If at First You Fail, Try Try Again

Hello everyone!  After a significant and honestly unwarranted hiatus on the blogging front, I think an update is long overdue!  As I write, I am on a plane headed to California, where my coach and his other pro athletes have already started our summer training camp in Agoura Hills, which is in the Santa Monica Mountains just north of Los Angeles.  For the next 9 days we will be hard at work as we all prepare for what is gearing up to be an exciting end of an already thrilling season.

The last six weeks have been interesting for me.  Training-wise I have put up some phenomenal blocks and have headed into my races feeling fit and ready to FIGHT.  At Eagleman 70.3 in mid-June, despite what was truly an abysmal run and an average bike, I felt pleased with my race on the whole.  I say this because a year ago, my recovery from an Ironman event was a 5 week affair.  My first couple of Ironman races took a huge toll on my body and hormonally I was in the weeds with exhaustion for weeks.  Eagleman, however, came just 3 weeks after Ironman Texas, and while my body was not 100% recovered for the race, I was recovered enough to go out there and put out a solid effort – to push my body and have it respond.  I walked away feeling that from a developmental standpoint, I have made big gains and am becoming a stronger and more resilient athlete.  I was pleased.

Muncie 70.3, which was my lead-up race to Ironman Lake Placid was a big wake up call.  It was a slap in the face.  Not that I wasn’t already well aware, but this race only further solidified in my mind just how far I still need to go to be able to consistently compete against the best.  I believe that the best triathletes – whether Ironman or Olympic Distance racers – are capable to performing and contending at ANY distance.  They are versatile athletes who have an arsenal of weapons that they can pull out and use at a moment’s notice.  The race is shortened?  No problem – they have the speed and the high intensity required to get through the race.  Oh it’s an Ironman – no issue.  They have the endurance and aptitude to transition and push the limits on long distance events.  I, however, do not have this versatility…just yet.  And that was on clear display in Muncie.  Forgetting about my swim, which, as you all know, continues to be a work in progress for me, I believe that on a given day I can ride with many of the top women.  But my bike is also inconsistent.  When I am on, I am ON.  And when I am off, I am way way off.  My power fluctuations can swing widely, and it is something that we need to work on – bridging the gap between my off days and my great days.  I knew that I was going to come out far back on the swim, and my only chance of salvaging a race would have been to throw down a phenomenal bike split and hold on for a strong run.  I didn’t and I came in dead last in the professional women’s field.  DFL.  That sucked.  So many people said to me after the race “oh, but you are training for an Ironman – you don’t have the speed in your legs for an Oly”….but to be honest, I HATE that excuse.  In my mind, it doesn’t matter.  Every single one of those women that were ahead of me are also 70.3 and Ironman distance racers and they were able to perform substantially better than I.  That is why they are great, because they possess the versatility to race and compete no matter the distance or the conditions.  I have so much to improve upon.

Moving on to Ironman Lake Placid.  I went into Lake Placid more prepared than I have been for any race I have done to date.  I was fit.  I was mentally prepared.  And I was entering a race where there was a true possibility of capturing my first Ironman win.  I was prepared to fight and I was so excited for the race.  I also knew there was a wide discrepancy in strengths amongst the women’s field.  Some of the women were very strong swimmers, but weaker on the bike and run.  Others were strong runners, but weak swimmers.  I felt the dynamic of the race would be very interesting and I was excited to see how it would play out.  I can’t actually remember a race I have looked forward to more than Lake Placid.  Coupled with all of this, nearly my entire family and some of my friends were making the trip from Maine, Boston, and New York City to come and see me race.  My support network was phenomenal and I was excited to perform in front of them.

Race day came.  My swim was fine.  Nothing terrible, but certainly nothing special.  Having raced a 2 mile OWS event the weekend before, I felt confident that this would my race where I would break the 1 hour barrier, so when I came out in 1:02, I was a bit disappointed.  That said, a 1:02 is still a significant improvement over anything I swam last year and I continue to show progress in almost every race I do, so I generally take a fairly pragmatic approach to my swim result.  Good.  Done. Onto the bike.

As is typical, I exited the water feeling nauseous, chilled, and extremely thirsty.  I ran slower than normal through transition and took my time in the changing tent to down 5 cups of water.  I was so thirsty I could hardly stand it, and I thought if I let my stomach calm down a bit in transition it would help me out on the bike.  That, however, proved to not be the wisest decision as I began puking within the first 3 miles of the race.  Nothing was staying down, and the more I threw up, the thirstier I became.  It was a vicious cycle – extreme thirst led me to consume fluids at every aid station, only to immediately throw up whatever when into my stomach.  It worried me, as I knew I needed to get calories and fluids in, but around mile 30 my legs started feeling half-way decent and although I was still puking I was hopeful maybe I was actually holding in more calories than I thought and that my stomach was settling.  I went through the next 45 miles feeling good – not awesome, but good.  Good enough to make up some time on the lead and to feel that I was getting stronger and stronger and had a good chance to bridge the gap on the second lap.  When I started on my second loop I really was starting to find a great rhythm and I was going for it.  Just before the big descent down to Keene, I took in some calories and as I descended everything came up.  When I hit mile 75 the wheels began to come off.   First I started feeling very weak and completely parched.  Then I started feeling dizzy.  Then I was having moments of losing my vision and not being able to ride in a straight line.  At one point one of the Ironman officials pulled up next to me in the car and said there had been some reports over the radio of me being in a pretty bad state and wondered if I was ok.  I couldn’t even talk and just nodded.  I kept replaying the words “I am a warrior” in my head and telling myself if I could just get to the run I could walk and finish the race.  That anything could happen in and Ironman.  People were passing me like crazy.  Another vehicle stopped a few miles up the road and asked if I had a flat tire because I was riding so slowly.  At that point I was pulled over on the side of the road puking and then trying to hold down some calories.  It was quite scary, to be honest.  Nausea during the swim and puking on the bike is a regular thing for me in races – in fact I’ve only had one race – New Orleans – where I didn’t puke on the bike.  But I’ve never been in such a state where I was so incoherent and dizzy and out of it – it was like I was completely drunk, but obviously hadn’t consumed a drop of alcohol.  I also felt extremely fatigued.  Incredibly incredibly tired.  Somehow, amazingly, I made it back into town and when I was about a mile from the finish was pulled off course.  I had toppled off my bike and just lay in the road.  Volunteers rushed bags of ice to me and tried to feed me water, which I promptly threw up.  The overwhelming feeling of exhaustion was too much and I passed out from exhaustion – completely spent.  My day was over.  In the med tent, another racer had apparently voluntarily walked himself in for some medical support and they let him go back out on the course to continue racing.  When I woke up from my nap and heard this my hopes soared and I jumped up and asked if I could go back out – anxious to finish what I started.  But, they said no.  My chip had long been taken away and because I was carried into the medical tent, they couldn’t let me continue with my race.  Bummer.

In the aftermath of it all, I have of course been intensely studying what went wrong and conferring with my coach, doctors, nutritionist and family members.  Some feel it was dehydration.  Others thought possible water intoxication.  At the end of the day we’ve figured out I have some kind of sea/motion sickness issues in the swim, which I need to figure out how to deal with.  That translates into the sickness on the bike.  Consuming large amounts of water early on in the ride does absolutely nothing for my stomach.  My electrolyte balance during my pre-load phase going into the race also seems to be off and is something that needs to be worked out.

I spent the better part of the last week doing a lot of “testing”.  We did many open water swims in the lake and in the river trying out different anti-nausea treatments – ginger before the swim, pressure-point bracelets, the quantity and type of fluids consumed before a hard effort.  And we are making good progress.  We also did a few race simulations, where I’ve been focusing on NOT drinking or eating in the first 20 minutes of the bike to allow my stomach to settle.  We are learning some very interesting things, and although LP was a big bummer for me, I think we are taking that experience and making lemonade out of lemons…really honing in on problems that have existed for a while.  And hopefully – just hopefully, this will help to make me a better and more versatile athlete down the road.

California awaits.  I can’t wait to spend time and train with my teammates from all around the world, and to have the opportunity to work for a few weeks with Matt and Gerry watching out every move.

And then….Ironman New York City is August 11th!  And I will find my redemption.

I want to give a huge huge thanks to my family who have supported me tirelessly over this journey, but in particular over the last week.  Their time and dedication to helping me get better and also find solutions to the issues at hand have been amazing and I am so grateful to have them in my life.  Mom, Dad, JM, Vanessa, Jeff, Laura, Althea, Lilah and little Louisa and Meara – thank you!  And I love you all so very very much.

Until next time.

Don’t Dream It.  Be It.



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