Tag Archives: Triathlon

Off Topic Thursday: I am a (Half) Ironman

29 Aug

Last month I wrote about how nervous I was to do my Half Ironman. The race was just after the post went up so I’m almost a month out now and I’m so excited to share how it went! The day was unforgettable.

My husband and I drove down on Friday night. We got in late and went straight to sleep. In the morning, I got in my last workout: a 20-minute bike ride. Our hotel was right across the street from a Metro Park so I was happy to ride through the paved hilly roads there and enjoy the scenery. After a quick shower, we stopped at Meijer to pick up the things I had forgotten (because you always forget something): hand towels and nail polish. I needed the towels to dry my feet off after the swim. I need the nail polish for moral support. It’s a race tradition I have.

We went to Athlete Village, the check-in and staging area. I went through check-in and even ended up buying a bike jersey at the shop. They put the names of all registered athletes on the jersey and I found my name three times! I also bought the IronMan Ohio sticker which I would put on my car if I finished successfully.

I had time before the mandatory athlete briefing so I headed a few miles north to the beach where we would swim and where Transition 1 (T1) was set up. We had to check our bikes in on Saturday and leave them overnight. I got my bike racked successfully and was shocked how few people had done so. I was the only one on my rack which would end up holding 50 bikes. I covered my handlebars with a bag and a cover on my seat. I wouldn’t leave the towels, helmet, and spare glasses overnight so it was just my bike and I headed back to Athlete Village.

Transition 2 (T2) and the finish line were right with Athlete Village so I got T2 ready to go. I wouldn’t be back here before race time so I had to leave everything: shoes, visor, food, and race number. These all went in a bag which I tied to the bar that would hold my bike when I finished up and left it there.

The Athlete Briefing was 45 minutes of information and all of it was so necessary! I only tuned out when they talked about qualifying for World Championships. That wasn’t going to be me! I loved looking around at all the athletes and families at the meeting. We are all different ages, backgrounds, and experiences and we were all there for one goal. I was cheering for every single one of them.

We left the Village and met my parents and cousin for lunch. After church, we had dinner and I went to bed early. Or, I tried to. My nerves got the better of me and it was a rough night. I had to be up and at it early and I got in about six hours of sleep (which is good for me).

I’m the one smiling like an idiot.

The next morning, husband and parents and I headed to the T1 site. I pumped my tires, laid out my towel, snack, helmet, and glasses. The water was too warm for wetsuits to be legal so I raced in just my tri kit. I seeded myself for about a 30-minute swim. I wanted to go slower, but my husband and a friend running the race convinced me to go for it. The race start was what’s called a ‘time trial start.’ This means that every five seconds, four athletes left. You’re supposed to get in order from faster to slower athletes so that, in theory, you don’t get passed or pass anyone. One guess how well that works. There was a ton of passing and being passed. I will say that the athletes near me were good about keeping their elbows in and swimmings straight so I didn’t have a lot of trouble with getting elbowed or kicked. I finished the swim in 34:30, a bit slower than I wanted to but still a good time. I ran up the beach and had to delicately step through the parking lot so my feet didn’t get cut up by gravel. I got to my bike and started getting ready to ride. My friend Jamie had told me she had fun at her race a month earlier because she made it fun so I took that advice and started dancing. I’d treated the swim like a warm-up, the race was about to really start. My rack was only one row over from the barrier so my husband and dad were standing there watching me dance my way into my bike shoes and asked me if I was OK. Clearly, I was fine.

Biking is my least favorite. It takes forever and it makes my back hurt. I picked this race because it’s flat because the hills make everything worse. It was still a 56-mile bike ride. I’d given myself four hours to make it happen and meet my goal time of 7 hours. I started off killing it. The north-bound stretch was on a state route protected by cones and it felt easy. I could tell from my bike computer that I was going too fast, but it felt easy so I went with it. When we turned south, I figured it out. We’d had a tailwind for the first 20 miles. It was time to pay my dues. I ate a Lara Bar every 20 miles as planned but I had to play games with myself to keep focused in between. I said my morning prayers every five miles, I repeated movie monologues to myself in between, and I chatted with other riders as much as possible. They were all passing me pretty quickly so there wasn’t a ton of opportunity for that. Before I knew it, I was at mile 40 and I realized I was going to crush my 4-hour goal. I was going to come in closer to 3:10. Knowing this, I was able to relax the last ten miles or so, knowing I was doing great and I didn’t need to worry about the droves of people passing me. I wrapped up with a 3:08.11 and was beyond pleased. I got into T2 and I honestly thought to myself “Just a Half Marathon to go.” I will never think that again. My family had positioned itself so they saw me come in on my bike and I ran past them on the run. I shouted to them, “Never let me do this again!” and they agreed.

The run was a lolly-pop style with two looks of the circle. As I was running up the stem, the lead male was coming into the finish. I screamed and cheered for him and was really hoping to see the lead female, but I had to turn onto the circle before she came through. The run was not fun and I don’t know another way to say it. The course was a little hilly but mostly flat. There were fun signs along the side of it. There were plenty of stops that were well stocked with water and ice and snacks. But it was over 90 degrees that day. And by this time, it was noon and the sun was getting to me. I drank water and Gatorade at every stop and even had some potato chips for the salt content. I kept ice in my shirt the whole time to keep my core cool and to snack on between stops. I have to thank the spectators who had signs and who cheered for every athlete even if they didn’t know who I was. The run went way better than I expected. This was my third Half Marathon distance and it was my second best time, 2:17.39. When I run ‘just’ a Half Marathon next month, I hope it feels easy.

The finish of this race was really cool. T2 was set out in the middle of the football field and this field was surrounded by a track. We finished through the tunnel under the stands and then did a half-lap on the track so that the finish chute was right in front of the stands. My husband and parents were there cheering for me and I got to hear the official say my name as I sprinted across the finish line. My official time was 6:09.28, a whole 50 minutes faster than my goal time. I’m so glad it was better than I wanted because I didn’t feel like I had to try again. I got my medal and finishers’ hat while they found me. I haven’t been that tired in a long while but I couldn’t think of sitting down just yet. I found a good friend who had finished 30-minutes in front of me and congratulated him on his race. There was food for athletes of which I ate way too much before we headed home. I needed a shower and air conditioning very badly.

Official time of 6:09.28. The clock doesn’t match because I wasn’t the first athlete to start.

I’m very happy to check that goal off of my Bucket List. It’s one I’ve been thinking about for a long time and the icing on the cake is how well it went. I still plan to do triathlons, just shorter distances. I love this sport and the support of the community has been amazing.

Thanks for reading this far (if you have). What big goals have you accomplished this summer?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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Off Topic Thursday: It’s Time

25 Jul

I’ve been talking about it for a long time and now it’s here! Well, it’s coming. My Half Ironman, Half Ironman Ohio 70.3, is on Sunday, July 28th. I’m. Freaking. Out!

I feel ready. I’ve trained according to my plan, making small adjustments for personal obligations and larger adjustments for injuries that I’ve learned to manage and help heal. And now it’s time to see if it was enough. It’s time to see if my bike (I’ve named her Bike) will hold up and if Bike and I will ever want to look at each other again after 56 miles in rural Ohio. And we’ll see if my knees still work after a half marathon to end the day. My husband and my parents will be there to support me and I’ll probably cry when I see them coming through the shoot. I’m almost crying thinking about it.

This has been a pretty major life goal of mine for some time. I’m glad to finally be staring it down and ready to check it off the list. I don’t ever want to do one of these again! So many of my friends from my tri club told me I’d get addicted. I have back and knee pain and a terrible hankering to just run a darn 5K and stop. I’m nowhere near addicted and I have no intention of doing a full Ironman ever in my life. I plan to focus on Sprint and Olympic distance races (about a quarter and half the distance I’ll do on Sunday) and swim more. I love swimming. I miss doing it as much as I used to.

If you’re terribly bored on Sunday, you can look me up. I’m number 446 and you can Google the race (Ironman Ohio) after it starts Sunday morning and track me throughout the day. I hope to finish in under seven hours. I should be in the water by about 7:30 EST (it’s a rolling start so no guarantee on a start time). It will be a long day and you can bet that my August post will be a reflection of how it went.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Off Topic Thursday: Training

28 Mar

I’ve talked about my 70.3 Race in July so I thought this would be a good chance to talk about the training I’ve been doing to get ready for it.

Cover image via Goodreads

I borrowed a training book from my tri club with week-by-week training plans. This gives me workouts to do six days a week, usually more than one per day. I’m trying really hard to keep to this and have only missed one workout so far! It’s currently week six and I’m in the ‘build’ phase where I ramp up time and intensity and train my body to push harder for longer.

There are ten levels for each distance. I was going to go for level two, but a teammate talked me into trying level six! He said levels 1-4 were not enough and to go for six because if it was too hard, I could drop to five. So far, I’m sticking with six. It will have more than prepared to complete my goal of finishing the race. At this point, completing the training feels like more of a task than the race itself.

During a non-recovery week, I’m doing about ten workouts a week, ranging from 45 minutes to two and a half hours. Most of this is biking, my weakest discipline and where I need the most work. I replace one swim a week with my team swim practice and I’ll probably start swapping out other workouts for team workouts as the weather warms up and those start. I want to follow the plan, but I also want to be social and see my friends!

For cycling, I use an app called Zwift for indoor riding now since the weather makes it too cold to ride outside. Zwift creates an avatar that you control by riding your bike. It uses a heart rate monitor and speed/cadence sensors on my bike to estimate my power output which determines how fast my avatar rides. There are different maps available (London is my favorite) and you can use pre-set workouts or join groups of other uses for workouts, training rides, or races. It’s way better than staring at a wall and more motivating than watching a movie. I listen to audiobooks while I ride and I’m getting through them very fast with all the time I spend in the saddle!

To run, I prefer to go outside, but Michigan weather doesn’t always participate. I’ll also use the treadmill at my gym and I often take an iPad with me and watch Netflix. Comedy specials are a favorite but it can be hard to laugh and sprint! I try to run with my husband or a friend whenever possible. It pushes me harder and it makes it much more enjoyable.

I usually swim at my gym though I’m looking forward to swimming in some lakes once the temperature warms up. I still saw ice this morning so that feels ages away. Maybe by May?

So don’t mind me being absent from my friends and spending every spare second planning out workouts and meal prepping. July seems ages away, but I know it’s right around the corner. My plan is going to be halted a few times by weddings and other obligations so I’ve built some slack time into the calendar to let me enjoy life and to keep me pushing hard.

Until next time, run (bike & swim) on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Review: You Are An Ironman by Jacques Steinberg (4/5)

11 Mar

I found this book at a library used book sale and immediately knew I needed to read it. This was before I signed up for my 70.3 race but that race was always in the back of my head. I was ecstatic to find it on audio and it was an amazing motivator for the long bike rides I’ve been putting myself through. I think that if there’s a perfect time to read a book, I nailed it with this one.

Cover image via Goodreads

You Are An Ironman: How Six Weekend Warriors Chased Their Dreams of Finishing the World’s Toughest Triathlon by Jacques Steinberg

Summary from Goodreads:

As he did so masterfully in his New York Times bestseller, The Gatekeepers, Jacques Steinberg creates a compelling portrait of people obsessed with reaching a life-defining goal. In this instance, the target is an Ironman triathlon-a 2.4-mile open-water swim followed by a 112-mile bike ride, then finally a 26-mile marathon run, all of which must be completed in no more than seventeen hours.

Steinberg focuses not on the professionals who live off the prize money and sponsorships but on a handful of triathletes who regard the sport as a hobby. Vividly capturing the grueling preparation, the suspense of completing each event of the triathlon, and the spectacular feats of human endurance, Steinberg plumbs the physical and emotional toll as well as the psychological payoff on the participants of the Ford Ironman Arizona 2009. His You Are an Ironman is both a riveting sports narrative and a fascinating, behind-the scenes study of what makes these athletes keep going.

I think I’m the ideal audience for this book. I am a weekend warrior, though for half the distance these athletes trained for. Triathlon has been part of my life since 2014 and I love it. Some things in this book were over-explained for someone with my background, but a lot of it was relatable and welcome. I could commiserate with being tired from work and training. I could understand not seeing friends and family who were not part of your triathlon community. I shared fears of illness, crashes, and injuries. I rejoiced with the athletes when they had breakthroughs and cried with them over setbacks and cheered with them as they succeeded. Steinberg picked a great group of athletes to follow for this race and I loved cheering for all of them.

I’m glad Steinberg chose athletes from such different backgrounds for this book. It kept everything interesting and made it so I had someone to relate to in all aspects. I struggle with the run so Laura wasn’t relatable in that sense but Bryan was. These people reminded me of those in my tri club and sometimes of myself. I got a great sense of them from Steinberg’s writing. Using their own training logs and blogs was a great tool to give them their own voices as well.

Tracey was my favorite athlete and I’m totally going to spoil how the race went for her so skip this paragraph if you don’t want that. I’m actually glad Steinberg profiled someone who didn’t make it to race day. Injury is a very real part of training for any athletic event and Tracey injuring herself was very real to me. It was how she dealt with that injury that made her my favorite. She didn’t let it stop her! Not one bit. I was glad that the book ended with her and knowing that she finished the race in 2010. I would have been shocked if she hadn’t. Her attitude along the way, that all of this was fun and a good reason to see her friends, made me happy. That’s how I’ve tried to view my training, too. It makes it fun instead of a chore and I was glad to see someone had successfully done that.

Jacques Steinberg Image via The New York Times

I was looking forward to race day from the start. I like how Steinberg told the story of that day and how he paced it, giving each athlete their due time. No matter how much you prepare, there’s nothing like a race day to make you doubt everything you’ve done to get there. The jitters were spot on, the doubts and performance and perseverance to just KEEP GOING when everything was rough. It was well done.

There wasn’t a part I particularly disliked. I sometimes worried that these people weren’t ready enough for their race but I’m assuming there were some workouts and dietary details taken out. I’m training 10 hours a week for a 70.3 and it seemed like these people were at about the same load for double the distance. I’m glad no more of them were injured!

The audiobook was narrated by Kirby Heyborne. I listened to him previously narrate the Miss Peregrine series and it took a few hours for me to stop associating this book with those because of his voice. I liked Heyborne better for this book. He didn’t have characters to voice or accents to do, just more of his normal voice. He sounds a little menacing but in this case, with such a daunting day hanging over the participant’s heads, it was very appropriate.

Setting a big goal can be scary. I can’t think of a goal bigger than Ironman. For many, it’s a lifetime achievement that they will remember for the rest of their lives. I think this book helps explain why being deemed an Ironman is such an accomplishment. It’s not about winning the race, it’s about finish it. No matter how long you’re on the course, finishing it is what’s important.

Writer’s Takeaway: Using the training blogs of the athletes was a great way to bring their voices to the book while having the author’s voice bind the book together. I’m thinking of how that could be used in fiction as well and it’s mostly applicable to dialogue. Not all characters should talk in the style the book is narrated. Making a character’s manner of speaking different helps the character stand out and feel original.

This book was highly enjoyable and I’m so glad I read it when I did. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Friday Reads – You Are An Ironman | Reading, Running, Cycling
Audiobook Review- You Are An Ironman- Jacques Steinberg | Dee’s Book Blog

Off Topic Thursday: Triathlon

28 Jun

I’ve been building to this Off Topic Thursday topic for a while now. Did anyone else notice my last three months were swimming, biking, and running? This month, it’s all about combining the three and talking about triathlons!

I did my first triathlon in 2004 when I was 14. It was a sprint distance race that I did with a friend on my swim team. The joke was on me because that friend was a runner and I was not. It went OK but I didn’t return to triathlon until 2014 after I got married. I looked up my results and all I can say is at least I got faster! I tried on my own through 2014 and 2015. At the end of 2015, I was suffering from bad knee pain when I ran and was limited to about a mile before I had to stop walking. Biking wasn’t so bad but it still wasn’t good. I was about to bow out of my last tri of the season, which I’d already registered for when my husband and a friend suggested we do a relay. It’s the only one I’ve done to date and I have to say it was amazing and I hope I can do another one again.

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Fist place Sprint Relay team! Go Team Bishop!!!

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In 2016, I decided to get serious and hired a virtual coach. I’ve met him in person a handful of times since he lives ten miles from me. He’d send me workouts to do each day and help me increase mileage and intensity of my workouts. With his help, I finished my first Olympic distance triathlon in September of that year.

I continued with my coach in 2017 and also set a crazy goal of doing a race per month. I over-committed and ended up with more than one per month and a total of 5 triathlons (2 Olympic, 3 Sprint). The schedule was a bit too much for me and I didn’t perform very well. However, I got into a great rhythm with my training.

I decided not to retain my coach for 2018, but I’m keeping him in mind for some goals I have for next year (keep reading). I joined a club team this year and last week I did my first tri as a team member. It’s fun to have a community that will push me instead of relying on myself. I’m hoping to participate in more of the workouts now that my class is over and I have a lot more time during the week. I’ve been taking part in weekend swims since January but it’s time to change my focus to triathlon as a whole. I have one more race this year, an Olympic in September on a course that I’ve done twice already and am excited to dominate again.

I do have one crazy goal. Well, half crazy. I want to complete a Half Ironman in 2019. The September race I’ve done has that distance as an option and I think I can do it. I’m doing a half marathon later this year to remind myself how much training this will involve but I really think I’ve got this. School will be done and I can devote more time to biking and running (I think I’m good on the swim).

I want to do a few sprint tris next year as well. I came really close to breaking 1:30 last week and I think I can do it! I just cramp up like I did before. That would be a good way to end my run. I’m thinking of focusing more on open water swims in 2020 along with some road races. I really just don’t like biking, haha.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Off Topic Thursday: Cycling

26 Apr

I’d almost forgotten it was Off Topic Thursday! My husband had to remind me when I was talking through my weekly posts with him. I’m so excited to share another thing I love outside of books, cycling!

I learned to ride a bike as a kid and my mom always enjoyed scenic rides around the area. When I started a sedentary job, I knew I would fight an uphill battle to stay fit before my wedding. I saw a sign in the office for the corporate Bike MS team and decided to join. That was 2013. I rode 50 miles in one day and raised $250. To get in shape, I found a local easy-going bike club and recruited my husband on a few rides. It’s only grown from there.

Last year was my fifth year of Bike MS and I’ve done three of the four courses offered in Michigan. My husband joined me for my second year and this summer he’ll hit his fifth year. Here’s a picture of us from 2016.

We’ve had a great time riding for Team Ford and I don’t see a reason we’ll stop doing this. If you’re interested in donating toward our 2018 ride (scheduled for July 14-15), you can donate at the link below.

Donated to Bike MS 2018!

Of course, Bike MS isn’t the only reason I cycle. Cycling is a key part of one of my biggest hobbies, triathlons. Most of the time I rode my bike last year, it was alone. I’m anticipating the same this year though my favorite route is closed for construction all summer. I’ll have to find something new.

I love cycling and enjoying nature on a bike. It’s fun to go fast, too! I’m not super fast myself but I do enjoy the ride. My goal for this year is to get faster and be more comfortable on the bike. I got a professional fitting in February so I’m excited to try it out on the road.

Any other cyclist out there? Competitive or recreational? Here’s a picture of my bike (Fuji Gran Fondo). Let me see yours!

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Now with pedals and aerobar! #bikenerd

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Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Off Topic Thursday: Swimming

29 Mar

Welcome to yet another Off Topic Thursday! I’ve enjoyed using the last Thursday of the month to delve into things (besides reading, writing, and books) that I enjoy. I hope you’re enjoying it as much as I am.

This month, I wanted to concentrate on something that’s been a part of my life since I was 9: swimming! I swam competitively from age 9 to age 18. I decided not to swim in college but I picked it up again when I started doing triathlons in 2014. Though, wetsuit open water swimming is a bit different from what I was used to.

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My secret identity: triathlon girl!

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I love swimming in a triathlon. It’s the one part of the race where I’m confident. I don’t do dry land well. When I did my first triathlon, all the beginner advice I found was to go on the outside for the swim or hang back. Clearly, this advice was not written for someone who used to be a competitive swimmer! I jumped out in front and I continue to post swim splits among the top in my races. However, I fall apart on the rest of it. We’ll get to that in the next few months.

I’ve tried different kinds of swimming, too. Last summer, I tried a 5K swim, something equivalent to a swimming half marathon. It was exhausting and terrible and I hated it and I signed up for another one this year. It was the most physically demanding thing I’ve ever done and I can’t wait to show myself how much I’ve grown and do it again. Besides, I got to meet Rowdy Gains last time! If this means nothing to you, he’s a gold medalist from the 1984 Olympics. He is currently a commentator for the sport. If you’ve watched NBC swimming coverage, you’ve heard his voice.

Just this year, I’ve gotten back to my swimming roots and started Masters swimming. Masters swimming is more like the format many are used to in the Olympics. All four strokes and individual medley races are available at various distances. At some meets, there are team relays. Masters swimming is for anyone over 18 and I swam against a woman in her 60s in my last race. I’ve loved Masters swimming so far. I’ve only had one meet but it went well and I was happy with my times. There were very few other women in my age group so I ended up with some ribbons! I’m signed up for State Meet next month and we’ll see if that goes as well!

I don’t think I’ll ever stop swimming. I plan to do triathlons for a while and when/if that ends, I’ll fall back on just swimming. It’s been a love of mine for a long time and I’m glad to be racing again. It doesn’t hurt that any given Saturday if I do one length butterfly at the gym, someone asks me if I’ve been to the Olympics. Talk about a confidence booster!

Any other swimmers out there? Anyone else in Masters? Until next time, swim on!

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!