Thursday, July 14, 2016

Ironman Lake Placid: The Lineup

We've reached the official 10 day countdown for Ironman Lake Placid. This race hasn't happened yet, but I can already tell you that it's going to be one of my favorites. It has a history and some serious anticipation. Let's dive in, shall we? 

Back in April of 2015, I volunteered Rob and myself to help out with a race that Jacqui and Ryan were directing in Schaumburg on Easter weekend. Our job was most important: pick up coffee for all volunteers. (And then actually volunteer and help with Registration/Athlete Check-in.) Alas, Rob and I walked away with a few new friends that day. John and Brittany Atchison. At the time, un-married, but none-the-less joined at the hip and obviously meant to be. John and Ryan were long time high school friends and could practically finish each others sentences. We also met Lauren Schorsch. She had dated Jacqui's brother Nic way back in the day (who I graduated high school with) and remained very close with Jacqui over the years. Little did we know that this day was going to be the start of something EPIC.

The day it all started! Any guesses who hides inside the chick and bunny costumes?!

Fast forward to July 2015. Mark and I were registered for Half Ironman Muncie 70.3. We arrived at dinner the night before the race knowing that Jacqui and Ryan would be running late. Jacqui texted me, "John and Brittany will be there soon, save them a seat too?" But of course. What actually ended up happening was this: Mark and I ate dinner with John and Brittany and their friend Oscar. Jacqui and Ryan showed up as the bill was arriving. But during that time, friendships were solidified. We all raced the next day (some well, some not so well **cough cough ME**) and headed home after raiding the Albanese Candy Factory in Indiana. I rested my head on my pillow that night with a smile on face. 

We're all about those post-race recovery calories ;)

Let's fast forward again to August 2015. Sometime around noon on August 13th, 2015, John had sent out a mass text to myself and a few others demanding our participation in Ironman Lake Placid in July 2016. What's up with this guy? I promised my brother that I would do his first Ironman with him, which was potentially planned to happen in 2016. However, the location of his Ironman of choice was undecided. I kindly told John that I was not going to commit to any Ironman until my brother decided where he wanted to go. 

"OK can I have your brother's phone number?" - John

JOHN. NO. This went on all day. I left the office and hopped in the pool. When I returned to my phone I had been blown up by John. He wasn't letting down. When I got home I sent Ryan a quick text, "Your friend John has been harassing me all day. Please make him stop."  Ryan's response, "Just sign up already." OH GREAT. RYAN'S BEHIND THIS TOO. 

So I did what any good sister would do. I laid it all out for Mark. Your first Ironman could be in the amazingly gorgeous Adirondack Mountains. And you'd be able to say you raced in the same location as the 1980 Winter Olympics. And you would be racing with me and 7 others, that's a HUGE support system! It didn't take long. By 8pm that evening, Mark and I both burned a hole in our credit cards and were officially Lake Placid bound for Ironman Lake Placid on July 24th, 2016.

So it would be an understatement to tell you that Mark and I made one of the best decisions that day. At the time, Mark and I had only met 3 of these people twice (at most). And there were 2 that we had never met. Yet, we agreed it was a good idea to share a house in the Adirondack Mountains for an entire week with mostly strangers. But we've had a year to get acquainted. It happened pretty quickly too, thanks to our "LPPARTEE 2016" group text. Which is crazy. Obnoxious. Hilarious. Not suitable for children. Insanely supportive. In all honesty, I could be having an absolutely terrible day. And when I pick up my phone and see 50+ messages from the group (yes, most times more) and I can go back and read the shenanigans that went on while I was MIA from my phone, I almost always end up in a better mood with a smile on my face. We've got one of every kind in our group. The personalities are on all ends of the spectrum and I think that's what makes this group's appeal so wonderful and addicting. Wanna meet them? Of course you do. 

The Lineup

John Atchison

Let's start with the ring leader. He's the guy that started it all. A Physical Education teacher in the Chicago Public School system, John has the heart of a kid. He enjoys racing just about as much as he dislikes the training. But this kid has some serious talent. He's been racing with Ryan for quite a long time, tackling his first Ironman circa 2010. He's the one who we find swimming UNDER us during our group open water swims. He's the one you can find dressed in a Chubacca onsie in the winter months. He's also the founder of the famous GREEN GUYS that you may or may not have seen at events like the Shamrock Shuffle and the Chicago Marathon. He's the only one of the group that has tackled Ironman Lake Placid in the past and he has nothing but good things to say about it. He's been a pretty amazing advertisement for this race over the past year, adding to the excitement of this trip. Long story short, this guy is all about the fun.

Brittany Atchison 

John's wife! (AKA - John's keeper) Bred a soccer player through college, Brittany turned to the triathlon world around the time she met and fell in love with her husband John. Brittany spends her days advising people about healthy life choices that they should be making. Between her and her husband, they're tying to make America healthy again. She's also extremely competitive, making her and John's training days super entertaining when John would rather float in the hot tub than swim. I was able to watch Brittany take on her first Ironman back in September in Madison, Wisconsin. And to say she crushed that crazy difficult course would be an understatement. I was able to run next to her while she attacked one of the 3 worst hills during the race (nicknamed the 3 Sisters) and scream obscenities to her. I probably made her go faster, for sure. And laugh a little. 

Ryan Giuliano 
(Aka - SpeedyGiuliano, Speedy, RyBread)

When I asked for a picture of everyone, this was the best he could give me.

DA COACH. You've been introduced to Ryan. He's the mastermind behind the hours and hours of workouts we all put in. He's the reason we wake up every Monday morning and fear that first step out of bed. But if you could see his racing resume, you'd know why we all keep coming back for more. His expertise and talent in this sport is beyond admirable. He might also be one of the most humble humans I know. If you met him on the street he'd never tell you about his success in this sport. I might also brag about him and say that he is the Founder/CEO/COO/Treasurer of Rybread Racing. That's right. Over the past 7 months he's taken his knowledge to the next level and decided to share it with us all. Interested in a coach? CHECK IT OUT! Want more info on triathlon? CHECK IT OUT! Wanna see what he's all about? CHECK IT OUT! Such a talented guy like this, he's gotta be all about that clean eating right? WRONG. This kid has a sweet tooth for candy like I'VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE. He puts away POUNDS of candy at a time. The day after the race I anticipate a living room floor full of candy wrappers. All because of this kid.

Jacqui Giuliano (Mrs. Speedy)

If I'm being honest, the only reason I know ANY of these people is because of this girl. Jacqui and I grew up only a few blocks away from each other and found ourselves in college together. Never super close, we have always shared a passion for running and have consistently encouraged each other over the years. The day I called her and asked for Ironman advice was the day I opened my own door into such an amazing triathlon community. A simple random phone call. Let's see what this super fast girl has to say about my crazy idea of signing up for an Ironman. Today, it'd be an understatement to say that we can finish each others sentences. I've been with this girl when she's PR'ed on the best of days. I've also wiped her tears as she DNF'ed on the worst of days. This past year has tested her mental strength more than anyone I've ever seen. And she hasn't given up. Determined to find that finish line in Lake Placid (among other things), this Junior High Math teacher has a drive deep inside her heart that I envy. All I have to say is, if I see her on the run course in Lake Placid, it better be as she zooms by me with a smile on her face. God knows she's well overdue. 

Lauren Schorsch

Lauren has been friends with Jacqui for quite a while. She's as sweet as they come with the perfect amount of spunk. (Necessary character attributes when you're a grade school music teacher.) Albeit, semi challenged with directions, Lauren has a way of always bringing a smile to my face. She runs with the best of 'em and can be found at the front of any swim pack. To date, she's raced 2 triathlons. Last summer she trained for Steelhead 70.3 (half ironman) but couldn't compete at the last minute do to a back injury. (Stay off those slippery stairs Lauren.) Most people would give in and go back to just running. Not Lauren. Who needs to do a Half Ironman when you can just sign up for the full Ironman? People like Lauren. The go-getter. Only a few days after she wasn't able to start Steelhead, she pulled out her credit card and decided to bite the bullet and signed up for Ironman Lake Placid. Talk about balls. She's had a very trying winter while nursing her back injury and getting her head on straight so she can tackle 140.6 miles.  She's also currently juggling her master's degree classes which wrap up only hours before the start of this race. You gotta be kidding me. This girl is like superwoman. Her plate is more than full, but it'll all be worth it soon.

Nathan Tamayo (Mr. Tomato)

Nathan and John go back a ways meeting in the race community. Nate and his wife Trina (who you'll meet next) live in a totally different world. That is, they live at night. Nate is an endurance Vampire and can truly say he sees the sun rise as he ends his shift at work more than he sees the sun set (because he's asleep when it sets, duh). As an EMBALMER (yep, you read that right), you have to be ready whenever the clients are ready. And this guy PREFERS the night shift (you know, when all the crazy stuff happens). But that has to make training super hard, right? Right. Nate laces up his running shoes, hops in the pool, or jumps on the trainer just about the time the rest of this group is heading to bed. And then around midnight he makes his way to work. And as the rest of us are about to enter that dreaded 10am conference call, Nate heads to bed. Literally, he lives the complete opposite schedule. But he's made it work. With years of practice and COUNTLESS donuts (his personal favorite) to fuel his long workouts, this guy makes this schedule look EASY. When I first met him in our group text (actual first face to face meeting was a month later) I thought to myself, "Anyone who can train for an Ironman on this schedule has to be a badass." And guess what, I wasn't wrong. 

Trina Tamayo (Mrs. Tomato)

So we like to nickname the Tamayo's "The Tomato's" for the obvious reason. Their name is fun and sounds like Tomato. Trina, Nate's wife, is also a creature of the night. (Not by desire, but because she just loves her husband that much.) Trina is a critical care nurse and works the night shift so that her and Nate can be on the same schedule. This mermaid has a love for fitness in general. Considering she came to the endurance world from the body building world, I'd say that's quite the 180, wouldn't you? And food. This girl CAN EAT and makes me so proud. Sometimes she'll send us a picture of her and Nate grilling massive steaks at 1am on their days off... because that's what you do when you work the night shift. You stay in the night routine, even on your off days. Ironman Lake Placid will be Trina's first 140.6 and there's not a doubt in my mind that this Mermaid-Vampire will give us all a run for our money and show us who's boss.

Mark Hode (BFG)

Mark and the man who will soon call him an Ironman - Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman

In my opinion, I'm saving the best for the last. The "little" brother. My best friend. The biggest pain in my butt that there ever was. Future Ironman. Standing at a whopping 6'4" we've nicknamed him the BFG (Big Friendly Giant, for all you Roald Dahl fans). For the first 22 years of his life, Mark didn't know athletics outside of throwing a baseball and running from pole to pole until he dropped after he threw a game. During his 5th year of college he had more time to kill in the Smokey Mountains. So he snagged a road bike from Craigslist and bought a pair of running shoes to fill his time. He had run a few races with me over the years, but this was his chance to get serious. He graduated in May of 2015 and 2 months later he crossed the finish line of his first half Ironman in Muncie, Indiana. And the rest is history. He's the ONLY reason I'm racing Ironman Lake Placid. I promised him I'd be right next to him for his first full Ironman. A woman of my word, here we are only 10 days away from the big day. If only he could truly grasp how excited I am for him. How high my emotions have been over the past few months leading into his big day. I know exactly what it feels like to cross the finish line and I'm ready to share that moment with him.

So there ya have it. That is our 2016 lineup for Ironman Lake Placid. Better known as..


And a party it will be, damn it. We've rented a gorgeous house on Mirror Lake in the middle of the Adirondack Mountains less than a half mile from the Oval (used for the 1980 winter Olympics which will also be utilized for transition during the race). This trip is pretty much like Christmas in July for this group of athletes. 

But Megan, who will spectate all 9 of you!?

I'm so glad you asked.  

The Spectathletes
Mr. & Mrs. Tamayo

Parents of Nathan Tamayo. I've never actually met Mama and Papa Tomato, but the more people who want to come out to the course and cheer us on the better!

Matthew Morhman

Boyfriend to Lauren, Matt is sure to add a decent amount of humor to our house for the week. A triathlete himself, Matt prefers his super fast running shoes. And he may be able to give a lot of us a run for our money when it comes to eating. He may not look like it, but this kid has never missed a meal. Sometimes he adds meals in between the standard 3-a-day. Our goal before we leave Lake Placid: convince Matt that he should sign up for an Ironman too. 

Jack and Vickie Hode

That's right, Mom and Dad are making their way all the way to Lake Placid to join in on the fun! Dad made some last minute plans to join me in The Woodlands for IMTX in May. But this trip has been in the works for a long time now. And to have BOTH my parents there on race day is beyond special for Mark and I.

JB & Bev Scott

My aunt and uncle. The Omaha cheerleaders. They were in Madison, Wisconsin for my first Ironman. So why not make the trek for Mark's first? No reason not to. They are staying with Mom and Dad in a little cottage on the bike course in the middle of the mountains. All I can picture is Uncle JB standing in the driveway with a fluffy bathrobe and big mug of of coffee in his hands as I zoom by on the bike. And I hope that's how it actually happens.

Stand back ladies, he's mine

Robert Sloan

My other half. The man who coined the term "spectathlete" and is the reason there is such a word. He watched me cross the line of my first marathon in Champaign, IL just before I graduated college. He navigated Disney World relying on trams and theme park buses for the Disney World Marathon in order to find me. He chased me around Cambridge, Maryland for all 112 miles of the bike course. (Literally, he was able to drive the whole course. And he did. No food stops all day.) He fought some serious weather for me in Houston, Texas. He's been there for all 3 Ironman's and he's coming back for number 4. All in the name of love. I've truly won the lottery with the best support system.

Starting Monday afternoon, the caravan to Lake Placid starts. I anticipate some serious laughs, a lot of amazing views, quite a few un-wanted bodily functions within the group, and an AMAZING race from everyone. How could it go any other way with a group like this? Let the 10-day countdown begin.

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