I’m on my way to Kona!

Spectacular…no, that’s not the right word…

Brutal…that’s not it either…

Psychotic…okay, maybe a little…

Brilliant…only after crossing the finish line…

It’s hard to find the right word to sum up my first Ironman race, probably because I felt a multitude of different emotions throughout the 11-hour day. When people tell you it’s a journey, they aren’t kidding. You feel like the star in one of those terrible box-office drama hits where you are dragged through the gamut of emotions from happiness to frustration to anger to depression and back up to happiness all in the span of 2 hours. It is exhausting! Stretch that out to 11 hours and compound that with the fact that you are actually doing rigorous physical activity the entire time – it is a surreal feeling. And then we all cross the finish line, cheering and hugging everyone around us elated because it is over, triumphant because we conquered it, and slightly neurotic because we forget the truly raw and tumultuous struggle we just endured over the last 140.6 miles.

An Ironman race consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike, and then a 26.2 mile run where each leg is an entire journey all by itself.

A lot of people talk about the nervous jitters they get in the week leading up to their Ironman race, those of uncertainty when it is your first time or those of anxiety for what is about to come and wondering why you are doing this again. Peter and I had so much going on that I forgot the race was even happening. I even had to rush order a new pair of goggles off Amazon because I didn’t realize it was already race week. I never even looked up the course online. Peter and I did ride part of the bike course a few weekends before but other than that, I tried to count the number of buoys in the swim on race morning and had no idea what to expect from the run. And there was absolutely no nervousness. Not even at the swim start while standing in line waiting for the gun to go off. But don’t get me wrong, there were many stressful tears in the weeks leading up to this race. If you are ever thinking about quitting your job and starting as business at the same time your husband quits his job, selling your house, moving to another state, and training for an Ironman all at the same time – I kind of don’t recommend it.

3am arrived on Sunday morning and I ate my cold leftover pancakes with a banana and bowl of oatmeal as we drove about an hour up to Boulder. Everything went very smoothly that morning, no rushing around. We took the shuttle over to the swim start, put our water bottles on our bikes, put on our wetsuits, swam a few warm-up laps, and then got in line at the swim start. It was really that simple.

This is a long race so nobody was pushing their way up to the front or getting ready to sprint as the gun went off, it was the most casual race start I have ever experienced. With a rolling start everyone slowly entered the water whenever they felt ready to get the day started. I was at the front because I wanted to try to latch onto someone’s feet in the fast group. It was a little bit of a struggle at first as I searched for someone I could stick on. But once I found him, it was pretty enjoyable. He led me on a really straight line, right next to each of the buoys and for the first time in my life, I can actually say the swim was the absolute best part of the race. I exited the water in 1:03:53, the 3rd fastest in my age group and 22nd overall female (excuse me, what?!?!).

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Thanks for the fantastic picture Mile High Multisport!

I was ecstatic as I ran into the transition area to get on my bike, I cannot tell you how fantastic it feels to be one of the first out of the water after enduring so many races of being way behind. The bike was pretty hilly with about 4,000 feet of climbing which proved to be pretty tough towards the end. I mostly kept working on eating, drinking, and not going out too hard. It can be challenging because you get out of the water with a bunch of adrenaline and jump on the bike feeling like a million bucks. But, I kept reminding myself of the advice from my coaches – don’t go out too hard because you will start to die at mile 80 and then dearly pay for it on the run. The bike is where the happy-everything-is-amazing part of the movie starts to introduce a little drama. Around mile 50 you start realizing you are only half-way there. The hills are making your legs a little tired, your liquid calories are starting to taste yucky, and your butt really doesn’t want to sit on the bike seat anymore. I was also dealing with a bloody nose, which just gets irritating after a while. And then amnesia kicks in and you stop taking in your calories like you should – this catapults you to a strange level of hangry depression. Like those Snickers commercials with Betty White on the football field. Then you turn a corner and there is Sonja Wieck cheering you on, kindly reminding you to eat and drink. Oh yeah, I forgot about that. I downed some calories and a few minutes later I regained consciousness. (Thank you Sonja!)

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I found that this battle continued for pretty much the rest of the ride. Until towards the end, when we had a nice long downhill stretch and I decided I would rest my legs…and then my eyes…and then I happened to open them and glance at my garmin…38mph! I think I had a mini-heart attack, which pumped enough adrenaline into my system to remain coherent for the rest of the bike. Okay, that was dumb and dangerous, serious lesson learned.

The bike was finally over and the only thing I could think about was getting off that seat. NO MORE BIKE SEAT PLEASE!! There are only so many ways you can shift around on a tiny little bike seat! But I do have to say that my new Ride Blue bike is pretty amazing and I find myself overflowing with thankfulness the more I get to ride it. I finished in 5:33:05, which was a little slower than I wanted but still pretty good and now I was now 2nd in my age group and 17th female overall.

I got off my bike and stayed in my bike shoes because they made you run almost a mile (seriously), barefoot, part of it on a black rubber track, to get your running shoes. It was definitely uncomfortable but not as bad as burning your feet, which I heard a lot of people did. Once again, the drama movie transitioned back to a happy scene with a positive outlook on life. The start of the run was lined with thousands of people, cheering so loudly I felt like a super star. Amazing. Nothing better.

I started off trying to hit my goal mile pace and then a slow and steady uphill came – and continued – on – and on – and on. It felt like being hit by a car, and at this point my survival mode kicked in. I stopped checking my watch for a pace in fear it would destroy me mentally. All of my focus went towards running within a semi-level of comfort, and taking in calories every three miles. I believe it was at mile 4 they were handing out ice-cold towels. This was the most amazing towel…like my Wilson volleyball. I wrapped that towel around my neck and ran the rest of the race with it. It kept me cool, I wiped by face with it, wiped away my third bloody nose with it, and at very aid station I dumped more ice water on it getting a rejuvenating burst of cool.

Oh Wilson!

Oh Wilson!

The other thing that kept me going was dividing the race into 3-mile chunks. I fueled with EFS gel every 3 miles and never looked ahead farther than that. My only goal was to make it to my next feeding. The support on the race course was absolutely phenomenal. The calming and motivating words from Molly Smith, Katy Blakemore, James Sharpe, Max Bierman and many, many more (you guys were all awesome!!) helped jolt me out of the deepest and darkest parts of the dramatic movie and keep me going forward.

Am I even running anymore?

Am I even running anymore?

Then all of a sudden, I had finished my last feeding and I had 2 miles to go! And the culmination of the race lies here, at the end of this marathon, that you started in a state of pure exhaustion and end with a totally depleted out-of-body experience. At mile 26 I saw Peter who was cheering for me / yelling at me (having already finished an hour earlier) and I knew I had made it. Of course the movie is a happy ending where you some how muster up all of this hidden energy, that you couldn’t for the life of you find earlier, and sprint down the chute to the finish.

Amazing, it was absolutely amazing. I completed the marathon in 4:10:25, which was much slower than I had planned, but left me finishing 2nd in my age group and 17th female overall with a time of 10:56:18. I was so happy to finish and I definitively expressed that I never wanted to do that ever again, ever. So, naturally, when I found out I qualified for Kona, I decided to take the slot and race at the Ironman World Championships on October 11th…yes that is only 10 weeks away! So now you know the movie will have a sequel, but it will come full circle back to where all of the craziness started – Hawaii. This is an honor and the chance of a lifetime to qualify for this race; I just could not pass that up.

Sit still Tucker!

Sit still Tucker!

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Until then I will be working to develop my business, striving to keep the house immaculately staged as we try to sell it, packing up my life and heading to California, and somehow continuing to train like crazy. I feel like I just recommended not doing all of these things at once…oh well.

You guys go ahead and do all that...I'll be here if you need me

You guys go ahead and do all that…I’ll be here if you need me

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Big Ideas: Part 2

As promised, here is part 2 of my Big Ideas blog. The business is up and running and let me tell you, it is a lot of work! There is something slightly unsettling about working long hours 7-days a week without a paycheck, but that is the risk you take when starting up a business. For those of you that are interested, the company name is Modern Approach and we are boutique customer company that uses data science and advanced analytics to help companies create an awesome customer experience…if you want, you can check us out at www.modernapproach.com !

Okay, so with all of the craziness that comes with plugging your nose and plunging into entrepreneurship, Peter and I thought that we might as well pile on a bunch of other life changes all at once, I mean why not? And that brings me to big change number 2 – Peter’s Voluntary Separation Program application was approved and he will be separating from the military on September 29th of this year! This is a huge answer to a long-time prayer and we are so very thankful to be moving on from our military past. We have had some amazing experiences and opportunities but we are both whole-heartedly ready to experience the normalcy of a more settled life outside of the constant moving and change in the military. I am thankful for the sacrifice and service Peter gave to our country, flying all over the world in the C-17. But now it is his chance to get out there and try something new and we are ready for the adventure!

But, it wouldn’t really be an adventure if we didn’t take advantage of the fact that the military is no longer in charge of where we live. Keeping true to our constant itch for adventure, we both have not only quit our jobs but we are selling our house and moving out to the land of opportunity…California. Okay, hold on all you non-californians who are going to get totally offended here. The Silicon Valley is the center of high-tech development and innovation. So, although we realize it is expensive and that there are lots of other nice inexpensive places to live in the US, there are not many places outside of San Francisco that are more intriguing for a business owner in the advanced analytics industry (me) and a program manager interested in software development (Peter). And, now we have the amazing opportunity to be close to family, something that was never possible before! Oh, and the ocean…and the mountains…and the sunshine…and a hop-skip-and-a-jump away from Hawaii. Colorado, I will not miss your frigid winters and your summers of daily thunderstorms. Peter and I recently took a trip out to Lake Tahoe in Northern California to visit my parents and it was exactly the rejuvenating training experience I needed. Long bike rides in the warm sunshine are the cure to any ailment and with the beautiful weather and long undulating roads, I re-kindled my passion for biking. Our 90-mile excursion around Lake Tahoe made into my top-10 all time bike-rides list.

Beautiful Lake Tahoe

Beautiful Lake Tahoe

And the roads around San Francisco are amazing too: up and down the coast, through Napa Valley, the hills of Santa Cruz…I seriously can’t wait.

With all of the crazy life changes we have going on at the moment, training has remained a constant yet challenging force in my daily life. I am somehow still getting in around 20 hours of training per week chasing after this passion for triathlon.

please don't take me on another run...you run too much!

please don’t take me on another run…you run too much!

Ironman 70.3 Boulder was back in June and since it was a local race for me, it definitely made the experience much less hectic and not so much of a production. That was a nice change. And I made a HUGE breakthrough at this race! I am still in shock, but I swam the 1.2 miles in 30:39…I was 2nd out of the water in my age group and the 21st overall female out of the water! To give you some perspective…last year I was usually around 20th out of the water in my age group and somewhere around 100th overall female. I can’t believe I actually learned how to swim! I was able to keep on the feet of the same girl the entire swim and I am definitely sure that staying in her draft helped me get such a great time. So, thank you whoever you are!! And, my level of fitness out of the water has drastically improved so I did not feel nearly as tired when I got on the bike. I was happy with my strong bike effort, but I did try to hold back a little bit so that I would not blow up on the run like I did in Texas. I completed the 56 miles in 2:31:16, which is good, not great. But then I was still unable to perform on the run. I was pretty disappointed with my 13.1 mile split of 1:38…it seems where I have made gains in my swim I have made losses in my run. IMG_1746 Although, a lot of the run was on a gravely-dirt path and that was NO FUN, making it more difficult to keep a fast pace. If I wanted to run in off-road races, I would sign up for them! But I guess that is part of the challenge…as if the race itself isn’t a challenge enough. The absolute best part of the race though was having my Tribella teammates there cheering me on! It is so fun to race when the people there know you and are supporting you! And when you get to race with your teammates, it is definitely more rewarding. There is comfort in knowing they are out there with you, experiencing the same thing. In the end, I won my age group and was 5th overall amateur female. My first age group win ever!!! IMG_1569

Recovery fuel

..and recovery fuel

Even though I claim to hate biking in Colorado, I have to say that this past month has been quite amazing. This is partly due to my incredible new Ride Blue Triad SL di2 bike. I honestly cannot thank Tribella enough for helping me to get this crazy awesome bike that I hardly feel like I deserve. No really, I am actually quite embarrassed to say that my bike has electronic shifting…but then all of that embarrassment goes away quite quickly once I get on it!! This bike is a lot smaller than my previous one and it fits me much better. And, after getting a professional fit from the Denver Fit Loft, I am finally riding in the correct position on a bike for the first time in my life. The difference is quite amazing. And it could not have been more perfect timing as I am preparing for the full Ironman in Boulder that is now only a week away.

Peter, my fearless photographer

Peter, my fearless photographer

I am actually thinking the 112 miles will not be bad, that is how comfortable this bike is! This race is going to be a wild experience, but I have been training for it for about a year now and I think I am ready to do some damage. I can’t wait to finish up an easy 2.4 miles of swimming, a casual 112 miles of biking and then slip on my running shoes to go and run a marathon, it’s going to be epic!

Big Ideas!

Lots of racing, training, and life changes lately! I figure I will split this post into two parts so that it does not get too long.

I’ll pick up where I left off – Ironman 70.3 Galveston back in April. I can’t even believe it has been that long already!! The best part of that race was seeing my wonderful friend Brittany, spending some time with her, and finally meeting her uber cute little boy. Peter and I were so thankful her and her hubby invited us into their home to stay.

We were exceptionally excited to come down to Texas for a weekend full of sunshine and to take a break from the freezing cold Colorado weather. Unfortunately, that didn’t pan out and it ended up raining the entire time – so I felt like I was at home, shivering on the bike and battling pelting rain. I guess I was well prepared for the race!

I also met an amazing friend on this trip. It was our first time working with Wes who owns Pro Bike Express. He has this really cool setup in a custom trailer he built to transport bikes from Colorado to races all over the country. His saying “mi casa es tu casa” is very true, I can’t tell you how nice it was to have him there helping us with our bikes and all of our gear. Anything we needed, he was there for us and more. And, he was even out on the course cheering for! I must say that I felt like first class rolling my bike out of the trailer right before the race and then rolling it back on right afterwards. No hassle and no worries – it was awesome.

I only had one pretty simple strategy for this race – go balls to the wall on the bike (as Peter would put it). I have always heard other athletes warn against putting in too hard of an effort on the bike portion because it can be detrimental for your run. You know, kill your legs for 56 miles and then try and run a short 13 miles right after – it feels like death. I had never experienced this first hand and, although it may seem a little twisted, I really wanted to know how it felt. Sometimes I think it is good to understand your limits.

not a race pic but I had to show off the new race kit!

not a race pic but I had to show off the new race kit!

Well, I definitely accomplished that mission. I finished the bike in 2 hours 21 minutes.   Don’t get me wrong; this was an extremely flat course. But with the rain and crazy wind I was still very excited about my time. And, I am fully aware that you don’t win with just a fast bike time, but I would like the tiniest moment to boast that my bike time was faster than 12 of the 16 female pros that were racing. Okay, selfish boasting segment over, sometimes you need something to feel proud of. But all in all, I feel like I am making awesome gains in this aspect of my training and I am at least heading in the right direction.

And, there is a reason why the pros are pros…I ended up paying for my kick-ass bike on my run, posting the slowest run time I have ever had in a 70.3 race. And it wasn’t just my slowest run, it was by far my most painful! When your legs are so numb that the sensation starts to trickle up to your face, you know you have a problem of some sort. Sorry folks, there is no positive mental talk that will dig you out of that hole…maybe if I had just sat down and forced myself to suck down 5 of those nasty gu packets.

At the end of April, Peter and I decided to tag along on a group training trip out to Moab, Utah. We brought Tucker along with us and packed our tent to save some money in hotel costs, and get in some family camping time. The first morning Peter and I got up early and met up with Liz, our awesome supporter from Tribella, and our new friend Wes. We were excited for a peaceful morning biking through and exploring Arches National park. And it was exactly what I had hoped for – beautiful weather, early morning sun shining on the magnificent red arches, and wonderful company to bike with. I had been yearning for a ride like this for a long time.

Beautiful morning

Beautiful morning

Liz and I...great company

Liz and I in Arches National Park…great company!

After a nice afternoon nap in the tent, Peter and I met up with Liz and James for some Mexican food and Margaritas at a small local joint. As many of you know, Liz and James own Tribella and have graciously agreed to sponsor me and let me race for their 2014 team. Honestly, I mostly wander around wishing there was something I could do to repay them for how amazing they are. I am honored to wear their race kit because it is very meaningful to me. To Peter and I, they are more than just a bike shop that we have the amazing opportunity to work with. They are an awesome couple that knows there is more to life than just bikes, triathlon, and training…they are passionate about people and building meaningful relationships. They understand that there needs to be healthy balance or else you will go crazy! And, even though they are instrumental in my ability to race and train today, I am so thankful for the advice and help I have been able to get from on other aspects of my future life.

Okay, so take a pause from the Mexican and Margs and let me quickly take you back a few weeks. I had mentioned in my previous blog that Peter and I had big ideas and I would share them soon…well Big Idea #1 was for me to quit my job and start my own business. For Big Idea #2, you will have to read part 2 of this blog!

Now, fast forward back to Margs and Mexican. Might I remind you that James and Liz are small business owners who quit their own jobs to pursue a dream. So, as I am at the dinner table expressing my inner turmoil of quitting my job and pursing my own business dream, I couldn’t help but feel like I was meant to have that conversation with them right in that moment.

If I have kept any of you on the edge of the seat (or if you are falling asleep wishing for this to be over) the moral of the story is that 1-week later I quit my job. After thoughtful consideration and amazing support from my family and friends I made the decision to jump head first into starting my own business.

To prevent myself from boring you with a novel, and to maybe entice you to ready my next blog, I will save our Big Idea #2, details of my business, my Ironman 70.3 Boulder race, and some other fun details like my new bike!

Cheers!

Cold days and long nights

“You can’t always get what you want – you get what you need” as the Rolling Stones would say. And on this last day of March as I am emerging out of winter hibernation I am looking for new-found motivation to train, blog, and race. My state of “hibernation” this winter seemed like it didn’t have much of “what I wanted” and I am still hoping that I will soon learn it was “what I needed”.

I fell in love with triathlons while living in Hawaii. So it makes sense that when I think of a love for running or biking (or I guess swimming even though I never use “swimming” and “love” in the same sentence) I associate those feelings with warmth, sun, and the ocean. Not much can top a long run along the ocean in a sports bra and shorts and then jumping into the coolness of the green-blue water. Or a bike ride around the island with never-ending panoramic views of water on one side and the massive Koo’lau Mountains on the other. Then in the height of the excitement around my new-found passion, I was ripped away to a new location. Colorado is beautiful and has a lot of great places to explore and be outdoors, but I wasn’t prepared to be in-doors, training in the dark all winter. And don’t kid yourself, I did my fair share of runs in below zero temperatures wearing two pairs of leggings, 3 long-sleeves, a down vest, beanie, mittens, down jacket…sweating but freezing at the same time. But you can’t ride your bike outside on the snow and ice so I became a slave to the trainer. And sadly I have ridden inside so much that Tucker now knows the difference between when I slow pedal for rest between intervals and when I slow pedal to cool down and finish workout. I no longer swim outside in the sunshine but rather in the stuffy chlorine-vapor humidity of the indoor pool. For three years I was used to having these major tan lines that made my white parts look ghostly white… now those lines are gone. As you can probably tell, none of this was particularly “what I wanted”.

Mom, I'm really cold...

Mom, I’m really cold…

This sun kind of feels like Hawaii...

This sun kind of feels like Hawaii…

How do I get inside there?

How do I get inside there?

In this hibernation period, Peter and I both struggled with our motivation behind training at such a ridiculous level. I didn’t feel like enjoyment and love like it did in Hawaii. It felt like hard, miserable, please-make-it-stop work. If you haven’t met us yet, I will save you the confusion: we are high-strung over achievers that have a hard time not being the best in whatever we do. It’s not that we have to beat out everyone around us, it just means that we have a hard time half-assing things. If I am going to just be mediocre at something or do something and not really try, then I would rather not do it at all…it feels like a waste of my time. This means that we will either put up huge 20-hour training weeks where we train twice a day so that we can realize our full potential, or just quit all together. So when you are both exhausted, waking up at 4:45am so you can do a bike ride before rushing to work and then go straight from work to the pool and then straight home to make dinner and hopefully eat by 8:30pm (and you don’t even have kids!!) you wonder what the heck you are doing this for. There have to be reasons beyond self-fulfillment and self-satisfaction because soon those things can turn into self-glorification.

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If only the ocean were really behind us

I decided to take a long hiatus from blogging and posting things about my training or the small races I did over the winter to prayerfully reflect on my motivations for training so hard and sacrificing so much. And even though I felt so enclosed all winter, confined to this feeling of hibernation, I am hoping that all of that focused training and reflection was “what I needed”. Here I am, one week out from my first 70.3 race of the season in Galveston, Texas. I am excited to race and see how all of my hard work over the winter pays off and I am especially excited to race for my awesome new teammates on the TriBella team. Maybe God had a reason behind all of my sacrifice. But I am determined to not make this season of my life all about self-glorification. After a lot of prayer, Peter and I have come up with some fantastic ideas that I am excited to share. Stay tuned, more to follow. But first, it’s time to race!

Training in the Fall

Fall has officially arrived here in Colorado which means less daylight, colder weather, and beautiful scenery.  It is also a completely different training atmosphere for me.  I am not used to wearing so many layers of clothing!  It’s not that I have never lived somewhere cold (I grew up near Lake Tahoe, lived in Colorado before, and spent 2 years in Boston) but up until I started training for triathlons, I spent all of my time training indoors on the volleyball court.  No matter what time of year it was, you wore spandex and a t-shirt.  It didn’t matter when the days started to get shorter, the gym lights were always on.  I am now realizing how nice it was in the summer to wake up early before work and go for a run or to fit in a bike ride after work.  Getting in workouts has been a little tricky but really, it just calls for some creativity.

Fall Family Picture

Fall Family Picture after a beautiful (and chilly!) run

When we first moved here back in June and I started working full-time, it was very stressful for me to fit my workouts in.  I actually started to resent it.  It is hard when it feels like every waking moment of your time is either at work or working out and no matter what, you are always exhausted.  I have taken the time to reflect on my training this past season, pray about it, and work on understanding how something I love so much caused me so much stress.  I think it is amazing because God has given all of us these amazing human bodies that are so complex and resilient and unique.  Everyone of us has some unique talent and we use our bodies as the vehicle to perform that talent through.  I mean think about it.  For some of us it is the gift of speaking, for others it is artistic gifts through their hands, others it is their mind.  I have taken a step back from being so serious about “getting the workout in” and approaching my training time as a way to express the talent that God has given me.  I take my watch off a lot more and go on runs purely to see the beautiful colors of the changing leaves and to rejoice in how thankful I am to have 2 working legs, a healthy heart, and body capable of training.  I also run a lot more with Tucker…this dog runs 10 miles like nothing happened!

I feel rejuvenated and now my creative juices are starting to flow.  First, I examined all of the things that make working out feel more like a chore and less like enjoyment.  I hate waking up early to swim.  It is such a production for me and everything about it is stressful.  I have to make my breakfast and lunch the night before, get all of my workout stuff together, pick out my clothes for work, and get a bag of makeup and toiletries together.  After the alarm goes off at 4:45am I am jumping into a pool of cold water by 5:15am (which I hate…every time) and then I get ready for work at the gym and don’t eat breakfast until I arrive at the office, which by this time I am starving.  I have now started swimming after work and I love it.  It is a refreshing way to end the day.  And afterwards, I can just throw on sweats and a sweatshirt and head home.  Peter works Tuesday through Saturday so we have turned Monday nights into swim dates where he meets me after work at the pool and we swim together.  I love this time we spend together.

I still do all of my runs at lunch which I thoroughly enjoy.  And now that it is cold outside, I do not sweat as much so showering after my run is not as big of a production.  It is a great break for me to get away and loosen my legs after sitting at my desk all morning.  Biking during the week has turned into trainer rides for now because there is not enough daylight after work to fit them in.  But, Peter and I have set up our trainers in the garage and we have fun riding dates.  This past Friday night we rocked the Kelly Clarkson Pandora radio station (it was my turn to pick!) and had an awesome date on our trainers while Tucker curled up in a ball on his bed…our garage is freezing.  We have also done a few early morning trainer rides and for some reason, these do not bother me at all.  The alarm still goes of at 4:45am, but I can throw on a sweatshirt and soft-pedal on my bike until I warm up.  I wake up gradually on the trainer instead of experiencing the shock of cold pool water.  And afterwards, I get ready for work at home which is much easier.  I still ride outdoors on the weekends though, which has been the best way to get outside and see the fall colors with Peter.

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It feels great to be back where I started, loving my training and feeling inspired to keep going.  Sometimes we can get so immersed into what we are doing that we forget why we started doing it at all.  We just need to take a step back, re-evaluate, and remember that we are all so uniquely talented.  I firmly believe that God places passions in our hearts that align with the talents he gave us.  The best part is humbly displaying these talents so that others are inspired to search for theirs and let them blossom.

I thought you said it was fall?!?!

I thought you said it was Fall?!?!

Tucker is very confused by the white stuff on the ground

Tucker is very confused by the white stuff on the ground

Butternut Squash Risotto

Fall is here!  And this means it is time to make soup, eat squash, and bake all sorts of pies.  The Colorado weather has definitely cooled off, making the atmosphere perfect for these foods.  But, sometimes it can be hard to make all of these delicious things and stay healthy.  This is a great fall recipe that Peter and I both think is yummy and comforting but is also healthy.  I made this dish a couple of times last year, but even though it was the fall season, Hawaii never felt like fall.  I remember a few nights when the tradewinds gusted and felt cool.  We put on a sweatshirts and pretended the weather was changing.  But no more Hawaii warmth for us – this year it has already snowed!

Tucker is already freezing!  It is going to be a long first winter for him

Tucker is already freezing! It is going to be a long first winter for him

So, in the spirit of the changing season, I wanted to share this dish and more to come.  Here are the ingredients you will need for the Butternut Squash Risotto:

Don't forget the onion! I forgot to put it in the picture

Don’t forget the onion! I forgot to put it in the picture

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 1/2 cups water

2 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 (3-lb) butternut squash – peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-in cubes

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme)

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Step 1:  Place the broth and water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.

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Step 2: In the meantime, heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook the squash cubes adding 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.  Stir occasionally until the squash is golden in some spots (about 8-10 minutes).

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Step 3: Stir in the thyme.  Add 1/2 cup of the broth mixture to the skillet.  Reduce the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender and the broth is evaporated (about 8-10 minutes).  Remove the squash from the heat and set aside.

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Step 4:  Meanwhile, in a heavy pot, cook the onion in 1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt over medium heat.  Stir and cook onion until it softens (about 6 minutes).

Step 5:  Add rice to the onion, stir to coat it with oil, and let it toast for 2 minutes.

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Step 6: Stir 1/2 cup of the simmering water-broth mixture into the rice and cook it at a strong simmer, stirring continuously, until the broth is absorbed.  Keep adding 1/2 cup of the broth at a time, stirring continuously, and letting the broth completely absorb until you add more.  Add broth until the rice is creamy-looking (about 20 minutes total).  When you add the broth in small amounts like this, it allows the rice to get perfectly creamy.  It should be the consistency of a thick soup and you may or may not use all of the broth.

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Step 7:  Stir the butter, cheese, and squash into the rice (or if you are like me, add the cheese after you take out your portion!)

Enjoy!

Ironman 70.3 World Championships

It has been over a week since the race and I finally got back on my bike today.  I accidentally left my running shoes in Vegas so that has been my excuse for not going on a run.  After the race I decided that I needed to take some time off.  My body wasn’t the only part of me begging for rest.  I have been pushing long hours of work and training for the past few months and I need to recharge mentally and emotionally.  This race culminated my first season racing the 70.3 Ironman distance and I think now is the perfect time to take a break and reflect before I start my off-season training.

I faced a few challenges going into this race, some were self-imposed and others were out of the ordinary.  Come to find out, I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself (I can hear my Mom reading this right now and saying…”duh”) and I am really not a very patient person.  I want to see results and I want to see them now.  You can probably see where this is going.  I committed the typical amateur athlete mistake and set goals that, although may be achievable in the long run, are not realistic for my third race ever…against the high-caliber competition at the world championships.  Other challenges included battling fatigue and sickness in the week before the race.  I can say that I started the race feeling tired, not at my prime like I had expected and hoped for.  But, staying positive, I did achieve spectacular results considering where I have come from.  I learned a ton about training, my body, and balancing life this past season and now that I have a long off-season to continue working and applying what I learned.

We started the weekend off in typical Shenk style packing the car with all of our gear and driving out to Vegas.  It was a beautiful drive through the western part of Colorado.

We had awesome Sherpas for the race. Peter’s parents drove the whole way with us and thankfully we took their SUV because we could fit our bikes and all four of us.  We made it to Vegas early Friday afternoon, which gave us plenty of time to prepare everything for the race on Sunday.  When we arrived, Las Vegas was blazing in all its glory, and I mean blazing in heat!  I was mentally prepared for an extremely hot race so when I woke up Sunday morning to pouring rain, I was a little thrown off.

The race started with the new wave format and there were 15 different swim waves.  My wave was the last female wave and the 13th wave to go so I started 1 hour and 15 minutes after the race officially started.  Fortunately, Peter’s parent’s had an awesome hotel room that overlooked the swim start and bike transition area so we were able to go up there and hide out from the rain while we waited.

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Lake Las Vegas is not your typical lake swim.  Or maybe it is, but I have been spoiled by the clear water of the open ocean.  The muddy water of Lake Las Vegas was so thick that you could not see your hand in front of you.  I was pretty anxious about this before the race started.  I already find it difficult to stay in the draft of the swimmer in front of me when the water is clear.  Also, after swimming in the lake the day before, it was very difficult for me to swim in a straight line.  I was forced to stick my head up and sight much more often which causes me to slow way down.  The swim started in the water and so you can imagine how pushy some of the girls started to get as we treaded water waiting for the gun to go off.  Every girl was trying to get up to the front and then when the gun went off, I felt like I was stuck in the middle of a mob.

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Fighting to swim in water with no visibility does make your heart beat a little faster.  You can’t see the girl next to you before she punches you in the face with her elbow.  Not even 5 minutes into the race my goggles were knocked off my face.  I found myself thrashing around in a sea of swimmers trying to tread water, not get run over, and get my dang goggles back on.  Pure frustration was flowing through my veins.  This was not the world championship swim I was hoping for.  At one point I somehow got my pinky finger stuck up another girl’s nose.  I am pretty sure she did not appreciate that but I didn’t mean too!  At this point it didn’t matter that the water was murky because my goggles were filled with water and I couldn’t see anything anyways.

I finally made it to the end of the swim.  I saw my time and my heart sank.  I was 50th out of the water in my age group and even though I did not know I was that far back at the time, I already knew my race was over.  There is no way to make up that much time.  I ran to grab my bike and battle the pouring rain.

Aside from the hilly course, I don’t feel like I have much to say about the bike.  I felt tired, my legs did not want to go, and I really did give it everything I had.  Going into the race I was excited for all of the climbing that is on this course because I have been climbing a lot in Colorado.  But, when it came time to go, I didn’t have it.  I was, and still am, thoroughly disappointed with my bike but I am most proud of how I handled this disappointment during the race.  I made a realization after the swim and struggle on the bike that even though I was not where I wanted to be, there was no reason to overwhelm myself with negativity, have a mental and emotional breakdown, and ruin my first world championship experience.

What I did not realize at the time was that I got off the bike in 16th place.  I had passed 34 girls in my age group and made up a lot of lost ground.  But that is the difficult part of racing in waves, you never know what place you are in because you are mixed in with a bunch of people who all started at different times.  And, in the pouring rain, it is hard to tell if you are passing someone in your age group.

By the time I started the run, the rain had stopped, the sun was beaming, and steam was rising from the hot pavement.  But, it was nowhere near as hot as it could have been and so I was very thankful.  The best part about the run was my positive mental state.  I enjoyed the run, watching all of the athletes running around me, smiling at the spectators cheering, and best of all not tearing myself apart for 13 miles. There were so many amazing people at this race.  I passed a 72-year-old man, there were nine women in the 65-69 age group, one man did the entire 56 mile bike and 13 mile run course in a racing wheel chair, and I had the honor of running alongside one woman running with a prosthetic leg.  I was reminded of why I find so much inspiration in this sport.

I was also excited about the numerous shout-outs I got for Tribella.  Some people seemed to know about Tribella and others seemed to just like my race kit.  I had a lot of compliments, and I have to agree, it is a pretty awesome looking kit.  Thanks so much Tribella!!  The run was hilly, and I mean actually you were either running up a hill or down one, there were no flat parts.  No, it was not my fastest run ever but I was pretty happy about my pace considering the hills.  I think my biggest accomplishment was the time I made up on the run, I ran myself into a tie for 8th place.

I tied with Lectie, a friend I made back when I was in Hawaii.  An amazing swimmer, she was out of the water first in our age group.

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I am so honored and thankful I had the chance to race at such a high level against the best athletes from all over the world.  It opened my eyes to the amazing talent that is out there and, even though I need a little time off for now, it has refueled my desire to train harder in the off-season and come back even better next year.  Thank you everyone for all of your support and words of encouragement.  I think every one of us has a crazy passion we want to pursue, but when you have a support system of people believing in you, your passion seems less crazy and you find that beautiful things can come out of it.