Thursday, June 28, 2012


My man would like to climb Denali one of these days.  I don't expect him to do it in the next couple of months but definitely in the next year or so.  I am thinking, if we decide to go to Alaska next summer, we will pretty much be headed to Denali's base-camp.

He's climbed a few big mountains in the past, and as years go by and we still "hang out", I somewhat wish I could be part of some of his expeditions since he's been there cheering me on during my big events.  Last May, he flew down to La Paz, Bolivia in an attempt to climb a few high peaks finishing off with a 21,000 ft. mountain.

So, La Paz.  It's the second largest city in Bolivia and sits at roughly 11,975 ft. above sea level which makes it the highest de facto capital city in the world.  Sucre is the actual capital of Bolivia, but La Paz has more government departments, hence the "de facto" qualifier.  Quito in Ecuador is the highest legal capital sitting at 9,350 ft.  As La Paz grows, it climbs the hills resulting in varying elevations between 9,800 ft. to 13,500 ft.  Overlooking the city is towering triple-peaked Illimani which is always snow-covered and can be seen from several spots within the City.

La Paz, Bolivia with Illimani in the back. 
My man-friend, along with his friend Lee, planned this trip in two weeks.  Honestly, I was freaking out, but I know they both make pretty good decisions while on the mountain which somehow gives me a little bit of peace of mind.  The man flew into La Paz on a Monday morning (after a red-eye), was picked up by their guiding service and drove straight to the trailhead of their first adventure.  The Cordillera Real.  This is a mountain range that has six summits higher than 6000m (19,685 ft): Pico del Norte, Illampu, Ancohuma, Chachacomani, Huayna Potosi, and Illimani.  Condorri Massif is part of this range also, and is complex of 13 peaks all above 5000m (16,404 ft) which include: Cabeza del Condor and Pequeno Alpamayo which Lee and Chuck planned on climbing for acclimatization.

My man and his climbing partner Lee with "Cabeza del Codor" in the background. 

They planned on climbing this as training before heading for their big mountain: Illimani.  Their plan was to hike in to get close to the base of the mountain, sleep at altitude and go for a couple summits the following day.

Luxurious mountain home

The next morning they headed up to Pico de Austria, their first acclimatization peak.  He says it's a fairly easy hike... it sits at 16,700 ft above sea level, they had a very luxurious lunch up there and continued on with their trip which included another summit of another small peak.  The next morning, they left camp at 1:30am and headed towards Pequeno Alpamayo.  This is the part of hiking that I'm not a huge fan of... when you have to leave in the dark and "guess" where you are stepping.  But I guess it's part of mountaineering, which tends to pay off.  Usually, you get to reach the summit (or at least get pretty high up there) by the time the sun rises.

Lee and Chuck at the summit of Pequeno Alpamayo... AMAZING

Views of the amazon (under the clouds) from the summit of Pequeno Alpamayo. 

Granted... the views are amazing, and I must say that when I've been on top of a mountain, the feeling is amazing.  I can't imagine being so high up there like at 17,618 ft, which is where Pequeno Alpamayo's summit is at.  Now, the fun part... as a runner and triathlete who tends to find herself at the start line of a race AT LEAST once a month, my "summit" is the finish line.  Not with climbing.  Getting to the summit is just half the work.  I ALWAYS complain.  I feel like I work so hard on pacing myself while racing but tend to use all my energy to get up a mountain, which then requires me to come down it.  On bigger expeditions, you may be subject to something like this:

Going down!! (Leaving the summit of Pequeno Alpamayo)

After coming down to camp, they pack and hike down to the trailhead for a well-deserved break in the City.  The next morning, they'd be heading to the trailhead of the next mountain and the main challenge: Illimani.  This is the highest mountain of this range.  It's summit is at 21,122 ft.  It's the 18th highest peak in S. America and if you ask me, it's gorgeous looking.  For this second part of the trip, they follow the same protocol.  Hike in, camp high, camp higher, attempt summit, hike out.  I've never done a mountain that requires camp and a higher camp, but I guess going from 14,000 ft to 21,000 ft is a lot to do in a day, or even two... and you of course need to give your brain some time to get used to the lack of oxygen.  But heck... it'd be awesome to give it a shot one day... especially if I'm going to wake up to this view from high camp:

Illimani high camp - Nido de Condores. 

Or go to bed after a sunset like this:

Sunset as seen from high camp on Illimani

Summit morning is always the same, as I mentioned before.  Midnight wake up call and hike in the dark... and those who know me, know I get grumpy when I don't sleep good (or eat good).  But again, it's like you forget EVERYTHING once you reach the summit.  The views are breathtaking and you feel on top of the world (well, sometimes you are).

Summit of Illimani with views of the amazon in the back

Coming off the mountain tends to be a death march EVERY TIME I get on a mountain, but there's a sense of satisfaction to it.  I climb mountains because my man loves it.  Why HE does it?  I don't know, but I find happiness in supporting his passion and at the same time, I get to explore places where not many people have set foot.  It's no secret that I love challenges, and while I don't have some ridiculous goal like climbing all 14ers in Colorado by the time I'm 30, I'm always game for a fun hike that will present a challenge and will provide some amazing views.

I'm bummed I haven't been able to be part of my man's "big summits", but hope to one day be standing on that amazing summit picture with him.  I have this crazy dream where I can see myself attempting Denali in Alaska with him next summer, but I'm aware it will require quite a bit of preparation, but I've proven to myself that with the proper training and dedication, I will get to that necessary level I need to head up that mountain.  Maybe I should learn how to use my ice axe one of these days.

My ice axe and me posing for a picture on the summit of Atlantic Peak in Summit County (13,841 ft). 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

On the road to recovery

This is one of my last Ironman-themed posts, I promise.  Although, note the "one of the last"... doesn't mean this IS the last (I'm covering my a$$, hehe).  Anyway, I wanted to talk about the days following an Ironman event.

This is the time when you get to listen to your body and do what it commands.  Mine suggested I get a BIG breakfast following my race day.  I went to iHop and enjoyed eggs Benedict with hash browns and bacon.  Also, it asked for a long recovery week... So we had planned on coming down to Donnelly, ID for a relaxing week at the man's cabin.  My body didn't like the drive though. As much as I tried to be comfortable, my ankles swelled up to 3 times it's size.

Swollen ankles... ESPECIALLY the left one! 

Once at the cabin, I ran to the lake to "ice" my legs in the freezing cold water.  It felt so nice and we spent quite a bit of time there while playing with Levi.

Levi and I enjoying the cool water

Two days after my big races seem to be the most painful ones... So I called for a massage in Boise and it's been one of the most amazing feelings in the world.  I wish I had gotten a 2 hour session.  The massage therapist combined the technique of a deep tissue massage (without going deep at all), with some stretching and a little bit of hot stone therapy.  I walked out (note I am not using the word LIMP) feeling a million times better, although my ankles were still quite swollen.

Today has been a million times better.  I don't feel sore at all and was able to move around a little more.  I enjoyed a nap in the afternoon while the sun was hitting me in the face.  Felt amazing.  My man woke me up saying I was like a turtle.  We then went out to the deck to have some beer and peanuts when we decided to bring out the canoe and go paddle for a while.

Happy family on our boat!  :) 

And definitely couldn't leave the beer behind...

Life is good. 

I wish I was always in recovery mode... Cause life is pretty peaceful and relaxing.  I would move here in a heartbeat.

Cascade Lake, June 2012. (While canoeing)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ironman Coeur D'Alene - Round 2

A few seconds after I crossed the finish line of Ironman Coeur D'Alene on June 26th, 2011 at 10:49pm I knew I wanted to do it again.  I learned SO much that I knew I could do better, or at least feel better.  I underestimated the swim and didn't train as much, I knew I could push it a little more on the bike... I had been overly conservative in an attempt to save some energy for my run but that was pointless since I struggled with stomach issues on the run, blisters and overall energy.  There was A LOT of walking involved.  Since that day, I knew what I wanted.  I wanted to come back to the same course after changing some things during training and change my attitude towards racing.  I wanted to come back to see what I could accomplish once I had set a bar...

During the past six months, I've been sort of secretive about my race goals.  I was never really specific about them to anyone and I think not even to myself.  Trying to pay attention to my cycling and running abilities this year, I came up with some numbers which I posted The Day Before Ironman.  I wanted to be conservative, since it's a long day, but still wanted to challenge myself.  If I accomplished those times, I would beat my time from last year by almost 1.5 hours.  

Woke up on Sunday, June 24th 2012 at 4:15am.  I jumped in the shower and took a long and relaxing shower.  Got my hair done and went to the kitchen for some breakfast.  Ironman race morning is fairly relaxing (I think) since all your gear is already in transition.  It's a HUGE deal.  It's really nice to not worry about all these details on race morning. So it's just me and some warm clothes for after the race.

Ready to roll.  At 5:15am, heading to the start line. 

At 5:15am we left the house and picked up my mom and brother at the hotel.  Once in transition area, I walked to my bike and checked my tire pressure and filled up my water bottles.  I got body marked and patiently awaited the start.  Took a few pictures with my friends and headed to the beach.  

Overwhelming swim start

A couple minutes before 7:00am, I put on my goggles and was ready to go.  I remember being nervous and was tearing up.  Taking deep breaths I tried to calm myself and fight the tears.  I knew I was ready so it was just a matter of putting a foot in front of the other and take it a step at a time.  Before I had much more time to think about it the canon went off.  And off we went, not before giving my friends a hug.  

The water wasn't as bad as it was the previous year, but the crowds in the water felt aggressive.  I somehow started working my way towards the farthest buoy, the red one. The farthest out I'd get, the choppier the water.  It started to feel as if someone had put me in a clothes-washer. Not fun.  Once I swam across and turned again to head back, it seemed like the waters calmed, but I swam and swam and felt as if I wasn't moving at all.  At one point, I had to stop and turn back to see if I had accomplished anything.  I had, it was just a feeling of not moving.  I kept swimming and got to the finish of the first loop fairly fast and without fighting many people.  Walked on the beach for a few seconds and jumped back in the water for the second loop.  I knew what to expect.  The way out was choppy although less crowded than the first time around.  The turn around point was mayhem again and on the way back, I tried to relax my mind knowing I'd have that feeling of swimming but not moving.  It felt like it lasted longer and I was getting frustrated.  I started moving my arms faster and kicking harder, but thought that I shouldn't waste too much energy, in the end, I still had a long day ahead. Again, ended up stopping and looking back to see how far away from that red buoy I was.  After a little bit, I started feeling like moving again, and made it to the finish of the swim successfully and into the first transition.  

Ironman CDA 2011 Swim time: 1:45:41
Ironman CDA 2012 Goal time: 1:45:00 
Ironman CDA 2012 Swim time: 1:36:35 (PR & better than goal) 

My transition went smoothly and my wetsuit came off easily.  I took my stuff and got changed in the tent where I saw Jolene and Kristi.  They got there a couple minutes before me.  I left the tent and got to my bike where my support crew was giving me an update on the other girls... I knew Jo and Kristi had JUST left, but Leah swam SO fast that she was long gone.  Got ready fast and left with my bike. 

Helmet on... Gloves on... LET'S GO! 

I got on my bike fast and started pedaling.  I caught Kristi and Jolene who were together at mile 1.35, gave them an update about Leah and kept going.  I was familiar with the first section of the ride since it was the same as last year's.  It's an easy, fun 16 mile out-and-back.  Once back in town, we would head to Idaho highway 95 and would go South for 20 miles and then back for a total of 56 miles.  Then do it all over again.  We had a headwind on the way out and the hills were BIG.  I was trying to stick to my nutrition plan and stick to a nice steady pace that I'd manage for the full 112 miles.  The wind didn't make it any easier, but I focused.  I saw Leah at mile 26, well, actually, she saw me when I passed her and shouted at me.  I slowed down and we chatted for a couple of minutes. She was looking strong and was smiling.  I was glad to hear that and I kept going.  The turn-around point felt great.  The last 20 miles were mostly downhill with a tail-wind.  Caught lots of speed and kept going.  Waved at Leah, Kristi and Jolene as I was heading back, they were all smiles and looking good.  I felt great most the second loop as well and knew I was slightly ahead of schedule.  Doing math in my head when it comes to time, speed and distance seems to take longer than usual and kills some of the time on my bike (or run).  I wondered if I should slow down and stick to my goal time, but it was hard to do so and I figured I'd keep it up.  The climbs on that 20 mile stretch with a headwind were a little harder the second time around, but I pushed hard to get it over with.  In the end, all I wanted was to get to the turn around point to enjoy that tailwind.  

Made it back to town fast only to realize I had had a great ride and I was feeling surprisingly strong.  I dropped off my bike, picked up my run gear and went to the tent to get changed.  Grabbed and snack: half a Stinger Waffle and urged the volunteer to have the other half.  I told her they were DELICIOUS and she needed the energy to help the rest of the athletes.  Hope she ate it.  I headed out for my run.  I did not take a long break at the tent this year, just got changed and left.  I was in and out in 8 minutes. 

Ironman CDA 2011 Bike time: 7:31:04
Ironman CDA 2012 Goal time: 7:00:00 
Ironman CDA 2012 Bike time: 6:45:43 (PR & better than goal) 

Heading out on the run (I'm the one in the back)

I started my run at a very comfortable pace but still keeping in mind how I often crash and burn during the runs of triathlons.  A marathon is no easy task, but the great thing about this course is that it's a 13.1 mile course out-and-back... then you do it again.  You can break your run into 6.55 mile splits.  That's just over a 10k, and while my 10k time is just under an hour, I was hoping to run these 10k splits in roughly 1:20:00 and focus on one at a time to hit my goal time of 5:30:00.  I felt pretty good on the first one.  I jogged comfortably the whole way, knowing there was a big hill at the end of this stretch which I had planned on walking up to not burn all my energy.  I ran an avg. of 11:37 min/mile.  I turned around and started running back into town.  Up until this point, I was sticking to my nutrition to the dot and had stopped at every other aid station to grab some water which was roughly every 2 to 2.5 miles.  I was waiting for the chicken broth to show up, but maybe I was early.  

At mile 10 I started feeling like I would throw up if I ate another gel, too much sugar... so I had some chips and coke at the aid station and continued my jog.  People that had been cheering everyone noticed me on the way out and congratulated me on the way back saying I looked strong and said it was great I was able to keep a nice steady pace.  Made me smile.  

Coming back to town is always exciting and it's hard to stop running.  There are SO MANY PEOPLE lined up on the streets.  They all cheer you on and all I could do was smile.  My second split was an avg. 11:21 min/mile.  Got to the turn around point and started my second loop.  It was slightly more challenging than I thought it'd be.  Right as I hit mile marker 14, I felt like I didn't have enough energy and had to walk a little to re-group.  Wasn't sure if it was the pain in my feet, my ankles or just mental.  Nothing else seemed to hurt or better yet, nothing seemed to be cramping up.  Seemed like walking and taking a minute to figure out what was wrong was a good plan to fix it and keep going.  I want to say I walked roughly a mile, although my man had joined me around then and he encouraged me to jog the downhills or the flats.  The first 2 miles of the course are in town and fairly rolly.  I promised him I'd start jogging again after the second aid station (which was around the corner) and I did... and I never looked back. 

Again, kept a steady pace and just kept putting a foot in front of the other.  Those same people outside of town again recognized me and said I was on fire and looked REALLY strong.  Made me smile and helped me to keep going.  I got to the turn around point and I knew, the hard part was over.  As I was turning around, the volunteers cheered me on and screamed: "You got this girl... last 6 miles!" to what I answered: "Last year it was dark when I got to this point!"  This was true, and this time around, the sun hadn't even set.  My average speed for this split was 14:10 min/mile which I blame on the 10+ mins that I walked, but they were worth it and probably made the rest of my successful run possible.  I kept jogging.  I realized, as I was about to hit mile marker 21, that my friend Kristi was still on her way out to the turn around point. Things were about to get interesting. 

Kristi is an AMAZING runner... and all along I had been expecting her to pass me.  She's always been way faster than me, and I was waiting for her since it's sort of what happened during the half-Ironman in Oceanside.  During our race in CA, I passed her on the bike, but she caught up to me around mile 8 of the run... although I never let her go too far.  In the full Ironman, I was expecting her all along since mile 16.  At mile 21, I realized she was still a full mile behind me.  I'd have to walk or stop and/or she'd have to run real fast to catch up and gain on me over 5 miles.  Not like I had planned on beating them all, but it sorta helped to keep me motivated.  What if I beat all the girls?  It became a competition in my head, even if they didn't know it.  "Don't stop, Gaby... She's gonna get you." I did. I barely walked at the aid stations to get water and chips and just started moving fast.  4 miles before the finish, I switched my watch to my overall time, as opposed to just the run time.  It said I was at roughly 13 hours and 10 minutes.  This meant, that if I ran the remaining 4 miles at 12 min/mile pace, I'd finish before hitting the 14 hour mark.  Another big push.  At mile marker 25, I even found myself looking back trying to find Kristi and constantly looking down at my watch.  I was on time to break 14 hours, and Kristi was nowhere to be seen.  

Approaching the finish line
I got to Sherman St. where the fans were lined up on the streets cheering ME on.  I had the biggest smile on my face.  Somehow, I kept looking down to my watch... I wanted to break 14 hours SO BAD, but now, I could see the finish line and still had 7 minutes to spare.  I sped up and ran on to the finish chute and spotted my man sticking his hand out to high-five me.  I skipped and jumped to the finish line, I was SO happy.  I crossed the finish line in 13h54m31s. I never thought I'd be able to break 14 hours, and that made my fourth and last run split the fastest at an average of 10:57 min/mile.  I kept telling everyone around me how happy I was.  I got my medal and finisher's swag and continued on to take pictures and grab some drinks.

Ironman CDA 2011 Run time: 5:59:59
Ironman CDA 2012 Goal time: 5:30:00 
Ironman CDA 2012 Run time: 5:13:51 (PR & better than goal) 

Happy finisher right here... 

Once I crossed the finish line, I was satisfied.  I had proved to myself that hard work and dedication pay off.  I had successfully learned from previous year's mistakes and had been good at overcoming them this year.  Will I do this again?  Maybe.  But not in the near future (unless I find myself VERY drunk and signing up for a third one).  For now, I'm satisfied.  I'm happy.  And as I have mentioned before, I will dedicate 2013 to my man and to help accomplish his goals and pursue other athletic goals of mine.

Today, I'm left with VERY sore muscles and very swollen ankles.  :)  I am recovering at the man's cabin in Donnelly, ID.  Life is good.

Leah, Jolene and myself hugging after an amazing race!  

Ironman CDA 2011 overall time: 15:49:54
Ironman CDA 2012 Goal time: 14:31:00 
Ironman CDA 2012 overall time: 13:54:31 (PR & better than goal) 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Ironman Week - Day 6

Anticipation is the worst.  We have worked hard for the past 6 months for this one day but it's not quite that day yet. But we shouldn't do much today either.  Except for rest the legs.

I'm nervous... so I obviously woke up at 5:50am again (see my twitter). It's getting old, but I decided to stay in bed for a while longer.  I got up at 7:00 and was the first one to come out of the bedroom with my puppy. I decided to start setting up my gear since we had  to drop it all off today so it's ready for tomorrow.  I realized I didn't bring a second pair of shoes.  I had to drop off my running gear so, I had to stop by Fleet Feet to get some new ones.  I bought a pair of Nike Structure Triax since my Citius ones are no longer available.  I'm thinking of writing a long letter to Nike in hopes that they'll bring them back.  Regardless, I hope the Structure ones will be as good as the others.  

After dropping off the gear and my bike, we drove up to Hayden Lake (GORGEOUS) and came back home for a light lunch and relaxing time.  I will now eat a healthy carb dinner and go to bed hoping I get a good night sleep.  It's hard to think about anything else.  I can't wait for my big day tomorrow.  I believe I can do pretty well.  

And hoping to make myself accountable for a good effort I will share my goals now: 

Swim: 1h45m
Bike: 7h
Run: 5h30m

This adds up to 14h15m and I set a goal of 8m max per transition for a total time of 14h31m.  It would be an hour and 20 minutes faster than last year and I believe it's asking for too much... but in all honesty, anything under 15 hours will be amazing!  

For more info, follow me on my twitter @TriGaby83 or at

See you at the finish line... 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Ironman Week - Day 5

Welcome to Coeur D'Alene, Idaho.  I woke up in Coeur D'Alene this morning.  Early.  I, again, couldn't sleep much more after 5:50am, so decided to get up and get my day going.  I worked for a little bit.

As always, Coeur D'Alene is goergeous and the house we rented is on top of a hill.. we have amazing view of the lake.  We went down to the expo and picked up our packets.  We got a SUPER awesome transition bag so I was content right then.  I  took pictures with my brand new pack.  Made my day.  Shortly after that, we cruised around the extremely over-priced Ironman Store.  There's all sorts of stuff and I will give you ANYTHING if you find something that does not have the "M-DOT" logo.  I, of course, purchased a hoodie and a frame for my finisher's picture.

Jolene and I went for a swim in the lake to "test out the waters". It felt chilly when we first got in, but it was REALLY nice to swim this time around.  It was 82 degrees outside, so it felt refreshing.  While it was hard to get my face in at first, once I started, it was easy breezy.  I swam roughly 20 minutes and had to get out, which was a bummer since I was actually enjoying my swim, but had to pick up my mom, Leah and Zack from the airport.

We cruised around town for a while, had some food and came home for a relaxing afternoon.  We are getting ready to go out for dinner.  It's been a much mellow day than my previous 5 days and I don't feel nearly as nervous.  Everything from this point on  is familiar and I feel at peace with my preparation.

View coming down from our house and into town. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ironman Week - Day 4

I'll start by saying I'm an absolute wreck. I'm emotional, nervous and overall worked up. I shouldn't though... I know I'm ready, I've done the work and it's time to just press the "PLAY" button, put a foot in front of the other and let my body take care of the rest.

I went for a run yesterday and it was good. I felt strong and was even able to push it a little. Ran 4.5 miles at an average pace of 8:35 min/mile which is fairly fast for me. But it's nice to know what my body is capable of and that speed is where I'm headed if I keep training. Persistence. That's been a priority word in my everyday vocabulary since the day I decided to become an endurance athlete. It's always nice to complete runs that show how much better you are now.

This morning I woke up early and went to Boulder Reservoir to do my last swim before the big day. Swam 2000 meters and felt pretty good. Lindsay and Leah were there with me. It was good to have them there... I probably would've cried otherwise.

I realized something though. This is probably why I don't like working out in the morning. When you get your workout out of the way early in the morning, you get REALLY hungry. In my case, probably cause I can't get breakfast before anyway... Then, I end up eating twice as much. Pointless.

I am now waiting for my food... And since I couldn't decide if I wanted fries or Mac & Cheese, I ordered both. I'm a fatty. But I've earned it.

After lunch I will make sure I get some work done to finally head out to the airport and fly out to Coeur D'Alene. Let the adventure begin.

"The results will not define you.  It's the journey what matters." - Chrissie Wellington

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Ironman Week - Day 3

Facing my fears.

While I didn't fall asleep as early as I would've wanted to last night, I did sleep like a rock and didn't wake up before my alarm which had been a theme this week.  The alarm went off at 5:55am and I snoozed it somewhere around 3 or 4 times.  Ah.  Normality, I've missed you.

Even though, I've felt a little more normal this morning, the theme for the day has been fear.  I have been pretty confident about my fitness and what I will accomplish on Sunday.  But there are definitely a few things that have been haunting me this morning.  Not so much the race itself but what happens after: post-race blues.

Finishing ANY race gets you high.  You want more, it's addicting.  I grew up a runner and ran lots of little races since I was in elementary school, but it was always track events (although I focused on distance).  I ran the 1200 and 1500's when I did track.  Eventually upgraded to 5000m in middle school.  One day, I signed up for a 5k and that's no track... there's an actual "stage-like" finish line.  It's not JUST a line.  There's an arch, balloons, LOTS of people, they give you a medal regardless.  It's awesome.  I wanted more.  I signed up for my second 5k, then a 10k and a half marathon.  When I moved to Boulder, my first race was the BolderBoulder 10K.  Well, I had goosebumps all along.  I swear, it's hard to stop.  It's hard to express the feelings you feel before, during and after the run.

My first 10K ever... in Mexico City.

I then signed up for half marathons, and why not, a marathon.  My first marathon was hard... not a lot of crowds, not too much support, it was hot and dry. It was painful, but the finish line tasted better than ever before.  I signed up for a second and third... Got to the point where that wasn't enough.  I signed up for my first ultra-marathon, a 55k (or 34 miler). Decided I needed a little more training for that.  Went back to marathons.  Then triathlons (let's shake it up a bit).  Did a couple short ones, but since I enjoyed the long-distance running events, figured I'd sign up for the long events.  I did a half Ironman my first year as a triathlete.  I was hooked... remember how crossing the finish line of a marathon was awesome, well, that was an understatement.  A half Ironman is a powerful experience and well, mix it with a little bit of alcohol and you have a full distance Ironman on your schedule. 

After finishing my first full Marathon ever: Boulder Marathon 2009

At the Mile High Music Festival in 2010... Do I look like I should be signing up for an Ironman? Well, I did a few minutes after this picture was taken. (Yeah, we had been drinking all day).  

Talk about a runner's (swimmer's and cyclist's) high.  You feel on top of the world since the moment you hear your name followed by the words: "You are an Ironman." Think about it.. say it, with your name: "Gaby, you ARE an Ironman". Emphazise some of the words... Also, imagine having hundreds of people cheering you on... just you!  They all want to high five you too!  They all get excited for you, because you are... well... AN IRONMAN.  WHO DOES THAT??!!??  

I AM an Ironman

You ARE on top of the world... Not just that night, not just the next day, but for several weeks. YOU ARE AN IRONMAN. Life is good. After two or three weeks though, the excitement wears off and you are back to your normal self.  Your body gets back to normal and is recovered.  But what's next?  Usually, nothing.  So?  Now what?  Seriously, what activity can top the finish line of an Ironman.  It hit me... the 6 months before Ironman, I had been playing by the rules. Eating healthy, going to bed early, following a plan.  Now what?  I found myself lost. Not knowing what to do.  I was grumpy since I didn't know what to do with myself.  I wasn't motivated... I didn't want to do much, since, well... I got nothing else to do. I got depressed, but found myself signing up for Ironman again a short 2 weeks after the finish or my first Ironman.  I had something to look forward to.  But I guess I wouldn't start training for another 6 months.  

It took me two or three months to be myself again.  I was not doing so well at work (mostly cause I wasn't motivated) and mostly I felt like my life was falling apart.  I did end up signing up for the Denver Marathon and had a good race, but not as good as I could've done, mostly because I signed up to have something to do, but was not really motivated to do anything.  I'm telling you, these post-race blues are serious stuff.  No joke.

I have already made a decision of not signing up for an Ironman race in 2013.  Why?  Well, Ironman racing takes a toll on the body and well, in your social life and even your relationships.  It's so much commitment.  And well, I owe my success to my loving man-friend.  Not once has he mentioned my selfishness while I train.  It's a lot of "me" time. So now, I owe him a year where he gets to set a big goal and I get to support him.  It's only fair.  But this scares me.  What now??  Last year's depression wasn't something I'd like to experience again, so I've tried to do some damage control before it even happens.

The man and I are planning a big trip for next summer.  We've talked about Alaska or even Europe.  I've already committed to some late-season marathons which I'm actually REALLY looking forward to running, but mostly, I want to give ultra-marathons another shot next year.  I turn 30 next year and running a 30 miler (or 50k) would be pretty exciting.

Because these many medals is just not enough...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ironman Week - Day 2

Coincidence, I don't think so... I got off the bus this morning at the Boulder Transportation Center.  Walked with my bike to the light, and as I'm waiting to cross the road, a runner goes by me.  Her t-shirt caught my eye immediately and while I only saw it for a second, I was able to read every single word on it.  It said: "Ironman Coeur D'Alene 2011. FINISHER". Well, not like I read it all, but I do have the same t-shirt from last year.  What are the odds?  Made me smile and wonder if she was doing her last little run before heading out to the airport.  Wondering if she'd do it again this year.

Not sure why I've been so nervous this time around.  I don't remember it being this bad last year but maybe because I have set a bar and now I feel an obligation to do better than last year.  Well, not only that, but my half Ironman this year was exceptional... I did SO good, that I feel I gotta beat my Ironman time for at least the amount of time that I beat my previous half Ironman time.  I found myself talking to my body last night and begging it to help me with a good run.  I kept telling my body that all I needed to do was a 2 mile jog 13 times.  During Ironman, there is an aid station every mile, but I'd like to skip one each time.  I've learned over time that my body is not trained to drink water and eat every 10 minutes.  I usually do it every 40 minutes or 4 miles (roughly).  Figured that during Ironman I should do it every 20 minutes or 2 miles since my body will already be a little depleted after a long ride.  I will keep working on my strategy in the next few days, for now, that's where I stand for the run.

I went to bed last night after watching the one-hour movie of the 2011 Ironman World Championship and such amazing athletes inspired me.  While the elite athletes go there to crown themselves World Champions, not everyone is a pro.  This is the one pretty amazing thing about this sport.  Both the elite and "age groupers" (us who have a full time job, but do this on our "spare" time) share the same field.  We all swim, bike and run the same distances, on the same course and on the same day.  While the pro's get out of the water within 45 - 60 minutes, the age groupers work their way for up to 2 hours and 2 minutes (the cut off). While the pro's can bike in 4.5 to 5 hours, the rest bike in 6.5 to 8 hours.  Same with the run... the pro's get it done in 2.5 to 3.5 hours, age groupers take from 4.5 to up to 7 hours!  Still, everyone follows the same rules and have the same cut off times.  The pro's or age groupers are susceptible to the same factors that can make their days the best or the worse: nutrition, injuries, state of mind.  All is the same, although everyone has their own personal goal and reason to cross that finish line.

I leave you today with one of my favorite parts of Chrissie's book: A Life Without Limits.

A Life Without Limits by Chrissie Wellington.  My new favorite book, highly recommended for  EVERYONE!
And here's the link to the Ironman movie, if anyone feels like feeling a tad inspired: 2011 Ironman World Championship

Monday, June 18, 2012

Feeling weird

We're all a little weird, and life's a little weird.  And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it LOVE.


Ironman Week - Day 1

This is it.  I better be feeling good, cause there's not much more I can do.  Fortunately, I'm feeling good.  Still, woke up and was FREAKING OUT.  Because, well, THIS IS IT.  I have no words to express how nervous I am and how uneasy I've been all day.

I rode my bike to the bus stop in Louisville, got to the office at 7:50am and tried to work.  That hasn't really happened.  Tried to zone out for a bit, but didn't quite accomplish what I wanted to accomplish.  Don't feel like I didn't work enough, because I certainly did as much as I could, but my mind won't let me work.

Still have lots of things in my mind.  I gotta clean my house, drink water, pack, drink water, pick up my support crew's t-shirts, drink water.  Oh, and drink water.  STAY HYDRATED.

I am going to go swim in a few minutes.  My last boring mind-challenging swim session. 60m w/10x 200 w/30s recoveries, then 10x 100 w/15s recoveries, then 500 nonstop.  If that makes sense to you, good.  If not, well, too bad.  It's just long and boring.  Nice to challenge my mind one last time though.

I want to finish reading my book also. Although I sorta just started it.  I've also been watching 24 which seems like a better option since it REALLY takes my mind off of this weekend's big day.

I also keep tracking the weather... wanting to not be too concerned about it.  I will start rain or shine and I will finish.  So why even stress out??  Currently, there's 30% chance of a few scattered showers with a high of 73, so it's not bad at all, just hoping to avoid rain overall. But who knows, 30% chance is pretty low.  However, I will keep torturing myself by checking the weather 3 times per hour.

All in all, I'm nervous. I wish I could sleep through Sunday to not have to think about it, but anticipation plays a huge role.  Honestly, I can't wait until race day.  It's going to be a great day.  

(And that was literally spitting out my thoughts as they race through my mind)

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Well, the time has come.  My routine has changed and I'm focused in recovery and getting ready for race day.  This includes: PACKING.

I finished packing my race gear and gave it to the man-friend for him to take up to Idaho in his car.  He's driving and took off Friday to spend a wonderful summer weekend in Jackson and continue on to Boise on Sunday afternoon.  He will be spending Monday through Thursday at his cabin until he picks me up at the Spokane airport on Thursday night.

After a nice lil pool conversation with a friend today, I realized I should probably describe what getting ready for a triathlon means and what I'll do with all my gear on race day since a few of my readers are not triathletes.

Swim. Bike. Run.  This pretty much describes a triathlon, but there's also race morning, transitions and post-race.  These last 3 "legs" are as important as the other three and require as much preparation. So now, down to business:

1. Race morning: The morning of my race I pretty much follow the same routine.  I wake up, jump in the shower and try to relax.  I usually do something special with my hair, like braid it or come up with something that'll keep the hair out of my way, but still looks cute and girly.  I like to feel girly on tough days.  I wear my tri kit (I'll get to this later) but wear comfy pants and a sweatshirt.  Sometimes a beanie (depending on how cold it's outside).  I wear comfy warm socks and crocs.

Priya and myself before leaving the house in CDA.  Couple hours before the start of Ironman CDA 2011
2. Swim: This is most times the most scary part of a triathlon.  There's a little too many people trying to swim in front, next, on top, or even below you.  It looks something like this:

Ironman CDA 2011 swim start - Full on contact sport. 
In addition to being prepared to getting kicked and punched, water temperature plays a huge role on how you dress.  In lake Coeur D'Alene, the water temperature is roughly 55 degrees on race day.  Cold.  So I wear (on top of my tri shorts and sports bra) a long sleeve wetsuit, neoprene booties, a warm swim cap and my race cap on top.  Looks something like this:

Lake CDA ninjas!! 
3. Transition 1 (or T1): This is the area where you transition from swim to bike.  In full Ironman events, there's these people called "wetsuit strippers" who will help you get out of your frozen wetsuit, but any other triathlons you do this on your own.  The gear I usually have there is well, my bike as well as all my bike gear (I'll get to that in a minute), but my T1 gear consists of a towel to clean up my feet (from sand) and dry them up, a water bottle (one that I will not take with me on the bike) and some nutrition.  Also, some sunscreen.  That never fails.  Also, always try to remember where you've set your gear, since transition area looks something like this:

Transition area at Ironman CDA 2011
Again, there's some differences with a full Ironman triathlon and a smaller event.  In Ironman you will get a chance to go to a tent to change and get ready for your next leg, so not only do you have to remember where your bike is, but also your number, since you'll have to look for your transition bag in a place like looks a lot like this:

Someone please find my bag!!! 
4. Bike: Before you head out on your bike ride, you gotta make sure you got it all.  First, well, your bike.  Then your cycling shoes, gloves, helmet and sunglasses. Water bottles, bike computer, nutrition.  Of course, you gotta be prepared for it all and an extra tube as well as CO2 is important to have with you.  Now, nutrition is key since it will be what will make your ride successful or dreadful.  You gotta count your calories beforehand and bring enough food with you.  You gotta have a plan of action.  What if it's chilly?  Well, you also gotta have arm and leg warmers and maybe even something for your ears.  And last but not least... during a race, you HAVE to have your bib number with you.

Yes, cycling gear makes you look like a clown.  I understand that. 
5. Transition 2 (or T2):  Once you are off your bike, you gotta find your spot again.  That's where you wanna drop off your bike, and usually where your running gear is waiting.  I usually don't need the towel, but I do drink some more water and eat a little more.  This is usually a good time to re-apply sunscreen and pay the porta-potty a visit.

6. Run: I like wearing clean, dry socks.  Compression socks for longer runs (e.g. half marathon or longer).  I also like running with a hat, but usually don't bring sunglasses.  You also gotta carry your nutrition and a race belt with your number.

Gorgeous afternoon for a run in Coeur D'Alene 2011
7. Finish and post-race: Once you cross that finish line, you've accomplished what you've trained for.  Both your mind and body go into "rest mode".  You always want to have something comfortable to wear.  After a small race, I usually wear some shorts and a t-shirt (and take off my tri top).  After Ironman, I go back to comfy pants and a sweatshirt.  Always, ALWAYS wear what you think will be the most comfortable outfit.  It will help put a smile in your face.

Oops... not this!  Although this was warm! 

Ah.. nice!  Pants and sweatshirt! 
And I believe that's it.  So, as you can see, lots of gear, lots of thinking, lots of nutrition.  And if you've read this far and I didn't bore you too much, I'm sure you are ready to do an Ironman.  Now, back to doing laundry.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

This explains it all...

"... as always, the competition came within.  Something inside me was constantly driving and driving and driving.  I had to make the most of it; I had to to make the most of me.  There could be no slack, anywhere, not in my time, not in my head, not across my skin.  If there were any, the guilt wouldn't bear thinking about."
- Chrissie Wellington

Architects vs Triathletes

I was made very aware yesterday, while meeting with a client, that us Architects are arrogant.  Our meeting lasted approximately 90 minutes and she probably said the words: "I am an Architect so I know..." over 20 times.  As many of you know, I am an Architect as well but not once did I say that I was one to prove myself superior to others.  For one reason or the other, she seemed to think that having an energy efficiency "expert" at her rental property was necessary, but when I show up, it's like she knew it all.  Why did she call me in the first place?!?

This experience made me think about most Architects I know, and indeed, many are arrogant and do believe they know it all.  Let me start with my college professors.  Many of them were teachers, mostly because they did not have a firm of their own or most importantly, none of their designs were out there being built.  Who am I to talk though? None of my designs are out there being built... but one thing is very different between them and myself.  I don't go telling students (while wearing black dressy pants, black long sleeve turtle neck and black shoes, oh, with a dark gray scarf... in the summer) that their designs are ALL WRONG... in front of a class of 20.  You have no idea how many times I saw someone crying in front of these classes.

While I know many of these professors do have a job outside of teaching, the ones I remember are the ones that made my life miserable, mostly because they had nothing better to do and were bitter about their failed careers.  Every word that came out of their mouth was passive-aggressive and to me it just sounded like they said: "I am an Architect, therefore I am".  Silly, I know.  It's been a few years since I've been surrounded by this strange breed, but yesterday I was reminded why it was a HUGE turn off half-way through college and I realized I did not want to be stuck in one of these firms.  It's just not me.

While the professional front seemed to have settled for me since I work with an amazing group of people and do Sustainable Design Consulting, and no, I do not dress all black and cocky, I spend most my spare time training for triathlons.  Triathletes.  Another strange group of people.

I have met some wonderful people while doing this crazy thing that I say I love.  But others... geee.  Just like Architects, arrogant.  This specific group of people even TRY to use words that would make NO sense to non-triathletes.  For example: "Sorry, I can't go out for a drink tonight I have a brick workout". Seriously? You lifting bricks?  Yeah, just stick to the "I gotta train tonight".  Or the other one is: "I can't go hiking this weekend, I have a 70.3 on Sunday".  70.3 what?  Just say Half Ironman, it's not less impressive and it doesn't make you sound like a complete idiot.  Then there goes the nutrition talk.  "What's your calorie intake during a Century?".  Uhh... Huh??  Or, like my friend Lindsay would jokingly say (based on a real conversation she heard): "What kind or iron supplement do you take?".  Seriously... just keep it simple.  People really don't care.

Of course, all this "idiot" talk doesn't exclude triathletes from also thinking they are AMAZING by using the words: "I am a triathlete so I know...".  Yep, triathletes know a lot of random crap that is not relevant to the everyday life (or everyone else, for that matter).  I am entertained on a daily basis being surrounded by both Architects and Triathletes.

So for now, I will get back to my Architect job so later in the day I can go be a Triathlete.  But I leave you with the famous quote from the great German-American Architect Mies Van der Rohe:

  "Less is more"

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Seriously... Does anyone here like doing laundry? If so, please let me know. Not that I hate doing it, it's just that it's too much.

You see, my obsessive-compulsive self likes her clothes nicely folded, arranged by type of shirt, or even socks. No, I don't have all my socks together. I have them separated by everyday use, running socks, cycling socks, dressy socks... Etc. same with t-shirts, same with shorts. Like I said: obsessive-compulsive.

Anyway, when you train for Ironman (yes, my life is all about Ironman nowadays), you use 2 to 3 different outfits every day. And being the freak I am, I don't even like using the same socks for different things. First, I go to work, so work clothes, then I go for a bike ride, so cycling gear (including cycling socks), then a quick run, so AT LEAST a different t-shirt (I can pull off my tri-shorts for the run) and yes, you guessed it, running socks. Let's say I shower and go out for a quick bite... That's yet another outfit. And that's only one day.

So, just think about the massive mountain of dirty (and oh so stinky) clothes that I have to deal with by the end of the week. Which does not only mean throwing it in the washer, I also need to fold them nicely and arrange them in the way I like. I guess I was lying on all my previous posts when I said I only work, eat, train and sleep. You can also add do laundry to the list. This is what I TRULY do in my spare time.

Fighting the demons...

Two weeks before Ironman, I headed out with my tri-crew for our last long ride before the big day.  Seemed like a great idea, since it was supposed to be a nice warm, sunny day.  Little did we know we were about to head out on a ride that lead directly to hell. Not only did I have to fight the heat, but I had to fight the little devil on my right shoulder telling me to stop.

Nice warm, sunny day, NOT. Day of hell - YES!

With the big day approaching, 80 miles seemed like the perfect distance for this time of year.  During the past 6 months, we've been blessed with amazing weather, being able to ride outside since February.  It was a warm winter.  We decided to go up to Masonville to visit Jo's mama (she lives there).  It's the perfect ride considering we can stop and re-fuel at 15 miles, then ride an extra 25 to Jo's mom's. Then another 25 mile stretch back to Hygiene and 15 miles back home.  Seems doable.

Boulder - Masonville and back!

I got ready at 9:30 and put lots of ice in my water bottles.  It was 88 degrees by 10:30am which is when we started riding.  I started sweating almost immediately and had my first sip of water 1.5 miles after our start... A few miles into our ride we noticed a fire up north... seemed like it was exactly where we were headed.

Fire as seen from the lil Resevoir on CO Rd 29. 5 miles SW of Masonville... ISH. 

A fire is a pretty good sign of DRY, WINDY, HOT  days.  We should've figured that out when we first saw it, but we are stubborn and we kept going.  As we got to our first stop in Hygiene (15 miles in) I was already out of water and almost out of GU Brew (my choice of electrolyte drink).  It was no longer drinkable though... it was literally brewing.  We re-filled (I did mostly with ice) water and Gatorade. Kept going. I was of course, out of water by the time we arrived in Masonville.  Jo's mama always treats us well and had water, ice, rice krispy treats... yum.  We re-fueled and left as soon as possible.

The way back seemed daunting.  We had had some cross winds on the way out, but mostly a tailwind.  That only meant that our dreaded climb (a 4 mile 2%) was going to be worse due to the wind.  A nice headwind on the way back.  GREAT.  Over the past few months I've felt pretty strong climbing but not this day.  I think the extreme heat just took it all out of me.  I was able to keep a nice steady speed on flats, but not so much on climbs.  I was reminded of what one calls a "flat" ride in Colorado... isn't THAT flat after all.

Flat 80 mile ride

After this last climb, I was drained.  I felt like I needed more water and felt like I couldn't drink my water fast since I still had 12 miles to go until Hygiene.  I also realized that while trying to be so focused on staying hydrated, I hadn't been consuming enough calories or salt, which meant, I wasn't retaining the amount of water I needed.  I was just sweating it out.  I took a couple salt pills and ate a GU.  Kept going.  This time, we were aiming to go straight to Hygiene and re-fuel.  I was desperate for shade.  We found a small tree along the way 4 miles before getting back to Hygiene where we took a small break.  I was fading.  All went dark for a few seconds, but I sat down and re-grouped.  At which time, I decided I needed to get back on my bike and just get back to Hygiene where I could drink as much water as I want.

Back in Hygiene I had more water, a banana and a coke, which somehow brought me back to life.  We got mentally ready for the last 15 miles and started pedaling.  I want to say, these were the hardest ones for me. I was sticking to my steady pace, but I had to dig deep.  I kept reminding myself that CDA weather is much cooler this time of year than CO.  But what really kept me going was the fact that training is ALWAYS harder than race day.  On race day, when I'm fighting the demons, I get to go down memory lane and think of days like these. When I thought of giving up, but didn't. When I thought I had given it my all, but still had a little left that would bring me back home.

Once back home, I realized I hadn't eaten enough and was extremely dehydrated.  I had lost 4lbs.  Grabbed dinner with Jo and our men where we all stuffed our faces and I drank countless glasses of water.  I slept like never before.  Ironman training = Good times.

Irongirls DONE with last long ride before IM

Friday, June 8, 2012


Hawaiian for thanks, gratitude, admiration, praise, esteem, regards, or respects.  

Well... so, back to Ironman talk.  Training for one of these beasts is hard.  Physically and mentally.  The physical part I've been able to endure, but the mental part of it is harder.  You need a support system.  Mine consists of some "boring" but short workouts so I train the mind to overcome that.  Also, I surround myself of friends that can understand what I do and why.  I celebrate my successes and constantly reflect on how to improve what can be improved.  I mix it up... signing up for "fun" events (e.g. Teva). I smile.

The hardest part, I find, is loneliness.  You spend tons of time talking to your mind and encouraging yourself: "You can do this, keep pushing!"  And like I've said before, the life of the weekend-warrior-Ironman-athlete consists of:  eating, working, sleeping, training.  NO MORE. I get lonely.

Luckily for me, I met a wonderful man 3 years ago.  He thinks I'm crazy, but supports me in ways no one else has.  He is the one who gives me a goodnight kiss every night, which makes me smile.  He is the one who lets me cry on his shoulder when things don't go my way and doesn't question my tears, even when they don't make sense.  He is the one who cooks dinner when I'm too tired to even think about food (but he knows I need it).  He is the first and last to wish me good luck on EVERY race.  He is the one who doesn't question why I go to bed at 8pm.  He is the one who doesn't question my diet.  He is the one who is standing at the start line waving at me.  He is the one standing at the finish line waiting to give me a hug.  He is the one cheering me on while I run and reminding me why I do what I do. He is also calm, which rubs off on me. He teaches me how to handle stress. He teaches me new things every day (although he may not know it).  He has seen me at my worst and still stays by my side. He celebrates my successes, and gives me perspective when things don't go so well. But most importantly, he is the one who keeps me company (even if we don't say a word to each other) when I feel lonely. I never feel more at peace than when I sleep by his side as he holds my hand.

So, today, I want to say Mahalo to that one person who helps make my dreams come true and gives me the opportunity to have someone to share life experiences with.  I couldn't be more grateful.  I love you.  I would not be able to do it without you.

Helping to get my bike ready

Pre-race hug

Post-race hug

He helps me conquer the summit! (Which sometimes it's literally a mountain, but sometimes it's just helping achieve a persona goal of mine!)

It has arrived!!

Official 2012 Ironman Coeur D'Alene Guide.

Only means one thing: the countdown has begun.  And also, that I should be freaking out, which I am.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

My new favorite poem

By Jon Blais (August 1971-May 2007)

More than your neighbors.
Unleash yourself upon the world and go places.
Go now.
Giggle, no, laugh.
No... stay out past dark,
And bark at the moon like the wild dog that you are.
Understand that this is not a dress rehearsal.
This is it... your life.
Face your fears and live your dreams.
Take it in.
Yes, every chance you get...
come close.
And, by all means, whatever you do...
Get it on film.

Living, laughing, living my dreams, taking it in...