Celebrating 5 years of Ironman participation


Ironman Race Goals

Conventional wisdom dictates that the goal of your first Ironman should be to finish.  Any expectations you have about time or performance – put them aside and just cross that finish line.  Even better, cross the finish line with a smile.

I did just that at Ironman Lake Placid 2008

My finish at IMLP

My finish at IMLP

I held onto that primary goal of having a great experience at Ironman Wisconsin in 2009 and Ironman Canada in 2011.  Now, five years later as I return to the place it all started, I’m ready to set new goals. These are the ideas in my head driving me to M2 cycling classes every Tuesday and Thursday, the USF Koret pool every Wednesday and Friday, and out on the roads/trails each weekend.

4th Ironman/Return to Lake Placid Goals:

  1. Finish the bike portion in under 7 hours.  6:45 sounds nice and doable.
  2. Finish the run in 5 hours flat, maybe a little less.
  3. Keep my same time on the swim as in 2008
  4. Enjoy a Lake Placid Brewery Ubu Ale at the end of the race (or by lunch the next day)
  5. Spend the remainder of the following week hanging out with my family in upstate NY.  It’s ok if my youngest niece waddles quicker than me.


If I hit my targets above, I’ll finish IMLP closer to 13 hours.  This would be a great improvement, and not unfathomable.  I recently re-discovered my copy of “Training Plans for Multisport Athletes,” and read the chapter on “13 Weeks to a Sub-13 Hour Ironman.” There’s a chart that provides several paths to hitting the 13 hour or less mark – and I’m already there.

So, this year, I want to have time goals and performance goals.  I want all my friends and family (and readers of this blog) to know my goals. The goals are posted here – and they’ll be hanging on the fridge door (along with spectator duties) at the IMLP House.

Please help hold me accountable.  Please push me to train a little more seriously.

And, I promise to not only keep these goals visible, but also work as hard as possible (regardless of rain or heat) to meet them.



Ironman Wisconsin Race Report

Morning Prep:
I woke up at 4:15 am. Threw on my zoot shorts and orca top, and pulled my hair back into a ponytail. I ate a banana, peanut butter sandwich and bowl of maple brown sugar oatmeal. By 5am, mom, dad, Beth and Serendipity the dog were ready to go to the race site with me. I drove us the 6 miles in Washington Ave to the center of Madison. It was a good call to stay on the East side of town – we made it right downtown and into one of the closest garages. I dropped off my special needs bags and stopped at transition to pump up my bike tires. CK made it to Madison safe and sound thanks to Tri Bike Transport. I was lucky to borrow a pump from the woman whose bike was racked next to mine. I caught up with my parents and Beth again, got body marked (race numbers on my arms, age on my calf), and we headed down the parking garage ramp to the swim start.

The Swim:

I had close to an hour before the race start at 6 am!  Amazing how little time you need when you set up your transition items the day before.  So, I hung out with Beth and my Mom for a while – and put up with Beth photographing me getting into my wetsuit.  Dad and Serendipity had staked out a spot on the garage ramp to cheer for me as I ran from the swim to bike.  The morning music mix included Kings of Leon “Use Somebody” and The Samples “Did You Ever Look So Nice” – which was a fun throwback to freshman year at Washington University.  By 6:30 am, the race organizers were encouraging athletes to get into the lake.  Seeing I had my wetsuit on and had finished my gu and gatorade, I figured why not.

I treaded water forever – and tried to remember what on earth my friend Phil had said about being close to or far from the ski jump ramp.  When the gun went off at 7 am, I thought I was in a great place.  About three minutes later, I changed my mind.  Suddenly, I was in the chaotic midst of 2,400 swimmers all trying to make their way around a set of yellow and orange buoys.  I got sandwiched between two guys and pushed under.  Then, I got KICKED in the eye.  And, if that were not bad enough, I got hit in the nose shortly thereafter.  I popped up a few times to yell (no, nobody could hear, but it made me feel a little better).  My eye hurt so badly from having my goggles slammed into the eye socket, that I soon found myself crying and swimming.  Yes, you can cry while you swim, who knew!

Swim in Lake Monona

Swim in Lake Monona

I broke free from the crowd by the second loop.  Later on, I learned from my friends Colin, Eric, Tom and Jim that they also found it to be one of the most brutal swims.  I seriously think the World Triathlon Corporation should consider letting the women start in a separate wave and making breaststroke illeagal during the swim!

Swim Time: 1:13

The Bike:

I was very disappointed in my swim time (7 minutes slower than last year!), but happy not to be seriously injured.  Seeing my parents and Beth on the ramp to transition definitely cheered me up.  I threw on my bike shoes in transition thanks to the help of a volunteer, got slathered in some sunscreen (but not nearly enough I would later find out) and headed out for the 112 mile bike ride.

The course was not as scary as it seemed when I drove it on Friday.  I felt great for the first loop – eating and drinking plenty.  I had to pee, but held off until about mile 50 because I was feeling so good.  There’s one very tough hill on the course and it was lined with spectators cheering.  There were groups of guys singing “put your back into it” and others wearing all sorts of costumes.  Definitely helped me smile.  At mile 58, I stopped for my special needs bag – I traded my peanut butter sandwich for the extra peanut butter crackers.  Another woman yelled “I need COOKIES!” as she stopped for her special needs bag and made everyone laugh.

By the second loop (each loop was about 40 miles and the ride out to the loop was about 16), the heat picked up.  I tried to keep forcing the gatorade and I ate all my food plus some bananas.  My stomach started to feel a little weird, but I didn’t think too much of it – especially since my shoulders ached too.  I was having a hard time keeping a pace with the people around me – thanks to the hills we were always leapfrogging with each other.  I also missed seeing my family on the bike ride, which bummed me out a little.  Mona was keeping them updated, but it was a tough to be a spectator in a new city.

Sara and CK at IM Moo

Sara and CK at IM Moo

I was losing steam until on the very last mile of the ride, I noticed the tall, tan guy riding in front of me was named Matthew and it struck me it might be my friend Mat Coyne from Boston.  I cycled up and said hi – sure enough, it was Mat!  We rode into transition together – how fun!

Bike Time: 7:02

The Run:

Another very nice volunteer helped me change my top in transition and get my running sneaks on.  By 3:30 pm, with the sun fully blazing, I was off to conquer 26.2 miles.  For the first 6 miles, I felt AWFUL!  I had stomach cramps and I was so dehydrated I kept feeling like I had to pee but couldn’t go despite stopping at each porta potty every mile.  To my surprise, my friend Jim R from DC came to the race to cheer.  I saw him around mile 2 and he suggested I walk and breathe out the cramps.  I was a bit bummed to start off so rocky, but I knew I should take it easy earlier and hope to bounce back.  And, bounce back I did!

I finally saw my parents when I came back through town on the first loop!  I also saw the sign they made for me along the run course.  And, when I turned the corner to head to the Capitol, I saw Beth with a half dozen hunky shirtless guys who all started cheering for me.  It made me laugh so hard – I actually picked up the pace in hopes I could catch them again and get a photo.  Ha!  I ran most of the second loop.  I definitely walked Observatory Hill and tossed in a few more walks here and there.  I had no idea what time it was until the last 2 miles when a spectator said, “It’s 8:30, you can definitely finish in under 14 hours.” I tried so hard to pick up the pace.  I had wanted to finish in 13 hours 30 minutes.  I knew I had missed that goal, but I at least wanted to beat last year’s time.  So, I booked it to the end, and found myself heading down the finisher shoot for a final time of 13:49!

Run Time: 5:14

Total Race Time: 13:49

Post Race:

I caught up with my parents and Beth quickly after the race.  We took some photos in our team Ironwoman shirts.  We found my other friends, then decided to head back to the hotel to clean up a little.  I tried to make it back to see my friend Jim cross the finish line, but I just missed him.  So, I cheered for some of the final athletes crossing the finish line before midnight.

The whole gang (Eric, Tom, Jim, Colin, me and our families) headed over to the Great Dane for celebration beers and food.  Mac and cheese has never tasted so good!

Team Strope

Team Strope

Overall, I’m happy with my race.  I took almost 10 minutes off of last year’s time!  I missed my goal though and I know I could have made it.  I am definitely taking next year off from Ironman races.  I’ll do some shorter triathlons next year and help my dad train for his first race.   I wouldn’t be surprised if I sign up for another Ironman race in the future – and I’ll plan to do so when I can have the focus, training plan and determination I need to crack 13 hours.

Thanks again to my parents, Beth, and Mona for all the race day support!  And, thanks to everyone else for all the support from afar!

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Winter Racing

I made my way out to Hyannis for the Hyannis Marathon, Half Marathon and 10k this weekend.  It was great to bring together my good Boston friends, old DC buddies and new tri team folks.  But, our pre-race trash talk/laundry list of ailments and results taught me the following lessons on how to pick out the sandbagger in the group.

We know you’re a sandbagger if:

  • You claim you have barely trained, yet ran a 10k on a tiny indoor track a week before a race
  • You “don’t train,” but still meet your running buddies twice a week for your usual run
  • You consider bailing on the race just beacuse you’re nervous about how you’ll do
  • You never actually cough or limp in the days leading up to the race

It was a great race, despite a wintry mix of weather.  I definitely recommend it to anyone in the Boston (or DC) area.  How often do you get to run by a lighthouse?


Still Running

In just a week I’ll be lacing up the sneaks again for another run.  It’s my first in the Boston area!  No, it’s not the Boston Marathon (let’s say I have some work to do to reach that race).  It’s the Hyannis Marathon! Well, actually, it’s just the 10k for me.  I’m excited to run with my good friend Wynter.  She’s been my Boston running buddy since my first weekend in town.  After unpacking a few boxes, she took me on my first 9 mile run from Coolidge Corner to Boston College and back.  And somehow, on one of our following Sunday runs, she convinced me that running a race up here in February would be fun.

So, we’re off to the Cape next weekend for this race!  A good number of folks from my new tri team – Wheelworks Multisport – will be there too.  I’m excited to stop by my old stomping grounds in Woods Hole and Falmouth.  Any recommendations on places to eat or check out around Hyannis would be much appreciated!

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My “first” Marathon

Post-race bliss

I finished my first pure marathon this weekend – the Phoenix Rock’n’Roll Marathon.  Total time: 4:23.  I was rolling with the 4 hour pace group through the first half, then I lost it.  I’ve been trying to blame my decline on the heat (77 degrees compared to the average 25 degrees it is in Boston), the lack of scenery (highways and strip malls), and the sparse water stations.  But, I guess the truth of the matter is, I could have trained a bit longer.  I definitely didn’t feel the same joy as I did post Ironman.  So, while I’m tempted to try to get faster, I think I’ll stick to my tris for now.

Regardless of my race performance, it was great to catch up with my good friend Tiffani who completed her first half this weekend…and is now hooked on running!


What Will I Do With My Free Time?

Between tapering this week and thoughts of life post-Ironman, I can’t help but think about what I will do on July 21st and every day after that.  Jim and I spent a fair amount of our Sunday morning run from the Capitol to Georgetown and across the river wondering just that.  Will we keep training?  Will we do another Ironman?  Or will Jim return to his focus on running, me on swimming, and so on?

Thankfully, those long rides and runs provide plenty of time to dream and plan away!  So, here are a couple of my post IMLP plans:

  • New Jersey State Triathlon July 27th – Don’t worry, I’m just racing the swim portion of an Olympic Relay!  I’ll spend the rest of my time there volunteering and cheering on the 200+ DC Tri Club participants!
  • Recruit volunteers and assist with the volunteer coordination for Nation’s Triathlon in DC, September 14th.  You should volunteer!
  • August/September backpacking trip in Boulder!
  • September cycling trip on Martha’s Vineyard!
  • Throw some dinner parties
  • Visit Ann Arbor

I’m considering doing one more race too.  Maybe an olympic or sprint distance? Any suggestions for one in late August or September?