Adjusted Reality

“Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.” – Mark Twain

Tag: Ironman (Page 1 of 5)

Wanderlust on the cheap – 10 ways to vacation on a budget

Ah, it’s about to be vacation season.  I’ve got four camping trips planned from now until December, and I’m waffling back and forth on what I want to do for my actual VACATION vacation (requirement: must include scuba diving, snorkeling, and awesome photo opportunities).  This year, I’ve already been on a cruise to the Carribean with my folks, spent a week in the woods, plus a five day trip to do IM Texas in April.  I have the wanderlust and I have it bad.

The company isn’t quite so colorful at home.

I drop probably more than my share of income on it, but I also buy all my clothes from a thrift store and hang onto things until they are so worn out they’re not useful.  It’s one of my priorities.  I don’t remember most of the crap I’ve bought in the last 10 years, but I have vivid memories of my vacations.  I can be underwater with pretty fishies in blue water, which is not something I can do at home.  I can completely relax and let go, which is hard to do at home with one more chore or to do and the internet and the television all handily accessible.

I’ve made the mistake of thinking everyone is like me, but I know differently now.  I know some people who go five or even ten years without taking a vacation.  I’ve heard tell of people, ADULT people, who have never left their hometown.  I’ve also known a lot of people who only vacation to visit family or friends.  While that’s a wonderful thing, I love family and friends, and for those of you that aren’t (or have a spouse that’s) allergic to anything with fur, it can be a much cheaper option to get out of town for a bit.

However, you can miss out on some of the things that make a vacation a vacation.  You can’t completely let go and unwind when you’re staying in someone else’s guest room that’s going about their daily lives.  Also, unless your family is in Hawaii or Iceland, or somewhere else that you’d actually WANT to vacation, it’s really a visit.  Which is cool.  But it’s not a vacation.

What, your first idea for an excursion in Alaska in September ISN’T snorkeling?

How many new experiences would I have missed out on?  If I didn’t travel, I would have never been motivated to learn to scuba dive, which is now at least my third favorite hobby and one of the motivating factors on where I choose to roam.  I would have never climbed to see one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen, Hanging Lake, or ran up a mountain in Juneau.  I wouldn’t have scaled the Colorado National Monument or up the Klondike Highway in Skagway (ok, partway…) on bikes.  I wouldn’t have snorkeled in Hawaii, Alaska, or any damn where you put an ocean or even a mildly pretty lake.

I love food and drink.  If I didn’t travel, I would have never had a REAL Belizian meat pie.  I would not have a sick obsession with Publix subs.  I would have never eaten Nepalese food in a little town in Colorado.  I would have never known the joy that is bean, bacon, and cheese breakfast tacos cooked over an open camp fire in the morning.  I wouldn’t have sat in a swim up bar in Jamaica drinking boozy banana drinks. I would have never had an (in)famous hand grenade in New Orleans and I would never have tried the fast food restaurant Krystal after having a few too many of them.

This is the stuff of dreams right here.

“Hey,” you say, “I get it, I want to travel!  But money’s tight, y’know?”

I got you.  If there’s a will, there’s a way.  Here’s ten tips to make travel more affordable/better so you can get the heck out of town and still have enough money to enjoy yourself.

1. Plan your trip when the air fare is cheaper. I am notorious for taking my vacations in early December because travel prices are at rock bottom.  We usually cruise in early March before spring break or on mother’s day weekend because it’s affordable.  Generally, if there’s a big holiday/event coming up, 2-3 weeks BEFORE and AFTER is the best time to travel.  Are the kids in school? Probably cheaper than spring/summer/winter break.  For those of you that have kids: I know my parents busted me out of school for vacations.  You’ll travel cheaper AND you’ll be your kid’s hero.

2. If you have set dates, consider being flexible with your destination.  For example, I knew I wanted to take a vacation for a specific week in December out of Florida.  Instead of doing a Key Largo trip (over 1000$ just for the condo), we took a cruise instead (less than 1000$ for both lodging and food and entertainment).

Condos are awesome because you have extra space and you can also make homemade meals from local food that look like this…

3. Consider staying at a condo/house rental vs a hotel.  Typically for the same prices as just a single room or maybe a little bit more, you can get a full kitchen, living room, patio, seperate bedroom (or two), a washing machine, and sometimes other cool amenities like a grill, a bike to ride, or even toys/games/dvds.  Besides being awesome for comfortability reasons, the grill/kitchen means you can cut down on food expenses.  While I love experiencing the food a location has to offer, I’d rather just have an easy breakfast and sometimes lunches I make at home.  And there’s nothing better than grilling some fish on the patio of your condo (that you biked a mile up the road to purchase from a fish market on the water)!  Some of my most memorable Key Largo meals were cooked that way.

4. Some things pay to book in advance, some are left best to the last minute.  For example, if you want to do a cruise excursion with the ship, book it ahead of time and it will cost less.  But, for the cheapest option, show up on the docks with cash and haggle.  It works the same way for vacations – usually planning ahead will save you money, but if you can be impulsive and flexible, you can get some super great last minute deals (for example, a 10 day South American cruise for 299$ per person is happening right now 😛 – and yes, that is room AND food for 10 days…).

8 days in Bonaire, because we were flexible about the time of year and the days we traveled, ended up being less expensive than two long weekend getaways somewhere in the states.

5. Taking your vacation in larger chunks will save you money.  If you take one two week vacation, vs four long weekends, you’re saving 3 round trip flights (or you can go somewhere four times as cool!).  Booking a condo for a month is sometimes just a little more expensive than a week.  If you have the flexibility, go long!

6. A lot of times, the direct flight option, if there is one, is the cheapest (plus you get there quicker, so its a win win).  Always search for the direct flights and then compare it to the cheapest (and see if it’s not worth spending a few extra dollars to take it to actually be on vacation a little longer).

And being here longer is typically better.

7. Consider the RELATIVE cost.  A cheaper flight leaving a day before means another night at a hotel.  A more expensive hotel room in the city may mean you can use public transport and save on a rental car.  A more expensive hotel room with a free breakfast means less meals out.

8.  A great way to “sample” a new area is to combine 2-4 seperate destinations that are nearby.  Cruises are great because you spend about 8 hours in each port.  Some, you don’t care to return to (Grenada).  Some, you fall in love with and spend a week there (Bonaire).  You can do this on land by hitting up a few different towns in the same region.  For example, we did a weekend in Portland, took a bus and spent a few days on the Oregon Coast, and a quick cheap plane flight took us to the Bay Area before we headed home. It would have been WAY more expensive to do these as three separate trips.

I got to wear a jacket in July and kiss crabs.  The Oregon Coast was surreal!

9.  Leave and come back on Saturday if that’s an option.  It’s usually one of the cheaper days to fly, PLUS you get a full day off to decompress and unpack (if you work a typical schedule).  Tuesday and Wednesday are generally the absolute cheapest but that means you have to split up a week off which can feel like you get less time off.

10. Super broke but still want to get away?  Go camping!  A weekend pass to a campsite is about 30 bucks (for improved camping with power and water).  Even if you have zero gear, you can rent a tent from REI for 40 bucks (or buy a super cheap one but I DO NOT RECOMMEND that – rent or buy a good one, but I covered that here), an air matress is 20 bucks, stuff to light a fire is 10 bucks, and from there, all you need is hot dogs, makings for smores, and a case of cheap beer and you’re set!

Not a bad view from your patio for 20$ a night, hmmm?

It’s easy to talk yourself out of taking a vacation.  The actual TRAVEL part of traveling is a hassle.  Then there’s packing, getting everything everything at home and work taken care of while you’re away… and it costs money, no matter HOW great of a deal you get.  I promise, it’s worth it.  Go forth and vacation (cheaply)!

The Aftermath

The week after the Ironman was not quite what I expected.

Always expect margaritas though…

I expected to be more tired and sore.  Not to say that I wasn’t, but it was maybe like third-or-fourth-worst-sore-marathon level and not get-me-a-wheelchair level.  Steps were hard for about 2 days, but that was it.  I was more mentally out of it… the day after, I spent 4 hours sitting by the pool kind of staring off into space, not reading, talking much, or anything, just sort of existing.  The extreme tireds caught up pretty quick once the caffiene in the coca cola, the race excitement, and the booze benders wore off.  I have spent quite a few 12 hour+ nights in bed with reading and sleeping combined.

I expected to spend the week sort of in a happy, post-IM bubble.  The day we got back, we had to say goodbye to our little old man schneider skink Lump.  It wasn’t a surprise because he’s not been doing so well, but he went way downhill while we were gone and it was time.  That, plus a bunch of other shitty shit happened last week and I felt like I needed a do-over.  However, the weekend combined leisurely lunches out, getting a few things done that were nagging at me (but not too many things so it didn’t feel like a hassle), and a whole lot of vegging on the couch binge watching Netflix.  We finally drank our post-race champagne on Sunday and I wore my damn medal and screamed YOU ARE AN IRONMAN a lot.  I felt redeemed.

I expected to be a LOT hungrier.  I definitely didn’t limit my portions and may have wanted a full ‘nother meal after my reasonably sized lunch two days after, but I felt less compelled to eat like an asshole because Ironman training actually let me kinda eat that way already.  I actually had vegetables and fruits last week in decent quantities.  By three days out, I split a burger between two meals because it was too much food.  I know when I nail my nutrition in training I’m way less hungry afterward, so this is perhaps confirmation I did just that at the race.

Plenty of foods but I wore my wetsuit and my bike helmet as well.

I expected to want weeks away from my goggles, my bike, and my running shoes.  We rode bikes with the group on Wednesday and it felt good, but 18 miles was PLENTY.  We swam with the tri team in the lake on Friday, but once around the quarry (750m) was enough.  25 minutes on the cruiser to lunch and groceries on Saturday in the heat and the wind tuckered me out.  The will is there, but the body is definitely saying that short bouts a couple times a week are the way to go.

I expected my knee to hurt more.  It’s not been completely pain free, but since the day after, it’s hurt less than any point 2 weeks before the race.  I have no idea what brought it on, like AT ALL, and I have no idea why doing an Ironman made it feel BETTER, but I’m still giving it enough space (read: no running or heavy lifting until after vacation) to repair itself.

I expected some weird body stuff, but not quite what I’ve experienced.  I still feel like a bag of water, literally almost sloshy, STILL a week and a half later.  The inflammation is real with this one, and this week I’m going to take steps to actually try and FIX it instead of probably aggravating it more with junk food and drinking beer and whiskey like water (and forgetting to actually drink water).  I’m hoping its working it’s way out because I have to pee like ALLLLL the time and it’s getting old.  Also – doing an Ironman makes you hair grow.  Literally.  I had an INSANE amount of stubble on my legs the day after, like a week’s worth, and it had been 2.5 days.  Weirdest thing ever.

I might have bought all the merch like I’d never be back but… hurrrr…. I  *really* want to do another one after I get all some of my life shit together…

I expected to be more one-and-done, or at least not wanting to do another one of these for a long time, but then again, I haven’t at any other race distance so I’m not sure why.  I really do feel a draw to do this one again.  That finish line is addictive.  Not next year because I have other priorities, but maybe 2019?  2020?  Definite possibilities.

I expected to have a little more oomph to get stuff done last week, but I always expect that and it never happens.  I was lucky to just do a basic level of adulting.  I might be an advanced beginner adult this week.  I’m adjusting my expectations here and I’ll work on getting to the intermediate/advanced level (read: the big to do list with appointments and house stuff and other projects, oh my) once I’m back from vacation.

So, it’s been about a week and a half.  I am definitely feeling a little of the post Ironman blues because I had absolutely zero things scheduled starting April 23rd.  This was totally intentional for a lot of reasons, but I expected to welcome the break a little more than I actually am right now.  It is completely unreasonable, but I kind of wish I was ready to jump on the swim/bike/run train.  The Ironman marketing team are evil geniuses because today I got an email telling me to NOT let my training die and sign up for IM Boulder this summer.  Argh, yes, that sounds great!!!

But no.  I need to face some other things.  As weird as it sounds, it sounds WAYYY more comfortable right now to jump right back into 12-15 hour weeks and ignoring the rest of my life.  Hopefully, that will pass soon as I remember what it’s like to have my identity not tied to Ironman for a while. As I get over the hump of “I’ve eaten healthy and counted calories for 24 hours, why have I not lost 15 lbs yet?”.  As I remember that it’s actually pretty awesome to just be a person who is active for the fun of it (and maybe sometimes to earn a little extra food) and not just because it’s on the training plan.

So, week one was really just surviving + a small amount of activity.  How about week two?

Definitely bikes.  Because always bikes.

I’m back to tracking food and weighing myself.  No specific calorie goal this week, just get back in the habit and try to keep it reasonable for my activity level. To be honest, I logged my weight the last three mornings without my glasses on so  I couldn’t see it, but I ended up checking it out today and it’s not *quite* as bad as it could be (189.8 which is about 3lbs up but also 5% more bodyfat/bloat than a month ago).  It’s time to shift my eating to mostly fruit and veggies and lean proteins and some grains and eschew the things that have fake orange coloring and come in a plastic tub or crinkly bag.

Water, water, water.  I know this will help with feeling like a water weenie, it’s just haaaaaaard when I don’t really focus on it.  My goal is to have four 24-oz Polar bottles independent of anything I drink while/directly after exercise.  So far this week I’ve done pretty well.

Still on the “whatever, whenever” plan but I’d like to do some of these things:

  • Ride bikes with friends.
  • Get to the lake to Sup or kayak or even maybe swim.
  • Foam roll and stretch a few times.
  • Spend 15-20 mins doing some bodyweight exercises 1-2 times this week
  • Attend the Pure Austin Expo and play.
  • But most importantly, 10k steps per day.  I slacked on it this week.  I need to be taking my 2-3 walks per day at work and maybe one in the evenings if I don’t have enough steps.

In terms of goals and to dos, I’d like to do a little bit more than surviving I did last week:

  • Get a haircut.  It’s time.  I waited until after the race so I didn’t have to worry about an awkward cut that wouldn’t ponytail, but I am definitely in need of my annual shearing.
  • Clean out the Prius and get it washed (or wash it ourselves).  It’s been on my list since January, and we did the Xterra last weekend.  It would be nice to tick this one off the list so we can…
  • Schedule an appointment next week to take it in for it’s 60k service.  It’s only 2k overdue. 😛
  • Gaming on Monday, early mother’s day on Saturday, volunteering for Rookie Tri on Sunday.

Since I’m still operating at the advanced beginner level of adulting, however, I’ll cut myself some slack if I don’t get to everything.

Ironman Texas – Run Party

Part 1 here (pre-race, swim), part 2 here (bike).  Follows is the thrilling (?) conclusion to Ironman Texas.


Getting out to the run was a relief.  At this point, I wasn’t going to get hit, kicked, punched, scratched, drown, or die of dysentery from swallowing canal poop.  I wasn’t going to wreck on my bike, get a flat, have my wheel fall off, fall over unclipping, or have to bike around the world to end up on the other side of a freeway.  You run or you walk (or crawl, but I was hoping I wouldn’t get to that point), and I had almost a full workday to do a combination of those around the 26.2 mile three loop course.

Assessing the situation after running about a mile and then walking through the first aid station I realized that a) my knee wasn’t thrilled with everything but it was holding up and b) the transition from walking to running was the worst part, so I resolved myself to try to run as long as I could and then take decently long walk breaks (about a mile running then 1/3 mile or so walking fast).  My average pace was staying around 12s, so I was fine with how things were progressing.

Let me just say that the run was my favorite part of this race – the course was a PARTY.  There was the sexy nurse helping us up the steep dirt hill.  There was hippie hollow (and there was no walking in hippie hollow, rules are rules).  There was slingshot corner that made you feel like you were in Tour De France with everyone cheering in your face.  There were two girls just standing at a random corner (under a floodlight in the dark) in the middle of a hidden trail encouraging everyone.  The Moxie crew was out having a dance party and slapping asses.  I gave at least a few hundred high fives to random people.  I kind of really want to come back next year, not to race (not yet), but to cheer people on because everyone was having SO MUCH FUN.

On the second lap, I made run friends with a gal from Delaware and a guy from Austin who were running together.  We were right about the same pace, so I hung with them a while and we chatted, for the life of me, I don’t remember about what, but it made the time pass a little faster.  However, we got to a point where handling conversation was hard for me and taking energy instead of helping.  Also, while we were the same pace, I realized I needed to run longer and faster than they were shuffling, and then walk longer, I told them to go ahead and I’d catch up.

I went past special needs again around mile 11.  I did some math, and figured that leaving my stuff there until mile 19 would be good motivation for me to hurry back and not take too many walk breaks.  I ran and walked and ran and walked and kept hearing “Hey Bicycle Sport Shop, your husband’s just a few minutes up ahead” (apparently he stopped a few times and asked spectators to look me up on their trackers and told them to look for me).  I hit the 13 mile marker at 2:43 garmin time, which meant I was on track for about 5:30 if I stayed consistent – the top of my expectations!  Yay!

If we made our own sign are we our own spectators? 🙂

On the third lap, I got to special needs with about 30 minutes to spare (yay), and I straight plunked down on the ground and had a picnic.  I chugged my chicken broth and coconut water, ate some chips, I used my pvc pipe to roll out my back and legs and hips (and then gave it to the volunteers to do the same!), I tied my shirt around my waist, grabbed my headlamp, and got going… like 10-15 minutes later.  Oops.  Apparently Zliten was just leaving special needs when I got there.  We missed each other by just a minute.  I might have had a little less tea time if I knew I could have left more quickly and potentially have caught up with him but I also kinda really needed the break.

I was hoping to be able to run most of the rest of the lap after my little picnic, and I got one good mile in after the stop, but about mile 21-22, my knee just kind of let me know it was DONE.  So, instead of run/walk, I changed to a 13-15 min/mile powerwalk.  I really think that walking a marathon is more painful than run/walking.  Not being able to alternate hurt the rest of my body SO MUCH MORE, all I wanted to do was run a little, but every time I tried, my knee was like HAHAHA NOPE!  Then, the other knee joined in to the NOPE NOPE NOPE party.  Super fun times, but I knew I just needed to press on.

So, I resigned myself to being one of those people you see on the Ironman videos walking in the dark with my glowstick necklace and bracelet (which HAD to be purple, no idea why, but it was VERY important at the time), and just tried to keep it as speedy and with a mission as possible.  The last thing I wanted to do was push it too hard and lose the ability to even walk and miss my chance to finish.  “I’m not in a hurry” didn’t ring QUITE as true in my ears, because damn, I was ready to be done, but I made myself repeat it while I powerwalked and tried to keep the grumbling to a minimum.

I was popular with my headlamp and had some walk buddies for a while, but due to different paces or bathroom stops, I didn’t stick with anyone for long.  I did realize at mile 22, I was sitting in a stinky porta potty longer than necessary just to rest my legs (get up get up GET UP).  The bottoms of my feet were on fire and I couldn’t figure out why – I figured out later that I had a giant blister on the pad of each foot, OW, I’m actually thankful that those didn’t come into focus until after the race.  Other than that, besides just wanting to be DONE and frustrated that my legs wouldn’t cooperate to make with the running motions instead of walking, I was just doing just fine, taking care of business, enjoying the crowds, and soaking the last bit of my first IM in.

Let’s talk about my stomach and nutrition.  I had untold amounts of gatorade and water (but a lot, like *having to pee 3 times* a lot), one coconut water, a cup of coke about every other aid station, salty snacks occasionally when they were available, some fruit, and I had my own chicken broth and two other cups along the way.  I had two gels and a full pack of blocks.  I took two sets of 303 muscle relaxers (one at the start, one at special needs), one tums because it sounded good, and two salt pills at spec needs.  My stomach felt rock solid the entire run.  My only fail was a little bit of self-flagellation on the last 5 miles (if you can’t run you totally don’t need nutrition, right?) but other than that, I couldn’t be happier with how everything but my cranky knees held up.

I wish I had 27.5 miles of 8:30 min/mile pace.  That’s a 5k for me on a really good day…

Let’s also talk about my garmin being EXTREMELY rude.  For the first two loops, it was significantly behind.  For example, I’m hitting the 14 mile marker and my garmin is saying 13.5.  The last lap, at some point it completely flipped the other way and at mile 23, it said 23.5.  I tried to stop looking at my garmin because I knew the course signs were probably right, but by the end, it had me pegged at 27.5 miles…. ><.

I hit the waterway, the crowd support starting to thin out a *little* nearing 10pm, but there was still a lot going on, which helped keep me going.  I did the down, over, saw Zliten heading to the finish and got a hug, then around, rang the last lap bell with fervor, and finally when I made the turn with a quarter mile to go, I started running.  Eff it.  My knees could deal, I wasn’t walking across the finish line.

The finish line is pretty magical and TOTALLY worth it.  You feel like a rockstar.  Hundreds of people are cheering for you, you get the cool red carpet, the lights are bright, the music is loud, and as Mike Reilly calls you an Ironman, you look and feel a lot like this.

Run time: 6:28:04

Total time: 15:56:12

The run was almost 30 mins slower than expected, just like everything else was a little slower than expected.  I really had pegged my finish time to be between 14-15 hours on a good day.  I can nitpick how crappy my swim form was in the washing machine and how I can maybe stay in aero more and have the wind suck less on the bike and try and HTFU a little more on the run, and for eff’s sake, maybe take less of a nap in transitions (and porta potties and special needs…) next time.  None of that matters.  This time, I got my money’s worth and got to savor almost 16 hours of playing triathlon in The Woodlands and then I got to join the exclusive Ironman club at about 10:45pm on Saturday, April 22nd, 2017.

Post Race:

Joining the club means a shit-eating grin on my face and being deliriously happy at my volunteer catcher.  She got me my finisher shirt and hat and some water, and then I went to look for Zliten who sent me back in the picture line and we got pictures together where I just look crazy eyed and sunburnt and bloated and probably won’t buy for 30 bucks each but it was VERY important we did that, apparently.  Then, my salvation… the crappy post race slice of cheese pizza.  I ate three.  It was everything.

The rapid recovery boot people had chairs open, so we ducked in and now THIS was the best thing ever in life.  Then we got our morning clothes bags and I bundled back up in my fleece and pjs, and we made the trek back to T1 to get all our bagsbagsbagsbagsbags.  We had originally planned on walking it all back together but it was a LOT OF CRAP and bikes so I stayed with our mound of stuff and Zliten got the car (thankfully, he got someone to give him a ride back to the garage).  Next time, we’ll stick a key somewhere else we’ll have at the finish so we don’t have to do that.

Late night post race noms.  Notice the bottle opener.  Ironman wanted to prepare us for the next week of beer drinking…

I was prepared for some ugly stomach stuff, either RAVENOUS hunger or extreme distress, and I had neither.  I had an easy mac, watermelon, chips and a beer when I got back to the hotel room at 1:30am, but my fueling and hydration was on point enough that I drifted off to sleep and didn’t wake up in the middle of the night starving.  I ate two big meals and snacks the next day, and some more beer.  Monday was probably the worst of it, where I ate a meal and then immediately wanted another one, but by Tuesday, I got a burger and had to split it into lunch and dinner (with a salad) because it was too much food.

I was prepared to undertake some extremely low points, to have it feel like a long and terrible day.  I was just amazed at how much my training, which I thought was on the minimal side of things, prepared me.  The swim was rough, but at least I wasn’t swimming into the chop at Pflugerville for 2 hours.  Biking into the wind was mentally draining, but it wasn’t like rolling the 6 hour Pace Bend loop 14 times in the wind and the rain and the cold or climbing hills into similar gusts on 360 and Bee Caves halfway into my first century ride.  That TERRIBLE marathon I walked a lot of last year taught me that if your body starts to give out, just keep going towards the finish as fast as you can however you can.  I didn’t ever think about never wanting to swim again, throwing my bike away, or only running 5ks in the future.  In fact, I think I figured out why people really love Ironman races and I’m pretty sure even at the finish line I was plotting my return.

I was also prepared to have some sort of mental revelation or religious experience or feel different or whatever, but I honestly don’t.  Yes, it was a damn big deal to finish this race.  I had convinced myself otherwise the day before “well, if *I’m* doing it, it’s not a big thing” and I realized at the end that it was indeed a huge accomplishment.  But it wasn’t just Saturday that changed me.

It was that after this last 4 months, training for a half ironman will never feel quite as long ever again.  It was becoming a cyclist vs a scaredy triathlete that bikes outside very very occasionally.  It was conquering my first century ride, after a few failed attempts.  It was running 20 miles and getting up to ride bikes the next day.  It was those long days where I triathloned from sun up to after sun down and pushed my limits beyond comprehension.  This was really just a celebration, and a validation, of all that work, that it was enough, that I was enough, to travel 140.6 miles on my own volition in under 17 hours.

Ironman Texas – Bike (Highway from Hell)

Pre-race and swim HERET1 continues below:

After I exited the water, all I kept thinking was “I’m not in any hurry”.  I didn’t want to trip and fall with a wonky knee.  My biggest fear was rushing and doing something stupid and ending my day.  My only goal was to make all the cutoffs, and on a normal day, that isn’t even a passing consideration on any of the three sports, so I tried to be super conservative and patient with everything knowing that it was my day if I didn’t fuck it up.

Bags bags bags bags and more bags.

I walked all the way to my bike clothes bag, and heard Zliten’s name being called out of the swim as I walked it into the tent (yay!), and took a second to breathe.  A volunteer came up and asked if I needed anything, water maybe, and I said OMG YES, and swished out my nasty ass canal mouth (yes, I swim with my mouth open no matter how hard I try, so that was pleasant), and then got to changing.

It was a little different getting super de duper butt naked in front of a hundred of my closest friends during a race, but it felt just like changing in a locker room.  A VERY FRANTIC locker room.  I got all my gear on and packed everything I needed in jersey pockets, took one look at my bagel with cream cheese and said NOPE (next time, I’d take the extra effort and buy english muffins instead of making do with what’s in the hotel breakfast) and headed out.  I walked through all sorts of mud in my bike shoes, grabbed my bike, and got to the start line.

T1: 12:56

Let’s talk about this.  I intentionally took my time, and I have zero regrets doing so, but I’m already thinking about how I could do better next time I have this opportunity.  First of all, I could totally practice this and probably cut down quite a few minutes having a purpose instead of going durrrrr the whole time.  Second, I forgot to pre-load up a bunch of stuff in my jersey pockets.  Third, THIS would be the race where it would make sense to keep my shoes on my bike.  Walking through a super long transition field in cleats was super slow and annoying.  But maybe it would be worse with mud on my socks instead of cleats?  *shrug*.  These are things to think about far, far in the future.


Deathstar, when I dropped her off for sleepaway camp the night before.

I hit the line and pulled to the side and got on Deathstar and got going… and my left shoe wouldn’t clip in.  I tried and tried and tried and finally I just jammed it up in there and took off.  It was a magical unicorn day in terms of temperature (high of 70s in April in Texas), and it felt wonderful to be on the bike.  I got a caff gel down the hatch right away and started looking for Zliten.  He was behind me on the swim and for some reason, I couldn’t even fathom that he got out of the tent quicker than I did (but yep, he was two minutes faster there so I *just* missed him) and I kept looking backwards on the bike but he was just a teeny bit ahead.  We watched the flybys on Strava and it’s HILARIOUS how we were almost riding together but only saw each other at turn arounds.

The first hour, you wind through neighborhoods and I noticed that a) everything was feeling remarkably good except b) my stomach was definitely a little off.  I stuck to my nutrition plan with gels but I could see some trouble coming my way if it it continued.  I kept calling what was in my bottle GURPLE (which makes no sense, it was orange and grape/purple gatorade) and it started to taste gross.  Subconcious past me knew this was going to happen, and accidentally packed the cliff spearmint chews in my bike bag instead of my run vest and that turned me around.  They are magic.  I highly recommend.

When we turned onto the toll road, I was super excited to ride bikes on it.  They blocked off a whole freeway for us!  OMG!  How cool is that?  By the end of the first half of the first loop, I was excited that my speed was rockin’, but that was juxtaposed with how kind of BORING it was to be riding for 20 miles on one road with no scenery.  And this is the girl who did 33 loops of Shoal Creek for long day training – at least there were interesting things to look at, even if they were the same interesting things over and over.  This was just *highway*.

I saw Zliten at the turn around at mile 40 for the first time all race.  How did he get ahead of me? (by having a purpose at T1, duh…)  I made a note I was going to try and catch him after the U turn and then holy hell…. the wind.  It sucked the life out of me to see my speed dropping, and dropping, and dropping.  Flats felt like hills and I crawled up the few overpasses at like 6 mph since my knee was on the verge of complaining about life and I still had a long day ahead.  I was in no hurry.  Slow and steady becomes an Ironman.  However, the pace was just demotivating.

At least I wasn’t riding THIS. #teamfattirebikeguy

After an IMPOSSIBLY long time to travel 20 miles, after being convinced the turnaround would never come, that we would just have to keep biking around the globe and somehow end up back on the other side, it finally happened.  And it was relief, sweet relief, from the windy day and the growing-ever-more-frequent gusts.

Right after the turnaround was special needs, and I tried to unclip and…that wasn’t happening.  My foot (the one I jammed in there earlier) was just stuck.  I finally rolled up to a volunteer and said “please help me, my foot is stuck”, and she held my bike up just long enough so I could get my cleat out before I fell down (but it was close).

Luckily, Zliten was still there so we hung out a bit.  I sat on the ground and rolled my back and butt and legs with my $1.50 PVC pipe roller.  I downed the salt pills and my 303 muscle relaxers from my med kit and my sunbutter honey sandwich, which was life right then and almost took off right after Zliten… when I realized I still needed to deal with my cleats.  A volunteer got me a plastic knife and I spent an extra few minutes digging the dirt out.  Totally worth it not to fall on my face again.

Many times the race director had said “on race day, one of the only things you can control is your attitude”, so I made a point to enjoy the heck out of that tailwind on the second loop because I knew I’d have to pay for it on the way back.  And yeah, I had a lot of fun screaming down the toll road at 25 mph, not in aero (it was hurting like hell by then, so I figured I’d save it for when it mattered), at like 50 watts.  I saw Zliten again at the turn around (mayyyybe a mile ahead at this point) and he barked at me and I giggled and that was the last happy before the wind tunnel happened again.

And you get a bike selfie from the day before because 30$ is too much to pay for a picture of my stomach that was not feeling well hanging out on the bike….

I think the second loop up was better than the first, because I knew after this, I’d be done.  However, I realized I was getting super sunburned, I got my arms and fronts of the legs well, somehow I forgot my FACE and the back of my legs, and I stopped at the mile 95 aid station for a sunscreen refresh. Pretty happy with only two stops on the bike for this long of a ride!

I would say mile 100+ was a low point for me.  Looking at the flyby on Strava, this is really where Zliten gained on me.  After we got off the highway, we still were heading into the wind and now there were turns and my brain couldn’t fathom how slowly the last few miles were passing.  I ended up behind someone going really slow and I didn’t have the brain to pass and I think mile 103 took at least 4 miles somehow, but eventually we got there.  And I didn’t even fall getting out of my clips!

Total time: 7:21:05.  This is a lot slower than the sub-7 I wanted, and at first I was beating myself up a little bit for it because the course is so flat, and it was just a little wind… but then when I found out HOW windy it was and how many people who expected to have no trouble with the bike either DNF’d there or just barely made the cutoff, I am happy with my extra unplanned 20 minutes.

The course showed on my Garmin as two miles short but I didn’t mind at all.  Not one bit. 


I had a chapstick in my bento box I was never able to find (too many gels stuffed in there), so I asked a volunteer to hold my bike for a sec while I dug it out.  Then, I sent Death Star away with him.  I was surprised at how little I wanted to throw my bike in the trash, and happy that I had some really tough training rides this cycle.  Today was really just a) long (but I think my first century in January took as long or longer) and b) windy (and I have practice with that), and didn’t have any other major problems.

I slowly walked the whole way through T2 in my bike shoes.  I think next time it might be smarter to take them off and muddy up my socks instead, but I was still just thinking “I’m in no hurry, I have almost 8 hours to get through a marathon, don’t be stupid”.  I got my bag, got into the changing tent, and started to go about the process from a bibs/jersey to a tri suit to run in.  I made a friend named Shauna while changing (she was worried about how her hair looked, heh), and decided to put my run shoes on first because it was muddy.  Then, I realized I couldn’t get my tri shorts over my giant hokas and had to take them off and start all over again before I hit the sunscreen station one more time and then headed out under the arch to start running a marathon at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

T2 time: 15:41

While it doesn’t surprise me at 9 hours into a race that I legitimately forgot how to put on my clothes correctly, it would definitely serve me to practice it in the future.  I thought the full change from bike clothes to run clothes would be refreshing and maybe even life changing, but honestly, it just took time and brainpower.  If I could find tri shorts that I could ride 112 miles in, I would wear them all day next time.  I’m sure it’s a mix of HTFU and also trial and error with some different brands.

Either way, the 15 minutes actually served me pretty well.  I dismounted my bike thinking “well, time to walk an entire marathon because I feel like straight dog doody” to taking off at a decent clip starting mile one.

Part three, coming soon!

Ironman Texas – packing bags and #sh!tcanal swim

Since this is my first Ironman, I’m giving myself the latitude to write a really long race report.  So, enjoy/indulge me with the approximately 600 million words (not all appearing in this post) to come this week about the whole shebang.


There is so much to do in the days before an Ironman.  It’s unlike any other race.  We got down there early Thursday afternoon, and I figured we’d have soooo much time to fart around.  Totally not the case.  We arrived and went straight to packet pickup and it took almost no time (unlike Austin 70.3 which took foreeeever).  We got our wristbands and backpacks and all that jazz, and then spent a bunch of money on gear (you only get one first IM and if I bought the stuff I have to finish, right?).  The athlete briefing started as we walked out and we sat through some of it, and then realized that we knew everything from METICULOUSLY studying the race guide and watching the webinar so we ducked out of the hot sun and left.

Zliten was really craving pizza so we ducked into Grimaldi’s and got a caesar salad and a super amazing meat pizza called the Don.  The meatballs were to die for.  It was perfect carbs.  We finished the whole 12-inch thing.  I joked that we should go back there right after the race since it was pretty much AT the finish line.  After that we checked into the hotel, hit the pool and hot tub, and then quickly got dressed to go to the banquet.

M dots and carbs and stuff, oh my!

Usually we don’t do all the pre-race hullabaloo, but we wanted to take it all in, and Ironman does a great job about making it a full weekend event (with lots of free food, natch), not just a race. For dinner, I had tri tip in a yummy sauce, mashed potatoes, chicken pasta, salad, and this amazing strawberry cheesecake bite.  Through the whole weekend, everyone treated first-timers like royalty, and it started there when they made us stand up and cheered for us.  At dinner, we met another first timer, and someone else from Canada who was super nervous since she had only been biking on the trainer.

After that, we spent the evening packing bags.  Ironman is about a lot of things, but it’s definitely about BAGS.  You get six bags – one cool backpack to keep, and 5 plastic ones – morning clothes, bike gear, run gear, special needs (bike), and special needs (run).  I was thankful I have done Kerrville with two separate transitions and clean (bagged) transitions but this was a whole ‘nother level (see my packing list here).  After double and triple checking them we settled into bed with books for the night and slept pretty decently.

Friday morning, we got up and hit the breakfast buffet.  Biscuits and gravy might not have been on the things-I’d-normally-eat-day-before list, but it was good paired with some potatoes, sausage, and cereal for protein and carbs.  Then, we kitted up for a super serious long bike ride (not).  It was so cool to see what felt like a full town of triathletes out riding bikes!  We rode down to the swim start and back just to check it out, and all the athletes were getting out of the practice swim.  We elected to skip it because we heard the water was naaaaasty (which we validated by hearing later about a bunch of people getting sick).

After our shakeout bike, we headed up to Lake Conroe for our own practice swim.  Getting in the water, Zliten slipped and fell and bounced down the stairs.  We both watched his race flash before our eyes but he was fine on the swim and just felt a little sore.  Whew!  Always some drama race week with that one, I tell you.  The lake was a little murky and I had a muddy face after, but it definitely wasn’t toxic.  We then hit up Jason’s Deli for lunch and I got a giant salad, sandwich, and chips.  I normally try to keep my fiber a little lower pre-race but I also generally feel a little off in the gut race day going pure carb, so I gave it a try.  Spoiler: it worked out.

Because we were right across from an Academy, I asked if we could do a 20 minute shopping trip for new bathing suits for me for vacation.  Zliten agreed.  I took 30 mins (which I think is still pretty impressive) and by the end his side was really hurting.  Our next stop was back at the expo, where he hit up the chiropractor and a massage, and he was much better after.

Noms, and taking pics of anything with a M dot sign continued…

Our hotel had this free food thing every night, and we thought it might be a little dicey the night before a race, but they had rice and beans and potatoes and chips and cheese and after all that, we were full and fueled and there was no need for anything else.  We double and triple checked our special needs bags and laid everything out and laid down and tried to go to sleep.  I really thought I was going to be too nervous, but I conked out fairly quickly and got 6 or 7 really solid hours of shut eye.

Race morning:

Our alarm was for 3:40am, and we were both up by 4am.  I felt like it was super early, of course, because my whole plan for trying to shift my sleep schedule in the last few weeks was a complete fail (in fact, with my cold and other things, it may have gotten worse).  However, I got up, going, used the bathroom, and shoved as much food in my face as possible (watermelon lemonade, cliff pb pretzel bar, about half a bagel with cream cheese).  We left the hotel right at the 4:40 we had planned for, parking was a breeze, the garage was probably about a half mile from T1, and we figured we were golden.

Then, the STUFF TO DO continued.  We had to pump up our tires.  I loved how the explanation for how to do this was “well, we have a bike tech but there’s 3000 of you so the line will be long and you can’t put pumps in your bags so, uh, hand it off to a supporter”.  This was the answer for a lot of things.  Have your spectators do it.  Since it wasn’t required to have a crew for this race, we didn’t.  Long story short, I am a crankypants and completely antisocial near a long race like this, and I didn’t want to have to entertain anybody in the days before or after.  Or have to hold coherent conversations with anyone not related to triathlon.  Or burden anyone with having to drive 3 hours and stay overnight just to see me 5-ish times for a few seconds over the course of 15 hours.  I’m just perfectly happy to have random strangers that WANT to be there for the fun of it cheering me on.

Back off my tangent, we put our nutrition in on our bike and in our run bags (I might do this the night before next time, unless it was supposed to be a scorcher), hit the potties, and then headed for the first (unofficial) leg of the triathlon, the mile walk from T1 to the swim start.  We stopped on the way for a porta potty (which took about 15 minutes because there was a line and only one of them).

We finally got to the swim start with about 10 minutes to the pro start.  We dropped off our special needs bags (yep, had to drag them alllll the way from the car there) and our morning clothes bag and then I finally had to potty again myself.  Then, Zliten had to potty again and I stood in line with him and then determined that I had best go again (yep, #3 for #2!), and by the time we were out everyone else without a wetsuit was in the water already and we were running to the start.  FUCK.

Obvs from the day before because wetsuit.


We both made the call since it was wetsuit optional, that we were going to do it as the race rules intended – no wetsuit.  When we heard them saying “last call for non wetsuit swimmers, we hightailed it through the crowd of ~800 people in wetsuits waiting to go and were the last two people to start.  So, according to the rules, we WERE the age grouper cut off.  Which was kind of cool!

What wasn’t kind of cool at all was the fact they let 800 wetsuit swimmers start all at once with no seeding immediately after we did.  So, the sub-1 hour swimmers swam directly over me about 30 seconds after I started.  And it just didn’t stop.  There was kicking and punching and pushing and shoving.  I even overheard later about proctology exams and biting and one guy even died (super tragic… Zliten said he thought that he saw him being lifted out).  This rolling start may be like 10% less brutal than a mass one, but it’s still a fucking washing machine.

The combat was frustrating.  The lake was suuuuuuuuper murky.  I felt like I could never stretch out and swim with proper form because I would get hit.  Without my wetsuit, I was missing a layer of armor that other people had and I didn’t like it.  My swim cap kept coming off.  My earplugs were being cranky because I forgot to tuck in the cord.  However, while all those things were going wrong and I was alternating screaming into the water and grinning like an idiot because it was IM day (hello mood swings!), time actually passed reasonably quickly and all of a sudden we were done with the first third of the course.

The second third was actually kind of nice.  Everyone got to spread out a little bit more and I actually did a little bilateral breathing and I only got jostled/jostled someone about 1-2 times every minute instead of every stroke.  I still had to fix my swim cap a lot, but I was definitely smiling… until out of nowhere my hip flexor on my “broken” knee side started hurting and then the knee felt tight.  I made sure to favor breathing to the other side, and it stretched out a bit, but not the best confidence boosting start to the day.

Mine wasn’t as bad as some athletes I’ve seen who have them swimming on open roads, but I’m clearly paddling on shore here…

Then we turned into the canal.  At first it was nice (what were these people talking about with how gross it was?), then there was construction run off (tastes like my pool where they’re building the restaurant right nextdoor (mmmmm sawdust…).  After that, we got to the portion where they were dumping manure in the day before (???) and it, well, tasted about how you would expect.  We just kept swimming and swimming and swimming (#justkeepswimming) and we passed a bridge and I got all excited because it was 100 yards after the bridge but then there was another bridge in the distance and it was actually that one and then there was some hydrilla right at the end (but nothing like swimming in Austin) and then I was OUT!

Swim: 1:38:26.  Not quite the sub-1:30 I was hoping but sans wetsuit and with all the combat, and the conditions in what people were calling the #sh!tcanal, I was super thrilled to be out of the water with plenty of time to spare.

Jump to part 2: the bikening…




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