The #1 Secret To Achieve Your Goals

The #1 Secret To Achieve Your Goals

When you work with one of the foremost thought leaders in the field of peak performance and goal achievement, you come to expect people to “pick your brain” for nuggets of wisdom along the way. I mean, if I had the opportunity to sit down with Tony Robbins’ right hand man, I’d certainly do it, right?

So, the #1 question I am asked when it comes to achieving big goals is:

“What’s the ‘secret?’ What can I do to get me to my goal fast?”

My answer to this question is always the same:

SHOW UP AND START!

I am as guilty of procrastination as anyone and it has cost me dearly over the years. I think it is natural for people to be cautious… To want all the answers… To have assurances that they will be successful… I know there are MANY people who refuse to move forward until they are sure.

But you know what? NOTHING in this life is certain! NOTHING! I have seen people with ideas for business that seemed like they would be slam dunk, no-brainer, superstar successes that fell flat on their faces. I have seen many, many people who trained for their A-race “perfectly” who never made it to the finish line.

Stuff happens! Life happens! Things happen each and every day that are outside of our control and threaten our success. All we can really control is whether or not we SHOW UP.

How many days have I dreaded schlepping myself to the pool for a swim workout or dragging myself out for a run or procrastinated getting on the trainer for a bike ride? Oh, let me tell you – many, Many, MANY!!

And yet, here’s what I know for sure…

With only ONE exception in 6 years (that fateful run in December, 2017), I have honestly say that I have never regretted showing up and getting started. Inertia is a very REAL THING!

There are days – whether I’m in the office or facing down a workout – when I just don’t feel it. I don’t want to be there… I don’t want to do the work… I’d just rather sit on the sofa and watch Netflix. And now that Deb is over in Sarasota during the week, it’s up to ME to motivate my own damned self – no one is going to do the work for me.

I have found that the ONLY thing that moves me forward is – well – MOTION! I start… somewhere… It doesn’t have to be perfect and it doesn’t have to be pretty, but I move into action and I START!

And then a funny thing happens…

The more I do, the more I want to do.

Isn’t that interesting?

So, the next time you are faced with a task that you are dreading… procrastinating… working around… justifying… do yourself a favor and just show up and begin!

I promise you won’t regret it!

The Surprising Reason Why Weight Loss May Be Eluding You…

We live in a culture where burning the candle at both ends is praised and exhaustion is worn like a badge of honor. Most people are continually seeking new ways to cram more “stuff” into the 24 hours they are gifted each day. Meanwhile, we are told that we need to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night.

We know the importance of sleep… We KNOW aren’t doing ourselves any favors over the long-term by going to bed late and waking up early in an effort to be more productive… We know all this and yet we still do it!

That was me! I knew my lifestyle of going to bed at 10:30 pm and waking up at 3:00 am was not great for me. Intellectually, I got it, but dialing back my wake up time still seemed to be the best option to cram more hours in my already overstuffed schedule, so I continued this regimen for years. I never correlated my “weight creep” between 2013 and 2017 with my chronically sleep deprived state.

Then, several months ago, while reading through some supporting material for my nutrition coaching certification program, I gleaned some information that was a serious emotional impact moment for me. Since then, ensuring that I get at least 7 hours of sleep each night has been a priority for me – even if it means going to bed at 8pm each night. So, in this post, I want to share what I learned with you. I welcome your feedback as you process it.

For most people weight problems are not a willpower issue; they are a hormonal issue. When the hormones associated with blood sugar (insulin), body composition and muscle growth (growth hormone), hunger and satiety (ghrelin and leptin) get out of balance, weight gain follows as naturally as the sun rising and setting. As it turns out SLEEP can be a major driver in the balance of these important hormones and inadequate sleep can be a recipe for diet disaster no matter how iron-clad our willpower may be.

So dive into it, shall we? In a study done at the University of Chicago, researchers discovered that after only four nights of sleep deprivation (4.5 hours of sleep per night), insulin sensitivity was reduced by 30%… THIRTY PERCENT!!!  This means that the body’s ability to properly use insulin (to move glucose into our cells for use as energy) became completely disrupted. When insulin can’t do its job, blood sugar remains high and the excess gets stored in fat cells and in our organs. This is very bad news!

Another study followed a group of dieters who were put on different sleep schedules. When the dieters received adequate rest, half of the weight they lost was from fat. However, when they cut back on sleep (again to about 4.5 hours per night), the amount of fat lost was cut in half (55% less fat lost) —even though they followed the same diet. The study participants also reported that felt significantly hungrier, were less satisfied after meals, and lacked energy to exercise. So, even if we are doing EVERYTHING right while we are awake, we are sabotaging our weight loss efforts if we cheat ourselves on adequate sleep. AMAZING, right?

Oh, but it gets worse… We’ve talked about our hormonal friends leptin and ghrelin before – leptin is the hormone that helps us feel satisfied so that we don’t overeat. Ghrelin is the hormone that stimulates hunger and makes us want to eat (oh, it also reduces our metabolism – nice…). So, we need to control leptin (increase) and ghrelin (decrease) in our favor to successfully lose weight, but sleep deprivation makes that nearly impossible. Research has shown that sleeping less than six hours triggers the area of your brain that increases your need for food while also depressing leptin and stimulating ghrelin.

But wait, there’s more… When we are sleep deprived, our cortisol levels rise. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is often associated with fat gain (particularly “belly” fat). Cortisol activates the reward center in our brain (the amygdala) that makes us want food. The combination of increased cortisol and increased ghrelin shuts down the areas of our brain that leave us feeling satisfied after a meal, meaning we feel hungry ALL THE TIME—even if we just ate a meal.

And get this:  Even ONE night of sleep deprivation can be enough to impair activity in our frontal lobe, which is the area of our brain that controls complex decision-making. As it turns out, sleep deprivation is a little like being drunk. We just don’t have the mental clarity to make good decisions, specifically with regards to the foods we eat. So, we have impaired decision making coupled with a fired up amygdala that only wants high-calorie, feel good foods and it’s no wonder that our weight loss efforts fail!

So, let’s review… When we are short sleeping – say, less than 5 hours per night (and be honest, how many times in your life have you gotten less than 5 hours of sleep for several nights in a row? I know I’ve done it for MONTHS on end in the past), we are trashing the very hormones that should be working for us regarding our weight and virtually guaranteeing that any efforts we make to lose weight during our waking hours will be unsuccessful.

What if the struggles you have had with your weight were not the result of some failure of willpower or some loss in the genetic lottery, but rather just the biological result of not getting enough SLEEP? What if?

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3 Tips For Alleviating Sugar Detox Side Effects

Minimizing added sugar in your diet is a big step in the right direction when it comes to improving your health, but while your body adjusts to your new diet; you can experience some unpleasant sugar detox side effects. They may include headaches, body aches, nausea and of course cravings for anything and everything sweet. The key is resist the urge to go running for the vending machine or office candy dish. Instead, try these three tips to help you make it through the relatively short detox period.

Drink Lots of Water

First and foremost make sure you drink plenty of water. Not only will staying hydrated help alleviate many of the detox symptoms, but it will also keep you full.

Feel a headache coming on? Get a glass of water. Want a cookie or donut? Get a glass of water. One of my favorite strategies when I don’t think I can make it without another sweet treat or when the plate of danishes in the breakroom are calling my name is to pour myself a big glass of water, drink it slowly and then make myself wait 15 minutes. By then the craving has usually passed, or at the very least, I’m so full with water that I can pass on the sugary stuff.

Supplement With A Good Multi Vitamin

Vitamin C, B vitamins, and Zinc are all known to help with cravings. Taking a good multi vitamin may be just the thing to help reduce detox side effects and make it through the few not so pleasant days of getting used to consuming a lot less sugar.  In addition, you can talk to your medical care provider about supplementing with a few of these micronutrients in higher doses. Don’t do this without medical supervision or the advice of your doctor though.

Stay Busy

Last but not least, I need you to realize that a lot of the cravings and not feeling well is in your head. The more you focus on negative side effects of detoxing from sugar, the worse they will get. The best way to avoid this is to stay busy. While I don’t recommend doing a sugar detox when you’re at work, particularly during a busy or stressful time, staying busy is a good idea. Make some plans to head out with friends, go for a walk, reorganize your closet, or just settle in for a Netflix marathon. What you do doesn’t matter as long as you stay busy and keep your mind of the sugar detox symptoms.

Healthy Daily Actions Challenge

The cornerstone to a healthy life is making choices and taking actions each and every day that promote better health and wellness. We’ve reached the middle of January, and many people have already cast their New Year’s Resolutions to the curb. However, making big strides in improving our health doesn’t have to be some grand gesture… It doesn’t have to be some huge mountain to climb. It can be as simple as making healthier choices, one day at a time.

For the rest of the month, I challenge you to explore some healthy daily actions and then choose 2-3 of them that resonate with you personally and work to turn them into new habits. We already know that it is not wise to try to build too many new habits at once, so please keep in mind that this challenge is not about doing all of these actions every single day, rather just trying each one and seeing if you notice that it makes you feel better.

The Healthy Daily Action Challenge starts TODAY!

January 16: Eat the Rainbow – Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners prescribe a colorful diet for their patients, associating certain colors with certain elements. While I know very little about all of that, I do know that eating a colorful plate is one of the very best ways to ensure that you are eating a diet chock full of essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrition.  The colors to make sure you are eating are black (lentils, black beans, blueberries, blackberries, etc.), yellow (eggs, yellow peppers, mango, yellow tomatoes, etc.), red (red peppers, strawberries, raspberries, red lentils, tomatoes, beets, etc.), white (bananas, cauliflower, egg whites, rice, bread, quinoa, nuts, etc.), and green (avocado, broccoli, green grapes, kiwi, spinach, kale, lettuce, all green vegetables, etc.). Try to eat foods from all five color categories today (ingredients count). Also, the color of the edible part of the food is the color category. For example, a banana is a white food, not yellow. An egg is both white (egg white) and yellow (egg yolk). Make sense?

January 17: Try a New Food – Choose a new healthy food and eat it. For example, maybe you’ve never eaten brussel sprouts. Go buy some at the store and roast them in a hot oven with olive oil and garlic.

January 18: Slow Down – Chew each bite of food at least 20 times before swallowing and put your fork/spoon down between each bite. Savor each bite. Notice if you feel full before you are finished emptying your plate (this is HUGE if you are able to master it… I’m still working on this one).

January 19: Meditate – Download a meditation app or just listen to some instrumental music and sit quietly with your eyes closed for 10-15 minutes and just focus on your breathing.

January 20: Cook Your Meals – Refrain from eating any packaged, processed, or restaurant food today. Cook your meals from scratch. You don’t have to be a gourmet chef to prepare a day’s worth of wholesome, nutritious meals.

January 21: Develop a Meal Time Routine – This healthy action is one you will need to do for a few days to get any benefit from it. Pick a time for each your daily meals and stick to that time each day. For instance, Breakfast at 10:00, Lunch at 1:30, and Dinner at 5:00. Your body will get used to eating at those times and can make it less likely for cravings to kick in between meals.

January 22: Clean Out a Cabinet/Drawer/Pantry Shelf – Chaos and clutter are not our friends. Sometimes bringing order into our kitchen starts with the simplest action of just opening a cabinet and cleaning it out. Check expiration dates… when was the last time you used each item… get rid of the unhealthy, processed, sugar-laden crap, etc. You might be surprised at how motivating just one clean cabinet can be to keep going.

January 23: Hungry vs. Starving – We all understand the waves of hunger and riding the wave until the next time you plan to eat is fine but try not to allow yourself to feel like you are “starving” because self-control can go right out the window. If it’s not time for your next meal, have 1 oz of walnuts or macadamia nuts and a cup of tea. It can work miracles!

January 24: Use Smaller Plates – I don’t know about you, but I have trouble with proper portion sizes. One trick I’ve been using that has worked really well for me is to serve my meals on a salad plate rather than a dinner plate. I still get plenty of food, but it’s a reasonable portion instead of a restaurant portion.

January 25: Drink More Water – Ah yes, it always comes back to water, doesn’t it? Today, make sure you are drinking enough water. For most of us that means about a gallon!  Try some lemon water – I promise, it’s amazing!

January 26: Eat Your Veggies First – Today, eat the vegetables that are on your plate first at each meal. See if it helps control portion size.

January 27: Planned Leftovers – Prepare enough of one of your meals today to eat as another meal tomorrow. This is a great way to reduce waste, save time and money. And make sure your meals tomorrow are just as nutritious as today’s.

January 28: Meal/Snack Prep – Save time by prepping all your meals in advance so all you have to go is grab, heat, and eat.

January 29: Make Advance Decisions – If you are eating out at a restaurant look up their menu online and decide what you are going to eat before you even sit down at the table. Then you don’t even need a menu when you sit down. You can just order your pre-decided meal. Making advance decisions helps us stay on track when hunger might make us want to choose something unhealthy otherwise.

January 30: Reverse quantities at meals. Traditional thought in the USA has us eat a small breakfast, a moderate lunch, and a larger dinner. Countries that have the lowest incidence of obesity reverse this… Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper. Try this and see what you think.

January 31: Don’t Beat Yourself Up – If you have a bad day, just let it go. None of us are perfect and mis-steps happen. Give yourself some grace and just move on, making proper choices at the next opportunity – not tomorrow, not Monday… Right now.

What If?

I’ve been driving back and forth across the state of Florida a whole lot lately and listening to the same old radio stations can get old, so I’ve been listening to audiobooks in an effort to “kill two birds with one stone” (drive to Sarasota and still get my personal development time in). Recently, I listened to “Girl, Wash Your Face,” by Rachel Hollis. It’s targeted to an audience of women who are quite a bit younger than me, but Rachel has good thoughts on mindset issues and I got a lot out of listening to her book.

One of her quotes that I’ve seen pop up in internet memes is “What if I just don’t break this promise?” When I see it, my mind automatically flips it to the positive and I read, “What if I just KEEP this promise?”

When you think about it, Rachel is really just streamlining Deb’s signature phrase: “Where would you be if every time you said, ‘I should…,’ you actually did?”

How many times do we promise ourselves that TODAY will be different… that TODAY will be the days that I:

  • Start that exercise program…
  • Eat 100% on plan…
  • Tackle that project at work that scares the heck out of me…
  • Call that person to say “I’m sorry” or “I love you…”
  • Stay sober…
  • And all the other promises that we make and break on a regular basis.

Where would we be in our lives if – just for today – we kept all those promises we make to ourselves? Where would our health, our careers, our relationships, our self-esteem be?

And, what if we went to bed tonight feeling like a winner – like a complete success – and promised to do it again tomorrow…

And then we woke up the next morning and we DID? And then we did it again the next day… and the next… and the next?

Now, I know there is no way for us to be perfect, but what if we just latched onto ONE THING today – just one important thing – and then we committed to doing it (or not doing it)… just for TODAY?

It sounds so simple and yet we fail at it all the time. I’ll be the first one to confess that breaking commitments I make to myself has become all too commonplace here lately and I don’t like it… Not one bit… And it stops RIGHT NOW!

See, I have HUGE plans for 2019 and they are only going to become my reality if I stop spiraling downward, get it together, and start moving forward again, and that means keeping the promises I make to myself. I refuse to look back a year from now and wonder “What if” about these big goals. I just want to bask in the wonder of what I achieved and keep right on going.

What IF I just keep THIS promise?

My Top 10 Tried and True Tools for Getting Your “Diet” Mojo Back…

I want to talk about a subject that I think a lot of us may be dealing with, which is how do we get our healthy eating mojo back now that the holidays are over so we can keep moving toward our health and wellness goals? When January 2nd rolled around, I was totally dealing…

via Angie’s Top 10 Tools For Getting Your “Diet” Mojo Back — Cheslow Achievement Group

Are We Having Fun Yet?… The Holiday Edition — Cheslow Achievement Group

This is AWESOME for this time of year and SO TRUE! Just wanted to share!

Image Credit: Rebekkah_ann/iStock by Getty Images Handling the inevitable stress, tension, and disappointment of holiday gatherings… It’s a scenario that plays out across the globe every holiday season. Families come together to celebrate and enjoy each other’s company. But how long does the celebration last before someone gets their feelings hurt and walks off to sulk…

via Are We Having Fun Yet?… The Holiday Edition — Cheslow Achievement Group

Coming to A Head

Coming to A Head

volcanoLife is kind of coming to a head right now.  There are so many things that are either ending or beginning in the next few days and I’m finding myself feeling a little stressed out over them, so I thought writing about them might help… :/

First, Deb’s dad has been visiting us for the past month.  He’s such a dear, sweet man and we have really enjoyed having him with us. Tomorrow he heads back to Maryland and we’ll be readjusting to a house of three again.  On one hand, I’m sorry he’s leaving – he’s a cool guy and I like him a lot!  But on the other hand, I need to get back to my routine, and eating at restaurants 3 times per week is NOT part of my routine. He doesn’t get our plant-based eating style (he doesn’t like and won’t eat vegetables), so finding things to eat here at home (when we’re not going out) that will work for all of us has been challenging to say the least.

Second, my training plan for Great Floridian Triathlon begins on Monday, and I’m honestly not sure how I feel about it.  I’ve really enjoyed my off-season.  I’ve enjoyed lifting again.  I’ve enjoyed just flying by the seat of my pants and doing what I FEEL like doing instead of being so structured. It’s very different from last year when I was chomping at the bit to get to the training.  I’m sure it’s just a matter of getting back in the training mindset and I’m counting on my body and my mind jumping right back into the groove.

massive-actionThird, the house is still on the market and we are getting antsy to get on with it. There’s no pressure to get it sold, but we’ve found the place we want to move and we’re just anxious to move on to the next stage of the adventure.

Fourth, Unrealogical has gone to the publisher and we’ve already gone through the first round of content review with the legal eagles and are now waiting for phase #2, and that’s a little nerve wracking.

3HUFifth, I start Round #3 of Swim Bike Fuel next week (or Round #1 of 3HU, depending on how you want to look at it) and I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself to really GET IT RIGHT this time.  I’ve had great results with both of the previous rounds, but I get a little loose with the rules sometimes and I really want this to be a “third time’s the charm” type of thing.

excitementSo, lots going on and I just feel stressed out.  I’ve been using all my tools, but my stomach feels all knotted up and I can’t seem to unravel it.  Right here, in this moment, I am VERY uncomfortable.  And when this happens, I get excited, because it usually means I’m on the verge of some major life shift.  Something is out there looming on the horizon – something big – I just can’t quite see it yet.

Stay tuned…

IRONMAN FLORIDA: The EPIC Race Report

ironman florida 230x120On Saturday, November 5, 2016, I had the most incredible, fun, awe-inspiring race experience ever!  I had the opportunity to race a full-iron distance Ironman triathlon at Ironman Florida in Panama City Beach, FL.  This will very likely be my one and only full-iron distance race – my life (and my body) just don’t support the volume of training required to make it through a race like that with a smile on my face (and if you’re not finishing with a smile, why even bother?), and I’ll tell you what – if I’ve only got one 140.6 in me, then I am so deliriously thrilled that this was it.

Ironman Florida has had a bit of a stigma the past several years – the cancelled swim and frigid (for Florida) temperatures in 2014 and the warm water temps of 2015 making for a wetsuit optional race – but Ironman Florida 2016 was terrific!  A little bit of wind and a little bit of chop on the swim made it challenging and exciting, but not ridiculous by any means.

Deb and I arrived in Panama City Beach on Wednesday afternoon around 3:30pm.  We stayed at the Boardwalk Beach Hotel (the host hotel) in spite of the warnings that it was not a great hotel. We were totally willing to trade less than ideal accommodations for the convenience of staying at the host hotel.  As it turned out, we were given a room on the 2nd floor of The Tides building with a balcony facing  the Gulf and the transition area right outside our front door!  PERFECT!

20161103_124308As we headed down to the Ironman Village to check in – me at athlete check in and Deb at VIP check in – I couldn’t help but feel so grateful that I had, in the end, chosen to race IMFL instead of IMNC.  I met up with my training partner, Megan, and her husband, Bryon, and we sailed through check in, getting out wristbands, packets, backpacks, and timing chips.  Most people arrived on Thursday, so being able to get everything done on Wednesday was a huge bonus!  It’s no secret that Ironman is a marketing machine, so it was no surprise that the athlete registration area flowed right into the Ironman store.

Folks, don’t even try to fight it, make some room on your credit card before you come to the race because you WILL buy ALL THE THINGS!!!  I had the most frugal of intentions… I wanted a “name” shirt, a finisher jacket, a 140.6 decal for my car, a coffee mug, and one of those framed shadow box things with the medal, bib, your time, and such.  That’s all I planned to buy.  Yeah, right…  LOL!  We found out that the finisher gear wouldn’t be out until 7am on Sunday morning – as it should be.  I had heard that the finisher stuff was out as early as Friday afternoon at other Ironman races, but I’m glad Florida held to tradition.

img_42251After check in, we headed out to meet our friend, Malachi, and his dad, Max, for dinner.  It was so terrific to see him again.  I’ve missed him terribly since he moved back up to Indiana in September.  We ate at Schooners – fish, potatoes, and vegetables – it was the perfect dinner! Afterwards, we made a quick pitstop at Publix to grab a couple of groceries and then it was back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Thursday was a difficult day for me.  There really wasn’t a lot to do.  The majority of the other athletes arrived on Thursday and the lines for check in were long.  Deb and I went over to the Ironman Village and walked around looking at all the cool goodies that were at the vendor tents.  I picked up my Beacon Tracker for the race and then we spent some more money in the Ironman store.

20161106_041145Then we made our way over to the Normatec booth to see what their “can’t resist” Ironman deal on compression boots was.  We were a bit underwhelmed at their offering, so we made our way over to the Rapid Reboot tent.  We knew what the Normatec boots felt like after using Malachi’s many times, so when we saw the price point of the Rapid Reboot product (substantially lower) we decided to do some comparative research.  Two of the owners of the company were there and were able to answer all of our questions, gave us a couple of icy cold bottles of water (it was HOT out) and offered us the zero-gravity reclining chair if we purchased a pair of the boots.  Honestly, I couldn’t tell a bit of difference between the Rapid Reboot product and the Normatec boots.  If anything, the Rapid Reboots had MORE compression.  They were awesome!  Shut up and take my money!!chair

20161103_111045At 10am, we met up with Megan, Bryon, Malachi, and Max for a quick swim in the Gulf.  I wore my swimskin because I really had no expectation that the swim on Saturday would be wetsuit legal – the water was delightful – around 77F.  I swam out a bit and then swam back in – I had what I needed.  The jellyfish were not nearly as plentiful as they had been a month earlier at camp, although there were some around.  I felt good – very comfortable in the water.  Then we went to the Athlete’s Meeting at 11am.  It was a good briefing – not a ton of information I didn’t already know from reading the Athlete’s Guide, but good reinforcement.

The rest of the day was spent in my new fancy boots and gathering up all the things for my gear bags and special needs bags for the race.  At 4pm, I wandered down to the Rusty Anchor bar and met up with several people who I had only met in Facebook-land.  We were part of a spin-off group from the Ironman Florida 2016 Facebook page who started a 90-Day challenge at the beginning of the year.  Every day we posted our workouts for all to see.  It was great accountability.  At the end of the 90 days we didn’t want to let it go, so we just kept on going – all the way to race week.  It was so cool to meet these folks in person and put a face and a personality to the workouts.

20161103_182856After our meet up it was time for the Athlete Welcome Banquet.  It was what you might expect – mediocre food and a program designed to inspire and get everyone hyped up for race day.  Mission accomplished!  Deb and I went back to our room around 7pm and turned in by 9:00pm and I had my last good sleep of the trip.  2 sleeps to go.

Friday was another tough day.  Megan and I started the day with another open water swim in the Gulf.  I figured I should probably swim at least a little bit in my wetsuit since I hadn’t done so since Beach 2 Battleship last October!  Happily, it still fit and the swim was really wonderful.  We swam out to the first buoys and back.  All systems were go.

20161104_103309Bike and Gear Bag check-in started at 10am.  We went downstairs and racked our bikes and then placed our gear bags in their appropriate locations for race day and then just walked away.  There was nothing left to do.  I hemmed and hawed and fretted over my special needs bags most of the day.  I had no idea if I had too much stuff, not enough stuff, or what – I just knew that I wanted OPTIONS!  I had several different snack items ranging from salty to sweet, a tiny coke, a couple of blister band-aids, a packet or 2 of biofreeze, Advil, a hand towel, an extra pair of socks, and some wet wipes in each bag.  It turned out to be ridiculous overkill, but if you ain’t never, you just don’t know!

14907076_10209256465422139_3087713003960658380_nBefore dinner I went down to the finish line and met up with some of the other Swim Bike Moms – including THE Swim Bike Mom, Meredith Atwood (SQUEEEE!), and the Women for Tri ladies. Again it’s just so terrific to actually meet these amazing people who you only know from inside the computer.  To my glorious surprise, Todd Nixon (aka Swim Bike Nap and Swim Bike Kid) was also in PCB!  Again, such a treat to meet these folks!  Triathlon brings so many amazing people together – it truly warms my heart!

Then, I met Deb in the Rusty Anchor for dinner.  We had fish, mashed potatoes, and veggies and it was delicious.  We walked down the boardwalk to our room and saw the last color of the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico and all I could think was “Until tomorrow Ironman!”  I was so excited, so terrified by what I was about to do – it seemed very surreal.  I applied my tri-tats, filled my bike bottles, and got my bike bag stuff together, but there wasn’t much left to do.  1 sleep to go!20161104_183436

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Race Day!!!!!

20161105_061646 20161105_061543I woke up at 3am on race morning and meditated, made coffee, and got ready for transition to open at 4:30.  Megan arrived at our room about 4:20 and we went down and loaded our bikes, pumped our tires, double checked our gear bags, dropped our special needs bags at Alvin’s Island, and then went back upstairs to eat breakfast, drink coffee, and get our swim stuff on.  As we were walking to our bikes, the announcement came over the speaker that the water temperature was 75.9F!  WETSUIT LEGAL!!!!  What a wonderfully welcome surprise!! Malachi and Max came by around 5:50 and we all got ready together. Max and Malachi had matching speedos, which was simply AWESOME!  Pictorial evidence was essential!

20161105_063200The weather was cool and breezy so we stayed in the hotel room until about 6:20 and then joined the other 2296 crazy people making their way down to the beach.  Hugs for Malachi and Max as they went to the speedy people corrals in the front.  Deb walked with Megan and me down to the 1:40-2:00 corral.  We kinda sandbagged our corralling but better to swim around people than get swam over in my book!

Many months ago, Megan and I hatched a plan to run this race together – from start line to finish line. Everyone we told about it said there was no way it would work because we would lose each other within the first 20 yards of the swim.  But we also had contingency plans in place if that happened. But when the start gun sounded, we grabbed hands and started down the chute together. We entered the water and walked over to the right side of the action and waded out over the sandbar until the water was about chest deep and looked at each other and said, “Ready?  Here we go!” and we started swimming.

IM-FL_SwimSide-by-side, stroke-for-stroke we swam the first 1.2 miles.  The further we swam from shore, the choppier the water became.  When we turned east at the turn buoy we were swimming against the current and the waves were 3-4 feet, although they sure felt a lot bigger. There were times when I would reach for the water to take a stroke and I would catch nothing but air… then I would fall into the trough of the wave.  Thankfully, that only lasted for 200 yards each loop.  There was one point near the end of the first loop when I lost sight of Megan for a moment, but when I got to the end, I got a quick drink and waited until I saw her and then we went back around for loop #2.  Again, side-by-side we swam and it was a thing of beauty!!  We came up the beach together and crossed the timing mat 1:35:30 (5 minutes under our goal time).

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We bypassed the wetsuit strippers (I was NOT laying down in the sand) and headed through the showers and rinsed off for just a second and then went through the maze to our bike gear bags.  A volunteer shouted out my bib number as I jogged down the appropriate row.  A young volunteer handed me my bag and I was off to the changing “tent” (which was actually a ballroom in the hotel’s convention center).

imfl-bikecensorT1 was interesting.  It was the first time I every really CHANGED in transition.  I just wore my swimsuit under my wetsuit because I knew I wanted to change into cycling shorts for the bike and it was chilly out so I didn’t want a wet tri-top from the get go.  So, I took a deep breath, told Megan to turn the other way (we still have to be able to look each other in the eye, LOL), apologized to the wonderful volunteer who was helping me and stripped down to nothing, right there for God and the world to see.  Talk about being outside your comfort zone!!!  LAWD!! My volunteer was AMAZING!  She rolled right with it and grabbed my cycling shorts and helped me tuck all my bits in the right places and then did the same for my kit top.  I was so grateful!  It just ain’t easy to stuff this body into lycra and spandex when it’s wet, ya know?  Then we started shoving nutrition and my beacon tracker into pockets.  I was lumpy, but I wouldn’t starve and people could find me!  #winning Finally, socks, cycling shoes, helmet, and sunglasses and I was done!  Megan had gone to use the potty and said she would wait for me past the bike mount line.  I took my time and walked to my bike row.  Another volunteer shouted out my number and by the time I got to my rack, someone was holding for me and I just took it and went on my way.  This was GREAT!

2_m-100745772-digital_highres-1594_007810-5236395I got to the bike mount line with about 30 other people, saw Megan and made my way to her carefully.  Then we started off on the bike leg.  It was windy.  I know Saturday did not provide the brutal winds that Ironman Florida has seen in the past, but it was a stiff breeze.  The weather app on my phone had predicted winds out of the NE at 5-10 mph, gusting to 15 mph.  Someone posted the actual wind speeds as measured at the airport and it was actually more like 13-18 mph, gusting to 28! Regardless, the crosswind gusts through the areas where there were high-rise condos/hotels on both sides of Front Beach Road were brutal and I had to hold tight to my bars to keep from being blown into the passing bike traffic.

39_m-100745772-digital_highres-1594_072041-5236432Once we turned north on 79, the wind was a mild head wind – it was manageable.  Our plan for the bike was to ride the first 60-90 minutes easy – small chain ring and go maybe 16 mph.  Let the fasties go on past – if we were conservative on the bike, there was a chance that the run wouldn’t be so punishing… a small chance, but a chance nonetheless.  We turned right onto Route 20 at Mile 20 and it felt like we were riding straight into the wind.  It was a hard 15 miles, but we did pass a number of people who were apparently having a harder time.  We also saw Malachi on his way back down Route 20 in 44th place overall!  There was much whooping when we saw him!

We stopped at aid stations when we needed to (I think we briefly stopped 3 times total, including special needs) and just kept plugging along.  At mile 35, we turned south on Route 77 and had a reprieve from the wind for 7 miles.  Then, a left turn on Bennett Drive – back into the wind for the rollers. Then a left on Blue Springs Road, which should have felt windy, but it didn’t.  At 53 miles, we turned left onto Route 20 again and enjoyed a terrific tailwind – I was going 26 mph at one point on the flat without pedaling!  I loved that part!  We stopped at special needs and I looked at the buffet options I had packed and really all I wanted was my peanut butter pretzels, my Aquafor, and some Advil.

34_m-100745772-digital_highres-1594_049349-5236427The return trip down 20 was about 25 miles of suck – I remember this being a pretty dark and twisty section when we rode the course at camp, but I still felt good.  We weren’t setting any speed records, but we were feeling good.  At Mile 74, we turned right and headed north on Route 79 and this was the worst part of the course!  From mile 74 to mile 81.5, we were riding directly into a stiff headwind – it was hard to go 13 mph.  At one point I looked down and I was only going 11 mph and it was taking a grand effort to keep it up! The turnaround at mile 81.5 was a delightful sight and the tailwind that came after the turn was even better.

Somehow, Megan got a drafting penalty at mile 90.  We had been very careful about keeping separation between us, so it was unintentional, but it is what it is.  We figured that the next penalty tent was at the next aid station and Megan told me to just keep going.  I told her that was silly and that I could use 5 minutes out of my bike shoes – the timing was perfect!  Only, the next penalty tent actually ended up being back at transition, so we missed out on our break.

20161105_121752When we got back to Front Beach Road at mile 106, we turned into a WALL of air!  It was somewhat deflating to be that close to the end and get tossed around by the wind even more.  But the wind wasn’t consistent at the beach – one minute it was a stiff headwind, the next it was a crosswind, then back to a headwind.  Those 6 miles SUCKED, but as we made the turn onto S. Thomas Drive, I got all choked up.  I had just swam 2.4 miles and biked 112 miles in an IRONMAN!  The wave of gratitude I felt for this amazing opportunity simply overwhelmed me and I had tears rolling down my face as I got off my bike.

20161105_160712IM-FL_RunMegan headed to “time out” (the penalty tent) and I headed to the run gear bags and changing tent to get ready for the run.  I changed into my tri shorts, stuffed more Infinit into my pockets, drank some water, walked around barefoot for a few minutes, and waited for Megan to emerge from her time out. She came running into the changing room with the biggest smile on her face, declaring time out to be “the BEST thing EVER!”  Only Megan!  Always making lemonade out of lemons!  She got ready and we headed out for the marathon.  When people told me that you get off the bike and think “it’s only a marathon” I was like, “yeah, right!”  I’ve run a full marathon and it sucked worse than just about anything I’ve ever experienced, but an Ironman marathon is very different.  I see that now.

20161105_184632We took our time walking through transition and onto the run course.  We were running 3:1 intervals.  We decided to walk the first interval just to get our legs back a bit.  Just as we started running, we passed Malachi who was headed to the finish line!  IMPRESSIVE AS HELL!  We ran 3:1s all day/night long.  We talked with people.  We thanked the volunteers and the police officers who were on the course.  We stopped to fill bottles when we needed to.  We saw friends on the course racing and we saw people who had come to cheer from Megan’s tri team.  There was so much to occupy my attention that I forgot to worry about how my legs felt.  Before we knew it we were at special needs.  Deb and Malachi met us there and we got the news that Malachi finished first in his age group and qualified for World Championships in Kona!  How about THAT?  No one deserves it more – we were so, so happy for him and it gave us a great boost into our second run loop.  I handed most of my special needs bag to Deb untouched.  All I wanted was my headlamp and my glow stick wand that Megan had gotten for us.

14962584_10207711174282815_8806589032818530402_nOn the way back out onto the run course, I saw Meredith and Todd and even got one of Todd’s patented race course selfies!  I felt on top of the world!  I could NEVER have predicted feeling this good after 127.5 miles!  The wheels started to come off the bus around mile 18 of the run.  I asked Megan if we could walk through an extra interval.  She obliged.  I told her that my feet and quads hurt.  She started sharing my own rhetoric with me.  She suggested that I take all the hurting bits and put them in a box and then put the lid on the box and put the box up on a shelf.  Then they wouldn’t hurt any more. Hmmm, where have I heard this technique before?  LOL!  Deb was SO proud of her!  🙂

Then at mile 20 I kind of went on auto-pilot.  When I would run, I was running faster than I should have and by the end of the interval, I was way ahead of Megan.  Finally, she said, “Okay Angie, if you want to run so far ahead, you go ahead, but I don’t want to hear ANYTHING about taking extra walk breaks on the way back!”  Oh my Megan!  The perfect thing to say!  I reined it in for the last 6 miles and I’m so glad I did.  With about 4 miles to go we picked up a running buddy who was also running 3:1s, but his watch had died on the course.  He ran with us almost the whole way back.  It was his 5th and final Ironman race.  I hope he did well!

20161105_21385420161105_213901In my perfect world, Megan and I would have run the finisher chute and crossed the finish line together.  However, when I told her my idea, she adamantly said “No!  This is your only Ironman.  You need to have your moment.  I want you to go first and enjoy it and that’s final.”  I tried to argue, but she wouldn’t hear it.  So when we turned the corner at Alvin’s Island and then turned toward the finish line, I went ahead. My SBMAT teammate, Colleen, had messaged me earlier in the week and reminded me to soak it all in – not to rush to the finish line, and so I slowed down.  I high-fived children on the sides, I listened to the cheers, I saw the bright lights, and for that moment I was a ROCK STAR!  I heard Dave Ragsdale pronounce me a 1st time Ironman and I crossed the finish line.  A nice man “caught” me and shepherded me over to get my medal.  Deb was right there and it was the perfect exclamation mark on this journey for her to be able to place that medal around my neck! Megan crossed the finish line one second after I did.  I could never have done as well as I did without her out there with me – pushing me when I needed to be pushed, reining me in when I needed to slow down.  I am so grateful for her – as a training partner and as a friend!

Then the man took us over to the backdrop for pictures and he gave me a mylar blanket so I wouldn’t get cold.

20161106_001734Deb took me over to the pool so I could get something to eat.  I had a couple of bites of pizza, but that was a bad idea.  We sat around for a bit, but I really just wanted to go take a shower. LOL!  My plan was to come back to the finish line for midnight, but I fell asleep hard within 20 minutes of getting out of the shower. But Deb did go back down and said it was just as cool as everyone says it is.14963498_10157826569560455_1685699584_o

I slept like a rock until 3:30am and then my eyes popped open and it was like I was launched out of a cannon.  The man in the Ironman store said we should start lining up for finisher gear at 5:30am, so I went down and met Megan while Deb took the puppies out to pee.  There was NO ONE in line at 5:30…  By 5:45, we moved to the front of the building and there were 3 people in line, so we grabbed a seat.  Megan brought her warm, pink Snuggie, thank goodness, because it was chilly!  We begged the man in the store to open up at 6:30, but no dice.  By 7am, the line wrapped around the parking lot and down Thomas Drive, so it was totally worth getting in line early.  We got in the store, picked our finisher gear and checked out in 20 minutes.  I cannot wait for it to get chilly so I can wear my jacket!!

Then Deb and I went back to our room and took a nap until 9:30 when it was time for awards and the Kona slot rolldowns.  We wanted to go support our favorite tri-guy, Malachi Henry.  It was such a thrill to watch him take 1st place AG and claim his spot in the 2017 Ironman World Championships!  Now to make plans to go watch him race next October!  🙂

After the awards, Megan and Bryon had to head home, Malachi was coming back to Port Orange for a few days to take his last board exams before officially becoming DR. Malachi Henry, DC, Max was heading back to Indiana, and I WAS HUNGRY!  We said our goodbyes and Deb and I headed to Schooners for lunch and I ordered the biggest cheeseburger they had on the menu (with avocado, of course) and it was THE BEST damned cheeseburger I ever tasted!  We went back to the room since we weren’t leaving until the next morning and took another nap.  I kind of regretted that cheeseburger when I woke up from the nap – good lord was I ever sick!  But still, totally worth it!  😉

20161107_102046We said goodbye to Panama City Beach the next morning and headed home.  It was, indeed, the BEST RACE EVER!!

My Ironman experience was everything I hoped it would be and then some.  Malachi asked me the next day what I would do differently, and honestly, I can’t think of a thing.  My hope was to finish in under 15 hours.  I finished in 14:49:17.  My hope was that I wouldn’t hit the wall.  I really never did – not like I have in the past anyhow.  I fueled well, I executed my plan, Megan and I finished together, I raced with a grateful heart, I was present and enjoyed the day as it unfolded.  It was PERFECT!!  Sure, I imagine I could’ve gone faster here and there, but so what!  I carried my 51 year old body 140.6 miles in less than 15 hours!  I am immensely proud of that fact!  I had the best time EVER with my friends.  I raced with my bestie!  I got to see Deb multiple times throughout the day!  I saw my son from another mother qualify for the Ironman World Championships.  Days just don’t get much better than that.  Now, I just have to figure out “what’s next…”

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