Friday, November 10, 2017

Better Expecations - Ironman Louisville

"Excellence is a journey.  You're never as good as you want to be.  It's a step wise process.  You take these little steps and suddenly you have a change"  - Toby Cosgrove, MD

I always love to look at the faces of the people that cross the finish line of an IRONMAN race.  You can't replicate those expressions.  The joy, the raw emotion.  How often in your adult life do you have those types of expressions and emotions?  Only a few times in your life, are you cheered for as an adult and that's a part of what I love about racing.  I admire those individuals as they are doing something that brings out the best in them, something that gets them up in the morning and inspires them to pursue their passion.

Athletes who enjoy what they do are putting all their efforts into being the very best that they can be.  They are focused, determined and willing to go through all the pains necessary to be all that they can be. Finding the joy in whatever you do is the best way to maintain motivation and purpose.

My season for 2017 has come to a close with my final IRONMAN race for this year in Louisville.  With more of my cancer treatment behind me, I felt so much better both physically and mentally going into this race. The race was almost a year post-chemo treatment for me and I was happy to race my ninth IRONMAN and my third time in Louisville.  I'm thankful for my health and continue to be amazed at how exercise can continue to help with my treatment.  Having an estrogen positive breast cancer meant that I needed to take an aromatase inhibitor for 10 years which reduces the amount of estrogen in my body in an effort to lower the risk of recurrence.  Many of the major side effects of the drug (Anastrozole) include joint symptoms (including arthritis, severe joint pain, osteoporosis).  In talking with my oncologist these side effects are common requiring some women to look at alternative therapies as the side effects are often too severe. I've adapted well to the drug and have not experienced any of the major side effects which he attributes my fitness and exercise regimen - a plus for what I love to do.

I love the Louisville IRONMAN course with it's rolling hills and cooler temperatures.  This year we had some dramatic weather changes with some wind gusts of 45 mph during the last 20-30 miles of the bike leg. I had my second best overall time with an 11:45 finish time (1:08 swim, 6:07 bike, and a 4:14 run) which put me in 14th place out of 156 athletes in the 45-49 AG.

I've made a few changes going into 2018...a new part time triathlon coaching job with Amphibian Multisport and a new coach for myself out of South Carolina (TriMarni Coaching and Nutrition). No better place to visit than the Carolinas! 

My schedule for my major races next year include:

IRONMAN Oceanside 70.3
IRONMAN Chattanooga 70.3
IRONMAN Muncie 70.3
IRONMAN Chattanooga

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


"Expectations are the root of all heartache" - William Shakespeare

I learned this past month that this quote is also true for expectations in the world of endurance triathlon.

"Expectations bring nerves, anxieties, and unnecessary pressure.  Expectations prevent athletes from developing confidence because if you judge or demand an outcome before it happens, and you don't meet that expectation, you feel like a failure.  This does you no good.  On the other hand, if you have confidence and a strong belief in your ability to perform, your result will be a product of putting together the race that meets your capabilities" - Marni Sumbal

I assumed that IRONMAN Santa Rosa would be similar to my previous IRONMAN races.  I expected to place in the Top 5 or even the Top 10 in my Age Group.  However, no one understands (even me) my body post chemo and radiation.  I feel the same as before I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  My training has gone as expected. I didn't have the race I wanted but I'm more disappointed with how my mind gave up.  Because I didn't have the bike segment that I expected, mentally I shut my race down on the run and gave up.  We're not suppose to give up.  I fought through cancer treatment, why shouldn't I fight through an IRONMAN when my race wasn't meeting my expectations?

A successful race shouldn't be determined by a podium or age group placement.  A successful race shouldn't even be determined by time goals. What you should be proud of is that you finished your training, you got to the start line healthy and happy and that you successfully crossed that finish line.  As we age and things happen to us in life, we need to learn not to focus too much on the results.  Let go of the pressure of having expectations.

"We all define success differently on race day.  Racing requires you to focus on the present moment and to stay calm, brave, and in control, in the face of an obstacle. And when a low moment comes or energy drops, you can't give up on yourself.  Sometimes, the best results are the ones that you can't predict or plan for.  Success comes from the "here and now" without focusing on the past, anticipating the future or worrying about anyone around you" - Marni Sumbal

"If we let our head drop, our heart drops with it.  Keep your head up and your body is capable of amazing feats" - Chrissie Wellington (Clearly I wasn't following Chrissie's advice!)

So as I reflect, the keys of my race success were being "cancer-free" and having the athletic ability to finish my 8th IRONMAN.

I like quotes so here's another good reminder.

"If you just take it moment by moment, something comes down that gives you a hope or realization that no matter how it turns out, it's great because of what you just made it through - because that was tough.  That's a success." - Mark Allen

Mike Reilly was kind enough to announce that I was a cancer survivor

"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.  The most certain way to success is always to try just one more time" - Thomas Edison

So I will try again (with different expectations) in Louisville in October.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Non-Ironman Year Of...Cancer

"When it becomes uncomfortable, take a deep breath and find the comfort in the discomfort"

Why do unforeseen hardships disrupt our lives?  One of the certainties in life, it seems, is that there is uncertainty.  Unfortunate events happen to us all.  It's how we deal with those events that determines our character and shape of our lives.

2016 was the year of my diagnosis and my treatment...breast cancer...The phone call happened the day before my 48th birthday..ironically while at lunch with a friend celebrating that birthday.  Shocking..I was young in "cancer years" and an endurance athlete who had plans to compete in two more IRONMAN triathlons in 2016.  That type of lifestyle was my passion, where most of my friendships were formed.  I have to smile when I read articles about the research and studies that have been completed on how exercise and fitness reduces one's risk of the most common cancers...lung, breast, and colon.  Sigh..not necessarily applicable to all of us.

My face before the MRI procedure after my diagnosis

I will spare all the details of the cancer treatment.  Cancer doesn't deserve more than a single blog entry...seriously.  In summary, between May and November I went through a lumpectomy, 3 months of chemo treatments and 4 weeks of 5 days/week radiation.  Exercise was my therapy.  My friends who exercised were my therapy.  Seeing improvements in my fitness after the chemo was my therapy.  Exercise was the one of the most important things that helped me keep my sanity. Are you seeing a pattern here? Ha Ha. I swam when they told me not to swim.  I exercised on all but a few days during the chemo treatments. 

I've started the rebuild process, not knowing how long it will take but setting my sights on goals for 2017.  It's those goals that keep us positive, our chins up, our hope strong.  It's also the blessing of finding those special doctors and nurses (there are just a few) that understand you and what drives you that gives you hope.

I think the average person's view of cancer has cancer patients resting much more than what really happens. My year of racing after the diagnosis was more than my doctors knew...helping keep my sanity and my fitness.

Post Diagnosis
Starved Rock Half Marathon - overall female winner 1:34:22 - 7:12 min/mile avg (ARE YOU SURE I HAVE CANCER??)
Half IRONMAN Raleigh 70.3 - 5:30:06 - 6th 45-49 AG
Post Surgery
Lake Zurich Olympic Triathlon - 1st 45-49 AG
During Chemo
IronGirl Sprint Triathlon - 2nd 45-49 AG 

Cancer survivors like to use cliche phrases to describe their circumstances.  I'm annoyed by some of those phrases. My least favorite is "YOU NEED TO GET USE TO THE NEW NORMAL".  No...I don' see I'm not going to accept's a mindset.  No one should have to get use to a new normal.  I believe that cancer opens up new opportunities..not only for us but for others.

This awesome friend that's been though this whole experience with me blasted this song on the radio on the eve of IRONMAN Wisconsin on our way to dinner.  I might have been a little sad that I wasn't racing but she always knows what to do to keep me positive.  It can be applied to anyone that is going through a hard time in their life.  Stay positive...and say "Yes, I'm a me."

OVERCOMER - By Mandisa

Whatever it is you may be going through
I know He's not gonna let it get the best of you
You're an overcomer
Stay in the fight 'til the final round
You're not going under
Cause God is holding you right now
You might be down for a moment
Feeling like it's hopeless
That's when He reminds you
That you're an overcomer

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Lifestyle

I believe training for an Ironman is more of a lifestyle rather than a hobby.  It touches everyone and everything in your life.  You try your best to plan your training around all of life's other commitments and responsibilities.  About 6 weeks out from your race (where I am now), you remember how hard your training is, how exhausting it is, and how much time it requires.  I always find motivation in things I read.  Why do we do what we do?  What keeps us moving forward? Whether your training involves 20 hour weeks or your just trying to find the time to get fit for your first on.

Kristin Armstrong is an author of several motivational books and has written articles in Runner's World.  I love her perspective and insight into running and friendships and what motivates us.  Below is an excerpt from her book "Mile Markers:  The 26.2 Reasons Most Important Reasons Why Women Run"

"People keep asking me about my next marathon like I must have a next marathon.  It's valid, though, to wonder why someone would go on a 2 hour plus run on weekends without a plan or goal in mind.  "Why?" one might ask. "What's the point?"  I know I always feel better after my run, even if I'm depleted in my body - my soul is full.  One morning this week I read a devotional before my run by an author by the name of Bertha Munro.  It began by saying "Bless me and make me a blessing"  Then it went on to explain that the biggest way we can help those we love is by having already helped ourselves.  We are suppose to work at our fitness in all capacities (spiritual, mental, emotional, physical).  If we are fit, in every sense of that word, then when someone we love needs us, we can make a difference.  Fitness has a purpose far beyond vanity, beyond even good health, when a person is trained to think of it in these terms."

"The other part of the devotional read "You cannot always do something to help your friends, but you can always be something to help them..."  Okay that's it.  That's why I train, right there. I don't train because I want to be able to do things (run a faster 5K, make someone eat my dust on a trail, though those things aren't bad).  I train because I want to be someone better than I would be if I didn't train.  If someone I love is faltering, I want to be the kind of person who can haul some ass.  I want to be first on the scene.  I want to be strong enough to carry some of his or her burden along with my own.  I want to have a clear head and a clear heart so if I'm asked for advice, I can offer wisdom.  If my big opportunity arises to serve, I want to be ready.  If it takes more out of me than I anticipated, I want to know something about endurance.  If someone I love looks at me with eyes full of fear, terrified that she won't be able to finish whatever happens to lie ahead, I want to look at her, wordless, with unblinking eyes that assure her that there is no way that she won't.  That right there is why I run."


"The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting.  For some, it's a Broadway spotlight, for others, a lamplit desk.  Use your natural powers - of persistence, concentration, and insight - to do the work you love and work that matters"  - Susan Cain

Monday, February 10, 2014


I've vowed this year to take more time to write some of my thoughts down.  I hate writing blogs about race reports because let's face it sometimes they can be BORING (unless I had a spectacular crash going downhill at 40mph and lived to tell about it!).  For many people that know me well, I read a lot and much of that reading has to do with triathlons and running.  I find so much inspiration in people's stories that I thought I'd use this blog as a way of sharing what motivates me.

Last year I completed IRONMAN Lake Placid and IRONMAN Wisconsin and I really had an exciting year.  Up this year are a few half IRONMANs (New Orleans, Kansas) and IRONMAN Boulder.  I have a number of goals for this year as I did for last year.  I don't usually share these with anyone but myself and my coach.  Coach's have a way of walking that fine line...being supportive and realistic all at the same time.  In a discussion this morning about goals for New Orleans, my coach at the end of the "supportive but realistic" email simply said, "And ask yourself, "WHY NOT, me?"" I love that quote.  A powerful statement that we don't often think about or say to others that can be applied to really anything in life.  Our ability to meet our goals not only has to do with our hard work and consistency but also our belief in ourselves.  That belief has to stay strong in your training and also in life when others are doing things differently than you are.  That belief has to stay strong when others doubt you.

In the January issue of Lava Magazine there was an inspiring editor's note written by Brad Culp.  He had been on a flight home from Kona for the World Championships and sat next to an elderly couple who had just experience watching an IRONMAN for the first time.  Now it seems just about everyone I know that heads to Kona sits next to an elderly couple on the plane and is inspired one way or another.  Maybe God puts them there for a purpose??!!?'s an excerpt from his editorial.
It was clear from the moment I sat down that they had not competed.  While everyone else on the plane was wearing some form of compression garment and had a body fat percentage in the single digits, this couple was styled out in Hawaiian shirts and khaki shorts, and let's just say they weren't exactly race weight.

I asked if they had come to Kona to watch a friend or family member compete and they explained that it was merely coincidence they were in Hawaii at the same time as the race.  They had come to the Big Island from Minneapolis to celebrate their wedding anniversary in the very same place where they had honeymooned in 1967.  I apologized on behalf of everyone on the plane, assuming the chaos of the race had put a damper on what should have been a relaxing trip.

"There's no need to apologize", the woman said.  "We loved it- so inspiring to watch all these people."  I was shocked, "What did you enjoy most?" I asked.

"The man at the front desk of our hotel told us to go to the finish line just before midnight, if we were still awake," she said. "We got down there at about 10:30 and found a spot on the benches by the finish.  I brought my book so I could read but I didn't read a word.  Seeing the joy on those faces - some of them were even older than us - it was unlike anything I've ever seen.  You really have to believe in yourself to do something like that at our age."

Belief...ask yourself "WHY NOT, me?" in anything you set out to do.
Thanks Jen :)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

How Did I Get Here??

"What we have is based upon moment-to-moment choices of what we do. In each of those moments, we choose. We either take a risk and move toward what we want, or we play it safe and choose comfort. Most of the people, most of the time, choose comfort. In the end, people either have excuses or experiences; reasons or results; buts or brilliance.They either have what they wanted or they have a detailed list of all the rational reasons why not."           ~ Anonymous
I think it's amazing how people's lives evolve and change.  We have the ability to change our careers, become healthier, make a difference in our communities, or influence others to change or try something they thought wasn't possible. I'm amazed at some of the stories I read about IRONMAN athletes that were once overweight or overcame insurmountable obstacles to get where they are today.  Or the 70+ year old athletes that come back to Kona year after year and inspire us with their dedication and passion for the sport.  Maybe that's why I love training and racing in triathlons. This year I was selected as one of the 40 athletes that are part of the IRONMAN Foundation-Newton Running Ambassador Triathlon Team for the 2013 race season.  Through this team I will be engaged in serving others through community service projects, fundraising and raising awareness of the goals and mission of the IRONMAN foundation.

My story isn't inspirational.  I'm just an average age group athlete trying to set higher goals and be a more competitive athlete but I thought I'd share a little bit about myself so others on the Ironman Foundation Newton  Ambassador Triathlon Team could understand a little more about me.  I considered myself athletic in high school, playing softball and tennis but I quickly went into the field of engineering and had a full career as a director at a healthcare company until I decided at the age of 39 to stay home and enjoy my kids before they grew up.  I had two friends that had completed multiple marathons and enjoyed telling me all about their races and adventures in training. That was enough to plant the seed in my head that I wanted to sign up and train for a marathon.  I finished my first marathon in Chicago that year and qualified for Boston (I had no idea I was a fast runner!).  The same friend that introduced me to marathons also influenced me to buy my first road bike and sign up for a sprint triathlon.  There were so many things that I learned from her as well as having an amazing friend that continues to support and cheer for me through all my crazy races! Within 2 years of completing my first marathon, I managed to influence my friend to complete both a half and full distance IRONMAN with me.  I do fully believe that we don't realize how much we have an influence on others, not only our friends but also the example we set for our children.

In 2011, I signed up for the Kona lottery and also signed up my who wouldn't want to go to Kona after completing their first IRONMAN???  It was a surprise gift for Christmas.  Nothing like a nice Christmas card with a Kona lottery entry enclosed inside!  I think we both thought there wasn't a chance that either of us would get in.  But come April 2012, her name was listed on the lottery selection announcement.  Initially, I thought she might burn my house down but she went on to remain my friend (lucky me) and complete Kona last year.  Through that process, we started fundraising for the IRONMAN Foundation's "Your Journey, Your Cause" program and together raised over $9,000 for Renew Hope, Inc.  After starting this 5 years ago, I've completed 14 marathons, 3 IRONMAN 70.3 races along with 2 full IRONMANs.  I continue to learn new things about myself and the sport every day.  For me, this is my motivation and passion for life. 

"We don't stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing".  I really feel that the sport of triathlon will continue to be part of my life for a very long time.