Wednesday, June 24, 2015

GIVEAWAY!!! Christmas in July

Hey folks! Its been awhile but I'm so excited to be giving away entry into the 5 or 10K or $75 off on one of the ultras for the Christmas in July Race.

Here are the details:

* USATF Certified course for all races
* 5K, 10K, 6 hour, 12 hour and 24 hour races. New - strollers allowed in 5K and 10K
* Races are chipped timed * Kids run - Run with Santa, Kids get bib, t-shirt, medal. And it's FREE. Fun run (kids races) are free and all participants will receive an AWESOME medal, a t-shirt, a bib. 2 runs - Friday night and Saturday night 30 minutes before 5K/10K.
* Awesome medals for all finishers
* Unique awards. Nutcrackers will be awarded to 10 year gap age group category winners for 5k/10k
* Nutcracker awards for top 3 male/female open and masters in ultra events
* All races get race bibs, t-shirts
* 5K/10K get bonus swag in addition to shirt (yet TBD, but should be equally as awesome)
* Ultra events get bonus swag in addition to shirt (yet TBD, but should be equally as awesome)
* Ultra runners who get 100 or more miles in their event will earn a custom CiJ belt buckle
* Costume contests
* "1 mile" loop for ultra events will be lined with lit luminaries
* Evening times on both Friday and Saturday nights: 5K - Friday at 8:00, 10K - Saturday at 7:30 PM
* Ultra timed events, all start on Friday night kicking off with 24 Hour from 10 PM - 10 PM Saturday; 12 Hour 11:00 PM - 11:00 AM, and 6 hour 12 AM - 6 AM.
* Ultras - no DNF - run as much or as little as you like! All participants get an award plus get shirt and extra bonus swag that is sure to be awesome!
* Fully stocked aid station with meals served for ultras.  Water, electrolyte drink, and snacks at the 5k/10k aid station

The race swag for this event is phenomenal! Last year I did the 5k (race recap here) and absolutely loved it! This year the weekend of events kicks off on Friday July 17th in Lisle Community Park. This event is great for the entire family, even the kiddos can earn a medal with the kids run. I was considering this race for my first ultra considering you're able to do as many miles as you can within the given time limit rather than needing to do a set amount of miles in a certain period of time. One of my running friends, Kim, ran the 24 hour ultra last year and loved it! 

If you're so excited you can't wait to sign up use the code NATALIPROMO10 to save 10% off right now. I'll be giving away either a free entry to the 5k or 10k OR $75 off one of the ultra events. Drop a comment with which distance you'd like to do any why. I'll be choosing a winner on Friday so hurry and enter soon!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

USAT Athena National Championship

Last year sometime Claire and Denise asked if I would be going to the USAT Athena National Championship. At the time I wasn't really sure but after finishing the Chicago Triathlon I felt unstoppable and needed a new goal to work towards. I registered and started putting together my training plan. Unfortunately, Chicago weather didn't agree with my plans and I wasn't able to get any OWS practice or time on my bike before the race. Yes, you read that correctly...I did not do any OWS or outdoor biking of any kind from when my season ended last year until this June. Yes, this was not a wise choice but sometimes life is about taking risks, right?

roadddddd trippppppp
Claire and Denise are truly like my family away from home. They feed me, come visit me at work, check up on me and even let me come over and pretend like their dogs are my pets for a few hours. I'm not sure what I would do without them. They have become an integral part of my support system. The prospect of spending a weekend with some of my favorite people, doing one of the things we love most....well obviously it was a no-brainer. We packed up the car and headed off to Grand Rapids.
ritual, pre-race prep
Upon arrival we headed straight to packet pickup. We had our own dedicated table and even scored some sweet USAT swag (OK maybe not really that sweet but I was pretty excited about the hat). We had posted in the Athena facebook group page that we'd be dining at Olive Garden so we made our way over there right after we dropped our stuff off at the hotel. Much carbo loading and conversation was had before our last stop of the day. It turns out our hotel was near a liquor store so we checked out the local brews and brought a few (by few I mean a variety of bottles and cases) back to the hotel.

Race day morning. We awoke to the sound of rain against our windows. It was dark, dreary, dreadful (all of those ugly D words).

Denise was concerned, the nerves were stating to get the best of her. Claire and I kept reassuring her that the race would be fine when honestly I think we were all ready to back out. I prepped coffee for Claire and I to keep my mind focused. We packed the car back up and off we went to rack up in transition. Yes, it was still raining. Denise was doing the Oly so she was in a different area, but luckily Claire and I got to rack our bikes right next to each other. 

rainy transition before the race
Despite my best efforts I still felt an overwhelming anxiety about the race. I tried to stuff all that doubt and concern into the depths of my brain and just focus on what I needed to do for the swim. I got my wetsuit on fiddled with my goggles for a bit. I just wanted the race to be over. I didn't feel ready. When it was finally time, we walked over to prepare for the swim start. It began fine but a few strokes in and my goggles broke. Great, this is totally what I need right now. I was able to get them figured out but it psyched me out a bit. By now much of the pack (front, middle and back) have all passed me. I'm with a few lone stragglers in the back but we're moving along. The further out we get the more I begin to feel fear creeping in. Something about the vastness of the lake and not having a wall or shoreline to sight really freaked me out. I began to hyperventilate and had to roll onto my back to swim backstroke until I could regain my breathing. I couldn't believe this was happening. I've done this before, OWS is not new to me. There were several pep talks occurring simultaneously in my head. Mostly I had to convince myself that the only way out was to keep going.
When I finally reached the volunteers pulling us out of the water I let out a deep sigh of relief. I made it. I didn't drown. Now onto the bike. I grabbed Trixie and did my best to run towards the bike out. Once I was mounted I hit the pedals and was off. Up until this point I was absolutely convinced that there was no one else left in my wave behind me. Turns out I was wrong, but then they passed me on the bike so I guess it didn't really matter anyway. "This is YOUR race, don't worry about anyone else" Yeahhhh right, my competitive side was finally starting to edge in. I hit the turn around quicker than I thought and got really excited about heading back so I could start my run. I felt confident, strong, and definitely owned that bike ride. This was a first for me as I usually struggle with this portion the most. I just kept pedaling away and before I knew it I had reached transition. This was just a quick stop to drop off my bike then I made my way to the run course. Oh, and by the way, its STILL raining.
The run is my favorite part. I feel relaxed and natural. This is the easy part. The 5k run was an out and back sort of loop. I was pretty hungry by now so all I was focusing on was getting to that finish line so I could eat. At some point between miles 2 and 3 a lady I had seen on the course earlier ran out to ave ma twizzler. She told me it would get me through until the finish line. I admit, it did help give me a second wind to push a little harder. As runners continued to head onto the course I offered high fives and smiles to anyone who would accept. Man, its a great thing to be a triathlete. I felt blessed.
As I crossed the finish line and checked out my time, I realize I've just PRed by a little over 20 minutes. Hell yusssss!!! It wasn't a podium finish and it certainly wasn't the best race I've ever had, but I felt good. I'm happy with my results. I learned a lot about myself out on that course and have plenty to work on before my next tri.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Spartan Beast...the road to TRIFECTA

the map to hell
pre race preparations
before we conquered the beast
Sometime last year I decided I wanted to do a Spartan Race. I signed up for the Super (8+ MILES, 25+ OBSTACLES) but a few weeks before the race I decided to switch to the Sprint (3+ MILES, 20+ OBSTACLES). Considering it was less than a month before my first full marathon I was too afraid to risk injury. I was able to convince a few friends to join me and we had an epic adventure (read about it here). Also, what I truly wanted was to earn a trifecta and I knew it wouldn't be possible with my schedule last year.

This year I made sure that the trifecta would finally be mine. Unfortunately do to my geographic proximity to race sites, I would have to face the Beast first. More than 13 miles of over 30 obstacles. Yes, I wanted to pay to torture myself. I registered for the Ohio Beast as well as the Chicago Sprint & Super to round out my trifecta. The Chicago races aren't until August so the Beast would really push me to my limits early in my season.

I decided to ride out to Ohio with a few of my teammates (Tony & Noah). We stopped on the way at a BBQ join near Indy and of course I enjoyed one of their local craft brews. After filling our bellies we ventured on and reached our destination just in time for dinner. We met up with the rest of our team and grabbed some grub at Cracker Barrel. As we settled into our hotel room that night all of us anxiously laid out our gear to prepare for the journey ahead. 

We got up early, capitalized on the free hotel breakfast then headed to race village. We got there early enough to find parking, get checked in and relax a bit before our wave time. Our team gathered for a group picture and then it was off to the starting line. I don't think I've felt that anxious about a race in quite some time. Tony promised to pace with me so that eased my anxieties at least a bit. After climbing over a wall to get to the start we were well on our way. 

Energy and spirits were high as we trotted along the first few miles of the course. We were excited, nerves had finally been quelled. As the day went on though, the heat grew more intense and the distance between aid stations became greater. Thankfully I had worn my hydration pack (filled with MESTRENGTH and snacks for protein like Go Go Go Bars). At some point around mile 3 I began to develop a seriously intense headache. I feared it may be heat stroke of some sort but I just kept trucking. I kept hoping that we would encounter a water obstacle that would cool me down. Much to my dismay there were no swimming/water obstacles on this course. 

When we finally reached the next aid station they were all out of water. I wanted to cry. I wanted to sit down and bury my face in tears. The heat was brutal and it was seriously getting to me. I couldn't focus, the pain was growing and I was seriously concerned about how long it would take me to finish the race. Every few steps I would try and find a new way to distract myself. I told jokes, sang songs, but mostly I just swore. A lot. I basically cursed everything along that course. 

This was by far THE most difficult race I have completed to date. I mean it was rough. They don't call it the Beast for nothing. But through it all I just kept reminding myself "you can do this, you're strong beyond your doubts". Having a teammate there really helped keep me focused. Tony was a bit of a lifesaver in making sure I didn't give up. We alternated being each others cheerleader as we trudged through the woods and up the hills. 

nope, don't even want to do this anymore
By the time we reached the final stretch, laden with obstacles, I had pretty much nothing left to give. I had left it all out in the woods. I'm not even sure what kept me going. It was just sheer willpower moving my legs forward. You can see in the picture that even the barbwire crawl was not what I wanted to be doing at that point. I was just exhausted. My body was ready to give up on me. 

It was slow and it was ugly, but I managed to finish the race. I've never felt so accomplished after a mud run as I did that day. I was overwhelmed with pride that I had indeed conquered the Beast. 

If after reading all this you still think you might want to give it a try, let me know. I may have an extra registration code up for grabs...let me know why you want to slay the beast and find your inner Spartan.
what I thought I looked like at the finish line
what I actually looked like
teammates, together we conquered!

sometimes I like to stop for pictures...
pre race beer - porter
post race beer - oatmeal stout