Half Ironman NC – B2B Race Recap

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Warning…this might be long ūüôā

Preparations almost done for Beach to Battleship Half Ironman. ¬†One last very important thing to do, one very pathetic thing. ¬†Time to meet up at Poe’s Tavern with some of my triathlon group, the Pathetic Triathlon Group. ¬†I so wanted to wear my Pathetic shirt, but I was already out and about and the meet up time crept up on me. ¬†But seriously isn’t this shirt awesome, its a classic retired design.

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So time for the meet up, a few of us were able to coordinate our schedules so that we could meet for beers and burgers, fairly early after bike drop off. Met some amazing people, the kind of people that make that group great, though it does have it share of trolls, these people were amazing! We even had a very high quality yet pathetic sign marking the spot.  A lot were local, so it was good to get some insight on the swim course from local experts.  Then we were off to view the swim course exit.  Talked to the Ironman official there, which was good.  Then off to our respective homes and hotels.

I had a super hard time getting to sleep. My body was still on Alaska time. But wake up at 4 am was going to come fast, so I tossed and turned and before I knew it, boom time to get up.  Start my usual morning race prep.  Bathroom, Quest protein shake, diet coke, and a energy bar.  I fail at nutrition so badly its actually comedic. But my body is not used to eating before 10 am. I just cannot do it.

Now comes the hard part, which kit to wear.  I guess I should have figured this out the night before.

Team kit won.  Felt I needed to represent my other Tri Club, Tri-It Together out of Temecula, California.  I felt that a Cali kit would summon the warm sunshine.  Grab a jumper, because it was cold, and headed over the Hilton to grab the shuttle to Transition 1 and onward to the swim start.  Load up and low and behold who comes sauntering down the aisle?  My high school friend Charlie!  How awesome. I had hoped to run into him while I was here as we have been talking about this race for the better part of the year.

Once in T1, we both check on our gear bags and our bikes. We are down at this point near the swim exit. It is cold, even this alaskan girl is cold.  Charlie and I wait for our turn to load up on the bus for the swim start. We both quickly put on our wetsuits on the lower half to keep warm.

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Swim start time. We had to wait about an hour after we got there, we were early, but thats better than late ūüôā ¬†I was given the wrong colour swim cap, so I was very confused about when I should swim. I got florescent orange instead of dull orange. So I start asking people, what age group are you….over and over till I figured it out.

Swim start time. I line up in the last 1/3 of my wave. ¬†I didn’t feel like getting run over. ¬†And we are off, congestion and flailing arms, per the usual swim start. ¬†I tried hard to get out deep near the fastest current channel, but I could not get past the wall of people. So I ended up in the slowest swim current channel. ¬†Had a decent swim not great but not as good as it should have been with the current assist. ¬†I ended up swimming 2,171 yards in 36, but I had to wait a while to get a ladder and got pushed around a bit there as people clammered over me, which was pretty spot on, so my spotting was much better this time. ¬†Honest, I have not swam sine July. ¬†I know…..I should swim more but my pool has been either closed or on weird hours. ¬†The transition to the bikes was about 0.25 miles with no shoes on concrete and asphalt.My tender baby feet did not like that. ¬†I ran through the showers, careful to wash off the “channel beard” and did my best to trot over to T1.

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T1, grab my bike bag and head to the changing tent.  I get my shoes and towel out. Had to put socks on because it was pretty chilly and I did not want to get cold feet.  Its so damn hard to put injinji socks, aka toe socks, on wet feet!  Drats! I forgot my chamois butter, but thankfully the lady next to me had and extra one use packet and offered it to me. Thank you most awesome lady person!  I dry my arms enough so I could get on arm warmers. Then trot into the sea of bikes to find mine. Boom, there he is and I get everything secured down and make way to the bike exit.

Now things get fun and not in a good way.  The first 10 miles of the course were so congested.  You could not help but to draft.  I am a strong biker and I had a hard time passing people as many would not give way and let you past.  The wind was also playing havoc on those with deep dish or disk wheels.  The wind was about 12mph for 2/3 of the bike course. UFDAH!  Finally we got off the big overpass, which was the worst. The concrete was grooved and the wind was howling. It really pushed me around and I was only running Zipp 404, which are a moderate deep dish wheel!  I can only imagine what it was like on a rear disk!  Once we got off that overpass and onto the highway, things got a little better. Still lots of packs of riders but much more manageable.

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I wish I had photos, but there was a railroad crossing, which was rough, that you passed over twice. It was bike bottle carnage. There were at least 15 bottles and various bike parts there when I passed over it! ¬†I so wanted to stop and pick up some of the ejected goodies ūüôā ¬†But I pedaled onward. ¬†The first 2/3 of the bike were that horrible headwind. I saw my speed plummet on flat ground trying to keep abreast of the wind. OMGERD. It was harder than hills for sure. I love hills, hate wind. At least with hill I see my progress, with wind I feel helpless going forward. ¬†Bike was uneventful until about mile 20 right after the first aide stationand rats! ¬†I have a flat. ¬†I am not good at changing flats. Its usually lots of cursing, beer, and about an hour of me fussing with it. ¬†Okay Susie, you got this. I pop off the bike and get my tire gear out of my jersey. ¬†Lever it off, pop in a new tube, and one chance with the CO2. Thank you tire gods,I got it done in less than 5 minutes. That is amazing! ¬†And with no help.

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The rest of bike was uneventful. Finally once we hit the turnaround of the loop section, we got the blessed tail wind.  I was seeing speeds on the flats of 29.5 mph. I am flying past everyone now. I was surprised how many I passed. I think a lot just blew themselves out in that headwind and had nothing left.  I paced myself in the headwind, buying time for the tailwind. I had a half IM PR of 3:08 even with a flat. My last half IM bike was 3:40. Take that!

The transition in T2 was pretty long. You dismount quite a way and have to motor your bike down a long rubber path in the middle of sand and rocks. ¬†My legs were like drunken sailors. I could not get my feet and legs to obey me. ¬†The lady behind me was a royal pain and kept running her bike into the back of me. She was not pleasant at all. As I was about to give my bike to the bike handoff person she rammed me in the back with her elbow as she tried to get in front of me while I was handing off my bike. Seriously lady, be nice! ¬†So I stumble with my bike and about take out the bike handler. Sigh…..But I run as quickly as I can in cleats in the dirt to my run bag. Head over to the changing tent, get my race belt, shoes, and cap. ¬†Then I am off down the long run transition, which was about 0.45 of a mile. ¬†Whew.

The run, well that is always where I struggle. ¬†I give to much on the bike usually and that leaves me little gas for the run. I did my best to pace myself and start off doing intervals. ¬†I kept up with intervals for the whole run portion. ¬†Run 5 @ 10.30 per mile (roughly) and power walk 2 @ 13.30 per mile. This strategy worked pretty well. I was passing people even when power walking! ¬†There were a lot of runners, shuffling…they should have power walked and saved the energy and actually moved faster doing that! ¬†Course ran out roughly 7 miles then back to the start and finish area, minus some distance. ¬†I ran mostly with myself, but during races where I cannot have music, I make my own. ¬†I admit, I sing a lot during races. ¬†I can’t help it.

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Around mile 11 I ran into John, who is the chapter captain of another  RWB group.  Best sight all day. Chris from my chapter hooked me up with the Wilmington group.  Seeing John cheering and so upbeat, really gave me a lift to get the last 2 miles done.

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Power through the last 2 miles and there is the finish line. All I can think of is pizza and soda.  I wanted that finishing soda so badly for some reason.  I throughly enjoy a nice cold diet coke after my runs!

And then, I hear Mike Reilly announcing my name over the PA and I have crossed the finishing line.  6:56.  Under 7 hours, which is great. But I know I had more in me and without that flat or the wind, could have easily broken 6:30. Next time, I will do better!

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I hung around at the finish for a while, then went to collect my gear. Now I know why people bring others to help with this part. Its hard when you are so tired, to grab your 3 gear bags and you bike!  Next time I need a handler! I did make it back to my apartment, showered and notified my people that I finished!

I went back out to cheer on the last of the full finishers. Got to cheer on a few eagles, one of which was the racer that John was supporting. She finished looking strong and amazing in her new black/white RWB kit.  She looked sharp.

Finished the evening with a relaxing dinner with a fellow racer, who has done what seems like a billion Iroman’s, which is totally awesome!

Now to plan for my next adventure.  Hopefully soon there will be some official race photos to share!

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Beach to Battleship Ironman 70.3 PreRace

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I have arrived in the little gem of a town Wilmington, North Carolina. I braved interstate 40 and Hwy 74 to get here.  Of course my flight arrived into RDU just in time to hit the peak of rush hour traffic.

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To add insult to injury my rental car, which was brand new, decided to take a digger about a mile outside of the rental agency.  So back I had to truck to the agency to wait for another car to be available.  But the agent hooked me up with a nice upgrade, which was nice not having to worry about if the bike box would fit or not!

After a quick pit stop overnight at my mom’s house, I was on my way to Wilmington finally. ¬†This trip is bitter sweet, a race I was so pumped for in June has slowly become an Albatros hanging heavily around my neck. A IT band injury after Santa Claus Half Marathon that was further aggravated by my running Ragnar Great River (which was awesome and worth it) set my training back 5 weeks. Which luckily wasn’t so bad since I have been training since December for this race and already had a strong base to pull from.¬†That along with personal turmoil rollercoaster, the prospect of cross country travel and peak racing were daunting at best. Up to the day that I flew out of Fairbanks I was questioning if I should even go. ¬†I still am questioning if I should have traveled. ¬†Another cross country race, shleping my gear alone through the airport…. which is par for the course. ¬†I can only hope racing well will clear my mind.

The worst part of the day so far was humping my giant bike box up these stairs!  My apartment is part of the Momentum Surf Shop, thank you Hunter for hooking me up with your place!

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I checked into Ironman Village got my gear and only half listened to the athlete briefing. ¬†Which of course led to furious texts to my high school friend¬†Charlie, who is also doing the race, questions about transitions and bag drops ūüôā ¬†Thank goodness he is much smarter than I am. I am slowly trying to get my bags packed tonight. Which means I have gear strewn all over my apartment.

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I hit up dinner at the Front Street Brewery.  Food was meh, but the beer was cold and free.  I sat at the bar and for the length of the bar all you could see were people wearing blue and orange Ironman arm bands. These are my people!  The gentleman sitting beside me, John from Atlanta, was great dinner company.  We talked about Triathlons and tech gear.  As a gear head, I was right in my element.  As a single traveler its always nice to meet new people.  The bartender was even more awesome, as he bought my beers for me. Which totally made up for the food being kinda crappy.

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After dinner its time to walk off the carbs! ¬†I took a short walk up and down the river walk. Enjoying the 80 degree sunshine. Race day will be much cooler at around 63 for a high, so its best to enjoy it while you can. Saw lots of athletes walking and running the river walk, along with the normal homeless people. ¬†I did sit down and talked with the lady that was sitting near the coast guard boat. She was a hoot and very friendly. ¬†She offered me some of her dinner and some of her hooch! ¬†I did decline ūüôā

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Even got a great shot of the sun setting behind the Battleship NC.

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And this one: Sorry for the lens flare, but my lens is cracked.

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And last but not least was the apple pie ice cream!

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Back to my apartment and time to put Frank together. ¬†I love my Cervelo P2, its fast, light and beautiful. ¬†Frank has been an awesome bike. I am so glad that Bree trusted me with him years ago ūüôā

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Tomorrow I gear check my T1 and T2 bags along with my Frank.  I hope to get this done early so I have the remainder of the day to relax, explore, and take in the Ironkids race in the afternoon.

I am hoping that I have an awesome race non the less.  I need this personal victory to overcome the set backs of 2016.  Learning that a friend you thought were there for you, were not, and have actively made your life harder, the break up of a 4 year relationship, the fits and starts of trying again, and moving have all made 2016 a year of transitions.  I like to think that I have made it through T1 and T2 and now all I have to do I propel past the finishing line and everything will fall into place. A simplified analogy, but fitting.

Onward and forward to Saturday!

-Suze

Why Not Tri…..

Another Sprint Triathlon in the books this past weekend.  I traveled down to Wasilla, Alaska which is about 5 hours via car from my home.  I neither saw Palin, nor Russia, so in that respect I was a little disappointed ūüôā  This is one of my favourite sprints in the state. It small and friendly.  It is still early season here, so the swim is conducted in the Wasilla Pool, but the best thing is for a pool swim its 2 per lane!  NO circle swimming.

The good news is that I got my new race wheels in, bad news is I was not sure if I had time to mount them. So I took them over to GoldStream Sports and had them look them over and tube and rubber them up.  Thank goodness they are so awesome.  It took like 20  minutes from start to finish.  Heck, some days it takes me 3 hours, 3 beers, and a lot of explicatives to change a single tire.

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OMG, So Pretty ūüôā
I drove down early Friday morning so that I could pick up my bib.  It was raining most of the way and the forecast was not looking so great. The forecast was cool temps, wind, and rain. Sigh….this might not be pretty at all.  I pick up my packet and back to my hotel on Lake Lucille.  I took a short walk around the lake to get loose from the long car ride.  Hopped over to my favourite sub shop and had dinner.  That sub shop is the ONLY decent place to eat in this town, sad to say.

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Windy at Lake Lucille
I got up super early and had my yogurt and half a Quest bar before I headed over to set up for the race.  I was bib #2, so I had a first wave spot and a primo rack spot.  This is one of those small races where you have to bring your own bike stand. Lucikly no rain. It was super overcast and 46 degrees.  I was pretty lucky. After I finished the wind really picked up and it started to lightly rain. So glad I did not have to bike in the rain.

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Bring Your Own Bike Stand
Swim was one of my worst. The pool was so hot, it was like swimming in a bathtub.  I am used to swimming in the UAF pool which is one of the coldest in the state.  The hot water really slowed me down.  I also was off on my strokes and kept coming up half a stroke short of the wall, so I had reach and it really messed with my turns and push offs.

 

I head out of the pool and meander to my bike. I felt that my transition was slow, but because it was so cold I took the time to put on my socks with my bike shoes as well as an ear band under my helmet.  My bike was pretty darn good.  I had no idea at the time because I was not timing or using my garmin for this race. I forgot to turn it on as usual.  I motored on through the hilly bike course, with an average of over 17mph, which for  me on a hilly course is pretty darn smoking!  I did unfortunately bike an extra mile.  The course volunteer got confused between the bike and the run legs and sent the first handful of bikers onto the run course at an intersection.  Bikers should not have turned but she kept yelling at me I listened to her.  I have done this race many times before and knew the course, but because of her yelling I thought they must have had a last-minute course change for some unforeseen reason.  Well I should have listened to my instincts.  Even so I still had an amazing bike.

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This was uphill, but smile for the camera!
Off came the helmet and on come the running shoes and my trusty Brooks running cap.  Dang it, I forget to take my gloves off. So I stripped them off and dropped them at the aide station that was right after the run-out spot.  Which I proceeded to forget to pick backup after the race. Guess I need to buy a new pair now ūüôā  The run was uneventful.  I did walk for about 1 minute out of transition so that I could get my hat secured and my race belt on.  The run course mimics much of the bike course but just a much smaller rectangle. So the first 1.5 miles of the course is up the big hill and the next 1/4 is downhill and the last 1/4 is mixed. I was able to keep the turnover good going up the hill, which was my big goal for this race.  I am pretty pleased about my run. I only got passed by one female runner, who was hauling tail coming up the hill ūüôā  It was during the run that I was super happy that it was overcast and cool. I did not have to worry about over heating.

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Hey Look…..Another Camera….Smile Pretty!
As I cruised into the finish line I was fairly confident that I had made a Personal Record on this course.  Finishing time 1:22 Officially 8 minutes PR, but if I deduct the extra biking in it was more like a 12 minute PR.  Which is AWESOME!  This is my 3rd triathlon so far this summer/spring and each race has been a course PR.  My targeted training over the winter has really made a difference in my early season races. I am also pretty sure the 10 pounds I have dropped have made a difference as well, especially on the run part.  I also find my runs increase or decrease the most when my weight fluctuates up or down.

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Finishers medals were awesome this year ūüôā
I really enjoy this race and I hope to race again next year.  I have another sprint coming up in June. That race is a brand new one for me, so I have nothing to compare that course to.  This looks like it is shaping up to be a great season for me ūüôā

What Does it Take to Clock a 15 Minute PR?

Two words.  Hard Work.  Who would have thought that hard work and consistent training would make all the difference?  Not the shiny new bike or the fancy new kicks. I guess I have been doing it wrong all these years.

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I have been training hard over the winter. ¬†Lavaman was my reason to keep training during the winter on a structured plan. ¬†I certainly didn’t want to travel that far to do poorly due to under conditioning. ¬†Well that hard work really paid off during the season opener triathlon this past weekend. ¬†Our season opener is the BreakUp Triathlon, which is for Fairbanks, Alaska, an early season event. ¬†Because it so early season for us we do our swim in the University pool instead of open water. ¬†The ice that still covers all the lakes it a pretty strong deterrent from swimming.

I have run this race every year since it started and my time has been fairly consistent within 3-5 minutes. But this year, all bets were off and I knew I could run a course PR based on my performance at the Lavaman Olympic distance.

Race day started out a little chilly, which always makes it hard to know what to wear.  I decided to go with my club kit.  My club Tri-It Together is based in Temecula, CA so I hoped it would bring a little luck and a lot of the So.Cal sun and warmth.

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Even my hat matches!

I bought an early lane bid. I hate circle swimming and will gladly pay the charity donation in order to avoid it. And the bonus is I get to start in the first or second wave so I finish early instead of rolling the dice as to what my start time will be.

Swim was uneventful. ¬†Just right about where I normally am, so no surprises. ¬†Glad my lane partner was a little faster than me, it pushed me to try to keep up which kept my speed up. Transition was slow’ish which is normal for me, but I got out on the bike easy peasy.

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Look at those high elbows ūüôā

Now is when it gets interesting.  No socks, so my feet immediately get cold and stay cold and clammy.  I felt a little off the first two miles or so.  Turns out  I was in the small chain ring instead of the big, like I should have been.  Crap no wonder I felt like I was spinning out of control. Get that taken care of and honestly struggle a little though the first half. I felt really slow.  Then notice, crap, I forgot to start my Garmin. Of course I did.  I buy a fancy Garmin 920 and half the time I forget to actually push the button. So I have no gauge on the bike to know how I did.  The course is flat-hill-rolling-flat. With the hills around the turnaround.  After the turnaround I felt a lot better and was able to pass the one racer that passed me going out. I passed her and did not see her again until the run portion.

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Head into T2 and get my socks on my clammy feet and grab my hat and head out.  My feet are like frozen blocks. This course is pretty brutal for a sprint in that a huge half mile hill is the first thing out of the gate.  I ran 3/4 up then conserved a little energy and walked up the last 1/4 which is by far the steepest part.  I did try to power walk, but walking was the right thing to do. Helped my feet as well. I crested the hill and was able to run the remainder of the course with no issues.  Its always the first mile off the bike that is the hardest then I can normally find my groove.

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Whoa…is that a smile?

About 1/2 the lady I passed on the bike whizzed by. ¬†But I was able to pass one other runner, which felt good. ¬†Then my team mate John passed me 3/4 of the way to the finish. I was so hoping to hold him off, but I just couldn’t keep up. ¬†Maybe next year I can beat him. ¬†At the finish John said, wow, you were really fast this year. ¬†Considering I had no watch time or clock time I told him maybe 5 minutes or so. ¬†But John disagreed and said it was way faster. ¬†I guess he was right ūüôā ¬†Note to self: Never argue with another scientist. ¬†I finished in 1:38 which was a major improvement over the prior year of 1:53. ¬†OMG, I totally killed it. ¬†So much happiness that I was able to that much better.

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Looks like a leisure walk in the park

The rest of my team finish, and all of us did better this year than last year.  This race was bittersweet though.  This will be our last race with our teammate and colleague Georgina.  She is off to a new adventure in the lower 48.  With that in mind I am so glad we all had one last chance to race together and enjoy the camaraderie.  As you can see we were a very happy group of racers.

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Team Nothing to Lose

I guess the moral of the story is consistency really does pay off. ¬†I have another race in a few weeks, also another local’ish sprint tri. ¬†My goal is to do at least 8 minutes better than I did last year. ¬†That may be a little optimistic, but I think I can do it.

Running has always been my strongest, at least until about 3 years ago.  I have been spending a lot of time working on my running and I think that is paying off. Even just a minute a mile really pays off!

 

 

Post Holiday Let Down

I am suffering from the dreaded post holiday let down.  How can you go from tropical beautiful Hawaii back to a still transitioning from winter Alaska with out going through withdrawl?

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Mountain to Ocean view…

I left that, to come home to this…..A grey wasteland

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Time to get to get back to real life.  The semester for me is all done, just a few grades left then the freedom of summer at least for 3 weeks until summer session starts. I am taking this time to focus on my running.

I had a great run last night, it was short, 4 miles, but I was really able to work on my pace.  Prior to my injury I was running sub 10 and in January of this year I was running about 12:35.  Well I have been working hard on my stand alone runs and have been able to consistently run right at 10:45. So I have made progress.  By the end of the season I hope to be able to get back to at least a round 10:00 per mile.  Its going to take a lot of hard work. And the 10 pounds lost so far have been a big help I am sure.

I have one big goal race in October, Beach to Battleship Ironman and one additional goal of getting in an ultra somewhere.  A suggestion from friend, Tasha, has me looking at the Tunnel Hill 100 in October, but dang why does it have to be the weekend after Ironman?  I guess the search goes on to find a good friendly 50, 100 or even another 24 hour race to fill out my schedule.  Do to conflict I will not be able to attend the North Coast 24 hour endurance run again this year.

I am inspired to run. My Girls on the Run ladies are awesome and inspire me every day to keep going.  These young ladies give it their all each practice and that makes my heart happy. I wish so much that I had a program like that when I was that age.  We had a fund raiser for GOTR in conjunction with our 5K Run for Respect and I was amazed at how many came to run our race.  The community here is strong and giving.

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This amazing young volunteer gave high 5’s to everyone!

I have my first Alaska Triathlon this weekend. ¬†I am hoping all my hard work has paid off and I can better my time from last year by 5 minutes. That is my goal. Five minutes, I think thats doable. ¬†I guess we will find out and I will report back ūüôā