Thursday, May 18, 2017

All Aboard the Choo-Choo Train

Before I ever decided to head back to Texas for IMTX Round 2, or before Mark and I decided to head to Chattanooga with Lauren and Matt for IMCHOO 2017 this coming September, the 70.3 Half Ironman in Chattanooga was calling my name. I was pretty indecisive back in November having just finished a marathon after a jam packed summer of back to back Ironmans in Texas and Lake Placid, out of town weddings in the amazing Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and any Cubs game I could squeeze in during a truly epic season. I pretty much wanted someone to make my decision for me. I wasn't sure what I wanted my 2017 racing season to look like and at one point I even considered focusing on just the Half Ironman distance this summer (we all know how that decision played out). But I couldn't stop going back to the Half Ironman in Chattanooga, Tennessee the third weekend in May.

Because all Ironman's should be sponsored by bakeries


You guessed it. My bags are packed and tomorrow morning Rob and I are hitting the road for Chattanooga. In the last 4 weeks, my legs have went from completely trashed after Ironman Texas... To finally getting my run legs back just 8 short days ago. On Sunday I went out for a 50 mile ride and you would have thought Texas didn't just happen 3 weeks ago, that's how fresh my body felt. And only 10 days after Texas I met up with Speedy for a swim and he decided to give me a pop quiz at the end of our session: 100 yards all out. Would you believe me if I told you I set a new 100 yard PR that day? It's a short turn around, I know. But after years of practice and knowledge gained, my body has started to recover like I never expected it to. And I believe that right now, now is the best time for me to race.

And I'd be lying if I said that I was most excited to race this weekend. Don't get me wrong, because I am excited to race. But this weekend I get to spend 4 entire days with Rob. Our schedules are literally opposite at the moment with him working 12 hours night shifts 5-7 nights a week. Last week I saw him for a whopping 2 hours at dinner on Saturday night before he had to run into work for the night. As I'm waking up for my day, I know he's a few hours away from heading to bed so we manage a brief conversation. And when he wakes up sometime in the afternoon, we manage a mini conversation over his afternoon coffee. And as I head to bed, I wait for him to have a spare second to call and wish me goodnight. It's not ideal, but we make it work. So the fact that I'm about to spend 4 days with him makes me as excited as a freshman girl heading to Prom with an older boy. And yes, this is technically a "Race-cation" so not truly a vacation. But if you ask Rob, he gets pretty into this stuff too.

Baseball hat. Backpack. Camera. My Spectathlete 💓💓

Anxiously awaiting my arrival 😍

Did I mention he sometimes wears his work clothes so I can spot him?
Ironman Maryland - by far both our favorite race experiences
And while we're down in Chattanooga, we get to reunite with my college roommate and her husband who currently live in Knoxville. The 2 of them actually went to high school together and I befriended them both during my days in Champaign, IL. Beth refused to think running was fun for the longest time. Since she was an equestrian to the core, she never laced up her shoes for the longest time, but she'd never miss me or any of our friends at a race.

Quad Cities Marathon 2010
Beth and Rob may have jumped over trains to find us that day!

She's followed me all over the country. She joined me in Disney World when I ran the Walt Disney World Marathon in 2011. She made the trek from Knoxville, TN to Madison, WI for my first Ironman in 2014. And once she started to believe that running really was a little fun, we started racing TOGETHER.


Crossing the finish line in Nashville on Broadway!
Nashville Half Marathon 2013
The next day, I was able to pace Beth to her first sub 2 hour half marathon!
Knoxville Half Marathon 2014
And her husband Jordan used to race with us too! Back in the day our college crew would head over to the Quad Cities Marathon every year and crash at Jordan's lovely college home. One year, he even decided to lace up his shoes and run with us!

That tall guy in the middle wearing PJ pants, that's the famous JConerty 
And in the same breath, he used to make the drive to Champaign and join us for the Illinois Marathon weekend year after year. The inaugural year of the Illinois Marathon, the boys and I decided to run as a relay team.

Why yes, we were, "The 3 Cocksmen and a Pretty Cool Chick"
Brian doesn't count, he ran the full marathon 
So it's safe to say, I'm heading down memory lane this weekend and ready for some fun and some laughs. I'm ready to see some pretty gorgeous countryside. And it's gonna be a hot one. But I'd rather it that way. The hotter the better 😉 Because after being chilled on the run course in Texas, I'll take the 90+ degree day if it means I can go fast!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Ironman Texas Round 2: 2017 Version

I can sit here and tell you that Ironman Texas was a bust. I can go on and on about how my body fell apart and make excuses for my performance. I had some serious expectations and hopes going into this race. But at the end of the day, you can only pray that what you've done is enough. And that your body will respond to the elements in your favor. This particular race day, just wasn't my day. But the truth of the matter is, this sport is unlike any other and will humble you almost every single time. And I crossed the finish line for the 5th time, healthy and grateful. That my friends, is far from a bust.

Because this moment isn't guaranteed at the starting line of every single race


THURSDAY

Let's back up. I woke up in The Woodlands on Thursday morning groggy but full of energy. {If there is such a thing.} Sleep is not generally my friend during race week, especially in a place that is not home. So I'm usually running on adrenaline and coffee pre-race. Ryan and I made our way to the All World Athlete breakfast {because free breakfast and unlimited coffee, duh} and jumped right into the buffet line immediately. I was still half asleep, letting my coffee and eggs work their magic to wake me up. By the time we left and made it to check-in, I had some serious electricity flowing in my veins and I was ready to get this party started. I flew through the check-in line and made my way around the expo while Ryan stopped to talk to everyone and their mother (even though he still insists he's NOT a celebrity).

Fact: I'm checked in!
Another fact: I need work on my surprised picture look

We're nothing without our better halves. And we know it.
The sun was heating up and it was time to head over to find Nate and Trina! Our bikes were ready to be re-assembled and tested out on Texas ground. After the group thought it would be funny to play with my emotions and make me believe that my brand new Ice Friction chain was left in Chicago (ya know, just a vital piece of the bike that would be necessary for race day, or any sort of riding in general) Trina and I made our way out onto the roads while Nate and Ryan hung back to let their bodies soak up some RnR. After a short little run to shake out the legs, the 4 of us headed out to a late lunch/early dinner so we could all cash in early for the night and get some good rest.

Moments later, we turned Nate and Trina's hotel room into a makeshift bike shop

I didn't spend 18 hours in a car with Nate, Trina, and Ryan
so they made sure to make me pay in other, unflattering ways
Last year, Jacqui, Ryan, Rob and myself were able to stay with a high school friend of mine and Jacqui. Unfortunately, this year Aimee and her husband Rob were planning on being out of the town for the race and in the same breath, their house was in the middle of being re-modeled. So when it came time to find Plan B Housing, Aimee had a list of friends that were more than ready to open up their homes to us for race week. So Ryan and I headed back to our empty house {did I mention that the owners had to be out of town at the last minute and insisted we still stay there? Amazing, I know} went out separate ways, and crashed pretty early.

FRIDAY

Friday morning arrived and I felt SO much more rested. I finally got some solid shut eye and was ready to take on the day. I was also beyond excited because Rob was moments away from joining in on the fun. His flight landed at 8am {yep, he took a 5am flight out of ORD. That's what we call L-O-V-E} and he was that much closer to being Woodlands bound. Ryan and I took off to meet Nate, Trina, and fellow McHenry County Native, Andrew at the practice swim at Lake Woodlands. It was a warm swim. In fact, it was so warm that today was the first day on record that a wetsuit wouldn't have been allowed on race morning. But, I practiced in my wetsuit in hopes it was going to be good ju-ju for race day. We all know I need all the good luck speed I can get.. There was very little chit-chat post swim because there was a lot to be done today. Rob was waiting for us at the house and Ryan and I still had a bike and a run to get in before we checked in all of our gear!

Rob was sitting in the driveway as we pulled in, wide-eyed and bushy tailed. {Not really, he had just worked an overnight shift and hopped on a 5am flight, so I think he was OK with Ryan and I taking off on our bikes for a short spin around town so he could snooze on the couch for a short while.} I hugged and kissed him hello and goodbye all in the same swoop so we could get this show on the road.

Ryan and I hopped on our bikes for one last shakeout spin. Thankfully, I had Ryan with me. The entire trip I appointed him as the navigator, whether we were in the car or on our bikes. He told me where to go. Every. Single. Time. And he hated it {I could tell.} But this particular time was appreciated as he knew exactly where to take us to ride the same pre-race route we rode last year that had a perfect long stretch with no traffic so we could really open up our legs. On the way home, we took that right had turn onto Sawdust Road and my stomach dropped. Less than a half a mile up the road is where Jacqui flipped over her handle bars last year and fractured her hip. I wonder if Ryan knows this is the same spot? Silly question. Less than 90 seconds later we approached the banked curve where I saw Jacqui lie motionless the year prior and I made sure to be aware of my surroundings. No twigs, branches, or road debris in my way. I looked up and saw Ryan sitting up on his bike, head on a swivel looking back at me. We were on the same page, Friend and Coach Speedy G was lookin' out for me. Stepping off my bike gave me a sigh of relief and excitement. Now it's time to run! And run I did. And it felt great. I had sweat dripping from all my crevasses considering it was 90+ degrees. But I was 100% ok with it because race day was supposed to be a high of 75. #winning

I think that's all I need?
After our workouts were done for the day and we had our bags packed and ready to go, we squeezed 2 bikes, 3 people, and all of our Ironman gear in my little Mitsubishi Lancer rental car. Don't ask me how, just know that it happened. Rob, Ryan, and I met Nate and Trina at bike and gear check. It didn't take long to drop off our stuff and for me to lose my car keys and run around transition frantically trying to find them. And when they weren't anywhere near my bike I really started to panic. Thankfully the nice volunteer man in a cowboy hat was standing at the start of transition waiting for a frantic girl like myself. I barely had the words out of my mouth and he dangled the key in front of my face. "Relax mam, you has a race tomorrow. It'll be alright." Well, these Texans sure are relaxed down here. I thanked him and ran off to find Rob and the crew.


Matilda is race ready!
Can you see me?

We had some prime bag drop location
We weren't quite ready to head back to the house yet, so the 5 of us headed over to the expo to mosey around a bit longer. Trina stopped to get her hair braided for race day while Rob and I snagged as many free samples as possible. {Because why not}. It wasn't long before we all split up to go our separate ways so we could sit back with our feet up before dinner. Rob, Ryan and I made our way back to the house with no real plans for dinner. Nate and Trina were planning on eating with Nate's parents, so the 3 of us asked fellow McHenry County Native, Andrew, to join us for dinner at the same place we went last  year. I called and made a reservation for 4 (because when you're the only girl with 3 boys, someone's gotta be pro-active) at 6pm.

The 3 of us walked into the restaurant and Andrew had already grabbed our table. As I walked up to the table I noticed that the table was set for 6 people, not 4.

"Andrew, this can't be our table. I asked for a reservation for 4!"

"This is what they gave me! And they said it was supposed to be for 6!"

I was convinced that the high school girls seating people had just given me someone else's table. I felt bad for a split second and then I was over it. Before I had completely sat down I glanced to the left hand corner of the bar area and reminisced about how exactly a year ago, my dad and Jess were hiding in that corner to surprise Jacqui for her 30th birthday. I had a small smile on my face when Rob snapped me out of my funk: "Where is the bathroom in this place again?" I told him it was in the back corner, just about the same direction I had been gazing off into space. About that same time, I saw 2 familiar faces around the corner. My dad. And my Uncle (the same uncle that was at my first Ironman in Madison, WI and who had recently drove out to Lake Placid, NY last summer). I'd like to say I knew this was going to happen but the shrill scream I let out proved otherwise. I was in absolute awe, my dad and uncle drove to Houston to watch me race and they kept it a secret from me for MONTHS. And apparently, their road trip started before I even boarded my flight on Wednesday evening. If you know me, you know how HARD this is to do. I immediately began to ugly cry right in the middle of the restaurant because I was in such disbelief. I know my hobby isn't the norm, and to ask anyone to come and support me on these trips is a lot. Even if it is my parents. But my father was right here in front of me with my Uncle (half of my Omaha Cheerleading Squad!) and Mark was at home caring for mom. How does a girl like me get so lucky?

I had a hard time coming down to Earth after this moment

The whole group!
I'd be lying if I said I slept easy that night. I was on the verge of choking up most of the night. Lounging after dinner with Rob and Ryan, I was 100% unfocused on the movie while I sat with the biggest smile on my face. I had some serious adrenaline in my veins and my emotions were currently through the roof. Tomorrow was going to be one hell of a day. And I'll be damned if it wasn't.

SATURDAY RACE DAY!

I'm happy to report that the pre-race portion of this story is very uneventful and that everyone was able to wake up on time this year and no one made the others late for the start of the race. Even the drive TO the race was uneventful and no one forgot their swim gear! If you're confused about this, you can check out last years debacle.

Once again my favorite Spectathlete swoops in for the win on race morning with his abilities to usher us around from transition to drop off last minute nutrition and prep our bikes to dropping us off at the race start. And he still had time to park the car and make it back to us with plenty of time to spare. This guy, I'm hangin' on to him tight. Seconds after the pro's gun went off, I leaned in for my final kiss from Rob and took off with Ryan and Andrew for the start. The only problem: I had to leave my wetsuit with Rob as the water was a balmy 78.8 degrees this year.

Swim

Last year the swim course was changed at the last minute due to unsanitary conditions in the canal portion of the swim (the last three quarters of a mile). This year, the canal was given the green light and the original course was kept. I took off into the water and fought for position for a few minutes. But it didn't take long, soon I was swimming alone. And I was a little shocked to be honest. There were very few moments when I had an elbow in my back or someone tugging at my feet. I had moments where I approached a heard of swimmers a broke the pack and lifted my ego quite nicely. But there were also a few times I was swallowed by a massive heard of swimmers and was forced to let them pass me in order to stay afloat. All in all, I was feeling strong, even without my wetsuit. On the backstretch before the canal portion is where I spent the most time alone. I was sure to stay focused and relaxed, making sure my elbows were high and my hips rotated. My mind wandered for a little while and soon my thoughts went back to dinner the night before. And I couldn't help but smile in the water. I still can't believe Jack and JB are in Texas. This is fuckin' awesome. I turned down the canal portion of the swim and was prepared for the water get choppy bouncing off the wall (and crowded with athletes). Thankfully the canal was never to congested at all and the chop was never out of control. It didn't take long for me to hear the crowd and the loud speaker, Mike Reilly. With less than 500 meters go, I put my kick into high gear to warm up my legs for the next part of my day when all of sudden I took a foot to the face, HARD. My goggles were completely lopsided on my face and I was forced to stop and re-position them. My face was a little numb too. I've never taken a punch to the face, but I imagine it feels a little like getting kicked in the face during the swim portion of a triathlon. I approached the final turn and could sense the crowd's excitement. I was able to swim all the way to the steps when all of a sudden I was pulled out of the water. Two volunteers grabbed me from my under arms and yanked me out of the water and onto the steps. Ok then, I guess the swim is over. I glanced at my watch. 1:18. YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME. OK, keep your head on straight, this is a long day. It's time to hammer down.


Thank goodness my nose isn't bleeding

Bike

I was in and out of transition as fast I could. I'm not good at T1 {please refer to Leon's Triathlon last June} so considering I left transition in 5 minutes and my bike was in 1 piece, I was happy. I hopped on my bike and immediately noticed that my watch didn't look right. Damn it, you stopped it getting out of the water. Now you're not going to know your overall time all day. I restarted my watch, started my bike garmin that Speedy so graciously let me borrow for the day and I was off. The early miles it took me a while to get comfortable. But that's common. And let's not forget, it's April and I've only ridden outside 3 times all year so far and I'm currently racing an Ironman. I'd be surprised if my tucked position on the road was comfortable right now. I might not have been comfortable but I was flying. My first 5 mile split was 15:01 and that was my slowest split for a long time, dipping into the 13 minute time frame at one point.


Don't drop your bike. Don't drop your bike.

Coming out of Transition!

This year's bike course hit the drawing board and was approved a LONG time ago after last years bike course issue. But honestly.. it wasn't anything to shake a stick at. Looking back, I'd rather make the 90+ turns like we did last year than ride on the Hardy Toll Road again. We hit the Hardy Toll Road at mile 20 and my watch had yet to hit 1 hour. Yea.. you read that right. I was moving and I was feeling pretty damn good. My nutrition was on point and not missing a beat. Well I'll be damned Megan, this could very well be your day. Keep your head down and stay focused. 

The miles ticked by and there really isn't anything to report. That's how boring this course was. Occasionally there was an overpass we had to climb and the descend {piece 'o cake considering my last IM was in Lake Placid, NY}. About mile 32 I spotted Ryan on the other side of the road, finishing up his his 1st lap (his mile 48). I yelled at my speedy friend and he turned his head but clearly had no idea who yelled at him. I made the turn around at mile 40 and immediately the headwinds hit me. But, they weren't as bad as I was expecting. My first 5 mile split into the headwind clocked in at 15:30. Keep this momentum going Megan, don't let it fade.

This had to of been between miles 1-50.
Anytime after that aero was not possible
By mile 50 things took a turn, and not for the good. I was cramping, BAD. The entire right half of my torso took a dive and immediately I was upright and doing everything I could to cure this pain. I used my hand to put pressure on the cramp. I slowed my pace and focused on breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth. I sipped on water only, not sure what anything else would do to my system. This was something I had never experienced before. I had never cramped on the bike before, EVER. Let alone on race day. The last thing I wanted to do was ruin my day, but this was unknown territory and I feared a wrong move. At mile 60 we hit the turn around and the tailwind came back into play. Ok, pick up for lost time and use the wind to your advantage. Yea, right. The second I tried to go aero I couldn't breath and I had a stabbing pain in my chest and torso.

I'd like to tell you that I was able to kick this pain sooner than later and my bike didn't suffer. But that would be a lie. I was able to pick up speed a tad with the tailwind. But once we hit mile 80 and it was time to turn around into the headwind again, I was in trouble. The headwinds had easily doubled in speed and the pain my side practically had my bent over on my bike. In the same breath, I was starting to get nauseous. The thought of taking in any nutrition made me want to vomit. I sipped on water and took bananas at aide stations. I feared bonking from lack of nutrition. Hell, I feared not finishing at this point. I passed up porta potty after porta potty. You can wait until transition, you don't need to stop. Except, I did need to stop. And soon. I remembered there was one last aide station coming up at mile 100. That one had my name on it. Just before the aide station you ride under a bridge. This bridge had Rob on top of it. I wish I could have given him a smile, but I was just in to much pain. I stopped and I spare you the details, just know that my GI tract was completely clear afterwards. From both ends. I grabbed my bike and actually felt like a new woman. I was ready to RIDE! To bad you didn't do that hours ago Megan, the ride is almost over.

I mean, could I look any worse?

I cruised into transition and hopped off my bike and my legs actually felt good. I was more than disappointed. My 5:59 bike split is in no way a reflection of what I'm capable of. But, the fact that I was about to start the run and not visiting the nearest medical tent was what kept my spirits up. It's time to have some fun, Megan.




In case you're interested in seeing my hotshot friends rock the bike while I felt like literal poop.

Run

I ran into Trina in T2 and she was in the middle of her complete head to toe outfit change. I yelled across the tent, "Trina, I finally puked and pooped! And now I feel SO GOOD!" Being a critical care nurse, she's heard worse and was so excited for me. I can't say the same about the volunteers in the tent though. They for sure weren't sure how to react. I was in and out in 3 minutes. Shoes and helmet off, run shoes on, gimme my belt and I hit the road. I said goodbye to Trina and was hoping that I could turn this day around doing what I was made to do, run.

I took off and made sure to keep my pace in check. I might have been feeling good at the moment, but it was a long day already and I still had a long way to go. The beginning mile on the waterway is full of excitement and crowds so of course it's easy to kill your legs in the first mile due to a serious adrenaline rush. I made my way through the Moxie crowd and had some seriously almost naked people in my face yelling and screaming at me telling me how awesome I was, just like last year. Just after that first mile on the waterway you loop around town.  I held a steady pace and was feeling absolutely amazing.

By far the best part of the day

However, I made sure to always walk the aide stations because the last thing I needed was to choke on my water and go from good to bad in a heartbeat. Right around mile 3.5, I was making my way through an aide station and all of a sudden I felt something very lightly touch the small of my back, and then, a faint whisper, "hi!" RYAN. I turned my head to the left and saw his face and instantly knew this was not good. I dropped my cup and chased after him. It didn't take long to catch him, he wasn't moving to fast (for Ryan). His face screamed pain but his stride still looked effortless. I asked him if he needed anything, what could I do! This was his 3rd lap, so he was right around mile 21, pain was inevitable at this point.

"I want to walk, " he said. Ummm ok, is he serious? He can't be. Ryan doesn't walk. "But I won't." Ah, right, that's the Ryan I know. So I did my best to distract him for as long as I could. We chatted about the bike and how terrible it was. He told me about his encounter with a few pros that were now eating his dust. And finally, he mentioned that he was no longer in the lead. Clay, he's about 5 minutes up there. I'm to far behind, I can't do it. I looked at him and couldn't believe what I was hearing. I was running stride for stride with the best athlete I knew, and one of the best people I knew, someone I've looked up to for years, and I was about to tell him to snap out of it. I was about to coach the coach. Ryan! Go get him! Don't let me slow you down, you never know what can happen! He assured me that his body wasn't going to let him and he hung with me for a little while longer.

Just before we entered the waterway Ryan started to pick up the pace ever so slightly. I made a mental note to let him go. He's 2 miles from the finish and you have a lot more to go. I said my goodbyes and said a small prayer that just maybe Clay had a porta potty issue like myself and Ryan could still win this thing.

I entered the waterway and the crowds were THICK. It was prime time hours for spectators on the run course and this was what I had been waiting for. Soon, I spotted Rob waving his arms frantically. I was SO excited to see a familiar face. I could see he was leaning in for a kiss, so I went in for it and and practically collided with him but we succeeded and the crowds roared and applauded our efforts! Jack and JB are just up the the way on the right! YESSSSSSS! I had a small flashback to dinner the night before and instantly I had grew a lump in my throat. They're here! They're really here! Soon enough I spotted them up on the side of the road and Dad's excitement made me want to cry. I wanted to say so many things to them, I had a whole day to fill them in on! But I had about 3 seconds to speak as I passed them, so I said, "Guess what! I almost pooped myself!" For the 2nd time that day, I heard a crowd of people laugh at me.

After seeing Rob, Dad, and Uncle JB, I was about to begin my 2nd loop. At the same time, my stomach started to take another turn for the worst. This time, I felt more nauseous than anything else. I passed one porta potty but not the 2nd. I learned my lesson. Unfortunately this wasn't the last time. I made another visit at mile 11. After that, I was a on strict "water and salt water only diet." Keeping anything in my system was proving to be more and more difficult as the day went on. The 2nd lap was entirely a blur as I was so focused on not puking all over. I hit the waterway for the 2nd time and started to get a 2nd wind, likely from the crowds energy. God I hope I don't flop again on the 3rd lap. I saw Rob again and was ready for colliding kiss round 2 if he was gonna go for it, but he didn't. Ok, probably for the best so I don't end up knocking myself out. Dad and Uncle JB were just up the canal after Rob and once again they were all smiles.

OK - not as happy this time around
The third lap was about survival and making sure my stomach wouldn't turn on me for a third time that day. I kept my nutrition light. Water and occasional salt water (my hand held was a serious salt water concentration, so I added a squirt to the water cups at aide stations to dilute it). If they aide stations had watermelon I could stomach that as well. But that was about it. I made some friends on that third lap. One particular guy was playing cat and mouse with me all day long. Our names were printed on our bibs and he commented to me. "How come everyone always cheers for you but not for me?" I took one look at him and at mile 22 of this marathon my filter was 100% gone and I said, "It's because I'm prettier than you." I got a good chuckle out of him (thankfully) and with that I took off. I was ready to finish this thing off.

Hitting the waterway for the 3rd time I knew not to expect Rob with Dad and Uncle JB. They had camp set up on the finish line. I wish I could remember thoughts during those final miles of an Ironman. It's always a blur. There's some intense internal fighting going on. You can walk a little bit. DONT YOU DARE. Come on, your body has managed 138 miles already today. FUCK OFF AND DONT SLOW DOWN. And then of course there's the emotion. This day in no way reflected my abilities as an athlete after the winter of work I had put in. But damn, what a day it was. How in the hell did I manage to overcome something that would have broken me one short year ago? That, that's what I gained this winter. A little more grit. Some guts. And some serious gumption. (Along with some speed that we'll hopefully see in the next race.)

I rounded that final corner and the first familiar face I saw was Ryan, all smiles and cheering for me like I was winning the race {spoiler alert, I didn't win}. And as I approached the finish shoot and hit that red carpet, I was overcome with sense of joy I only feel on that Ironman finish line. With a run time of 4 hours and 35 minutes, I fell short of overall goal by exactly 1 hour. But you'd have a hard time getting that smile off my face.


I have a hard time controlling my emotions at this point

...not smiling is not an option..

What.A.Day.

This race was by far the most challenging. My mental game was tested like no other. I had convinced myself with 40 mile to go on the bike that I wasn't going to to be finishing this race. But just like Ironman says, Anything is Possible. {And in case anyone is interested, I wasn't the only one with intestinal issues that day, and we're almost positive that swimming in that dirty canal was the culprit. I just happened to be the lucky one with a super sensitive gut.}

Post Race with my crew

#5 with my #1 ;)

Go Cubs Go!

Chattanooga is calling this guys name..
What's that you say, Chattanooga!? Oops, I guess the cat's out of the bag. Ironman number 6 is set to take place in Chattanooga, Tennessee in September with a good chunk of our original LP Party. We can't help ourselves really. Chattanooga will consist of myself, Mark, Lauren, her boyfriend Matt (remember how we tried to hard to convince him to do this too!? Well, we SUCCEEDED!), Jess (YEP! Jess is tackling Ironman number 1!!), as well as Nate and Trina. Along with any spectators we drag with us. It'll be a great party for sure and I'm already looked forward to the stories I can tell after that trip. {hopefully no plumbing issue stories like Lake Placid}

The next 24 hours was spent celebrating another finish with as much food as possible. We started with pizza and beer that night a mere stones throw from the finish line...

Beers & {root} Beers!

And then moved on to fancy coffee drinks (that same night) because our bodies just couldn't stay awake long enough to get us home...

Yep, G for Grimaldi's!

And the next day we started with a breakfast fit for kings...

2 people + 3 plates = Jacqui help me with this math!

He refused to wait until my order came so his is half eaten already

And later in the day, we had ice cream for lunch. (Not pictured because ice cream in Texas doesn't last.) Rob caught the early flight home the next day, so he couldn't share in our breakfast and lunch. But it's ok, we ate enough for him too. 

So there ya go, there's Texas 2017. Quite the opener for the year, huh? Don't get to comfortable though. The season is just starting and I'm ready to see what I'm really made of. 

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:

#RyBreadRacing
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