More snot and other grossness

Mud and water flew up my nose and splattered my face for 3 hours on this morning’s ride, and it  goes without saying there was flying snot and rockets of spit. And in that moment it occurred to me how unglamorous I’ve allowed myself to become since I started training. I now feel no shame in about being covered from head to toe in mud, grit and sweat, shooting snot from my nostrils, spitting all over the pavement in front of complete strangers, heaving out my guts after a hard workout, going out in public with permanently matted, frizzed hair, walking like a broken old woman, and leaving behind a trail of intoxicating chlorine scent. I sound more like a tobacco chewing, tractor driving hillbilly than an endurance athlete. My mother would be so disappointed. But what happened after the ride this morning, as I was stepping into my hot, steamy shower really took my level of unglamorous up a couple notches.
The warm water felt awesome, and it was especially satisfying watching the mud wash off my sore, tired body and circle down the drain. But as I turned around and the hot water splashed against my backside, I shrieked and nearly jumped straight through the shower curtain. I felt a harsh sting shoot through me, and while huffing and puffing through the burning pain, I twisted myself around to discover I had experienced my very first saddle sore. The soaking wet padding in my bike shorts chaffed my skin so badly that on either side of my buttocks I had two large engraved pink curved raw lines running down towards my thighs. Gross.  Along with all my rocketing and ejecting of bodily fluids, I now have what looks like diaper rash. The best part, or maybe the worst part of it all is the phone call with my mother this evening, when she offered up her motherly advice of plastering myself with diaper rash ointment and taping sanitary napkins to my butt. Seriously? “It’s worth a go,” she said. Oh man, I think I’d rather endure the suffering, even it it means that I’m not going to be able to sit straight for a week. I can just picture myself walking around the office on Monday like an old woman and then awkwardly propping myself on my hip while I sit at my desk. My co workers will wonder if I contracted something at a party over the weekend; nope just self induced pain from 10 hours of running and biking. It’s crazy what I do for fun.
Despite all the suffering and grossness though, I feel awesome, I just might not look good doing it. Doesn’t matter, I’ll take all the flaws triathlon bestows upon me and just keep going, ass sores and all. It’s just a part of the journey. And not to worry, this is one post that won’t include photos.

I’ll take the good pain

I have been enduring a significant amount of pain in my shins for the duration of this season, thus far. It has been draining and defeating, and before every run workout I dread failure. Tonight was different. For whatever reason, tonight everything was in sync.
As per every typical run workout I had snot dripping down my chin and flying off my cheeks as I sucked in each breath of oxygen and demanded driving power and stamina from my legs. Hail had begun to pour down on my warm, pink skin and I smiled with each step through the slick mud on the narrow trail. I felt refreshed by the cool, fierce pellets of icy rain and the harder it poured, the harder I pushed to keep up to the group ahead of me.
We were putting in a set of interval hill running in Kenna Cartwright park and I instantly felt incredibly free. It’s the only place where I can run as slow as a dying snail with spit dripping from my chin, and mucus plaguing my lungs, and then run as fast as the Kenyans with my arms flailing as wildly as Phoebe in Central Park, all in the same interval. It’s like a sweet mixture of pain and pleasure, and in some sort of weird masochistic kind of way, the pain becomes pleasurable. The more I sweat, want to puke, fall over, or die, the brighter and wider I smile, as if opening my arms to torture. Either that, or I was just relieved to feel the good pain. The kind of rewarding pain that tells you to keep going. The kind of pain that every good athlete feels when they are pushing their limits, without risking injury.
As we hit the seventh interval I felt even stronger, well perhaps mentally stronger. I had already felt the urge to puke my guts out, and my heart rate was pounding hard, but still I was good to carry on. With my legs dripping with mud, my hair matted from the rain, and the salt of my sweat dripping off my lips I bent down to run my fingers through the mud and swiped two streaks under my eyes. Sometimes a little mud on the face is all you need to feel a little bit more tough and little bit more like a warrior before tackling the final leg of a really bad ass workout.
Once at the bottom, I was grateful and relieved to have not only survived, but to have survived strong. Usually at the end of a run workout, especially after enduring miles upon miles of shin pain, I resemble somewhat of a deranged, flailing drunk trying to catch my breath before submitting to defeat in the fetal position on the cold, hard ground. But like I said, today was different; and I’m holding onto that for as long as I can.
Sometimes when I tell people my training stories, they ask me when I have time for fun in my life, and I tell them with a smile on my face that I have fun every day. Reaching milestones, conquering mountains, pushing through the pain, pushing my limits, refraining from puking, and painting mud on my face are some of the funnest and most rewarding things I have ever done.

Rust2Iron 4 MS

RUST2IRONNot unlike almost every other night, I sit here on my couch unwinding from the day with ice bags draped over my legs, recuperating from another week of swimming, biking and running. It’s in these moments of easing my pain with icing, stretching, foam rolling, and massaging that I remember the words of one of my training partners; “Aly, you just get used to being uncomfortable.” And so I’ve come to learn that she is exactly right. Training for Ironman is not supposed to be easy or comfortable, it’s meant to push your limits, and it’s how you mentally handle those limitations that will ultimately determine whether you make it to that finish line or not. So, every time I get that unbearable pain that stabs into my inner shin, I scream at it to shut up and go away; every time my lungs burn and my heart pounds almost out of my chest, I block it out and tell myself to work harder; every time my knee pierces with pain, or my feet hurt, my shoulders ache or my hair flies in my face and messes with my rhythm, I hear a familiar voice that says, “suck it up, princess and put your big girl panties on.” That familiar voice comes from a friend near and dear to me, someone who I’ve never seen give up, and who always stands proud and just keeps on putting one foot in front of the other. She is the strongest woman I know, and even through her battle with Multiple Sclerosis, she continuously lives life being uncomfortable, managing the pain, and always just moving forward. She has been a constant source of inspiration for me throughout life and this journey because she is always in the back of my head pushing me to be better, no matter what obstacle stands in my way. To give back and to say thank you, I am dedicating my race to raising money for MS.  After all these long training hours, tears, aches, pains, triumphs, and failures, I want to cross that finish line accomplishing something bigger than myself; something that makes a difference. Please join me in my fundraising journey, and support the cause to help those living with MS by checking out my fundraising page here. Any financial help is wholeheartedly appreciated, but any and all moral support is just as welcome. Thanks to those who continue to follow me as I embark on this wild and crazy ride.

Three-peat hills

It feels like every single week I’m hitting new milestones in my training journey, and doing things I never thought I could do. Every week I am pushed to new limits, and most days I don’t even think twice about taking on the challenge, no matter how hard. With my training partners by my side, my coaches constant voice in my head, and my dreams laid out before me, I am fully willing to puke or pass out to get where I need to be. Whether it’s finding that extra push to beat the clock in the pool, or that extra step to keep pace on the track, or that extra drive to rotate my wheels just one more time on the bike, I am constantly pushing myself, and it feels so damn good. That triumph and rushing feeling of greatness after killing a workout strikes me with an overwhelming sense of pride and happiness, and any amount of ache or pain within my lungs or muscles quickly evaporates.
This weekend I had a hill climb workout on the schedule; my first ever. My idea of hill climbing last year compared to this year are vastly different; like mole hills and mountains.
I teamed up with two of my training partners at the crack of 7am for an easy warm up in the crisp and chilly morning. The sun had broken through the clouds and the sky was a vast beautiful blue, lighting up the asphalt before us. Like most workouts these days, I never know what to expect, so naturally I just always prepare for the worst, and psych myself up for the greatest challenge of my life.
After warming up our legs, we entered the bottom of the first hill at Todd Road.  I looked up, shifted down, mumbled some words of wisdom, and off we went. Within the first kilometre my heart rate had certainly elevated and my legs were slightly heavy, but with each pedal I had a good feeling that I was conquering this hill. It was in the last kilometre and a half where my breathing intensified to what sounded like wheezing, my heart rate sky rocketed, and my legs seared with that lactic acid burn. I began to wobble, and even thought of giving up, and literally just toppling over dead on the side of the road. But as always, I looked up to see the bobbing heads of Pat and Vince just ahead of me, and I cursed at myself to keep going. Once at the top, I smiled with joy; one hill down, two to go.
The descent was the perfect time to relax and enjoy the ride down with the wind whipping at our faces as we practically kept pace with the cars beside us. Halfway down and my heart rate had already calmed to a recovered rate, my lungs were no longer aching, and my legs felt fresh again; all in time to do it all over again. So, I shifted my gears, settled in, and while muttering the words of Katy Perry’s ‘Roar,’ I once again proceeded up the hill, one rotation of the crank after the other.
Round number two was reminiscent of the first as it went from easy, to more difficult, a little more difficult, challenging, then to heart pounding, lung burning pain. And as good as it felt to conquer it the first time, it felt even better on the second round.
At the bottom of the third hill, the boys talked about hitting the top and then continuing on to Coldwater Terrace for one final hill. “Some people stop at the roundabout, and some people go for the top,” said Vince. “That won’t be me,” I replied with a grin. The funny thing is, no matter how much I have accomplished and no matter how well I do, I always sell myself short. But when we reached the top of Juniper, and Vince called back to see if I was continuing on, I knew if I didn’t accept the challenge, I would spend the rest of the day in regret, so I called back a quick, “yup.”
As I reached the final ascent, I looked up to see what lay before me, I looked down to see my legs churning the crank and I looked out at the valley below me, and I was all smiles. This wasn’t painful, it was pretty freaking awesome.
As much as training for Ironman is a physical challenge, it’s a mental one too, and so often you just have to be prepared to find whatever it is within yourself to push a little bit further. Whether it’s been running in snow blowing in sideways, cycling up mountains, or swimming with ninja sticks on my arms and my feet tied together, I always find a way to keep going and to always finish with a huge smile on my face. It felt amazing to conquer the three-peat hills this weekend, and I am already anticipating the next challenge on my schedule, and looking back on this and thinking this was a walk in the park.