Everyone Needs a Coach – I Sure Do

Everyone Needs a Coach – I Sure Do

Last Tuesday was the final day of my 10-week coaching program with Deb (Cheslow) and, honestly, all I can say is “WOW”! When I had the bright idea in the pool last October to ask Deb to coach me for real again after Ironman Florida, I was really just grasping at straws – trying to ward off the post-Ironman crash what would inevitably consume me without some sort of intervention.

I didn’t know if working with Deb again would/could do that or not.  I didn’t know if we had grown too close to be able to separate all of our different life roles for the sessions to be productive (we have always been very good at compartmentalizing “roles” because Deb was my coach first, then my karate instructor, then my business partner, and THEN my life partner, but it’s been a long time since there was intensive one-on-one coaching between us).  I wasn’t sure that I wasn’t too close to the material to make the process anything more than a rhetorical exercise, and whether I would get as much out of it as someone with less “experience”.  We started the program on Tuesday, November 8th.  I was still riding the high after the IMFL race only 3 days before and I was excited about figuring out my next big obsession.

But then I felt like all my fears were coming to fruition when, just days before Thanksgiving, the Ironman high wore off and I was left wondering what on earth I could ever do to top that day?  The cascade came and even as I felt it coming and was very aware of what was happening, I was powerless to stop it.  It was as if I had leaped off a cliff and gravity was pulling me to the ground regardless of how hard I flapped my arms and tried to fly.

I won’t kid you… I was scared… and worried… What if I couldn’t get my mojo back – for work, for triathlon, for my family, for ME?  My coaching sessions took a more somber turn.  I remember saying, “I just don’t know who to BE…” more than once.  But Deb never wavered.  She shook the program up and did unexpected things to catch me (and my logic) off guard – and there was no small measure of tough love thrown in there too.  There was plenty of her telling me what I NEEDED to hear, rather than what I might have WANTED to hear.  It took several weeks, but suddenly just before Christmas, I had a fire lit under my ass that suddenly had me doing at 90 mph!

Our company had decided it was time to put out a new book in the Spring of 2017.  The way we create new book manuscripts is for me to take Deb’s outline and create a rough draft of content from it. Then Deb takes my draft and completely decimates it – changing almost everything about it in the process.  In the end, the finished product looks NOTHING like my draft, but without that draft the book would never get written.  It’s a process and it works for us.  Anyhow, I was completely unenthusiastic about  starting the manuscript draft of the content sections, and yet it HAD to be written – and SOON!

As November turned into December, and our coaching program continued, I was still trying to identify my “what’s next”.  What was I going to focus on in 2017?  Business? Triathlon? I still felt so lost, and I didn’t want to do much of anything – business, triathlon, or even life in general. Then, during my session on 12/20, Deb said something to me that turned everything around.  I was once again saying that I didn’t know what I wanted and that I was so lost after Ironman, and blah, blah, blah… when she got up in my face and said, “Angie!  You are living in the past trying to train for a race that’s already been run!  You HAVE to redefine the race you’re training for NOW!”

16730679_1259150464168736_8567247102317113881_nSomething about that resonated so strongly with me. And she was right!  It was time to let Ironman go and move forward.  I snipped off my Ironman wristband later that day and asked Deb for a meeting on the new book so I could get very clear on what and how I was supposed to be writing.  I woke up the next morning at 3am and started writing.  I took the week off between Christmas and New Years like I always do, and jumped back into  the book on January 2nd. In only 12 DAYS I created the draft manuscript for the new book’s content – it became an obsession.  I was back! Now we’re finishing up the final edits and the book goes to the publisher early next month.

I had no clue how this coaching program with Deb would go when I initially got the idea in the pool.  But I was desperate!  Not as desperate as I was back in 2009, but still I knew I could not afford a prolonged crash after Ironman was over.  Now that the initial coaching program is over and I look back, I am thrilled with the results!  Was there a crash?  Yes – of course – they can’t be prevented, only mitigated, but I think I did a great job – with Deb’s help – of shortening the refractory period and pulling out of the nosedive in a very short span of time.  I know people who have the Ironman Blues for YEARS, and mine lasted for less than a month.  I’ll take it! It wasn’t a pleasant month, but now I am refocused on things that are important.  I have a great “A” race for 2017 that I’ll begin training for next month and I’m happier and more productive than I’ve been in a VERY long time.

I’ve decided to retain Deb as my “official” coach indefinitely.  And I know there are people who are reading this post right now who are saying, “Yeah Ang, nice for you to have your partner as your coach… everyone else has to PAY for it!” To that I say this… Free coaching never works because there is no skin in the game and when the going gets tough – and it always gets tough somewhere along the way – sometimes it is only the fact that there is money on the line that keeps you moving.  I cut Deb a check every month out of my own bank account to keep me accountable to myself for this process.

I know I will always have a coach – someone to push me further than I believe I can go on my own.  It’s worked pretty darned well for me so far – I think I’ll just keep going!

My New Favorite Breakfast

For the past several months, I’ve been eating the same breakfast – not because it’s on some diet plan or because I HAVE to, but because I want to.  It’s freaking delicious!  I got the basic method from Swim Bike Mom’s blog and then tweaked it based on my own tastes.  It’s a great pre-long workout meal or just a terrific, “sticks with you” breakfast in general.

Protein Quinoa Bowl

1 cup cooked quinoa
1 banana, smooshed up (technical culinary term)
1 Tbsp almond butter
1 scoop vanilla protein powder (I like Vega Protein & Greens)
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
dash nutmeg
1/2-3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
Sliced almonds, optional

Mix everything but the blueberries together in a saucepan and heat until boiling (careful not to let it scorch).  If using frozen blueberries, pour the hot porridge over the berries in a bowl.  If using fresh berries, just sprinkle them on top.  Sliced almonds are a nice finishing touch too.  🙂

NOTE:  This is really just a method more than a recipe.  I’ve used brown rice, steel-cut oats, and millet and the results are just as good.  Use whatever berries you like.  Drizzle with honey if it’s not sweet enough for you.  Use peanut butter (or other nut butter) instead of almond butter.  Play with it and see what you like best!  And it’s super quick if you make a big batch of quinoa in advance and then you just have to scoop it into the pan.

Hope you love it as much as I do!

Photo Credit: DamnDelicious.com

Photo Credit: DamnDelicious.com

My To Do List is Ruining My Life!

Image credit: 123rf.com

I am COMPLETELY overwhelmed!

My to do list has 24 things on it and ALL of them needed to be done like YESTERDAY!  I am tired and I am frazzled…

I was literally just down in the kitchen making a burrito bowl for lunch (2 hours late, by the way) and found myself just turning in circles in the middle of my kitchen, not really knowing what to do first.

Then, I returned to my desk, at my lunch (notice I didn’t have any issues with THAT), and looked at my list again…

Okay, first things first… What’s the most important thing on the list?

OH MAH GAWD! There are like 10 things on the list that are all equally on fire! Which one do I choose?

I just sat there blinking at my computer screen, hoping and praying that one of the items will just start flashing or something so I know it’s where I need to start.  But no, the list remains the same… I. AM. PARALYZED by indecision.

Here’s what’s going on in my life right now (and all I have to say is THANK SWEET BABY JESUS that Ironman is done or I would be institutionalized!):

  • I am draft part of the manuscript for Deb’s new book.  I’ve been a writing machine since New Years, pumping out 11 chapters in 15 days, but I have the content for 2 chapters left, then we need to review the whole manuscript, insert stories, edit content, and then get it to our editor by SUNDAY (yes, 6 days from now);
  • Next weekend (Jan 27-29), we are hosting a 3-day workshop up in Albany, New York.  I have to create the participant handout materials and get all the products, equipment, SWAG, etc. shipped out by Saturday;
  • We are launching a new video series later this week and we need to record the videos and set up the delivery mechanism still;
  • I’m updating our website and that needed to be done last month!
  • Our 5K race is only 6 weeks away and there are all kinds of logistics that need to be handled;
  • Of course there is all the day to day email/social media/operations for the business to shoehorn in;
  • And, for the love of all that is good and holy, I need a haircut!

That’s just the critical stuff.  My list doesn’t even fit on my Momentum screen anymore.

When you have too many competing priorities, how do you keep your sanity and choose what to work on first?  How do YOU break the grip of analysis paralysis?

I found a couple of articles that might be helpful if you find yourself in a similar predicament:

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/aug/10/how-to-stop-to-do-lists-ruining-your-life

http://marissabracke.com/best-worst-things-to-do-when-overwhelmed

And yes, for those of you wondering… Writing this blog post was on my to do list!  😉

“F*CK IT!”

“F*CK IT!”

img_3924I feel terrific!  I feel like I am climbing out of a hole and seeing the sun shine for the first time in a very long time. Most of 2016 was spent with my head down and blinders on as I plowed toward my goal of becoming an Ironman.  If something got in my way I went right through it – failure was not an option.  I took little detours  here and there to do what absolutely HAD to be done in my business, but EVERYTHING unrelated to swimming, biking, running, eating, and sleeping was IN MY WAY (hell, even sleep was in the way there at the end)!

I felt horribly guilty about this, because along with work, all the routine stuff like cooking, laundry, food shopping, etc.,  even MY FAMILY was in my way, because they took time away from my obsession.  This is NOT a healthy, long-term way to go through life, friends, but I just couldn’t deal with the prospect of getting to race day and failing because I didn’t prepare well enough.  Of course, as it turned out, I think I was prepared IN SPADES, but how could I have known that beforehand?

After Ironman Florida was in the books I fully expected to jump right back into my life with my usual, pre-Ironman vigor, but it didn’t happen. Instead, I found I didn’t have much motivation to do… ANYTHING!  I told myself everything would get back to normal after our celebratory cruise, but, while I thoroughly enjoyed the cruise, I saw no pick up in my desire to dive back into life once we returned home.

What in the actual hell was wrong with me?

I stumbled through the rest of November and most of December trying to pick an “A” race for 2017, trying desperately to jumpstart my engine and re-engage at work, trying to get organized again both at the office and at home, but I wasn’t making much headway.  It wasn’t that I was depressed, I just felt… LOST.  I knew it was coming and I knew exactly what was happening and why it was happening and I STILL was powerless to do anything to stop it right away.

miracleThen something MIRACULOUS happened!

fckitOne day, about a week before Christmas, I just threw my hands up and said, “F*CK IT!”  Whatever was gonna be was gonna be and it would all sort itself out one way or another.  The simple act of releasing all the pressure I was placing on myself was absolutely incredible!  Suddenly, I could breathe again.  I let go of all the guilt I was carrying around about “abandoning” my family during the last 5 months of 2016.  And let me be clear, Deb and Josh were both so stinking proud of me and what I had accomplished,  Neither one of them EVER complained or ever “guilt-tripped” me or tried to make me feel bad about my choices – not one time.  My guilt was ON ME!

I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of me.

The next morning I woke up without an alarm at 3:30am with all kinds of ideas floating around my brain – content for the new book manuscript I was supposed to be drafting (and yet hadn’t written more than a few words), ideas for new products and services in our business, new recipes to try – all kinds of stuff!  So, I crept out of bed, made a cup of tea, sat down at my computer, and started typing.  Two hours later I had two stories and the book Forward drafted – WHOA!  This new creativity flowed into my workday which was incredibly productive.  I made a meal plan for the following week and used an online shopping app (Shipt) to order groceries during my lunch break.  I prepped dinner before leaving to pick Josh up from swim team.  Then I read some professional development materials before bed and fell asleep in minutes when I turned off the light and closed my eyes, which hadn’t happened in a LONG time.

It was the same the next day, and the next!  I took the week between Christmas and New Years off and spent time getting myself organized.  I cleared off all the clutter on my desk to the point where there was NOTHING on it except my monitor, a pen cup, my phone, a tape dispenser, and a stapler, and I vowed to have only the ONE THING I was working on in the moment on the surface of my desk (if you know me, you know that I MAY be slightly on the ADHD spectrum 😉 )… I downloaded a Chrome extension called Momentum to help me stay on track instead of squirreling off all over the internet… I planned and prepped the next week’s worth of dinners… I planned out my workout schedule for January and February… I was a MACHINE!

I have jumped into 2017 with both feet!  I’ve totally re-engaged in my life, my business, and my family!

A couple of days ago, Deb came over to my desk and put her hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eye and said,”Hey, it’s really nice to have you back.”  You know what?  It’s nice to BE back!

2016 was a tough year, but I don’t regret anything about it for even a moment.  I did what I had to do to feel good about my Ironman journey (even if feeling good actually felt bad sometimes) – and I do!

And I’m totally excited about what’s coming in 2017!

This is the power of saying “F*CK IT!” every now and then.

Let’s DO this!!!

2017

What’s Next!

What’s Next!

“What’s Next?”  It’s a question I’ve been asking myself for a couple of months now.  Trying to figure out what my “A” Race for 2017 should be was not nearly as simple as it has been in year’s past.  At the end of 2014 I knew I wanted to step up to a half-iron distance race (or two), so I easily chose Gulf Coast Triathlon 70.3 and Beach 2 Battleship 70.3.  At the end of 2015, I knew I wanted to fulfill my Ironman dreams, so (albeit with some angst and stress) I registered for Ironman Florida for 2016.

But this year is different – and difficult!  Signing up for another Ironman feels like the most normal and natural thing to do, but as I teased apart in my post on the Post-Ironman Blues, that’s not a good enough reason to put my body, my business, and my family through another Iron-year!  So, I was looking for a race that would be a challenge, but not require the ridiculous time commitment of a full iron-distance race.  I thought about just making 2017 the year of the sprint triathlon, but even though they are fun, I prefer long-course and I have a hard time getting myself motivated to train properly for them.  I know that I could embrace it if I focused on the right things, but I’m just not feeling it.  I thought about registering for one or two 70.3 races, but the ones I really WANT to race are not a good match with my calendar (IM Gulf Coast 70.3 is on the same day as our daughter’s college graduation, and IM Eagleman 70.3 and IM Augusta 70.3 are both on days when our non-profit holds races).

gft-logoI hemmed and hawed… I thought about not racing at all and just plowing into our business this year – afterall, I took so much time away from it this year, it seems only fair.  Then, I positively GRIEVED over the thought of not having a nice, juicy race goal on my schedule, so Deb told me I HAD to race SOMETHING!  Then, one day about a month ago, I got an email marketing piece from Sommer Sports advertising the Great Floridian Triathlon on October 21, 2017.  This race is marketed as the 2nd oldest full iron distance triathlon in the continental US.  But it’s not just a full iron race!  There are also 1/3 and 2/3 distance races on the same day.

Essentially, the GFT course in Clermont, FL is broken down into a 0.8 mile triangular swim in Lake Minneola, a 37.3 mile bike loop (described as a “hilly beast” in one review I read – yes, there ARE hills in Florida and apparently, they are ALL in Clermont!), and a 8.73 mile run course.  The 1/3 distance racers make 1 loop of each… the 2/3 racers, make 2 loops, and the ultra (full-iron) racers make 3 loops.

swim       bike     run

My training buddy, Megan, had done the bike and run legs of the 1/3 distance in October on a relay team as a lead up to Ironman Florida and she said it was a tough course – a lot like this year’s modified IM Augusta 70.3.  My iron-friends, Beth and Malachi, said it was very similar to the IMLOU course.  The more I thought about it, the more it resonated with me.  I liked the thought of the 2/3 distance!  It was longer than a 70.3 ( it’s 92.6 miles) so it would still require a stout training effort.  It had a very hilly bike course and I’ve never raced in hills before.  And, as a bonus, Clermont is only 90 minutes from my house, so I can train on the actual course and we don’t have to travel far for the race.  And let’s discuss that the registration fee was only $250 (as opposed to $380 for IM Augusta 70.3)…

I messaged Megan, who has been going through her own “What’s Next” battle, and asked “How do we feel about GFT 2/3?”  We bantered a bit and she liked the idea too.  So, yet another year of training together is set to commence.  I am terrific-ly excited about this!  I went ahead and pushed the “Register” button yesterday morning.  Here we go again!  T-minus 305 days to go!!!gft

Post Ironman Blues

eeyore_cloudI KNEW they were coming… I did everything I could think of to ward them off including taking a 7-day cruise to the Virgin Islands and officially hiring my life/business partner and coach, Deb Cheslow, to help me figure out what’s next – and they still arrived on my doorstep like an unwelcome house-guest… the Post-Ironman Blues.

In my business I see it all the time.  People who Deb and I work with are working towards a HUGE, scary goal – they are passionate and driven to achieve it – bordering on obsessed.  They work hard in a place that is WAY outside their comfort zone and then, one day, BOOM – goal achieved.  It is a time of exhilaration, elation, and joy.  They ride the high for a while – sometimes days, sometimes weeks or even months, but then all of a sudden they look around and wonder, “now what”?

That is exactly where I find myself now that Ironman Florida is over.  I had the race of my life.  I don’t even know how it could have been more awesome – from the week before race to my execution of the race itself – it exceeded every one of my hopes and expectations.  And I rode that high for a while – in some respects, I’m STILL riding the wave.

im-memeEvery time I look at my wristband (yes, I STILL have it on, don’t judge me!), I feel such pride and such a sense of accomplishment.  I am an Ironman – ME!!  OMG!  Never in my wildest dreams as that poor, overweight, alcoholic woman back in Virginia in 2010 would I have EVER believed such a thing possible.  Heck, I wasn’t sure I believed it was possible 5 minutes before the start horn blasted!

So, I accomplished something that, for me, was “unrealogical” (our made up word describing something that is, at once, unrealistic and illogical), and unfolded in a way that I would never have predicted and was so much better than I ever believed possible.

How do you top that?

20161117_075406-1I was fine for the first couple of weeks.  The first week back home was very busy playing catch-up on all the things that had been set aside (or, more to the point, fallen through the cracks) until the race was over.  I knew I needed to take time off from working out to let my body recover, even though I felt pretty terrific.   And then, we went on an amazing cruise to the Eastern Caribbean and we walked an average of 7-8 miles per day (even on the sea days) and went snorkeling in St. Thomas and St. Maarten, and I enjoyed actually sleeping until I woke up each morning unassisted by a puppy or an alarm clock, so not officially working out was not bothering me.

But as soon as we got back from the cruise and I started swimming, biking, and running again I started feeling… well, kind of lost.  I don’t have any solid racing plans for 2017.  I don’t know how to BE this person who wakes up at 7am and works out for 30-60 minutes.  I almost MISS the 3am wake up calls and the 4500 yard swims and 100 mile rides and 15 mile runs of peak training – they felt BADASS.  And while I AM moving forward, I guess I just feel directionless in the absence of any real racing goals.

I started working with Deb the Tuesday after the race on a structured coaching program to help me determine what my next goal would be.  On the first day she asked me what I wanted… cue CRICKETS…

What do I WANT?  I WANT it to be November 5th again.  I WANT the magic of that day again.  I WANT the movie Groundhog Day only November 5th was what I got to relive over and over again.  I don’t want it to be OVER!

And the urge to pull the trigger on Ironman Florida 2017 or ANY other Ironman 140.6 race is almost irresistible!  It seems absolutely natural in this moment.

But here’s what I KNOW – as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow…

I could race an Ironman every year from now until the day I die and I will NEVER be able to capture the perfection of November 5, 2016.  I will never be able to gin up the enthusiasm and the strength of will to train like I did for that race, because I now know that I could go the distance with A LOT LESS training.  Like so many other “firsts” in our lives, you just can’t re-create the magic.

It can still be good…

It can still be worth doing…

But unless some freaking miracle occurs and I qualify for Kona, I just don’t see how to make it better.

That’s because there are 3 levels of goals.

Level 1 Goals are things we already know how to do.  It’s like saying, “My goal is to go to LA Fitness and swim 1500 yards in the pool.”  I KNOW how to do that.  I have done it hundreds of times before.  I dare say I could be half asleep and pump out 1500 yards in a respectable amount of time.  In fact, racing Ironman Florida again would be a Level 1 Goal – different day, different conditions, but I know exactly how to race that course.  There is absolutely no growth in a Level 1 Goal.

Level 2 Goals are things that we THINK we can do.  We’ve never done them before, but we can see a way to plan our way to achieving them.  At this point, I could register for any other Ironman race on Planet Earth and it would be a Level 2 Goal.  I’ve only completed Ironman Florida, but if I registered for IM Chattanooga today – even though it’s a completely different course, it would be a Level 2 Goal.  I haven’t actually raced CHOO, but I have trained for an Ironman before.  I know what’s involved.  I know how to adjust my nutrition for a hilly course, and so on.  I can make a PLAN to achieve that goal.

Level 3 Goals are FANTASIES!  They are completely unrealogical.  You have no idea how the stars will align to make this ridiculously HUGE thing actually happen.  All you do know is that you WANT it – and want it BAD!  That’s what Ironman was for me this time last year.  It was a fantasy.  I knew that many of my friends had finished similar races, so I knew it COULD be done. I just didn’t know how I was going to do it.  Honestly, I still wasn’t quite sure how it was all supposed to come together the night before the race!  But I wanted to be an Ironman.  I wanted to hear those words as I crossed the finish line.  I wanted it with a white hot passion.

And that passion drove me all year long – to get up at 3am to get my swims and long rides in without taking too much time away from my work or my family… To stop drinking alcohol because it got in the way of my workouts… To eat the good stuff and step away from the pizza – even when all I wanted was to stop at Mellow Mushroom and stuff my face… To do the things I needed to do, even when I didn’t want to do them.

Deb was my coach during the entire process.  Not my triathlon coach, but my MINDSET coach.  She kept my mind right and called bullshit when I started justifying less than I was capable of.  She sympathized when I said I was exhausted and then kicked me out the door to run 20 miles anyhow.  SHE knew I was working on a Level 3 goal – and she supported me 100%, but she was tough as shit on me too – which is EXACTLY what I needed.

Level 3 Goals are where we want to play, people.  Because it’s in the achievement of Level 3 Goals that we grow as a person and find out what we’re made of.  They stretch us WAY outside our comfort zones and teach us if we deserve that star we are shooting for.

I’ll tell anyone who asks me about coaching – do you need a triathlon coach to complete an Ironman?  Maybe.  I guess people would say I was self-coached in the traditional sense for Ironman Florida.  I had a training plan and I followed it (Be Ironfit by Don Zink).  Do you need a mindset coach?  ABSOLUTELY!  Especially as training starts to ramp and your brain turns to mush for anything outside of swim/bike/run/eat/drink/sleep, I believe EVERYONE needs someone to keep them moving forward when everything inside them wants to quit – someone to give them a toolbox of mental hardware to use out on the course when the dark and twisties come.  That’s what Deb did for me and it worked beautifully!

So, I need to find myself a NEW Level 3 Goal – and I can’t imagine it will be in the racing world.  I mean seriously, what’s bigger than Ironman – unless we get into the TOTALLY cuckoo for cocoa-puffs world of Ultraman or Epic 5 – and I’m not THAT crazy.

Likely, my next goal will have something to do with my business.  I have some ideas, but nothing that’s ready for publication just yet.

As far as racing goes, 2017 will most likely be populated with local sprint and Olympic distance triathlons, some running races, and perhaps a 70.3 in the Fall (Augusta, NC, and Great Floridian are leading the list so far).  Stay tuned!

39388573 - woman's hand with red pen writing word "what's next"

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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