Sunday, March 16, 2014

Rockn' and Rolln' through my First Marathon

I kinda knew what to expect for my first marathon. A "huge" hill at mile 6 up to Calvert, an emotional depression when marathoners peel off from the half-marathon course and continue into Anacostia for the second half of the course, and the inevitable knives in the quads. Race day came around and I felt ready - both mentally and physically!

Race morning was perfect. Low 40s, clear skies, and low winds. Given the tough and extended winter the DC area has had this year, I was running in shorts and a tank for the first time in 2014! Drank my Osmo (best hydration mix ever!) before driving over with Bart to the start!

Socks as mittens and a couple dudes thinking I'm way too excited pre-marathon!
Goal coming into this race was to qualify for Boston. I know, I aim HIGH!!! haha. BQ for my age group is somewhere around 3:35. My twin sister Phebe is moving to Boston in July 2014, and we'd been talking about both running Boston in 2015.

20,000 half- and full-marathoners lined up!

Miles 1-6: Kept it easy at an 8:00 pace that later turned out to officially be 7:56 pace for the first 10K. Phebe had told me to run with the 3:30 pace group, but I moved up a corral and never saw the pace group the entire run. 

I saw teammates Bryan Frank, Jenny Leehey and Steph Ewert on a switchback on Memorial Bridge. I think my sudden eruption of their names from the other side of the bridge caused slight heart palpitations to the people next to me. 

Hill leading up to Calvert was FUN! Lined with locals and cowbells on both sides and I had expected far worse. Hallelujah, after the ascent came the slow and steady descent!! 

Miles 7-12: Tried to keep even at an 8:00 pace and enjoyed the crowds through DC. Legs felt fine, I was keeping reserves in the bank for the last half, and the weather was starting to warm up. Hey! This marathon thing ain't too bad! I'm still enjoying myself and giving 5-year-olds high-fives!

Handed off my arm warmers to Bart when I saw him! 

Mile 12.5: The lanes divided in half - the left half for the half marathoners and the right side for the marathoners. Talk about being in the minority. A pack of ladeez that I had been running with abandoned me as they picked up their pace and dug down for their last half-mile. It was just me and a dude whose shirt I kept reading and re-reading for the next 5 miles: some quote from the Bible about Christ and something about the Philippians. I kept looking at that word - 'Philippians' - and made up stories in my head about its relation to the Philippines. 

Halfway point (13.1 miles) - 1:43:30. I silently hooray-ed to myself. Slightly ahead of target, but feeling strong and confident! 

Miles 13-16: The dwindled race field made things lonely...even boring. I picked up the pace a little and aimed for a 7:45 pace. I felt fine and dandy. The sun was starting to peek out and I was so happy that I'd gone with shorts and a tank. There were a few marathoners with long sleeves or capri tights and I wasn't jealous of them one bit! 

Engility reunion...Daniel Head raising the roof
and my heel-strike in full action!
Around mile 14 or 15, I caught up with my lucky leprechaun coworker Daniel Head. He was in full-on St Patty's Day mode...kudos to him for running in a tutu and a wig! 

Miles 17-20: Enter the pain cave. My quads started to feel as if they were stabbed with invisible knives. The pain wasn't intense enough to cause me to stop or even slow down, but I did think about whether it'd get any worse and deteriorate into quad cramping issues. 

I cursed silently to my quads. They had held up fine in my two 20-mile runs during peak training - and now at mile 17, they decided it was payback time. I mentally blocked the pain by focusing on catching up to a chick in a pink tank ahead of me. Once I passed her, I focused on a girl wearing a Harvard tanktop who was knock-kneed. 

Miles 21-25: These weren't dull butter knives anymore; these were full-on, freshly-sharpened Wusthof steak knives stabbing my quads. Youch! I tried to pick up the pace and focus on not letting my hips drop. Just trying to think of maintaining a strong push-off and even hip balance helped me to block *some* of the pain from my quads out. OK, I could do this! I tried to keep a consistent 7:45 pace but my official chip time shows that I actually slowed to an 8:01 pace the last 10K. 

The lower the visor, the further into the pain cave I am.

Mile 26: The stadium was in sight! That hideous structure suddenly looked so appealing! I was finito. But then I saw Bart at the peak of a "hill" (more like a highway ramp) and got a final burst of energy. I was gonna do this and finish strong! 

Mile 26
Final turn was downhill ("yee-owch!" screamed my quads) and merged with the half-marathoners. I tried to kick it in for the last 200 yards, but in reality I was just swinging my arms just a bit more erratically. But I felt like I was flying through that finish line!!!! I heard cheers of "Go, Snapple!" and I did a thumbs up! 

Official finishing time: 3:25:43. 
Finished 25th Female!

  • Negative split! 
  • Boston qualified! 
  • Still have all my toenails! 
  • Can't walk down stairs! 
  • No ice cream at the finish line! 
  • Had to walk a mile and a half back to the car.  
No ice cream in the post-race grub but got a Chocolate Milk...has never tasted better!!! 
Nutrition: Took a Clif Shot Block every 4 miles. Managed to muster down 2 Clif Mocha gels - nursed them for about 3 miles each. A sip of water at every aid station. Finished a little dehydrated but no stomach issues!

Post-race Interview: A Run Washington staff stopped me as I was chugging water and asked about my race. I blabbered on about how it felt while stuffing my face with potato chips. Some snippets of my interview here!

A shout-out to Phebe - best friend and coach! Little do people know that my twin sister is a 2-time Olympic Trials marathoner...her training plan got me to my goal time!
And, of course, Bart! What a stud - he made me laugh every time I saw him on the course. 

Super Congrats to teammate Courtney Fulton and coworker Daniel Head who also ran the full marathon!!! And teammates Jenny Leehey, Steph Ewert, Bryan Frank, Stephanie Brown and Holli Finneren who ran the half! 

That night, I celebrated by hobbling my way to a bachelorette party for my friend Dawn Riebeling, who ran the half and PR'ed! A cooking lesson, a four-course meal, and some great wine and conversation was the perfect way to cap off a tiring day! 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Mizuno Women's Run Shoes: The Full Monty

I'll admit it: I play favorites. And one of my favorite sponsors for the 2013 season is Mizuno

For the past decade, I'd run in Asics. Asics everything: GT 2000, Gel Kayano (Models 12-18; see how loyal I am?!?!), Gel Nimbus, Gel Cumulus, and, finally, the Gel DS Racer. I probably should have invested more in Asics stocks given my commitment to the brand. 

I loved my Asics and never wanted to part with them. But after battling a hamstring injury for 2 years, I was willing to try anything different (except aqua-jogging). 

Mizuno's sponsorship of the Snapple Tri Team couldn't have come at a better time!

I've ran in and fell in love with the five models of Mizuno running shoes that clutter my closet. It's like a rainbow of running happiness everytime I look at my shoe closet! 

Here's the run-down with links to Mizuno's site: 

Not different colored shoes, Silly! Both Bart and I have the Sayonaras,
so thought I'd show the gender discriminating colors of these great shoes :) 
If I could choose just one shoe to train, race, do everything in, I'd pick the Sayonara. As a former (and sometimes current, when I'm lazy or tired) heel-striker, I needed to go with a lower heel-toe drop to train myself to mid-foot strike. 

  • The Sayonara has a 10mm drop - perfect for me in the transition from a 12- or 14-mm drop! 
  • Lightweight. 7.1 oz. Meant for the neutral runner. That means severe pronators or supinators would NOT enjoy this shoe and in fact might risk injury. I actually run with Superfeet insoles in all my running shoes, which is supposed to provide more heel stability and help with my very slight pronation. 
  • Roomy toe box and forefoot. Just what I need!!! 
  • Grippies on the bottom toebox of the shoe are PERFECT - you can feel the grab even when running on pavement! 
  • Have heard fellow teammates complain that the Sayonaras aren't as well-ventilated as other running shoes. I personally haven't run into this problem, but heavy feet-sweaters, be forewarned! 
  • Wears more quickly than other training shoes (like the Precision, which the Sayonara replaces), but no shoe is meant to last forever!
  • Pricey at $120 retail. 

This is happiness in a running shoe.
  • Yellow. Enough said. 
  • Use these for racing half-marathons or shorter. Absolutely feel like I'm flying when I lace these babies up! 
  • Only weigh in at 5.8 oz, but amazingly my feet have never felt like there's not enough support/cushion/oomph to the shoe despite it's extremely light weight. 
  • Same heel drop as Sayonaras at 10mm - so when I switch between the two, my feet aren't confused. 
  • Same wonderful grippies on the sole as the Sayonaras - except there are more of them! Even on the road, I feel like these have awesome traction. 
  • Roomy all around for my extra-wide feet. 
Ran my way to a half-marathon PR in the Ronins!
I told my parents, "Just look for the bright yellow shoes and Snapple visor!" 
  • Lasts less than 150 miles. I went through my first pair FAST. 
  • I'd imagine that anyone who severely pronates/supinates or is a heavier runner would need more support than the Ronins offer. 
  • On the more expensive side at $105 retail, given these shoes have a much shorter lifespan than normal.

3. Wave Precision 

The bad news: the Wave Precision has been discontinued by Mizuno. Thousands were angry, taking to the streets in riot. Just joking. But I would have if Mizuno would not have followed up with this: 

The good news: It was replaced by the Wave Sayonara. 

People (especially runners) don't like change. We're used to rhythm and monotony. But the Wave Sayonara somehow successfully improved on the best lightweight trainer (yes, that would be the Precision) and came out with a running shoe that's like a Cervelo frame: something that, quite frankly, can just switch colors every year but nothing - absolutely nothing - about the shoe's biology needs to change. 

So! You can't buy the Precision anymore and even if you find it on Amazon or Zappos, you really should be buying the Sayonara. 

The Wave Riders took off in sales after Wendy Davis made them famous. Calling these shoes a "symbol of the talisman of feminism and political voice" (that's seriously what the Daily Beast called them) is a poetic exaggeration that makes me puke a little, but I shan't take away from the awesomeness of both Wendy Davis and of Mizuno Wave Riders. 

Not my favorite running shoes, so please find other shoe reviews if you are looking for a rosier picture:

  • A favorite among runners! Flexible for nearly all runner types - it's a neutral shoe but due to its internal forefoot overlay and structured support in the heel and midfoot, it works well for pronators and heavier runners. 
  • Great for any distance. 
  • Lifetime is 3-4 times that of the Sayonara or Ronin!
  • Standard 12mm heel drop 
  • Well-priced at $115 retail and will last the standard 500 miles. 
  • Too bulky. Keep in mind that I love the lightness of the Sayonaras and the Ronins, so the extra ounce on the Wave Riders made a huge difference to me. Wave Riders weigh in at 8.2 oz but feel like they weigh twice as much as the Ronins.
  • Less flexible overall - my foot craves that "in a glove" feeling I get from the Sayonara and Ronins, so I'm a bit spoiled and feel like I'm wearing a box when I put these on. 
Snapple Tri Girls sporting our Mizuno Wave Riders! 

Man, these are the lightest imaginable. Like nothing. Like air!!!

  • 6.2 oz. 
  • Designed to help someone transforming to a midfoot strike (me!!)  - Mizuno reps stressed that this is NOT a minimalist shoe. Instead, it's a shoe meant to encourage your foot to mid-foot strike by providing more cushion in the forefoot, a 0mm drop, and a wider toebox. 
  • I've only used this shoe for shorter workouts 3 miles or less. To be honest, the weight and lack of structure - you can bend this shoe in half!! - scared me, but after running in this shoe, I'm quite in love. Would NOT recommend these for any longer training runs, but I've worn them in a 5K race and they hold up FINE! 
  • I believe that these have successfully helped me to become less of a heel striker. 
  • Great air ventilation on these as well - I've worn them sockless!
  • NOT for longer distances or heavier runners!
  • Almost no support
  • Pricey at $120. 
That's it! I love our sponsorship with Mizuno. For the first time in 3 years, I'm running injury free and getting compliments at races constantly on how bright my shoes are! 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Magic in Whistler (as a Sherpa)!!!

Less than a week after we flew home from Mont Tremblant, we were off on another IM-bound journey to Canada. Nasty weather detoured our flight and our journey ended up being more than 24 hours until we landed exhausted in our hotel in Whistler.

Did the usual pre-race ritual of expo (no, we don't need a $50 pair of compression socks) and packet pickup (oh, Bart, we have matching backpacks now!!!) and then a splurge meal because, hey, we needed our iron! 

A little meander to Green Lake 
A cool bit about Whistler: Mountain Biking! This lil' kid was doing his first off-road ride, according to Proud Dad. And the ski slopes of Whistler serve as mountain biking courses during the summer!

Saturday: Bart was in complete taper mode, which meant movies in the hotel. I have a very unsuccessful record of staying awake during movies, so I decided that I'd go out and explore these beautiful mountains rather than snore and slobber.

During my entire 3-hour hike to Singing Pass in the Garibaldi Province, I saw only four people. It was fantastic!!! 

Love getting above the tree line!!

Little Mountain was empty except for some empty bottles! 

Snow in August!?!?!

Glacier-tipped ranges and lakes

It was quite windy and cold up here!

When I showed Bart this picture, he said, "I've never seen a penis mountain before."

Summit of Whistler Mountain

Cheakamus Lake in the background

Cheakamus Lake - highlight of Saturday!

Red mountains - reminded me of Colorado 
Symphony Lake 
Harmony Ridge Lake 
Got home late from the hike and proceeded to shovel down chicken and rice, popcorn, trail mix, and leftover bagels. Bart kept asking when I was going to stop eating, but I was so hungry! Maybe altitude affects your appetite, too?

We hit the sack early, and the next morning we woke up at 5AM. I snuck onto the athlete's shuttle bus to take to-be-Ironmen to Alta Lake, where green and pink caps adorned the entire beach.

I couldn't pick out Bart from the thousands in matching wetsuits and swim caps, so I stood in the front row of spectators, shivering and sporadically yelling, "Go, Bart! Good luck, Bart! I love you, Bart!" 
Tip to Sherpas: when the athletes are all clumped together and you have no idea who is who, just scream your athlete's name. Bart later told me that he heard someone cheering from him before the swim start - I took the credit ;) 

Bart out of T1
An hour and change later, Bart emerged from the swim and into the change tent. I pushed through strollers, dogs, and lumbering spectators to rush to the bike exit, and got to see him before he set off for the rollercoaster roads of Whistler.
Looking strong on the bike at 60K!

Bart passing the traffic jam that lined Highway 99! 
Cheering for Bart on the bike was a bit of a pain, since Whistler is a one-loop course. I managed to see him twice on the bike before he set off for the run, which was good enough for me. He was quickly gaining ground on the stronger swimmers, and I lost track of what AG place he was in because there were just too many compression socks covering people's calves!

Bart looking happy at Mile 1 of the run! 
Still happy during the first loop! 
Yeah, kid, I know, my boyfriend's a STUD.
I took a quick trip to Whistler's Farmer's Market while Bart did a very long loop on the run course...

Happy to see that he had passed two people in his AG! 
Cloud cover...the guy behind Bart didn't look too cheerful! 
"That's him! That's Bart!" I exclaimed to the ladies next to me as we stood near the finisher's chute.
Each time I saw Bart on the run, I was so thrilled with how strong and steady his pace was. I constantly asked fellow cheerleaders to "check 196 on" since I wanted to have reliable stats to yell at him.

I had no idea how many Kona slots would be given to his age group of 35-39, but hoped for the best. When I saw Bart come down the finisher's chute, I started to cry. Just a little, not enough to embarrass myself. I (correctly) thought that he had finished 7th in his AG and (incorrectly) thought that there were only 4 or 5 Kona slots in his AG. I crossed my fingers that I had somehow misread some calves and he had finished 5th or higher. I thought to myself that somehow, maybe, we could go to Rolldown and Bart could get a slot to the coveted World Championships.

Official finish time 9:41

Exhausted and ecstatic (the ecstatic doesn't quite show in this pic...) 
Three minutes later, I was hugging a sweat-soaked Bart. And then I started crying again when he told me that he thought there were 7 Kona slots in his AG. This time, it was the embarrassing kind of crying. 

Although Bart didn't take his Kona slot, the race was a BLAST and it was a huge accomplishment to finish in the front of such a tough field! And, during Rolldown, I got to meet the guy who got a M35-39 Rolldown slot. He was from Salt Lake City!!!! Such a small world :) 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Ironman Mont Tremblant

I've had co-workers and classmates call me weird. Insane. Having a warped sense of quality time on weekends and an insatiable appetite. I've been known to eat three bagels and a bear claw on Bagel Wednesdays at the office. My typical grocery shopping cart would feed a family of 6. I consider a 100-mile bike ride a 6-hour Social Hour with some of the greatest girls I've met in DC.

OK, OK, I admit; triathletes are a bit crazy. But being a part of this sport and a member of the Snapple Tri Club (as well as an adopted-outside-groupie of Team Ignite!) has introduced me to some wonderful fellow Type-A personalities and friends who talk about chafing on their crotches as much as our record number of pees on the bike. 

I love us!!

Winter Running with KGo! Despite frozen toes and hands, we're so happy!

Diabolical Double - Fig Pizza Gentleman's Team!
When last year's Ironman Lake Placid left me slightly depressed with my finishing time, resentful of my injured hamstring, and hungry for redemption, I immediately signed up for Ironman Mont Tremblant. Wa-hoooo!!! I immediately started fueling my Ironman training with The Best Stuff on Earth...

Fast forward 12 months, and there I stood, freezing on the shores of Lac Tremblant!!

Chattering teeth, numb toes and hands...thanks to
Xterra Wetsuits for keeping me buoyant!
2.4-Mile Swim: Follow the Bubbles, Try to Avoid the Fists of Fury

My goal for the swim was sub-1 hour. This year's IMMT start was in age-group waves, so I took off in the first women's wave of 34-and-under. Fireworks went off in place of a cannon, and we were off!!!

I started on the far, far left edge of the beach. Far from the flailing fists and even farther from what was the perfect recipe for my recent string of panic attacks in open water swims.

So happy to say my swim got off to a smooth start, and after the initial 100 meters, I settled into a smooth rhythm and found a pair of bubbles to follow! A victory in itself to have avoided the panic attack!

The one-loop, 2.4-mile swim in Lac Tremblant was gorgeous. The water was the perfect temperature with my full-sleeved Xterra wetsuit, and following the 5 waves of male Ironmen made for an extended draft line.

Swimming has always been therapeutic for me. Zen-like. I don't think about anything at all except full extension through my shoulder and the angle of my elbow. That's it. It's the sport I think know I'll continue to do until I'm 98 and shriveled, and I'm thankful that my parents put me in swim lessons when I was so young!

No highlights on the swim except for swimming into a breast-stroker's crotch (pardon me, 55-year-old man!) and getting socked in the eye by an elbow. I pounded a fist back in reflex, not out of spite.

Out of the water and I knew I was pretty far up, because the spectators all said "Yeah! A WOMAN!!!" as I came laughing through. I had no idea what my time was, and all I cared about was knowing whether it was 59:xx. I found out after the race that I had NOT met my swim goal, but overall very pleased with the first leg of my Ironman!

Xterra partners!

2.4-Mile Swim: 1:01:16, 4th AG

Wetsuit strippers helped me suction out of my Xterra Vendetta, and I was off on the red carpet to T1!

The crowd was amazing...I couldn't stop laughing and waving!

Highlight: Finding a good pair of bubbles and holding onto them for 1.5 miles!

Lesson Learned: Panic attacks are avoidable. Steady start, then work your way through the mass.

112-Mile Bike: Don't Mind Me, I'm on the Right

The bike. The most dreaded and longest leg of the race. The part where all I hear is, "On your left!" and get neck cramps from holding my aero position. And foot cramps because my damn bike shoes are too tight and my feet are built wider than a man's. The part where I drop from 4th to 25th in my AG. Le sigh.

I've trained with some really, really strong cyclists. I don't understand how they generate so much power. How they climb hills so much quicker than I do and descend without fear. Is it my slow cadence? Is it my lack of power? I haven't figured it out yet, but Bart got me a power meter for Christmas last year, and I thought it was broken for the longest time because I could never break triple-digit wattage. 

Well, it's not broken, and what I really need this year - if I want to erase the frustration of losing so many places on the bike and constantly being passed - is to just dedicate my training to getting stronger on the bike. Squats. Pain Cave. Intervals. Make it HURT. 

In general, my mood on the bike was: 

The wind on the second loop of the course had increased dramatically...and I did NOT deal with it well. Braking on a highway descent is certainly not the way to race fearless! 

112-Mile Bike: 6:33:10, 25th AG 


  • Seeing teammates Ellen and Courtney and DC Tri stud Alejandro doing so well on the bike course!!!

Lessons Learned: 
  • I am stronger than the wind. I shan't fear the wind. I am Xena. 
  • Huge room for improvement: Power, cadence, and confidence. 
  • Peeing on the bike makes me feel oddly victorious. Like I've just cut time. 
  • Honey Stingers Waffle cookies are like crack. 
  • Buy bike shoes that fit. I am going online shopping for men's bike shoes in Extra Wide. 

Nutrition: Because it can Make or Break your Race! 

Last year, I had consulted teammate Matias Palavecino on my nutrition plan for IMLP and he had given me extremely sound advice. I had some stomach issues at LP when I started the run, in what I now realize was eating too many solids too late on the bike and not consuming enough salt tablets on a hot day. 

I basically copied Matias's plan from last year with a couple of minor adjustments, since I've eliminated gels and liquid calories from my bike nutrition. They just don't work for me. In fact, they make me want to puke. 

Nutrition Plan for Bike: 
  • 1st Hour: ~60 calories every 20 minutes (2 big bites of Clif Bar - Banana Nut and White Choco Macadamia Nut and some Clif Shot Blox)
  • 2nd and 3rd Hours: ~60 calories every 15 minutes (2 big bites of Clif Mojo Bar and Banana Nut and Clif Shot Blox)
  • 4th Hour: ~60 calories every 20 minutes (I could tell my stomach wasn't digesting as well as I had hoped, so I grabbed a Honey Stinger Waffle at the aid station and consumed as much of one as I could before it crumbled in my hands. Two waffles, with more crumbs on the road than in my mouth)
  • 5:00-5:30: ~80 calories every 15 minutes (back to 2 big bites of Clif Mojo Bar) 
  • 5:30-6:33: One bite of Honey Stinger Waffle from aid station, lots of liquid
Total Consumption: 3 Clif Bars, 1 Clif Mojo, 2 packs Shot Blox, 5 Honey Stingers, 2 Bananas.

Throughout the bike, I also took in 7 salt tablets. Thank the Buddha I packed those in the bento box! The day was quickly heating up! 

The nutrition plan worked perfectly. I ate as much as I could for the first 3 hours then tried to listen to my stomach so that it would be settled for the run. Big thanks to our nutrition sponsor Clif for the calories!!!

Le Marathon: Chasing the 4-Hour Mark and Loving Life 

This was it. The last leg! My primary goal, as I had announced to my parents and teammates before the race, was to run a sub-4-hour marathon. I certainly had saved the juice in my legs on the bike, so I came out of the change tent in fresh running shorts feeling ready to tackle the next 26.2 miles! 

I had decided to run in my Sayonaras rather than my beloved Ronins, largely because I'd never run a marathon before (last year's IMLP had resulted in me walking 13 miles) and thought the extra cushioning would benefit me in the later miles. 
Miles 1-5: The Run out of Town: Hot. Where was the Shade? Luckily, the MT crew was extremely well-prepared, and aid stations came every mile. I horded the water, splashing it on my head and down my sports bra, and took sponges for relief from the heat. 

Miles 5-11.5: The Gravel Path: MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE PART. The gravel path is perfectly packed and the trees provided some shade. There seemed to be a slight downhill on the way out. I was getting so thirsty that, when I found a discarded Fuel Belt gel bottle on the side of the trail at Mile 8, I desperately picked it up. 
The man behind me commented, "Oh, you're so nice. Are you going to run the guy down who dropped it?" 
And I said, "NO! I'm so thirsty and it's mine now." 
At the next aid station, I promptly rinsed it out, filled it up with Ironman Perform, and carried it with me for the next 17 miles. 

It's MY nutrition bottle now!!! 
Miles 11.5-13: Run back to Town: Feeling good! Yeah, Man! Spectators lined the course and waved cowbells in my face. I saw Bart and got very excited, and then saw Zoya Schaller from Fexy and exchanged elated high-fives. This race had turned into a party!!!
Miles 13-16: Positive Vibes, Good Cadence: I was starting to feel like I could break the 4-hour mark. I was right on track and my feet weren't tired and my quads weren't screaming! Yeah, I could do this forever! As well, the weather was starting to cool off, and my mood improved as the shade cover increased. 

Miles 16-22: Wherein I enter the Pain Cave. Right when I hit Mile 16, my left IT band started to feel twingy. Twingy led to tweaked. Tweaked led to painful. Painful then made me stop, lean down to stretch out whatever the heck was going on with the lower IT band, and desperately hope that it wouldn't get any worse. 
The pain in my left IT band intensified and I started to worry that I was causing permanent damage. But then my knees started to ache, and eventually the combined pain of left IT band + both knees caused me to just say "DAMMIT! I'm gonna get you, 4-Hours! I'm gonna beat you and stomp on you and CRUSH YOUR DREAMS!

So I kept going. I did something that hasn't happened since my days playing tennis. Back in high school and university, I'd get into the habit of talking to myself between points - psyching myself up before a set point or pepping myself if I was facing a triple break point. It wasn't uncommon or weird; lots of tennis players coach themselves verbally on the court.
So here I was, thousands of suffering to-be-Ironmen around me, shuffling our feet to Mike Reilly's voice. And I started to cheer myself on. 
"Pick it up! You can do this." 
followed by a grunt. 
And then, when the pain from my IT band would take over, "Happy Feet! Happy Feet!" 

Yep, it was that point in the race where I didn't really care if my fellow racers thought I was crazy or not. All that mattered was that 4-hour marathon. 

Miles 23-25: The Final Countdown. 5K left. I can do this. Tried to pick up my feet as my Garmin told me my pace was dropping. I knew that if I ran at least 9:00 miles for the last 5K, I'd beat 4 hours. 

The Golden (Half) Mile: The last half-mile takes you on a cobblestone descent through town. Spectators cram their faces as far forward to scream at you and fling cowbells in your face. Little kids stick their hands out in hopes of getting a high-five. This was it. The entire race was worth it for this last half-mile! 

I cried. I couldn't help it; everyone was making me feel like I was so much more than someone who trained their butt off for 6 months and managed to stay healthy enough and positive enough to make it through the race. They made me feel like I was their champion, like some village hero.

And as I came to the last fork, where Right means 2nd loop and Left means Finish Line, and I veered Left, the crowd lining that last strip erupted. Yes, I'm probably heavily inflating this but who the hell cares? The finish line was in sight and it's just like you'd imagine - all that IT band and knee pain disappeared; my tired feet skipped; my face held an idiot grin. 

And Mike Reilly announced that Mindy Ko is an Ironwoman!!!

26.2-Mile Run: 3:58:43; 15th AG 

Highlights: I think I may have improved my run stride! No heel striking in this photo! 

And my nutrition was SPOT ON. I took in Ironman Perform when I needed. I drank Coke when I craved it. I ate a total of 5 bites of banana. Basically, I had followed Matias's nutrition plan on the bike to such a tee that my stomach felt AMAZING for the entire run!!! 

Lessons Learned: 
  • A run bottle found on the side of the trail is totally legit to borrow. Or keep. 
  • Pain can be ignored. And 26 miles can be worth it for the last 0.2 miles. 
  • Our shoe sponsor Mizuno basically makes the best running shoes in the world!!!

Ironman Mont Tremblant: 11:41:22, 15th AG 

Went back out for the midnight finish and cried again. I am constantly amazed by the grit and determination that Ironman brings out in us ordinary folks! 

A shout-out to Snapple teammates Ellen and Courtney for amazing races! 

And a special Congrats to DC Tri-mates and especially Alejandro for wearing a smile on the course! 
And, of course, Thanks to the person who dropped their Fuel bottle on the run course! 
And my wonderful girlfriends back home who all did so amazingly well at IMLP three weeks earlier! 

And Bart, because he lets me beat him on the swim :) 

What's next? I don't know. Definitely some 70.3s in 2014. Possibly another IM. But right now I'm just enjoying ice cream, Caroline's blueberry pie, and a fantastic garden in our new home.