style deep dish pizza healthy and taste the same {sorry gluten free/dairy free folks, girls gotta eat}. Some people workout to lose weight. Others need to keep their competitive spirit alive well after the high school and college days. There are others that simply need a moment to themselves, and a workout is the only way they can find it. But me? I'm not whole if I can't run. But Megan, you spend so much time swimming and biking too! You're right, I do. But before the days of triathlons and Ironmans, I simply ran. I never had a schedule. Whatever I wanted to run is what I did that day. Sometimes I'd find a track and do an old speed workout. Other days I'd lock into a comfortable pace and let my legs lead while my mind drifted.

And then I took a dive into the deep end and never looked back. I discovered a whole new part of myself that I never knew existed. And now my day to day grind looks a little different. Thoughts are flooded with chlorine and what my next meal is going to be. My energy is spread across 3 different sports, free time is a thing of the past and most moments of my day are planned strategically (including my sleep). Don't worry, I haven't completely lost it. I can still relax and throw away the schedule and check out of reality once a in while. But I always miss it.

So when I seem to have days that turn into the month of January, when life isn't going quite according to plan, I know I still have my grind. The grind that pushes watts, holds tempo, and reeks of chlorine. It holds my head above water and keeps my twitches at bay (not really, but kinda). One of the closest people to me recently told me, "Megan, I don't know anyone who is passionate about anything as you are about running." I was floored when she said this to me. I took that as quite the compliment and insisted that she herself had a passion buried in the depth of her. Of course this turned into a stubborn argument with my college roommate, but that's what we do best. But when it comes down to it, I need physical activity to keep me sane. Right now, it just so happens that I swim, bike, and run to keep my mind clear. I need to sweat once a day.  Megan, no one NEEDS to sweat everyday. Yes. Yes I do.

Megan get to the point. Find your grind. That something you just can't live without. Whatever it is that makes your heart full and keeps you out of therapy sessions. However brief it may be. And don't let anyone stop you. Maybe you're a yogi. Perhaps the free throw line of a basketball court calls your name daily. Or do you strive for a constant flow of knowledge from the endless supply of books in the world? I know, you're the next top chef and you're waiting for Gordon Ramsey to applaud your latest creation. Whatever it is, don't waste anymore time. Go do it.

Welcome, February. Me and my running shoes, we're ready for ya.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


Even thinking about writing this gives me anxiety.

"Yeah Megan, we know, everyone gets anxious."
Right. But my type of anxiety has been known to go to extremes. If I start crying and can't stop it's not because I'm that emotional, it's just that my body won't physically calm down. If I have something on my mind that I consider "serious" I won't sleep a wink and will likely be full of nervous energy until said issue is resolved (followed by a period of craaaaaazy intense sleep). My hands will become ice blocks and will noticeably shake for an unknown amount of time. The list of symptoms goes on. But what I'm about to do? This qualifies as OMGMEGANWHYAREYOUGIVINGYOURSELFTHISADDEDSTRESS territory.

Goals are right up my alley. I'm a type A goal oriented person. But I also consider them to be very personal. And for the most part, I think a lot of people would agree. And frankly, it's really NO ONE'S business what I or anyone else strives for in life. Goal: the object of a person's ambition or effort; an aim or desired result. (Thanks Google.) They can say great things about who a person is. I've heard over and over again that if your goals don't scare you they're not big enough. Spoiler alert: my goals scare the shit out of me. And sharing them with others can help keep you accountable. Spoiler alert: I give myself enough grief when I don't reach the goals I set for myself, no way do I need others coming down on me too. And of course they create motivation and can create a sense of encouragement when you share them with others. But goals can shift and you need to be flexible with your expectations. So overall, the whole "let's tell the world!" idea just doesn't sit well with me.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it's time to be uncomfortable more often. The day I gained enough courage to consider writing my goals down for the world to see, I ran across this article about chasing that big idea you're to scared to say out loud. It's about putting in the work, trusting the process, believing in your talents, and forgetting about the outcome. Don't think, just do. The author and I are actually fellow high school/college acquaintances {Go Gators! ILL-INI!}. We also happened to grow up approximately 2.5 blocks away from each other. He's far more creative than I and actually gets paid to write. And I can't thank him enough for giving me this simple read to bookmark on those days when I need a little reminder.


So I'm gonna try something new here. Let's talk about what I want to accomplish in a few short months at Ironman Texas.


Uhhhh yeah, I know I didn't. Part of the whole, nonyabusiness thing, remember? But I'm jumping into 2017 with 2 feet and ready to make myself a little uncomfortable. Ironman Texas was not on my initial radar when planning 2017. I've always had a secret desire to go back and race on the full 140.6 course and take my chances that the monsoon won't show up on race day. So when Jacqui started looking for her Kona 2017 qualifying race and said the word "Texas" was a possibility, my ears perked up. She had a couple of options on her plate, but just a few days before Christmas, Texas won. And if I was ever going have my 2nd chance at Texas, this was my window. So I jumped on it.

And here's what we intend for IMTX this time around:

  • Rob, Jacqui, Ryan and I get to go back and hang out with our favorite Texas hosts, Aimee, Rob, and Dunkin.
  • But we're not going alone... This year, our favorite night owls are coming with! Nate and Trina are Woodlands bound to tackle IMTX too :)
  • Jacqui gets a shot at some redemption after last year's DNF
  • Ryan will attempt to reclaim his title as the IMTX Overall Amatuer Winner 
  • I hope to complete the race without ending up with a black eye due to golf ball sized hail (among other things, but we'll get there)
And here's what we plan on leaving out of the trip this time around: 
  • Jacqui's pre-race bike crash 
  • Me oversleeping and almost missing the race 
  • The unforeseen hail storm that showed up around 3pm on race day.

So here we are. 14 weeks from race day. (Oh yeah, did I mention they moved the race to April this year?) And I have to get my butt into gear. And quick. Truly, my goals are more than "I hope it doesn't rain this year." Holy hell. Here goes nothing.


Last year on May 14th, the swim course was not wetsuit legal. I'm pretty sure the water hit 80+ degrees that morning making it similar to bathwater. I hopped out of the river and clocked 1:19 on the dot. Not where I wanted to be, but considering I didn't have a neoprene hug for 2.4 miles, I was pretty satisfied. Eight weeks later I swam the same distance in an equally calm body of water WITH a wetsuit in 1:15. So, in 14 short weeks, I'm banking on the water being less than 78 degrees due to the 1 month pre-mature race start so I get the free speed from the neoprene. Add in all the laps I've been logging lately and a couple tweaks on my swim form, and I'd like to see 1:10 or faster coming out of the water.

This year I hope to be pealing off my wetsuit


So, last years bike course was NOT ideal. However, it was GRACIOUSLY accepted considering it was only approved 2.5 weeks before race day. The course itself had more turns than it did miles and and was short by 17 miles. I hopped off that bike averaging 19.4mph for the 95 mile course. And the last few months, the bike has been my biggest nemesis. It's currently the center of my love/hate relationship with this sport. I can't remember the last time I did a workout and stepped off the bike without stumbling. I'm pushing some watts I've never even dreamed of. My current Ironman bike PR is from Ironman Maryland coming in at 5:59, 18.7mph. All this said, let's be lofty, shall we? Who says I can't bike 112 miles at 20mph? 20mph for 112 miles puts me at a solid 5:35.

One of the 29485739 turns on the bike course last year


Everyone knows all the poor decisions you make before the run shine bright on the run. Lack of nutrition, to much nutrition, over biking, etc. This is what I like to call separating the men from the boys. And honestly, I'm still not sure which category I fall into. But what I do know is that my run off of the bike has improved 10 fold since IM number 1 in Madison almost 3 years ago. The more I run in the heat the more I surprise myself, which will hopefully serve me well hopping off the bike mid-afternoon at the end of April. I recently broke the 4 hour curse at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in November. But, can I break the curse off the bike? That's right, you heard me. On April 22nd, it's sub 4 or bust.

This picture gets me every time. 

So where does that put me?

1:10 Swim + 5:35 Bike + 4 Run = 10:45 plus transitions.

Let's crack 11 hours.

But let's leave out the blurry & soggy mess this time?