Burning Nomads

IMG_5108.JPGOne of the things that I like about big goals and dreaming big is the way the thought of the goal itself sets a spark that lights a fire in my core. The fire focuses me. It excites me. It lets me know I’m alive.

The last big fire went out the second the announcer at Ironman Louisville said my name to step right up and grab my golden ticket to the big show in Kona. The relief washed over me with the same intensity as the fire that burned to get me there.

Since that day, however, I haven’t even felt a flicker, let alone a belly full of fire. For the most part, that’s a good thing. I needed a break, as I’ve written before, the mental capital I had to spend to get to that moment was almost more than I had saved. I’ve spent the last few months recharging and having a lot of fun.

But, in the past month, I was starting to feel an aimlessness, and I wasn’t really liking it. The drifting into and out of races was no longer enjoyable. I was becoming an endurance nomad, seeking just the right race and right goal for settling.

On July 18, I had the pleasure to pace my husband John for the final 30 miles of the Vermont 100. (For his race report, click here.) The beginning of my pacing segment was a healthy climb up a moderately muddy trail. It was a perfect adventure for a wanderer.

My lungs were filled, my legs were alive, and then I felt it – a flicker. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Morning Mindfulness: I Just Want to Feel This Moment

You may have heard or read advice to “stay in the moment” when racing or training if you want to have a breakout performance, or make the most of a key training session. I know I’ve written about staying focused and being present more than once.

But, it’s not common to think about this advice in the context of race morning – the very moment when anxiety threatens to culminate in a potential freak out or meltdown.

Obviously, the meltdown scenario has to be avoided at all costs – or it may cost you a positive race day experience.

In the chaos of race morning, it can be especially challenging to stay present and focused on the moment. Pre-race preparations are mixed with pre-race anxiety which in turn can lead to a mind run amuk.

The blur of race morning.

The blur of race morning.

Those pre-race moments are an essential part of race day, as they set the tenor of the day, how we will feel, and how we will approach the expected–and more importantly, how we will deal with the unexpected.

Despite our best efforts, race morning is usually a whirlwind of anxious activity. It can seem like a time lapse sequence: skip, skip, skip, pause. Skip, skip, skip, pause.

We may mindlessly go through all of the motions, failing to focus on the present moment and the task at hand. I’ve learned (mostly from making mistakes) that a more mindful race morning is one of the keys to a successful day.

It’s taken concentrated mental training, but over time, I’ve learned to (sort of) enjoy the pre-race moments rather than to dread the anticipation. Those moments of pre-race energy can supply us with mental energy to overcome the challenges of the day – or they can deplete our will and leave us with little spark when we need it most.

I should know. I’ve done it both ways. I’ve messed up race morning badly and paid for it later. But, in recent years, I’ve learned to better control my emotions, and to approach race morning as an integral part of the day’s process.

When I did Lake Placid in 2013, the pop “classic” (a term used very loosely here) “I just want to feel this moment” was popular. When I trained leading into that race, I would listen to this song during some of my runs. I imagined myself on the shore of Mirror Lake in a huddle of bodies waiting for the start of the race. I imagined myself looking across the lake and seeing the familiar “V” shapes of the mountains tattooed against the horizon. I imagined myself feeling that moment.

Ironman Lake Placid

The shores of Mirror Lake, before Ironman Lake Placid 2013. Those mountains in the horizon are the perfect landmarks for sighting, that is, if you don’t find yourself on the underwater cable.

When that race morning finally came, it was the first race that I remember feeling calm. Sure, I was ready and excited to start, but I had a sense of peace like I had never experienced before. The benefit of that peace was that I was able to focus on the moments and feel the energy of race morning in a way that fueled me for the rest of the day. After the race, during our post-race “re-cap”, John noted that I was fearless. I think that’s the best compliment he has ever given me–given my long history of dealing with fear.

I remember being in transition before the race started, and instead of frantically careening through my duties, I was unruffled and immersed in the things I needed to do.

I prepared my bike bottles, double checked my gear bags, donned my wetsuit, and took my spot on the beach in front of Mirror Lake. As I did each of these things, I felt myself fully in that moment and focused only on bottles, then only on gear bags, then only on the wetsuit, and then only on the feeling of the cool sand between my toes, sucking in the energy from the bodies exhaling around me, and looking into that mountain-rippled horizon, knowing that I would be a part of it soon enough.

On race morning, we (myself included) can focus too much on just getting this thing started already such that we fail to soak in the pre-race energy and use it as much-needed mental fueling. For a first time experience, especially, we can let our monkey mind get away from us.

My advice: just don’t let that monkey mind wander. Don’t let yourself escape the beautiful pre-race energy. Stand on the shore. Huddle with the bodies. Feel that moment.

We have so few extraordinary moments in our lives; we can’t afford to let them pass by unnoticed, unappreciated. I believe the heightened awareness and tingling excitement of race morning is just such an opportunity to hit the pause button – even if only for few brief moments.

Feel this moment. Feel your moment. This is your day to be extraordinary.

This Race in This Place: 2015 Challenge Atlantic City Race Report

@EnduranceRuns posted this quote last week. It sums up how I feel about my experience at Challenge Atlantic City.

[Note: This report features my thoughts on my experience at Challenge Atlantic City. If you are looking for a course overview, that will be coming soon. Please sign up for email updates (to the right).]

I don’t load up my race calendar with a ton of races, and every race I do has a reason.

I had two primary reasons to do Challenge Atlantic City. First, it’s a hometown long-course race, and I would be able to share the course with so many of the good people that surround me. While most people in North America are getting into the heart of their triathlon season, I’m just ending mine as I turn my focus to ultrarunning. So, what better race to end my 2015 season than with a race hosted on my hometown training grounds?

Second, I wanted to do some hard work to chase down some goals.

Despite all of the jokes about New Jersey, and the issues that trouble Atlantic City (and the surrounding areas), I have a #JerseyStrong pride that can’t be beaten out of me – no matter how I might also make fun of or complain about my home state. This pride comes from the physical geography as well as the social topography.

that_moment_when_team_show_up_to_raceWhen I showed up to transition race morning, I immediately saw the smiling faces of so many people that are a part of my life. Friends were racing every distance Challenge AC had to offer, and we were all feeling our own version of pre-race nervous excitement, and we were experiencing it TOGETHER.

It was unlike any other race morning in that sense – here was my local village assembled for the big tribal meeting. While the internet may reduce the obstacles that physical space presents, it doesn’t break the strong bonds that form when we share a place.

The race course itself is also a familiar friend, with different parts of the swim, bike and run course bringing back memories of previous races and benchmark training days.

These are the places where I learned to dream and believe.

I broke my fear of open water swimming in the back bays of Atlantic City, when I first completed the Bridge to Bridge 5k swim back in 2009. So, I was prepared for the chop and current that greeted me during the swim.

I learned to be independent and self-reliant spending hours upon hours of solo cycling on the roads of the bike course. I knew there would be wind, but I also knew there would be nice open roads upon which I could find my groove and grind.

And the Atlantic City boardwalk – well, it’s got to be one of the best places to run in this area. I raced my very first marathon on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, and in the moment that I crossed that finish line, I fell in love with endurance sport. Now, I train regularly on the boardwalk with my friends from the NJ Shore Run club. I know how long it takes to get from one end to the other. I know how far apart the casinos are. I know that there would be whack-a-doodle people everywhere – and not just the triathletes.

There were moments out on the course when the nostalgia made me just a slight touch weepy. Pretty shocking, I know.

In the final few miles of the bike course, you cross the highway on an overpass. As I looked out, I could see the skyline of the city in the horizon, and I felt happy to have this perspective, and while it was all familiar, I felt a new appreciation for this place. And, it was much more exciting than I thought it would be to ride on the Atlantic City Expressway :).

As far as the race competition, I had placement and time goals, one of which I hit, and one of which I missed. Read the rest of this entry »

Mental Fitness and the 4 F’s (Not the 4-Letter F-Word)

[Note: The content of this post was part of a presentation I gave during the DT&N training camp in Lake Placid, on June 5, 2015. I’ve reworked the presentation notes to share here.]

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” ~Henry David Thoreau

This sentiment reflects my experience over the past several years – as I’ve moved through various goals, from my first sprint to my first double ironman. Working toward each of my goals (and all of the ones in between) has been a journey worth taking. What I have become (I hope) is a person who is braver, stronger, smarter and happier.

This picture was taken about 30 seconds after I crossed the finish line. I have been chasing this feeling ever since.

Hello, Teeth! This picture was taken about 30 seconds after I crossed the finish line of my first Ironman in 2010. Every time I see this picture, I weep happily for the woman I was becoming.

The journey to cross that first Ironman finish line is one that I will never forget. I learned how to be an athlete (again). I learned how incredibly extraordinary the body can be, but even more so, I learned the mind is the MOST powerful and important tool we can have as endurance athletes. Achieving our goals is as much dependent on mental fitness, as it is physical fitness.

I define mental fitness as a strong belief in your ability, which allows you to push beyond your perceived limits, to counter negative thoughts, to be stubborn and steadfast in your quest to achieve your goals, and to possess a healthy confidence that, with hard work and grit, you can achieve those goals.

In sum, mental fitness means you DON’T STOP BELIEVING even at – especially at – your lowest points.

But, belief doesn’t just come to you – you have to train the brain to believe. I taught myself to believe that with hard work, I could go from the back of the pack to a Kona slot. As you might imagine, that was not an easy sell at the start.

I think it’s worth mentioning, to further support the point I’m trying to make about mental fitness, I am not a naturally gifted athlete. In fact, I’m really average physically. I lack coordination. I’m clumsy. My body type is not exactly what you see among the most elite athletes in the world. I’m not some super fast freak of nature – but, sure, I am some type of a freak.

My secret? I define and articulate realistic but challenging goals. I work like a dog to achieve them. And, I’ve taught myself to BELIEVE, working my mental fitness just as much as my physical.

With respect to mental fitness and goal setting, I’ve learned a few things that might be of use to you. I call them the four “F’s”: Fear, Focus, Facts, Fun.  Read the rest of this entry »

What I Learned From a Return to Sprint Triathlon

comfort zone

This magnet and collection of Yogi tea sayings is on our refrigerator.

I like to talk a big game about “getting comfortable with being uncomfortable” and “the magic happens outside of your comfort zone” and all the related platitudes of that ilk.

But, do I walk that talk?

While I won’t say I’ve completely mastered being comfortable with the discomfort of endurance pain, I know I can take a long course licking and keep on ticking. My nickname isn’t Midget Tank for no reason.

What I’m not very good at – not good even a little bit – is anything at or even near my threshold. The so-called “red-line.” No, I much prefer the green line, the so-what-if-my-muscles-feel-like-someone-is-sticking-ice-picks-in-them-I-can-still-breathe-so-I’m-fine line.

In the last several years of training, I’ve done very few efforts at or near the threshold, especially in running. Just to make sure I wasn’t telling you all pork pies, I looked at my Training Peaks charts for the past few years.

Last year, my time in running HR zones were as follows (percentages are rounded):

  • 50% in Zone 1/Easy
  • 40% in Zone 2/Steady
  • 7% in Zone 3/Mod-hard
  • 2% in Zone 4/Hard
  • Not even a full percentage point in Zone 5/Very Hard.

Cycling is a little bit better, but as with running, the lion’s share of time is spent in zone 1 and zone 2 (45% and 29% respectively).

As you can see from the chart below, if I expand this analysis out to the past three years, the percentages stay roughly the same across the two sports.

Training Peaks Charts

Here’s a screen shot of my time spent in zones from May 2012 until May 2015. The chart on the left is running, the one on the right is cycling. The zones go from easy to hard, left to right.

So, it’s safe to say I’ve become comfortable – and I would argue too comfortable – with the long distance ache. So, what to do to shake things up?

Go short and hard, of course. So, I signed up for a local sprint triathlon (Hammonton Sprint Triathlon, May 23, 2015), and prepared myself to get really uncomfortable. I find it much easier to push hard in a race context, so I saw this race as an opportunity to re-introduce myself to threshold work.

The Hammonton Sprint was my very first triathlon 6 years ago, at a time when I had NO IDEA what my triathlon journey was to become. I was on a used bike, that was about 2 sizes too big for me. I wore $20 bike shorts (can you say OUCH?!), and I was grossly unprepared for the open water swim–with people. Within 30 seconds of the start, I had been kicked in the face, panicked and wound up swimming the entire race with my face out of the water. True story. Read the rest of this entry »

Asking questions, seeking answers

After three years of working toward a slot at the Ironman World Championships, the goal became a part of my identity, my decision making, my lifestyle. Now, the race is long done and dusted and the mysteries have been revealed.

So, what’s next?

My interest in the 140.6 distance has all but disappeared, while my desire to participate more in the ultra world (both triathlon and running) continues to grow. Even so, I haven’t settled on “THEE” goal that drives me. On the one hand, I’m totally okay with that. I’m having a low-stress, fun year of racing and training so far.

On the other hand, I feel like I’ve lost my best friend–the KQ dreamer. As one of my readers Wes commented on my IMCdA race report, “This race was so close for you, on one hand, I wanted you to get the Kona spot and on the other, I wanted the drama to carry on like a good novel you don’t want to finish.”

stopped believing

While I certainly didn’t want to go another race without grabbing a slot, I absolutely know what Wes means. The drama was pretty exciting, right? Who am I if I’m not “the smalltown girl” who doesn’t stop believing, trying to make it to Kona?

Obviously the sum of who I am is not simply my journey to get a slot to Kona–even if almost all of the posts for the past 3 years came back to that theme.  The thought of doing another 140.6 right now leaves me wholly uninterested. That’s how I know it is time to move on and write new chapters, explore new adventures, dream new dreams.

The trouble stems from the way my new dreams are just in snippets right now. You know when you wake up and you remember 3 interesting but seemingly unrelated details from a dream, and you can’t quite figure out how they all fit together? That’s how I feel about my endurance goals. I’ve got some interesting details, but I haven’t quite put them all together just yet.

I’m still believing – I’m not 100% sure in what just yet.

In the midst of this soul searching about who I want to be when I grow up, I received an email from a reader (who I’ll call Joe), asking me some provocative questions about my motivation. While a part of me didn’t want to acknowledge my struggle with a stranger, the process of answering the questions was very helpful for me.

Here’s a screen shot of the email I received (note: While Joe allowed me to post parts of our discussion, I want to protect his privacy. Therefore, I’ve deleted references to his name and email address):

Screen shot 2015-05-15 at 2.27.47 PM

Read the rest of this entry »

Boiling Frogs and Gradual Adaptation

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/purpleslog/2881603057/.

Photo labeled for reuse. Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/purpleslog/2881603057/.

Every new distance seems impossible when you first begin to wrap your head around it.

Think about the first race you ever signed up for that you thought was really long.  Before you started the training, the race distance probably seemed almost insurmountable, right?

I mean, how could anyone go X miles?

The very first distance I ran that made me think: whoa, this is going to be LONG was a 6 mile run I did during a high school crew practice, circa 1989. We ran daily, but never that far. But, we had gotten in trouble, so we were punished by running 6 miles, while holding our oars. I don’t remember what we did to deserve that punishment, but I do remember the run.

liked it.

At some point during high school – maybe even during that run – I decided that I wanted to run a marathon “someday.” But, when I set that goal, it seemed very far off, and possibly not even likely.

I mean, how could anyone ever run 26.2 miles?!

I remained a runner from those early crew years, but it took me some time to come back around to my “someday” goal. Flash forward to my early 30s. I finally decided I would run that marathon – but the thought of running 26.2 miles seemed slightly insane and overwhelming – yet really exciting.

I broke down the training into little milestones (see what I did there?) that would allow for gradual adaptation. My first 10 mile run. My first half-marathon. My first 16 mile run, then 18, and finally to 20 miles. I didn’t go from 10 miles to 20 miles in one week, it was a gradual and consistent process of adding more time, a little bit at a time, week by week. It was 4 months of training to go from 10 miles to marathon-ready.

In this sense, the preparation for new distances is like boiling frogs. We turn the heat up on ourselves, gradually almost without notice until there we are – working through the distance that – at one point – seemed nearly insurmountable.

gradual adaptation

John and I crossing the finish line of our first-ever 26.2 miles at the Atlantic City Marathon. I can still remember how delicious that day felt, and how excited I was to do another one the second I crossed that finish line.

I’ve been thinking about this process of gradual adaptation quite a bit after training for and completing the Double Anvil. Others have said to me: “I couldn’t go that long!” “You raced for 25 hours?! How can you do that?” “A 12 hour trainer ride? What on earth?!” And of course, the well known: “I don’t even want to drive that far!”

My answer to that last one? I don’t want to drive that far either. That’s why I swim, bike and run through the distance.

When I saw John training for the Double last year, I thought these very same thoughts. I said these very same things.

I remember his longest trainer ride of 10 hours. I remember thinking there had to be something wrong with him. One Ironman is plenty long enough – how on earth could I do two? More importantly: why do I want to?

But, after crewing that race in 2014, I knew I wanted to do it. The training and the race were seemingly impossible, but that was part of the appeal.

My training for the Double officially began somewhere around Thanksgiving, 2014, with a 6 hour ride. I remember thinking to myself: Hmmm. The shortest “long” ride I will do for this double is my longest long ride for a single. 

The poor little frog starts getting an idea of what’s happening, but still isn’t sure. It feels warm, but it’s okay.

Next up on the schedule was an 8 hour ride, which was probably the worst one of the entire training cycle. I remember feeling a bit of despair that the longest ride I would do would be an additional 4 hours.

Boy, it’s getting hot in here, isn’t it? 

I did another 8 ride and got used to that as a “base” ride. I was getting used to the water by then. That ride was followed by a 9 hour ride, which gave way to a 10 hour ride, and so it went until one day I found myself riding for 12 hours.

Oddly enough, that 12 hour ride was one of the best rides I had throughout the entire training cycle. The last 90 minutes were a little rough–the water was pretty dang hot. I was boiling, but I managed to get to the end of that training cycling without cooking myself.

After that volume, I rode another 8 hour ride – but this time at a harder effort than race projections. And, unlike the very first 8 hour ride, I felt strong – mentally and physically. I knew I could handle the heat.

So, what’s this got to do with you?

If you are like most athletes that I know, you probably have a seemingly impossible goal you’ve toyed around with – maybe for years, as I did with that first marathon.

Maybe you allow yourself to think about it in brief snippets, but then push it away because you have uncertainty about whether you can go that far (or that fast), how you can find the time, or whether you have the mental stamina to keep the heat on for the training and the race. If you are having a hard time taking that first step and committing, I recommend that you stop thinking about the reasons why you can’t go after your goal, and start focusing on all of the reasons why you can, why you want to, and why you should

And, when you start your journey, remember: you don’t need to jump right into the boiling water. Turn the heat up slowly, gradually, consistently. Have a plan for yourself that will allow your body to adapt both physically and mentally to the stresses of training–even if that means you are a few years out from the ultimate prize.

Be consistent. Be methodical. Be patient. Analyze your progress. Follow the principle of gradual adaptation. Before you know it, you’ll be able to take the heat, and the triumph of achieving your goal will leave you with a sweet, warm glow.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

What seemingly impossible goal do you want to meet? Have a similar experience? Share it!

Force of Nature, Power of Experience: Running Rim to Rim to Rim in the Grand Canyon

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” 

~Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

I gingerly peered over the side of the North Kaibab trail, which runs from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon down (about 5,600 feet down) to the Colorado River.

As I looked down, I saw the Grand Canyon jig and jag from millions of years of evolutionary change. I looked up and saw the cliffs reach upward to the sky, as if praising the sun and the clouds. And, there I was somewhere in the middle of this expanse, nothing but a molecular speck, clinging to the side of the rock wall, hundreds and probably thousands of feet from the craggy bottom.

Rim to Rim to Rim

A view from the North Kaibob Trail. If you look closely, you can see the trail as it snakes around the canyon, heading down, down, down (or up, up, up depending on your direction). This was taken as we descending back down from the North Rim.

In that moment, I contemplated the incredible force of nature, the unavoidable force of change, and the beauty that can come from opening oneself to evolution.

John, our friends Vince and Tom, and I found ourselves in this moment as we ran from the South Rim to the North Rim and back to the South Rim of the Grand Mother-Nature-Loving Canyon.

rim to rim to rim

The crew taking a quick photo before we start. From left: Tom, Vince, me, John (in the front).

You know, that really big ditch in Arizona? Yup. That one.

In case you’ve never heard of this particular adventure, the rim to rim to rim (R2R2R) is a 46-48ish-mile, 11,000 feet of elevation adventure. It’s an experience that stretches the body, mind and spirit.

We started the adventure from the South Rim, taking the Bright Angel Trail to the Colorado River, which is approximately 10 miles. Once we crossed the river, we picked up the North Kaibab Trail, which goes for about 14 miles to the top of the North Rim.

We’ve seen varying estimates for how long this route is and most of them fall between 46-48 miles. Our menagerie of Garmins registered between 48 to 54 miles. Regardless of the exact distance, it was farther than anyone you tell about this excursion would want to drive.

Counting all stops for wondrous amazement, photo taking, and breath-catching, we took 16 hours total time from start to finish. Moving time was about 13 hours. Yeah, we took our time, making sure to stop as much as was feasible to enjoy the moment.

We wanted to be in the Canyon. Feel the flow of the Canyon. Be the Ditch. Love the Ditch. Don’t fall in the Ditch. Read the rest of this entry »

On Role Models, Possibilities, and Equality

Outside of my endurance sport life, I’m a professor of Communication Studies at Rowan University, in Glassboro, NJ. (Read: Nerd.) In my research and teaching, I examine how communication creates meaning about “things” – people, places, objects, events, ideas.

I know what you are probably thinking: things exist, that can’t be changed no matter how we communicate or think about them. Of course people, places, and objects exist, and events happen. But, how we communicate about these things affects our interpretation of them–regardless of their tangible properties.

So, let’s say we’ve got this thing that is a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run. How we think and talk about a triathlon affects the meaning we have for it, which in turn affects our behavior.

It begins with the name. Do we call it an ultra or full distance triathlon, an Ironman, or a really long day?

50womentokona

In 2012, a key goal for my performance at the Rev3 (now Challenge) Quassy 70.3 was to finish early enough that I could meet Mirinda Carfrae – one of my favorite professional triathletes. Mission Accomplished! I have an inch on her with the Don King-style hair.

If we define an Ironman as crazy or impossible, we won’t attempt it. Alternatively, we might define an Ironman as empowering or fun. Each interpretation will lead to a different decision about whether we quit before we start, or we dream big and go for it.

So what gives with the theory lesson? Well, like all good theories, the theory of Symbolic Interaction (which I’ve been laying out generally here) helps explain stuff. For the purposes of this post, I want to talk about role models and their value in sport.

Role models help us construct meaning about things, like a triathlon. We observe what they do; we listen to what they say. Through this communication, we shape the realm of the possible for ourselves.

Our role models give meaning to the mantra that anything is possible if we believe it and we work for it. Role models don’t promise us that making our dreams come true will be easy – far from it. They show us, with their hard work, determination and grit, that the extraordinary can be ours if we step out of our ordinary routines and go for that extra. 

Through the years that I’ve done triathlons, various people–some strangers, some friends–have helped shape my ideas about what is possible, by encouraging me to set big goals and to give everything I’ve got in the pursuit of those goals.

While I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time, my seemingly impossible dream about a slot on the big island began to take shape In October, 2009. I watched the stream of the Ironman World Championships as a petite professional triathlete ran her way into second place with one of the most amazing runs I had ever seen. It was her first Ironman ever, and her first marathon ever.

I was immediately in awe.

While Mirinda Carfrae’s run was kinetic beauty, she has inspired me beyond that. Through the years, I’ve felt somewhat shadowed (pun intended) by the taller female competitors. But, “Rinny” has shown me – year after year after year – that little bits can play too; little bits can be fierce scrappers.

When Rinny set the course record in 2013, a person, let’s call her Sally, said to me, “Until I saw Carfrae cross that finish line as tiny but as fast as she is, I didn’t think you could beat the bigger women in your age group.” Read the rest of this entry »

Wrapping Your Mind Around This Thing: 2015 Florida Double Anvil

“Perseverance is not a long race. It is many short races one after the other.”

~Walter Elliot

“So, do you have your mind wrapped around this thing?” John asked me a few days before the 2015 Florida Double Anvil (double iron-distance triathlon), which was held on March 6-7 in Tampa, Florida.

I paused.

He has never in all of the history of the things we’ve done asked me that question, which led me to question myself. Wait! Do I have my head wrapped around this “thing”? 

“Um, I…uh, what do you mean? Do I have a race plan?” I asked.

“Not a race plan – I mean have you thought about what this is going to take?”

2015 Florida Double Anvil

I posted this tweet a few days before the race. I had moments when I realized just what exactly was in store for me – only to quickly bury those thoughts deeply lest I lose my nerve.

“I’m going to swim, bike and run until I finish,” I replied, trying to hide my creeping feelings as my brain began to whine with uncertainty.

“Okay, as long as you’ve committed up here,” John pointed to his head, “that’s what you need to do.”

Pre-race pep talk complete.

Yup, fully committed… or committable. I forget which one.

2015 Florida Double Anvil

When you finish any Anvil race, you must strike the anvil as many times as you completed the anvil. So, for a double – that’s two times. The hammer is 3 pounds, so that’s a big ask! (Photo taken by Dan Elliott, and used here with permission, www.danelliott.com. Thanks, Dan!)

While I did my best to imagine various race day scenarios, I wonder how anyone could ever have their mind wrapped fully around this thing. I finished the race, and I’m still not sure I have my mind wrapped around what happened out there.

Pre-race, I had moments of fear, excitement, uncertainty, pleasurable anticipation, nervousness, eagerness. I cycled through the positive and the negative – working to reject the negative voices when they wanted to introduce doubt. Every time I let the idea of 281.2 miles enter my thoughts, I had an instinctive response to immediately STOP thinking about the totality.

To state the obvious: it’s a long race.

The Florida Double Anvil features a 4.8 mile swim done as 76 laps in a 50 meter outdoor pool, a 224 mile bike done as 31 laps (plus several miles of riding between the pool and Flatwoods Park where the bike and run take place), and a 52.4 mile run done as 30 laps. Between each lap on the bike and the run course, you come through “Tent City,” where all of the crews are located. Read the rest of this entry »

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