What the hell is Ditch the Tiara?

Redefining the word beautiful...one dirty, sweaty, bruised up mile at a time, with a few downward dogs along the way...

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ironman Boulder 2014

After having raced my speediest swim since 2009, and fastest bike split *E.V.E.R.* at Ironman Texas in May, I was ridin' a wave of awesomeness all summer, despite what I am currently referring to as, my "bum leg." Running is not fun nor easy, but I endure the pain and push forward, as that is inherently a part of my DNA. And despite this seemingly never-ending setback, my confidence had soared, and I continued to bust my ass off on the road, and in the pool.

When the morning of August 3rd finally came to fruition, I woke up feeling well rested and very confident that I was going to see some sort of PR that day.  My (incredibly hot and supportive and did I mention like, super HOT?) boyfriend was completely baffled as to how I can sleep so well, and stay so calm the night before an Ironman. Or any race for that matter.  Despite being an insomniac, my best night's of sleep are always the night before a race.  I have no idea how that's possible but I dare not question it.  The alarm was set for 3:45am and as I very slowly got up, it hit me - I had to start eating.  GROSS. The thought of eating was foul.  I felt like I had barely begun to digest last night's dinner, which of course consisted of my absolute favorite food in the world.  Can you guess?  It starts with a "p" and ends with an "izza."  Somehow I managed to ingest (and succesfully digest!) almost 500 calories before even leaving the house with my overly admired a.m. Ironcrew.  These three kept my nerves in serious check.
Arriving at the Boulder Rez at sunrise was absolutely breathtaking.  This was the birthplace of my triathlon career back in 2007, and it was so fantastically symbolic to finally be racing my favorite distance here.  I felt so at home, and continued to feel so relaxed, while managing to get more excited than I think I ever have about a race.  My heart was so happy, as I spotted friends every few minutes.  Despite what my day was going to deliver, I already knew it was going to be the best energy ever felt during an IM.
After several high-fives, many hugs and absolutely the best pre-race kiss E.V.E.R., I made my way down to the swim start and confidently nestled in with the 1:00 - 1:15 group.  Apparently, I came back from Texas with more than a self-esteem boost, I came back with big-ass kahunas...because everything IS bigger in Texas, right?!? However, where I parked myself was justified, having swam an unbelievable 1:20 in open water just two weeks earlier. My strategy was to start towards the inside back of this group to keep myself moving at a pace that was more than uncomfortable for this turtle. 

The course was pretty simply laid out.  We entered the water and swam counter-clockwise, starting off by swimming north. And because I suck at bilateral breathing, like SUPER suck, and only breathe to the left, I spent more than half of my swim looking at the mountains.  It was the most beautiful open water backdrop in the history of ever. I managed to make physical contact with only two swimmers as I swim in my  very "secret race place." As I approached the shore and spotted the massive red swim exit arch, this infamous leg dragger started to kick - fiercely and powerfully. I could care less that I couldn't breathe and that my legs may cramp.  I was fighting for a PR, or at the very least a faster swim time than the 1:31:48 I laid out in Texas (reminder: SEA LEVEL) just 77 days earlier.
As soon as I hit the boat ramp, I stood up and my jaw dropped.  I think my eyes even teared up. Shocking, I know.  I imagine a few joyful f-bombs danced off my lips in this fashion, "Are you f*cking kidding me?! F*CK YES! I f*cking did it!!!" At this point, my IM swim PR was a 1:26:39 at Ironman Wisconsin waaaaaay back in 2009. With blurry eyes and a heart bursting at the seams, I managed to make out the tiny miracle that had just taken residence on my wrist...1:21:14. WHAT? A five minute and 25 second PR. At this point, I could care less how the rest of my day would play out.  After a heartbreaking DNF after 1.2 miles at IMCdA and a 1:55:21 at IMKY last year, this was a moment that I felt like I had been waiting for, forever...  [ENTER: DREAM COME TRUE]

As I ran wildly towards T1, I started scanning the crowds for any and everyone I knew to share my news.  I couldn't stop beaming...my face already began hurting from all of the smiling. I got in and out of transition as quickly as I could, and getting to the bike rack was absolutely the most victorious feeling I have ever had...my bike was not alone. 
Jeff (the earlier referenced hot boyfriend who also happens to be an Ironman) had given me some very sage advice on how to attack the first  25-30 miles of my ride, which was...do NOT attack the first 25-30 miles of my ride.  In the past, I was always exiting transition like a bat out of hell to catch up to everyone, as I typically finish the swim in the bottom 10-15% of the field. I would immediately spike my heart rate and rack up that lactic acid. Clearly, he had a confidence in my swim that made him urge me to just take it easy, to the point where I was growing increasingly annoyed as I was being passed. by  everyone.  I was crawling out of my skin with anxiety as I feared this strategy would not work.  I made it to about mile 20 where I (ever so slightly) started to increase  my efforts.  I'm unsure why, but at around mile 30, that weird sleepy/heavy eyelids sensation started to kick in like it did last year at Louisville.  OH HELL NO, "please no!" was all I could think, as this feeling was hitting me about 40 miles earlier than the last time.  I started to take in more nutrition and started speaking mantras out loud to avoid that growing sleepy sensation.  When I crossed the first timing mat at mile 44 and was averaging 17.37 mph (according to IMtrackr), all I could think about was everyone who was tracking me, and what they would think if my speed declined with each and every split.  Somewhere around mile 50, it all came together and I started to liven up, especially knowing I would be seeing my family somewhere within the next 20 miles or so. 

Having ridden most of this course at least nine or ten times, there were two stretches of road, each about 30 minutes in length, that were incredibly unforgiving and the cause of a couple of my massive meltdowns prior to this day.  We're talking MELLLLLLLT. DOWWWWWWWWWWWWNNNNNNNNSSSSS-UHHHHH.  you know the kind - *massive tears, shaking shoulders, hard to catch breath, couldn't speak* type of meltdowns. Ok.  maybe YOU don't know.  But I certainly do.  as I entered Meltdown Prone-Zone I, somewhere around mile 60, I noticed that I was growing increasingly stronger.  My cadence was picking up, my eyelids were staying open, and I was finally starting to pass the people that had passed me 40 miles ago.  I may have even given myself a double fist pump when I hung that left onto Hwy 66.  Holy early Christmas present!  I was being handed a gift that I  had wanted since Coeur d'Alene. Well, not so much handed, as I really did earn this.  The next check point was at mile 75.  Between miles 44 and 75, I was now averaging 18.12mph.  and it didn't end there. My power increased, my mood skyrocketed and I rolled into Meltdown Prone-Zone II. At this point, I had yet to see Team Iron Tiara, but I had a sneaking suspicion they were somewhere along this second stretch that I loathed. 

It was on this road, that I saw a few of my friends and chatted a bit before passing them.  I could tell this was a tough area for them and my heart went out to them, but having been able to ride this section over and over because my sister lived out this way, I knew what to expect and conquered.  One more turn and it was the home stretch baby! and just before that turn, there "they" were...Team Iron Tiara!  That sealed the deal...and all I could think now was, "I GOT THIS!"  Gradually climbing uphill towards the most beautiful view of the foothills, Hwy 52 became my bitch and I slapped it, hard. I may have even back-handed it a few times.  And at the highest point of 52, my beloved 303triathlon angels were there in full force, wings spread wide, flanked by encouraging signs, and emitting the most heavenly sounds of melodious cheer and encouraging words.  I had already been smiling knowing that I had a shot at a bike PR, but my pearly whites flashed brighter, as I approached Dana, Jennifer and everyone else out there. Nicole slapped my hand and it was if she said "It's your time...you go get it girl!" OMG. The worst was behind me and I only had 12 miles to go,  and they were all downhill.  Well, mostly.
All I was focused on now was getting past the most challenging part of the course at mile 99 - the dreaded "3 sisters" - three short but insanely steep climbs.  Descending into this climb at almost 40mph, I got into my small ring, made the sharp left hand turn, got out of the saddle, and dug as deep as this skinny-legged, 128lb cyclist could. My legs were jello and I honestly thought I was going to tip over, as I was going just a touch under 4mph. Mantra: dig, Dig, DIG! flooded my brain. There were local cyclists very familiar with this terrain  lined up on both sides, cheering us on and I saw the absolute best sign of the day, "DON'T SUCK" (I am certainly going to have to use that one for future races that I spectate!) Somehow, I managed to get up these nasty girls and made my way home. I turned it up in the final two miles and hit T2 and came to find out that I did the unthinkable.  I PR'd my IM bike, at 5300feet above sea level, on the most challenging IM bike course I had ever ridden, with a net elevation gain of an arguable 4400+ft.  My final bike split, between miles 75 and 112? 18.2mph. What. the. WHAT?!  I freaking negative split my bike. Having ridden over ten centuries while training for this race, and my weekly intervals up Deer Creek Canyon (thank you baby!) I just about screamed! 6:16:36 ... a two minute and one second PR over IMTX just a couple of months earlier. This tiara ditcher was chasing down her dream...
The run into T2 was by far the worst and longest transition, ever.  I am not alone on this one. I got into the changing tent and immediately scanned it for my dear friend Jeannete, whose past year had been by far the most challenging of her life, but somehow left her with an even more positive attitude.  Gosh, do I look up to this woman.  She found me and helped me get into the right frame of mind for the run.  Which would end up being my slowest run out of the 71 times I had tackled this distance of 26.2 miles.  Six hours and 24 seconds. and you know what?  All throughout this final leg of my journey, I didn't give a rat's ass about my time, or my inability to run at several points due to my bum leg, the weather, and whatever else you wanted to throw in there.  I chatted with friends and my family along the way, stopping almost every single time to hug, high five and share my day with everyone out there, competitors and spectators alike. Imagine my delight when I saw my first coach that cultivated and helped grow my insane and downright CRAZY passion for this sport.  That was the icing on the cake, and I jokingly said to him, "You know, this is ALL your fault."
As I made my way into the final moments of my day, my arms raised high to the sky, my smile taking up more real estate on my face, and my heart growing fonder of this sport that I just LOVE so much...I was surprisingly caught by a wonderful friend and shortly after passed along to the woman who helped me learn how to swim back in 2007, just 6 weeks before my first triathlon. The swim, which was the only thing that kept me away from triathlon for years...I couldn't believe how this day had come full circle... from 2007 until now.  Wow.  It was...magical.  When asked by my family afterwards if I will ever do this particular race again, I responded with a resounding and deep-bellied, "OH HELL NO!" I'll train in this heat and altitude, but I am pretty OK with racing at sea level. (advantages people!)  Would I recommend it to others though?  Absolutely! The energy and magnificence of Colorado could be felt for the entire 140.6 miles.  Boulder is called the triathlon mecca of the world for. a. reason!
Finishing time: 13:56:05... final thoughts? As I continue to race proudly for Betty Designs, my team's motto fills my soul now more than ever, and is one that I have so deeply believed in since the beginning of Ditch the Tiara ... and that is that ... "Bad ass is so damn beautiful!"


So. What's next you ask?  Well, that's easy...another 140.6 of course...in 38 days...look out Oklahoma City, this girl is on fire and is ready to take on REDMAN...Bring it #9!!!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Rain week. er, uh, I mean RACE WEEK...

At 4:45am, I laced up my shoes, held my breath and stepped outside...the sun was still snoozin' as I took my first few steps into the damp streets.  The moisture clung to my skin and it was obvious that although the rain had stopped, it was only taking a break.  I took my time cruising around the neighborhood, paying attention to all the little aches and pains that always surface during race week.  Yup, there they are.  Thankfully I am heading to my chiropractor and MAT Specialist later today to get that shit taken care of.  At one point, I couldn't help but stop, to take in what brief moments of sunshine we had as the sun rose, only to quickly hide itself again behind clouds.  Oh well.  more rain.

After my run, my friend Shelly and I received the following text from our buddy Sean, "Seattle is beautiful.  I love this place."  I laughed out loud, fully understanding what he meant as I was already 12oz into my 16oz iced coffee, and Shelly responded, "You are WHERE??" ha! Sean pointed out that it had been raining for 30 hours straight. in Denver. not Seattle.  Although if you were to look out the window, or step out onto the street (into a 2 foot muddy puddle no doubt in sandals...yup...this girl), you would feel like you were in Seattle. not Denver. Seattle?! gah! We've had *non-stop mist, depressing grey skies, what happened to you oh beautiful sun?!?* kind of rain. for days........ Normally, it just reminds of my *Home sweet home Chicago* (and all of the reasons that I left there in the first place.) But this week?  It's kind of taking me back to the end of June last year. Same weather, different race.  Less than desirable outcome.  IMCdA = DNF.  [INSERT: SAD FACE]  Fortunately for me, this time the weather forecast is turning around, with the only day not calling for any rain being Sunday.  August 3rd.  IRONMAN BOULDER. [INSERT: HAPPY FACE] 

So there you go. 3 more days. Is this girl ready? You bet your ass she is...let the tiara ditching begin!

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Active Times..Be Fit - Find Adventure - Visit the Wild

If you haven't yet visited The Active Times, do yourself a favor and explore... 

"The Active Times aims to be the world's best source of authoritative, inspiring, enlightening content for living the active, adventurous life. Whatever your passions in outdoor and endurance sports, travel and adventure, The Active Times provides the tools and information you need to do your best—and enjoy the ride. We tell the stories, recruit the experts, and assemble the information you need to get motivated and do it right. We're passionate about great gear, expert technique, interesting people, and amazing venues close to home and around the world. We bring them all together—and connect the community—in a smart, visual, accessible way."
I was recently asked to be a contributing writer to this amazing community, and without hesitation, I said *yes* as a lover of all things adventure and fitness related. Life is meant to be lived and I feel like I am living it pretty damn BIG these days...

Feature Friday: Triathlon Talk with Kristina from Ditch the Tiara

'When times are tough... remember why it is you started this sport in the first place'

Kristina, Ditch The Tiara


Kristina, Ditch The Tiara

Every Friday we chat with one of our blog content network contributors to find out what most inspires them to be fit and find adventure every day.
This week we’re chatting with Kristina from Ditch the Tiara.

Kristina is a 63-time marathoner, a 7-time Ironman finisher and as she puts it, “just an ordinary girl trying to do extraordinary things.” Through her blog she hopes to redefine the word beautiful; one dirty, sweaty, bruised up mile at a time, and with a few downward dogs along the way.

Read more to learn about her passion for competing in Ironman triathlons, her best advice for beginner triathletes and what she does to stay motivated when the going gets tough.

The Active Times: How did you first become involved in Ironman triathlon?

Kristina: I began running marathons in 1998 and then after following the last five stages of the Tour de France in 2005, I fell in love with cycling and started riding centuries. It wasn’t until 2007 that I grew bored of those two individual sports that I decided it was time that I learn how to swim and try my hand at triathlon. I started off with the 70.3 distance because of my love for endurance activities. It only took one triathlon to make me decide that I needed to go all out and take on the Ironman. The following year I completed my first of several 140.6 races. I am now quite happily addicted to the distance.

What are the wisest words you ever heard about Ironman triathlon?

When times are tough, whether in training or during the race and you start to question yourself and abilities, always remember why it is you started this sport in the first place and draw upon those thoughts to get you through that moment.

What is the greatest joy you get from Ironman triathlon?

Knowing that I have the strength, passion and dedication to achieve what so many think of as the impossible. During the race itself, I have visited the deepest, darkest places of my mind and I have come to realize that I have the ability to dig myself out and continue on, never letting self-doubt bring me down.

What advice would you give to someone trying Ironman triathlon for the first time?

Don’t let your fears of the swim start ever get in your way of tackling this distance. It’s the shortest part of your day, and although rough in physical contact, everyone is out working towards the same goal. To finish!

What is the one piece of kit or equipment you’d never be without?

My pink tri bike.

If money were no object, what piece of kit or equipment would you buy?

An AlterG treadmill.

Who do you think is the most inspirational figure in Ironman triathlon?

Dick and Rick Hoyt.

What is your favorite quote, and what do you so like about it?

“Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

What is at the top of your bucket list when it comes to Ironman triathlon?

I want to race at the Superbowl of my sport, the Ironman World Championship in Kona.

What is your least favorite word, and why?

Impossible. I believe that if you want something bad enough, you’ll accomplish it (within your own physical abilities.)

Read more on Kristina’s blog at ditchthetiara.blogspot.com and follow her on Twitter @tiaraditcher.