Professional athlete and 3-time Ironman champion

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Well, I am home again after 3 weeks on the road. Won’t be much time for me to put butt prints in my couch, and I’ll be on the road again shortly, but for now….I am home.  I spent the last 3 and a half weeks in Florida.

Well, I am home again after 3 weeks on the road. Won’t be much time for me to put butt prints in my couch, and I’ll be on the road again shortly, but for now….I am home.

I spent the last 3 and a half weeks in Florida.

My trip had a little bit of everything…..racing, training, exhaustion, and RnR all wrapped into a little package of sunshine in central Florida.

My trip started back on January 5 with my DaveyG.

Last summer, when I was in the breakdown lane, we started to frame my schedule for the coming season…..anything to help me believe I’d race again. Since I knew it’d be a while before I’d be ready to race a triathlon again, we started small; 5K here…..10K there. I finally got "ambitious" and decided on a ½ marathon as a good training exercise. I wanted to put myself thru race preparations, both physically and mentally. Even in the "off season", and particularly for me with an extended off season this year, I think it’s good to get up and race every now and again.

We decided on the Disney ½ Marathon. About 100 years ago before my DaveyG was my DaveyG and was "just" my boyfriend….and my brand new boyfriend at that, we’d been talking about my running. I was a passionate (though not particularly talented) runner at the time (some things clearly never change). I hadn’t run a fall marathon that year because I was busy trying to make DaveyG fall in love with me, so by late fall, I was itching to run.

Desperate to impress me (see? My plot worked…..he was smitten!), Dave agreed to run the Disney ½ while I ran the full. It’d be our first "vacation" together. Right around the time we got our wake up call on race morning (at 3 AM for a 5:30AM race start), I think Dave wondered what he’d gotten himself into. I think he’s wondered that every day ever since, but God bless him for putting up with me!

Despite the un-Holy start time, we had a blast at Disney back then. I have to admit? I am a sucker for Disney. It truly is that happiest place on earth. I love it all….the parks, the music, the characters. All the insanely over-the-top-happiness is all a massive disguise to distract you from the hassle of it all; the lines, the massive expense, and the not so subtle attempt of Disney to sell you every little piece of crap trinket that you don’t need, branded with a Disney character of sorts. And I fall for it; hook, line and sinker.

So the decision to go back to race Disney all these years later was an easy one. Easy flight, lots of lodging options, and Mickey Mouse coffee mugs, and Donald Duck toothbrushes for all!

Just as that day years and years ago, our alarm went off at 3AM. Grumble.

We were moved by bus to a parking lot outside Epcot Center, though we’d have to take their word for it. It was pitch dark and even if it hadn’t been, it was a highway in the middle of nowhere. We’d soon learn that there were some 26,000 registered runners for the ½ Marathon. Are you kidding me? 26,000? For a half marathon??! The hair on the back of my neck stood up to think of the nightmare of it all. The crowded start coral. The endless port-o-potty lines. The quiet little race we’d done some (gulp) 14 years ago had grown into a behemoth nightmare.

We made our way thru bag check without issue and jogged our way to the start line. No crowds. We passed line after line after line of port-o-potties and waited (wait for it…..) not once! For 26,000 runners, I think they had 26,001 potties at the ready. I was impressed. (it’s the little things, after all). If Disney knows how to do one thing….it knows how to move people with efficiency and ease and this "little" 26,000 person strong ½ marathon was no exception. It was effortless.

Before we knew it we were off. Raced, reunited, returned to our hotel, napped, and had breakfast…..and it was still only 11AM. Kinda made that 5:30AM start time seem….not so bad!

We spent the rest of the afternoon in the sun, lounging by the pool and resting up for our evening of fun. As a treat for our hard work (I was 9th overall and first Master (though I cringed at the idea of being in the Master’s category), and just off a PR and DaveyG posted a 5 minute PR!), we bought tickets for Cirque du Soleil at Downtown Disney.

In a word? Cirque was the most unbelievable thing I have ever seen in my entire life. Like….EVER. OK, that’s more than a word…I’d more like…several words, but the show was stunning. We sat there in the front row, and for 90 minutes or so, I was totally mesmerized. Watching the performance made me feel like a chooch of an athlete. The things these people did defy gravity, logic and in a lot of instances…..sanity. It was amazing.

After the show, we treated ourselves to a nice fat dinner with some nicer wine than we probably should have splurged on…but what the heck?

It was a great start to the trip.

With our brief RnR over, the next morning, we packed up and left Disney and made our way over to Clermont. For the past several years, I’d done some wintertime training in Austin. This year, as I was trying to figure out my travel to Florida then home, then figure out how to get to Austin and then off to some early season races, DaveyG quietly suggested, "Why not just stay in Florida and train. Go back to Clermont and don’t deal with the hassle of the added travel?"

I knew I liked this guy. What a genius!

I’d trained in Clermont years ago for just a 10-day stint or so. I’d been OK, but I’d come to prefer Austin. This year though, changing things up felt right. What a refreshing change!

Thru my good friends Kimberly and Kevin Grogan at Gear for Multisport, we got hooked up with an amazing condo rental right on Lake Minneola. It was a perfect place. Beautifully finished, equipped with large screen TVs in each of the 3 rooms of the condo, a comfy couch, a great bathtub for alternating epsom salt and ice baths after long days of training, close to the National Training Center and situated right on a bike path; perfect for running off the bike every day.

I settled into the condo, and a day or so later, was forced to say goodbye to DaveyG. It was time for us both to get back to work; he in Boston, and me doing what I do.

From there, things got a little blurry. One day blended into the next: swim, bike, run, eat, sleep, run, bike, swim, lift, stretch, eat, run, swim, bike, sleep, eat…..you get the point. For 3 solid weeks, I flirted with sheer exhaustion, but was impressed with my body’s resilience. Most days, I’d get up and think, "I don’t know if I can do it again today." And with the exception of one truly terrible day where I literally couldn’t turn the pedals over on the bike, every day I got thru some significant training, putting massive deposits in both the fitness and confidence banks!

While quite flat, the central Florida roads are great training grounds. Mostly quiet and with little traffic, I logged miles and miles (and miles) on the bike. Ample wind on most days added a challenge that the flat topography didn’t offer on its own. I had great rides; with Patrick Evoe, with Nina Kraft, with Kimberly Grogan and with my new friend, Boki. Some days, I was content to ride alone.

The bike trail around Lake Minneola was perfect for brick runs, and thanks again to Kimberly and Kevin and Gear for MultiSport for the water cooler on the corner of their yard. It saved my life on more than one occasion!

A short drive away was the Clay Trail. Closed to vehicle traffic, the clay trail was one of the most joyful places I’ve ever run; holding a candle to running The Dish at Stanford and the Battle Trail in Lexington, MA. The Clay Trail is just under 10 miles of clay road covered in sand. It’s footing isn’t great, but it’s soft surface means you can run all day and not get hurt. There are lots of hills; great for building early season strength! You run thru citrus orchards, which smells delightful. I felt like I could run there all day….and for me….that’s saying something!

If there was one gem more treasured than the Clay Trail, it was the NTC outdoor 50 meter pool. Of course, given the volume and stress of my training while I was there, I had days were I feared I wouldn’t make it from one end to the other, but there’s one thing you just can’ t beat…..outdoor, 50 meter water. LOVE IT.

What did I not love about my time in Clermont? Not much!

I wasn’t a huge fan of the US Track and Field Team. Don’t get me wrong; talented and gifted they are; but comfortable to run with on the track? Eggghhhh…..

During my second week, I headed to the track after a hard interval session on the bike. That’s a polite way of saying….I was dragging ass….a little more than even normal when I head to the track. When I arrived, I noted an unusual number of cars parked around the track. Only then did I notice the 30+ athletes leaping over hurdles like they were an inch tall, and running circles on the track that left Road Runner-esque like plumes of smoke behind their fast feet.

"They are sprinters," I thought, "How long can they really spend on the track?" I started my warm up. And I ran. And I ran. And I ran. After about 8 miles of warm up, I decided they could spend quite a bit of time on the track. Sheepishly, I walked onto the track and asked someone who looked to be in charge if it was OK if I ran some miles.

"Oh, sure, honey. They’ll get out of your way".

Gulp.

We’ll cut to the chase and just say, simply, I felt like the fat girl at prom. The track is not somewhere I feel….um, "at ease" on a good day. Running with a good chunk of the US Track and Field sprint group….yeah…that didn’t help.

As I warmed down, I thought to invite them to come swimming with me….just to try to salvage any ounce of self-respect I might have had left. Instead, I slid off the track and begged Karen for a treadmill session the following week so as to not have to show my face down at the track again.

Even in the pool, I was dealt a dose of humble pie from time to time! Clermont is bustling with loads of triathletes in training…..mostly of the ITU variety. I joined these young, fast pups for a swim or two and it didn’t take long to feel my age and distinct lack of fast twitch muscle fiber! But what a welcoming group! They posted their training sessions and were always welcoming for people to come along. They were a really friendly group and I was so pleased to get to know them, even just a little and will cheer their efforts as they head to London in 2012.

So that’s where I am at. I am back home, and while Riley the Wonderdog didn’t pee on the floor when I got home out of pure joy, she’s been reluctant to leave my side, so I’ll take that as a sign that I was missed. DaveyG didn’t pee on the floor either, but I know we’re happy to be back together for at least a little while before I start the next journey.

Persistence. Determination. Love. The Journey!

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