Wednesday, December 30, 2009

It's never too late to blog!

Ok, I've been away for quite some time - eventually I'll even let people know that I'm 'back' here - but for now just a quick update to tell myself that it's time to blog on.

This blog pretty much stopped dead in it's tracks once the contest and my last Ironman was done back on November 1, 2008. The time since then, while nothing remarkable, has been very fun, and despite race results and stats to the contrary, I've made much forward progress ...

No, I won't be showing up in Kona anytime soon, or likely ever, but the progess I've made isn't something that I can measure in pounds or pace or miles or minutes - it's more in attitude and approach and laughs and my decreased level of angst and frustration. In other words, things have been kinda nice - a far more 'even keel' than what I experienced throughout the 'contest year' as it'll be forever known in my head.

I still run and love it more everyday, I still ride and realized this past year how much I missed just 'riding' - not training, not racing, but RIDING ... it's still the best for swimming - well, ok, at least I still know how - and I CAN if I WANT to, and lets just leave it at that.

There were far less 'medals' this past year than in 2008, but in many ways they each meant more - they were of my own doing, and the events I did were carefully chosen and fully appreciated - they came to me absent of the anxiety, dread and fear of failure throughout my '08 race calendar. Though there was still plenty of sweat and hard work and struggle involved, everytime I crossed the finish line '09 there was the satisfaction in knowing I did something just because I could, because I wanted too - and you don't have to win or qualify or place or PR to be happy about that.

Don't get me wrong, I have no regrets for 2008 - that year definitely took me to places I thought I'd never be and in so many different ways. But now that I've been there? Well I can decide all on my own if I ever want to go back - and at the moment my best answer is 'we'll see.'

To be continued in 2010 ....

Friday, October 31, 2008

..End Of The Line

"It's gonna hurt"

At the moment I’m down in sunny (but not exactly warm) Panama City Beach, Florida for the 10th Anniversary Ironman Florida. (Side note: I’m starting to think these “10th Anniversary” events may be my forte – unknown to me at the time, my first marathon, the Flying Pig, was in it’s 10th year, as was IM Lake Placid, so not that I’m doing them all particularly well, but I am doing them – I’m also scheduled to do the 10th edition of Nashville’s Country Music Marathon in 2009).

So, I can’t say I’m all that confident headed into Saturday’s race, but I can admit that I feel differently than I did about IM LP. Lake Placid was so much fear, and about survival more than anything. Now, well maybe because I’ve been through it and know what to expect (god help, and yet I’m still giving it another shot!), maybe it’s that I’ve learned a lot and at least know what I WON’T do this time – like become dehydrated, maybe it’s because the race course and flat terrain play far more in my favor than did hilly Lake Placid, maybe because I know it won’t be pouring, torrential rain all day long, maybe it’s because I’ve had more time to train and just generally feel far better prepared, or maybe it’s just because I know the ‘end is near’ and after Saturday, for a time at least, I can resume a normal life where I can still ‘workout’ but won’t have to endure endless 15-20 hour training weeks.

Actually, I’m sure it’s some combination of all of those things that are helping me feel different about this Ironman, helping me feel better about it. I hope it goes better, I want it to go better, and actually I need it to go better than IM Lake Placid. Not that LP was so bad, but it definitely was an extremely painful struggle for me, mentally, physically and emotionally, and I have a hard time thinking that I could do this race if it’s equally as rough. I want to suffer less, and I really want to enjoy it more, if such a thing is possible.

As Ryan, my coach has told me on more than one occasion, “Mary Lou, you KNOW it’s going to hurt.” And of course he’s right, no one finishes an Ironman without a fair amount of pain and discomfort – so that’s a ‘given.’ But I think its a reasonable and realistic goal and expectation that I suffer for a shorter period of time for this outing.

So that’s it, in two days time, this “year of the Ironman” will be in the books. When I get back home, and have time to think about all that’s happened to me this past year, I hope I’ll gain some insight as to what it’s all meant, how I feel about it, what I should do with it, where it’s taken me and where I can go with it – in the meantime, I can just tell you all that it has been an awesome ride, I’ve met some incredible people and made some great friends and have gotten an unbelievable amount of support and inspiration from friends and family and strangers a like – it’s definitely been a ‘great ride’ – and well, it's all right, I'm going to the end of the line...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Two halves do not make an Ironman...

It's been about three months since Ironman Lake Placid and I've been busy - busy training, busy racing and busy at work - the only thing I haven't been busy doing is emailing and blogging - sorry about that.

I think our lives have a way of evening themselves out and my job got crazy the minute I got back from Lake Placid, so I'm thankful for having had the time to train to do that race. Ironman training is not for the faint of heart. It takes an unreasonable amount of time and dedication to not only actually do the training, but planning it along with conditioning and nutrition planning and this all leaves little time for anything else. But here I am trying to balance the competing forces in my life as I prep for the final race of the year, Ironman Florida.

About eight weeks ago I did the Timberman 70.3 in Lake Winnipisauki, NH with some friends (huge congrats to Erik, Becky & Lucy on great races - Lucy on her first ever tri, a 70.3! and Becky for finishing 7th in her AG in 5:38!). When I signed up for it last year that was to be THE big race for this year - I was sweating bullets when I signed up for it - it was more than I thought I was capable of. Having to do Lake Placid as part of the contest changed how I thought about doing a half ironman - I thought it would be so easy compared to a full IM. Boy, was I wrong, of course it didn't help matters that I did it only 4 weeks out from IMLP -in hindsight, it was just way too soon. I wasn't recovered and the 15 or so pounds I packed on following the IM certainly didn't help either ... On a positive note, we got to meet Andy Potts -he is extremely adorable! and Chrisse Wellington - ok, she is too, and such a solid athlete - she blew away the women's field and finished 5th overall, watch out Kona!

I didn't feel well going into the Timberman, yet I still had every expectation of finishing it in about 6 hours - so I was pretty disappointed with my final stats there:

Place/group Spec Name G Ag Rank Swim Pace T1 Rank Bike Rate T2 Rank Run Pace Final

27/50 Mary Lou Hoffman F 45 38 49:59 41:40 4:28 6 2:54:42 19.2 4:00 42 2:44:08 12:32 6:37:15

My 2:44 half marathon just killed my time - that run hurt, a lot - but while I was disappointed at the time, in hindsight, all things considered, this wasn't really that bad of an outing for me.

Four weeks after the Timberman was Muskoka 70.3 (thanks to Laurie for making the trek and supporting me and my fellow Buffalo Tri Club members doing the race - Sergio, Eric & Brenda). These races really need their own posts, but I just don't have the time right now. So after the Timberman, I thought, 'ok, deal with it, I've got another shot in a month and will surely do much better at Muskoka." Yet again, I was wrong ... while I felt more rested and generally in better shape than I had at the Timberman, my time was much worse. But the course was the toughest I've seen, the terrain was far tougher than Lake Placid and the Timberman combined, not to mention it was another miserable rainy day, but in the end, it was the elevation of the run at Muskoka that pretty much did me in and my disappointing 2:44 half marathon at the Timberman was almost 3 hours in Muskoka.

Place Name Time Category CategoryPlace
1028/1299 Mary Lou Hoffman 07:13:55 W45-49 46/80

That said, I did actually enjoy the race - it was it's first year and definitely had an "ironman feel' to it - the town was behind the race and I really enjoyed getting to see all the folks from Kevin McKinnon's Tri Camp I had attended up there this past May. I've already registered for this event next year along with about 15 other folks from the Buffalo Tri Club and plan on making this my only long distance tri in 2009.

So now I'm knee deep in my final build weeks leading up to IM Florida before I start to taper. Since it's been about two months since my last post, I'll try not to overwhelm you with my thoughts on Florida, I will save it for when I have all that free time on my hands during my taper ...

Friday, August 15, 2008

The People You Meet on the Road to Ironman (A Guest Blog)

I could introduce this post with an unbelievably long list of all the people I've meet and who've helped me along the way, but for now I'll spare you the details and save it for another day, but rest assured it's due and it's coming.
For now, I'd like to turn the keyboard over to just one of the thousands of people who were involved in Ironman Lake Placid on that rainy Sunday in July. How many times do we see someone or briefly interact with a stranger only to have them influence your day, or even your life. It happens all the time, but then we just continue on never to acknowledge or even see them again; never knowing their name; never taking the time or having the opportunity to properly thank them. But every once in a great while, we do it right – we share our names and someone remembers.

When I met one of the volunteers in T2 that Sunday, I knew her being there influenced my day - as she did for so many others, as so many others did for me. But unlike the folks passing me Powergels and Gatorade, I had a chance to introduce myself, and luckily for me Karen remembered and now I get to say a proper "thank you" and shift the spotlight, so to speak. Since Lake Placid we've exchanged a few emails and I asked Karen to talk a bit about her own personal Ironman experience, her triathlon aspirations and goals, and how she found herself there on that day. I asked her about her volunteer experience – what she saw, and how she felt. What follows is her reply:

“I did Ironman Florida in November 2006. What an awesome day! I got into triathlon back when I was young (24) with some friends. I got the “itch” to do an Ironman but could not imagine the amount of training. I decided I should try a marathon first….maybe that would scratch my “itch.”

It did for a while. I did the 1995 Walt Disney Marathon – 3:56!!! I couldn’t walk for about a week. I decided I needed a little break – try a 10-year break! I took up some different hobbies – snowboarding, barefoot waterskiing, moto-cross. Many broken bones later, I thought it was time to get back to triathlon – with the exception of the occasional road rash; I have had pretty decent luck staying fairly injury free. After a year of “getting back into the swing of things” the “itch” returned. I signed up for a half Ironman in 2005 and completed the Florida 70.3 in 6:27. I thought I was such a bad ass! Then, I did the Florida Challenge later that year and had a complete melt down. I went from bad ass, to sorry ass status!

So what do I do? I sign up for Ironman Florida and hire a coach (Jennifer Hutchison). I heard that Florida is a good first Ironman to do. The course is flat and the weather is usually pretty good. Jennifer did a great job getting me ready for the race – both physically and mentally! I am so lucky to have found her!!! I would have been lost without Jennifer!

She is a registered dietitian and has completed 9 Ironman races! She takes a very personal approach to my training – not a canned, one size fits all approach! She gave me a very realistic perspective on what I was capable of. I continue to learn so much from Jennifer and am so excited to see how far I can go with the sport.

The ups and downs of Ironman Florida?

High and low points of my Ironman day? Let’s see…

High points – my ankle (bad injury a couple years ago) holding up throughout my training, my first 100 mile bike ride, surviving Jennifer’s crazy brick workout day – ride 20 miles, then run 4 miles – not too bad….now do that 3 more times!!!

Low point – waking up to howling winds and 50 degree weather race morning High point – the gun finally going off – I started my Ironman! Low point – coming into the shallow water on the swim – it felt like someone dumped a bucket of ice on me!

High point – I finished the swim!!!

Low point – I’m freezing my hinny off! I’m shaking so bad I can’t buckle my helmet or get my arm warmers on!

High point – Volunteer helps me with my helmet and arm warmers! Thank you! Tons of people cheering as I head out on the bike!

Low point – I’m freezing!!! Mile 5 – girl lying on the pavement with her head bleeding, crying and shaking. Oh God! Please keep me safe and let me get through this! Killer head wind for 50 mile - 15 mph average @ mile 50 - this is going to take forever! I have to pee! I can’t stop – I’ll never get started again! I have to pee again, and again, and again. I can’t stop drinking because I’m terrified of being dehydrated and having a melt down. I have to pee again, and again, and again! Could this road be any bumpier?!

High point – mile 60 – tail wind! Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Crowds cheering as I finish. I’m so happy to be off my bike - I’m so excited I get to start running! Mile 1 – there goes the male leader – he’s coming in to win the race! There goes some other pros! This is so AWESOME!!!

Low point – mile marker 2 – my back hurts, my right hamstring is in a cramp, whose bright idea was this anyway? I have to pee again, and again, and again.

High point – Jennifer riding up on her mountain bike giving me a pep talk. Just keeping going - one foot in front of the other - it’s ok if I need to stop and stretch for a little while. I’m feeling better; I’m in a groove, ok – just slow and steady – I will eventually get there! I’m done with the first of two laps! My friends and family are there cheering for me! They are SO awesome to be here for me!

Low point – starting lap number 2 – it’s dark. It’s REALLY dark! Am I going the right way? My feet hurt soooooo bad - I have to run through this stupid park again? Ugh …

High point – I’m out of the stupid park! There’s Jennifer! Boy, she looks silly in her shiny silver make shift skirt and big funny clappers and pom poms! I’m so glad to see her! Chicken broth!!! After about 10 bottles of Gatorade, 8 Carb Boom Gels, 3 Power Bars - This stuff is like LIQUID GOLD. One more mile!!! I’ve got to find some MOJO – I could finish in under 13 hours if I bust a move! Running up the ramp to the finish! I hear Jennifer screaming - GO WONDER WOMAN!!!

I did it! 12:59:36! I am an Ironman!!!!

The year after I’m still on the Ironman high. Now I want to focus a little on getting faster. I get a lottery slot to the World Championship 70.3 2007 race. I do a personal best – 5:14! The “itch” is back! I want to do another Ironman. If I keep up my training, maybe by the time I am 80 years old, I could qualify for an Hawaii slot!

I decide I’m going to do Lake Placid in 2008. I make all my travel arrangements. I’m so excited - I’m ready to go online @ 9am the day after the 2007 race. That’s weird? They have delayed the sign up time to 1pm. No big deal – I am online exactly @ 1pm. I can’t get in … What’s going on? I try and try for 5 minutes – which feels like an eternity. “Sold out?” “What do you mean sold out?!” Boo hoo – but, “no worries” - Ironman announces they are changing the Arizona race to November 2008 – I’m all over that!

So change of plans! Visit Lake Placid in July 2008, volunteer, ride the bike course (clean out my shorts after the first time down the terrifying decent – how in the world did you do that in the pouring down rain?! You Rock!) Then IM Arizona in November 2008, then Lake Placid in July 2009. I’ve got a plan!

My experience as a volunteer at Lake Placid?
I would recommend to everyone to volunteer if you are able to. I had a great day! It is so enlightening to meet so many people with so many different stories that have overcome so many different challenges in their life. I am so lucky to be part of that special day – all the athletes were truly amazing! I felt like I did a million squats the next day – I felt guilty for being sore and I didn’t even race!

I put down a couple different choices when I signed up to be a volunteer. I was actually surprised at the lack of instruction given to us prior to the race. I was grateful to have been a participant to at least know what to expect. The change tent was a bit of a whirl wind - especially T1. I felt so bad I could not help more people. It felt like everyone showed up all at once! Mud was every where, the lights keep shorting out and it was so hard to see, and I felt my heart sink every time someone would say to me “I’m so scared of the descent.” Having done the course the day before I was terrified for them!

T2 was much better – I felt like I was able to assist so many more people. Here I really was wishing that the people in charge would have given the volunteers a little more instruction – some people do NOT want help – they are very particular and don’t want their stuff touched – I think a couple volunteers were so eager to help but may have irritated some people. There were so many women coming in just chilled to the bone. I wish we had more dry towels, but almost everything was drenched and/or full of mud.

Several women came in that had missed the bike cutoff – but no tears. As there should not have been – anyone who actually finished the bike course that day is nothing short of AMAZING! It’s 5:30pm – we are done. I can’t believe people will be out on the course until midnight! I can’t wait to be part of this race next year!!!

Advice for volunteers: definitely talk to as many past participants as you can. Everyone is different – with different needs. This is such a big day for them! Try and make it better! Some people want you to get out of the way; some people need help getting all their crap together and want to get out of the change tent as quick as possible; others just want to take a few minutes to collect themselves. Just remember this is their day - be helpful, be kind, be amazed, do whatever you can to reassure the athletes that they will get through their day.

What it’s like to be an Ironman? You are an Ironman Mary Lou! And nothing….NOTHING will ever change that! How cool is that? Did you know how strong of a person you are? You certainly have conquered many obstacles in your life and hopefully will feel strong and confident when faced with your next challenge – whatever it may be.

My life balance? I have definitely had to work hard “work wise” in the past 20 years or so but realized somewhere along the way that I need to follow my heart and that working 80 hours a week wasn’t something I was going to look back on and smile about. I decreased my hours 2 years ago at work and decided being a VP at a big company wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. I love to compete and challenge myself each day. I believe it helps me keep a positive attitude when dealing with the little curve balls that life throws at me.

My goals? Ironman Arizona - goal number one: to finish. I hope I never lose sight of the fact that I am so fortunate to be able to compete in an Ironman event and it is a blessing to be able to actually finish one. Having said that, I would love to complete the race in under 12 hours.

Other goals? Enjoy every day like it was my last; meet as many people as possible; see as many different places as I can; live for the moment.

Interesting facts about Karen:
I love dogs
I was a gymnast for 10 years
I love red wine
I have broken my nose several times, broken my jaw, broken both ankles, broke ribs, broke tail bone, torn my rotator cuff, separated my shoulder - hopefully that’s it
I love meeting new people and visiting new places
I have an apple pie eating disorder

Oh, and I am an Ironman!

PS – I would have loved to run the marathon for you! But only if you rode your bike next to me and kept me company!”

(Guest Post from Karen, Ironman Lake Placid 2008 Women's Transition Tent Volunteer Extraordinaire!)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ironman Lake Placid 2008 Slideshow

A HUGE "THANK YOU" to Warren Hale of the Buffalo Triathlon Club for not only putting together this slide show, but also for taking so many of the pictures. I've watched it about a half dozen times and can't make it through without crying. Although when he and Jennifer dropped it off earlier tonight, they pretty much told me that was their intent - Mission Accomplished!!

Thank you so much! not only for this but for all of your support and advice since this whole thing started and it's truly been my pleasure to get to know you and so many others in the club - a great group of people that I'm proud and happy to be a part of. Awesome job Warren!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

World's Longest Race Report

To anyone that dare attempt to read this all the way through, I apologize, editing never really occurred to me. I hope I kept the rambling and random thoughts to a limit, but if you scroll down, well, that would appear doubtful.

I've enjoyed writing it, I guess I'll ask to hear from you or toss out a comment if you happen to read it... beyond that, put on another pot of coffee and have a go at it ... and let me know if you finish inside the 17 hour cutoff! :-)