Ironman Louisville 2017 Race Recap

I can't believe I am finally typing those words into the title box! I have followed other bloggers' Ironman journeys and read stranger's race recaps for years and have been waiting for the day I could write my own! Actually, the reason I ever thought I could even possibly finish an Ironman was because of a few (now-defunct) blogs I used to follow a few years ago, written by women who were just like me. See, I started reading these blogs around the same time I started to dabble in triathlon, as well as when I started training for my first marathon. They were written by women I really related to - they had only been into running/triathlon for a couple years or so, they were middle-of-the-packers who always strived to better themselves, and their experience and ability levels were nearly identical to mine. I followed their Ironman journeys in 2014, and although I knew that Ironman was a thing that was out there for experienced and talented athletes, that was the first time it ever occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, Ironman could one day be a reality for me too. It is truly surreal to have now accomplished this dream that, not long ago, was just that - a dream.

Ben and I rented a minivan for the trip - it's a 10 hour drive and since, we had the two of us, Bane, two of my bikes (an extra one just in case - I have had mechanical issues with my tri bike over the last month and was really paranoid), and multiple bags/suitcases (most of them filled with my tri stuff), so it seemed easier and more comfortable to have the extra space. We folded all of the seats down in the back so it was one big, open space and made a bed so we could take turns sleeping while the other person was driving. We left DC at 3am on Thursday morning and arrived in Louisville just before 2pm!

It Was Never Random

Greetings from Louisville, Kentucky! I was going to do a final recap of my training with all kinds of numbers and statistics, as is my custom, but I couldn't do it. This race is so much more than the last 20 weeks of official training.

This race is YEARS in the making. Six and a half of them, in fact.

This race is three months of Couch to 5k, when I started from square one and learned to run for the first time, just for one minute at a time. It's one minute turning in to two and then three and then eventually 30 straight.

Ironman Louisville Race Plan + Goals

Two summers ago, literally the day before I started training before my first half Ironman, I took a class with yoga teacher and endurance athlete Sage Rountree. I found out afterward that Sage is also an Ironman and triathlon coach, and she has a book called Racing Wisely, which covers everything from choosing a race to recovering from it. As someone who tends to overthink and worry about pretty much everything (in racing and life in general), Sage's guidance to mindfulness throughout training and racing has been hugely beneficial to me in the past. One of my favorite parts is guidance for creating a race plan (worksheets available in PDF format here), and I've been writing them for big races ever since that first one nearly two years ago. I've been waiting ever since then for the day that I could write a race plan for a full Ironman, and even though I'll be holding my breath at least until I actually get in the water because of what happened last year, I think I'm ready to finally put this one together.

The Years They Felt Short, But the Days Were Long

Race week is here. After 20 weeks of Ironman Training Round 2, 16 months since I started Ironman Training Round 1, with 4 half marathons, 3 half Ironmans (Ironmen?), 2 century rides, a marathon, and thousands of miles's finally race week. This day has been a long time coming. 

I'm finally coming out of hiding this week to finish this journey, and that includes documenting it. Part of the reason I stopped updating was that once I felt behind, it was so daunting to think about catching up. Week after week piled up until I had more weeks absent than not. I won’t bore you with every detail of every workout of the last 9 weeks but I do think I’d like to take a quick (or not) little trip down memory lane.

Week 9: I had my first big breakdown of this training cycle and took 2 unplanned rest days. I went to Target and bought new sheets instead of training one night and it actually might have been the best thing I did all training cycle because I woke up the next day feeling like a new person. I also completed the Farm to Fork Fondo (53 miles) in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It was my first time ever visiting Amish country and the hills were challenging, but it was breathtakingly gorgeous and one of my favorite rides I’ve ever done.

I Think I'm Doing Okay.

So it's been over a month since I last updated and as some of you noticed, I made my blog private for a little while since then. I had kind of stopped updating and wasn't sure if I really wanted to keep writing here, which is something I've gone back and forth on for a while now, but that's another story for another day. I just wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it anyway, and I started getting a lot of spam comments that I just didn't have the time or energy to deal with, so I just thought it would be easier to shut it down for now, at least temporarily, until I figured out what I wanted to do with it. And I'm still not sure what I ultimately want to do with it, but I have had the urge to update about my Ironman training. I've heard from a few of you wondering what was going on, and I do miss updating in this space and, to be honest, time and energy are big reasons why I haven't been updating but honestly, I just haven't really...wanted to? And the times when I have wanted to post have been sporadic and fleeting and I haven't been able to string together enough of those thoughts to actually post something. So I don't know for sure if I want to keep writing or not, and I've kind of gotten to the point where I'm not not really interested in writing about my everyday life, and I'm also not really interested in writing a hardcore fitness blog. At this point it's really just a training/race log, primarily because I like to have a record of that stuff. I think it's cool that other people read it, and I definitely read other people's, so I get that that's a thing that some people find interesting to read, so that's where I'm at right now. I don't really see that changing anytime soon, and it may just all fall away after this Ironman thing is over anyway, I don't really know. We'll see.

Ironman Louisville Training: Week 8

Not much to report this was mostly good with a couple of low points: my two missed swims. I've now missed four of my last six scheduled swims - two were out of my control, one was intentional, and one was my fault - which is, you know, not great, but swimming is one of my stronger disciplines (all relative since I'm not particularly strong at any of them!) so I'm not too concerned.

On the bright side, I handled my bike ride this weekend like a champ! It always helps to have company, and I actually enjoyed almost all six of those hours I spent pedaling on Sunday. This Ironman thing may not be a lost cause after all.

In other news, this week I finally started to feel like I was making a breakthrough in my IMNC anxiety/disappointment, but by the end of the week I felt like I had taken two steps forward and one step back and didn't really end up much farther than where I started. I know I keep being vague about all these feelings and it's really not intentional. I do want to get them out and talk about them but every time I try I just don't know what to say. I know the words are in there somewhere and I hope to find them soon.

Ironman Louisville Training: Week 7

This week was...a doozy. I'm really emotional about my training, too emotional maybe. I always have been. It was the emotional side that sucked me in in my early C25k days, and that hasn't changed. Most days and weeks that's a good thing - that emotional side is my lifeblood and why I stick with this sport at all - but sometimes it throws me for a loop and that was this week. I struggled with motivation after coming back from vacation, and I had to do some serious soul-searching over why I am even training for this race in the first place. After last year (a phrase I have vowed to now remove from my vocabulary) I'm finally feeling ready to start facing the facts, admitting some ugly truths to myself, and moving on. I want to talk about it more, and I need to talk about it more. Hoping to get some these swirling thoughts of my head and into this white space sooner rather than later.

This week I finally had the realization that Ironman training, by this point, is hard. It just is. It's hard whether I work out at 5am or at 5pm. It's hard to spend over an hour in the pool. It's hard to spend a handful of hours on my bike. It's hard to run on tired legs and when the heat index is approaching 100 degrees. It doesn't get any easier just because I pack my lunch the night before or I make an effort to put my laundry in the washing machine when I take my clothes off or I use my commute home to double as a workout. I mean, that stuff doesn't hurt, but it's not a magical solution to make training easy. Because it's just really hard. That's #ironmanlife (the coach I used last year put notes at the beginning of my weekly plans - which I'm recycling this year -  and that was literally the only note for this year's plan, which I found hilarious yet appropriate). And that's not going to change.

Race Bucket List Update

I've been thinking a lot lately about races - looking back with nostalgia on races past, looking forward to upcoming races, and adding new races daily to the list of races I want to run (seriously, so many races, so little time). Three years ago I posted a list of big races I hoped to one day run - my Race Bucket List, if you will - and only a few years later, it's in serious need of a revamp. There are some races I've completed, some that are still waiting to be checked off, and some that I'm not really even interested in running anymore. This original list was never a binding nor a comprehensive collection of finish lines I hoped to eventually see, but it's clear that now my race priorities and preferences have changed quite a bit over the last few years!

Ironman Louisville Training: Week 6 (Belize Edition!)

This was an extremely light week of training for me since I was on vacation! Although when I travel I try to work in my training or sneak in a run or a race whenever possible (my favorite way to see a new place), this vacation was specifically about taking a break from training.  I did get in a few, non-traditional swims, bikes, and runs, but they were all fun and extremely leisurely. I hadn't been on a relaxing vacation with zero activities planned in SEVEN years, so yeah, I left Ironman training at home!

Ironman Louisville Training: Week 5

I skipped two workouts this week and am trying to learn how to not dwell on that. I don't think it's realistic to expect to hit every workout - I used to be that person, and I would love to still be that person, but considering that my non-training life looks very different than it used to, I think it's reasonable to expect that training will also look very different. I don't want to use that as an excuse, and, there are definitely ways that non-training life as it is now actually helps my training life, but the point is that things are just different, for better or worse. I've always been one to focus more on what I didn't do than what I did do, and I don't want it to be that way anymore.

It's hard not to not play the comparison game with my training from last year, but with everything logged so neatly and digitally, it's so easy to give into the temptation. Before I know it, I'm asking myself how I was able to do that run so much faster or how I swam that morning even though I was sick but was too tired to swim this week. I need to stop doing that! I have to remember that there are a million variables that go into training and that it would be impossible to try to pinpoint one reason to explain why X IMNC training workout was better or worse than Y IM Louisville training workout. Of course, it's not random, and I will say that this week my biggest problem was simply not getting to bed early enough,  but that wasn't the only thing. I also have to remember that where I started this year is not where I started last year, and that I completed three significant distance races in the few months prior to starting my training. While that was really beneficial for my fitness, the flipside is that I didn't start this training cycle as fresh as I could have. With all of that said, I still feel a little ahead of the curve in my training - not much, as I'm getting to the point where my training will be nearly identical to what I did last year, but a little!

Ironman Louisville Training: Week 4

This week I really started to feel the cumulative fatigue of training. Even though it was a stepback week, I still had 9.5 hours worth of workouts and it definitely wasn't easy. I also traveled home for the weekend, which is always nice, and got in a lot of training there, but it was a busy weekend that left me completely worn out.

I was a little frustrated this week that I just don't seem to be acclimating to summer running. I feel like I'm at least somewhat there mentally, meaning I haven't been spending my entire run cursing at the sun like I usually do during the summer, but my body just can't hang. Usually it's my brain that I have to convince to run through the heat, but this year my body is the thing that won't get on board, which is frustrating. 

Maybe This Time

I had a lot of anxiety in the week or so leading up to officially starting my training for Ironman Louisville, and it surprised me. Maybe it shouldn't have, since anxious is pretty much my natural state, but it did. This wasn't a new experience, going off into uncharted territory; I've done this song and dance before - maybe not the full race, but the full training cycle. And then I realized that it was those two simple facts causing my heart rate to spike in the middle of the day just thinking about giving this another shot, since my Ironman experience thus far can be boiled down to these two points:
  • I have completed a full Ironman training cycle before, which should be confidence-boosting, was the hardest thing I have ever done. Ironman training moved me to tears and brought me to my knees like no other experience - training or otherwise - ever has. I have tried to find the words to explain why or how it was the hardest thing I have ever done, but all I can come up with is it was. the hardest thing. I have EVER. done. It was so physically and mentally draining that by the end of it I didn't even know who I was anymore or what I was doing or why. I have never had a training cycle rock me to my core like that. And was it worth it? Well...
  • I didn't get to do the full race. I trained, I shirked nearly all responsibilities that weren't absolutely essential, I sweat, I bled, I cried on way too many occasions, and when it came down to race day, I only got to complete 84.6 of the 140.6 miles I had sacrificed so much for. I am absolutely terrified that that's going to happen again. I try not to think about it, but deep down I know it's a possibility, because I've lived it, and I just don't know if or how I can handle that happening again.  

Ironman Louisville Training: Week 3

This week in my training plan was labeled, "Hard," and it was made even harder by some non-training stuff I had going on. Work has been really busy, we had a company outing one night, and Ben/Ironmate extraordinaire, who picks up essentially all the household chores when I'm in training mode, was out of town this week.

Another reason it was hard is that, because I started this training cycle with a much stronger base than last time, I'm doing more in these early weeks than I did before. It was a tough week but I just had to press on however I could - that's what Ironman is all about!

This week wasn't perfect, but I had more good days than bad days. And for most of it I felt strong, like for the first time I felt like I really had done an Ironman before (or at least trained for one), and like all of my hard work this spring was finally paying off. I know I'm not yet as strong as I'll be at the end of training, but I remembered that strength I felt in the month before race day and felt it starting to come back. I know it's going to take a lot of hard work over the next few months, but I'm ready and excited to be stronger than ever.

Ironman Louisville Training: Week 2

I knew the excitement of the first week of training wouldn't last, but it was still disappointing when it died down this week! One thing I am really trying to focus on this training cycle is managing my time and making my workouts as time-efficient as possible, so this week I tried my hand at run and bike commuting home from work! Both went really well and I'm excited to have opened this new door of training.

I had a decent week this week, but my weekend workouts were a struggle. There was a chance I was going to be able to go home and train again this weekend, and I was kind of hoping and betting on that, and when it didn't happen I was pretty bummed. There's just nothing like training at home with my tri family. Summer also abruptly arrived in DC this week, which made my long run and ride that much harder. I was in a bit of a funk over all of that this weekend, but I finished out the week feeling better and more confident. I'm already way ahead of where I was at this point of training last year - I just need to keep working over the next 4 months.

Mountains of Misery Challenge Century Recap

I went to sleep the night before this ride absolutely terrified. For the first time I truly felt like I was in over my head and had no idea what I was in for. I've never felt so unprepared or out of my league before a race. Technically this is a ride, not a race (although it is timed), and my friend Tracy (yes we have the same name and yes it's confusing) and I definitely treated it as the former and not the latter. We started with a group of 8 or 9 others and quickly got separated from them in the first mile. We were able to catch back up and ride in a group of 4 or 5 for a while, but Tracy and I eventually got separated from them too. Although we inadvertently joined a few different groups of people throughout the ride, Tracy and I stuck together the entire time (meaning he hung back for me, which I most definitely appreciated).

Ironman Louisville Training: Week 1

Ironman Louisville training time is finally here! I registered in November and after Shamrock, Kinetic, and Mountains of Misery this spring, it's finally the focus of my calendar and my training. Given how things went last year, over the past few weeks I've been having a lot of feelings about doing this again. And when I say that, I don't even know if I mean the training, which was hard and flipped my world upside down in a way I never saw coming but was also one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had, or the devastation of the race being shortened after all those months of intense preparation and sacrifice, not only mine but that if everyone around me who, at least in some small way, had to accommodate this huge presence that suddenly barged into my life. I tend to emotionally scar very easily and the idea that this could all be for naught, AGAIN, is a little much for me to handle.

Despite those worries, now that it's started, I feel the weight lifting a little bit. I had a pretty great first week of training and I feel a little lighter and a little clearer, a little more excited and a little more hopeful. It feels different this time - good different. I feel way ahead of the curve compared to last year, for a lot of reasons, I think, and overall just...better. I did miss one bike ride, but I did get in an extra swim, plus I'm so giddy about how the week went overall that I don't even care. I'm back, baby!

    Kinetic Recovery + Mountains of Misery Training

    I have two weeks worth of training to recap so I'll try to keep it short(ish) and sweet! The last couple of weeks have been pretty blah - I'm not sure what's up with me, but I just haven't felt like myself. Other than long bike rides - including the hardest one I have ever done in my life, by far - my training in the two weeks since Kinetic has backed way off. I don't know if it was the post-race blues or that I've been overwhelmed with other stuff going on, but I've only managed to get in maybe half of my planned workouts. This is really unlike me and has me feeling a bit off and not like myself, but just having finished a big race (recovery!) and having another one right after (rest!), I've had plenty of reasons, valid or not, to back off a bit. This week was also my last week before I move on to Ironman training, another excuse to my last week to cut myself some slack. I had some things I needed to get done and take care of that wouldn't have been possible if I were in hardcore training mode, so excuses or not, I'm at least thankful for the flexibility.

      Kinetic Half Iron Distance Triathlon Recap

      This was my third half ironman, and it could not have been more different from my previous two (Beach2Battleship 2015 and Ironman Atlantic City 70.3 2016). The others were in later summer/early fall while Kinetic was late spring; the weather was mild-to-hot and sunny for the others, while Kinetic was cold, cloudy, and sometimes rainy; the others were on very flat, fast courses, while this Kinetic was on rolling hills; oh and I was well-trained for the other two, while I was trained enough as I needed to be to get through Kinetic (but not enough to feel super confident).

      Kinetic Half Ironman Training: Race Week

      I enjoyed a fairly easy last week of training this week leading up to race day! I made it to all three of my YTri workouts this week (the first time I've done that in...a while), and I kicked off tri season in a big way this weekend with my third half ironman! Race day didn't go as well as I had hoped, but I'm proud to have gotten through it!

      Kinetic Half Ironman Race Plan

      Two years ago next month - which feels so long ago I did the math three times - I started training for my first half Ironman. After a couple years of sprint and Olympic triathlons, I felt ready to take the leap to a 70.3, but scared out of my mind at the same time! The weekend before my training plan kicked off, I went to Wanderlust and was fortunate enough to take a class with Sage Rountree. I had heard of Sage previously (I purchased her Yoga for Runners book around the time I ran my first half marathon), but after taking a class with her I found out she is actually an endurance sports coach and Ironman triathlete. At the end of my half Ironman training that summer after I took her class, I started reading Racing Wisely, a comprehensive deep dive into racing, from choosing the right race to what to do after you cross the finish line. The information and thought exercises in the book really helped put me at ease during those last few weeks before my biggest endurance race ever, and I particularly liked the idea of developing a race plan (the Race Week Worksheet available fo free in PFD format on her website). This worksheet breaks down all of the key components of race day, mental and physical, to hopefully ensure preparedness for any situation that might arise. The best thing about making a plan like this is that it's completely customizable and adaptable to any race at any distance - I really can't recommend it enough all athletes gearing up for a goal race, regardless of what that goal is. 

      Although I've thought about it many times, I haven't actually written out a race plan since I first made one for my first 70.3, Beach2Battleship in October 2015. There are some components I've chosen not to write out this time, like nutrition and gear (just for the sake of anyone reading), but given that it was such a beneficial exercise for me the first time, I wanted to revisit the idea of a race plan as I gear up for my 3rd half Ironman this weekend!

      Kinetic Half Ironman Training: ONE WEEK Out!

      This was my last full week of training before race week! I wasn't sure exactly how to handle this week, since I haven't been training specifically for this race very long. I wasn't sure the training I've done really warranted a taper, but I also didn't want to do too much before race day. To be honest, I didn't have a solid plan for my training this week, but the Universe kind of stepped in a dictated how much training I did and when, and I think it worked out for the most part.

      Kinetic Half Ironman Training: 2 Weeks Out

      Another week of rocking and rolling! This week went much more smoothly than last week - no race blow-ups, no broken bikes, etc. Thank goodness!

      Kinetic Half Ironman Training: 3 Weeks Out

      I *just* realized that I have been wrong in the titles of these posts. Technically my counting was correct if I were counting from the beginning of the week, but by the time I post them I'm one week closer to race day than I've been saying - eek! I actually only have three weeks to go until the Kinetic Half Ironman!

      Woof, this week did not go as planned! The only highlight was a 5k PR on Friday night, but everything else was way under par. My run mileage was super low and I didn't even do a long run, which I knew would most likely be the case since I had the race on Friday night and a big ride on Sunday, but it still felt weird. My bike mileage ended up being low too, though, because I broke my bike almost 25 miles into the ride and wasn't able to finish the 60 miles I had planned. It was an interesting week, and not a great one, but there's nothing I can do except move on. Some things I learned this week:
      • I'm not a social runner. I already knew this, yet I started running (and swimming and biking) with a tri group at my Y about 2.5 months ago. It started out with 1 run per week, which was fine, but a few weeks ago we increased to 2 runs per week. And on the weekends I've been doing brick runs with friends after our long rides, so that put me up to 3 social runs a week, which is a lot for someone who, until 2.5 months ago, ran alone like 95% of the time (and generally prefers it that way). I also started taking my dog for daily 1ish mile runs about a month ago, but he's not the best runner so it's stressful for me sometimes. I need running to be my alone time, my time to think and to decompress and honestly, as a huge introvert, time to just not be around anyone or talk to anyone or listen to anyone (sadly, that includes my dog). I went for what ended up only being my 4th solo run in 27 days on Thursday this week and it was glorious and exactly what I needed.
      • Run streaking is not for me. I have never really been interested in attempting a run streak, but I accidentally started one about a month ago when I ran for a few days straight and then started running daily with my dog, so it just kind of happened and then I just kind of kept it going (minimum of 1 mile per day with Bane and there were several days when that's the only running I did). At first it was kind of fun and exciting to see how long I could keep it up, but it got old after a while and officially ended on Sunday this week (which, ironically, is my 6-year running anniversary). It was interesting to see how my body responded to running daily, especially since at some point (in the future when/if I stop doing long distance triathlons) I do want to try out a higher mileage training plan to reach some of my big running goals. It was nice to test the waters a little bit (and I do mean a little bit since my total mileage was still well under my 4x/week marathon training mileage) but ultimately I am not interested in running that often no matter how short the distance is.  
      • Bike maintenance is important! Like I mentioned already...I broke my bike on a ride this week. I'm still not entirely sure how it happened, or even what happened exactly, but I started having some trouble with my gears around 20 miles in, then my chain popped and immediately after that it somehow jammed and snapped my rear derailer clean off. In layman's terms, one minute I was riding my bike and the next minute I had rendered it unrideable. The guys I was with said they had never seen that happen before, but I guess I'm just that talented. I don't know if there was anything I could have done to prevent it, but I do know that I didn't do my due diligence. My gears had been acting funky off an on for a while and that I really should have gotten a tune-up before now. I definitely learned my lesson - my road bike is in the shop getting repaired and tuned up and my tri bike, which is also having some shifting problems and is overdue for a tune-up, will be going in ASAP.

      Kinetic Half Ironman Training: 5 Weeks to Go

      This training cycle (if you can call it that?) has been a mix of quality during the week and quantity during the weekend which, if I'm being honest, I don't hate. I'm definitely not pushing myself to do as much during the week, but I'm pushing myself much harder than usual in the short workouts I do. On the flipside, my weekend workouts haven't been as fast but have been about building up my endurance as much as possible before race day. I knew going into this race, with the marathon being my focus until the final 8 weeks before the tri, that my swimming and cycling weren't going to be where they have been in the past pre-70.3, and I was/am fine with that. This isn't a goal race, but rather a check-in race to jumpstart my journey to Ironman #2, and see where my strengths and weaknesses are.

      Although my training volume doesn't quite add up to where I would ideally be for a half Ironman, I have to say that I'm really happy with the quality of work I've put in over the last several weeks. This week's weekday workouts in particular were killer - I PR'ed my mile run and my swim!

      Kinetic Half Ironman Training: 6 Weeks to Go

      Since I'm not exactly following a structured, weekly training plan, I decided to number these by weeks remaining rather than weeks of training. My training didn't really have a clear starting point, so it just made the most sense to do it this way.

      After spending a couple weeks recovering from Shamrock and transitioning into more of a triathlon focus than a running focus, this was a solid, hard week getting ready for my half Ironman in 6 weeks. 

      Kinetic Half Ironman Training: Transition Week

      This was my second post-Shamrock week, and although I do have a half-Ironman (the Kinetic Half in Lake Anna, VA) coming up in less than two months, I wasn't quite ready to jump in head-first into a new training plan so soon after the marathon. So I'm calling this week a bit of a transition week: a more than a recovery week, but less than what my 70.3 training would look like if I hadn't just run a marathon 2 weeks ago.

      Shamrock Marathon Recovery Week

      I fell off with my Shamrock recaps during the last few weeks of training, but there really wasn't much to report! Taper was pretty uneventful, and I was pretty busy at home and work during those last few weeks. I had a lot of non-running stuff going on and not a lot of running stuff, so I just didn't get to catching up with training recaps. BUT! Now that Shamrock is over (and I PR'ed and met my sub-4 goal!), I'm feeling ready to move on to the next race (because there's always a next race), and to get one step closer to Ironman Louisville. 

      After 4 months of marathon training (on the heels of my first Ironman training cycle, at that), I'm understandably not quite ready to get back into hardcore training mode yet and am taking the first two post-race weeks to recover both mentally and physically. This was my first week after the race and I mostly took it easy, and really enjoyed not having a schedule to stick to!

      Shamrock Marathon 2017 Race Recap

      If you like wordy race recaps, way-too-deep running thoughts, and/or teary finish lines, then man, do I have a post for you!

      If you've been around for a while, you probably know that Shamrock weekend is one of my favorite weekends of the whole year, and has been ever since it became my first half marathon in 2012. Running it every year since then has become a little tradition of mine, and I've now run the half and the full 3 times each (and the 8k once). I signed up to run the Shamrock Marathon for the 3rd time last November, during a post-Ironman high/what-do-I-do-now episode?! Truthfully, I hadn't really planned on running the Shamrock full again anytime soon and was avidly searching for a new spring marathon to try out, but when I found out my friend Carl and I both had the same current PR and the same lofty goal, to take almost 20 minutes off that PR and break 4 hours, it seemed meant to be. I started training in mid-November and on Sunday, 18 weeks later, I crossed the finish line.

      This Shamrock charm was on my very first medal from 2012. I put it on a necklace and have worn it for every important race since (and added the 26.2 after my first marathon, obviously)

      Shamrock Marathon Training: Week 15

      This was a good week! I think it helped me to know that this was the last big week of training before taper!

      Training for:
      Shamrock Marathon
      Virginia Beach, VA
      March 19


      Week 15

      Shamrock Marathon Training: Weeks 12-14

      I have fallen really behind on my Shamrock training recaps, and I have gone back and forth on whether I even want to post them or not, but I think that I do. Rather than breaking up the 3 weeks I've missed in separate posts, they're all rolled together here. In the last 3 weeks I've:
      • run two 20-milers;
      • run almost 100 miles (97.3);
      • gotten sick;
      • skipped a run for the first time during this training cycle (8 miles);
      • run my longest weekday run (10+ miles after work!);
      • joined a tri club; 
      • registered for two races (Kinetic Half Ironman and Mountains of Misery century ride - more on my races this year soon!); and
      • ridden my bike outside! For fun! 
      Maybe I'll get back on track and post them regularly, or maybe I won't, but for now I'm caught up!

      Training for:
      Shamrock Marathon
      Virginia Beach, VA
      March 19


      Shamrock Marathon Training: Week 11

      This week was my first "race" of this year, and I put that in quotes because it was a timed run but not billed as a race, per se, so I'm never exactly sure what to call it. I really should have treated it more like the training run that it was rather than a race, and I learned the hard way how important pacing is!

      Training for:
      Shamrock Marathon
      Virginia Beach, VA
      March 19


      Week 11

      Shamrock Marathon Training: Week 10

      This was a really off week for me - being in DC, Obama's last days in office and the impending inauguration really hung over like a dark cloud, and it was hard not to feel sad and anxious this week. I stuck to my running this week, which is good considering that's my priority right now, but I really slacked on swimming and biking. I swam once, and I didn't get on the bike at all. I just wasn't in the mood to push myself this week, and there was a lot going on. Not the week I intended to have, but it's not every week that my favorite president leaves office and I have a weekend visitor and I march through DC with hundreds of thousands of people, so I think it's okay that it wasn't the most normal of weeks workout-wise either. I've been on track before and I'll get on track again.

      Training for:
      Shamrock Marathon
      Virginia Beach, VA
      March 19


      Shamrock Marathon Training: Week 9

      This week was interesting: I added in more swimming and cycling since this should technically be Week 1 of my training for the Kinetic Half in May! As I said in my training plan post, I'm kind of just testing the waters with tri training right now and seeing how it goes. Marathon training is my first priority at least until March, so I'm open to modifying and/or backing down on swimming and cycling if it's affecting my running. This isn't going to be a normal half Ironman training cycle like I have had before, and I'm okay with that. This first week was fine though, and I even nailed my long run the day after my long ride (though it should be noted that my long ride right now isn't even 2 hours...).

      Three Years

      Today is the 3rd anniversary of my first marathon and I'm feeling really emotional about it, which is surprising because last year on this day I couldn't have forced myself to care about it if I wanted to. I'm not sure what changed or if somehow 3 years is a bigger deal than 2, but man, I'm having a hard time processing this one! That January day feels simultaneously like yesterday and a lifetime ago. I feel like I was JUST sitting at my grandma's kitchen table in Charleston, filling up my 33oz water bottle for what felt like the hundredth time that day, anticipating my early morning alarm.

      And then I think of all the things that have happened since then, all of the life changes, and how life today looks absolutely nothing like life back then, and I feel like it's been an eternity. I thought it would be fun to take a look back at these last 3 years, and at the 3 years before that. See, I'm having the hardest time wrapping my mind around the fact that more time has passed since I first ran a marathon and now than had passed between my running for the first time EVER in my life and becoming a marathoner. How is that even possible?!

      Shamrock Marathon Training: Week 8

      I'm halfway through training for the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach in March! I've gotten into nice groove with marathon training - not that it's always easy to get myself out the door, but like Alyssa put it more eloquently than I could, after so many months of intense Ironman training, marathon training really is like coming back to an old friend. This will be my 5th marathon but, somehow this is actually my 7th marathon training cycle (I trained for about 10 weeks for the Richmond Marathon in 2014 before deciding that the summer training required for a fall marathon just wasn't for me, and through 13 weeks of training for the Big Sur Marathon last year before injuring my foot about a month before the race and having to drop out)! I'm in shock that that can really be true, and a little emotional since it will have been 3 years since my first marathon later this week!

      I didn't originally think I would want to do weekly recaps of my training, but I realized that I do want to document this training and that I've always recapped my training in the same structured way for a reason: because it works for me. I have two weeks to catch up on this week but next week I should be back on track. Here's how things have gone since my last update two weeks ago:

      Week 8 

      Shamrock Marathon 2017 Training Plan

      As expected, after I finished Ironman North Carolina I was feeling quite restless and antsy to take on a new challenge. I've definitely been enjoying the slower pace of life now that I'm no longer in hardcore training mode, but as much as I longed for these days back in the summer when I was spending 6 hours of my Saturday on my bike, I always knew I wouldn't hang it up after the big race was over. (And then, you know, the big race ended up being only 83% of what it was supposed to be, so the Universe didn't give me much of a choice but to keep going).

      I knew shortly after finishing IMNC that I wanted to take a crack at a spring marathon, but I couldn't decide which one to run. I knew I could always run the Shamrock Marathon for a third time, but I also wanted to explore the idea of running a marathon in another state since I've run one in 3 states now and will be adding at least one more state in 2017 when I do IM Louisville. I looked at races all up and down the east coast and although I found a lot of great options, the New Jersey Marathon at the end of April seemed like the perfect fit: a coastal course, an early enough date that they weather will hopefully be in my favor, and one of my favorite running buddies/local New Jerseyans on board to tackle it as well. What more could a marathoner ask for?

      The idea of Shamrock was still nagging at me, though, especially since I have a friend who is part of my group doing Louisville who has the same marathon PR as me and the same time goal as me. Knowing that we'd be able to get together for a few long runs and pace each other during the race seemed like an opportunity I just couldn't pass up. I may be insane, but I couldn't choose between Shamrock and New Jersey, so I've decided to run both. 

      I have a busy spring - in addition to these two marathons six weeks apart, I'm planning to do a half Ironman 2 weeks after the second one. I don't anticipate being in tip-top tri shape for the 70.3 and that's okay - I'm mainly using it as motivation to keep my swimming and cycling base over the winter months before I start hardcore Ironman training in the summer, and as a baseline for my Ironman Louisville training. The way I've chosen to structure my training for the year (and I really mean the year, since all of this leads to Ironman Louisville) is to start with marathon training for Shamrock, incorporate more triathlon training about halfway though that in prep for the half Ironman, more or less play the six weeks in between Shamrock and New Jersey by ear (since my NJ goals really depend on what happens at Shamrock), take a couple of weeks to taper for the half Ironman, then shift into full-on Ironman training mode. Since I have so much training ahead of me this year, I'm breaking it down one goal at a time. That's the way I've always trained, with sub-goals and check-in races over a long period of time, all leading up to a big goal race, and that's always worked well for me. 

      So with that said, for the next 2.5 months, this is what my training currently looks like, with my focus until March being finishing the Shamrock Marathon in under 4 hours. My training plan is 18 weeks long and started on November 14, so I'm already in week 8!

      Shamrock Marathon Training Update #1

      I'm doing this a little out of order since I haven't shared any of my race plans for next year yet (other than Louisville), so surprise! I'm training for the Shamrock Marathon in March! I do have a list of my planned races for next year to share, as well as my training plan for Shamrock, but I've been meaning to post about how my training has been going for a while now, so here goes. I don't think that I want to keep up with scheduled weekly, or even monthly training updates, but I do want to share my  training here in some capacity. These updates may be sporadic, but I personally love reading training recaps (and I know I'm not the only one) and hope they can entertain or help someone out!

      I decided to run the Shamrock Marathon shortly after finishing Ironman North Carolina. Shamrock was my first half in 2012 and I've run either the half or the full every year since then, and I was planning to run the half this year. However, I am really hoping to go sub-4 in a marathon this spring and I have a friend with the same current PR as me and the same time goal who is running Shamrock, so I decided to do it with him. I do have another spring marathon planned about 6 weeks later in case I don't hit my time goal, but more on that later!

      I started training for Shamrock in mid-November, right after the Richmond Half Marathon (which I didn't recap because I just didn't have that much to say about it, but I ran with Alyssa and Kristen and they did write about it). Since I've been training for 7 weeks now and am playing catch-up on recapping, here is a quick rundown of each week so far:

      Week 1