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Race Report - Ironman Texas 140.6


This post is dedicated to my husband, Jason Askew.  Without his support, I wouldn't have been able to do any of this. Credit for all pictures in this post also goes to him ;)

Oh my gawd Becky! I am an IRONMAN!!! Ahhh! I still doesn't feel real. There is something so humbling about achieving a goal you once thought was impossible. It's like, you totally feel like a badass and proud because you know you worked your butt off to get there, but at the same time it just feels like you were given a huge gift and you're just incredibly overwhelmed with gratitude.

I used to think of Ironmen athletes like they were the unicorns of endurance sports. Just to be in the presence of one made me excited. They felt celebrity-like! Today, I look at myself and know how silly that is. I'm just a normal person. I'm not a super athlete. I'm not exceptionally fast. In fact, I'm just your (sub)average back-of-the-pack age group athlete, but I am an Ironman! Ordinary people CAN do extraordinary things.

I'm so incredibly excited to be sharing this post with you and I hope it brings confidence and inspiration to some of you out there who may be feeling like those big scary goals are out of your reach because believe me, they are not.

So, without further ado, here is my 2017 Ironman Texas Race Report. It's a long one so grab a snack and enjoy!

Pre-Race

Thursday 04/21

Ironman Texas is held in The Woodlands about 4 hours south of DFW, where I live. We planned to drive down since it was so close. One thing I never new about Ironman is that most full-distance races are on Saturdays and there is NO FRIDAY check-in. Which really stressed me out in the beginning, but actually turned out to be a great thing. We drove down for Ironman Austin 70.3 the day before the race and it was a whirlwind! There was so much to do and only a day to do it in. This go around we left bright and early Thursday morning which gave us two whole days to get things done.

I was pretty surprised at how well I planned it all out too. I had itineraries with specific times on them and we ACTUALLY stuck to it. I'd pre-planned everything, even down to meal times and what time we needed to be everywhere when we got to the Woodlands. We left right at 9am Thursday morning and the drive was just beautiful!



The sun was out, the road was scenic and as we got closer to the Woodlands there were so many beautiful trees! That area is just so green and gorgeous. I loved spotting fellow athletes down I-45 too. You can always spot a triathlete by the tri bikes and bumper stickers! I remember after Austin 70.3 I-35 was just packed with athletes heading home and we were all stuck in this horrible traffic. It was like a really awful post-triathlon party, but it was still really neat to be together and it felt special.

Anyway, Thursday was athlete-check in day. It's the day the athletes arrive, receive their official wrist bands and complete packet pick-up. It's also the day shit gets real! I was so nervous in the days leading up to our departure, but I knew if I could just make it down to the Woodlands I'd switch into race mode and the nerves would subside. Sure enough as soon as we got in the car things got better. That's when the excitement starts and when you arrive it's like you're home and ready to get down to business.

The family and I booked a hotel just a couple of miles from the finish line. I knew I wanted to be close so that my family had the option of going back and forth on race day. We stayed at the Drury Inn which was still incredibly close to the finish, but was so much more affordable than the Marriott (the official hotel for the race). When we arrived we headed straight to the hotel to drop our bags off and unload. The woman at the front desk was already familiar with us and even congratulated me on my first big race!

Bike check-in wasn't until Friday and I didn't want to drive around with FeFe (my bike) in the back of the truck in a strange city so it sounded best to unload and then head out the athlete check-in. I also wanted to meet up with my friend James who was staying at the same hotel as us. He would be racing Saturday as well so it was super nice to have a fellow athlete with me on this trip. My family gets tired of hearing me talk non-stop about the technical stuff. Having James there was flippin awesome!

We arrived at athlete check-in just in time for the 2 o'clock athlete briefing at Ironman Village. Up until this day, the weather in DFW had only reached high 70's, but it was 83 in the Woodlands. We were baking at the athlete briefing! I found James and his fiancee standing under one of the tents just soaking wet from sweat. I panicked a bit as we all sat there sweating our butt's off listening to the details of race day. If this was any indication of the weather on race day, I'd need to adjust my nutrition plan STAT. Luckily, the forecast had been showing some race day showers so I knew, at the very least, we might have cloud coverage and/or rain. The thought of rain scared me until I sat in the blazing hot sun on Thursday.

After the briefing the real fun started. We headed over to the check-in tent to pick up my packet and swag. When I arrived at the packet pick up table, the lady took one look at my packet and yelled "First time Ironman!!!!!" and rang a cowbell. The whole tent started cheering! So cool!

We headed out to Ironman Village after that to check out all the cool stuff for sale. The kids were pretty tired and hot at this point so I tried to keep it short. I'd rented a GPS tracker for race day that I needed to pick up and I made a quick stop at the Base Salts tent to pick up some extra sodium for race day. We headed back to the hotel around 4pm and spent the remainder of the night resting.

I had a quick call with my coach later that night as I was packing my transition bags. She wanted to go over an updated nutrition plan that included more than double the sodium intake I had originally planned for in order to compensate for the heat. I was pretty nervous about making that kind of change, but I knew I would need to stay ahead of dehydration or risk over heating and ruining the day. I was so grateful to have my coach there to advise me! Honestly, I have a degree in nutrition, but I feel completely lost in situations like these.

I spent a few hours that night packing my run and bike transition bags and then I got FeFe stickered race day ready and headed to bed.

Friday 04/22

Ironman hosted a swim practice on Friday morning before bike check-in started. I woke up a little early and headed down stairs at our hotel where they were serving a full self-serve breakfast. When I opened the door, I saw this little note waiting for me. How amazing! It's really the little things that have the most impact on your experience.

After breakfast, I went back upstairs to grab my gear and head to the practice swim. I knew I needed to go and get a feel for the water. Just two weeks before this I'd attended an open water swim with my tri club and totally freaked out! I had some sort of breathing spell because of my wet suit and had to be carried back to shore by a kayak. The following week I went back out, but this time took off my wet suit and noticed a HUGE difference. I knew this practice swim on Friday would be all mental prep and I just needed to shake those last minute nerves. I couldn't have been more right! The water temp was a warm 76 degrees and it was calm, even with hundreds of athletes in the water. I made two short loops around the middle buoy (appx 1500 yards) and came back in to shore. It was a perfect swim! I don't think I've ever felt more comfortable in the water.


I went for a quick run while I waited for Jason to pick me up from the practice swim and then we headed back to the hotel for a quick shower and change. Seriously, choosing a hotel close to the race location was SUCH a good idea. We were never more than 5 minutes from anything that had to do with the race.

We met up with James and his fiancee before leaving for bike check-in and transition bag drop off. I honestly didn't think it would take very long to drop my bike off in transition and then set up my bags, but it took a good couple of hours. The walk from Ironman Village to the transition area was a good 15 minutes and it was the same walk we would have to make on race morning plus and additional walk from transition to swim start.

There's something so amazing about a transition area. Could it be the millions of dollars in bikes all in once place? Nah! But seriously, this was the last time I'd see my PIC (partner in crime) FeFe before the race was well on it's way. I started to feel a lump in my throat and tried to not let the nerves get to me. It helped to finally see how things would be laid out. The Ironman transition is a well oiled machine! They have perfected every last detail. Bikes are the only thing allowed in the actual transition area.

Then, you have two transition bags which are not left in transition, but are lined up by number on the path leading into transition. So basically, you get out of the water, run down the path, find your transition bag that's lined up in numeric order, then run to the changing tent, run out of the changing tent into transition and off you go! It's designed so that there is no traffic and no clutter in the transition area.

After drop off was complete we walked downtown for some lunch. We found a local which-which sandwich shop and decided to pop-in thinking it would be fast and inexpensive. Every other athlete must have thought the same thing because this place was packed with M-Dot wearing people. We sat down at the table and I asked the kids, "What do you think of Ironman?" they both looked at me, looked around and just smiled. It's so special to have an entire town of people packed in together for one awesome event. After lunch we followed James and Jen back to our cars and agreed to met up again for dinner.

We headed back to the hotel and took my daughter down to the swimming pool for a bit. It was a much needed distraction. As the afternoon turned into evening I could tell my mind was drifting toward race day. I started to feel like that dead line was inching closer and closer. We met up with Jen and James around 6 pm for a carb filled dinner at the Olive Garden and talked race morning strategy. It's felt so surreal to be sitting there about to be racing Ironman.

We headed back to the hotel after dinner with about an hour to spare before bed time. I wanted to be in bed no later than 8:30pm so that we could be up no later than 4:30am. I started my bed time routine as soon as we got back. A hot shower, to calm the nerves, then we started putting on my tritat race numbers and finally I set out my race day nutrition and special needs bags along with my tri kit and morning clothes bags. Jason and I put the kids to bed and then made it to bed ourselves around 8:25pm with a few minutes to spare.  It didn't take me long to fall asleep either, I was worn out!

Race Day

My alarm went off at 4:00 am. I usually have a hard rule about waking up before 5am, I never do it. Unless it's race day! I allowed myself to hit snooze a few times and finally climbed out of bed around 4:20am. I started getting dressed and making my usual two pancakes with Nuun for breakfast. I got a text from James around 4:40am, poor guy couldn't sleep and had been up since 3am so he was heading down to transition early. I wanted to leave the hotel by 5am but didn't make it out until 5:08am. James text me just as we were leaving to let me know there was zero traffic, but that the line for transition was already crazy long.

The age group swim start was at 6:40am so the plan was to park at the Lake Robbins parking garage near T1 at Towne Green park, drop my bottles and nutrition, check tire pressure and then go pee-oop before heading to the swim start. I still had my morning clothes bags, run and bike special needs bags that I needed to take with me to North Shore park (swim start) which was a 20 min walk from T1 and drop those off before lining up for the swim start. It was a TON of stuff to do in just under two hours.

Luckily, my husband and I decided to let the kids sleep in and it was just him and I rushing around all morning. Even now as I write this, I'm still feeling the anxiety of it all. We made it down to the swim start with just minutes to spare. My other family hadn't arrived yet, but we managed to find James and Jen. James had much more aggressive swim plan than me and was going to enter the water just behind the elite athletes. We had just enough time for hugs and well wishes and I watched him head to the water.


I took a moment to try and do a few warm ups while Jason and I anxiously waited for my family to arrive. Just as I thought I was going to miss them, they came running up! We had a few seconds for a quick pic and then I too headed down to the water.

The Swim

This race was self seeded, meaning you positioned yourself to enter the water, preferably with people who had the same swim pace time as you. The only problem was I never saw the pace times! I expected to see signs like you do at half and full marathons, but I couldn't see them. Before I knew it, all I could see were people in wetsuits which was a problem because this race was wetsuit optional and anyone wearing a wetsuit had to go LAST. I kissed my husband goodbye and waved to my family and darted into the water. It was so warm! I was actually grateful because it was calming and I'd managed to really work myself up in those last 10 mintues.


2017 Ironman Texas Aerial view of the Age Group Swim Start.
Posted by Digital Knight Productions on Monday, April 24, 2017

I wanted to get a position out to the left side of the pack where there would be less congestion. I started out very slow so that I could warm up a bit more and find a sweet spot. Just as I passed the second buoy the sun began to peak out from the behind the clouds and the water lit up. I knew right then that I was going kill this swim.

Things were going great, I was breathing and sighting well and counting the yellow buoys. Before I knew it I saw a red one! The only trouble was, I couldn't remember what that meant! I remembered the guy at the athlete briefing saying something about buoys changing colors from yellow to red to orange and that signified the half way point or something like that. I was so hot during the briefing that I wasn't paying attention. Crap! I kept thinking, "Just keep swimming!" and then I realized Ithe red buoy was the first turn buoy. I felt a bit of relief because I knew that there were only two short left turns and then a right turn into the canal. I had to be half way, right? I was still feeling great so I just kept swimming and rounded the second left turn buoy and then the orange buoys started. I thought, "So I'm not half way or I am?!" I knew this was last stretch before we reached the canal, but I didn't remember how far that was. Why didn't I study the swim course more?! I started to stress a bit about where I was. I could feel my hand going numb like it did in Austin. I tried to shake it off, but it was still there, just a nagging numbness.

The more I focused on my hand and the distance the more I lost focus on the swim, I started to veer off to the right and into the middle of the pack. I lifted my head up to sight and realized I was dead center of the pack. People were all around me and swimming into me. I could see what looked like a black buoy a few hundred yards out and knew that the canal was coming. I stayed where I was in the center of the pack to try and conserve energy, but that was a bad idea.

As we started entering the canal the space narrowed. everyone had to funnel into this tiny little canal and we were all over each other. I saw a group of people standing on the corner and thought it was my family so I sat up a bit and waved furiously at them. Suddenly, I realized I didn't know these people! I put my head back in the water feeling a bit silly and also realized I'd made myself tired trying to get their attention. I started to slow down so that I could catch my breath when suddenly an arm came crashing into the side of my head. It startled me a bit and pushed my goggle into my eye. I could feel there was a heavy suction now on that one side and my vision was SO distorted. Rather than try and fix it, I kept swimming thinking I was so close to the finish that it wouldn't matter.

The canal just kept getting narrower and narrower. Every few hundred yards felt like a mile. People were all over me and I was all over everyone else. At one point, my hand hit someone and drug across their wetsuit and I could feel my Enso wedding band slip off my finger.  I was glad it was my Enso ring and not my diamond wedding ring! I started to get a bit frustrated as the congestion became worse. Just then, I saw my family on the side lines! There were cheering so loud! It really gave me the boost I needed and I kept pushing through hoping that the end hurry up and get here already and I could hug them. The relief was short lived. Someone kicked me in the face as we swam under the bridge and I could feel an instant headache. I was now starting to get nauseous, I still couldn't see, and it felt like my eyeball was going to pop out of the socket from the suction.

Was this ever going to end?!

After what felt like a million years, I finally sighted the exit stairs and the transition area. I couldn't have come soon enough. That kick to the head made me so sick and I was honestly beginning to wonder if I could keep my stomach down. I walked all the way through the bag pick up and to the changing tent to try and ease my stomach. I plopped down in the changing tent and one of the volunteers brought me water. So good! I downed the whole cup and my stomach felt a little better. I threw on my bike shoes, helmet and sunglasses and ran out of transition.  I made a quick stop at the sunscreen sprayers and realized my tri top had rubbed my neck RAW during the swim. I let out a scream and tried to sincerely thank the volunteer as I ran off in pain. He laughed the whole time.

Swim 1:37:57, T1 00:12:31
Bike

I grabbed FeFe from transition and headed out of T1. My stomach was finally feeling good again and I was pumped for the bike. The temperature wasn't too hot and clouds had come out so I felt like we were set for a great ride. The bike course was about 20 miles of city roads leading out to the hardy toll road and then we had two 40(ish) mile loops around the toll road before finishing up on city roads and heading in to T2.
The ride out to the toll road was spectacular. There were people cheering everywhere! It was cool and there was very little wind. Even the first 20 miles going out on the toll road was superb! I was pacing much faster than I'd expected, 20-25 mph and my nutrition plan started perfectly. Around mile 40 there was the first turn-around on the Hardy Toll road. Boy was that a rude awakening! We'd had a tailwind the whole way out and were now facing strong head winds. I looked down at my Garmin a few times and realized I was only going 10 mph. I'd hoped it was my GPS was malfunction due to the clouds. In fact, I was able to convince myself that it was definitely the clouds until I made the second turn-around going back out on the toll road. The wind stopped completely! I was so relieved not to be pedaling directly into a wind tunnel anymore, but it also woke me up to the pain I'd have to face again when I made the next turn-around. I knew special needs was coming up just after the turn around (near mile 60) so I decided to fully stop to refill  my nutrition. This would give me a few minutes to break, potty, and stretch. Normally, I wouldn't consider stopping completely, but these head winds were proving to be extremely mentally and physically taxing. The break would be a welcomed sight.

I finally reached special needs and got off my bike. I was much more tired than I thought I'd be. I pulled my bike off to the side of the road next to a guy who'd actually laid down and kicked his feet up on the side wall. I couldn't tell if he was sleeping or just trying to prepare himself for the next round of head winds. I took my time, went potty, filled my nutrition, and slowly made my way back out on the course. I knew I'd lost a lot of time with the winds so I made the next 20 miles count. I pedaled my little heart out. I didn't want to over exert myself so I watched my heart rate and only made moves that were easy.

Finally, the last turn around came around mile 83. I just kept telling myself, "just a few more miles of pain. It's just a few more miles and then its over." what I didn't realize was how mentally tired I already was. My lower back muscles were starting to wear out and I could feel a dull pain setting in. Around mile 95 I made the decision to stop at an aid station to try and stretch my back out. I thought it would be a good time to try and nibble on my glukos bar too. They're hard to eat in the aero position and hadn't really had any solids on the entire ride.

I took one bite and my stomach revolted! I couldn't even chew it. It was immediate nausea. I spit it out and asked a volunteer what else they had at the aid station. One woman came up with sample cup of pickles on a serving tray. They didn't sound good in the least bit, but I knew I wasn't getting enough salt either so I figured, "What the heck, pickles are my favorite food!" I wasn't actually able to eat the pickles, but the juice tasted like heaven! I grabbed two more from the tray and slammed them like vodka shots on my 21st birthday. Hallelujah! The lady just stared at me.

I headed back out on the toll road knowing that I was pretty beat. I just needed to make it a few more miles and we'd be off this God-forsaken hurricane highway. I got to mile 100 and saw the last turn around and toll road exit. I began cursing and really found myself just pissed which was odd considering I'd finally reached the end of the toll road. I remembered my coach mentioning that extreme emotion would be a good indicator that I needed to eat. ha ha ha Hangries anyone? I gulped down as much of my Tailwind nutrition as I could and exited the toll road.

The remainder of the ride was so beautiful. There were still some strong winds, but the city roads leading back to transition were flat and fairly easy after the wind tunnel. I finally reached T2 and felt my eyes water up. I was looking frantically for my family. Any sign of them would have been exciting all on its own, but I was so overwhelmed by the crowd that I just sat up out out of the saddle and started yelling, "Whaa Hoo!" and gave the hugest fist pump. The crowd went WILD! Man, and Ironman crowd is like no other.

I jumped off my bike and handed it to one of the volunteers. I took the time to walk all the way to T2 rather than risk injuring myself from running in my cycling shoes. As I headed down the path, picked up my T2 bag and entered the changing tent, I could tell parts of my body were pretty well chaffed. Chaffing isn't usually something that I have to deal with in training so, I was pretty surprised.

I quickly threw my knee brace on, grabbed my Tailwind single sticks, and filled the Nuun water bottle and headed out of T2.

Bike: 07:37:39, T2: 10:15

Run

The run was a three loop (roughly 9 miles each) course. It's incredibly spectator friendly so I knew I'd have lots of support. I still hadn't spotted my family and began to worry that I wouldn't be able to find them. All the same, I was still incredibly grateful to be off the bike and in my running shoes. I knew coming into this race that the run was going to be the slowest of the three sports. I'd come to terms with the fact that my knee just wouldn't allow me to run at the pace that I'd wanted to. Heck, the longest training run I'd done was only 9 miles so I knew that much of this run would be unknown territory. I just decided to let myself take it one mile at time without any expectations.

I started out in great spirits. The crowd down at the waterway was so alive! There were music stations everywhere and people were packed like a concert. I swear I had the biggest grin on my face. There was so much energy and so much happening that you didn't even realize you were so tired. I looked everywhere for my family, but it was so densely packed in some areas that I figured they may have been stationed on the back end of the course.

As the course exited the waterway path there was a bit of a short (but steep) uphill climb out of pathway. One of the female volunteers stationed here was helping athletes climb up in her sexy nurse halloween costume. She was all boobs! I couldn't help but chuckle as I passed her the first time.

After we exited the waterway path the run course took us out to the roads and neighborhoods of the Woodlands for about 6 miles or so. There were a couple of sections where the course ran down a wooded pathway which offered complete coverage from the sun. I felt so nice in those trees! Around the first 5k I had the pleasure of meeting the Catapult racing team. Chris and Jarrett were leading blind athlete David. It also just so happened that they were running at the perfect pace to keep my heart rate where I needed it to be so I decided to hang out with them for a while. We ran and I learned a TON about being a race guide. Did you know that they run with a blocker? Which is what Jarrett was. The blocker runs in front of the blind athlete and the guide who is tethered to him with a rope. He just basically blocks the way so that the athlete and guide can run unobstructed. Team Catapult was a welcomed distraction the first loop. I never saw my family and was trying to stay focused on my pace and heart rate instead. I knew I had another 18 miles on the second and third loops to find them.

Before I knew it we were coming back down to the water way and all that energy again! I saw my friend James as I was passing the finish/second/third loops split. He was headed into the finishers chute. While I was incredibly proud of him, I also realized that I had TWO more loops to go. UGH!

Around half way down that the waterway I FINALLY saw my family! I just ran toward them with open arms. I stopped and hugged each one of them and took my time. It's such a relief when you finally get to the see your support crew and those few seconds can really energize you for a while.

I stayed near team Catapult as much as I could on the second loop, but I could feel my feet beginning to get sore and had to take a few walk breaks. The back end of the run course was all streets and neighborhoods. People were all over the place just cheering in the their front lawns. The sun was starting to set and the more I saw people out on the course the more I wondered who would still be out there on my final loop. More importantly, I wondered how much light there would be.

We headed back down to the water way to start our final loop of the run and that's pretty much where things started to fall apart for me. I'd maintained my target pace up until this point and I still felt really great. The sun was finally setting and the street lights were coming on. All down the waterway people were beginning to become scarce. I don't know what it was, but I could feel a deep fear and anxiety sinking in. I knew that once I left the waterway and headed back out on the street there would be dark wooded paths and empty streets where there had been loud cheering people before.

When I got to the last stretch of the waterway just before the steep climb with the sexy nurse, I spotted a familiar kit. I looked a little closer and saw a Love the Pain/Mojo race kit and yelled, "Mojo!". It was Jesse from my Mojo race team!! We'd never met in person, but I knew the kit and I knew he was a fellow teammate. It so awesome how you can connect with people on the course like that. We both headed up the hill and I noticed that something didn't feel right in my knee. I stopped and noticed that it had begun to swell. I still wasn't hurting very much, but I could tell that it felt stiff and little wobbly.  That anxiety/fear I'd had felt earlier was sinking in even more. One of the spectators saw me examining my knee and yelled, "Last lap! Get out there and crush it!" Just then a lady ran by me putting a head lamp on. The spectator yelled, "There you go! Run with that lady!" so, that's what I did! ha ha ha I had to gallop a bit side to side to get going, but I caught up to her. I introduced myself and we made friends! Her name was Julie and she was my run buddy for much of that last lap. I  needed her right then. People were scattered all over the place and the course wasn't nearly as congested this last loop. I'm grateful I met Julie out there in the dark because she was just as chatty as I was and needed to walk as often as I did.

By this time my knee brace had started chaffing the sides of my knees as it continued to swell. I could feel my hip flexors getting intensely sore and the soles of my feel just ached! The bones in my foot felt like they were spreading apart. I knew that I would hurt on the run but I'd never felt like this on a run before. Julie and I stayed close to each other as we went down the wooded pathways. The miles seemed to pass so slowly. I'd averaged the last two loops in about 2 hours each but I'd slowed down so much now. I walked most of that loop and when I did run, I had to wobble side to side to get my momentum going and it didn't last long.

The wind stated to pick up and the temperature dropped. I knew i needed to keep moving or I would get cold but I just couldn't make my body move. Everything seemed to stop working. As I entered the neighborhoods I stopped at one of the porta-pottys and realized I lost control of my legs and everything below the waist really. It felt like I almost pee'd my pants and I couldn't control my legs or hips to sit. I just plopped down on the seat! Ewwwww!

After the bathroom break there was an aid station. One of the volunteers yelled, "Warm chicken broth!" and ran toward her like cat running to tuna. I'd heard that the chicken broth would come out after dark and was told that I should drink it. I believe the exact phrase was, "Don't ask questions, just drink it!" so I did. oh em gee!!!! It was like heavenly nector! I'd been downing sweet tailwind all day and this warm, savory and salty broth was just what I needed. For those of you doing your first Ironman....
As I made my way back to the waterway I could tell I was getting tired. I could feel myself getting cranky and kept hearing my coaches voice telling me to eat. I was so cranky at this point that I didn't care! I just wanted it to be over. I wanted to cry  but I didn't. I was too afraid the loss of fluids would do me in so close to the finish line. 

The last couple of miles of the run were pure torture. Literally. There was no joy on my face, there was no smile and I didn't want a single person talking to me. One of the younger volunteers ran a bit with me and just cheered for me. It was just me and her running along side me (galloping) and she was so sweet and so encouraging. In my head I was thinking the WORST thoughts but I kept thanking her. Everyone kept yelling, "You're almost there!" but it felt like I wasn't and it was making me even more frustrated. Eventually, I got to the last half mile and I knew I'd made it. I was hurting so much but I knew that I could walk the rest of the way and be just fine. I started to smile again! I could hear the crowd cheering as I neared the finishers chute. All of a sudden I felt a bit of energy again and I started running. It hurt like hell! I didn't care though. I knew I'd see my family, I knew it would finally be over and I knew I'd be an Ironman. So I ran. I ran with all my heart. 

As I rounded the corner to the finish line I felt like the light shined so bright. There were people standing everywhere. I felt like I was entering the gates of heaven and I (jokingly) wondered if I'd actually died out there on the course. My eyes welled up with tears and I just stretched my arms out and high fived everyone in the crowd.

I cried and ran all the way down the carpet. Just before the finish line I saw my family. They yelled at me to push on and finish. Then, there I was, under that ever sought after Mdot finish line archway and I heard Mike Reily, the voice of Ironman, say those magic words,

"Priscilla Askew, YOU are an Ironman!!!"

I just cried. That's all I could do. As I walked past the finish line, one of the volunteer catchers came running up with a foil blanket and water. I was so dazed at this point that I didn't even know what I was doing. Thank goodness for that volunteer! My family made there way to finish line and all I did was look back at them and wave. I was so out of it. The volunteer said, "Is that your family?" and I said, "yea". She laughed and said, "Do you want to go say hi to them?" and I replied, "No its ok." I quickly snapped myself out of it and realized what I was saying. I turned to walk toward my family and just cried. I was Ironman! I hurt more than I ever thought a human body could hurt. My knee was swollen, my feet felt broken but my heart had never been so full. 


Run: 06:23:44

Finish Time: 16:02:06

I still can't believe I did it! Here is a quick recap of my day composed by FinisherPix


And of course, you know I had to get the tattoo!

My take away from this race was to have persistence and be grateful every single day. Especially when things get tough. With everything I've been through since tearing my ACL on new years, I never once gave up. As long as the doctors told me I could do it, I kept pushing on. I'm so thankful that I did. Everyone has a special journey to Ironman and mine was no different. It was special. It was a gift. I can't explain it. To be able to do something of this magnitude is a HUGE gift. You work so hard and there are so many times that you just feel tired and like you just want to give up. But you don't. You learn lessons, you push yourself, and you learn so much about what what your capable of. Likewise, I've come along way in my journey through life. From depression, self-harm, and addiction to medication. I've learned to be persistent in my pursuit of happiness and I've learned to be grateful for this gift of life. If you had asked me 10 years ago if I'd be here today, I wouldn't have even imagined it was possible. That's what's so beautiful about the journey to Ironman. Anything is possible!

Happy Running Friends and may your wildest dreams become a reality,
Priscilla

Training Check-in: Ironman - Peak Phase


I can't believe I'm checking in 4 weeks out from Ironman Texas! This has all been so surreal. I'm happy to report things are going splendidly. I finally got that knee brace I was waiting for. It only cost me an arm and a leg!


The past few weeks since my last check in have been pretty hectic. Since receiving my knee brace, I have started running again. YAY! The whole processes took so long that it only left me with about 7 weeks to catch up on running. As you might guess, that's not nearly enough time to train for a marathon. My coach and I decided on a run/walk approach on race day and that seems to be working for training as well. I won't be hitting any PRs, but it will get me across the finish line! I have to admit though, I'm pretty proud of how well I've kept up. I may have torn my ACL, but I have kept training like a champ!

The goal of peak phase is building volume which means lots of long swims, bikes, and runs and now that I'm training for three sports again my life has become one long non-stop series of sweat sessions played out twice, sometimes, three times a day. Trying to keep up after an injury is tough! I wake up every morning groggy and unclear of exactly what's happening, but I gather myself (and one of the four gym bags I now carry) and drag myself to the to the gym.

The smell of chlorine never goes away! As a fellow triathlete once stated - "It has burned itself into my soul!"

I swear to you, my coach must think two-a-days are like the best thing on Earth because she has me doing 4-5 per week. I'm surprised I haven't died yet. She did however, give me a rest week last week. She prefaced it with an email alerting me of the chaos that would ensure immediately following.


Although I'm completely ecstatic to have come this far and incredibly grateful for my coach, I'm glad race day is approaching. Ironman training is hard people. I knew it would be, but nothing prepared me for the sacrifices I would have to make in order to keep this up. It's the little things that matter too! Like going a solid 24 hours with clean hair or going 8 hours with nice make-up.


My hair has become a disaster 80% of the time. Even when I do manage to make it look pretty, it only lasts for a few hours before I am, again, at the gym sweating for my next work out. I do my make up beautifully every morning, but by 1 o'clock I'm wearing my 9 o'clock face.

Most days, I'm just trying to make it to my next meal! I wake up at 5am, have my pre-workout snack, come home around 7 AM and have my breakfast. By 9am or 10am my stomach is growling so loud that I have to eat again or someone might think I'm dying by intestinal relapse. Then, by 12 o'clock I'm on my to my second workout of the day thinking about what I'll be eating for lunch when I'm done. Heaven help me if I forget my 2 o'clock snack! Oh boy, and by the time 5 o'clock rolls around I feel like I've been starving all day. I'm so hungry guys! All. The. Time.


....and tired! Oh my God, I'm tired! Some days I'm not even sure what's really going on, what day it is, what time it is or where I'm supposed to be. It reminds me of college when I worked two full-time jobs and went to school. It was utter insanity.

The only moments of peace that I really get are when I'm sleeping or when I'm in the middle of a workout and the repetitious swimming biking or running takes over in my mind and I have a couple of hours to just fade away.

I can say that at least my house is always semi-clean! I manage to squeeze in one room a week so it's not completely disastrous and the laundry's done, for the most part (at least if it's made of Lycra and only needs to be air dried). The only reason I even do laundry anymore is to make sure I have clean workout clothes. Luckily, that also means washing other clothes to make a full load.


The one good thing I can say, is that I'm sleeping like a rock these days. Truly, like a baby. Also, two glasses of wine hit me like a bottle of vodka and I'm knocked out in a dead sleep.

I knew Ironman training would be tough and that my schedule would be full, but to balance a torn ACL, physical therapy, Ironman training, work, and family life is crazy! Some how I'm surviving it and I can honestly say I'm having a great time. It's funny to know that you are in the midst of chaos and be proud that you're surviving. When I started this journey I wasn't really sure how I would do it all. Then, I tore my ACL and things were even more uncertain. The one thing I always knew was that I wouldn't give up. I would keep going so long as I was able. Here it is less than 30 days to race day and I'm actually doing it!


The one thing I know for sure, I wouldn't have ever come this far if I didn't have the support of my family, coach, and medical team. It's amazing what we can accomplish with a little help and determination. 

I hope you guys are staying motivated and finding your drive as we enter race season.

Remember, things may not always go the way you'd hoped, but that doesn't mean they can't still work out amazing in the end!

Happy Running,
Priscilla

Nuun Vitamins - Review + Giveaway

Hey babes! Thanks for sticking with me through Ironman training. I know I haven't been able to post a ton of content these last few months aside from a few updates on how training is going. So today, I wanted to do something a little different and share a review on a new product that I'm currently loving.

It's no secret that I love Nuun hydration tablets. I've blogged about them for years and I'm also kind of super fan. With that being said, as a nutritionist I can't deny the fact that Nuun is, in fact, a sports drink and as such, contains high levels of electrolytes (sodium, magnesium, potassium, and calcium). Like most other sports drinks, you may be tempted to drink it every day however, this may not actually be the best idea. There are negative consequences for high intake of electrolytes such as elevated blood pressure from excessive sodium or an upset GI tract from excessive magnesium. It's best to consume these drinks in moderation and only when necessary to replenish electrolytes lost from physical activity.


The fine folks over at Nuun HQ saw the need for a hydration tablet that was better suited for "everyday" hydration and thus released Nuun Vitamins! (queue heavenly music) Nuun vitamins is a hydration tablet with a lower electrolyte profile than Nuun Active and also contains 11 vitamins and minerals. Think of it as a yummy low calorie beverage/multivitamin that also keeps you hydrated and healthy.

So what's the REAL difference between regular Nuun Active and the new Nuun Vitamins? Well let's break them down and take a closer look:

As you can see these two side by side really show a bit of a difference, most noticeably the vitamin content. Nuun vitamins also lower in sodium and magnesium than Nuun active. What I really love is the antioxidant content (vitamins A, C, & E). Some researchers believe that long, intense exercise like endurance training, may cause more oxidative stress on the body which is a direct result of higher levels of free radicals. As we know oxidative stress has long been linked to things like cellular damage, heart disease, cancer, and many other diseases. Antioxidants combat free radicals so the more we have the healthier we can be.

You could totally make Nuun vitamins your every day healthy drink to sip on at work or on the go even if your not an endurance athlete. I think, for me, it's completes a part of my diet in conjunction with Nuun Active. As an endurance athlete I need Nuun active to keep me hydrated, especially as spring and summer approach. I'm sweating hard core twice a day as I gear up for Ironman Texas. I keep Nuun active on hand to help combat muscle cramps and dehydration during my training days. I also need the antioxidants Nuun vitamins offers to help my body recover and keep me healthy. Intense training really takes a toll on the body and can put it into a catabolic state. It goes without saying that a good (healthy) diet is essential for optimal recovery and healthy muscles and bones. I make a huge effort to get all of my necessary micro nutrients and antioxidants from fruits and veggies, but the addition of a healthy drink to supplement with recovery, that's also low in calorie, and keeps me hydrated is the yin to my Nuun Active yang.


...and can we talk about these flavors for a minute? I've really loved all of the existing Nuun flavors, but the makers at HQ really out did themselves with the vitamins. Nuun is well known for the lighter tasting flavors. They know that subtle flavor has a much higher impact than harsh over powering flavors. Somehow they managed to pack delicious flavors into each tablet with overpowering the senses. I've sampled all of them and can honestly say, there isn't one single flavor from the new line that I don't like. I've tried the Ginger Lemonade as a warm soothing drink during the colder months. The blue berry pomegranate or blackberry citrus are great over ice when you need something on the sweeter-fruitier side. The strawberry melon is a calm smooth flavor reminiscent of gorgeous brunches on the patio in spring and the grapefruit orange and tangerine lime will definitely make their way into my summer pool bag.

All in all I'd give the new vitamins line a 10 out of 10 for health, flavor, and content. Hands down, Nuun has bridged the gap for us super fans. While nothing takes the place of water, the vitamin line has given me an option for everyday consumption that helps keep me stay healthy without making me worry about calories, sugar, or dehydration.


Now on to the good stuff! If you're like me, you can't wait to get your hands on a couple of tubes of delicious Nuun Vitamins so I'm giving away two tubes to one lucky winner. All you have to do is comment down below or on one of the related giveaway posts on my Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter and tell me why you want some Nuun. Comments on social media will only be included if they are on the original Nuun vitamins giveaway posts on one of my social accounts. Comments on retweets or reposts will not be included.

Next Friday I will pick a winner at random and announce it across all social channels. Feel free to share this giveaway with someone who might also need a healthy everyday drink! The contest is open to all US residents and closes 03/23/17 at midnight.

[This contest has ended]


Happy Running!
Priscilla

Training Check-in: Ironman - The Back Up Plan


Hey guys! Welcome back to tales of a torn ACL. ha ha ha! It's been seven weeks since my skiing accident and things have really been coming along nicely. If you would have told me six weeks ago that I would almost feel normal today, I would have never believed you. It's truly amazing what the body can do.

The last time I checked in, I was just beginning my physical therapy and I was easing my way back into training. I'm happy to report everything is going very very well. As soon as I was given the green light by my PT I resumed my Ironman swim training. It took me a few swim sessions to get back in the swing of things, but it felt like I'd lost no time. Today, I'm back to pre-injury swim strength and I'm still seeing so much progress. I'm getting faster every day and even seeing a few new PRs. I think this was the one area of practice my ACL had the least effect on.


I have continued my physical therapy every day. I see my PT in office once a week or once every two weeks and we go through new exercises. I do those every day of the week at home or at the gym and it's made such a difference. We initially started with range of motion exercises that focused on regaining my flexibility and muscle activation.  Today, we've worked our way up to mild weight lifting and single leg balancing. The idea is to gain the strength back in my quad muscle and the muscles surrounding the knee.

Did you know that tearing an ACL creates so much trauma to the quad muscle that you see severe muscle atrophy? When I was first injured my quad muscle seemed to shrink in size. I'm talking a hugely noticeable reduction. You could poke it and it was squishy and you could feel my thigh bone. Later, I learned that it was because of my ACL tear and that I would have to learn to activate that muscle again. A large part of my PT was just flexing that muscle while seated. It's one of those basic functions of the body that all of a sudden becomes so difficult.


At the beginning of February, I officially began working with my new coach, Suzanne Flanningan from Sooz sports. If you guys remember, I mentioned that I'd won three months of triathlon coaching through the Equally Inspiring program by Tri Equal. At the time, I thought it was going to be helpful as I was new to full distance Ironman training. Now, I realize that with my injury, I would have never been able to make it with the training plan I was using. While the Be Iron Fit program was great for the first 15 weeks, I had to take several weeks off after tearing my ACL. More importantly, I haven't been able to run. At all! That sounds so scary to say when Ironman Texas is just a short 9 weeks away. How will I ever make it across the finish line?!

With a new plan! The back up plan. Sooz has written a new training program for me which takes into consideration the time I lost during my injury as well as the limitations on my knee. We are quickly building the miles on the bike to get me back up to where I need to be in order to race in April. I've even been able to take my rides back outside again. While I still cannot run, we are planning to implement a run/walk strategy for the last leg of the race. This was pretty hard to hear at first, but I have to adjust my goals and take into account the fact that I'M INJURED.


There were so many people who told me that I should give up on Ironman and have surgery. They weren't trying to discourage me. Most of them had been through this injury themselves and were either forced to have surgery or would have just rather get it fixed right away. I chose to rely on my doctor's advice and take into account my unique situation. Everyone is different and not all treatment plans are the same. I'm so incredibly grateful to have a team of people working with me and supporting me on my journey to Ironman. I could not be doing any of this without my physical therapist and my coach guiding me. Although my plan for Ironman has not been perfect, I'm still able to continue my training and that, in itself, is a great gift. I refuse to let these gifts go to waste.


They say that Ironman isn't just about the race, it's about the journey to get there. Today, I'm so grateful for my journey. I have learned to take risks, to cry when I need to, sort through my emotions and dig deep for strength. I've learned that set backs should be expected, but that they don't have to stop you no matter how impossible they seem. I'm so grateful for all of this. Every single minute of it.

I hope you guys are out there chasing your dreams and if you're not, it's not too late to start.

Happy running,
Priscilla

ACL Tear Week 3


Well it has been 3 full weeks since my skiing accident on New Year’s eve. I finally made it to the orthopedic doctor this week for a full evaluation. As we suspected, I suffered a full ACL tear. After an extensive evaluation he determined that I still have fairly good stability and mobility in the knee. So, despite the results of a tear, my doctor and I have decided not to have the surgery to repair it. We talked in length about my fitness level and the types of activities I like/want to do. Since the majority of my training has been swimming, biking, and running the doctor felt like I may not need surgery after good rehabilitation.

We also discussed the Ironman I’ve been training for in April. While he warned me that it may be difficult, he did feel like I would be able to complete it. He is going to monitor my progress closely. If things don’t appear to be progressing as they should, we will consider scrapping Ironman and heading on to surgery. If I do make it through rehab and training, we’re still going to re-evaluate my knee post-race to determine if surgery is a better option long term. Although, my doctor is confident that if I can gain enough strength to complete an Ironman, I should have enough strength to continue without surgery. We are not taking any of the options permanently off the table until we see how my progress goes. He’s going to let my physical therapist make those decisions.

So, with that in mind, I started physical therapy this week! I met with my PT on Wednesday and we discussed my current activity level, my goals, and my limits. She gave me a full assessment and then we talked Ironman. She cringed a bit when I told her it was in late April and then she said, “I understand, I did a half Ironman myself”. I can’t tell you what a relief it was to know that I’m in a triathletes hands. She was honest with me and voiced her concerns regarding the run. The next few weeks will be quite revealing I’m sure, but I’m willing to give it 110%. This week we set some pretty high goals as we don’t have a lot of time:
  1. Regain the ability to walk normally (not just unassisted by crutches and brace, but without limping and such)
  2. Regain full range of motion
  3. Introduce strengthening exercises
  4. Get back on my bike and back to swimming

 I’ve also made an appointment to be fitted for a sports knee brace to help with running. I’m sure I’m far from being able to run, but I will need one long term. Hoping it’s not too bulky and that it doesn’t inhibit movement. I’ve been wearing a Mueller brace since the accident and it really prevented me from walking normally. It did, however, give me the stability I needed to get around. My PT gave me the OK to stop wearing the Mueller brace on a day to day basis and that, in itself, has really helped my knee.


 Tuesday I got back in the pool for the first time. My only goal was to see how things felt. I did 1000 yards and was a bit slow, but overall things felt pretty good. I know I’ll need at least a couple of weeks to get back to the fitness level I was at before the new year.

Thursday I got back on the bike for the first time and was so incredibly surprised. After only a day of physical therapy there was hardly any pain or stiffness. I was fairly reserved and only rode 30 minutes on the trainer with very low tension and moderate cadence. My heart rate was in Z1 for most of the ride, rose to Z2 for a few minutes and peaked at Z3 for just a few seconds. It was just enough to break a small sweat and then it was over, but it was just the confidence boost I needed.




I’ve been doing my PT strengthening exercises every day after dinner and on my lunch breaks. Any time I walk anywhere I focus on my form, which is kind of weird looking. Sometimes I feel like I look like I’m marching. I walk much slower than usual, but it also allows me to make sure I’m extending my knee and lifting my heel like I need to be. From a far, you can still tell there is something wrong with me . I’m  not walking 100% normal just yet, but every day I make progress. Now that I’m finally able to ride, swim, and walk unassisted I know that it will only get better and I will only get stronger.

Thanks for checking in on me! My spirits are high this week and I’m feeling great! Remember, nothing is ever easy. If it were, it wouldn’t be worth it.

Happy running babes,
Priscilla

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