Training

I didn't see that going that way

A year and a week ago to the day, I got up at 4AM to sign up for Madison Ironman 2015. That previous Saturday night, I was still wrestling with whether or not I should sign up, because, if I'm honest, I had never really committed to something I didn't know whether or not I'd be good at it, and, well, crush it! So, to sign up for an Ironman, when I'd only done one full sprint tri the summer before, and a few relay tris, seemed like kind of a dumb idea. I mean, I didn't know if I could do it, so why on earth would I sign up for it?! And that's when I knew, if I didn't sign up for it, I'd never push myself to try something beyond what I had already tried before. And did it ever push me. I ran my first half marathon this summer, completed my first half ironman, and learned to swim for OVER AN HOUR in a pool doing laps (if you've never tried it, I suggest you do and let me know how long you can go for...it has to be one of the most boring things on the PLANET to do because there is NOTHING to look at except your pretty little bubbles coming out of your nose and if you let yourself go down that rabbit hole too far, you start thinking about how bubbles look when people drown...). I learned how to just go out for a 2-3 hour run on a Saturday morning simply to put the time in. If you've never run that long just 'cause, first off, know that you actually CAN do it, and secondly know that it'll teach you how to pace yourself like few others things can. I started driving 40 minutes away from home just to bike hills before the sun came up on my days off. I started crying during training runs and rides that really pushed my endurance and figured out how to keep going even after shedding tears (let's be real, who wants to push themselves to tears while training?!).

Not only did it push me in ways I never imagined this past year, but I learned so many things about biking and running and swimming and rest and nutrition. I grew closer to my friends I trained with (and met my now boyfriend because of the Saturday morning run group I started going to when I needed to surround myself with better runners than myself). I learned how to live a lifestyle that would allow me to chase after a dream.

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A 12-month journey of so many firsts brought me to Sunday's Ironman. One of the times I've wished I had a camera, and didn't, was when I was floating in the water, waiting for the start cannon to go off and looking out over the crowd of thousands of people waiting to watch 2,800 people swim 2.4 miles in a gorgeous sunrise in Lake Monona.

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The swim went great. Well, not great exactly, I was bored out of my mind with another half mile to go, but I did come in just 3 minutes over my goal time. And then I set out on a 112 miles bike course, which included over 5,000 feet of climbing. The weather looked perfect for a fun century ride in the Verona hillside.

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What I did not expect was my exercise-induced asthma to flare up about an hour into what I was hoping would be, at most, a 7-7.5 hour ride. Nor did I expect my back, which had been bothersome for the past year, but getting heaps better for the past 4 months, to cause me to get off my bike every 30 minutes to stretch it, with 50 miles to go. Last week, in the IM rulebook, I saw what the cut off times were on the bike course and thought, worse case scenario I could be close to them, but I never imagined heading into the half-way mark wondering if I would get there in time. I did though, and lap two began. At that point, I was biking more slowly than I ever have and between stopping to use my inhaler or stretch my back, getting to the marathon seemed to be slipping further and further out of view. I saw my family at mile 65 and asked them to meet me at mile 85. I figured I would just take the next 50 miles 20 at a time. It would be slower than I ever imagined, but still seemed doable.

When I passed the 80 mile marker, I was aware that my pace was getting progressively slower and I'd even gotten off my bike to walk it up what should've been a very easy hill for me to ride up (but I was still determined to just keep moving and put one foot in front of the other). A bike marshal passed me on a motorcycle, asked how I was doing and after I said, "fine," she told me, "okay, you need to keep moving." When she drove up to the next person to tell them the same thing, the tears started falling. The three biggest hills on the course were still in front of me and I had had to stop on two of them during the first loop simply because I couldn't keep my breathing under control to get up them. I knew at that moment that I wasn't going to make it to the run start in time without being pulled off the course.

Rather than stress out both my lungs and my back any further, which is what another 1,000+ feet of climbing would do, I found the next sheriff on the course and pulled myself off around mile 82. A few miles back on the course, I had asked God if it mattered if I didn't finish and I felt like God chuckled and said, "of course not." And then I just had to ask, "well why did I sign up for this thing then if You knew I wouldn't finish?!?" To which I got the response, "well, why not?!" And I realized then that just because we don't "finish" things the way we imagined we would, the way finish lines look in magazines, doesn't mean it wasn't worth it all. It's when things don't turn out the way we thought they would that the journey stands out much more than the destination (as it always should, but let's be real, usually when things go great we'd rather be proud of the medal/promotion/grade/new house/etc. than we would all that went into getting us there).

I'll admit that I got misty eyed being at the finish line cheering my friends in as they finished their races when I realized that I wouldn't get to hear over the loud speaker "Alicia, you are an Ironman."

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But one sentence spoken aloud by a stranger doesn't even compare to all the texts and messages from countless friends and family who have supported me more than I could've ever imagined. To you all, thank you. I feel more loved and encouraged than I ever would've dreamed when I created my own finish line somewhere in Cross Plains, WI. I imagine this victory is even sweeter than if I had an IMWI finisher medal around my neck. It sure means more. I wouldn't trade it for the world.

ready or not, here I come Ironman

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Last weekend, some friends and I road-tripped it to Madison, WI to cheer on our other friends who were competing in the Madison Ironman (IMWI) 2014. 002

A couple of months ago, I was simply trying to get the weekend off of work to go and support our friends. Once I knew I could go, I obviously wanted to volunteer at some point during the day. Over 4,000 volunteers were needed and I knew we couldn't watch our friends 100% of the time, so why not help out while we were there? Plus, let's just say I love cheering for people, a lot! So it was the best of both worlds.

Then somewhere between registering to volunteer and the weekend leading up to IMWI 2014, I started contemplating personally signing up for IMWI 2015. I literally can't remember when I started thinking about it. I mean, sure, I've done a short course triathlon and several relay tris, but I learned my lesson on this summer's bike tour not to underestimate the physical challenge of things I once looked at and said "anyone can do that." And there was that one day my boss and I were talking about the time it would take to "just finish" an Ironman. I did the math in my head and realized it was doable. Then I promptly started my evening 5K run and decided it was no longer doable and that I was literally crazy for having entertained the idea.

But by the time we set off in the car to Madtown, I was about 80% sure I was going to sign up. Part of my hold back was the cost (it's a financial investment in of itself!). And then it was my friend's girlfriend telling me her boyfriend told her not to sign up because he didn't want her doing an Ironman. And since he's MY friend too, I started thinking maybe he wouldn't want me to sign up either. But at the end of the day neither of those were the real reason I wasn't sure I could actually sign up. There was something else.

Before going to bed the night before the race, I had to take advantage of the fact that we were in Madison, and that there were two huge lakes nearby. There's just something about a big body of water. I always find God in it. Looking out over the moonlit water I realized my biggest hurdle to committing to the Ironman, and pretty much everything else in life: I don't like to commit to something I knew I couldn't be the best at. I didn't really realize it until that moment, but I guess I just never really committed to anything that hinted at me not being the best. I mean, why do it if I'm not going to be the best? I know, there are those of you who can think of a million reasons why you would do something even if you weren't the best. But honestly, I just don't. I don't even consider attaching my name to something that isn't the best. (We can go into all the reasons why this is, but let's just leave at this for now.) And I knew that if I signed up for the Ironman, there's no way I was going to be the best. Obviously. I mean, I can hardly even run a 5K at the moment, and this meant a full marathon AFTER a 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike.

So, for the next 24 hours, I wrestled with what I knew was not only a hurdle to get over to sign up for this bloody thing, but probably (okay, definitely) a hurdle in every other area of my life as well. When it came down to it, I knew that if I didn't sign up for this race, I wouldn't have anything to really challenge me next year. Yes, I could get better at sprint tris, but I knew I could already do them, and that just wasn't challenge enough to actually push me this next year. There was only once real option.

After cheering for literally hours upon hours on Sunday and watching my friends, and thousands others finish one of the most challenging endurance races, my head hit the pillow a little after 11PM with my alarm set for 4:30AM. Monday morning, I waited in line for 2.5 hours and did what I never imagined I would do:

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Here's to a year of training. Only 360 days to go. Ready or not, here I come Ironman.

training to ride the Midwest is raising ?'s

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This July, I will be biking with a team of 19 other people from Minneapolis to Chicago.  We are partnering with Venture Expeditions to raise awareness and support for the work that they do with refugees along the Thai Burmese border. Venture loves to creatively empower people to engage in physical sacrifice in community with Christ for Biblical Justice! Needless to say, there will be a bit of prep work to be done before this tour. I bought my first road bike last fall 3 days before my first full triathlon, knowing I was going to do this Midwest Tour this coming summer. The hybrid bike I won in 8th grade for having missed the least number of days of school out of any student in my grade (my mom, a single mom most of my childhood, did not believe I ever had an illness...yes, I still need therapy for this) was not going to get me from Minneapolis to Chicago at the speed I wanted to go. So, 20 years later I decided I could afford to buy my first bike.

And that Tri... I trained for it for 4 weeks (I do not recommend this...ever). It was a short course, not to be confused with a sprint course. The typical sprint course ends with a 5K run. This short course ended with a 5 MILE run (after biking the last mile of an 18 mile course up a steep long hill). Let's just say I walked most (okay...all) of those 5 miles. When I finished the predicted hour after my boss, his daughter asked me when I was going to do another one. I chose not to respond with words knowing nothing positive was going to come out of my mouth at that moment.

I did finish though, and that was my only goal. Yes, I was #69...

So instead of doing a Tri mid-summer this year, why not bike from Minneapolis to Chicago? I mean, it's just biking right? That's the rationale that gets me to do most things in life, no lie.

Case in point. Bridge stop.

Since March, I have taken up riding my bike, a lot. And recently I have realized that I'm good for about the first hour and then I just tank. I can be cruising along at 17 mph and suddenly it's like I literally have no energy left and need to take a break, much to my training partner's dismay. And I mean, I also can't help it if we come across a super cute bridge and need to stop and get a pic (I genuinely love bridges and pictures of bridges, and I also love how my legs feel after even a 3 minute stop).

Knowing that I will be riding an average of 80-90 miles a day for 6 straight days forced me to start asking questions about how in the world I would have energy for hours on hours of cycling. Let's face it, my average time working out going into this spring is about an hour, so I know nothing about the energy needed for endurance sports.

This has led to a recent surge in reading up on calorie intake for endurance sports. The gist of what I discovered was that for an hour of riding we burn an average of 600-800 calories (you can get way more precise if you take into account your weight, watts, age, etc., but this estimate is pretty accurate for most people). However, you can't refuel that many calories while riding your bike. You can try, but pretty much your body just wont process it quickly enough without giving you a gut ache, nor will it be efficient. So, it is recommended that every 45 minutes you consume 250-300 calories (again, you can get more specific if you want to do the math).  So, of course, I will just say 275 calories every 45 minutes. And since trying this approach, I can't tell you what a difference it has made.

If want to read the articles that I found helpful, here they are:

Nutrition for Endurance: Cyclists Nutrition for Cycling Endurance How to Eat for Endurance

And this is just nerdy, but super interesting about how our bodies burn calories during different intensities of riding:

Event Nutrition: How many granola bars?

Here's to being active for more than 60 minutes at a time!

It's what you CAN do

All too often, people look at issues like drugs, crime rates, sex trafficking, homelessness, etc. and get overwhelmed by all the problems bombarding them on the news. bigstock-overwhelmed-woman-on-a-chair-durring-a-storm

Maybe you don't, but I know a lot of people who do, so much so that even though they are so bothered by what they know happens in the world today and they really do want to do something about it, they're overwhelmed to the point of inaction. So instead of doing anything, they watch the problems on the news at night and become more and more disheartened about our world and how in shambles it is.

I admit that there isn't an easy solution to every problem in the world today, but here's the reality individuals together can create a movement of a better tomorrow. As Christine Caine says, "we cannot all do everything, but everyone can do something." Truth is, you already have something in your hand that you can use to become part of the solution, to help bring justice to earth. We could all sit around waiting for the officials to solve our problems, or we could take matters into our own hands and be part of the solution.

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Today, I get to start coaching for the Girls on the Run spring season! See, I'm super passionate about helping end human trafficking in our generation. I cannot stomach the fact that there are 26 million slaves in the world today, nor the fact that Minnesota is ranked one of the top 13 states in the nation for highest incidence in recruitment of children for sex trafficking. This issue is so multifaceted that it'll make your head spin thinking about all the systemic issues that allow this to even continue in this day and age. Despite its complexity, I've decided that one of the things I can do to help end it is to pour into girls at a young age helping them to know their true value and worth so that they can stand up to anything and anyone that would tell them otherwise. By being a coach for Girls on the Run, I will get to do this through a running program! So I get to combine my love of coaching, my passion for ending the sex trafficking of our children, and my love of sports all in one! My love for inspiring others and encouraging them to live out their fullest potential has collided with my love of sports so that I can be part of the solution to this massive problem. I simply am taking what's in my hand and putting it to use.

What's in your hand? What are you doing with it? Is our world getting better because of it?