Wrapping up 2018 and Prepping for 2019

It’s Thanksgiving week! It’s hard to believe 2018 is coming to a close. I have some fun races planned for the remainder of this year and a few BIG goals for 2019.

Next up on the racing schedule is the Monroe Turkey Trot 4 miler this Thursday. We normally go to Alexandria each year for Thanksgiving and I run the Calvary Turkey Trot, but this year we are hosting my family for Thanksgiving (!) here in Monroe, so my sister Megan and I are going to check out our local Turkey Trot. I like that it is a 4 miler versus a 5k.

Then I have the Big Dog 20 miler this Saturday. Last year I ran the Big Dog 50k as my first ultra-marathon. I dropped down to the 20 miler this year because I am running the Brazos Bend 50 miler on December 8 with Megan. We had planned on running the 100 mile distance, but after an ill-fated attempt at The Piney Woods Ultra 100k in September we decided to drop down to the 50 miler at Brazos Bend.

On loop 5 (of the 8 loop course) we realized we were at a place where we were going to start missing cut offs. We admitted defeat and decided to drop from the race. The race started with pouring rain that continued all day long. The trails were like rivers in some places and I experienced chafing like never before. The chafing was so bad over my entire body that I passed out while taking a shower after the race. It was crazy! And not something I hope to ever repeat.

So back to loop 5 - while we were slogging out the last few miles Megan and I talked about the 100 miler looming in front of us. We both realized that we were not physically or mentally prepared for it. We made the decision to drop to the 50 and have a fun day of running together at Brazos Bend, rather than just trying to survive through 100 miles.

I’ll be back with a recap of the races this week…plus some big announcements for the 2019 racing calendar!

 The state of my feet after loop 2 of the Piney Woods Ultra 100k

The state of my feet after loop 2 of the Piney Woods Ultra 100k

 Megan and I finishing up a loop at the 100k - soaked to the bone

Megan and I finishing up a loop at the 100k - soaked to the bone

 Training lately….winter came early to north Louisiana

Training lately….winter came early to north Louisiana

 Throwback to a summer training trip at Tyler State Park for the 100k

Throwback to a summer training trip at Tyler State Park for the 100k

Big Dog 50k Trail Run Race Report

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I ran my first ultra marathon. The Big Dog Trail Run is a small local race at Lincoln Parish Park in Ruston, LA. Lincoln Parish Park is known for their awesome mountain bike trails, and that is where this race takes place. The race has a 5 mile, 10 mile, 20 mile or 50k option - all take place on the 10 mile mountain bike course which is a mix of rooty trails and packed dirt/grassy jeep roads. I've 

But first, we headed down to Alexandria for Thanksgiving. My father-in-law's church hosts a Turkey Trot every year, and my goal was to run the 5k as fast as comfortably possible, then run a second loop of the course to get in a few more miles. I ended up taking 1st place in my age group for the 5k! I was pleased with the results as this is generally a pretty competitive race. 

 1st place 30-34 female age group prize!

1st place 30-34 female age group prize!

 Resting up for the Thanksgiving meal 

Resting up for the Thanksgiving meal 

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 Thanksgiving entertainment - James Addison and Callie Kate!

Thanksgiving entertainment - James Addison and Callie Kate!

 Everyone had a custom turkey place mat, courtesy of Callie Kate. It was impressive!

Everyone had a custom turkey place mat, courtesy of Callie Kate. It was impressive!

On Friday we headed back home and I started to prep for the race. My mom and I drove over to Ruston together to pick up my packet, and then we went to Newk's for dinner. My go to night before a race meal is a margherita pizza, a small salad and a piece of strawberry cake from Newk's. 

 Getting drop bags together.

Getting drop bags together.

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Saturday morning I was up at 3:45am, left Monroe at 5:15am and arrived at Lincoln Parish Park at 6:15am. The race start was located exactly where I normally start my runs at LPP, so I parked in my usual parking space, used the restroom I always use...it felt like any other Saturday! This helped calm my nerves. 

At 7am the race director yelled "go" and about 40 or so of us headed out for the 50k. There were 5, 10 and 20 mile races also being held that morning, at staggered start times. The 50k course consisted of a short out and back section to get things started, and then 3 loops of the 10 mile trail. 

On Loop 1 I felt great and went out way too fast. I ate grapes at each aid station, which tasted amazing. Before I knew it, I was finishing loop 1 and coming back to the starting area where my drop bag was. I took a few sips of Red Bull, refilled my handheld water bottle, ate some Pringles and got ready to go. I took out 2 gels to stuff into my inov8 pack, but I realized a few miles into my second loop that I never actually put them into my pack. Whoops. 

On Loop 2 the field really spread out and I didn't see hardly any people. I decided to pop in my ear buds and then promptly had my first fall of the day. LPP is extremely rooty and as my legs got more and more fatigued it was harder to pick my feet up enough to get clearance. I ended up falling two more times! It was wild and nothing I was expecting. 

I finished Loop 2 on somewhat of a high, knowing that my mom, dad and Chad were waiting for me at the starting area! 

 Making sure I don't forget my gels 

Making sure I don't forget my gels 

 Happy to see my family, possibly delirious.

Happy to see my family, possibly delirious.

So then I headed back out on the trail for the third and final loop. I was pretty tired at this point, but I knew I could do it. Thankfully I didn't have any falls on this loop! I did walk more than I would have liked, but my mantra was just keep moving forward, keep moving forward. And pretty soon, I was making my way to the finish line! 

 Done!! With my dad cheering me on in the background :) 

Done!! With my dad cheering me on in the background :) 

After the race, I cleaned out my race pack and drop bags, changed clothes and we headed to Chick Fil A for lunch. I was starving! My cousin Emily and her husband Jason live in Ruston with their kids Hannah and Harrison, and it worked out that they were having their birthday party Saturday afternoon. 

After Chick Fil A we headed over to Emily's house to be with family and celebrate Hannah and Harrison! 

 Chad and Harrison

Chad and Harrison

 Propping up my feet. You can see the dirt line!

Propping up my feet. You can see the dirt line!

After the party we headed back home to Monroe. Once home, I took a good look at the damage I had done  on my falls. I had some scrapes and bruises, but thankfully nothing too terrible! 

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Overall the Big Dog 50k is a fantastic local race and I would love to do it (or the 10 or 20 mile race) for many years to come. Chad has even mentioned wanting to do the 5 mile race next year!

Wally Hesselstine!

The name Wally Hesselstine may not ring a bell with some, but in the trail running world he's a legend. I watched a YouTube video about him earlier this summer and was all kinds of motivated by his dedication and determination to continue running hard races as he ages. He has completed more than 500 races, with nearly 200 of those being ultra marathons. 

The Wild Azalea Trail Challenge is a small race in Alexandria, LA that I plan to do this January. And by small race I mean only 21 people finished the 27 mile run and 11 people finished the 50 mile run last year. 

I am going to do the 27 mile run as a lead up to the Rocky 50, so I thought I would check last year's results to get an idea of the finishing times. Low and behold, there was Wally's name, all the way from Lafayette, CA. Pretty cool!

2017 Cottonland Marathon Race Report

I signed up for this race last year on a whim during a flash sale when the entry fee was only $17. I was deep into Ironman Texas training and thought "what the heck" - a stand alone marathon seemed like a pretty fun idea at the time! I also knew it would be good to have something on the calendar post IMTX.  

But then when my sister Megan and I decided to do the Rocky 50 ultra marathon together, I realized that the Cottonland Marathon just might be a great training run and a good test of fitness. So going into the marathon I didn't put any pressure on myself to get a PR, I simply wanted to treat it as a long training run with a chance to test out race day fueling, pacing, etc. The longer on my feet the better, but I definitely wanted to finish under 5 hours. 

We had kind of a wild and busy weekend planned, so I knew that I wouldn't have much down time going into the race. But I hoped this would be good training for the Rocky 50. 

  Saturday morning to do list!

Saturday morning to do list!

Saturday

Saturday morning started off with a 1 hour trail in Monroe. Nice and easy, just trying to shake the legs out and get some time in. After the run I stopped by Starbucks to grab coffee and breakfast and then headed to meet Chad at a championship pee wee flag football game. We had friends on both teams and it was an exciting game - I think they went into double overtime! Pretty intense for 3rd graders. 

After the football game, I headed over to Fleet Feet to pick up some gels (Toasted Marshmallow and Espresso Love GU...the best flavors) and then to downtown West Monroe to pick up my race packet. Once I got my packet, I headed home to eat lunch (leftover pizza) and start getting things prepped for the race. I also helped Chad tie about 100 balloons for a game at the Fall Festival that Foundry was hosting later that afternoon. 

About 2pm I headed up to the church to help set up for the Fall Festival and get things ready for the cake walk. My role for the afternoon was cake walk DJ and I was pumped! It turned out to be a really fun event and the cake walk was a big hit. But when are cake walks NOT a big hit?! The only downside to the afternoon was that I was on my feet from 2-7pm. I picked up dinner from Subway on my way home and after eating took care of my final race prep. I went to sleep around 8:30 with 3 alarms set for 4:25am, 4:30am and 4:35am. 

  Race ready

Race ready

Sunday

Sunday morning came early and I was up at 4:30am. My legs and feet were a little sore from the day before, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. I ate a quick breakfast of a bagel with peanut butter, banana and coffee. I took Emma on a quick walk to stretch out the legs and then got everything ready to head over to Kiroli Park. 

  Breakfast and YouTube to start the day

Breakfast and YouTube to start the day

I left the house at 6:15am and arrived about 6:45am...cars were already lined up out of the park. The park is one way in, one way out and there is a fee to enter the park ($1 I think? A small price to pay to experience a beautiful place!).  

  Waiting to get into Kiroli Park

Waiting to get into Kiroli Park

Once I got into the park I found a parking spot, set a few things up in the back of my car and headed to the Port a Potty for one last bathroom break. The half marathon course was an out and back from Kiroli Park to Lazarre Park, and the full marathon was basically the same course, just run twice. I thought we would come back into Kiroli before heading out on our final 13 miles, so I wanted to have a few things at the ready in the back of my car in case I was able to swing by. But alas, the marathon course did not go back into Kiroli until the finish. But I did enjoy a few Pringles before the race started. 

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The race started and we were off. The course was essentially 6 miles out, 6 miles back and then 7 miles out and 7 miles back. This really helped mentally break up the run. 

The weather was perfect. For the most part it was a cool and cloudy morning. At some points the sun came out and things really heated up, but overall the weather felt great. I felt like I ate a ton during the race: 4 gels, lots of water, several cups of water/gatorade mix, handfuls of gummy bears, 1 banana and several pretzels. 

I loved the out and back nature of the course - it let you see almost all of the participants and also helped you become very familiar with where you were on the course. I had several friends who were pushing for Ainsley's Angels, a great organization that seeks to help everyone of all abilities experience endurance events. It was awesome seeing them out on the course and I'd love to push for them one day! 

Pain and fatigue didn't really kick in until mile 24, which I felt was a good sign. My main goal was to practice being on my feet for close to five hours, and practice taking in a lot of calories. Check and check! I saw friends at an aid station at the final climb back into Kiroli Park (the only major hill in the course) and then powered it in for the last mile. 

After crossing the finish line I staggered over to my car and ate some more Pringles. 

Finished.JPG

I stopped at Sonic and picked up a cheeseburger, tator tots and a chocolate milkshake. The tator tots went down very easy, but I was only able to manage a few bites of the cheeseburger. I drank the milkshake over about four hours.

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Sonic 2.JPG

Chad officiated a wedding in Ruston on Sunday afternoon, so while he was gone I completely crashed. I took a shower, went to sleep for a few hours, got up, ate some soup and then went back to sleep about 7:30pm. 

Monday morning I woke up at 5am and felt great with hardly any soreness at all. I was very pleased and surprised at this - its a great sign that my body has been absorbing all of this training. 

Next up...Big Dog 50k! 

2018 BASE Performance Team Member

I am incredibly excited to join the BASE Performance Team in 2018! I started using BASE Performance products leading up to Ironman Texas. I'm a big fan of their electrolyte salt, Hydro drink mix and real bars...and I am looking forward to getting to try out (and share!) more of their products in 2018! 

I am also really looking forward to volunteering on the run course with the Base Team at an Ironman in 2018. I'm hoping it will work out for me to go to Ironman Texas 70.3 in Galveston this year - I can see my family, cheer on my sister Megan as she races her fourth(!) Texas 70.3 and volunteer with the team. 

Here's a glimpse of what it was like at Ironman Texas this year - I distinctly running through this section! It was awesome and definitely a mental/emotional/physical pick me up to come through this section each loop. 

I'm also excited about getting some sweet BASE gear. I was amazed at how much you get as a team member...aero kit, hat, t-shirts, run tights, compression socks, cycling jersey and more at a crazy discounted price. 

I've never been part of a team like this before so I am looking forward to learning what it's all about, meeting new people and having a great company to represent on the trails, in the water and on the roads. 

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Minor Setback

My training has hit a brief snag...but I'm hoping to be back at it soon. I'm on day 5 of no running and I feel like I might go crazy. I had gotten to a really good place with my training and was loving running the trails in Monroe and Ruston, but alas last Thursday I had to get 13 stitches in my leg.  

It all started with a small black mole on my right shin. It popped up out of nowhere earlier this year and it weirded me out because it was a strange color and it was in a strange place. My mom told me repeatedly to go to the dermatologist's office and get it checked out. But, I was dumb and stubborn and kept putting it off because I was 1) afraid it would hurt if they had to remove it and 2) afraid it would impact my training. 

But then another mole popped up on my back. It was constantly aching and just felt strange. I finally I decided to call and make an appointment with my dermatologist, thinking it would be a few weeks before they could squeeze me in. To my surprise, they were able to get me in that week. 

So, off I went to Dr. Altick's office and the nurse immediately confirmed the fact that they would be removing both moles. She wasn't worried about the one on my back, but both she and Dr. Altick were concerned about the one on my leg. Apparently the majority of melanoma in women happens below the waist. Who knew? 

They removed both moles and it was absolutely painless. What a relief! They told me they would send them off for testing and let me know the results in a few days. About a week later I got a call from their office and they said that the mole on my back was fine, but the one on my leg had severely abnormal cells...yikes!! They wanted me to come back so they could take out more tissue around the mole and make sure all of the abnormal cells were gone. 

So, I headed back to the office last Wednesday to get the procedure done. They kept using the terms "surgery" and "stitches" but I didn't see how it could be that big of a deal for such a small area. One hour later I hobbled out with a 4 inch incision and 13 stitches. 

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Because the skin was so tight on the front part of my leg, he had to make a pretty big incision just to be able to pull the skin back together. Getting the stitches didn't hurt at all, there was just a lot of pressure and a tugging sensation. When he was finished, I sat up, looked down and immediately felt woozy. There were so many stitches! And the tray was full of bloody gauze. It was quite a scene and I think was in shock a little bit. 

They gave me a prescription for oral antibiotics and a pack of 5 inch bandages and sent me on my way, with instructions to limit activity and keep it covered with Neosporin and bandages. 

I'm 5 days in and things are definitely starting to look up. The best news is that all of the tissue they removed and tested was clear of abnormal cells. Hallelujah! That was a huge relief. The other good news is that every day the skin doesn't seem quite as tight and the pain is less than the day before. There is a set of internal and external stitches, and the external stitches come out after 14 days. So 9 more days to go!

I'm trying to find the thin line between being active and being too active - I don't want to bust a stitch and set myself back any farther, but I also don't want to sit around and lose the fitness I had gained. So far I have just been walking, but I am going to add in time on a spin bike tomorrow and see how that goes. 

Once I am back up and running, I'm eager to do a few gear reviews. Some products that I have been testing out are Nike Wildhorse trail shoes, Mighty Spotify player, VFuel gels, an invo8 hydration pack and a Black Diamond headlamp. So far everything has two thumbs up all around, but I'll be posting more later. 

Tap, tap...is this thing on?

I’m back! After a summer spent focusing on 5ks and the River Cities sprint triathlon, I’m now looking to get back to my endurance roots. I officially registered for the Rocky 50 trail run last night! My sister Megan and I thought this would be a fun thing to do together. I feel like I am in the best shape of my life coming off of the Ironman, so it makes sense to put the fitness to use!

Have you heard of Anchor? It’s an awesome app that makes it incredibly easy to create audio content. I’ve started a Rocky 50 Training Log series on Anchor…my plan is to capture recordings throughout the day and then upload each day’s recordings into a daily Training Log podcast. Seems easy so far, but I’m only on day 2, ha. So if you want to listen, check me out at Meredith Brooks in the Anchor app, or anchor.fm/meredith-brooks.

The podcast should be available on iTunes at some point and I’ll be sure to post the link.

On another note, I had an awesome time at the Watermelon Festival 5k in late July where I managed to come in as the 4th overall female and get 1st place in my age group on a BRUTAL course. The next weekend I headed over to Shreveport for the River Cities triathlon. I met up with my parents and Megan for a great weekend. Megan and I last raced River Cities about 8 years ago and I beat her by about 5 minutes. This year she beat me by about 5 minutes! So we will have to have rematch.

 Headed to finish line at River Cities!

Headed to finish line at River Cities!

 Post-race selfie!

Post-race selfie!

So now that the shorter races are over, I’m focused on building a good base for my Rocky 50 training. Leading up to the Rocky 50 in February, I’m planning to do the following races:

  • October 14 – Chemin-a-Haut State Park 4 miler (Bastrop) (plan to run the course twice)
  • November 12 – Cottonwood Marathon (West Monroe)
  • November 23 – Calvary Turkey Trot 5k (Alexandria) (plan to run the course twice)
  • November 25 – Big Dog Trail Run 20 miler (Ruston)
  • December 16 – Jingle Bell Half Marathon (Monroe) (plan to run the course twice)
  • December 30 – Resolution Run 8 miler (West Monre) (plan to run an extra 4 mile loop)
  • January 6 – Azalea Trail 27 miler (Alexandria)
  • February 10 – Rocky 50 (Huntsville)

It seems like a lot of racing, but I’m excited to have so many local races to spice up my training and get in some good race simulation for the 50 miler. For some of the shorter races I plan to run the course twice or tack on extra loops after the finish if possible.

I’ll be capturing my training on the Anchor channel/podcast, and hopefully here, too!

Getting Inked

I've always wanted a tattoo, but had the unfortunate problem of not knowing what to get or where to get it. I did always have in my mind though that if I ever completed an Ironman, I would get the "M-Dot" tattoo somewhere. 

There is a lot of debate around getting what basically amounts to a corporate logo permanently inked on your body...but in the end, I think its all about what it represents. For me, I knew if I got the tattoo it would always remind me of this season of life. A season that included ups and downs, hard training days, constant communication with Megan about all things Ironman, and a shift in my daily mindset to always remember this simple directive: never stop moving forward. 

Most people get the traditional solid red M-Dot but I wanted something more simple. Plus, I've never looked good in red. So I decided on the black outline of the M-Dot. 

Once that was decided, I needed to determine where the tattoo would go. Again, most people generally get the tattoo on their calf...but I didn't necessarily want to get it on my calf. Mainly because I'm extremely ticklish from the knees down. 

I thought about getting it on the inside of my upper arm or on the back of my shoulder, but after doing Ironman Texas and seeing so many people with the M-Dot on their calf...I decided that's where I wanted to get mine. #easilyinfluenced

We originally planned to get our tattoos at Lululemon on Sunday morning, but they were all booked up. As soon as we got back to Monroe, I knew I needed to book an appointment ASAP or I would chicken out. Our friend Jamie had just gotten a pretty impressive portrait of his boxer on his calf from a new tattoo shop in Sterlington called Ink on the Bayou. I called them up on Tuesday and made the appointment for Thursday evening...and then tried not to think about it for the next few days. 

I have to admit that up until the moment I was facedown on the table with the tattoo gun hovering over my right calf, Chad didn't think that I was going to go through with it. He thought my ticklish lower legs combined with the noise of the tattoo gun would do me in. Thankfully he was wrong!

My tattoo artist Kim was incredibly nice and explained all the steps along the way. She recently moved to north Louisiana from Canada and had actually tattooed an M-Dot for an Ironman Canada finisher. I knew I was in capable hands and was surprisingly relaxed. I was in and out of the shop in 45 minutes, with the actual tattooing part taking about 25-30 minutes. 

Much like the Ironman, it was an out of body experience! I couldn't believe (and still kind of can't believe) that I have a tattoo. But I love it!

 Waiting nervously while Kim got the area prepped.

Waiting nervously while Kim got the area prepped.

 It's happening!

It's happening!

 I hope this still looks good when I'm 80. 

I hope this still looks good when I'm 80. 

Ironman Texas 2017 Part 3

The Run

We were so happy to be off the dang bikes. We were both worried that something would go wrong on the bike - a flat, a wreck, a mechanical issue, etc. - but thankfully it didn’t.

We grabbed our run gear and headed into the changing tent. I quickly changed into running shorts and a t-shirt, put on a hat, race belt, fresh socks and my running shoes. Megan was still getting ready so I sat down and all of a sudden the enormity of the day hit me. We had carried ourselves 114.4 miles...and still had 26.2 to go.

I burst into tears and wondered how in the world we were going to finish. I never wanted to quit or felt like we wouldn’t finish, I just hit a real low point thinking of all that we had left to do. But, I knew we could do it. We were on the power of our own two feet at this point plus we could see our family and all of the amazing spectators and volunteers that line the three loop course. A volunteer asked if I was ok and I heard Megan say “first timer”.

So we headed out of the changing tent and almost immediately saw Chad, my mom and dad, Michelle and Crystal. I was still sobbing and I told Chad “never let me do this again” “this isn’t fun anymore” “I don’t know how I am going to do this” “Megan was yelling at me”  among other dramatic things I’m sure. I was a mess! Megan was saying “she’s fine, she’s fine” and ushered us along. So off we went on our first loop while our family was probably trying to figure out what in the world had just happened.

Our goal for the run was to get it done. We weren’t trying to be competitive in any way - just put one foot in front of the other until we got to the finish line. We wanted to run as much as we could, but knew that we would be walking a lot, too.

There are many fantastic things about Ironman Texas but the biggest one has to be the volunteers. There were so many volunteers out on the course all day long - they were kind and encouraging and really made the whole experience amazing. The other great thing about the race is the three loop run course and the number of spectators and volunteers along the route.

We got into a good rhythm on the first loop of walking the aid stations every mile. I would drink a Gatorade/water mix, then take a few sips of Red Bull and eat a few potato chips. We would then walk for a little bit to let everything settle and then run as much as we could until the next aid station at the next mile.

On the second loop we were feeling much better and were able to run more than we did the first loop. I did have an unfortunate 15 minute port-a-potty stop...I kept hearing volunteers ask Megan “is she ok?” Ha, thankfully I was. Megan also witnessed someone fall down a flight of stairs while waiting for me. Thankfully that lady was ok, too.

Once I finally got out of the port-a-potty we were able to move at a slightly faster pace and before I knew it we were passing our family and about to start loop 3. We told them that the next time we saw them would be at the finish line! And we also gave Chad and Crystal Which Wich orders to pick up for us for after the race.

On the third loop, we reveled in the fact that every step was our last on the course. I also started getting pretty dizzy, but I heard someone tell another runner “don’t look at the ground, you’ll get dizzy” so I tried to keep my head up, looking forward. It helped! We made our way around the last loop, talking with other competitors and running when we could. It was incredibly surreal to know that we were about to finish!  

On the last loop, instead of continuing on to the waterway to start back out on the run course, you cut back up to the street level and head into the finishing chute. Once we hit the chute, all of the pain melted away (although you wouldn’t know it from my finishing pictures) and we started making our way down the red carpet toward Mike Reilly.

The Finish

We saw our sister Michelle, my parents and Megan's girlfriend Crystal. Then I saw Chad - pretty far down from the finish line. I started waving my hands wildly for him to move down toward the finish line so that he could get our finish on his GoPro. Turns out the video of our finish is available on the Ironman website so the wild hand waving was really not necessary...but I was basically not in my right mind at this point.

We passed Mike Reilly and he said what we had been waiting to hear all day - “Megan Thornell, Meredith Brooks...you are an Ironman!” We finished in 16 hours and 20 minutes with our hands clasped together raised over our heads like we had planned to do.

As soon as we crossed the finish line, volunteers put medals around our necks, handed us our finisher’s hats and shirts and wrapped space blankets around us. We then took a few finisher’s pictures and I made my way to pick up our morning gear bags while Megan met up with the family.

Post-Race

By this point (I think it was around 11:30pm), it had gotten pretty cold and windy. We tucked into the doorway of Grimaldi’s for hugs and pictures and then started making our way to our cars. Chad, Megan, my parents and I headed back to the hotel while Michelle and Crystal headed back to Clear Lake.

For the 5 minute ride back to the hotel room I laid in the back of my Jeep. not really believing that it was all over. Once we were back in the hotel room I drank a big bottle of coconut water and ate a BLT from Which Wich that Chad picked up for me. My phone had 100 Facebook notifications - crazy!! It was so wild to see how many people had been tracking us throughout the day and saw us finish on the Ironman live feed. I am still blown away by the support I have received from family, friends, co-workers, church members, etc. over the past few weeks. It has been amazing!  

After doing a quick Facebook check, I took a shower and went to sleep. I feel asleep pretty quickly but woke up several times throughout the night in a daze.

By 6:30am I was wide awake and felt like I needed to get my legs moving. I texted Megan and my parents to see if they were up (they were...we come by our early rising naturally). We decided to meet downstairs for breakfast at 7:30, but I hobbled down to my parent’s room first for some prescription strength Advil.

After breakfast at the hotel, my parents headed home to Clear Lake while we headed to Ironman Village to purchase finisher’s gear. It was wild walking along where the finish line had been just a few hours earlier...Chad didn’t even recognize that we were in the same place! After buying a few more shirts, tanks, bottles, mugs, etc. (...I may have gone a little overboard with the merch!) we headed back to meet up with Kevin from Cycle Chauffeur. Megan bought this service for us and it was AMAZING! Generally either you or a family member/friend has to pick up your bike and gear bags the night of the race, but with Cycle Chauffeur, Kevin picked up our bikes and bags and all we had to do was pick it up on Sunday morning. It was a major stress reliever and I highly recommend his services.

Next we headed over to Lululemon to check out the tattoo situation. Unfortunately, they were running about 30 minutes behind so we decided to head back to Clear Lake. On the way home, Chad and I stopped at Taco Cabana for breakfast tacos. A must when you are in Texas. 

Once back home, I went through all my gear, got laundry going and laid down on the couch.

 Too much?

Too much?

“No Country for Old Men” was on and I fell asleep right about the time Woody Harrelson experienced the business end of Anton Chigurh’s cattle gun (spoiler alert). After a 30 minute power nap, I got up and got ready to head over to Megan and Crystal’s house for a pizza/pool party.

We arrived to an amazing spread of Double Dave’s pizzas and pepperoni rolls. Anyone who grew up in Clear Lake knows all about the wonder that are Double Dave’s pepperoni rolls. After eating, we spent some time in the pool and hot tub. The warm water/cold water combo really helped bring some life back into my sore legs.

 Paradise!

Paradise!

The next morning (Monday), Chad and I packed everything up, said our goodbyes and headed home to Monroe. It’s hard to put into words how I felt when we were driving home. I was relieved to know Megan and I had accomplished a huge goal, but also sad that the whole journey was over. Ironman Texas has been a daily part of my life since June 2016 and now it is gone. A little bit of “post Ironman blues” set in, but I knew this was to be expected. But much like in an Ironman, the key is to keep moving forward! Megan and I are already looking forward to doing the River Cities sprint triathlon in August together.  

 New addition to the Jeep before hitting the road!

New addition to the Jeep before hitting the road!

 We arrived home to this awesome sign from our friends and neighbors the Rileys!

We arrived home to this awesome sign from our friends and neighbors the Rileys!

Several times during the race, Megan and I looked at each other and said “never, ever again.” And of course there was the scene of me coming out of T2 telling Chad through sobs “never let me do this again!” But looking back now, it wasn’t too bad…

Up next...the M-Dot tattoo!

Ironman Texas 2017 Part 2

Race Morning

I woke up at 3:46am and headed downstairs to the lobby at 4am to get coffee, a bagel and a banana. We stayed at the Hyatt Place and they were kind enough to have a full breakfast spread available starting at 4am. I stepped outside to check the weather and it was already warm and humid.

I went back upstairs and finished eating, prepped my bike bottles and got dressed. Megan came to my room at 4:45am and we left the hotel at 5am. We found a great spot in a public lot at the corner of Lake Robbins and Six Pines that was about halfway between the finish line and the transition area.  

Transition opened at 5:30am and we headed in to drop off our fuel bottles on our bikes and check the tires. My tires felt fine and I didn’t want to risk over inflating them. I heard a few tube explosions and felt bad for the folks who had to start their day with changing out tubes.

We finished up in transition and started the mile walk to the swim start at North Shore Park. Once at the park, we got body marked, dropped off our special needs bags, hit the restroom a few times, and then made our way to the swim start. Everything up until this point felt like an out of body experience...and that feeling would continue throughout the whole day!

Megan and I were excited to get going, but I don’t remember feeling nervous. One good thing about doing a race the magnitude of an Ironman is that there are so.many.tiny.details you have to stay on top of that you really don’t have a ton of time to sit around worrying or getting nervous.

We lined up for the swim and seeded ourselves with the folks who hoped to complete the swim in 1:30 - 1:40. Our main goal for the swim was to stay together. We wanted to do the entire race together, and we knew the one place that plan could really go south was in the swim.

The Swim

At 6:40am, the cannon went off and Ironman Texas was officially underway! It took us about 10 minutes before our group got in the water, but once we got in we started swimming tried to stay to the right. After just a few seconds I saw Megan tuck herself into a ball and go underwater - turns out her timing chip was really loose and she fixed it quickly. I was laughing so hard and took in a few mouthfuls of water.

We got into a good rhythm of swimming and it was actually really easy to stay together. Megan was on my right, breathing on her left side - I was on her left breathing to my right, so it was very easy for us to see each other during the whole swim.

I would do two strokes, then lift my head to the front to sight, turn to the right to breathe, and then put my head back in for two more strokes. Any time I felt myself lagging behind a little I would do two or three powerful breast strokes to get myself back up to Megan. The course consisted of swimming out to a buoy, turning left at the buoy and going back down toward the start, and then taking a turn into the canal that runs through the Woodlands Waterway.

There were a few times where men swam up under our armpits, or tried to swim over us, and a couple of times my tri shorts were on the end of someone’s down stroke and got pulled down, but thankfully I had on Nike Pro shorts under them.

The swim went by really fast and I kept thinking “We’re really doing this!” and “This is so easy to stay together!” and “I have taken in A LOT of water.”

I drank so much lake water that I have no idea how I didn’t get sick. It definitely wasn’t on purpose and looking back I’m not quite sure how I did it, but I took in so much water through my mouth and nose. At one point the water went up my nose so violently I thought I could feel it filtering through my brain. Here’s to hoping for no brain-eating amoebas.

Once in the canal, there were a lot of spectators which was a good boost. Until we noticed that a man with a cane walking at a very leisurely pace was walking faster than we were swimming. We swam for what seemed like forever down the canal, grabbing fist fulls of debris in the water and taking in the scent of freshly laid manure all along the banks. It was something! Little did I know that about 15 hours later when I took off my watch I would find a piece of algae that hung around for the entire race.

We exited the water right around 1:40, which is what we figured our time would be. Thankfully tons of volunteers were on hand to pull us up the steps. We were pretty wobbly after spending almost two hours in the water!  

We grabbed our bike bags on the way to the changing tent. Megan had given me a mini can of Coke to drink after the swim for a jolt of energy. Plus, based on what Coke can do to a rusty car battery, I think it probably took care of any lingering bacteria from the water.

I put on my socks, cycling shoes, helmet and sunglasses and then shoved a few gels/Honey Stinger chews in my jersey pockets. We hit the port-a-potties for a quick stop, grabbed our bikes and headed out onto the road.

The Bike

 Getting started on the bike...Megan is behind me in blue.

Getting started on the bike...Megan is behind me in blue.

The course was super smooth and pretty flat for the first 20 miles as we made our way to the Hardy Toll Road.

Before getting into the bike, here is a quick overview of the course: once we hit the Hardy Toll Road, we rode 20 miles out, then 20 miles back, then did the loop again to bring us to 100 miles. Shortly after the 100 mile mark, we got off of the Hardy Toll Road and started making our way back to The Woodlands. Here is a quick visual of the course from Strava: https://video.relive.cc/strava_954959073_1492972432148.mp4?x-ref=og

We didn’t have any problems sticking together on the bike, and tried to be very careful to not draft off of each other or anyone around us. The first 40 miles of the bike were actually pretty great. We had an amazing tailwind pushing us along at 20mph. We made quick pit stops at the aid stations to refill our water bottles and reapply sunscreen. One slight mishap occurred when I accidentally dropped my fuel bottle somewhere along miles 20-40. So we are cruising along on a beautiful morning and I was thinking “This is great! This is really not too bad!”

And then we hit the turnaround point and rode directly into what seemed like a brick wall. The awesome tailwind that had been ushering us right down the Toll Road turned into a TERRIBLE headwind on the way back. We and others were using the words “demoralizing”, “brutal”, “soul sucking” and some other choice words to describe it. I've read reports that say they were 10-20  mph sustained winds with gusts up to 31mph. Sounds about right!

But, mind over matter. We all had the same wind to deal with. We made our way for the next 20 miles averaging 12-15mph. And working hard to get it! It was pretty demoralizing. But we pumped ourselves up by saying “as soon as we turn around, we’ll have the tailwind again. And when we hit this stretch again, it will be our last stretch on the Toll Road.” That worked for a little while, ha.

We also had the challenge of being in the mix with both riders on their first loop and riders on their second loop, so things got pretty crowded. I just kept telling myself “don’t take out a pro, don’t take out a pro” - I definitely did not want to be the reason for someone (pro or age grouper) having to end their day.

We did see people collapsed and bloody from crashes, dehydration, heat exhaustion, etc. on the side of the road. Some of those people got back up and went on to finish, which is amazing.

Throughout the ride I kept looking at my bike computer and watch - but seeing the hours stack up didn’t really register in my brain. Both on Saturday and looking back now, most of the day felt like an out of body experience.

So back to the bike...we hit the turn around near mile 60 and made a stop at the special needs bag area around mile 62. We ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Pringles and Sour Patch Kids. It felt so good to be off the bike and eating solid food. My gel/chew nutrition plan had gone out of the window a long time ago at that point. We sat in some volunteers chairs and put on some of their sunscreen that we found - thank you volunteer, we hope it is ok that we used your stuff! I also contemplated drinking a half-full bottle of frozen root beer that was on the side of the road but decided to draw the line there.   

We got back on the bike, thankful that we were almost halfway done, but fearful of the headwind to come. We cruised along courtesy of the tailwind to mile 80 and then bam, turned right back into the brutal headwind. The last 20 miles were incredibly tough. Megan had a breakdown at the mile 93 aid station but pulled it together and we continued on. We knew we were so close, yet so far from the finish. We were exhausted and calorie depleted and had a few spats in those final miles on the bike, but we knew it wasn’t personal.

Slowly but surely we made our way back to transition and the dismount line that we had been dreaming about for hours. As we pulled into transition we saw Chad and our sister Michelle cheering for us, which gave us a nice boost.

 Chad with "Fathead Emma" was definitely a highlight!

Chad with "Fathead Emma" was definitely a highlight!

We immediately took off our helmets and cycling shoes and began making our way to our run bags and the changing tent.

Up next...Part 3: The Run, the Finish and Post-Race! 

The Road to Ironman Texas 2017

On Saturday, April 22, 2017, my twin sister Megan and I completed Ironman Texas. In these next few blog posts, I hope to capture our experience from the race. Warning - much like our Ironman Texas finishing time, these posts will be long! So long in fact that I’ve broken it down into three parts:

  • Part 1: Pre-Race

  • Part 2: Race Morning, the Swim and the Bike

  • Part 3: The Run, the Finish and Post-Race

I know most people probably aren’t interested in all of the detail I will go into, but it could be helpful for someone who is considering doing an Ironman one day. Ok, let’s get started!

This was my first Ironman and Megan’s second. There were a couple of reasons that we wanted to do Ironman Texas.

First, I grew up in Clear Lake, which is about 1 hour south of The Woodlands. My parents and sisters still live there. We had hotel rooms in The Woodlands for Friday and Saturday night, but it was nice to have a home base at my parent’s house for the other nights. Second, Megan did Ironman Texas in 2016. It was a pretty crazy year for the event with a shortened bike course and weather delay, and Megan knew that she wanted to do the event again so that she could say she had completed the full distance. Plus, we had the added benefit of being familiar with the course. So last June, we made the decision to do Ironman Texas together in 2017.

 With Megan before the start of Ironman Texas 2016

With Megan before the start of Ironman Texas 2016

Pre-Race (Wednesday/Thursday)

I finished up work on Wednesday with a completely unexpected surprise party from my co-workers. I came home to MDot cupcakes from my friend and training partner, and then woke up the next morning to a huge sign in our yard from our friends. It was an awesome way to start the Ironman Texas weekend! I was so motivated, encouraged and blown away by all of the gestures, texts, calls, posts, etc. in the days leading up to the race. 

After 11 months of training and preparation, my husband Chad and I hit the road for The Woodlands on Thursday, April 20. For most of the 5 hour drive we binged the S-Town podcast, but we also took some time to record this conversation about the Ironman. 

Once we got to The Woodlands, we headed to the Bikes and Life tent in Ironman Village to drop my bike off for a tune up. I bought my bike off of Craiglist in February and it’s in great shape, but I wasn’t sure when the last time it had been tuned up so I thought it wouldn’t hurt to get it checked out before race day. The Bikes and Life guys were great to work with and I highly recommend them!

Megan found us in line and once my bike was dropped off, we headed over to Athlete Check In to sign waivers; get our athlete wristband, swim cap and timing chip; gear and special needs bags; our sweet Ironman Texas backpacks, posters and flags.

Then we headed into the merchandise tent and I picked up a good bit of M-Dot merch. I was a little worried about buying so much before I even finished the dang thing, but I knew that certain sizes and items get cleared out over the weekend and the next time we would be back would be Sunday morning. Plus, it gave me even more incentive to actually finish the race!

Before heading home to Clear Lake, we stopped at Grimaldi’s for pizza. While there, we saw Mike Reilly (the voice of Ironman!!) picking up an order to go. We introduced ourselves and got a picture with him and told him that we would see him on Saturday night!

Once we got to my parent’s house in Clear Lake, we unloaded the car and I started the process of getting all of the gear bags prepped and ready. Chad was amazed by the amount of bags involved with an Ironman.

Pre-Race (Friday)

After a good night’s sleep, I spent Friday morning going over everything one more time to make sure I had everything. Megan came over to my parent’s house and we headed north to The Woodlands at about 10:30am. Once we got to the The Woodlands, we knew we needed to:

  • Drop off our bikes and gear bags

  • Eat lunch

  • Check out the post-race free mDot tattoo situation at Lululemon

  • Check into our hotel rooms

  • Eat dinner

  • Get last minute supplies from the grocery store

  • Prep nutrition and organize gear

Once we got back to Ironman Village, I headed in to pick up my bike from Bikes and Life while Megan stayed with her bike and our gear bags. Thankfully she rifled through my bags and discovered that my helmet was missing! There had been some question about what helmet I was going to use and when I made the decision, I slapped my race number sticker on the helmet and put it in my duffel bag, rather than the bike bag. Thankfully Megan discovered my mistake and I hightailed it back to my car to get the helmet.  

After we dropped off our bikes and bags in the transition area, we headed across the street to the Market Street shopping center to get lunch at Chipotle and then check on the M-Dot tattoos at Lululemon.

On Sunday morning, Lululemon hosts a finisher’s party with breakfast tacos, beer and free M-Dot tattoos. We knew we both wanted to get the tattoos, so we figured this would be a pretty easy and convenient way to get it done. Unfortunately the tattoo list was already full, but we got on the waitlist and the super friendly folks at Lulu told us to stop by on Sunday morning and they might be able to squeeze us in.

Next we headed to our hotel to get checked in. It was about 85 degrees at this point and I was already worn out! It felt good to get settled in our rooms and spend some time with our feet up. Megan even let me take a spin in her Normatec boots! My legs did feel really good after that.

At 5pm we headed to Whole Foods for dinner.I love their veggie pizza but unfortunately they didn’t have too many pizza options out that night. We both got cheese pizza and I got a small container of baked ziti as well. #carbs I don’t think either of us were really hungry but we knew we needed to eat.

Next, we went to H-E-B to pick up cookies, Uncrustables, Pringles, Sour Patch Kids and chapstick. Once back in the room, I prepared my Special Needs bags with the items from the store and got ready for bed.

I was in bed by 7:30 watching a "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" marathon on TLC and fell sound asleep from 8-11pm. I was wide awake from 11pm-12am, but then fell back asleep until 3:46 am...four minutes before my alarm was scheduled to go off.

Next up...Part 2: Race Morning, the Swim and the Bike