Wednesday, April 30, 2014

My First 140.6 Ironman Distance Triathlon..This is For You Dani!

Tomorrow is May 1. May is Brain Cancer Awareness month. I thought it would be the perfect time to start my campaign against brain cancer. You see last year on May 15 my beloved cousin and friend Danielle Lynn-Avia (aka "Smoxy") lost her heroic battle with brain cancer (glioblastoma). It was seven years of fighting and giving life everything that she had before cancer took her life. This video shows some of the highlight's of Dani's life, which was full but much too short.

Today her memory lives on not only with her family but among many other cancer survivors and people that were inspired by Dani's courageous spirit. Just earlier this month my Aunt Sue and her family traveled to the First Descents Ball to accept an award called the "Outliving it" award on behalf of Dani. This video shows the story of Dani and First Descents, an organization that helped Dani live out some of her dreams and see the world.

This year to honor Danielle's fight I will complete my first full Ironman distance race at REVOLUTION3 Triathlon (REV3TRI) Cedar Point on September 7, 2014. For those who aren't aware, the race consists of a 2.5 mile swim, 112 mile bikeride and 26.2 mile run. Basically it is a LONG triathlon where you run a full marathon at the end. Yes, it's crazy and yes, it will be a challenge for me!

To date I've completed more than 100 running races including a couple of marathons (soon to be my third) and probably somewhere between 30-40 triathlons including a few 70.3 half Ironman distance races. This will be the biggest race of my life so far! That's both exciting and nervewracking.

My goal is to cross the finish line raising as much money for brain cancer research as possible. As part of ABTA Team Breakthrough I can honor Danielle and help others fighting the same disease. I may not set a world record as to speed but that is not what this is about. I am a newbie at this distance. My only expectations are to finish and hopefully with some time to spare.

Please help me fight brain cancer by donating. Any amount from $5-500 helps. Beyond donating please share with your friends and family and ask them for their support. Together we can beat cancer! If you have other suggestions about fundraising ideas please comment or send me a message. 

To donate click here and you'll be directed to a secure website. If you prefer to send the money via mail please send to:

Team Breakthrough
c/o American Brain Tumor Association
8550 W. Bryn Mawr, Suite 550Chicago, IL 60631Be sure to include my name/Team Breakthrough in the memo.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Quick Training Update for Cleveland Marathon and Rev3 Williamsburg 70.3 Triathlon

The weeks are flying by and I'm only about three weeks out from the Cleveland Marathon and seven weeks out from the Rev3 Williamsburg 70.3 Triathlon. The training has been going well even on big weeks and I'm happy to be injury free. My appetite has been pretty big as well. I don't even want to know how many calories I am consuming on a daily basis now. I've also hooked back up with my old running coach and that has been helpful in keeping me more grounded and also more focused and relaxed.

My original goal for Cleveland this year was just to run a PR time but now I have Boston in my sights following a decent performance at the 20 Mile Drop race a couple weeks back.  I've run some tough races this season in terrible conditions including my first trail 25K at Fools and I've been able to get through them and come out stronger physically and mentally. This will be my third full marathon and I actually feel ready to at least make a strong attempt at the coveted BQ. I have one more tune-up race next weekend two weeks out from the race, which is the Flapjack & Jill 15K race in Peninsula that Western Reserve Racing is putting on. I hope to have a good, hard race with a mile or two warm up and 2-3 miles of cooldown for a total of 13-14 miles.

For the marathon training, my peak running weeks including this week have been in the 40-45 mile range. Last night coach had me run 16 as 2 easy, 13@  MP (marathon pace) and then 1 to cooldown. It went well and my legs feel good today. I'd like to get in a bit more running mileage but I have to focus a good amount of time now on the bike as well. My weeks for the bike are averaging about 100 miles now and quickly growing to what I expect will be closer to 200 miles a week in the 140.6 build. I have been trying to get in at least two swims a week for a total of about 4000+ meters. And then whenever I can fit it in or physically need to do it I also add in a weekly yoga session. I also try to get in two strength sessions a week for 30-40 minutes each.

After Cleveland coach says I will be off running for a week and having an easier week. I don't even think I will mind this as it will give me a chance to heal and refocus for Williamsburg. This will be an early season 70.3 for me but the fitness should be there. I'd love to see a PR but will have to see how the day goes. As for the training I've got in a couple of 3 hour rides already and I have several more weeks of these ahead. This weekend I'll be doing 3.5 hours and will probably have at least one or two 4 hour rides in before my the race. I'm hoping this helps with my bike endurance. With swimming it's mostly just consistency with me. I need to swim 2-3 times weekly to see an improvement in my times. I am definitely strongest in freestyle but have been working a lot on my breaststroke this season and plan to use that more during race starts, for sighting or even for fatigue during the 140.6 race.

I feel like I am in a good place right now physically and emotionally. I just need to put the work in, eat and sleep well and recover well from races and hard workouts. I'm excited to see how the next couple of big races unfold. Now back to it!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Drop it Like it's Hot - the Lake Health 20 Mile Drop Race Report

Sunday I was able to run and experience the inaugural Lake Health 20 Mile Drop race. My expectations heading into the race weren't super high. My coach and I had talked the week before about this being an easier training run for Cleveland but I expressed my disappointment in just running it easy. After some discussion we decided that I'd run the first 10 easier and then race the back 10 if I was feeling good.


Prerace at home 
The race started in downtown Chardon (close to our house in Concord Township) and ended at Mentor Headlands Beach. It is so nice having a race in your backyard because you can sleep in and leave later for the start. Because it was a point to point, we had dropped one of our cars off at Mentor Headlands Saturday night then headed home for some carbo loading including pizza and beer. We set the alarm for 5:45 and were up getting ready by 6. After breakfast we headed out for the short drive to downtown Chardon. We got there around 6:45 and found a great parking spot. The buses from Mentor Headlands were just starting to arrive and we were able to get in a warm up, use the bathroom and hang out with some friends before the race. The weather for the start at 7:20 was around 60 degrees.

The start & first few miles:

Prerace with my friend Amy
We lined up for the start. Steve was out front and I was back a little with my friend Amy. As we took off I reminded myself that I was supposed to go easy, which any runner knows is not an easy thing to do at the start of a race. But this was 20 miles so sprinting too fast the first few could make for a long, painful race. So I held back and watched as people moved ahead. I reminded myself that this was my race and not to get caught up in anyone else's race. The first few miles through Chardon I felt great and I held back more than I wanted to. Around mile 3 as we started one of the climbs in the race (yes there were climbs!) I couldn't hold myself back anymore. I felt great and I enjoy running hills so I went for it. I didn't sprint I just figured I would run by feel, which was around a 7:30-7:45 pace. I had passed all of the girls I could see and then finally caught up to another girl around mile 4 who looked strong and was able to pass her.

Miles 3-13:

I felt wonderful running on the Maple Highlands trail and up through The Hunt Club but that area was a rough section for me where I had to dig in mentally. It was getting hotter and I knew I had another 11-12 miles to go. As we crossed over to the Greenway Bike Trail, which is one of my normal running spots I felt a sense of relief. I knew the next three miles were almost all downhill. I had stayed pretty steady for these miles and as I hit the 13.1 mark I was repassed by the girl I had passed around mile 4. My half time read 1:41 so that was pretty consistent with my half marathon pace, which was both a good thing and bad thing. With my half marathon PR being a 1:39 I figured I was going to pay later in the race for the speed.

Miles 13-20:

The last seven miles were hard. Coming off the trail and crossing onto the uphill section on Rt 84 W headed towards Mentor was tough. A few people around me were walking but I told myself to hold steady and just keep moving. It was hotter and windy and I was relieved to turn right and head towards Painesville. Crossing over Mentor Avenue at mile 16 was also a hard section. My right foot had badly blistered along with one of my toes on the left foot so I was trying to keep my mind off the pain and tell myself that four miles was not a lot of running. You're almost there I thought. Around mile 17 my quads cramped up pretty bad and I stopped to stretch and walk for a few seconds. Again I was around a few guys walking and I shook it off and forced myself to get going. At this point I wanted to finish strong.

one of my worst blisters ever!
Towards the end miles 18-19 had some hilly sections that were no easy feat. I felt myself slowing to a 9 minute pace and as I hit the top of the hill headed onto the street that leads to Headlands I saw a woman back maybe 400m behind me. Kick it into gear I told myself. I was not prepared to lose any ground this late in the race. I only had a mile to go. That last mile my split was 7:57 although with the pain of my blistered feet and the heat and exhaustion it felt like I was running a 12-minute mile.

The Finish:

Turning right to enter Mentor Headlands I was focused on the finish. Stay strong, hold steady, get it done. I saw the finish and it made me motivated to run as fast as I could. I saw Steve running towards the finish to watch and cheer and I was FINALLY done in 2:42:26. It had been a hard but good run. My average pace of 8:08 says there's a chance I can qualify for Boston next month when I run the Cleveland Marathon! When I talked to coach Pete he agreed that we would try for the BQ on May 18. Hopefully this race along with the Fools 25K Trail race a couple weeks ago have made me strong and ready to perform my best that day.

Post Race:

Post race with Steve
After the race Steve and I had a recovery drink and then celebratory beers. We both had good races. I had finished 6th female and 1st in the 35-39AG and Steve finished 11th overall and 1st in the 45-49AG with a time of 2:23. We hung out with friends including my beastly friend Kristy who won the women's race in 2:13!

Thoughts on the Race:

Lake Health gave out nice medals, finisher awards and had good snacks and beverages available post race. It was a nice course and I think they did a great job. They also have a 10 mile version of the race as well. I would definitely do this race again.

What's Next:

It's two days later and I'm still sore. Especially my quads. Coach says it's from all the downhill running. We lost 700 feet (thus the drop) but we also gained about 500-600 feet. Yesterday I took the day off and had a massage. Tonight I will do an easy spin on the bike and hopefully flush the rest of the lactic acid from these legs. Hoping for a recovery run tomorrow and by the weekend I have a 50 mile bike and 11 mile run (some at MP) on the schedule. The main goal for the next month is staying healthy!

The next race will be a road 15K on May 3 in Peninsula. That's two weeks prior to Cleveland so I am anxious and excited to see how that goes and then of course the Cleveland Marathon will be on May 18 and again I hope to break 3:40 and qualify for Boston (fingers crossed). And then multisport season kicks off in June with the Twinsburg Duathlon and Rev3 Williamsburg 70.3! After Williamsburg it's the build for the Rev3 140.6 at Cedar Point. This is certainly shaping up to be an exciting and challenging season!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Not a Tough Mudder...but a Tough, Muddy Race at the Fools 25K/50K Trail Race

When people hear that I'm an endurance athlete they usually ask me certain questions like have you ever done Ironman Hawaii. To which I must sadly reply "no" or "not yet". A lot of people also ask if I've done a Tough Mudder race. In all actuality I have not done a Tough Mudder or any of the related mud races. With so many options out there for racing I just don't have the ability to do everything I see or hear about. Ironically the Fools 25K race, which was my longest trail race to date was in some ways a Tough Mudder because it was tough and muddy for much of the race!


Prerace shot with the hubby!
Word had it that the trails in Peninsula were gonna be muddy. But then it snowed Saturday and I don't just mean a little bit! We got at least 4-6 inches throughout the Northeast. That would make for an interesting variety of conditions on the trails of the valley! The 25K'ers were to start at 9am - an hour after the 50K runners. Steve and I got up and ate a high-carb breakfast and headed out around 7 to arrive a little before 8. We were able to catch the start of the 50K race as we picked up our bibs and goodies. It was a chilly morning at 29 degrees and the field where we would start was covered in a blanket of fresh white snow. We got in a little warm up, used the bathroom and lined up for the 9am start.

The Start & First Couple:

The start was a slippery and snowy wet mess in the fields heading toward the trails of Pine Hollow. The terrain quickly shifted into a mixture of snow and mud. Lots and lots of mud. I tried to keep my feet dry as long as I could but it was a useless battle. By mile 2 my feet were soaked and would remain that way for pretty much the entire race.

The next 6 or so Miles:

Running through the ledges!
The trails were muddy but the scenery was beautiful - especially running through the ledges of Virginia Kendall. They were snow covered and slippery but breathetaking and actually they were my favorite part of the run. At least the first time we ran through them. You can see on the picture here that I was smiling and enjoying this portion of the race. A truly magical part of the trail!

The Back Half:

This was my longest trail race and trail run ever with my longest trail run before this being 13. I definitely struggled with the last 3-4 miles that went through Salt Run, which is a hard section of the race with lots of hills! I just tried to pace myself and walk some of the hills. I wasn't expecting to hit the podium at this race - just wanted to push myself and enjoy the experience and use it as a great training run for Cleveland.

The Finish:

Coming out of the woods and up the hill to the finish line at Pine Hollow, I was elated. Elated to be done but also elated for pushing myself through a tough day and a tough race! My first 25K trail race wasn't pretty but it was done! I finished slower than I expected at 3:02 but with the walking the last few miles it just slowed down my average pace. I was 8th female and 2nd in the 35-39AG so I still did okay all things considered.

Steve had a great race and finished in 2:23 and won second place overall so it was great to see him do so well!

Final Thoughts:

I definitely love trail running and much prefer it to grinding it out on the roads. I think it makes you a tougher runner for sure and you can learn to appreciate the raw beauty of nature no matter what the conditions are. Western Reserve Racing does an excellent job with their events and I highly recommend their races!

Next up is the Lake Health 20 Mile Drop, which is a road race that has an elevation loss of almost 800 feet. Looking forward to seeing how I do going downhill versus so much uphill!