Monday, January 9, 2012

The Struggles of Moving to a New Place

When I arrived back to Denver on Dec 29th I had a boyfriend and a smushed face dog very excited to see me! I was equally excited to see them as well. Two months away from Phil and Brizzy was hard!

this was after her excitement wore off.
I have spent the past week trying to get settled. Put clothes away, clean up, find a job, work out, keep myself busy. To be quite honest- the past week was kind of lonely and I struggled at times. I may have cried once or twice...or more. My amazing friends and family who checked in on me last week knew I was having a hard time and they helped me get through the week with phone calls, voice mails, texts, a really funny email conversation with Kate, and of course Phil being supportive.

I am feeling much better this week (still obviously missing friends and family!) about being in a new city. I am also very, very excited for the other DC transplant, Liz to arrive this week. Her and her hubby are relocating to Denver so at least I will know one person! Liz and I have very similar goals this year: run a sub 4 marathon, explore a new city, try all of the local breweries, and make some Denver friends. Get here faster, Liz! :)

Hopefully in the coming weeks I will be all settled, make some friends, find some fun places to explore, and learn how to use my new toy:

I can't live in Colorado and NOT partake in snow sports! And I am still scared of skiing after my accident, so snowboarding it is! I'll try to keep all bones and ligaments in tact. And yes, my board and bindings are black with a bit of pink- just like my bike. It just so happened that this board was a really, really good deal, and was one of the only ones in my size. It was meant to be.

Thanks to all of my friends that checked in on me from afar last week- I love you guys :)

And ps- my blog is about to get a whole new makeover! I am switching to a self hosted blog so see ya, Blogger! If you have been having trouble with the blog- that is why. Its been a painful process but I think I have it almost figured out and it should be up and running in the next few days!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Pure Barre: A Triathlete's Dream Crosstraining Workout

Us triathletes are always looking for a fun way to cross train. You know- something that doesn't involve swimming, biking or running. My sister introduced me to a class called Pure Barre when I was home visiting family back in September.

The class is about an hour long and is a series of small isometric movements both on and off the ballet barre. The instructors are high energy and they always seems to pick the best music for the exercise. For my first class, Nikki told me to just grab the two pound weights. I looked at her with my head cocked to the side. Two pounds didn't seem hard. She assured me the two pound weights would be enough. She was right.

The small movements do not seem too intimidating at first and then your whole body starts to shake. The class focuses on toning your arms, abs, thighs and booty by bringing your muscles to the ultimate fatigue point and then stretching.

I enjoyed the class (and took a few more in Philly over Christmas) so much that I signed up for a month of unlimited classes at the studio near my apartment in Denver. After finishing Ironman and with a few weeks before intense marathon training starts, I figured doing a month of demi plies until my legs shook uncontrollably sounded like a great change of pace from my normal swim-bike-run routine.

Pure Barre is marketed to women who are looking to tone up. The Pure Barre media guide states:

        "Pure Barre is the fastest most effective way to change your body. PB utilizes the ballet barre to perform small isometric movements set to motivating music. These movements are targeted at where women struggle most: abs, hips, thighs, back of the arm and seat. 
       The result is a total body workout that lifts your seat, tones your thighs and burns fat in record breaking time. Clients see results in just ten classes."

The Pure Barre slogan is "Lift. Tone. Burn." Now while I, like all other women, wouldn't mind a perfectly toned rear end and arms, I was there for a different reason yesterday- to get stronger. I am using Pure Barre as my off-season strength sessions.

Pure Barre should be marketed to athletes as well because this class focuses on a triathletes and runners weakest muscles. We triathletes are forward movers- every sport we train for moves us in one direction. Which leads to weak lateral stability muscles. Which then can lead to knee, hip, ankle and/or lower back injuries.


Pure Barre, while toning, is strengthening muscles that triathletes do not focus on or use much during regular exercise. The biggest of these muscles being the gluteus medius- the erky muscle that causes a ton of hip and knee pain if it is not strong. As I was moving my leg up and down with the slightest motion to tone my outer thigh and hip, my glute med was getting stronger. It hurt so good.


I would bet that the majority of runners, triathletes, and active people in general have weak ankles. We never work out our ankles! And guess what- there are a ton of small muscles in our ankles that keep us stable. Last year, when I was diagnosed with tendinitis in my ankles my physical therapist had me do a ton of ankle stabilization exercises. Yesterday, as I was on my very tippy toes at the ballet barre, it reminded me of the exercises I would perform to strengthen my ankles.

And the abs portion of the class is killer. I thought I had a pretty strong core until I had to pulse up and down for 90 seconds with my hands by my ears. Lets face it, we all need stronger cores.

And lastly- flexibility! I can say with certainty that athletes do not stretch as often as we should. In the triathlon world we need flexibility to survive those long bike rides in the aero position. The Pure Barre class stretches out the muscles you just worked until fatigue and then some.

I'm looking forward to spending this month getting stronger and in prime strength condition for injury-free marathon training. Pure Barre, I love you. You are a triathlete's dream.

Friday, December 30, 2011

See ya 2011! Hello 2012!

I can say, that without a doubt, 2011 has been the best year of my almost 26 years on this earth.
It started out a little rocky with an ankle injury that prevented me from running my first marathon. The tri season also started out on a low note with getting a bloody nose and crashing my bike during my first Olympic distance triathlon. From there, there was only one way to go: up.

I had 2 huge goals in 2011: Get accepted into a physical therapy program (not many people even knew I was applying!), and cross the finish line of Ironman Cozumel. Both of which had the potential to not go the way I had hoped.
On September 27th, I got the letter stating I had been accepted via early decision to my first choice PT school. Phil got a job offer the same day, and we quickly made arrangements to to move to Denver.

Despite the stress of having to move in two weeks, I was able to some-what keep up with my Ironman training. I missed a few big workouts and I was nervous going into the race that perhaps I tried to take on too many tasks in 2011 and something would have to give.

Fortunately for me, November 27th went off without a hitch. With my family and friends right by my side, I crossed the finish line with the worlds biggest smile.

In 2011 I became an Ironman and a future Doctor of Physical Therapy. It wasn't an easy year- balancing applying to schools, taking prerequisite classes, having a full time job, and training for an Ironman- but it was damn rewarding. I learned the strength of myself, my friendships and my relationship. I couldn't have asked for a better year.

With a whole new city to explore, more friends to make, and several new adventures, I can only imagine that 2012 is going to be just as great, if not better, than 2011.

Happy new year, everyone!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gettin' back on the Workout Wagon

It has been just over three weeks since I exercised for 14 hours and 56 minutes in one day. Since that day I have done a whole lot of not working out. And by that I mean I have not worked out a single time (unless you count doing 15 crunches a day a workout or dancing until 3 am) until this evening.

Instead, I have spent time traveling up and down the east coast visiting friends and having a social life. Yes, a social life. I danced. I stayed out past 3 am on more than one occasion. I slept until noon because I could. I drank entirely too much beer at one time. I tried soup dumplings in NYC (amazing!). I wore 4 inch heels. I painted my nails and blow dried my hair. It's been glorious.

I know, it's alot of beers. We were at a concert and had a great spot right in the front so we stocked up so we would not have to move. I would be lying if I said we didn't drink it all (plus perhaps a few more).

Why yes that is my Ironman jacket I am wearing while attempting to eat soup dumplings.

After 3 weeks of eating, drinking, sleeping and being lazy, I began to get antsy to hit the gym. Really antsy. I got to the gym tonight and I stared blankly at all of the machines unsure of what I felt like doing. I got on the treadmill dreading how awful running would feel. I started out slow and was surprised at how easy and effortless it felt. So I sped up. It felt SO good to be running fast. I spent a whole year running in zone 2. My first mile was right at 10 minute pace. The second mile I jumped to an 8:30 pace. By the third mile I was feeling a little daring so I pumped up the treadmill to 8.6, a 6:59 pace, and held on for dear life. I finished the third mile panting, sweating, with my heart rate through the roof and with a huge smile. That is the fastest mile of my life to date. 3 weeks after an Ironman. I like it.

I was so excited with my run that I got off the treadmill and enthusiastically did a hard weights and abs workout. It is safe to say that tomorrow I may not be able to move- and that is okay because marathon training doesn't start for a few more weeks.

And on a totally random note- This is the sign on the door of Rice to Riches- a store in NYC that only sells 35 different flavors of rice pudding. It is amazing. I told you I have done a lot of eating!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A look ahead to 2012!

Now that Ironman Cozumel has come and gone, I can't help but wonder what's next. The past year has been dedicated to spending hours upon hours with my heart rate in zone 2, and constantly building endurance to get me across the finish line. So now that I have my finisher's medal and hold the title of Ironman it is time to plan for my next big goal.

Yes, I plan to do another Ironman. No, it will not be in 2012.

I am still such a new runner and triathlete that I want to spend the next year really working on speed, technique and strength. You know I have never been taught to run correctly? I heel strike like I am attempting to do an Irish jig while running, I drop my hips like I have an attitude problem and I'm pretty sure the cadence of my feet is either too slow or too fast. Colorado has tons of good runners and running groups, and I plan to find one that will help me learn to run like a runner and not like a girl running away from a bear.

awful, awful form!
I also need to spend more time riding because my bike handling skills are less than stellar. I won't tell you just how many times I have fallen off my bike this past season but I can assure you it is more than when I was learning to ride without training wheels for the first time. Somehow both my bike and my bones are still in tact.

I'm smiling because I haven't fallen off yet
With the technique and speed work on the run, I have a pretty lofty goal for the spring. I'm slightly scared to type it because it is aggressive but doable if I work hard. I signed up for the Colorado marathon back in October to celebrate being a new resident of the Rocky Mountain State. This will be my first stand alone marathon, but the third marathon I will have trained for. The first marathon I trained for I didn't get to run because of tendinitis that was diagnosed 2 weeks before the race. Then I trained for the marathon portion of the Ironman. 20 mile runs no longer scare me. I'm not scared of the distance. My long runs training for the marathon that I never got to run averaged a 9:20ish pace. My long runs training for Ironman were slower- about a 10:30 pace. I think I can get my long runs back to starting with a 9 and then I hope to go sub 4 hours on May 6th. It's aggressive, it is going to be tough, but I can do it. The slight downhill will hopefully help!

Other than going sub 4 for the marathon, I also have some triathlon goals to achieve in 2012. I enjoy the half distance but I have only done two of them. The first one I really messed up my nutrition on a super hot day and had to walk all 13.1 miles. The second one I did totally with my heart rate in zone 2 as a practice race execution for Ironman. This year- I want to actually race a 70.3. Sub 6 in the 70.3 distance is mine. I don't know which 70.3 yet, but I'll keep you posted when I decide.

Other goals for 2012 include trying as many Colorado beers as I can, hiking a 14,000 mountain, riding my bike up that same said mountain (after I learn not to fall off my bike), getting back into rock climbing, cooking tons of new recipes, learning to snowboard, and having a great time in general.

2011 was a truly wonderful year. I think 2012 will prove to be just as amazing!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Phil's Ironman Cozumel Race Report

The morning of the race was a bit stressful.  We missed the first shuttle and the second shuttle was very late.  We ended up getting to transition with only 6 minutes to spare.  Everything ended up working out, but there were a lot of stressed athletes on that shuttle with us.  Lauren and I walked out on the dock together after the pro's went off.  I spotted the location I wanted to be, gave Lauren a kiss, and jumped off the dock.  I immediately regretted not doing a flip or something fun!  I hung on the fence of the dolphin prison sanctuary and waited for the two minute warning.  Once we were close to starting I swam out to the start line and waited for the gun.

The Swim:
The gun sounded and we were off.  The ocean was calm and slightly cool, definitely a perfect day for swimming.  The water was 100% clear with lots of fish and coral.  You were under the watchful eyes of scuba divers that were positioned every 400 yards to assist if anyone started to go under.  I had very minor contact and managed to draft for most of the swim.  My sighting was off a bit and I wandered somewhat off course.  I was stung a couple of times by jellyfish, but the pain is very minor.  I found that if you 'brush' the sting off with your hand, the minor pain subsides faster.  The swim felt effortless and before I knew it, it was over in 1:05. I climbed out, picked up my gear bag and ran to the changing tent.

T1 is essentially a large tent that you can completely change in.  Men and women have separate tents so that you can fully change.  It was chaos.  There were a ton of people yanking gear off and on and running about.  It is a bit difficult getting all your gear on when you are wet, but I slowly got everything on, ran to my bike and pushed it to the bike mount line.

The bike was the worst part by far.  The first lap (37 miles) felt great.  The temperature was cool and the wind had not picked up.  By lap two my Garmin showed that it had warmed to over 90 degrees. You also have a lovely head or cross wind that increases through the day on about 70% of each loop.  You only have a 7 mile stretch going with the wind. 

I had to swallow my ego on the bike as I kept getting passed...  and passed.... and passed.  I would say I was passed probably 400 times.  I was passed by a few different pace\draft groups on the bike.  This was very upsetting to see, but I never drafted, and I also heard that quite a few people received penalties!  Cheaters! You are not a true Ironman!

Everyone I talked to said to not go out too hard on the bike, so I did exactly that. I kept my heart rate under control and kept pedaling.  The course was absolutely amazing (sans the wind).  You were on an ocean road for most of the ride, and there were crowds of spectators lining the streets for a few miles downtown.  I did rent Zipp 404's for the race. Based on my average speed I probably didn't benefit too much from them, but they felt great and more importantly, looked awesome!

As I neared the bike finish I unstrapped my shoes from my feet and pedaled on top so I could do my running dismount.  As I approached the line someone was being tended to by medical staff less than 10 yards from the corral around the bike finish. That would have sucked!  Somehow I managed I swing my leg over and complete my running dismount flawlessly.  I handed off my bike, grabbed my gear bag and ran into T2.

T2 was much less chaotic that T1.  The pack had spread out and people were moving quite a bit slower.  Some people were even just sitting in chairs looking like they were trying to pump themselves up into starting the run or possibly contemplating death.   I changed into new shorts and my tri jersey and grabbed my Garmin Watch.  As I was putting it on I noticed it was completely dead!  Darn, I was worried about that.  The Garmin watches turn themselves on whenever a compatible HR monitor comes in the vicinity of the watch.  This on\off and detection mode must have killed it!  I took my HR monitor off and put my Garmin in my transition bag.  I would run without GPS and a HR monitor. 

I hit up the porta-potties during transition... this is generally not noteworthy, but the one I got in must have been halfway on\off a curb.  When I stepped in, it rocked forward, then rocked back.  I stood there using the restroom as it teetered back and forth like a seesaw.  Fortunately I was not hit by any liquids or solids in this adventure.

It was nice to be off the bike and running.  Running without the HR monitor felt great!  I ran with perceived effort and clocked that I was running at about a 10 minute mile pace, perfect!  The spectator support was unreal.  There were dancers, a drumline, little kids wanting high fives, and tons of people cheering you on. 

The course consisted of three out and back loops, starting near the harbor and turning around near our hotel around 4 miles away.  I road my bike on the course the day before and traveled the route by car multiple times. It felt so far even when traveling by car.  I kept wondering how I was going to run it three times.

On the course there was water and food stations every kilometer.  I would grab water at every aid station and a half banana at every other. 

I love bananas

About a mile into the run it started raining.  I love running in the rain!  There was light rain for about a mile, but then it felt like a tropical storm hit. The rain drops were huge and coming down in sheets!  Rain water started pooling and flooded the street.  I was wearing a headsweats visor for the first time (Thanks TriBella!).  I was very happy to have that on as it deflected most of the rain.  After about another mile, the rain subsided, but the damage was done.  One section of the run course completely flooded and never drained for the remainder of the race. You would run on the sidewalk to bypass most of the flood, but when you had to cross the street you stepped into 8 inches of water.  Most people walked every time they passed through the lake, but I just high stepped it through the water and splashed them.

Before I knew it, I was running past our hotel.  I saw Lauren's and my family outside cheering.  I felt great!  I turned around and ran back past everyone with a smile.  When I hit the turn for lap two I thought I saw Lauren pop out of T2 just in front of me.   I was so excited!  I heavily picked up the pace and caught the girl in the Team Z jersey, with a pink race belt, that was NOT Lauren.   I talked to her for a bit and she said she gets it quite a bit and I can see why!

I looped passed the hotel and half marathon point still feeling good.  Soon after I actually saw Lauren, gave her a kiss and ran on.  She was looking great, and not just that fake smile she puts on during some races. (Lauren's note: I have no idea what he is talking about ;))  It is always great to see each other during races, but even better when both of us are having great races! 

I was passing a lot of competitors just keeping a slow steady pace.  Each mile just melted away.  I hit the mile 15, mile 18, mile 20, then hit the final turn around point with 4.7 miles to go.  How was I already here?  How do I still feel good?  Since I was still feeling great I decided to run faster.  I picked up the pace, shaving a minute a kilometer off my time for the last 4 miles.  I coasted past the crowds and made the final left hand turn into the finishers chute.  It was amazing! 


I crossed the finish line in 11 hours and 51 minutes still feeling like I could run another marathon (Guess I didn't push hard enough!).  All of my support crew was standing at the finish.  I got my medal and walked over to them, giving my Mom a big hug.  It was so nice having such amazing support!  I proceeded to get my photo taken, eat 3 pieces of pizza and receive a massage.

The finishers tent was a sight to see. People were grimacing in pain, quite a few were icing their legs, and others were laying on beds in the medical tent with IV's attached. I saw two people pretty much pass out in front of me. I saw the second one getting ready to pass out, his face went flushed, he realized he was going down, and tried to sit down. I grabbed him as I could tell he may not make it, helped him down and made him a makeshift pillow out of his finishers gear to protect his head. Volunteers saw this happening and got medical support there within 30 seconds. Pretty crazy! He was in front of me in the massage line, so I just had less time to wait :-)

After my massage I walked out and met up with my family.  We watched the top three males and females get their awards while the crowds blew into their vuvuzela's. 

Anthony and I proceeded to celebrate my success with some Modelo's purchased from a street vendor and then cheer on Lauren as she cruised through the finish!

Overall Thoughts:
It was a great day.  The swim and the run felt great!  The bike was miserable as it was hot, windy, and I kept getting passed.  As I was thinking of what I wanted to write in my race report I thought of how boring of the race was compared to my others since everything went as planned.  As I drafted my report I remembered all the little experiences and realized that even a perfectly executed race without having to overcome adversities can be exciting.  My main take away this race is that if you train correctly and race how you train you will be setup for success.  Granted, anything can happen when completing a feat of this distance, but I did not even have any moderate mental or physical issues.  I went out there, listened to all the advice I had been given and executed the race I knew I could.  Fortunately my body played well and I crossed the finish line with a smile 

What's the next challenge?  Cycling up MountEvans (the highest paved road in North America)! And  until then... lots of beer and snowboarding (including teaching Lauren how to as well)!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ironman Cozumel Race Report: Part Tres

If you need to get caught up to speed, don't forget to read parts Uno and Dos!

The Run

My second transition time was much faster than my first. I got into that tent, changed, used the bathroom, and was thrilled to be on my own two feet. There is something scary about the bike portion of an Ironman- if your chain breaks at mile 80 or your bike magically bursts into flames your race is over. Having sneakers on my feet was a relief.

It was at this point in the race where I knew I would finish. I had surpassed the bike cut off time with enough time that even if I had to walk every step of the marathon I would get to the finish line before the 17 hour mark. It was a good feeling. A really, really, damn good feeling.

The run course is 3 loops of about 8.7 miles each. The course takes you from downtown to the hotel we were staying at (our hotel drive way was the run special needs station) and then back into town. Repeat. Repeat again. Repeat one last time.

From the beginning I was doing a run/walk strategy. I would walk through every aid station which were every kilometer. The aid stations were well stocked and I loved how they distributed water! Water was in small plastic pouches that you would pop a hole in using your teeth. Other than squirting myself in the face every single time, I liked this method WAY better than trying to drink from a cup!

My legs felt great- like I hadn't just spent almost 8 hours on my bike. The easy effort and high cadence on the bike really payed off when I got to the run. My stomach was also cooperating very well which made me so happy considering the nutritional issues I dealt with during training and other races. I felt good and I wanted to keep it that way.

At around the 3 mile mark I see what looks like a river in front of me and athletes just running through it. The street had flooded from a storm that rolled in (which I totally missed because I was still on my bike) and there was no way around it. This dampened my spirits for a minute. Seriously- within 3 miles of my first marathon you want me to run through calf deep water completely soaking my shoes and socks? and then run through it 5 more times after that keeping my feet wet for the entire marathon? I had a flashback of Eagleman where I poured water on myself from the heat and my shoes were soaked and I lost all of my toenails and had so many blisters due to my wet feet. And this was double the distance. Damn it.

I sucked it up and pranced through the mini river, pissed that my feet were now saturated with water (that I later found out was raw glad I didn't know that during the race!). Just as I was mentally talking myself out of the bad mood induced by my wet feet, I see Phil running toward me. He stopped to give me a kiss and told me I was kicking ass and he was proud. Seeing him made me forget about my soggy feet and put a smile on my face. He was also kicking serious ass (his race report will be posted later this week).

Approaching my hotel and the run turn around I see the Kealy and Riley support crew screaming, jumping up and down, and ringing cow bells. I tell them as I pass them that I feel fantastic and I am having a blast. At this point, I totally forget that my feet are wet.

I made my way back into town where the crowds were insane. There was a drum line playing, kids wanting to give you a high five, and people screaming. It was amazing. To turn around for your next loop you go within 100 yards of the finish line. It is slightly evil. The guy in front of me made the left hand turn into the finish while I made the U turn to head out on my second loop. Even though I was jealous that he was finished, the crowd support cheered so loudly when I was running away from the finish line to start my next lap. The crowd supported carried me out of town running the whole way.

The third loop is when I really started to hurt. My stomach was still fine but I was tired and my wet feet had had enough. Walking breaks became more frequent and I was now jogging as slow as I was walking. I was told you don't know what you are made out of until the last 6 miles of an Ironman.

Well, I know what I am made of: determination and a sense of humor.

I saw the camera guy and I decided to dance instead of jog
My legs were tired and my feet felt like ground meat but I was still smiling. I knew that if I could pull it together for the last 4 miles I could cross the finish line with the number 14 as my finishing hour. It was a good goal, but I wasn't sure I could do it. It would be close.

Right before the last turn around I saw my coach (the same one who was cheering on the bike course in his speedo) and he ran up along side me and says "Final lap!?" and I smile and I say "final lap, going for sub 15 hours!". Still running besides me he said words that made my walk turn into a run. "Go get it Lauren, you are about to be a *!#%^& IRONMAN!". Thank you for that Coach Alexis :)

I quickly catch up to my friend and teammate Greg who is walking with a can of Pringles. I stop and walked besides him, asking how he was feeling. He felt the same way I did- so tired and feet so sore. After eating a few of his potato chips I told him that we could break 15 hours if we haul ass the next few miles. He was on board, but I could tell that he knew we were cutting it close too.

The next 3 miles Greg and I ran/walked side by side pushing each other towards the finish line. We kept looking at our watches wondering if our finish time would start with a 14:xx. I felt really dizzy between miles 24 and 25 and I would not have been able to keep up a jog if Greg were not there. As we came into the town the crowds were still just as wild. I saw the 26 mile marker sign a little ways in front of me and I screamed "Let's finish this thing, Greg!". I bolted towards the finish chute pumping my fists up and down with the biggest smile on my face seeing that the clock said 14:56.

Right before I crossed the finish line I heard the magic words said by one of the pro women "Lauren Riley, from Arlington Virginia, for the first time in your life, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!".

I immediately spotted my family and Phil waiting at the finish line area. Being able to share that experience with them was amazing. Greg crossed the finish line moments after me and we were both really appreciative of each other's support the last few miles. Thanks, Greg!

I made my way through the finisher's area collecting my medal, shell necklace, finishers shirt and taking my finisher's picture. The finisher's picture that I have dreamed about for the past year.

It took a lot of hard work to get here, but it was worth every second.

It was a long day but it was an amazing day. I have no regrets, nothing I wish I would have done differently, and I am happy to say that my first Ironman will be an experience I remember for the rest of my life.

I spent the next several days after the race lounging by the pool, getting a massage, and enjoying my new title of Ironman...

...and trying to decide when my next one will be.