To the Top: Mont Blanc Bound

Adventures come in all sizes, so I like to imagine that my life is a planner full of fun experiences, each chalk full of opportunities to explore and grow my imagination. Anyone who knows me will attest to my desire to do everything in a big way, which is why choosing to race Ironmans was no surprise to my crew. I’m used to hearing “you’re crazy.” 

PSH, I welcome it. 

So after a few years of the swim, bike, run life, I decided it was time for a change. I might also add that I felt a force to change my routine due to the injuries I was facing (my last post goes into detail on that). I’m pretty honest about not enjoying a long bike ride, and those open water swims with 10,000 flailing arms and legs can be a bit much. So I started to contemplate my other options, keeping in mind that I’m more a feet-on-the-ground kinda gal who needs to feel more in control of her activity (other than running). And because I was wrestling with being in my 30s and crossing off that non-existent bucket list, I started to drift towards big thoughts. What can I do that is BIG? Like big girl, big heart, big adventure kind of BIG?

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I know - I’ll climb a mountain.

No, not just any mountain. Someplace far away, that might scare me a bit, but that will ultimately move me in ways that are far beyond physical. I huddled up with friends about the biggies - Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Everest - but no one was on the same page about timing, and as soon as I got it in my head that I wanted to do this, I just knew I couldn’t let anyone hold me back. 

So I made a choice: MONT BLANC!

Mont Blanc - as Wiki likes to put it - is the highest mountain in the Alps and the highest in Europe west of Russia's Caucasus peaks. It rises 15,800 feet above sea level and is ranked 11th in the world in topographic prominence. 

The photos prove this is one breathtaking place to be and I need my breath taken away. I have been looking to break a cycle I’ve been in and I was glad to make the decision, pick the adventure and lock the dates. Only problem - no girlfriend of mine was down to come with. Between the prices, the long time away and the volume of what I was asking of them - I wasn’t surprised that I couldn’t get a thumbs up. But it soon became clear that this trip alone might just be exactly what I have been in need of. Let’s not beat around the bush, people - we need our time away. I have no kids, great co-workers who will back me up and a husband that is self-sufficient (Jay, will you really be ok??? :) So it’s time I reward myself with a little field trip to the top of the world.

So what does my trip to Mont Blanc involve? Well, I’m glad you asked!

I’m traveling alone but I will be meeting up with about 9 others from across the world, all coming together to share this amazing experience. I do not know these people but I have been tipped off that they are around my age, from areas such as the UK and Australia and there are likely 3 other solo female travelers. Though this will be an intense adventure, I will not be summiting (reaching the peak of Mont Blanc), but I will be trekking throughout the range for 9-10 days, at about 10-14 miles a day, through France, Switzerland and Italy, with bag in tow. My pack will likely be 17-20lbs as it will be carrying my clothes, supplies, food and water for the entire hike. Each night, we will stay in either a small hotel or a hut, so I’ll have access to certain amenities like showers and maybe wifi if I’m lucky (Gotta Instagram those pics!)

Now onto the preparation! Gotta be mountain ready!

You better believe that just a day after booking this trip, I walked into REI like a kid in a candy store. I didn’t yet have my official packing list but I had a general idea of what I needed, so I began to wander through the camping aisles, though I did feel a bit overwhelmed. The next day, I came back with a mission, hitting up Paragon Sports and scoring myself an awesome Osprey Kyte 48L maroon pack, trekking poles, Lowa hiking boots (my low-rise Merrells were not gonna do the trick), some sweet wool hiking socks (obviously the most stylish I could find), among other completely unnecessary tchotkes. This was all about 8 weeks ago, so time was ticking and I needed to get my gear broken in.

And I did just that. 

I linked up with friends and went on several hikes this summer around the Catskills and throughout upstate New York, where I filled my pack to about 17lbs and gave myself a real-feel experience. The sweat, the sounds of nature, the mental space I found myself in…it was all exactly what I’ve needed. I always loved the outdoors and getting dirty is not an issue for me. As a matter of fact, I don’t feel I’m really in it until I’m in a stinky, sticky, covered in the elements state. There seriously is nothing more grand than getting some one-on-one time with mother nature. No matter where we live, I know we all take it a little for granted. Do we realize how amazing this world really is? I mean, New York state alone always blows me away with its beauty. 

Ok, so now the time has come and I’ve got just FOUR DAYS till departure (Monday, July 31)! I have the supplies, I’ve done the legwork, I bought travelers insurance (Mom, I won’t let it come in handy - I promise!) and I’m all set to jet to a new beginning. The level of pumped I am is kind of off the charts. It’s that rush I remember from those nights before a big race, where butterflies are blowing up your stomach, except this time I don’t feel like throwing up :) Besides, I have like 36 hours in the area to explore on my own and rest up before I meet the rest of the group. I might look into a trail run to kick start the happy. Because when in the mountains, right!!!

I am SO STOKED to share this adventure with you through photos along the way and a post when I return. I hope after reading this you too can unlock a new passion or open a door you may never have tried before. Personally, I was looking for an awakening; I wanted to create a moment for myself where there is beauty, silence and a whole lot of love for myself and others around me. If all that takes is just a walk in the park, I highly encourage you to do that. It’s not an escape - it’s a release. Let’s all go find our “Wild” adventure and in turn, find our happy. 

To the top!

-Britt

 

P.S. - For your reading enjoyment, check out this list of supplies our guide sent along just last week (luckily, I had everything set except for that damn silk sleep liner!):

GEAR LIST

Hiking boots - Comfortable and broken in, ankle support important, fabric cooler than leather

Lightweight flipflops - For use in huts 

Socks - 2/3 pairs Good quality coolmax or merino wool hiking socks, pair to wear/pair to wash

Underwear - 2/3 pairs 1 to wear, 1 to wash, 1 spare - synthetic not cotton

Hiking shorts/convertible trousers - 1 pair Knee length with synthetic material

Hiking trousers Softshell - for cooler days and evenings good

T-shirt base layer - 2 Synthetic wicking type not cotton

Long-sleeved base layer - Merino wool or synthetic

Fleece midlayer/gilet Optional - additional fleece shirt if get cold

Fleece or Insulated jacket - Use for evening wear or on cold days, either fleece or primaloft/down jacket

Waterproof jacket - 2 to 3 layer Goretex or similar breathable material

Waterproof pants - In case of rain 

Warm gloves - Fleece or waterproof

Warm hat - Fleece or wool

Sun hat - Baseball cap or full brim

Bandana - To protect the neck

Sleeping shorts/pyjamas - As will be in shared dorms some nights

Hiking gear Rucksac - Around 40 litres in volume and lightweight

Waterproof rucksac liner(s) - Very important to keep gear dry, either one large bag or multiple smaller ones to keep kit separate

Waterproof rucksack cover - Optional – some sacks have them integrated

Small towel -  Lightweight microfiber towel, smaller the better!

Sunglasses -  Minimum category 3/good UV protection

Whistle Optional – useful if hiking in fog

Trekking poles -  Essential - saves the knees

Watch - With alarm useful

Water bottle/bladder - 2 litres capacity needed

Headtorch & bats - Lightweight LED with new batteries

Penknife / Leatherman - Optional – useful for picnic lunches

Resealable plastic bags - Useful for keeping items clean and dry

Ear plugs - Essential for sleeping in refuges, eyemask useful too

Camera & batteries - Ensure sufficient memory on the card and spare batteries

Mobile phone, charger, adapter 

Sleeping bag liner - Silk liner for use in huts

Health & Hygiene Razor - A couple of disposable razors

Tooth brush+paste - Small amount to last 9 days

Soap For body and clothes - NB try to bring biodegradable

Shampoo - Small qty or sachets. NB try to bring biodegradable. 

Deodorant - Small roll on

Contact lenses/mirror, glasses - If need them

Tissues/Toilet roll - Worth carrying a couple of packets of tissues

Hairbrush - Optional if needed

Wet wipes - Optional

Foot tape - For blister prevention

Compeed/Second skin - Optional, worth having individually

Suncrean - 75ml suncream spf 30 or higher

Lipsalve SPF 25 - Needed to avoid cracked lips

Paracetamol/Aspirin - Useful for headaches, minor aches

Aspirin

Ibuprofen - Great for reducing swelling

Antihistamine - Optional if needed

Prescription medication - Optional if needed

Bandaids - 6-8 different sizes

Rehydration sachets - Optional – bring around 6, can buy in pharmacies

Water purification - Chlorine Dioxide Optional to have maybe 10-12 tablets if fill up from streams

Chocolate - Worth carrying a few snacks each day in case of running out of energy 

Nuts

Dried fruit

Energy gels or dextrose tablets

Energy/cereal bars 

Documents

Passport with photocopies

Visas with photocopy

Travel tickets with photocopies

Medical/travel insurance with photocopies

Euros cash and credit/debit cards

Adventure voucher & dossier

Embrace the Space: My Reset Year

When we stop, does it meant we’ve quit? Or can we all agree that a break is necessary in restoring our soul? To be better than we were before, we must embrace the space.

It has been almost a year since I’ve written here, leaving you with my lengthy recap of Ironman Lake Placid 2016 - a race I enjoyed so very much. I was riding this incredible high, floating on adrenalin and stoked for what I could add to the race calendar next.

But soon I found comfort in the not knowing. I began a new job literally hours after I crossed the finish line of Placid, and I jumped in head first to give it my all and explore this new adventure. And I felt great…so fit…checking the boxes of my life that I always wished to accomplish. But my high was soon captured when my physical abilities just couldn’t measure up to my mental strategies. I was aiming for everything at 110 percent and my body was screaming for a break.

It happens. We go, go, go and then BAM - it hits us. Like a ton of bricks we come to the realization that we don’t always know what is best for us, and we can get a better understanding when we open our eyes and ears to the patterns of our well-being. Suddenly, mine began to deteriorate. 

Here’s my story.

A week after Ironman Lake Placid 2016 (July), I was full of energy, more than ever ready to get my feet wet again for another race. I started toying with the idea of a 70.3 Ironman just a couple months later in October and signed up for a couple of half marathons. I was, or so I thought, on a roll. Then one day soon after, I found myself ending a run after just one mile when a sudden hip pain struck and ran down my entire right leg. I was scared, but I also was conditioned to run through pain, so I found a way to soldier on. The ache continued to flare up for days, which turned into weeks and then before I knew it - I was toeing up to the Rock n Roll Brooklyn half marathon with a crippling pain that was dangerous and made my friends hate me for not taking better care of myself. My only thought - get through this race and then you can heal what seems like your broken hip. Yeah, it felt that extreme.

After hobbling to the finish line and barely being able to walk the next day, I finally found myself at the orthopedic doctor. She told me it wasn’t my hip; she diagnosed me with tendonitis of the right glute. Or as I like to call it “tushie tendonitis” or a big fat “pain in the ass.” Jokes aside, this was no laughing matter. Racing was taken off the table for the rest of 2016 while I strengthened my “situation.”

At the same time - and I’ve mentioned this in my recaps before - I was dealing with strength deterioration in my right shoulder and arm - a case many doctors have yet to confirm the root of. We tried to lock down the culprit once more with an MRI on my neck to look for pinched nerves…but there was no sign of that. The right side of my body was literally taking me down and I felt very sad for the first time in a long time as I didn’t have the ability to live without pretty excruciating pain.

Then the worst came. After a series of sudden spasm-like muscle pulls in my skull (the scariest was one during a pool swim in August) I ceased all activity as my brain began to turn on me - with a sizzling-like effect as a constant at the back of my head, always reminding me it was about to pull again. Ever felt this? It’s a level of scary I cannot put into words. But the swimsuit and the bike were put away quickly and I haven’t looked back since November 2016. 

Those spasms expanded to full blown migraine headaches - the aching at an unimaginable level where my vision became blurry and my stance slightly staggered. I would get up from my desk at work and have to wait for the spinning to subside before I took off to walk to my next destination - a journey that felt like a boat on rocky seas. Though they surrounded my entire skull and behind my eyes, a lot of the headaches were felt across the right side of my head, which strangely is connected to my bad shoulder, which is connected to my weak arm, which is connected to my sore butt, which is connected to my once broken foot. The right side of my body was losing it’s balance and I was losing my way.

A neurologist diagnosed me with a) occticular neuralgia, 2) a vestibular issue, and 3) TMJ. As it turned out, my headaches were a result of pretty intense stress. Now, I didn’t feel stressed at work - no more than I ever have before - but apparently I was sleeping with a tight jaw and grinding my teeth. WHAT! So I’m doing this all to myself? Yes, we are our own worst enemies and we have control over our well-being. So I got the mouth guard to shield the situation, drilled down hard on my PT exercises, and most of all - I learned to rest. Ok, I was FORCED to rest.

So how does an always-on-the-run gal take a break? I had to dig deep and see that this wasn’t just hurting me, but it was upsetting those around me, including my family, friends and colleagues. Stress is such a powerful force and it can and will kill the best of us. So it a no brainer to seek out methods of clearing the mind and resting the body. Where did that lead me? To experiences I never took too much advantage of before, including yoga, meditation, massages, steam rooms, midday naps and self help books. Instead of long runs on weekends, I was on my couch with a newspaper and a breathing app. 

Early in 2017, I was still experiencing joint pain and the headache were still extremely prominent at times, sometimes lasting for up to 48 hours straight. It was soon clear that my hope of racing Ironman Santa Rosa 2017 in July (this weekend) was off the table. So was the sport of triathlon. So was any activity of that level. I committed to my health and my work, and tried to find comfort in new skin, surrounded by new challenges. I lived through my friends exciting rides and put my heart into being there for them as opposed to locking myself away in shame that my body was - what seemed like - turning on me. Life is full of obstacles and I’m someone who loves to tackle them. So I did.

When the summer months rolled around, I was feeling like myself again. A new group of friends came into my life which brought new experiences and opportunities for me to wrap my arms around. That led me to do a Ragnar Relay Ultra Run (204-miles between 6 of us) in the beginning of June in Pennsylvania (I should do a standalone recap on that). I also began to embrace hiking - a sport I absolutely cannot get enough of. With all of this, I was settling into my new groove, seeing my potential behind doors I never really opened before. Also, I was able to embrace aspects of my life I hadn't been before. For instance, in the last several months, I did more traveling than I ever have, as I was not tied down to a training plan. I spent time with family in Florida, explored beautiful countries and cities across America, and got to take full advantage of the awesome opportunities my career has provided me with.

I look back and I’m sad that I felt like a coward for not training, for not writing and for not being as in touch with the people I loved this past year. Life sometimes slips away from us and we lose a little of who we are as parts of our life fall out of place. But it’s those small moments that always bring us back - and the people on the sidelines that cheer for you even when you feel like an absolute pile of mush. What I know now: You don’t ever lose what you love if it’s kept in your heart. We all need to take a step back and learn to be ok with embracing the space; we need to understand that we can and will come back stronger when we do. 

And you better believe I’m coming back in my own big way. More news on my next mega adventure in the coming days…

Healthiest of wishes,

Britt

Race Recap: IRONMAN LAKE PLACID 2016!!

Crazy is what most call me when they hear I like races 140.6 miles long. But I prefer passionate, dedicated, enthusiastic. I prefer you see this not for its length, but for its journey. Because this journey has in fact changed my life.

I’d been training for Ironman Lake Placid 2016 for about seven months. Seven awesome months. This was my second full Ironman (and the first that I didn’t race with a broken foot), so I went into this training season with a much clearer mind, smarter schedule, and one heck of a big heart. I also chose a race that was not my team race, again, knowing I wouldn’t have team support on the course. I did Ironman Mont-Tremblant last year; this year, my eyes were on Lake Placid. My sights were set on that Olympic Oval finish line, perfectly timed to an Olympic season that was sure to inspire me even more to come in strong. 

The last three weeks of training were plagued with work and family matters that kept me from completing some of my biggest and most important workouts, including a 100-mile ride and a 20-mile run. I ended up going into the Ironman with only two long rides (95 & 115), and with my longest run only being 16 miles…(ONLY. Ha! That still sounds crazy, I know). But I was convinced I was fine; I had done everything to prepare myself for the big day, and a huge chunk of that was rest. I can’t stress enough that REST IS BEST. When I was exhausted, I slept and watched my nutrition. It’s definitely why I felt pepped up for my big Lake Placid debut. Plus, what many did not know - I needed the rest because the day after the race (Monday, July 25) I would start a brand new job back in NYC. Kick it off with a bang…is there anyway else to do it? Ha. 

THE PREP
If you followed along with my Ironman Mont-Tremblant journey, you saw how crazy over-prepped I was. I had photos of all my foods & first aid lined up for each part of the entire Ironman race. I got some funny feedback on that one. Mainly letting me know I went overboard and I’d never use all of those items. Well, they were basically right, but I’m glad I learned for myself. So going into this race, I was a lot less concerned with the lineup. I checked everything off my Ironman packing list, sans frills. Wetsuit? Check. Tri kit? Check. Shoes & Bike? Check, check. Let’s roll out.

THURSDAY, JULY 21 - PLACID BOUND, THREE DAYS TILL RACE DAY
My husband and I packed Barb the bike in the back of the rental car and made our way out of the big city on Thursday morning, July 21st. The five hour journey was beautiful and filled with lots of excitement. When we arrived, we checked into our hotel and immediately got some food. I then noticed athletes walking around with Ironman Lake Placid backpacks, which was a sure sign that athlete check-in was open! (No, I had not read the athlete guide as everyone should!) So I took advantage of the opportunity to get all checked in right then and there. I weighed in, signed my life away (always so fun), and got my bib and timing chip. I briefly walked through the Ironman Village and spotted the NormaTec tent so we zipped into the leg compression sleeves and were transported to heaven. I walked around a bit more to get some Base Salts and I came back to my husband in NormaTec leg and arm sleeves, looking like he was in a full body cast. My husband, the spectator, claims he needed it more than me. Pshhh. He has NO idea. 
The rest of the night included a couple beers (I broke my 7-month no alcohol streak!), a really gross hotel pizza (oh well), and a good night’s sleep (clearly, the most important).

FRIDAY, JULY 22 - TWO DAYS TILL RACE DAY
I woke up Friday morning, had some oatmeal & eggs, and set out for my final bike ride. I rode for no more than an hour on the run course…basically just to get re-acquianted with the surroundings and asses my bike setup. Out there in the woods, spirits were super high. I suddenly got really excited. When I got back to the hotel, I grabbed my wetsuit, my husband got himself a SUP board, and we headed to Mirror Lake for me to complete a 1.2 mile warm-up swim. (That swim is so much more fun when 20 people are out there as opposed to 2500). After my swim, I did some SUPing, trying to enjoy the moment. I wasn’t just in Placid to race - I was determined to have some fun too. After a turkey sandwich lunch and some shopping at the Ironman store (yay for swag!), I napped. It was SO HOT out there that I do believe it drained me. I wanted to stay in for the night so my husband Jay picked up some pizza (better than last night's) and I spent the rest of the evening spreading out my gear and packing my run, bike, and special needs bags. When that was done, so was I. 

SATURDAY, JULY 23 - ONE DAY TILL RACE DAY
The day before the day! OoOoh how exciting! I woke up stoked to devour some pancakes and eggs and get my butt out the door for a 30-min run. There were a lot of athletes doing a shake-out as well, and it felt good to be among my people…the crazy kids! After showering up, we headed to the Ironman Village to drop off my bike and run & bike gear bags. Rain was on its way so we all did whatever we could to rain proof our belongings. After taking in the scenery for the last bit of daylight, I put my legs up and got ready for my final meal. And what was that meal you ask? Well, oddly enough, I didn’t go with my usual penne pasta entree. Instead I did chicken parmesan. The cheese and fried chicken generally is a recipe for stomach disaster, but I was feelin’ it and so I went with my gut. After that and what seemed like 15 glasses of water, I went to the hotel, made my PB and banana sandwiches for the AM, froze my water bottles, set four alarms for 4am and it was lights out.

SUNDAY, JULY 24 - RACE DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!
After what felt like a fairly solid 6-hour sleep, I awoke to the sound of my heart beating, before my alarm even went off. Clearly, I was ready to go. I force fed myself those sandwiches and barely got any of it down, had a tiny bit of coffee, a ton of water, and put on my gear. Another important part of my routine was making sure our suitcases were all packed as we were set to drive back to NYC immediately after I finished the race. No time to waste!!

TRANSITION/SWIM START
I got to transition and greeted my wet bike. Barb indeed made it through the rain storm the night before. I filled her bottles, pumped her tires, and loaded the bento box with my first four Honey Stinger waffles, and a tube of Base Salts. I looked around and saw almost no girls, which was a disappointment. I later learned the race was in fact more than two-thirds men. It could have scared me (well, it did for two seconds) but instead I chose to see it as more of an elite women’s club. We picked a tough race for sure and we were going to KILL IT. 
Well, the line at the port -a- potties was hysterical as usual. I saved a few people as I had tissues on me and tylenol. I saw it as a good sign that I was well prepped and karma would be on my side. After fighting with my wetsuit (we don’t like each other), I dove into the lake for a warm up swim. After a few kisses for my husband, I got in line. The rolling start meant we had to lineup according to our predicted swim finish time. I looked around and five-foot me was surrounded my hundreds of six-foot plus men. Outside of that, the fog filled the air and I couldn’t see anything…not the water, not the buoys…nothing. My nerves got the best of me and I started to cry. It lasted for literally ten seconds and fogged up my goggles, but it was necessary in order to let my guard down. No one ever said this was going to be easy. It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to…

SWIM - 2.4 MILES
6:40am. The gun goes off and we roll into the water little by little. I’m dancing all the way in as the music roars in the background (lots of video to prove this), but it was far from a rhythmic groove once our bodies hit the water. A normally calm Mirror Lake quickly became pure chaos. No one was sighting, and even if they could, they wouldn’t see a damn thing. Though this swim is known for it’s underwater cable which swimmers like to follow, I stayed far on the outside to avoid the messy swimmers. In the end, it didn’t matter. I was still getting pummeled, pulled on, smacked, and I was constantly going off course. It was the first time I was unsure I’d make it. Then just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, some dude literally punched me directly in the left eye, causing me to swallow what seemed like a gallon of lake water. I was coughing like a lunatic, so much so that the swimmer stopped and yelled sorry, and the safety kayakers were making a b-line to save me. I bobbed and treaded water for probably a minute, waved off the kayakers, and tried to continue. Bummer to report that I had to stop again, tread some more, and wait till I felt my heart rate come back down. It never really went back to normal, but THIS WHOLE DAMN THING ISN’T NORMAL. So I soldiered on. I still had another hour of swimming, so I swam. The weird thing about this swim is that it’s 2x around the lake, and you actually exit that lake before entering again to do the second loop. Emerging from the water was only good to help those who needed to breathe. But it definitely hurt everyone’s times, mine especially. Of course I finished with a big smile, mainly because I was so freakin’ happy to be on land and alive. Definitely slower than I should have been, but I was satisfied with a swim time of 1:25:58.

T1 - (SWIM TO BIKE)
Thank god for wetsuit strippers…am I right!? That saved me some misery for sure though I was afraid they’d strip off my swim bottoms with the suit. After a long run to the Ironman Village, I got to the women’s tent (which was very small and tight), and all I saw were tushies everywhere! Nakedness overload as we all got into our bike gear and our groove. There was no seat for me so I tried to do everything standing up, hoping the dizziness from the swim wouldn’t knock me over. Most importantly, I used that time to eat some chews, drink a ton of water, and make a pit stop at the port-a-potty because I clearly drank the entire Mirror Lake. HA. After grabbing my bike and clipping in, I was off. T1 time was a long but not so bad 10:10.

BIKE - 112 MILES
Oh boy, this was going to be a ride. I knew I chose a tough and hilly course, but I was pleased that I had rode the entire 112 just four weeks prior at training camp with my team. So I set out knowing how I would break this up…unlike my non-strategy for Raleigh 70.3 or even Ironman Mont Tremblant back in 2015. For the first few miles I hydrated and ate a bit, caught my breath, and settled in. But through mile 30 I was giving it a really strong effort, knowing these were the “easy” miles in comparison to what was going to come for the second half of each 56-mile loop (hill after hill after hill!) My spirits were in a good place, and I felt more comfortable now wearing bike shorts as opposed to other races where I stuck with tri shorts. (For any of you who are unaware, bike shorts have diaper-like padding; tri shorts have very minimal padding). I stayed on top of my hydration (sipping every 15 minutes - mix of water and diluted orange gatorade) and nutrition (eating half a Honey Stinger waffle every 30 minutes). I tried to take in the beautiful surroundings, the mountains, the rivers, the silence. A lot of people ask me how I do this without music or wonder what I think about for that long. I honestly could not tell you. It’s almost like I tap into this zone where I am thinking about nothing but the moment, the people around me, the fresh smell of the air. I dig deep and think about the last seven months of training and how this moment is what I worked for. When I feel like I’m hitting the red, I slow down. But when I feel strong, I follow it through. I just live in that moment, and all other moments seem to fade away. It’s unexplainable just how amazing silence can be for a dozen hours. 
So my first 56-mile loop was strong for me and I saw improvements over my last race (given cycling is my weakest sport). I always planned to stop at special needs after 56 miles and so I did. At around 3.5 hours in, I pulled up to a kind volunteer and she helped me change my bottles and handed me my next batch of waffles. I also made a pit stop at the port-a-potty just to be safe. About three minutes after stopping at special needs, I was back on my bike and off for loop two. I was hoping to match my 3.5 hour time but it was pretty apparent early on that I would come a bit short. Hills were hitting me harder, saddle sores were getting worse, my shoulders were in pain from riding in aero, and of course I was simply more spent. I still gave it a good effort and tried to stay positive as I closed in on the end of my 6,000ft climb. What I ended up consuming: seven Honey Stinger waffles, about six to seven full bottles of water & gatorade (and another bottle of water to shower me with), about five licks of Base Salt (taken throughout), and a half of banana (a spur of the moment decision at one of the aid stations). I rolled in to transition with a huge smile, happy to be done with about a 30-minute PR at 7:17:59.

T2 (BIKE TO RUN)
A nice volunteer took my bike as I ran in my clips to grab my run gear bag and head into the “tushie tent.” In said tushie tent, less tushies this time around, and more seats for me to take advantage of. Another volunteer made her way to me and helped me change out of my clips and into sneakers, and out of my bike shorts and into tri shorts (easier to run in). I traded my helmet for a visor and grabbed two packs of chews and shoved a tube of Base Salts in my sports bra. As fast as my jello legs could take me, I was off for my favorite part of the day. Hell yeah for gravity baby! T2 time- 5:31.

RUN - 26.2 MILES
I’m a runner. I may not be the fastest, but I’m the happiest runner on the course. I love the feeling of my feet touching the ground because I feel in control. I know it’s up to me to get to the finish. A swim could drown you (or get you punched in the face!) and a bike could crash you and your spirits, but a run is all you. It’s pretty damn powerful what we can do with just our bodies alone. So when I touched ground, I was off running in a powerful way. My first mile was way faster than planned at about a 9-minute pace. When I noticed that, I scaled back and got into a rhythm of a 10-minute/mile pace. I didn’t want the wheels to come off too early (or at all) so this was very important to keep track of. I knew the course was full of small rolling hills and a few big ones, so I immediately decided that the only walking I would allow for myself would be at the aid stations and on the few big hills. The heat was strong, so I was very on top of drinking water and gatorade at each mile, which meant I didn’t feel the need to eat as many chews as I had planned. Base Salts bounced around in my sports bra, and I only used one lick every five miles. The gatorade and minimal chews gave me the salt and electrolytes I needed, and I knew that any extra may lead to GI issues and a hard stomach. I felt pretty decent throughout but did feel worried that I couldn’t keep this up for long. I think the turning point was literally at the turning point….when I got to about the 12th mile and didn’t feel the need to stop for my special needs bag. I also seemed to be one of few people on the course still running among a sea of walkers. It makes you realize how important it is not to go too hard any point of the day, because you’ll pay for it later. I was so overwhelmed with crowd support from people I didn’t know, chanting my name and commending me on my strong stride. It wasn’t that I was fast, I just looked steady and straight. I took pride in the fact that I was 100 percent on top of listening to every part of my body to ensure I wouldn’t falter. And because I did that, when I saw those monster hills, I rewarded myself with that power walk. I saw my time and knew I was in good shape regardless. Mile 18 was definitely a high point for me. I could hear a lot of footsteps behind me and I overheard a guy yell to his buddy “Hey man, come jump on the train!” I turned around to see that I was leading a bunch of guys, so I played along and made a “chu-chu” sound and picked up my pace to keep these guys in check. I wasn’t just tasked with getting myself to the finish line, but apparently I had some cargo!! It was a smiling moment for sure. The last few miles I took it easier so that I could finish strong. When I turned into that Olympic oval for the final few tenths of a mile, I started to cry. This wasn’t my first Ironman, but it was my proudest moment to see my potential shine through. I rallied the crowd, waved my hands in the air and sprinted through that finish chute before the sun set on my most favorite day of 2016 thus far. "BRITTANY FORGIONE, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!” Mike Reilly screamed, but I couldn’t hear him because I was screaming 100x louder. I PR’ed by 1 hour and 15 minutes, coming in at 13:32:04. 

THE OTHER SIDE of 140.6
The athletes on the other side of the finish chute are either scattered about like a scene from the Civil War, or they're dancing around the finish festival like the weirdo I am. I didn’t have time to feel fatigued…I had to start a brand new job 13 hours later, so all there was time for was some cold pizza and a slightly painful shower (saddle sores, sunburns, ouch!). But I had my medal, my man, and my body in tact, so I was ready to wave goodbye to Lake Placid when everyone else was cheering for the last competitors to roll through the finish. It wasn’t ideal, but clearly I don’t do anything that’s in my right mind, so it was very fitting that after I finished one big life event, I started another. 

THOUGHTS/ REFLECTIONS/ WHAT’S NEXT
I found something I love, and isn’t that what life is all about? Everyone has their thing. This thing called Ironman wasn’t even in my vocabulary a few years ago when I was “just a runner” and someone convinced me to try a tri. In 2013, I learned how to swim in open water, clipped into a bike for the first time, and by July 2013 I was a triathlete (completing the 2013 NYC Triathlon). I didn’t think I had more in me and now three years later I keep challenging myself with bigger distances and more technical courses. I will always tell people (because it’s true) that we are all capable of anything. It takes a little training and a lot of courage to break your own borders. Tearing down walls is an incredible feeling, and it may be something you conquer at work, in your personal life, or in my case - on a race course. But I hope that if you’re reading this and you think you can’t do something - think again. Please believe in yourself. Please do it for no one else but yourself. You will always be your biggest cheerleader, so grab the pom poms and work on your rah rah rahs!
So what’s next for me? I think I’m hungry for at least one more full training season. I finished this race on a Sunday and I was running again on Wednesday. Clearly, I was not ready to rest. I’m thinking of a marathon or half Ironman later this fall, but will absolutely start up full force again in January, looking to a full Ironman next July of 2017. If you’ve got suggestions, I’m all ears!

Thanks for following along and reading the story of my 2nd 140.6 journey! If you have any questions, email me at fitwithforge@gmail.com. I'd love to hear from you!

Keep pushing your limits! Eventually you’ll stick the landing :)
-BForge

Race Recap: Ironman 70.3 Raleigh

Ahh, another race report. You never know how these are going to go, do you? Well, this one is a bit neutral. You see, it wasn’t my best day, but it’s still one I’ll always be proud of. It’s not always about the finish time, but the time between beginning and end that unveils a story of true grit and willpower. Let’s rewind, shall we…

I’d been training for the Ironman 70.3 Raleigh race (June 5, 2016) for the past few months alongside my teammates. About twenty of us signed up for the half Ironman, stoked to try a new course and visit a different city. Last year, we had completed the Ironman 70.3 Syracuse race in late June, which proved to be a grueling and hilly course. This year, we thought we were choosing something a bit easier, but now I know that was surely an oversight. The date of this race didn’t leave us much room for heat training. It has been a cold winter and spring, and only let up a week or so before the race. I can only remember one training run where I was sweating uncontrollably, and that was in Florida. Us New Yorkers haven’t had a lot of sun in quite some time. So as the days to Raleigh neared closer, our weather apps made it apparent that we were embarking on highs too high for us to comprehend. 

Training up to this point has been pretty good. I have been nursing a sprained/broken foot for almost a year now, and I’ve had an extremely busy work schedule that’s kept me from training at times. So I wouldn’t call it my best training year. If anything, I feel as though I’m training about 80% of what I did last training season. I sleep more when I’m tired, and I focus more on the workouts I know I need more quality time with (cycling!) So, I don’t feel as if I’m getting faster, but I am a bit wiser and stronger for listening to my body and giving it what it needs. Plus, I finally got that bike fit I have waited so long for.

Wednesday, June 1st, we dropped our bikes off to be driven down to North Carolina, so I snuck in a ride that morning. Thursday night, I packed my things quickly, dusted off my wetsuit, and glanced at my helpful race checklist to make sure I had all my essentials. It’s so important to be organized with triathlons! There are so many items you do not want to forget (because you can’t race without a helmet or cycling shoes, people!) Friday, June 3rd was departure day. I flew out that evening and my teammates and I made our way to downtown Raleigh to check into our hotels and call it a night.

Saturday, June 4th. The day before THE DAY. Because we love food more than anything else, we got up early to have a proper breakfast (with extra salt!) before heading to the expo to get our race materials and attend an athlete briefing. Next, we drove about a half hour away to the race start location to meet our coach and get our bikes racked. This race is point to point, so you start at Jordan Lake Recreation Park and you finish in downtown Raleigh (near the hotels). What that meant was two transition areas. Ahh! So it was new for most to start to think about packing separate transition bags for bike and run gear. Anyway, we got to the park and met our coach to get our bikes and go for a little spin. The temperature outside was about 100 degrees and we soon ran out of water, so it was a bit scary to say the least. Normally, we would do a light swim in the lake, but it happened to be closed, so we stuck with just a spin and a walk-through of the swim in, swim out, and bike rack setup. I left my bike “Barb” in transition, letting out some of the air in her tires (to avoid bursting in the heat), and I covered her chain in case of overnight storms. Then it was time to jet out, get some lunch and rest up.

I had a salad with chicken for lunch. Looking back, I should have filled up a bit more. I also should have drank more than water, and maybe gotten in some electrolytes, extra salt, etc. But I did get some laxing time in there, reading a book in my hotel room before we all met up for our 6pm pre-race dinner. At the restaurant, I ate my usual bowl of penne pasta with grilled chicken and tomato sauce, plus some extra bread and a lot of water. Some speeches were given, some last minute race tips exchanged, and then it was time to head back to the hotel. But suddenly, the skies opened up and BOOM, a HUGE storm hit the area, with massive winds and rain striking down hard and scaring the socks off all athletes. Just as we were to begin to unwind, now we were staring at a finish line that was completely destroyed by the weather. The scariest? That this would continue during the race, mainly throughout the bike and run portion. You could only imagine the thoughts that passed through all of our heads. Do we really want to risk our lives for a medal? But most of us are insane, so we just pack extra socks and a rain jacket and swallow our fear. And that’s what I did. I spent that evening arranging my gear and thinking about my rain strategy. Heat wasn’t on my mind, and it should have been, because what happened the next day was not what was expected…

RACE MORNING
My roommates and I woke up at 3:45am (Eeek!) to gather our things and make our pre-race snacks before heading to meet the rest of the team downstairs for a group walk to Transition 2. T2 was located just a few minute walk from our hotel (also not far from the finish) and we were advised to drop off our Run gear bags at T2 before 5am. After dropping my bag off under my numbered rack spot, we got on line for the buses that would shuttle us to the race start. The bus ride was a nice time to relax, wrap our minds around the day, and for some it was prime time to immerse themselves in music or a book for inspiration. Soon, we arrived at the start and it was barely 6am, when I wasn’t to start until 8:15am. It was nice not to have the pressure of rushing. But I also did not need the time. You see, the water temperature was 81.1 degrees, so this was a non-wetsuit legal swim, meaning we were not allowed to wear one. If anyone chose to, they would have to start last and would not qualify for awards. Luckily, I wasn’t too worried about swimming in my tri kit; I feel a bit more free that way. After standing around for some time, I started to worry that I didn’t have enough of a breakfast prepared. I had 1.5 whole wheat sandwiches of peanut butter, banana, honey & a touch of salt. That was consumed fully by 7am, and closer to the swim I ate a handful of Honey Stinger chews. I also drank quite a bit of water and some Gatorade. But honestly, looking back, I know none of it was enough considering what was about to come.

SWIM (1.2 miles)
I was the third to last wave of the morning, which meant a lot of energy had been wasted and I was to enter into much choppier waters then those before me. Well the siren went off and us females 30-34 got into the water and began our swim. As usual, I stuck to the back of the pack to avoid the kicking and sloppy swimming of others. I soon learned that was a huge mistake because the top females of the next wave nearly killed me when they caught up. It was apparent from the start that this was going to be a challenging swim, as almost no swimmers around me were sighting, so bodies were crashing left and right. On top of that, the buoys that mark the course were setup in an unusual arrangement, making it hard to determine the just how far you were off course. I knew it would take time to settle in and find my groove, but sadly, that time never came. It felt like a constant battle against messy swimmers plus the onset of very choppy waters and a current working against us. No one was winning this war. I was karate-chopped in the back, kicked in the side, punched in the head, and pulled under by my ankles nearly ten times. I tried so hard to hold back from yelling at these open water swim criminals - I just knew it wasn’t worth losing my breath over. So instead, after swallowing my pride and a whole lot of brown water, I kept on, and eventually finished one of the toughest swims of my triathlon career. My best was 39 minutes, and this swim was 53 minutes. Everyone and their times suffered that morning. The bright side was that we survived and I felt a little stronger for it. 

T1
I ran to my rack and was smiling with the thought of not having to worry about peeling off some awful wetsuit. Instead, I dried off, drank some water, clipped on my cycling shoes, put on my helmet, sunnies, and gloves, grabbed Barb the bike, and I was off to start the bike leg. I couldn’t wait to eat something.

BIKE (56 miles)
The first 10 miles were on rough roads with a never-ending incline, but I used that time wisely to get in a lot of fluids and eat some of my nutrition. My bike was equipped with two full bottles of half orange Gatorade/half water, and one full bottle of pure water. My bento box was filled with four Honey Stinger waffles, folded in half, with a pack of Clif Shot Blocks as a backup option. The plan was to drink every 15 minutes at the sound of my watch beeping, and eat half a waffle every half hour. That’s been my plan for all races and it’s usually a winning combo based on my size, output, and preference. But something that day went wrong. The initial issue was my achy shoulders and arms hurting from being in aero, a newly set position I had thanks to a new bike fit. I hadn’t spent much time on my bike since that fit to feel this pain, so it was an unfortunate coincidence that I had to deal with at the moment. The rolling hills we traveled were a little hillier than I had been told/expected. It wasn’t hard per say; I just wasn’t prepared. The ride took us through the countryside, passing farms and making our way through major roadways and neighborhoods. Spectators were kind and offered their support and cheers which is always the best. Volunteers and policemen were also great about blocking intersections so we could pass. But around mile 45-ish, I hit a rough patch. A cramp stretching all the way down my torso on the right side began to disable me. I knew right away I needed straight up water, but all I had left was half water/half gatorade mix. Then I started to hold back from eating more waffles and I really slowed down my speed to sit up and stretch it out. Unfortunately, it wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The only positive in all of this was that my teammate Lisa was by my side through it all which kept my spirits up. Beating any previous times was not in question. I just wanted to rid this cramp and this bike and get on my feet (just like Gloria said).

T2
My favorite place. T2. Where I get off the saddle and do what I love most- run! The run to transition from the area where we dismount was a far distance which was a tad annoying but I kept running. When I finally got to my rack, I traded the cycling shoes for my trusty Asics sneaks and as I lifted my head I banged my forehead into my aero bar shifter. The pain was tough but I couldn’t stand there and cry about it. (Little did I know that I would have a bloody forehead for the rest of the race). I threw on my visor, asked the volunteers for a spritz of sunscreen and I was off and running. 

RUN (13.1 miles)
It was supposed to be storming by now. That’s at least what the forecast called for the evening before. But instead, it was as hot as you could ever imagine. 100-degree temperatures, with 95% humidity and absolutely no shade. My pace started extremely slow and careful - just enough to get me going but keep me from going out too hard. But I swear, within a mile, I was already sinking. I started to see teammates appear on their second loop of the rolling-hills run course and they looked destroyed. It was hard to comprehend and brought my spirits down very quickly. It was about 12:30pm, and the sun was a bright fireball in the sky. He wasn’t letting up and I soon was. I found myself walking as early as mile two, completely out of gas, no energy what so ever. That cramp from the bike continued to strike throughout the entire run, hitting new places each time. I was convinced that I was going to pull out of the race around mile three or four because I was so out of it. No amount of water, gatorade, chews, made me come to life. But I also couldn’t stomach the thought of coming this far and then not completing this race. If I was going to walk to the finish, then so be it. I was going to get there. That’s when teammate Lisa appeared again, and she never left my side. We ran more than half of that run together and again, it was exactly what I needed…a friend. (Thanks Lisa!) We didn’t have the energy to talk, but having someone by your side is enough to keep you moving forward. At every water station, we drank water, gatorade, filled our tops with ice, poured cold water on our heads, and pretty much did whatever we could to stay cool. But it was willpower that was going to get us home. And somehow, we picked up our pace on that last loop. It must have been the base salts she handed me (which I usually steer clear of) that gave me an extra surge. That or I was too fried to take another moment of this. Then there was one pivotal turn and there she was…that finish line. It was far, but it was straight ahead. So I kept my eyes on the prize and tried my best to not look like a mess through the screaming crowds lining the chute. I raised my hands high, but by the looks of my finish photo, it’s very clear I was exhausted. Ridiculously, happily exhausted. 
I was aiming for a 6:15 finish and I had to settle with a 6:47. Not bad for a very rough day from start to finish for a girl with almost no heat training. 

POST-RACE
I was offered pizza, pasta, chips, pretzels, bananas, sodas, and more at the finish, but I wasn’t craving a thing. My teammates and I all went directly to T2 to collect our bags and bikes and get them to our coach’s trailer. I took some pics, headed back to the hotel and took a very painful shower (bike chafing, ouch!!). Dinner was pizza and sweet potato fries, and dessert called for chocolate chip cookies with vanilla ice cream. But the celebration we all really wanted was bed. Most teammates had headed back to NY that night, but a few of us stayed over and then left the next morning.

THOUGHTS/REFLECTIONS/WHAT IFS
I can’t beat myself up. No one should. I’ve always been and will continue to be one of the most conservative, careful, clean racers on the course. What does that mean? Well, I don’t like anything fast, so a downhill is not my friend and going out too hard will never be an issue for me. I think that’s why my times never change, but I don’t try to change them. My coach may not be ok with that, but I am. I’m also a clean racer, meaning I eat so healthy and clean leading up to races, I give up all alcohol for months, I don’t drink mixes, elixirs, powders, and foods that don’t list real ingredients. On the course, I give in to Gatorade, some chews and waffles, but I’m afraid to throw in something new. I know heat was a huge issue for me on Sunday, but if I was more energized, had a bigger dinner, a better breakfast, more salt…maybe I would have had a little more pep to my step. But now it’s summer time, and I’ve got 6.5 weeks till I take on Ironman Lake Placid on July 24. So with that in focus, I plan to spend a lot of hours outdoors in the heat, testing out my nutrition and my limits on the bike and run. The important thing here, for me and for everyone, is to remember what it takes to get to these finish lines. It’s just as, if not more impressive to be a warrior who struggled and got through it, then to someone who whizzed on by like it was no big deal. I’ll always give myself the pat on the back I deserve. You should remember to always do the same. 

Call me crazy…and some of you do (hehe)…but even with all this pain, I love this sport.
Ironman Lake Placid, I’m comin’ for ya, baby.

Hope to hear from you soon! Shoot me a note and let me know what you’re training for. fitwithforge@gmail.com

-BForge
 

Race Recap: South Beach Triathlon 2016

Race season is in full effect! Though there hasn’t been much resting, there also hasn’t been a race on my calendar since I took on Ironman Mont Tremblant last August of 2015. Even with 7.5 months in between, the South Beach Triathlon crept up on me and I didn’t feel much prepared. But honestly, who is saying no to sunshine and blue skies? Especially after another long winter of some super unexpected lows. I’ve started to get used to 20 degree runs, which is kind of sad. So it went without saying, I was in need of a warm SoBe wake up call. 

Last year, the Lifetime South Beach Triathlon was a Terrier Tri team race. We had about 30 or so people down there to knock out the international distance (olympic) while splashing around and having some fun. But for 2016, this was not on the team agenda, and a handful of us were not ok with letting that go…so we didn’t. There were about a dozen of us that packed our bags and shipped our bikes down south, and we were kind of excited about the party that was about to kickoff. 

On Friday, April 1st I took the day and flew down to Florida, first spending a nice day with my family (I’m from Boca Raton, FL). That’s a major bonus of this race - mom, dad, and sister time. Saturday morning, I headed down to Miami for some prep activities with my teammates which included an open water swim (very important to do the day before the race), bib pickup, bike setup and drop-off in transition, and FOOD! Ok let’s take it back.

Open water swim clinic. I can’t seem to understand why so may people sign up for a triathlon without having done an open water swim…especially when that swim is taking place in the ocean! The Atlantic is no joke. It’s beautiful, but it’s still rough with waves that can surely knock even the strongest swimmer under. But that’s exactly why we showed up Saturday morning to take part in this open water clinic on a most windy day, because it’s always smart to be prepared for the worst. I sure did swallow a lot of water and battled with the rough and tough sea, but I emerged happy that I got through it. Last year, it was too hot to be a wetsuit legal swim so we swam unprotected and not so buoyant. (That caused quite a few folks to drop out). This year, I was prepared for either option. Bring it!

After the clinic, it was the usual routine. Take the bikes off the trailer, check the tires, check the chain, pick up race materials (bib, swim cap, swag) and check the bike into the transition area. (By the way, South Beach Tri continues to give the best race tees and visors!) When I rack my bike, I usually cover the chain with plastic bags (in case it rains), but my laziness kicked in and I basically just let out some air out of my tires and said adios to my girl Barb. I was pretty beat from the heat (and getting very sunburnt). I ate a turkey wrap at the local sandwich shop with plans to go nap, BUT INSTEAD was enticed into hanging by the hotel pool with a couple of teammates. We splashed around, took some underwater selfies, ate some nachos and fruit platters and had a good time. Sure, we should have been resting, but what’s the fun in that!? A lot of us saw it as a vacay more than a race weekend, and I’m very happy about that.

Dinner. If you must know, it was boring. Pasta with red sauce and grilled chicken. Got it down, picked up last minute supplies and boom, my head hit the pillow soon after organizing my race essentials and taking my classic gear spread shot. 

RACE MORNING
It was so dark and early when I got to transition, that people were still spilling out of the local Miami clubs. Sheesh! We clearly live very different lives. I was relieved my tires were not flat (as they were last year when I got to transition), but I still inflated them, set up my area with my gear, covered it all with bags (because of possible rain), grabbed my wetsuit, the second half of my morning sandwich (ww bread w/ peanut butter, banana & honey), and made my way to the ocean blue (which at the moment was black as can be). An official yelled “wetsuit legal” and so I put my suit on and waited to get this party started.

SWIM (.9 Mile)
I was the second to last wave, so I was definitely ready to go. We entered the ocean four people at a time which was so courteous in comparison to other races. I hit the start on my watch and careful entered, swimming slowly and cautiously to get myself out to the first buoy before needing to turn right. It was choppy (though not as bad as the day before), and as usual, there were so many swimmers trying to find their way without sighting. I blew my bubbles, found my rhythm and just kept swimming forward. I did catch a strong swimmer making her way through the pack so I caught her draft for a bit to get out of the mess, which was a nice way to get my breath in control for a bit. After swimming way too close to two stingrays, I made the final turn back in toward the shore and picked up my pace, excited that I was knocking off a handful of minutes from last year. When my hands touched the sand, I stood up, smiled, and was off to the next activity.

T1
I am honestly the worst at the first transition. I have the hardest time getting my wetsuit off, and have been known to get a charlie horse doing so, so I’m very careful not to rush these days. (This is why I love wetsuit strippers at Ironman events). I got my helmet on, bike shoes, gloves and grabbed Barb for the start of my least favorite part of the race...the bike....yay...

BIKE (24 Miles)
I let my legs spin out for a bit while I took some deep breaths and got in some fluids and chews. People tend to forget how much energy you expend in the swim, and the amount of time you’ve gone since eating. Well, I was able to really pick up my pace and I honestly felt very strong- almost like I was flying at times. Mental pat on the back…I was finally putting the work in instead of holding back. One issue, there was a very strong headwind hitting me no matter what direction I turned and it was reversing my hard work. What felt like 20 mph was more like 17. Not too long into the ride, the clouds rolled in and then the rain began to fall. Even if I did want to blast off and get it over with, it wasn’t possible. The South Beach course is full of rides over the causeways, making it much hillier than anticipated for a Florida race. But that’s also what makes it fun and challenging! I consumed one Honey Stinger waffle, at least one large bottle of water mixed with orange gatorade and one bug (yes, with all that smiling, I am known to swallow bugs from time to time - it’s very annoying and gross, I know). When I finished, I felt on top of the world, thinking I killed it. Turns out, with that wind, I did just a couple minutes faster than last year. Bummer. But still not worse and no accidents, so there’s a positive!

T2
I went nearly ten racks passed mine before realizing it, wasting a solid amount of time and feeling like an idiot. Pay attention, Brittany! I eventually found my spot, racked the bike, switched the shoes, switched from a helmet to a visor, and slipped on my race belt, bib and grabbed some chews. Soon, though not soon enough, I was off and running. Again, need to work on these transitions because it would do wonders for my finish times. 

RUN (6.2 Miles)
This flat run is pretty straight-forward and takes you along the South Beach boardwalk. But because of the rain, it was very wet and slippery, so there was no way I was booking it and hurting my foot more than it already was. Without the sun glaring, I felt pretty good, and was able to get in a nice, steady pace…one that would get me to the finish feeling decent and without any further injury to my still broken foot. This out and back course is great if you have friends, so you can wave hi and shout complaints to one another. It’s also great for people watching, which I am known for. I look and smile at everyone; it probably comes across as super strange to some. Oh well. You’re going to take my smile and like it! If you see the joy in others on this journey, it may remind you to perk up yourself, and remember that this is supposed to be FUN!!! Let’s stop taking ourselves so seriously. I was thankful to have a non-racing friend run with me for a mile (thanks Angela!) and then before you knew it, I was in the final stretch…which is on the sand. I knew going into this that I couldn’t risk running it and hurting my foot, so I walked a portion and then ran the last couple hundred yards. It cost me some time, but I didn’t care. In the end, my run was still a couple minutes faster than the year before. Man oh man, do I love a finish line…especially when the backdrop is the ocean, the crowd is my family, and the venue is my home. SOUTH FLORIDA REPRESENT!!! Though my transition times were awful, and my foot still broken, I was able to pull off a 2hr, 59min finish- a two minute PR over 2015. I'll take it!

The race medal was shaped like a pair of silver aviator sunglasses, which was totally awesome. Some of us teammates met up in the finish festival and took some fun group shots before heading back to get our bikes and gear out of transition and back onto the trailer to be shipped to NYC. It’s sad how fast it all comes and goes. But this race is by far a favorite of mine because the distance is super attainable, the surroundings are beautiful, you can work in a mini vacation, and it’s fairly hassle-free. I do hope to do this race for many years to come, as long as I can recruit friends to do the same.

Training will continue and will amp up quite a bit as my half Ironman is set for June 5th, and full Ironman set for July 24th. Ironman 70.3 Raleigh will be a fun time, with about 20 of my teammates racing it. It’ll be a HOT one and an early season half compared to last year’s Syracuse 70.3 that was later in June. I’ll be sure to document our experience and keep you posted.

Thanks for following along! Please keep me posted on your race plans! I’m always interested in hearing what you’re up to, and I’m constantly looking for new challenges to add to my agenda. Let’s race together!!

South Beach Babe OUT.
-BForge
 

Treading Lightly, Fighting Time

Is there a life hack for stretching time? I seem to be out of it these days, hence my inability to update the blog and share with you all my adventures and stories these last few months.

Work has been extremely busy for me this year, and generally that’s something I very much enjoy, because I truly love to work hard. But for some reason, finding personal time has been nearly impossible. Training has only/barely made the cut because I can do it when the rest of the world sleeps. (I’m very grateful for you, 5am). But as I write this, I feel a promise coming on. It’s time to make a positive change.

So how do I suddenly find this thing they call time? I’m simply going to build it into my schedule. I want to train more, read more, write more, and be more present. So it looks like I’ve got plans to make…with myself. Hmm, that kind of sounds sad, but it’s anything but! 

Ok, let’s switch gears. Let’s talk about winter and spring training. How’s it going for you? 
As most of you know, last July I tripped and broke and(!) sprained my left foot, sidelining me from the last 5 or so weeks of training before my first Ironman. Well, I still did the race, and ceased running the following few months (which was SO hard to do). Now, nearly 9 months later, I still feel pain from time to time. I have been told by docs that I’m “healing, but not healed.” I’ve continued to train with my team because a) I want to  b) I know how to listen to my body and stop if I need to, and c) I’ve got an Ironman in 15 weeks - enough said. There’s definitely a way to tread lightly while still sticking to the routine. So I’ve soldiered on. Is there any other way?

I’ll admit it hasn’t been easy. I sit out during team sprints, I skip anything that involves jumping or quick movements. I do (mostly) everything with extreme caution, but the point here is - I’m still doing it, and I’m still loving every second of it. How could I not? I feel grateful for being able to take my body through these motions. I feel honored to be alongside teammates that I can call close friends. I feel proud that I continue to swim, bike, and run, for the fun of it - not because I’m looking for a podium or recognition of any kind. 

And it’s that podium mode that still never phases me. I race for the journey, the fun, the friends by my side. Because of that, I don’t seem to find the drive to push the limits or attempt record-breaking stats. And that mirrors these last few months. I haven’t done many (if any) two-a-days, I’ve slept in when I felt I needed it, I skipped workouts, and I haven’t felt guilty. Maybe it’s that second year Ironman training that has my head on a bit straighter. It might just take having one under your belt to have the confidence to understand “I’ve got this.” Meanwhile, most of my team is training for their first, so I’m watching them hit it hard, and make the most of their first run. I’m stoked for my training, but I am more excited to see them all soar on their big day (as they’re all doing Ironman Mont Tremblant three weeks after I’m doing Ironman Lake Placid.)

So after nearly three freezing months of mainly indoor training, last Sunday, April 3rd, I completed my first triathlon of 2016 and my first race since Ironman. The South Beach Triathlon brought a handful of us from NYC down to the sunny beaches of Miami to take on an olympic distance course with an ocean swim (race recap to come!) I had nearly no outdoor rides before this race, and no runs at pace for almost a year, but I also had no fear. I just wanted a finish line and the time with my family down in Florida. Meanwhile, this week, I was bringing my bike back home and I had a small crash on the city streets (not involving anything but me and a sidewalk). I’m suffering some aches and boo boos but I’ll be ok. It’s funny how you can complete a race with 30mph downhill speeds on bad roads and yet you crash in a most unlikely and familiar situation. Oy vey, as my mom would say.

Well, I’ve got a race each month from now through July, and I’m excited for it all. Bring it! 
Here’s what’s on the calendar…at least for now...
May 15 - Grand Fondo Bike Race
May 21 - Harriman State Tri (olympic)
June 4 - Ironman Raleigh 70.3 (half Ironman)
July 24 - Ironman Lake Placid (full Ironman)
November - Marathon (TBD)

We all have something to train for, even if it’s not a race. So let’s make a promise to ourselves that above all else, we’ll make time for ourselves. This blog has been a joy to write and I don’t want to shy away from expressing myself anymore. Besides, we’ve got a lot of swimming, biking, running, and relating to do!! Let’s get it going, spring!

Hope to hear from you all soon! It's truly inspiring to see what everyone is doing out there. So keep on keepin’ on!

-BForge
 

2016: The Forge Awakens

Hi friends! And welcome to the New Year! I hope your 2015 was a memorable one filled with new milestones, growing happiness, and a lot of love. I do feel that mine was one for the personal record books. And what’s interesting about that is that I don’t usually set goals or resolutions much in advance. I’m certainly OCD about planning in general, but I somehow have always avoided the New Years resolutions list. I don’t think there’s a fear in not fulfilling it…I just enjoy taking life one day at a time and picking up new adventures along the way. If you are all about that resolution list, more power to you. I just don't think it's my thing. Last week I turned 30, and though I spent too much time crying over it (much to my own surprise), I think I’ve accomplished quite a lot by this age. Sure, there are many things I still wish to do, but I’ll get there. **happy thoughts**

I started this blog exactly a year ago, inviting you all into my world as I signed up for my first Ironman and trained for eight months to swim, bike, and run the 140.6 miles. Sharing my excitement, love, and struggles with training became a true highlight of 2015. So many of you reached out from all over the world and shared your stories, tips, and enthusiasm, and my heart grew tremendously knowing we’re all part of the same community. Basically, you freakin’ rock, so THANK YOU! I’m sorry I haven't written; I took these last few off-season months off to recuperate. My life got really hectic there for a while, mostly at work, and so I needed to scale back, even on the things I love so much. But as the title tells, I - the Forge (that's me!) - has awoken. I’m glad we’re all back and ready for this new year together!

Before I get into 2016, I do want to get real about some struggles I faced these last few months. I see it often online and I hear chatter in all athletic communities…it’s that awful, low-point we sometimes hit in the off-season when our bodies change, our diets slip, our focus is off, and our priorities shift. Well, that all hit me pretty hard. About two weeks after my August Ironman (Ironman Mont Tremblant), my body completely changed. I looked at myself in the mirror and was surprised to see that the strong, tight physique I built up was quickly slipping away. All those months of training and then boom it was gone. It wasn’t in my head…I actually did gain weight very fast despite eating healthy and exercising a few times a week. My stress skyrocketed from not having time to exercise as much and being swamped at work (fall is a busy premiere time in the entertainment industry), and my usually positive speak took a nose dive. I also ended up in the hospital because I had stomach issues and my breathing was abnormal...all due to stress. Plus, because of my fractured ankle, I couldn’t run the entire fall, nor do anything with impact, leaving me with less forms of exercise to rely on. Then my husband and I went to Italy for two incredible weeks and I didn’t workout and ate everything (as you should when you’re in Italy!) When I returned, there were several items of clothing that wouldn’t fit me. I took a deep breath and reminded myself that there was no reason to freak out. Rest is ok. Gaining weight is normal in the off-season. This was my time to give in and indulge a bit. Before you know it, the season starts up again and then we’re back at it. I’ll look back at these moments and I’ll shake it off. We’ve got bigger fish to fry. Let’s all just learn to ride the rollercoaster and enjoy it’s ups and downs. Self-love, baby!

So what’s next? Well, I did sign up for Ironman Lake Placid, which is set for July 24, 2016. I start training this Tuesday, January 5th, and I am honestly so excited about it. I’m stoked to get back in action with my team (go Terrier Tri!) Outside of that (and some other races), I don’t have too much set up for this year. I just want to be a supportive wife, sister, daughter, friend, and colleague. I want to inspire and be inspired. I want to conquer my races (without worrying about PRs) and help others conquer their goals. I want to spend more time with family and friends (something training usually takes me away from). I want to take better care of my health by seeing doctors more regularly and getting those much needed massages I usually cheap out on. What would I LOVE to do? I would love to find some time to volunteer and teach kids. Teach what? Fitness would be fantastic, but really just to spend some time with them would make my year. For those of you that train for Ironmans, you know that mixing that with a very full time job doesn’t leave much time for anything else. But I’ll do my best to find a way. I can't consider these things resolutions for some reason. Basically, I just want to be better. I always do. Don't we all? It's not something I want to start in 2016...it's something I weave into my everyday life. If I fail, it's ok. We're human. If I succeed, then I just feel I'm doing what I'm supposed to. 

Below are some photos from the last few months. They don’t all involve training, because I was a semi-normal human being in the fall of 2015. I’m so thrilled for this next season and though it will be cold, we will surely be sweating big time

Got big plans for 2016? I’d love to hear about them! Email me at fitwithforge@gmail.com

Cheers to 2016,

-BForge
 

The Other Side of Ironman: Rest, Recovery, & Real Life

After completing 140.6 miles, some would say I’m back to life. I’ve stayed up passed my bedtime, drank a few glasses of wine, and my running shoes have collected piles of dust. I’m not going to lie - I have enjoyed the rewards of the off-season, but I feel quite removed from some of the things I love the most.

People have been telling me all year that I might experience the “post Ironman blues” after completing my epic swim, bike, and run adventure. They’ve said it’s tough on the other side - that there’s a sense of depression and a yearning for more. Well, some of that was true for me. Luckily, it was more positive than negative. I sure did finish wanting to do it again. I wanted to literally get back to my hotel and sign up for the next race so that I could keep the good-vibe juices flowing. But then I remembered that small little issue that sits below…that damn ankle sprain.

One week off was easy to take. I gorged on the foods I was missing, I didn’t wake up at 5am for time trial workouts, and I honestly felt I deserved the time off. Two weeks later, I got the itch to get back on track, but my ankle MRI results served me with 8 more weeks of no running. So while my team has been marathon training and enjoying the end of summer and early fall temps, I’ve been battling the inner voice that’s constantly telling me to slow down when all I want to do is go, go, go.

A muffin stop on our casual weekend ride with the Terrier Tri team. 

Now, injury is never fun for anyone, but if I want to see the bright side of this then I’m definitely happy that the rest period is after my biggest physical accomplishment. I’m trying to embrace the fact that this is truly my most important time to get back to the basics. Sure, I had to say adios to doing the NYC Marathon (I was signed up to be an athlete's guide for Achilles International) and I have limitations as to what I can do when it comes to working out, but I’m kind of a human being again. The running joke has been that I’m back to being an active member of society, where I make plans with friends, not worry about the time, and workout for fun (for fun!) It’s funny how I almost forgot that there is life outside of triathlon training, and I’m reminded that my next training season is quickly approaching so I need to do everything in my power to REST, RELAX, and ENJOY the now.

Back in the saddle!

Enterting the ring at Trinity Boxing in NYC!

Sure, I’m a few pounds heavier, and though I’ve complained to everyone about it, it’s really not a big deal, so I should probably shut it. My body is probably like THANK YOU BRITTANY FOR CARING ABOUT ME. You don’t realize what you’ve done to your body and soul until you’ve taken it through eight months of constant swim, bike, and run strain, coupled with excessive amounts of carbo and protein-loading. What I’ve learned is that it’s OK to rest, it’s OK to recover, it’s OK to have a glass, it’s OK to eat certain foods and not have ways to burn them off. It’s all OK. So, that word - “ok” - has become my default this past month. I’m learning that perfection ain’t a thing. And health, well, that doesn’t mean 7 days a week of working out. It can mean 3 days of working out, smiling and spending time still the suns comes up, and sleeping in....oh my goodness, how I've missed sleeping in!!
 
Since completing the race on August 16th, I've dusted off my road bike C.C. and taken her on some great casual rides. I forgot how at ease I’ve felt on that bike. I’ve also kept up with swimming, incorporating the pull buoy to avoid kicking that would further damage my ankle. As well, I have taken up boxing and weight training - two activities I can do without impact to my feet. Some days I want to join the runners in the park, since running is in fact my favorite means of transportation and the beat of my heart when it comes to fitness. But it’s OK. Because on the other side of all of this recovery is another Ironman. Yep. January begins my road to Ironman Lake Placid 2016. For seven months, I’ll be working my butt off, so I guess a little R&R and a few glasses of rose ain’t so bad in the meantime!

But just because I’m half on the sidelines doesn’t mean YOU should slack off! I’m pulling in inspiration from all of you and your incredible efforts training for late season triathlons, and of course the bulk of you with marathon training. You can really appreciate these sports when you take a back seat and watch what’s around you. When the little break in my foot fills back up, I look forward to running with you all. In the meantime, kick some butt and remember that it’s OK to enjoy yourself once in a while.

-BForge

*By the way, since I've had the time, I decided to join Twitter! Hit me up at @brittforgione
 

The Day I Became an IRONMAN! (A 140.6-mile Recap)

This weekend I hit a milestone. I became an IRONMAN!

That means I swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles, and ran 26.2 miles, and I'm more alive than ever to tell the story!

Before I get into the race recap, I wanted to first acknowledge everyone who has followed along in my journey since my first post in January. To my family, friends, colleagues, coaches, and teammates...THANK YOU. Your messages, calls, comments, and notes of support leading up to this point have been so incredibly special. Your well wishes were with me the entire journey. Words cannot express how grateful I am.

I can talk for days about the last week, but I will try to condense it as much as possible. Bare with me, it's worth the read. Maybe I'll inspire you to hop on the triathlon/Ironman bandwagon! (Or I might completely turn you off to the idea, haha).

Last Thursday, August 13th, I loaded up the car with Barb the bike and all my race supplies to head to beautiful Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, Canada. The eight hour drive from Manhattan was not so bad, and there was plenty of time to wrap my head around what was to come. From that moment on, everything revolved around my race. I was drinking water like a camel, eating as clean as possible, stretching the legs, elevating the sprained ankle, resting my eyes...I was in race mode.

We arrive to the beautiful Mont-Tremblant and immediately head to the race site to check out the Ironman village, have a little dinner, take pics near the finish line, and asses the massiveness that is about to take over my few days ahead. I was pumped.
We stayed just outside the main village, only several minutes down the road, in an apartment-style suite nestled in the woods, overlooking the mountains. Sleep was most important this night, so I got to bed at a decent hour so I could rise early and meet some of my teammates at the race site to go for a short bike ride on the course. Know before you go, right!?

Friday morning I wake up to a downpour of rain, clearly indicating that a bike ride was out of the question for some time. Still, I loaded Barb the bike back into the car and headed to the village as it was the day for mandatory athlete check-in. It's true - Ironman races require an early check-in, so you've got to get to the site at least two days out otherwise you won't get your bib. Since the weather was icky, I waited in line to weigh in, sign my life away, get my bib & chip, and pick up my gear and special needs bags. Plus, my awesome Ironman Mont-Tremblant back pack! Score.

Soon, the rain cleared away and so myself and two other Terriers - Rob & Viktor - got out our bikes and went for an hour ride on the toughest part of the bike course. This section is the last part of each 56-mile loop, with small but steep hills that seem to never end. Well, I huffed and puffed but I got through it and felt at least mentally prepared for this section come race day.
Friday night there was an athlete banquet (2600 anxious people in a hot tent eating carbs) followed by a mandatory athlete briefing. I heard inspiring stories and learned the rules of the road. Then I stood when Ironman virgins were asked to present themselves. I was in awe of the roaring round of applause. This was going to be one heck of an experience.
Back at our villa, I packed my transition bags that would be checked in the next morning. Everything for T1 (swim to bike) and T2 (bike to run) was loaded into labeled bags. I triple-checked them, along with giving a last inspection to my bike, and I went to sleep, for tomorrow would be the day before the big day. Yikes.

Saturday morning, I headed to the swim exit to do a few hundred meters in Lac Tremblant (Lake Tremblant) with Rob & Viktor. What a beautiful feeling it was to swim in those cool, calm waters. I was absolutely riding high with adrenaline, so excited for what was ahead. After I dried off, I got my bike and gear bags out of the car and made my way to the transition area to drop them off to rest before our big day the following morning. The bags were placed in a large tent, strategically in line with other bags of the same number range, looking like a sea of plastic. I noticed people who had done this before marked their bags with colorful tape, ribbons, or anything to help them identify it from a far. Smart move. Will try that next time. Then I took Barb the bike to her metal resting place, putting her on the rack to rest until I saw her again. The weather was HOT and I knew Barb's tires needed some TLC overnight, so I let a lot of air out of them to avoid any bursts due to the heat. In the morning, I would give her a good pumping. Bye bye, Barb. Sleep tight, I told her. We have work to do in the AM.

Dinner was at 5:30pm that night...an Italian feast of carbo-loading close to our villa. Before sleep, I packed my special needs bags (the bags I could access at mile 56 of the bike and mile 13 of the run) with goods I thought might be necessities. Finally, before hitting the hay, I took out cards from my teammates and read them carefully. I was speechless. I was humbled. I felt super lucky to have these people in my life. They'd be with me all day Sunday, even from states away.

IRONMAN RACE MORNING!
I woke at 4am after sleeping a total of three hours (much more than I expected). I drank my coffee, ate my breakfast (Levy's bread (2 slices) with Justin's honey peanut butter (2 packs), banana (1 & 1/2) & salt) and foam rolled for the final time. Then I dressed in what would be on me for the next 20 hours. There was little left to do but grab my wetsuit, gather my special needs bags, and go.

I get to transition and greet Barb and fill her two low tires. I then fill her bottles with orange thirst quencher gatorade, stuff her bento box with four Honey Stinger waffles and tell her that I will see her soon. Then I take my two special needs bags to be dropped off in their designated dumping bins. At this point, all I had left was a wetsuit, goggles, and a cap. That was it. It was down to me and my seal suit. At swim start, tons of emotions are going through not just my head but my entire body. I am paying way too much attention to everyone around me and I'm trying not to get discouraged. I'm spending most of my minutes reminding myself that I am completely ready for this. All my training has led me to this starting line. Now it was time to have fun. After suiting up and kissing my husband, I lined up with the 18-39 female age group. Hundreds of us would all start together. In those final seconds, I cried for about two seconds in my goggles with a huge smile, and squealed at the same time. This was it. Time to get this party started.

SWIM - 2.4 miles
The gun went off and fireworks exploded prompting the start of my very first Ironman. Hundreds of ladies jumped into the lake, and I held back on the sand to let them all get a head start. I was in no rush. This swim was what I was most excited for, and I promised myself that I would go slow and steady to conserve all energy needed for the rest of the day. Little by little, I walked then dove into the water slowly immersing myself into the mess of people. I kept my head above water as people were already choking on water and pulling others down with them. I almost immediately moved all the way to the left to get my own flow going and before I knew it, I was smooth sailing. Overall, it was a solid swim. The fog was dense so trying to see the buoys up ahead were tough and I inevitably swam off course at times (oops) but always found my way back. I caught up with the male group ahead and experienced some pretty bad swimmers who clearly never learned to sight, therefore they were smacking into me left and right. Anytime I felt someone grab my foot, especially my bad ankle, I kicked them. Serves you right, buddy! No one was ruining my swim or bringing me under. About 1000 meters in, a huge wave came at us from the left, probably from a boat far away, and we all swallowed several gulps of water while simultaneously screaming "what the f*** was that!?" But this is open water swimming, and anything goes. ONWARD. At the halfway point, I realized I was much too slow and had used barely any energy, which is all fine and dandy, but I knew I had more in me. So I picked it up. Drafting off other swimmers was not going to work in this race as athletes were kind of all over the place, so I found my own lane of sorts and just went forward. I gained a bit of speed but still stayed super conservative. Before I knew it, our 2.4 miles was coming to an end. I thought, 'ok, I definitely didn't give it enough, but at least I didn't drown or get eaten by an alligator.' I came out of the swim as fresh as a daisy, huge smiles, and gave a thumbs up to the crowd. First Ironman swim, I totally loved it. Now the race was really to begin. 

T1
It felt like a long run from swim out to the first transition zone. My ankle was a bit swollen from swimming so I couldn't run too fast. When I got to the tent I yelled my number and a volunteer handed me my transition bag as I ran into the "changing area," which is basically a makeshift locker room of chairs surrounded by black curtains where all of us ladies were stripping, lathering on creams and sunscreens, putting on socks and cycling shoes, and anything else that we felt necessary at that time. I was in no rush, and I knew this would be my longest break of the day as it was before my longest stretch of the day - the bike. As I dried off with a towel, I buried my face in it and gave a little happy/nervous cry for a few seconds. I can't explain it; it just came out of me. I put on my cycling socks and shoes, ate a few Clif Block chews and drank some water, put on sunscreen, helmet, sunglasses and gloves and headed out of the tent to get my bike off the rack. Then I was off.

BIKE - 112 miles
This is the longest part of the day and my least favorite of the three disciplines, so I was trying to stay positive. The good news is, I felt the excitement more than the nerves. The course, which is 2-loops of 56 miles, took us briefly through town before entering the major highway. The roads were as smooth as butter, making all of us pleased that we didn't have to dodge pot holes or debris. The rolling hills make for a challenging but completely doable ride, and I was focused on making sure I kept my heart rate down in order to make it through without burning out. I mentally broke up the course in four equal sections, to help me see through it easily and decide how I would tackle each. The first was my easing in ride and I took time to breathe deep and get in some calories, both liquid and solid. I was proud that I stuck to that first plan. At one point, I found myself randomly in tears again for about five seconds, mainly proud of what I was doing, and wishing certain loved ones were still on this earth to cheer me on. The second part saw me turning around on that first loop, and I hit a big, long hill around mile 30 that took a little out of me. It was starting to get very hot and the sun was beating down on me, especially on my back, and I was trying hard to keep myself as cool as can be by literally throwing cold water on my body. Eventually, I made it to the end of the second section which was the part of the course I had rode on Friday, with those small, steep hills. I already saw people clipping out and walking up the hills, and one guy even was hunched over his bike on the side of the road looking like he was dunzo. But I soldiered on and knew I was just a handful of miles from seeing my husband and making a stop at special needs to claim my bag of goodies I had packed. I attacked the hills as best as I could, then rode the downhills, hitting speeds close to 40mph before I saw the roaring crowds. Soon, I was back out for round two, but not before stopping at special needs, which was basically set up on the side of the road with dozens of dumpsters containing our respective bags. One male volunteer saw me coming and already grabbed my goods and had my bag wide open for me. I simply pulled up, straddled my bike and started to sort through what I had packed. First, I re-loaded my hydration. (I had frozen a few bottles of orange gatorade/water the night before, so by now they were nice and cold.) Then I emptied my Honey Stinger waffle wrappers (I had already eaten 3-4) and loaded in another 4. I grabbed a bottle of sunscreen and a single packet of anti-chafing creme and pulled over to the shade where I got off my bike and applied both to my body. I also made a quick bathroom stop before taking a few deep breaths and getting back on Barb for 56-112 miles. I didn't care about losing time here; this was most needed and I was surprised how many people actually stopped to eat full sandwiches and have chat fests with other cyclists. These were my kinda people.

The third of fourth section of the bike brought some of the worst heat of the day and I was starting to recognize that my stomach was hardening and cramping, which was a sign that I was taking in more salt than I needed. So I started to scale back on the gatorade and drink more straight water. It worked, and soon my stomach was back to normal. Then a plethora of things started to happen. First, I was experiencing excruciating pain in my shoulders and neck from riding mainly in the aero position (leaning on the two bars in the middle). It was a pain I have never felt before and it made it very clear that I was not accurately fit for my bike, as this is not an issue I should be experiencing. Next, my saddle sores started to get very bad. I could feel the burns forming downstairs and it was so painful that I spent a lot of time slowing down to stand up on my bike and readjust my positioning. These two pains, matched with the sunburn that was forming, were so bad that I had to find mental tricks to block them out. THEN, the headwinds picked up, and no matter how flat a road might have been, I was forced to work 3x as hard to get through the air's dense push against me. It was a low moment for me, for sure, but I didn't stop moving, drinking or eating; I tried to keep a positive attitude because within thirty miles I would be done. I did stop around mile 70/80 at an aid station to get off my seat and refill my bottles again with cold water. But it wasn't long before I had to soldier on. This was an Ironman. No one said this was going to be easy. And those last steep hills were the worst after riding 100 miles, but I knew I was almost done. I saw a few crashes - one where a woman all bandaged up got back on her bike and finished the race. So I didn't have many complaints after that. The worst part was over, I thought. I'm finally finishing the longest part of my day! And I did.

T2
Getting off my bike was the happiest part of my day. I handed my bike off to a volunteer and ran toward the transition tent. The announcer yelled "Brittany Forgione coming off the bike, doing her first Ironman, looking fresh as a rose!" I got my gear bag, went into the changing tents and began my final change over. I kept the same clothes on, but I did change my socks and then slipped on my new ankle brace which would give stability for the next 26.2 miles. I shoved it into my sneakers, switched out my helmet for a visor, put on my race belt, grabbed a cold water, and I was off.

RUN - 26.2 miles
I started with a smile and a deep breath. I was so excited to be on my feet, because this is the sport I know best. The issue was, I had this sprained ankle, and I knew this race was a bad idea, but I wanted to do it, therefore I would have to make sacrifices. Immediately coming onto the first stretch of road, I noticed a hill and decided to walk it to avoid discomfort. That would be my strategy for the rest of the day. Walk, run, walk run. If I saw a hill, I walked. If I felt an ounce of ankle pain, I walked. If I saw puddles or rocks, I walked. Any other portion of the road, I would jog. My plan was a smart one. The first 13.1 miles I felt fresh and enjoyed most of it. We ran a few miles through town before entering a narrow trail in a shaded area which took us several miles out and back. Again, this marathon was two loops of 13.1 miles, so I knew I'd pass the finish line and still have half more to go. Listening to my body and stomach, I still felt a little heavy in the salt department, so I stuck with drinking mostly water, sipping gatorade lightly, and only consuming about a pack of Honey Stinger chews for each 13.1 miles. I was offered pretzels, bananas, orange slices, chicken soup, coca-cola, gels, and I didn't go for any of it; I was too afraid to try something I haven't during training. That proved to work fine for me.

My spirits were pretty high despite my need to walk a bunch and only maintain a 12-minute mile pace (I'm generally 8:30 in a half marathon, 9:10 in a marathon). But I was happy. Then it turned south, when I turned toward the village ending my first loop, and seeing my husband close to the finish. I wanted so badly to finish with some of the others, but I knew I had 13.1 more miles to do. I've read a lot of race recaps that mention how the last 13.1 miles are the worst part of the day, especially if you get a drive by of the finish line. It's a tease I was not happy about, and I was fearful I was hurting my foot and hated that I had to walk to be a "good patient." Luckily, the special needs stop came upon me and though I didn't need much, I still stopped to get my runner's stick and roll out my calves to keep my legs as strong as possible. I looked down to see my fingers were swollen and my knuckles were white. Yikes. I took a deep breath and just moved forward. The first few miles of that second loop had me at my lowest, seeing people run their last couple miles on the other side while I still had to do this whole thing again. But once I entered the trail, I felt new again. Fellow runners were commenting on my strong stride despite my injury. I was starting to talk to a lot of people, making friends to pass the time. I found myself with a lot of guys, seasoned Ironman athletes from all over including DC, Jersey, Virginia, Texas, and Canada. Soon, the sun started to set and the view alongside us on the lake was a stunner.

I felt extremely lucky to be able to do this. I felt invigorated. I felt the night creeping on me with peace and power. Suddenly, the skies were dark, and I felt more alive than ever. I could barely see where I was going, so I was a bit nervous of my footing, but I was running more than walking. Glowsticks lined certain parts of the forest and I grabbed one to keep me in view to others for my last few miles. When I entered the main road that would lead back to the village and finish line, I was jumping for joy. I still walked, to keep up with my plan, but when the last mile was upon me, and the crowds started to build again, I picked up my pace as people yelled "you're doing it! go get it! you're going to be an Ironman! Go Brittany!" (I heard my name all day because my name was on my bib. Makes a HUGE difference). The strobe lights from the finish line were hitting the sky and were in full view. I inched up to the village, and when my feet hit the cobblestones, the crowds went from 20 people to 2,000. Immediately, my being was surrounded in roars and cheers and claps and high fives. The last couple of hundred feet had me floating, smiling from ear to ear, sprinting through the path and making that turn toward the brightest lights I had ever seen. It was here, upon me, the finish. The chute that once was a distant vision, something I only read about in books, was now my reality. I made a decision to do this, I committed myself, I trained hard, and now I would get my reward. I threw my hands high up as announcer Mike Reilly yelled "Brittany Forgione from New York City...BRITT, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!"

That was it. I had done it. No tears, just a huge overwhelming sense of emotion, matched with a smile. I knew immediately that I wanted to do it again.

I was handed a finisher hat, tech tee, and of course THE MEDAL!!! Then I was led into a tent where they were serving us athletes food including pasta, salad, bananas and more. I was too amped to eat, plus I couldn’t seem to find the hunger for it. I picked up my bike and bags from transition and headed back to our villa. I would have stayed for the midnight finishers but I needed a shower badly, plus I wanted time to call my family. Sleep that night was tough; I had so much energy, plus some pain in my right knee. Go figure, the sprained ankle held up after all, and I almost forgot it even existed. Days later, it feels no worse than it did before I raced. Insanity.

I finished in 14 hours and 48 minutes, a time that impressed me given my ankle injury and the fact I had to hold back in every sport, with an emphasis on the marathon. But that's fourteen plus hours of an undeniably good time, where not once I felt awful, wanted to quit, or wished to never do this again. I finished stronger than I was when I started. And now I'm really excited to see what I can do at my healthiest, injury-free in 2016.

Monday I rose a proud Ironwoman. Immediately I wanted eggs, a bagel and cream cheese, so I immediately sought that out. Then my husband Jay and I headed to Spa Le Scandinave to spend some time in the various cold and hot baths. Well, I stuck to the cold baths and recognized that I was surrounded by other triathletes with the same idea. Then I found myself an empty hammock, climbed on in, and three hours later awoke from the most peaceful nap. The fun continued later that evening when I scarfed down a pizza, sipped an alcoholic beverage for the first time in a long time, and bought the biggest ice cream cone on the planet. The next morning we said goodbye to dear Mont-Tremblant and headed back for New York. My big weekend was over.
 

Wednesday I get to work, feeling good as new, and I’m surprised with a very warm welcome back from my colleagues, presenting me with a Wheaties box with my finishing photo on it, alongside a spread of Dunkin Donuts treats. And the love has continued since, from friends and fam far and wide. It has been an amazing week, but I am most grateful for my husband Jay, who was the sole BForge cheerleader out on the course, and made me feel like a million bucks every time I turned into town for those few seconds. This sport takes me away from a lot and he has been the best support system, always cheering me on and giving me the thumbs up to keep it going. Thanks Jay. There is nothing more important than helping your partner embrace what brings them joy, and you've got my back. xo

I want to note that this is just the end of chapter one. My story doesn’t end with Ironman - it simply begins with it. I hope that my adventures and experiences so far have been fun to follow along, but more so I hope you have found something special in your life to reach for. If little 'ol me can conquer an Ironman, you can do anything you set out to do. It’s so important to believe in yourself and let doubt slip out the back door. I went into this with a huge heart for the sport, and belief in myself…belief that I could and would accomplish this one step at a time. A certain finish time wasn’t even on my agenda; the act of committing, pursuing, and conquering was all that was important here. If you’re looking for some motivation to get you to that next step, send me a note. I’d love to here from you and help in any way I can. --> FITwithForge@gmail.com

Thank you again for the love & support. One Ironman down, another to go! Ironman Lake Placid is in my future...July 2016, baby! Till then, you better believe we’re keeping this conversation going. I've got more swimming, biking, and running to do.

To never ending the journey,
-BForge

**See all the fun shots from my race weekend in Mont-Tremblant below!**
 

Ironman Race Week: Prep, Sleep, Pray, Repeat

It’s officially Ironman race week, and I can’t believe time has flown by so fast. It feels like just yesterday I was registering for this 140.6-mile race on that gloomy day in January, taking the plunge though unaware what I was getting myself into.

Now, here I am, packing up my things, gathering my thoughts, and picking up my head as I prepare to depart for Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, Canada Thursday morning. The last several days have been interesting, to say the least. I’ve experienced many race weeks, but this one is far more important and crucial. For one, just recently I learned that you must PREP and pre-bag all of your race-day items and special needs into four separate bags, half of which are dropped off the day before the race. So instead of a typical transition setup where I keep all my gear and food, I will be reaching into four different bags throughout my journey toward the finish line. That means, pack anything and everything that one may need including: food, fluid, first aid, sunscreen, vaseline, extra clothes, rain gear, tissues, etc. 

So being the type A person that I am, I prepped these bags a week out from the race. I spent Saturday afternoon on my living room floor, laying out all of the items I could possibly need. I figured, as most of us triathletes do, I am not going to need even half of this come race day, but it’s better to be safe than sorry! Because who knows what I am going to feel like within what I think will be these 15 hours of racing. My grab bags will have a little of everything to keep me going and help me avoid the little problems…like a blister! ouch! 

So I made seven columns of items:
*Pre-Swim Needs 
*T1 (transition 1 - swim to bike)
*Bike (what I plan to eat/have on my bike)
*Bike Special Needs (what I will have access to halfway through my ride at mile 56)
*T2 (transition 2 - bike to run)
*Run (what I plan to at/have in my gear belt during the run)
*Run Special Needs (what I will have access to halfway through my run at mile 13)

(I’ll let the photo indicate the items I decided to go with…)

This week is also about SLEEP, which is fine and dandy because who doesn’t love their zzz’s? Since workouts are lighter all week long, there’s more time to focus on my pillow time. It’s pretty clear that myself and most other athletes will not sleep much, if anything at all the night before the Ironman, so all the nights leading up to the race are even more crucial when it comes to sleep. Friday will be THE most important. Before bed, I have been eating lighter, healthier meals so I don’t feel too full and I sleep easier. I have also been dedicated to reading these last few nights - jumping between Rich Roll’s Finding Ultra, to the complete Ironman training manual I picked up earlier this year. Positive stories of triumph and helpful race tips are all I need right now. Can’t clog my brain with anything that may lessen my spirits. 

Now, I’m not one to PRAY, nor do I find myself religious by any means, but I have been wishing and hoping and praying a lot recently. I guess since I have been plagued with this ankle sprain and suffered a lot of setbacks, I have had no choice other than to ask for guidance to get me through this race. I have NO idea what is in store for me out there and that’s a scary feeling. The fear of the unknown is certainly one that keeps most of us away from achieving our dreams; I guess it pulled me closer to mine. It’s funny, you know, I don’t do many things that scare me, as I’d rather play it safe. This has been the one thing in my life thus far that I have taken a chance on, and I have picked up so many fears and challenged all of them. Thinking about it that way, makes me proud of myself. What happens out there on that course could be brutal, it could be beautiful, but what I choose to do with it will be worth watching.

These last few days have served me with some tough moments. I’m supposed to be riding this exciting train to Ironman land, but I’ve been handed a few notifications of sorts. For one, late last week, my foot doc (hey Dan!) called to give me my MRI results. The tone in his voice kind of said it all - this wasn’t going to be good. He went on to explain the sprain and how a race of this nature is not the best thing for me right now. Immediately, I’m in tears and I’m angry and I’m so mad at that damn piece of cement that tripped me for no good reason back on July 5th. After doc spoke his peace, I spoke mine. I could not NOT do this race. I know I am stubborn but I have come such a long way and I need to get to that finish line, even if I have to walk the whole 26.2 mile run. I am no award-winning patient, but then again, I’m usually never a patient at all. So despite docs orders, I am going out there and taking the chance to possibly hurt myself further, though I will do everything in my power to take it easy. A time goal was never in, so that’s not a concern. This is about finishing what I started. It looks like the fall will serve me a couple of rest months.

Another crisis, which I have seemed to majorly dodge a bullet on is my flat tire that went flat in my living room two days back. Yep! Just what I need, a chance to practice my tube changing skills. So I got to work on said tire and when I went to my spare tube in my bike’s tire kit, I realized I had the wrong size tube! The thought of that happening on the road during the race just blew my mind. I already have injuries and other issues to worry about, so I’m super glad I fixed this before it failed me.

I want to remember all of this. And I know this blog will serve as a big help in that department. I appreciate all of you reading along and sharing your comments and stories with me as well. Despite the outcome on Sunday, August 16th, this experience has been unbelievable. I have worked my hardest, but had the most fun along the way, meeting the most incredible people. The well wishes and texts I’ve been getting this week have kept me smiling, so thank you. I may be slow to the finish chute, but I have a million reasons that will guide me there.

Thursday morning, my husband and I head out on our drive for Canada. Hopefully between then and the race, I can write you once more...

If not, track me! #2248

-BForge

140.6 Mental Miles - 12 Days Till Ironman

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I toe up to the Ironman starting line in 12 days. At this point, most triathletes feel invigorated, strong, and accomplished as taper week comes into view. But I, my friends, feel a bit off my game. My ankle sprain, which sprung up on me more than four weeks ago, is still hating me enough to cease the healing process, or at least majorly slow it down. I am sidelined from running, must play it safe with cycling, and I'm embracing swimming like it’s a long lost friend. It has been tough, to say the least. But somehow, I have managed to keep my mental strength in tact.

The way I see it: I’m finishing this Ironman even if I have to crawl to the finish line. Could I break my foot in the process? Maybe. Am I absolutely ludicrous? Probably. But do I believe I still have what it takes to win this goal? Most definitely. 

So how am I going to get to that Ironman finish chute? I’m going to get there powered by my mind, the one thing that right now still believes I can do this. The way I’ve been seeing this lately is…

2.4-mile swim? Ehh, not so bad. Probably what I look forward to the most. It’s the shortest leg of the race, the one I can use to get into my mental zone for the day, and get myself on the right track I want to be on. Starting with positive vibes is the only way to begin a race.

112-mile bike ride? Ok, so the little ankle that could will probably feel some pain here. Pulling up those pedals to get me over the hilly course will surely irritate my injury, but I’m more concerned about time passed here. Mentally, I must remind myself that though I missed a couple of 100-mile opportunities, I’m still strong enough to complete this leg, even if I must pull over and chill a bit at the 56-mile mark. You do what you gotta do, right? Right.

26.2-mile run? Oy vey. I mean, I’ve always felt better on the run than most because I take it easy on the bike, but this run will be different and I am already prepared for that. The truth is, I was always planning to sprinkle that marathon with walking segments, but now I am OK with the fact that it might be more like chunks. I most likely will experience a lot of ankle pain that will slow me down or stop me at times. I might just embrace it. 

I mean, hey, I’ll be taking part in the most difficult event of my life thus far, so why not throw an injury in there to prove just how strong I am…or how strong I can be. 

So what can possibly scare me now? Nothing more than this. If I went into this thinking it’d be rainbows and butterflies then I’d be in for a rude awakening. My sights are set on the other side…the side of the finishing chute where the Ironman voice yells “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” Yeah, that side. And then I can fall to the ground, cry some solid tears, and make my way to the med tent to finally complain that my ankle hurts.
haha. (I guarantee that's how it will go down).

This is my last full training week, so I’m doing everything I’m supposed to. Swimming a lot, cycling a little, electrocuting my foot with weird devices, icing, elevating, eating healthy, canceling plans to rest. Everything I CAN do right, I will do right. 

I don’t want to let you down. I think my mission has become pretty solid. We are all capable of great things, and setbacks merely give us an opportunity to prove we’re that much stronger than we set out to be. Which is funny, given that last weekend I signed up for Ironman Lake Placid 2016!!!…I know, I’m all like ‘what was she thinking?’ too, but I went with my gut feeling and just paid the price. Now, I am in for another year! The way I see it? WHY STOP NOW. 

Have you already signed up for something in 2016? Tell me about it! Way to start that new year early!

-BForge

Be A Happy Swimmer/ Tips for Tackling the Open Water Swim

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A lot of people tell me they won’t do a triathlon because they fear the swim. Sure, many of us learned to swim at an early age, but we still fear that one might not stay afloat for a substantial length of time, in an open body of water, surrounded by hundreds of other bodies (alive ones, yes), to boot. It’s a little off-putting at first, and maybe the panic has already set in, but I’ll tell you it simply takes time and practice. 

At my first sprint tri back in June of 2013, I emerged into the water when the horn went off, diving in with excitement to get the 500m swim started. Within one minute, another young woman in my wave (there were about 100 of us that started at the same time) kicked me in the face with her foot and immediately I felt like I was sinking. My heart was beating at the speed of light and I couldn’t catch my breath…I couldn’t swim. There wasn’t any support on that lake…no lifeguards on kayaks, no buoys to grab onto, and the water too deep to stand. I was just going to have to figure this one out on my own. Luckily for the wetsuits, we float. Luckily for my training, I remembered to turn onto my back. I did just that and breathed out into the sky, praying that the clouds would help push me to that swim finish. I never got back to normal on that lake, so I backstroked my way to the beach and thanked the heavens that I didn’t die out there on that body of water. 

Yes, very dramatic, I know. But in that moment, I really thought that was it for me. I also vowed to NEVER DO TRIATHLONS AGAIN! 

Haha. That lasted long.

Many swim practices later, and after a close bond built with my wetsuit, I can now tell you that I LOVE SWIMMING. It has become the only leg of triathlon that I actually look forward to. I find that swimming is the easing into the race. From a far, it looks chaotic and all you see is a sea full of colored caps and flying arms and legs, but if you can learn to get in your zone and mind your own, you will go far, literally.

Many wonder how I turned that fear into a favorite pastime. Let me share some tips I used to get from one end of the spectrum to the other…

Tips for Tackling the Open Water Swim:

*Know Before You Go….you must understand that a pool is nothing like an open body of water. A controlled body of chlorine water will be a great resource for stroke practice, but doing open water practice swims ahead of your event is key. The splashing, wave crashing, anxious environment of an ocean, river, or lake is one you may not imagine until you try it. A few dips and drills before race day will get you prepared both physically and mentally. Nothing new on race day, right? Right. 

*Get Your Gear Set…what you wear during your swim is crucial. Your wetsuit isn’t going to be easy to put on; it’s supposed to be snug. Make sure you stick with a style that’s comfortable yet efficient. Your goggles should be air tight, have strong straps, and not reflect any weird light. Plus, you’ll always need to have a backup pair. Goggles are said to be the most common misplaced or broken item at most swim start areas on race day. Make sure you do practice swims with all of your gear on…wetsuit included! Don’t be ashamed to take that Xterra for a test ride in the pool. Wave your newbie flag high and proud. 

*Don’t Get Caught Up in the Pack…if you feel you’re not the best swimmer or you prefer to stay clear of a kicking to the face, then hang back when that horn blows. Starting at the back of the group will keep your nerves calm as you enter the water at your own speed and ease in. Every time I start in the back, I end up passing those that started off too strong. Just like a running race, start steady and finish strong. That's how you really win a race. 

*Practice Sighting…that would be the act of looking up as you swim! It’s so important that you remember to pay attention to your surroundings during an open water swim to avoid going in the wrong direction (eek!), bumping into another swimmer (ouch!), or missing any important distance markers (shucks!) By sighting, you will have great awareness which leads to less panic and a smoother, faster swim time. Plus, if you see a shark you'll know to SWIM FAST! hehe, jk, jk.

*Stick With What Works…you may recite mantras or hum songs while you swim, and that’s A OK. I used to blow bubbles to “row, row, row your boat” in open water swim races, and now I seem to daze off and think about life. But if there’s a routine that has worked for you, you better hold on tight. We are creatures of habit and in rough situations like an open body of water, you want to get that heart rate down the only way you know how to.

*Stay Calm...aside from reciting your race day mantras, you need to remember this is just a race. Your health and safety is always the most important factor of the day. If you feel discomfort or can't breathe, either roll on your back and float or signal for help. Most races have assistance on the water and you should never feel too proud to wave them down. They're there to protect you and keep you moving forward. Listen to your heart; it always knows what's up.

*Have Fun!…you are doing something extraordinary! You are one with nature! You need to trust your training and enjoy the ride. Remember, the swim is the shortest part of a triathlon, even in an Ironman. Embrace what you’ve worked so hard to accomplish and keep your spirits up. When you emerge from that swim, smile and be proud of yourself. You are a rare breed…you are an open water swimmer! Make sure to brag to your friends :)

Though my sprained ankle has kept me from training too hard, I still have been exercising every day. Now, with 20 days till Ironman Mont Tremblant, I am once again giving up running so my ankle can properly heal. Heck, I even switched my NYC Triathlon entry to a relay last weekend so that I could just do the swim leg in the Hudson River. (which was awesome by the way!!) I will have some bike time in the next two weeks, but mainly long swims. Yay swims! Won’t you join me? I promise I will do whatever it takes to convince you that swimming is AWESOME!

Swimming along just fine…

-BForge

IronBritt: 24-Day Countdown

24 days until Ironman Mont-Tremblant. I cannot believe it. Is this really happening? For some reason it still seems fake.

I took a step back the other day to admire the dedication this sport takes. I can’t believe that I’ve been training for seven months straight. Through the snow, the cold, the rain, the heat…I have been waking up at 5am to achieve something grand. Some people may think that’s nuts, and I wouldn’t disagree. But what you’d find more nutty is that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.

I’m still nursing a sprained ankle, but I’m slowly healing enough to bring myself to do the things I’ve been missing - like running. I’ve taken my strides to the streets and picked up the pace enough to feel a little like myself again. Heck, I still did the NYC Triathlon this past Sunday, July 19th, competing in the swim leg of a relay team and I felt awesome. (I plan to do a separate post about that soon!) I also enjoyed cheering on my teammates who totally kicked butt in that blazing heat.

In three weeks, I hit the road for Canada. So what is there left in my training to do, especially when I am injured? I will admit that I have a handful of concerns, though they’re not consuming me just yet. But something tells me they soon will. Let’s make a list:

*Long training days - Will I have done enough long runs and bike rides before the big day? Sometimes I fear I haven’t done enough. But what am I to do? I also can't further injure my injury.

*Nutrition plan - Most people have it down to a science; I do not. I have an idea of what I’ll eat and drink, but I think I need to sit down and map out my plan so that I feel more in control.

*Sleep - I have a habit of not sleeping the night before a race. It’s almost as if the nerves get the best of me and I worry too much about my performance. But I MUST sleep before the Ironman. I cannot be sleeping on the race course; that is not part of the plan. I'll have to be sure to sleep plenty the Thursday and Friday before the big day.

*Course knowledge - Or lack thereof. I trained on the Ironman Lake Placid Course but that is not the race I'm doing. With Mont-Tremblant so far away, I only know what I've read. I've reviewed maps and asked former IMMT competitors for their advice, but I don't know the turns as much as I'd like to. The "know before you go" motto is an important one to me. I'll be sure to get to the site early and maybe drive the course a day or two before the race.

*Bike boredom – I dread the bike leg of the race. I’m not the strongest cyclist and my confidence on a bike is not where it should be. Therefore, the time passes very slowly. I need to come up with mantras, write poems, think of loved ones, and do whatever it is I need to do to pass those 7+ hours!

*Confidence – I need to keep believing in myself. Hard work wasn’t handed to me and I need to remember what I’ve done to get here. I’m hopeful I will get to the finish line. What will I look or feel like when I get there? That is what scares me most. I hope I do this right. I will do this right.

So as I type this I think…I’m going to be OK. I should more so focus on this weekend’s Ironman in Lake Placid and send my positive vibes to my Terrier Tri teammates and other friends participating. I wish I could be on the course to spectate and cheer them on. I think it would be helpful to see the race in action from the sidelines, but due to my schedule, I just won’t be able to make it. Rock it out there guys!! I know you will!!

This Saturday I have a trip to the wine country planned with friends (yes, I do fun things outside of training! Though I won’t be able to drink much), and then Sunday I am getting back on my bike after three weeks. I am a bit nervous about my injury and the thought of the pain that comes with clipping my foot in and out scares me, but I need to feel my legs again and I need to focus on my bike skills. After all, Barb the bike and I are going to have to bond out there on that Mont-Tremblant course if we want to have a smooth finish.

24 days till Ironman. Whoa.

It’s kind of exciting….!

-BForge

 

Injured But Not Out!

On July 5th, I sadly sprained my ankle. It happens, right? Yes, it happens, and it mainly comes at the worst possible time. But I have vowed to not let it get me down. Injured does not mean out…as a matter of fact, "IN" begins the word and my motto for these next four weeks before my first Ironman...!

So what is the injury? It’s a grade 2 lateral ankle sprain to the left foot. I’ve had a few injuries as a high-schooler and all were results of doing something stupid. In 9th grade I tried out for the cheerleading squad and hadn’t worked on my back handsprings much beforehand but I hoped for the best going into tryouts (bad move). Running down that mat I knew I was in trouble…and then round-off, back hand….and DOWN, flat on my face, breaking my fall with both wrists. I sprained the left and broke the right…during finals week. Way to go, B. Rah Rah Rah. And then in 11th grade, I was wearing flip flops on a skateboard (what!?) and obviously lost my balance and fell off twisting my ankle and breaking my right foot. I illegally drove myself to work for the next couple of months with my left foot on the gas/brake and my right boot swung over the center console. Well, the good news is that I got my head back on straight since then!

I have been a very good patient these past 12 days since the accident. I have exercised most days, but kept it light, and have been sticking to pool swims, with tiny runs and spins here and there. I have also friended the ice pack and ibuprofen, and rest! Yes, rest - that sweet, sweet friend of mine. Plus, I took up deep water running this past week after purchasing an aqua jogger. Yes, it's ridiculous looking, but so far I'm loving the feeling of finally moving my legs (without all the impact). And I just began physical therapy, only to find I actually am healing quite well. But when will I be fully healed? No one really knows.

SO! For the time being, I’m choosing to be positive and proactive. I am so so happy to report that though I can no longer do the full NYC Triathlon this weekend, I am still able to compete in the race as part of a relay team! I, Brittany Forgione, have actually chosen to swim in the dark, mucky waters of the Hudson River. YES, INSANITY, is what that is called. But I don’t care about the symptoms of brown skin and yellow teeth, I am so incredibly pleased to take part in one of my favorite local events. Since finding this out, my spirits have lifted big time. I have that thing we like to call FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) so being on the sidelines is tough. But now seeing as the temperature will be in the high 90's on Sunday, I am happy to report I will be one smiley spectator, glad I am not melting and running! Just melting maybe...

Going into my final four weeks of Ironman training, I am super optimistic. We all should be. I mean, I'm not alone in this. In the last couple of weeks, two teammates of mine had to pull out of Ironman Lake Placid (which is July 26) due to injury. It's crazy how we dedicate our lives to this crazy schedule of swim, bike, and run for several months, and then in an instant our situation shifts and we must let go of that big goal. But if you're like me or my teammates, you find a new goal. You take the time to recover, re-evaluate, and then regain your physical and mental strength for the next big challenge in your life. The same goes with career and family and almost everything we work hard at every day.

So just like the motto of this blog, find those triumphs along the way. The prize at the end of the rainbow is definitely grand, but what matters is the journey along the way through the many colors.

I'm nearing my finish line, and though I've had a setback, I'm still moving along, enjoying the ride.

Semi-sidelined and smiling,
-BForge


 

Feeding Forge: Mediterranean Butter Bean Salad (Recipe)

I eat salad like it's my job. Who doesn't love all those plants, veggies, and wholesome goodness in one bowl? I change up the ingredients often to keep my salad game on point, and that is why I am never bored with eating all those greens. 

So when Hello Fresh sent me three veg-alicious meals to create last week, I was pleased to discover one of them fed my addiction to earth food. So I grabbed my apron, recruited my husband, and got to work on this delightful recipe. 

See the instructions below and be sure to check out the photo gallery for step by step shots of how we pulled it off. (I say that because most know I am no cook). I hope you enjoy this summer salad as much as I did! 

Mediterranean Butter Bean Salad

Ingredients: Yukon Potatoes, Black Olives, Grape Tomatoes, Mixed Greens, Green Beans, Butter Beans, Sherry Vinegar, Parsley, Garlic, Feta Cheese 

Cooking Time: 30min.

  1. Cut the potatoes into 1⁄2-inch cubes. Bring a medium pot of water, the potatoes, and a large pinch of salt to a boil. Cook for 10-12 minutes, until fork-tender. Remove the potatoes from the water with a slotted spoon and set aside. Keep the water boiling on the stove for later.
  2. Meanwhile, trim and halve the green beans. Mince the olives.
  3. Pick the parsley leaves and discard the stems. Drain and rinse the butter beans. Halve the grape tomatoes. Mince or grate the garlic.
  4. Add the green beans to the boiling water and cook for about 3 minutes, until crisp-tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and rinse under very cold water to cool.
  5. Make the black-olive sherry vinaigrette: in a large bowl, combine the minced olives, 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, 3 tablespoons olive oil, and as much minced garlic as you like. Whisk to combine and season 5with salt and pepper.
  6. Toss the mixed greens, green beans, tomatoes, butter beans, potatoes and feta into the vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with the parsley leaves. 

Nutrition per person - Calories: 581 cal | Carbs: 44 g | Fat: 29 g | Protein: 21 g | Fiber: 13 g 

Feeding Forge: Hello Fresh at My Doorstep! (Recipe)

I'm super excited to share with you the new adventure I took on this week: cooking! Yes, that's right friends. I, Brittany Forgione, have attempted to spend more than ten minutes in my kitchen, and I have a confession to make: I kind of love every second of it.

I'd like to take this time to first thank my new friends at Hello Fresh. Hello Fresh is a one-of-kind edible experience we all should take part in. Each week, their chefs create mouthwatering recipes that are healthy, unique, and easy to prepare and deliver everything straight to your door.

For someone like me with almost no meal ideas and little time to shop, I thought this would give my cooking skills a boost and cater well to a girl on the go. And go figure, I sprained my ankle this past Sunday, so I've had a little more time to get to know my kitchen and really focus on my dinner habits as of late. Generally, I throw one protein, one green, and one healthy carb onto a plate…which sounds healthy, but it lacks taste and creativity most of the time. Oh, and it’s BORING. Well, I think I just changed my ways.

So Monday morning, I get the special delivery of Hello Fresh products to my doorstep. Though packaged in insulated boxes with ice, the products needed to be refrigerated immediately. I had chosen to do the veggie meals this week, mainly because I do not eat red meat, or fish, nor do I care to eat meat most days. Vegetarian dishes tend to be my favorite. Besides, who doesn't love to eat from the earth!? Carnivores, listen up!

The delivery included three full bags - each with the ingredients and produce to make a full meal for two people. The three meals were:
-Stuffed Summer Squash Boats
-Mediterranean Butter Bean Salad
-Crispy Citrus Tofu

Monday night, it was all about the squash, and I was stoked. I enlisted the help of my husband, Jay, figuring he also would love the process and enjoy the edible payoff in the end. Plus, he is much more brave with a knife than I am. We each slipped on our aprons (he had the one with frills, obviously) and we spread out our ingredients and read through the easy instructions. It was clear from the start that not only were we excited to try something new, but we were embarking on this cooking thing together. This would be our new favorite way to spend a date night. 

STUFFED SUMMER SQUASH BOATS

Ingredients:
-Yellow squash
-Quinoa
-Baby portobello mushrooms
-Shallot
-Roma tomato
-Basil
-Parmesan cheese
-Thyme
-Stock Concentrate

Cooking Time: 45min.

The entire process was super simple, which was a relief. 45-minutes after much chopping, mincing, boiling, and broiling, we had finished our lovely meal and it was time to enjoy it. It didn’t look exactly like it does in the pics, but as important as presentation is, the taste is what matters! And I’m happy to say folks, it was DELICIOUS and nutritious. Looking back, I could easily make that again - I just need to set aside the time at night to do so. (Good thing I won't have to food shop).

So obviously I want to share with you the recipe (and our fun pics!) so you can try this at home!
Also, be sure to check out Hello Fresh’s website as their menu is always changing, so your bound to find dishes that intrigue and inspire you to live the fresh life.

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Halve the squashes lengthwise, then scoop out the seedy area with a spoon. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a large pinch of salt and pepper. Place in the oven, cut side down, and roast for 20-25 minutes, until soft and golden brown on the bottom.
  2. While the squashes roast, bring 1 cup water and the stock concentrate to a boil in a small pot. Add the quinoa, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, finely chop the mushroom caps and stems. Mince the shallot and garlic. Halve, seed, and finely dice the tomatoes. Strip the 4leaves off the thyme sprig and finely chop.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, tossing, 2-3 minutes, until soft. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, mushrooms, tomato, and thyme to the pan. Cook another 5-6 minutes, until very soft and cooked down. Add the garlic and cook 30 5seconds, until fragrant. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Add the cooked quinoa to the pan and toss to combine. Season 6with salt and pepper.
  6. When done, remove the squashes from the oven and stuff with as much quinoa mixture as will fit. Heat the broiler to high or oven to 500 degrees. Sprinkle squash boats with Parmesan cheese and return to the oven until cheese is golden brown and melted, about 3 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, chop the basil. Plate the remaining quinoa mixture. Serve the squash boats on top of the remaining quinoa and sprinkle with basil. Enjoy!

Nutrition per person Calories: 543 cal | Carbs: 48 g | Fat: 32 g | Protein: 24 g | Fiber: 8 g

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. I think this food delivery system may become a habit. My husband keeps asking me what we're making next so I know I've got a partner in this. Soon, I'll post the second meal we made - Mediterranean Butter Bean Salad! But for now, let this SERVE (hehe) as an example of non-cooks who can become cooks if you give them the proper tools. 

Let the adventure continue...

Nutritiously,

-BForge






IronBritt Update: A Week of Inspo & Injury

Six weeks till Ironman and strangely, I am not nervous....yet. I'm sure that feeling will soon come my way. But for now, I've been taking it day by day and giving each workout my undivided attention. I had a slower week following my half Ironman in Syracuse and then I gained some speed last week by doubling up on workouts and focusing on areas that need improvement....yes, that would be the bike.

I have a lot of updates for you, actually. Many things have happened in the past week...some good, some bad, and some just plain evil. What would you like first? Let's start with good, since most races kick off that way anyhow! hehe. Ok, I'll leave Negative Nancy at home. A race is great the whole time!! (actually, accoridng to my Syracuse race photos, I did look like I was having a ball).

Last week, my training schedule was packed with workouts and activities. One very exciting addition to my week was my midday run with a world champ! That's right, 3x Ironman World Championship winner Mirinda Carfrae led a special running workout at Mile High Run Club in NYC last Tuesday, June 30th. Yes, it was my second run workout of the day, but it was so worth it to lace back up and spend some time with a woman who defines speed and girl power. A handful of my Terrier Tri teammates joined me as we participated in a special interval workout which "Rinny" led as she roamed the room and encouraged us to up the ante. Rinny won last year's Ironman World Championship by closing a 14-minute gap on the run, catching up to her competitors and blasting past them to snag the win. Her small frame of 5'3 is petite but mighty, and proves that power comes from within. You could imagine my 5'0 self was proud to see her zoom past the long legs and break stereotypes. Anyway, after 30 minutes of pushing our limits on the treadmill, we hopped off to sip some Liquiteria green juices and exchange stories of sweat. Pretty cool way to spend a lunch hour...getting tips from a pro, just at the height of Ironman training. My friends at Ironman were nice enough to share Rinny's INTRO TO RACE PACE treadmill workout, so here it is! Try it!...

5-Minute Warm Up

·         Zone 1: 60-70% effort  

o   Includes 2 x 30 second intervals at 100% effort  

5 x 3 Minute Efforts

·         First effort (3 minutes) at Zone 3 (75-90% effort)

o   Recover at Zone 1 pace for a minute

·         Second effort (3 minutes) at Zone 3 (75-90% effort)

o   Recover at Zone 1 pace for a minute

·         Third effort (3 minutes) at Zone 3 (75-90% effort)

o   Recover at Zone 1 pace for a minute

·         Fourth effort (3 minutes) at Zone 4 (90-95% effort)

o   Recover at Zone 1 pace for a minute

·         Fifth effort (3 minutes) at Zone 4 (90-95% effort)

o   Recover at Zone 1 pace for a minute

5-Minute Cool Down

·         Zone 1: 60-70% effort


later that evening on June 30th, was pretty special too. Actually, it was inspirational, emotional, heartfelt, and fulfilling. It was the annual gala for Back on My Feet NYC. Back on My Feet (BoMF) is a nonprofit, founded in 2006, that uses running to help those experiencing homelessness change the way they seem themselves so that they can make changes that result in employment and independent living. By showing up to run, members take steps toward achieving big milestones in their lives. I had the privilege to work with BoMF in 2012 when they were a PR client of mine, gearing up to launch the NYC chapter. So up my alley, I was honored to be in the presence of these wonderful members and volunteers and help tell their story to the masses. So it's without question that I attend the annual birthday bash that celebrates another year of accomplishments for this organization. Terrier Tri's running coach, Terence Gerchberg, happens to be the new Executive Director of BoMF NYC, so a bunch of us Terriers came out to support and ring in this special celebration. The night was filled with great speeches, impressive stats, conversations with like-minded people, and the showstopper of the evening - a wonderfully inspirational speech from Paul - an alumni and gradate of the BoMF program who had gone from depression and homelessness to having multiple jobs, degrees in motion, and an apartment to call his own. His speech about finding his way and loving his morning runs, especially the way they started with hugs, lifted all 500 guests to their feet for a standing ovation. I personally was in tears from his smile alone. What a courageous man, and bravo to him for facing his fears and telling his story to hopefully help the next person afraid to step forward and face change.
I encourage you to get involved with BoMF in any of their eleven chapters nationwide. Visit Backonmyfeet.org for more info.

Since it was a holiday week, I had a half day Thursday and Friday off, so I vowed to use them wisely. Thursday night, I cleaned my bike chain all by myself! That was a proud moment. Then on Friday, myself and four others from the team got together for a long bike ride out of the city and to Bear Mountain. I personally had to ride 90 miles so I woke up earlier than our meeting time and did several loops of Central Park before joining the group and heading over the George Washington Bridge together. We passed through Jersey, and Rockland County, NY to make our way to Bear Mountain Park, near Harriman, NY. The road getting there had plenty of climbs but the downhills were personally a very big struggle for me on this day. I've done plenty before, but for some reason the downhills I faced that day really had me thinking I was going to crash and die this way. (I know, a bit dramatic) But I just couldn't find my confidence and I couldn't loosen up to enjoy those fast stretches, mainly because they made me feel like I was flying - and I hate flying, hate speed, I pretty much always hated going too fast since I was a little kid. It also should be noted that my mother was in a brutal bike accident several years ago and nearly lost her life- a scary memory that usually hangs over my head when I ride down and fast. So when the time came to decide if I wanted to actually climb Bear Mountain, I had a moment where my nerves got the best of me as I feared not the climb, but the long downhill I'd have to face coming down. Luckily, I was with an incredible group of supportive people and after deciding I'd go for it, they stuck by me and kept my spirits up the entire time. The climb was tough but a great challenge, and the downhill wasn't horrendous. I had close calls of ending up in trees but somehow I managed to stay on the road. After 90 miles for me and about 60 or so for them, we ended in Cold Spring, NY where we had a nice lunch outdoors and topped it off with some ice cream before hopping the train with our bikes back to Grand Central Station in NYC. Overall, a great day filled with accomplishment.

Saturday, July 4th was all about the holiday, and since I was out of the city, I took the day off from training. But Sunday's plan was to get back at it with a 15-mile run and 3000yd swim. I let myself sleep and then finally made my way to the Hudson River running path to take on my miles, figuring flat and fast was the way to go today. At not even two miles in, near Chelsea Piers, I tripped over an uneven cement plate on the pier and flew to the ground, twisting my left ankle and landing on my right knee. Immediately, I screamed curse words and took a seat in the grass to collect my thoughts and quickly undress my left foot. Veins were like HELLO but swelling and pain seemed fairly minimal. Mentally, I was freaking out thinking about my two upcoming races - NYC Triathlon and Ironman Mont Tremblant - in 2 weeks and 6 weeks respectively. How the hell could I get injured on the RUN!? This is the last place I expected to fall. I was literally in tears riding my bike, fearful of crashing, and now I have a new injury from a little crack in the ground. SO frustrating. Well, like any stubborn warrior would, at some point I got back up and slowly started to run again, figuring I'd see how far I can get. 8 miles later, I knew something was up when the pain increased and my pace was weakening. 15 miles was out of the question. I need ice immediately. So I headed home and elevated what was now a swollen golf ball of an ankle. Oy vey is me. 

And that's where I'm at now - with a sprained ankle, or at least that's what I've determined it is. I'll see the doctor on Thursday, but for now I am not running or cycling and I'm trying to stick to the RICE method - Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate. I got up Monday morning to swim on my own and the second I started to move my foot in the water, I was in pain. But it turns out, the pull buoy is great for my injury! I was able to "pull"-off a 2400yd swim using the buoy between my legs the entire time. It kept my lower body at rest while my upper body was strengthened. It also kept me feeling like myself. Because if you know me, fitness is my joy, and I have a hard time going a day without something active. But my coach knows what's up and so I'm to take this time to heal and see if I can soon get back on track. Will I do the NYC Triathlon in less than two weeks? That is TBD, but I will hope. All I know, is NO MATTER WHAT I am getting to that Ironman in 6 weeks, injury-free. This will NOT hold me back from what I've worked so hard for over these last seven months. 

Lastly, coming at a perfect time, I am excited that my friends at food delivery service Hello Fresh have sent over fresh produce and eats for me to cook this week. I made my first meal last night and I will soon share all the deets and photos with you. Since I can't exercise much, at least I have something exciting and delicious to come home to! So stay tuned!

I hope you all had a wonderful, injury-free holiday weekend, filled with yummy food and good company. Let my downfall be a lesson to us all - be careful out there!! We are strong but we are not superhuman. Things can break, though they can be fixed. Sending positive and painless vibes your way!

Down but not out(!),
BForge
 

Embracing Recovery Week

When a race is over, a recovery should begin. And yes, this goes for single workouts as well. RECOVERY IS KEY. Do you have a plan in place to treat your body with a little TLC? If not, change that today. Set yourself up for success so your muscles get what they need to recharge for your next big goal.

One week ago, I raced Ironman 70.3 Syracuse, which meant I essentially climbed hills on wheels and on foot for the 69.1 miles I was out of the water. Sure, I trained well to get there and I was prepared for the grueling six+ hour race, but no matter who we are or how strong we are, we all need to recognize what our bodies need. Remember to think of your physique as a machine - you rev the engine, you hit your max, but to keep a well-oiled machine, you need to cool down and fill up from time to time. So I did.

Now, don’t get me wrong - I did exercise during my recovery week - but everything was tweaked to get my car back on the track. Of the seven days (Monday-Sunday), I exercised about five, adjusted my sleep schedule to get in my max hours of zZz's, and filled up on protein and nutrients to get my bod back to its prime state. Instead of sticking to workouts in the morning, I chose to sleep in most times, and get the sweat sesh in after work. Switching up my routine had it’s ups and downs...

*Ups: Well, for one thing, sleeping in is fantastic! I can’t remember the last time I’ve said that, let alone done it. Most mornings, I hit the alarm at 8am, had a delightful breakfast and then actually had time to do my hair and makeup (girls, you feel me on this one?!) Secondly, my evening workouts were stronger than usual. I had so much energy and my speed was undeniable in both the swim and on the run. I can’t figure out if it was all the food I consumed, the hours of sleep I got, or the fact that my body was applauding me from finally getting up from my desk chair. Lastly, a stroll home from an evening workout proved to be peaceful and oh so fulfilling, as if it’s the bow on my gift, the cherry on my sundae…the perfect way to finalize my day. It was invigorating. Oh, and I saw all new faces in the park! (after a while you start to see the same folks! lol)

*Downs: Sure, a rest week has downs too. Mine involved mainly my hunger. I woke up starving, I came home starving…basically I was always starving. And I had a personal struggle with this because I was burning less calories but craving more than usual. My dainty little self didn’t want to believe that I actually still needed to make up for what I lost in that race or the weeks leading up to it. Also, as much as sleeping in was fun, I had a bigger problem falling asleep at night. Usually lights out before 10, these nights I was tossing and turning as late as midnight, unable to fight off the energy I still had keeping my heart rate at a high. Plus, a late workout means a later meal, and my body was just not ready to stomach it. Though small meals, they still filled me up more than usual. Mornings proved to be slower, probably because I lacked the post-workout adrenaline I usually get from my morning training sessions. And lastly, and most importantly, I was suffering from extreme FOMO (fear of missing out). You see, these group workouts I partake in…they kind of rock. You have awesome people waiting for you every morning, all to work hard and have some fun. I live for that most days. When you find reasoning, you tend to stick to it.

OK, so despite the ups and downs of my recovery week, here’s the bottom line: I listened to my body. I knew that I needed sleep more than anything else, because once you lose your grasp on that, everything goes south. If sleeping in meant missing a couple workouts, ruining my routine, or keeping me from my friends, well then I still made the wise choice. Because here I am on my next week - a tougher week - three weeks out from my next race - and I feel pretty great. 

I want to stress the importance of recovery for every type of race, every distance, every body. Whether you’ve got a 5k planned or a 50k, you better plan your post-race recovery strategy. 

*Remember to stretch immediately after a finish line. Get those muscles back to their pre-race state by loosening them up, BUT be careful. Keep it light and focus on loosening up. Don’t sit right away and you’ll want the blood to continue to flow through your muscles so a stiffness doesn’t occur. At home, if pain is tolerable, spend some time with your foam roller and/or runner’s stick and work through more troubled areas. 
*Remember to hydrate before, during, and certainly after a finish line. No matter the weather, you’ve lost a lot of fluids, so put them back in. If you feel lightheaded or a headache strikes, you’ve waited too long. Water is key, but electrolytes are sometimes extremely beneficial, depending on the type of activity you just engaged in.
*Remember to replenish your body after a finish line. You’ve lost salt, protein, and ample amounts of carbohydrates. Though you’ll want to go for the most unhealthy foods around, try and feed your body with the most nutritious post-workout snack available. Have that protein shake ready to go at home, and make sure it’s within 30-60 minutes of finishing your race or workout. Timing is imperative in order to rebuild and repair the muscle tissue that took a beating.
*Remember to sleep before and after finish lines. No, that doesn’t mean go home and go to bed, but do be cognizant of your body’s needs. If you’re feeling lethargic after a 4-mile run, don’t have any shame in taking a nap. Rest and replenishment allows your muscles plenty of time to properly heal, so you wake up good as new, and hopefully with a new PR.

Recover well and you’ll be back in biz in no time, and more importantly - better than ever.

Elevate & Alleviate,
BForge
 

Workouts this week:

Tuesday: RUN (7mi), BIKE (24mi)

Wednesday: BIKE (computrainer), SWIM (3200yds)

Thursday: SWIM (3300yds), BIKE (24mi)

Friday: BIKE (90mi)

 

Race Recap: Ironman Syracuse 70.3

This past Sunday, June 21st, I raced Ironman Syracuse 70.3. The hilly race was the toughest event I’ve taken on yet, with a rolling course that had most of my team stressed for the past few months. I’ve completed this distance once before, but this race deserves it’s own category for its elevation gains. Those hills….I mean, HELLO.

Soon after some of us signed up for this race, we realized we had some work to do. Sure, the distance was attainable given our training thus far, but the hills on both the bike and run course were no joke. We all spent many mornings riding on our computrainers in T2, previewing that Syracuse course, and shedding a tear from time to time. Turned out, the first 12 miles was to be one big, long, nasty climb. An hour of grinding gears and moving at 6mph was not a feat we were excited to take on. But we paid and agreed, so we had no choice but to train hard and get those hill repeats in. This race was always going to be our way to test what we were really capable of. 

Last Friday we all headed out at separate times…our car leaving around 5pm…and made our way to Syracuse, New York. On the long journey, invaded by some traffic, we sought out a proper dining establishment so we could get our carbs on. (You know, your dinner two days out is just as, if not more important than the meal the night before the race). We finally came across an Italian restaurant in Roscoe, NY and sat down to consume some chicken parmigiana, pasta, and ample amounts of bread and olive oil. I was stuffed but satisfied and now I just needed a bed. We arrived at our hotel around 11 or so, and crashed so fast. Rest was so important - Saturday was to be a big day of prep and last minute training.

Saturday we rose for breakfast and packed our day bags with gear for all three disciplines. We were set to swim, bike and run parts of the Syracuse course to sample the action we would take on on Sunday. At the race sight, we checked in, got our bibs, took some pics, you know, the usual. (During check-in I met fellow triathlete & blogger Xavier from Asphalt Green. Glad you found me, friend!) Then coach Robert had us run around the site to check out the area and asses the transition area. Soon after, we un-racked our bikes and clipped in to ride a portion of the run course, which made most of us cringe when we realized just how big some of those hills were. Later, after racking our bikes, we hopped in the Jamesville lake to test the waters and get a feel for what the swim would be like the next morning. I only swam 200 yards or so and I was covered in seaweed. It was annoying, but it would not get in the way of what I came to do, which is conquer. After that swim, it was 2pm and we all needed a nap before dinner, so we quickly got some food and then got back to the hotel for some shut eye before the next meal.

Our team dinners are always fun, and we genuinely enjoying spending time together which is amazingly convenient. We share a lot of laughs, talk triathlon, and eat like kings. I had a simple bowl of penne with grilled chicken and red sauce. Always is my go-to pre-race dinner. After stuffing our faces, Robert gave us one more speech to calm our nerves and send us home with the reassurance that we’ve trained hard for this. It was true - we had the ammunition to get us over those hills, whether we cared to believe it or not. 

Back at the hotel, I laid out all my belongings and started to arrange my gear spread. Tara and I talked through our strategies for nutrition and then watched some tire changing you tube videos to remind us how to do the thing we both deeply pray we never have to experience…changing a flat during a race. UGH. It gives me chills just to think about it. But soon we were all packed and got to bed. I slept as the rain poured down outside, leaving us a little uncertain about how the weather would hold up for our race. Only time would tell. 

RACE MORNING:
After much traffic leading into the parking lot, we get to the site and it’s POURING. I swear I saw people walking back to their cars and calling it quits. With a tough course like this, a lot of people can easily fear riding in such conditions. I am one of those people. But I am also cheap and stubborn so if I pay the price and do the training, I am doing the race! So I took a deep breath and started the long, wet trek to transition to start my setup. Everything was arranged in plastic bags to keep my gear dry. I filled my bottles, laid out my nutrition, grabbed my wetsuit and headed to swim start with 10 minutes till take off. The rain subsided in time for the gun to go off, which was a sigh of relief. Wind, rain or shine, it was GO TIME.

SWIM (1.2 miles):
7:16am I was off. I stayed at the back of the pack, as usual, so that the crazy swimmers could get ahead and I would be safe from a kick or punch to the face (ain’t that the worst!?) I always feel slight panic early on but that’s only because the waters are rougher and everyone is trying to find their piece of the lake to claim. Well, I soon found mine, more to the outside of the group, furthest from the buoys, which is where I feel most comfortable and can get in my groove. I soon realized I didn’t pull my wetsuit up enough because my next was being slightly choked. Oh the joys of this sport! Then I started to get tangled up in seaweed which was pleasant. But I soldiered on and I swam pretty well, knocking off a negative split with a faster second half, ending in a kick fest to the swim out. I emerged from the water smiling, sans seaweed, and when I looked at my watch I was pleasantly surprised with my time - 39 minutes…almost a 5 minute PR! After the wetsuit strippers helped me get my seal suit off, I was off to transition 1 where I was my usual slow self. (I’d rather be slow & prepared over fast & forgetful). 

BIKE (56 miles):
A long ride out of transition to the bike start was muddy and mucky, but these are things we have no control over. I was focused on getting into a positive mindset as the first 12 miles would be one big climb. This climb is one we have trained for and one that scared us to pieces in computrainer class. I had about 5 minutes to settle in, get in some fluids and take a deep breath, and then the hills began. The rolling countryside of Syracuse is no joke. My downhills were up to 40mph (and death was on my mind the entire time) and my uphills were as slow as 4mph. I found myself, along with others, huffing and puffing up a few nasty peaks that felt never ending. It never really did even out…the whole 56 miles was uphill, just at different grades. I eased in to the smaller hills and found myself practicing my aero handling and sipping my fluids thanks to my watch’s 15-minute reminder. I tried my hardest not to get bored and more so, not get discouraged about those passing me. My heart rate was always moderate (except on the big hills) and I never pushed it to be honest. Maybe I should have more? A few WINS: rode in aero for a decent amount of time, took fluid from bottle exchange and poured into front hydration bottle without losing balance, not dying on the downhills, no flats. LOSSES: I swallowed a bug whole, I didn’t have enough nutrition, I could’ve rode aero a little more, and it rained the last 10 miles. But I finished with a time of 3 hours and 29 minutes, which equated to an average of 16mph. Pretty crazy that I was actually 6 minutes faster on this course than on the flat course of Princeton last fall. I was proud. And stunned. 

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RUN (13.1 miles):
My second transition was slow as I switched from bike to run gear, took in some fluids and ate a few chews, then stopped at a port-a-potty. (I have no shame in stopping for the bathroom. Hell, this is a long race!) My legs were pretty fresh at first and I started to knock off decent mile times. Then at mile 3 I saw IT…yes…IT…the nasty hill I heard so much about. That hill would attack now at 3 and again at mile 9. I tried to run up it, but like most people around me, I ended up walking until it flattened at the top. At least I used that time to breathe through a few oncoming cramps and take in some nutrition. The hills seemed endless, probably because they were. It was hot, but there was little sun, mostly humidity. I took a sponge at every aid station and that was my saving grace. I split the out and back course into it’s two pieces - the first half I would be “warming up” and pretending that this was not even happening - like a dry run. The second half was my 10k, the “real” part of the race, where I would hone in on the finish line and give it my all. At mile 10, I looked at my watch, which I hadn’t done since the swim, and I suddenly realized, I was unexpectedly going to PR this race! My mood skyrocketed and I knew I just had to stay under a 10-minute mile to get to that finish in time, which was totally doable. Before I knew it, I was flying through the course, smiling ear to ear and talking to everyone on my way to the finish shoot. Pain was lessened because emotions were high. Then I saw it…the finish line…the cheering crowds…my coach and teammates…and I screamed “I’M GOING TO PR!!!!” I think that was captured in photos. I raced home and threw my hands up, happiness and triumph filling my heart. I had done it. 

I had said in an Instagram post the night before the event that I would certainly not PR this race because it was such a tough course. Well, I clearly doubted myself and set the bar low, because the turnout was quite the opposite. I PR’d by 11 minutes, with a 6:29 finish, and I did that on a course that was 10x harder than my first. THAT is accomplishment. And I hope you, me and everyone else in this world gives themselves more credit when they set out on a physical journey. Train well, be patient, and have hope…and you too will surpass your expectations.

I am sad to say that after I crossed the finish, a horrendous (yet short) storm set in and race officials had to remove the rest of the runners from the course, leaving many to DNF (did not finish), including some of our own on Terrier Tri. Safety is top of mind, but it was still unfortunate to see, especially when some of them only had a mile to go. Eventually the storm cleared and we headed for home, stopping back at that Italian restaurant we ate at on Friday night to pig out on more parmigiana dishes with pizza as an appetizer. hehe. Monday I felt pretty fresh and Tuesday I was back in the pool swimming 3000 yards. The cycle is back on! I have the NYC Triathlon in 4 weeks and my full Ironman in Mont Tremblant is in 8 weeks. Yikes!

Ironman Syracuse 70.3 was a challenge I will never forget and always be proud of myself for conquering. I’m not the fastest racer, and I don’t ever need to be. We all should enjoy this, and enjoy seeing what hard work leads to.

What challenge will you test yourself with? Be sure to add hills because life gets boring on the flats! (OMG, I just said that.)

-BForge
 

 

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Winning Race Week: Tips for Tapering

You can’t always win the race but you can win race week! The formula for a successful week of tapering before the big day involves several key components. We all seem to go with what works best for us, but at the end of the day, there are some tips you should be sure to hit on before you toe up to the starting line. 

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I’ve got a half Ironman this weekend. This Sunday, June 21st, I’ll be racing Ironman Syracuse 70.3. That’s 1.2 miles of swimming, 56 miles of riding, and 13.1 miles of running. With the hilly course being one of the toughest out there, I’ve got my work cut out for me. And to be quite honest, I’m a bit nervous, despite my consistent training. That’s why I need to get my head and my body in the game before that game begins...

Hydrate
You hear it all the time: hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! And that’s because it is one of the most important things to do leading up to your big day - no matter the type of race or time of year. And yes, this generally means WATER. Alcohol consumption should have ceased weeks, even months before a race, and soda and sugary fruit juices…well, you should know better. Keep a bottle of aqua by your side all day long. Wake up, drink, exercise, drink, eat, drink….drink, drink, drink. If you’re not going to the bathroom more than a handful of times a day, you’re not consuming enough. (OH and let’s be honest - the color of your urine says it all. You want lemonade (barely), not apple juice!)

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