Friday, October 31, 2008

Good night and good luck

In a few hours it will be go time for the 3rd time this year. I'm relaxed, but nervous...the good, excited kind of nervous.

I just talked to the coaches and both said go out and take big risks. I plan to.

Joey has been awesome - mechanic, iron sherpa and exactly the energy I love to have around - super positive...he's def got the iron bug and that's the coolest. Will def have to pay it forward and get a big crowd out for him when he races.

Big thank yous to my friends, family and sponsors:

Jimmy ortel of the bi sport shop, matt dirzius of perfect 3 nutrition, glynn of xterra wetsuits, joey, sam, matt and the whole cannondale crew for not just an awesome bike, but for sending down my own mechanic, larabar for yummy snacks, bear naked that can keep me on the right nutririon plan, elizabeth braverman horse training (happy bday today sis), for expert coaching even in new territories.

I'll be thinking of you all - kind words and fighting words.

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Keep it calssy panama city

Sitting at breakfast, we noticed this gem of a place...
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Thursday, October 30, 2008

And then we got a bonus

Red velvet waffle cake - yea, joey 's got a honey at waffle house...
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Waffle house - an experiment in yum!

Pic is of joey's waffle, as I inhaled 2 of those with a side of scrambled eggs... Yes, ironman panic eating has begun... More later. Just an fyi - joey is awesome... He pulled some super engineer ninja moves to save my necklace from under the boardwalk - rawk!
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Wake up call

White, expansive sand beaches... Yup, pretty much awesome.

Joey and I arrived at the hotel around 1 am and it's off for a practice swim with Maggie, Duffy, Alan Margit and joey then... Waffle House!!!
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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I'm leaving on a jet plane....again.

Tomorrow I fly out for Ironman Florida - my 3rd Ironman start this year and exactly 3 weeks after Kona. I'm feeling good - like rip people's legs off good. I'm relaxed and motivated and it's pretty freakin' cool. I'm going for it - going all out and leaving nothing. I'm going to have my day.


Luna was a big help packing today. I believe hopping in the bike box is the universal symbol for "don't leave me". I'll miss my girl, but she'll be in good hands.I took her with me for a short run and here we are working on "stay"...
The hydrangea are no longer their brilliant blue hue, but in many ways, I find them just as beautiful this time of year when the petals begin to dry and take on an iridescent pinky/brown hue. I love Fall!
See you all on the flipside. I'll try to get Joey (My super special Cannondale Support crew!) to do some updates for y'all on race day!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Shout out

Got a little press:

Swimmy Time

The Shepaug pool is awesome. It's like open water and heat acclimation training in one place. With no lane lines, the packed pool becomes wavier than any ocean I've swum in. The temp is also turned waaaay up... As sluggish as it can make you feel, it's great training and workouts there seem to fly by. I find just having someone close to me in a pool is enough for me to feel I'm not doing a workout alone.

Keeping as busy as possible lately - which is a good thing. But I'll have to shut things down big time this week and rest up as much as I can for Florida on Saturday.

I have a super fabulous business meeting later and I'll announce all of that excitement soon! And yes, of course it has to do with triathlon!!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fun in the sun

Well, almost - it's not beachy time, but this sunshine today is brilliant. After a great party, this morning led to a fun, social breakfast/brunch. Reliving the nights hilarity in pictures and video. Nice job to my Cannondale boys for a great event. It was nice meeting so many incredible new people and running into old classmates.

I think I love spending time w/ this crew so much is that they are all so positive. They love their jobs and their spouses do too. Happiness is the culmination of so many forces and it's great to see so many people truly engaged in the pursuit.

Today is a "life" day. Lots to do - an athlete meeting this afternoon, chores at the farm b/c the fam is away and just catching up on those long-standing to-do's: Put together stuff for goodwill, vacuum and clean the car, wash my bicycles and other office duty.

It will all get done, but first, I need to go for a run/hike with the Luna dog.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


I just got an email from USA Cycling - I am now a Category 3 women's road cyclist!

Another goal to add to the list for 2009: Earn my Cat 2 road cycling license.


Ch ch changes


"She needs wide open spaces" - Some country song that I amazingly listened to b/c it didn't force me to claw my ears off.

Sorry for the hiatus and for not blogging the past two days - Bad mandy! Things are in overdrive here in mandyland - setting the schedule for next year's events and a bunch of other top secret projects that I'll fill you all in on soon! Also, in high gear for Ironman Florida - A WEEK FROM TODAY! ACK!

I love my Cannondale Slice - it's comfortable, responsive and even when crashed at 35mph, it didn't break - I think the R&D mountain guys must have had a hand in designing it! The bike is a 51cm frame. I've never ridden a 51, because, well, I'm barely 5'1". My old bikes were both 48cm - just right. Well, until I start winning Ironmans, I don't think I'll be getting a slice that's any smaller. So over the past season, there's been a lot of tweaking going on to get my perfect fit.

For Placid, I wanted to be aero, but able to be in a strong power, climbing position. For Hawaii I was working from a power position as well - I wanted to feel secure and safe in those winds. For Florida, I want to be as low as possible.

Starting out I had about 4 inches of drop. It's hard for me to get much more b/c I'm not taller and well, they don't make stems with more than 20 degree angles to them.

So, while no huge, earthshattering changes, I did swap out stems - a sad moment when I realized I wouldn't have the first 3 of my 5 Ironman bike stickers to look at anymore - and I moved my seat forward a bit. It feels good, it feels fast and I'm ready to crush it.

Anyone free to go to Florida next week? I have a fully paid trip, but need someone to go as support crew. Beaches, beaches and more beaches!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Burn, baby burn

Boston was fantastic - my apologies for the lack of blogging yesterday... there was too much fun being had. Breakfast and a good business talk with Joe. A walk around my old campus. It's amazing how much has changed in the few years I've been gone. Super high tech and artsy interiors dominate, beautiful lounges... and everyone has a laptop and blackberry. I didn't have either until I started a business. Joe and I reminisced about how he was a bit of a weirdo for carrying his laptop around with him everywhere. We didn't do that. We took notes in notebooks and then went home to huge desktop systems and typed up whatever needed to be done. Wireless was still a far-away idea and blackberries were only for wall street types.

The city itself was as wonderful as I remember. Terrible, aggressive drivers and all :)

I hopped in the car around 12 and headed to the South End to meet Hannah (aka "the Machine") England for lunch. Hannah is coached by Dede Griesbauer (sp?) and is an amazing athlete herself. She raced Kona last year and we trained in Spain together this past winter.

We had a blast catching up, talking tri - even spotted Dede cruising by our cute lunch spot. Hannah was great for my motivation. I hope bad-ass-ness rubs off! I'm praying I find feet like hers in Florida.

After a long lunch, it was time to go to see my Luna - Lu and visit Sean and Jen. They were more generous than mother theresa and took care of Lu for the past month.

I took a nice detour on the way there and spent 3 hours paying for my mistake, made it to the house as Sean pulled in, so I think that means I was on time! It was dark, cold and rainy, but I knew Sean is never one to pass up an adventure (and he's on his off season so he's bouncing off the walls with energy) so we took a night-time hike with the doggies. It was awesome and the perfect way to get my head straight after hours in the car.

Sean and Jen are two of the most genuine people I know. That is such an American expression, but I digress. They are kind because that is their nature. We chatted about vacations and trips in the past and planned new ones. It seems Jen and I were duped by John and Sean... they are adventurers and Jen and I are relaxers - on vacation that is. Jen - I'm ready for the beach when you are!

Tomorrow morning I see Juancito for some make-my-bike-faster fun. Will post pics then!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Going back to Boston

"I'm going back to Boston, gonna find my winning ways". -drop kick murphys

There is always some letdown after ironman, even after a brilliant race, a bit more so after one that catches you off guard. No doubt, I enjoyed every moment of kona, but I was not prepared for the level of difficulty of each of those obstacles. It was a wake up call and it is getting the gears going on some new goals.

In just under 2 weeks I am going to attempt another Ironman in florida. It will either be a brilliant or brilliantly stupid idea, but I owe it to myself to try.

Today I made my way to Boston. I love it here. New yorkers are tough, but bostonites are brutal. Driving into the city where I lived my undergraduate life is a wonderdful homecoming. It's strange to think I was so eager to leave, that I graduated early and took off for europe with a bicycle.

When I came to boston, I didn't even know what the ironman was. I remember calling John after I ran my first 10 mile run. I had never run that far. Same with swimming and cycling. I saved his voicemail response for years.

Coming back to boston is a reminder to celebrate the knowledge and experience I've gained. Smile at the memories of the girl that had no swim/bike/run background, but a lot of determination.

Yup, I'm back in boston to find me all over again, to find that fire, newness and excitement and give old mandy a good old fashion ass kicking!
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Boston fun

Joe and nicole in a moment of cuteness... That hat!
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Sunday, October 19, 2008

How to lose a day in 2 days.

So it's now Sunday. I'm not entirely sure where Saturday went. I do know that at Friday at 4 PM we left the hotel and headed to town for dinner before checking in at the airport. We took off at about 8:30 PM and next thing I know, I wake up this morning with the remnants of vegetarian Chinese leftovers scattered in the apartment and it's Sunday.

Excited and stunned to be home. It's 55 degrees outside and it's 12 PM. A bit different from 92 and 100% humidity at 9 AM! I have no other footwear besides flip flops, but college students wear theirs until snow falls, so I think I'm ok (at least in this neighborhood).

Thank goodness I'll be on a beach in another few weeks...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Good Bye, Farewell, Afeitasen (dear lord i have no clue how to spell that), so long!

Enjoying the last few hours here in Kailua-Kona Hawaii before the flight back to LA then NYC. It was a last day to remember as Pele gave me some great memories. Today at breakfast a pod of dolphins played in the harbor, then during my last swim a giant sea turtle came over and I put on my goggles, swimming around with it underwater. I wanted desperately to touch it, but some things are better left undone.

Thankfully this race will always be close to my heart:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Somewhere to lay down my weary head

Post race with my Ironman medal, lei and trophy. Yup, you've got to be a nut with a hole in your head to want to do this... Someone asked me if I had a brain at all when I told them I'm planning on racing Florida - it will be my 3rd Ironman start this year...and 2nd ironman in 3 weeks.
Today was another adventure - this time to the City of Refuge. Just South of the Captain Cook monument and snorkeling haven is this ancient city. While in ruins now, it once was a space reserved for Hawaiian Royalty (the Alii - pronounced A-lee-hee, yup, the famed Alii drive gets its name from there!) and for those seeking refuge. You could not enter the royal compound if you were not royalty (under penalty of death - yowza!), but you could be in the other majestic areas.

Step 1. Flee from whatever people are chasing you for a crime you may or may not have committed.

Step 2. make your way to the bay.

Step 3. Swim across the bay to the lava rock shores of the place of refuge.

Step 4. Be absolved by a Hawaiian Priest and return home

Pretty cool if you ask me. The swim looked pretty dinky and short, but I guess it's harder when you're being chased by people who plan to kill you, also, that lava rock is pretty freakin sharp and filled with sea urchins...nasty creatures!

After exploring the place of refuge, it was time for some beaching. The Magic Sands beach is beautiful and I will miss it terribly. The water is always the perfect temperature and is clear, clear clear. Today while old-lady-breaststroking in the water (you know, when you don't put your head under), I felt something against my foot... creepy old guy is not next to me, that means it's some kind of sea life. Please don't let this be a shark bumping me before it bites!!

I turned around and it was a GIANT sea turtle - it popped its head up and just looked at me for a bit. I said "hey dude" and it went under again. We continued like this about 5 more times and I watched the turtle scare about a dozen people -which was great - and then he or she swam away.

I love these turtles, they are so gentle and kind. Not like our northern turtles. Our snappers look pre-historic with nasty claws, spikes and that hissing... not to mention that they can bite your fingers off. The ones here have these soft, sloping extremities. Smooth, peaceful faces. They don't fight the water, they move with it.

Tomorrow the plane leaves for LA, then NYC and part of me is excited to go home - see Luna, Cass, West and my human friends, but I know as soon as I go, I'll miss the relaxation of the Big Island.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


The past few days have been a blast - I planned this trip with about a week extra beyond the Ironman so I could do and see all the fun stuff Hawaii has to offer. The day after the Ironman we piled in the car and drove to the volcano. No matter how many times you say it, "liquid hot magma" in a Dr. Evil voice never gets old. I took a few pics as we were driving, then fell asleep for the whole middle section of the trip.

The scenery was incredible - you go from barren landscape to lush greenery - from high priced hotels to small window-less shacks. The two lane road, pretty much the only one, meanders high above the ocean, then drops back down into the "tsunami zone". It's spectacular.

Volcanoes National Park is incredible. It sits about 5,000 ft above sea level and you can see the smokey plume from miles away. Like, 90 miles away. Once in the park, you enter into land of the lost - totally Jurassic Park style. Ferns are bigger than most of our trees back home and the banyans weave an eerie landscape. Lush meets iridescent black volcanic rock. Signs in the park dictate the dates of certain lava flows - craters the size of football stadiums are considered "small".

Sadly, because of massive amounts of dangerous Sulfur Dioxide being emitted by the volcano, we were not able to get close and see flowing lava. Bummer. It was still amazing to be standing on ground with liquid lava flowing underneath. Well, cool and scary as hell - especially when you're hobbling like a cowboy.

We took a hike through the lava tubes and a beautiful rain forest before taking in the craters with cracks and lava and smoke bubbling out.

It certainly was an adventure and we saw a zebra farm among other curious sites on our way home.

On the drive back I desperately wanted to visit the black sand beach. Everyone was ready for some splashing time, so we pulled into the park - the only non-locals there. Everyone was so sweet and wished me well on my Ironman.

The "sand" is actually smashed up lava rock and it is shiny, soft and beautiful. Larger granules than white sand, but still lovely. Palm trees sprout out in the surf line and seem to bask in the warmth emitted from the stones. The water, takes on a beautiful deep hue as the light blue meets the black sand beneath. Huge Hanu were everywhere - this beach is apparently a popular napping spot for the turtles and a place with mystical powers according to the locals.

I was worried one of the turtles was dead, but was assured repeatedly that it was napping. They are beautiful animals and I do love a good nap.

It's strange to be a northerner down here - We are so used to rushing and here, there is none of that. I've begun to settle into the relaxed pace. Maybe it's the heat, or maybe it's some greater wisdom - take it slow, enjoy the ride, hang loose, dude.

I sure will try...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Arts and crafts

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Another huge thank you

So I'm a bird...can I blame it on ironman or being blonde?

Huge thanks to michael seiler for being wicked awesome and for building and launching
And for putting up with my total web ignorance!

Thanks also to Sean and Jen for taking care of the Luna-lu, not many people would willingly dog sit for three weeks!
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The Best is Yet To Come

Checking in the bike on Friday afternoon w/ the Momma Bear. The machine is sweet as is my awesome pink skulls bento box... and Louis Garneau 2009 helmet!
The bikes tucked in for the night on the pier.

Yup, Race day was my birthday. Smiled all day long.
At 6:30 AM on race day 3 navy seals sky-dived into the water before racing. Very coolModeling the sweetest skinsuits on the planet, made by the fastest wetsuit brand on the planet - Xterra. Thanks, Glynn, Victoria and the whole Xterra crew!!!

The swim start. They call it the "washing machine" . Roughest swim of my life. But by far the most beautiful
Momma B finds the Tsunami evacuation route and practices her safety plan!
Out on the run w/ Julie. We had a great time running together - until she dropped me at mile 24.5
The finish!! Being interviewed by Ironman and NBC crews. I then spent a few hours in the med tent when they discovered I was covered in blood.
Best breakfast ever. "YAY Cake! I love cake!!" - this one's for you Hot Toddie!

So you've all been asking for it - the race report.

Race morning began like any other - wake up early and get the body fueled - 3 cups of applesauce, sports drink, protein shake and a banana... all crammed into less than 100 lbs of me. We all headed out to the race start about 4:45 as you have to line up and get body marked one-by-one before going to transition - and it's a long walk all over. The day before the race I hurt my big toe while running for 5 minutes... it was painful to walk or move it and I was all worried about racing. Yet another example that my Mom is always right - she said I wouldn't even notice it on race day and surprise, surprise - Momma bear was right!

Once on the pier I pumped tires and got my nutrition ready on the bike - that took about 5 minutes and it wasn't even 6 AM. Hung out w/ the Fam and tried to stay relaxed. At 6 AM a conch shell blew and these Tribal drums began to sound. My eyes welled up as I realized I was actually standing on that pier that I've seen on TV for years. The Hawaiin Priest said a blessing and then they announced "Happy Birthday to Amanda Braverman, 24 today!" on the loudspeaker. SO COOL!

At 6:30 3 navy seals sky dived into the water, then came into transition to prepare for their race. I can't imaging starting the day like that.

At 6:45 the pros went off and I entered the water. The NBC camera crew was there and we chatted a bit b/c I was with Rick James, an amazing young athlete that lost use of his legs in a moto-cross accident. He still races motorcross and WINS! He is such an inspiration and he even did the "I'm Rick James!" from the Chappelle show. Such a badass dude! Ironman is hard enough w/ all your limbs to use, I can't imagine doing the whole thing with your arms. Inspiring beyond belief.

I made my way to the front of the pier and began the 15 minute tread water session. Below the surface are divers and camera crews and amazing sea-life paying no mind to the 1800 athletes above!

The pre-swim was as rough as the race - a lot of the men were pushy and dangerous. I looked up to see mike Reilly talking to someone and managed to catch a 5 second countdown. The drums still beating I smiled and then went deaf in my right ear from the cannon. Thought I was having a great swim, but guess the currents were stronger than I thought as my swim was SLOW! As I went around the turn-around sailboat, A guy that had been swimming on me clawed up and ripped off my cap and goggles. I frantically searched for them and not sure how, but I found them just as they were sinking. Strapped the goggles on and continued on my way. Came out of the water and was shocked to see my bad time, but didn't really care - the swim was amazing.

Onto the bike I let people go. Alex M and M warned me not to go too hard in the first little out and back. I heeded the advice and loosened the legs up. Good thing b/c a lot of people got penalties there.

I saw Mom and John and Dad and they said I was 8th - nice, top 10, though I didn't really care where I was today - this was my day to enjoy, no matter the finishing place.

The first 40 miles of the bike were awesome - averaged about 20 mph and then the wind hit. Hawaii, despite the TV coverage, is quite hilly - if you're not going up, you're going down. Mostly with a honking head wind and unpredictable cross-winds. Race day favored the larger athletes and us small folk got tossed around. Heading up to Hawi (and on many downhills) I was barely averaging 10 mph - Instead of getting demoralized, I just focused on my nutrition and on not getting blown over. I was blown across the road a few times and just tried to take it all in. Everyone was going thru the same thing.

Leaving the turn-around at Hawi was a pick-me up as we were headed home. There was a nice respite from the headwind, though the cross winds were still brutal.

I was hoping for some downhill and tailwind. No luck. The winds changed on me on my way home and it was just HARD! Before the race they announced the aid stations would be every 5 miles. I thought that was overkill. I took bottles from every aid station on the bike. Pouring cola over myself accidentally at one. THe volunteers were amazing and militant. Such great folk! It's hard work!

Coming off the bike I wrote off the bike time and just looked forward to running. The run around the pier takes a while and I think should be part of the marathon - no matter! Out on the run I felt good and saw friends and family instantly. It was like Alpe D'huez! The first bit of the run takes you uphill on Palani and then out and down t o Alii Drive, past our condo (which I refused to look at) and out to a sweet church that opens on the water about 6 miles later.

I was feeling good - legs weren't super snappy, but going into this race sick ( which I've never done before), I kinda expected the body to not feel really fresh. I just chugged long and at mile 11-12 I was headed back up Palani Hill and saw my family - and the crowd sang happy birthday. I saw Juancito and pointed to my visor - represent, represent! Farther up the hill was Eric Hodska - my Hawaii Guru.

I caught a girl in my age group on the hill and she asked me if I'd keep her company. We ran together all the way until mile 24.5 when she dropped me. Thanks, chica! Just kidding - so excited you were able to open it up!

I did the run taking in the scenery and going aid station to aid station. Despite the slow pace, we never walked a step and it was great to have company. About mile 19, Megan Searfoss (one of Eric's athletes) came around us and I told her I hoped my butt looked that good after 3 kids! She crushed it and had a great finish.

At mile 24.5 Amy girl came up on us and accelerated. I was so excited and I told Amy I was so proud of her - she was going to be an Ironman and I was so happy she beat me to the line. Just awesome Amy girl!

Coming down Alii to the finish was surreal. It is one of the greatest feelings in the world, aside from riding my horses. I crossed the line in my slowest Ironman time to date, but absolutely stoked to be there. The NBC and Ironman crews interviewed me and I finally got my lei. I saw my parents and John and wanted to thank them, but could not get the words out, I think I just smiled and shook my head.

Then the medical team came up to me. I was covered in blood and they asked where it was from. "my feet? I don't know, didn't know I was bleeding!" They rushed me to the medical tent for an exam to make sure I wasn't hemorrhaging and we found that it was some really bad chaffing on my poor lady bits (sorry to be graphic guys- ladies, you KNOW how much this hurts). After a few hours in the med tent I was finally allowed to leave. Got a massage and headed home.

I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to race the Ironman World Championships. I could not have done it without the friendship, support and generosity of so many people. I thought about you all day and it reminded me to stay positive and enjoy the experience more than anything. This was by far the hardest race I've ever done and it gave me new perspective.

BIG Mahalos to:

Mom and Dad - first of all for having me 24 years ago and for giving me some pretty sweet athletic genes. You are my greatest inspiration and I have no doubt, my biggest supporters.

John - I never thought I'd call myself Ironman, not to mention 4 times, 5 years ago. Thank you for making me believe my dreams can come true and to never limit myself.

Jim - Thank you for being my super motivator. Can't wait to watch you cross the line this November!

Eric - Your friendship, guidance and advice mean more to me than I can express. No matter how random or ridiculous the question, you always have an answer for me.

To all of my friends and family - you remind me on a daily basis of how lucky I am to do all this and to have such amazing supporters. Your calls, emails and texts were the foundation of yesterday's race.

Huge congrats to Cait and Tim Snow and Jesse of qt2systems. Cait won IM LP this year and toop 12 here!! WOW! Alex M and M, Sue and all of my other buddies who raced yesterday!!

To my sponsors:

Block Island Sport shop: Jim and Marion run the shop and it is the hub of everything athletic on the island. Huge thank you for your support of me this year. From shoes to clothing to sweet bags and sunglasses, I know I'm covered head to toe in the sweetest gear around.

Xterra Wetsuits - The fastest wetsuits on the planet - they got me to Hawaii and had me comfy in the water on race day.

Bear Naked - Yummiest granola ever. Go eat some. Banana Nut.

Cannondale Bicycles - fastest bikes. The slice felt solid and comfy. Can't wait to ride the '09! Thanks to Murray, Bill, Matt and the whole C-dale crew for getting me decked out and taking care of me and my ride!!

Perfect 3 nutrition - Thank you to Matt for his guidance. Registered dietitian with experience with top level athletes. And he tells me to eat more. I love Matt.

Larabar - 5 ingredients or less. Totally natural. Totally yummy.

Elizabeth Braverman Horse Training - pony rides to experienced dressage riders - she'll make you better.

Louis Garneau - Thanks to Pierre for hooking me up with the sweetest new LG aero brain bucket for this race... you can get yours in 2009!

So where to next? I'm still registered for Florida - not sure if I'll race or not. 3 weeks.

Now it's time to think about next year's goals....

Coolest, hardest day of my life

Will do a proper post tomorrow, but just a quick note for all the bday wishes and race support - full report and thanl you's tomorrow, too. Today was the slowest IM of my tri career and I still loved every minute of it. This course is hands down the toughest around, but it should be. The course, athletes, volunteers - are ALL at a diff level. Just amazing.

Rock on and huuuge mahalo.
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Friday, October 10, 2008

The long and winding road

Finishing my first Ironman... you'd think it would feel good to stop, but that's when it actually starts to hurt.
Finishing in a new PR time of 11:19 at Ironman Florida 2007. I took risks and they paid off that day.
Jubilation, relief and utter excitement as I realize I'm going to KONA!!!
My swwwweeeet race gear. Mahalo to all of my sponsors and to WinSkins for the beautiful print job. Check out the new helmet....
Just some of the free stuff I scored walking around today. It's like Channukah!!

It took me 5 tries to get to the Ford Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. The first time I crossed the Ironman finish line at Ironman Lake Placid in 2006, the volunteer told me I had a Kona spot. I got a flat tire in the first 3 miles of the bike at that race and it took me 6 minutes to change it. I finished 6 minutes behind 1st place. The next morning, I went to the Hawaii Registration and found there was only 1 spot. I was crushed and it overshadowed the joy of having done my first Ironman and marathon... until about 1/2 way through the car ride home when I realized what I had done and was hooked.

2007 brought more opportunities to try and qualify: St Croix 1/2 Iron and Ironman Lake Placid. I narrowly missed qualifying at St Croix and was determined to make Placid count. The Ironman gods were not with me that year as a loose cleat led to awful knee pain, then followed by uncontrollable vomiting. I finished in almost an identical time as my first race. My 2nd Ironman was a pure sufferfest and I was getting fed-up with the idea of progress (really more my lack. I felt stagnant and I was difficult to work with as an athlete. Thank goodness John and Jimmy stuck by me.

After the Placid disaster, I called everyone I knew to see if I could get a spot at either Ironman UK or Florida. Matt Cappiello over at Cannondale saved the day and got me a spot at Ironman Florida where I went on to have a breakthrough day, posting a new personal best time of 11:19. I had a bad swim, an awesome bike and a great run, making my way into 2nd place throughout the race. I took risks and I decided if I blew up, it wouldn't be a big deal - I'd find my limits. I didn't blow up and I had a rockin' day. Despite taking 2nd, I'm more proud of that finish than any other to date.

After another Winter of training in Spain with the Strong Like Bull group, then bike racing like crazy, I again ventured to St Croix - the evil, wickedly hot, hilly and windy island. I love it there and the race director is top notch. I had a nice swim lead out from Hannah again (thanks for that!) and was top 5 of the amateurs for the bike portion. I then went on to the run where I extended my 10 minute lead over the other girls. Crossing the line, I was in disbelief. I won my age group, took top 10 of the amateur overall and punched my ticket to Kona. Getting to share that w/ Coach J, AnnaChrist, Ken, Joe, Liz, Justin, Hannah and Noah, was the coolest ever. Hannah and Noah were engaged at that race, making the post-race festivities that much more special.

My season since then has been one like no other. Lacking somewhat in direction as my long-term goal was achieved before many short-term ones. I decided to still race Ironman Lake Placid and went in super fit, wanting to be the top amateur and post a 10:40 or better time. I was right on track, on that perfect day (pouring and 50 degrees) when at mile 86 I was run off the road. I woke up in an ambulance 40 minutes later and my day was done. Overcoming the disappointment was difficult and I'm thankful to all of you that helped me through that trauma - more mental than anything. Eric Hodska helped me to put things in perspective and I remember him saying that my not getting to complete the race was a "blessing in disguise". Rather than recover from an Ironman, I was able to get an extra 6 weeks of training in for this race - the one where it SHOULD matter, where I will lay it out on the table and see how I compare to the world's best.

I can tell you one thing. I will go hard. I will suffer. I will love every minute of it. I will cross that finish line with the biggest smile you've ever seen.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Leiahi - The Ring of Fire

So this year's Ironman Hawaii World Championship's theme, for the 30th Anniversary, is LeiAhi, in Hawaiian, the "Ring of Fire". As the Hawaiian Priest explained, LeiAhi is not only what drives us, but what makes us who we are. It is our family, friends, our sport, our passions, triumphs and failures - it is all-encompassing and we must respect all that makes up special Lei or ring.

Saturday will mark the 5th Ironman start of my career and the most meaningful in a lot of ways. Before I get all sentimental on you all, I thought I should share some cool photos from yesterday and today...

The welcome ceremony opened with a prayer from a Hawaiian Priest, followed by this "warrior" dancing with fire... then hula dancers and conch shells - yeah, plain awesome.
My parents playing with the giant sea turtles outside our condo... "don't touch the turtles". These things are pre-historic - SOOOOO cool!!!
"Is that a dead crab or a sea urchin? Uh oh, might lose that big thai food meets 'uncrustables' lunch"
The Road to Hawi. We drove the bike course yesterday. Lava - check! Hot- check! windy- check! Beautiful beyond belief - check!

We stopped along the roadside after a fun jaunt in the cute town of Hawi (the bike turn-around) and took this pic. There are gorgeous wind mills in the distance as well as the island of Maui! That dark outline behind the clouds.

Seeing the coral cheers along the course - thousands of them - is the best graffiti I can think of!

Flowers are everywhere here and this one caught my eye while riding my bike. Lizards were climbing all over it, so it must be good!
Mahalo for all of your kind words, calls and emails - it means the world to me and I will carry all of your thoughts and well wishes with me on race day!!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Make yourself comfortable...

Luna makes herself right at home with Derby and Harry Langford.

Monday, October 6, 2008

And the troops come in

The momma and poppa bear arrived last night on a non-stop flight from Newark - mercifully, the car ride from the airport is a short 15 minute drive. The Kona airport is amazing - all open, no tv monitors, literally all-open. It is like a tropical garden, with luggage carriers! When they exited the plane, I placed leis around their necks and we hugged and hugged and hugged. My parents are two of the most amazing people. My mother was a principle dancer with the Clevland Ballet company and my Father is the most amazing Doctor on the planet. The two of them are not only far more talented athletically than I am, they are also intelligent and kind beyond words. I have never doubted for a second their unwavering support of my various crazy ideas. Heck, they were fine when I kept adding majors to my college career and didn't hesitate a second when I told them I wanted to graduate early and then spend what would have been my last semester in Europe with my bicycle. Yea, they rock. And they are here.

Yesterday was another wondrous day in Hawaii. I was up at a ridiculously early hour as my body clock is still reading East Coast. Not a bad thing, since 4 AM feels like 10 AM. I took a jaunt over to the Pier in Kailua-Kona - the swim start for the race. Coach J and I hopped in the water (meanwhile, he had already surfed for 90 minutes and done a 3 hour hike - when I went back to bed). I didn't want to swim 1.2 miles out into the ocean alone, so I made John swim with me. He agreed, but only if I lead. No problem!

There are few things that feel better than salty sand beneath your toes - and that first rush of jumping in the water. I love to swim and this was the greatest swim of my life - seriously - this coming from the girl that refuses to swim in a pool from May-October. The clarity of the water is unmatched and I had no idea how deep we were - turns out you can still see crystal-clear to the bottom even at 40 ft!! I swam through schools of fish - brilliant color combinations that not even the most talented artist could mimic. Huge sea turtles and coral. The salt water makes swimming a joy as it adds buoyancy to my small, sinkable frame. As we got far out, J began tugging at my foot - the water was getting dark and the visibility reduced. There was no one around for a good .6 of a mile. Ok, let's go back! I turned around and we headed back to the beach. It's at moments like this, I think of my Grandfather - the original swimmer of the family. He swam every day of his life and I still remember him being upset the day before he died that he didn't get a chance to swim. He swam in everything - oceans, ponds, rivers, the occasional pool! He swam with sea turtles, dolphins and a lot of scary things, but he was always ok. When my grandfather was alive, none of us shared his passion for swimming... now, almost 8 years later, my Father swims every day and I swim across the same bodies of water, in the tracks of my granddad.

The sitings of wildlife are amazing - as are the spottings of pro athletes I adore. New England is represented well with Tim and Cait Snow, Alex M and M and many others - it's an honor to call these people friends and have the chance to share this place with them.

Here are a few pics from the past few days - I finally found internet - YAY! Mahalo for all of your support!
Surfer boy - coach J catches some waves in the pre-dawn hours!
Taking it all in - from the lanai. Yes, my hat is super cute. Thank, Jimmy for the sweet Oakley "breathless" glasses - they RAWK!!
Beautiful sandy beach - a respite from the lava rock. Despite all the people in the water, the sea turtles and dolphins come right in! So therapeutic, you'd almost forget you have to race....