Celebrating 5 years of Ironman participation

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Ironman Lake Placid – One more time

After 4 years off of long-distance triathlons and much debate about whether the 2014 Ironman Maryland was my last race, I am excited to announce that I will be returning to Lake Placid, NY on July 18, 2018 for the 20th Anniversary of Ironman Lake Placid (and my 10th anniversary of being an Ironman).

My training plan will not officially begin until January 2018.  In the mean time, I’m keeping focused on running (with the Heartbreakers in Boston) and strength training.

While on a hiatus from Ironman triathlon for the past three years, I have not been a complete couch potato.  In between a few half marathons, I’ve been spending a fair amount of time applying the lessons I’ve learned from Ironman to my life at work.

2014 not only marked my 5th Ironman race, but also my shift from West Coast startup life back to East Coast corporate life.  I love thinking through how my triathlon life can positively influence my success within IBM.  For my “pre-training” mode through the end of 2017, I’ll be publishing a 10-part series on lessons from triathlon applied to business life.

Check out the first article now, available on OpenView Partner’s Lab:

Lessons from a triathlete: Begin with the end in mind

You can also catch up on some of the fun I’ve had mixing triathlon, running, and work together over the past 3 years with these highlights from IBM projects with USA Cycling, Runkeeper, and Simon Wheatcroft.







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5th and Final? A recap of Ironman Maryland 2014

I completed my fifth Ironman race on September 20, 2014.  I finished the 140.6 miles in 14 hours and 2 minutes.   Overall, the day was nearly perfect – the weather was mild and my parents plus a couple good friends were there to support me.  The course played to my strengths – and I crushed the flat bike course in 6 hours and 21 minutes – almost 30 minutes faster than my best time for 112 miles.

Unfortunately, somewhere between the end of the bike and start of the run, I lost my focus and slogged through the 3 loop, 26.2 mile run.  I crossed the finish line feeling ill.  In fact, just after my finishing photo was snapped, I began vomiting.

The illness continued for 2 days post-race and my dismal run performance left me questioning why I was doing all this training and racing.  Had I reached my the limits of my physical capacity?  Did I have to resign myself to being a horrible runner?  Was it time to hang up the Ironman medals and call it done?  Was Ironman Maryland my 5th and final Ironman?

IMMD medal

Before I reveal those answers, here are few more highlights from race day.


Loved: The timed swim start and a good temperature.

Hated: The Delaware Choptank river lived up to its name.  The swim was choppy and long.  My swim time was so much slower than usual, it did entice me to read through the race chatter on Slow Twitch to find out if the course was long or it was all current related.  In the end, tough to say…but at least many felt the same and I placed well with the slow time.

Learned: Times can be relative based on conditions and the overall field of competitors.

Time: 1:19:59  Placement: 13/59 age group, 80/394 women, 390/1380 overall


Loved: Flat, flat, flat course!  So fun and fast.  Perfect for my strengths as a cyclist and all my training rides in California on the Silverado trail paid off!  My fastest time yet at 6:21.

Hated: Wind.  On the second loop, a slight headwind picked up and made the final, always grueling 20 miles, that much tougher.

Learned: Training on terrain similar to the course really pays off.

Time: 6:21:19  Placement: 26/59 age group, 204/394 gender, nothing remarkable overall.  ;


Loved: Nothing much this time around…except maybe seeing all my Ironman staff buddies.  After years on the triathlon scene as a participant, volunteer, race staff member, and entrepreneur, I’ve got a strange little group of acquaintances who are actually running each race.

Hated: The endless out and back loops.  The cobblestone section of the street.  Myself for not taking my bottle of scratch from transition.  Missing seeing my support crew on the first loop.

Learned: Some days you just don’t have anything there to push.  No matter the games I played (run the the aid station then walk or run 5, walk 1), I couldn’t get into the groove and run.  It’s OK.  What’s most important is you still figure out a way to get it done – and I did.

Time: Let’s not talk about it, ok?


Was Ironman Maryland my 5th and Final?


After 2+ years off of long distance racing, lots of time focused on running (thanks to the Heartbreak Hill Running Club in Boston), and an upcoming milestone birthday….IM Maryland will not be my last race.

I signed up for Ironman Lake Placid 2018!  Time to go back to where it all began:  Where I fell in love with long distance racing, challenged myself in ways I never expected, and built a community that now stretches from DC to Boston to San Francisco and back.

No need to resign myself to being done. I’d rather end my Ironman career with purpose and a party.  Look for more posts starting in 2018.


Ironman Lake Placid: 2013 Race Report

On Sunday, July 28th, I completed my fourth Ironman race.  I finished the 140.6 miles in 13 hours and 31 minutes – my fastest race yet (17 minutes faster than my IM Wisconsin time in 2009 and 27 minutes faster than my 2008 IMLP race).   Overall, the day was nearly perfect – the weather was cool and overcast, the course was full of friends from coast to coast, and my family & friends were there to support me.  But, it wouldn’t be an Ironman without a few challenges to overcome – and this year presented some unexpected ones. 

The Unexpected Emotional Challenge

The week leading up to an Ironman race is typically spent eating, packing, going over your gear list repeatedly, traveling, and enjoying some short (yet intense) taper workouts, and generally obsessing about all things Ironman.  This year, my pre-race prep week took a different focus due to an illness and death in my family.

My original plan was to meet my brother and his family in NYC and drive up to Lake Placid together.  My brother, his wife and two daughters would also be sharing my rental cottage just a block from Mirror Lake (the race start) and we would go explore the region together for a few days after the race.  They were there for my first race in 2008 – and my niece had one of the best phrases a then two year old could say, “What Aunt Sara doing now?”  I couldn’t wait to see my nieces along the course and splash around in Mirror Lake with them after the race.

Unfortunately, my sister-in-law’s mother had been very ill and when her condition took a turn for the worse in mid-July, we quickly changed the plan.  My sister-in-law and younger niece flew to Florida and I flew in to St. Louis to meet my brother and older niece.

I was definitely anxious about the change in plans:  more flights = more dehydration, fewer chances for workouts, less time for work, and no training buddies.  But, I reminded myself, I’ve done this Ironman thing three times already. I know the drill.  I’ve been to Lake Placid many times.  So, without hesitation, I was off to help out my brother for a few days.

From Sunday until Thursday, everything went smoothly.  I found the time (and facilities) for a few final workouts.  I borrowed my parent’s car in Albany to get up to Lake Placid a little earlier and get settled in (grocery, pick up bike, etc).  It’s amazing how quickly the time goes by once you get to an Ironman race site.   Registration, bike pickup, a few short workouts, an athlete briefing…

Unfortunately, we learned Thursday night that things were really not going well for my sister-in-law’s mother.  On Friday morning, she passed away.  My brother and niece left that afternoon to make the journey to Florida for the funeral.  I stayed in Lake Placid, questioning what I should do.  Should I skip the race?  Should I leave just after the race?  Would I be able to make it in time for the funeral? Would it be ok if I did not attend the funeral? Do my brother and sister-in-law need my help over the next few days?  How do I focus on a race?

From Thursday night through Saturday (pre-race) night, I probably slept a total of 12 hours.

Many of my friends were thinking and talking about their expected times on the course, I was thinking about the time it would take to get to Florida and the time you should spend with your family.

I felt a bit exhausted and distracted going in to Sunday morning, and I was reminded by friends (Thanks Mona!) that I had put the effort in during training and gained the strength to get me through race day.

I Know This Feeling

While the days leading up to the race were full of the unexpected, by the time I hit the run course, I faced a new and familiar challenge.  In my last two Ironman races, during the run I found myself so dehydrated that I felt like I had to pee, but there was nothing there.  I wasted a lot of time stopping at port-a-potties and even more time just walking.  Not only is it an uncomfortable feeling during the race, but it can hurt for a few days after and I even had blood in my urine after Ironman Canada.

When this old familiar feeling hit pretty early into the run, I knew what to do this time.

I ran in between each aid station, and at each aid station, I alternated between a combo of coke/water or water/perform-water mix.  The Ironman Perform drink had wreaked havoc on my stomach during the bike, but I knew I needed to push the electrolytes until I could pick up my Cytomax bottle from my special needs bag at Mile 13.

I told a few friends what was going on, and then just tried to ignore it.  The strategy seemed to work!  I definitely paid the price at the end of day and into the next – there was blood in my urine again and my bladder ached.  I almost dreaded going to the bathroom most of Monday.  But, I felt like I beat that old familiar feeling that wore me out at Ironman Canada!

A few other highlights from Race Day:


  • Loved: The new swim start – we lined up on the beach by estimated finish time, rolling entry into the water.
  • Hated: My sleeveless wetsuit caused some serious chaffing under my right arm.  I started pulling unevenly to compensate…and lost some time.
  • Learned: Swimming 3 days a week is really necessary if I want to ever hit my best time again (1:06)
  • Finish Time: 1:12


  • Loved:  Cool, overcast day.  And seeing my all the cheering stations from DC Tri Club and Team Z!
  • Hated: Ironman Perform caused stomach cramps.
  • Learned: To push water to clear out Ironman Perform!
  • Finish Time: 6:50 (met my goal of breaking 7 hours!)


  • Loved: It was so fun to see so many friends…had the opportunity to run, walk, hug, and high five Matt, Clay, Daphne, Brandon, Sara, Katya, Katie, Angela, Kevin, Kate, and more!
  • Hated: Feeling like I had to pee constantly.  And, spectators trying to get me to run up the hills.
  • Learned: To ignore the pain and the comfort of walking.  Picked myself up and started running again – and followed my plan to walk the hills  and bust out the last mile along Mirror Lake Drive and through the Olympic Oval to the finish.
  • Finish Time: 5:11

Is there another IM in my future?

I just don’t know right now.

I feel happy with my overall performance.  I met some goals I had set: shortened my transition times, broke 7 hours on the bike and finished in 13:31.  I had a great time with friends and family.  It feels like a good note to end on…

On the other hand, it was a tough week leading up to the race.  I was not as focused as I had hoped to be…and I did give up on the run a little bit.   I know I can break 5 hours on the run.  My bladder hurt so badly though – I was considering icing it after the race!   And, there was blood in my urine after the race (just like in Canada).   I’m not sure this dehydration situation is the healthiest and it might not be worth putting my body through that again.

Ironman #5….we will just have to wait and see!

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Participating vs. Racing

Typical Conversation with Triathlete Friends:

Me: Are you racing the Monte Rio Olympic?

Tri Friend: “I’m participating!”

Participating vs. Racing – why do we make such a clear distinction?  It’s a signal to whether we feel we’ve trained enough, what our goals are, and how we think we measure up to the competition.  Sometimes a race is just for fun – an excuse to hang out with friends.  Other times, you’ve been training hard and want to push it. For years, I’ve been in the “participating” camp.   Next week at IMLP, I will be racing.

I’m planning to race against myself.  Can I beat the younger, yet rather inexperienced, version of me who participated in the 2008 race?  Have I honed in on that competitive spirit a little more?  Can I hold that edge, and even push it a little more?

I put forth some goals at the start of this training season and asked you to help keep me accountable.  Thanks to a great group of friends (Ironminxes!), I think I’ve done the work on the bike and run.  

So, here’s the comparison to watch on race day – Sunday, July 28th

Sara @IMLP 2008 Sara’s Goals @IMLP 2013
Swim 1:06:00 1:10:00
Bike 7:13:47 6:45:00
Run 5:17:46 4:55:00

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The Art of Being an Ironman Spectator

Guest Post by Miriam Strope!IMLP 2008_Parents

I will be watching my daughter Sara compete in her fourth IM race this July in Lake Placid, NY.  As a seasoned Ironman spectator (IMLP 2008, IM MOO 2009, and IM Canada 2011), and as a principal cheering team member I’d like to share some tips I have learned:

  • Be ready for ANY TYPE of WEATHER, regardless of what tourist information says is average for the host city!
  • Read the Ironman Athlete’s Guide – posted on the race website.
  • Find the “Getting Around on Race Day” information. Each sponsoring community usually publishes a little newspaper with details
  • Plan ahead and pick viewing spots based on maps and your participant’s expectations of the course.
    IMLP Rain Crewabout traffic, parking, and more.

        • You want to see your racer  – and they want to hear and see you! [Yes, that is usually my mom with the cowbell and school bell]
        • See if the host city encourages signs along the route. In Madison, they encouraged spectators to write chalk messages along specific streets. [you might be able to make signs the day or two before the race in the athlete village]
        • Pick the spot where you will meet your “finisher” after the race.

    IMLP Final Crew

    • Have a copy of all of your racer’s important information.
    • Study the host city and scout where you will be parking your car, eating, resting, and sight -seeing or just hanging out while your athlete is on the course. Madison had a great Farmers Market, and so did Penticton. Lake Placid has a vibrant Main Street with lots of shops and restaurants as well as Olympic village museums and sites to see. Who expects ice on the street in front of the Olympic Ice Hockey rink?
    • Why the above is important – Spectators may be spending the same 12 – 14 hour day outside and on your feet.  You won’t have stations along the way for hydration or snacks, so be prepared and bring some water, sun screen, snacks –  or know where you can go to get food, water, snacks or cool off. Remember the race is on Sunday, so check what is usually open and when things usually close. Some merchants extend their hours during the IM race or as in Penticton encouraged us to stay and simply stayed open longer. Sometimes costs are high.
    • Be ready to do a lot of walking. If our support team can, we try to stay within walking distance of the start and finish lines.
    • Be sure that your cameras, Smart phones, battery chargers (yes bring more than one) are working.
    • Ability to text really improved our participation and communication with others, and with those supporters who could not get to the IM race location.


4th of July – Ironman Style

We escaped to Napa/Sonoma for some 4th of July celebrating.  Here’s how to celebrate the 4th like an Ironman in Training!

1. 40 mile bike ride along the Silverado Trail.  90+ degrees.  Paceline for 20 miles, average speed 19-20 mph.



2. Swim in a Lake. New find: Spring Lake Regional Park!  

Spring Lake Park

3. FEAST!  Family style picnic at SpoonBar!, music by Easy Leaves Duo, Fireworks – Healdsburg Plaza.  Done!

Easy Leaves Duo








Fourth of July Menu

1st course
Chilled watermelon + verbena
Chopped salad
Corn bread + smoked honey

2nd course
Slow roasted spare ribs, sesame, BBQ sauce, scallions
Crispy fried chicken, jalapeno mash
Baked Rancho Gordo beans, roasted + picked pigs head, herbs
Roasted corn on the cob, lime, queso fresco, arbol chili
Fingerling potato salad, pickled onions, mustard, aioli

3rd course
A picnic basket of cheese, sour dough, summer fruit preserves
Chilled berries