Ironman Countdown

Friday, March 13, 2015

Spring Break for Mommy-Triathletes

Its been a snowy few weeks, which has made for lots of school closures and crazy balancing acts with work and training.... not to mention a stomach bug!  So, I'm catching up a bit finally.  I think we are looking at springtime, finally, for real.

Two weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity to go on a "Traincation" at the end of February through Swim Bike Mom.  Swim Bike Mom, aka Meredith Atwood, is an amazing leader in the area of women triathletes.  In case you haven't heard of her before, see her website to the right of my blog.  Or click here:  SwimBikeMom

There's an eerie connection I feel to her, given we are both attorneys, have two kids, work, train and even have husbands with the same name.  I identified with her cause immediately, and have met so many other women like me through her blog. I am also, as previously mentioned, part of her Swim Bike Mom Ambassador Team with 29 other amazing women.

So anyway, Swim Bike Mom put together a chance to go to Panama City Beach in Florida and get some training done, as well as attend informational sessions on nutrition, training, injury prevention, etc.  Meredith as well as her own coach and Ironman Brett, and another coach named Jack, all ran the program.  We would get a chance to swim, bike and run on the course for the famous Gulf Coast Triathlon held each May, which also happens to be part of the Ironman Florida course.

I was excited to go for several reasons, which I will list here... order of reasons is not indicative of importance:
    1)  Florida in February.  No brainer
    2)  A chance to meet Meredith in person
    3)  An opportunity to soak up some knowledge by well versed pro's
    4)  get to train in a nice setting
    5)  meet a bunch of other women trying to make it all work, like me
    6)  meet five of my Swim Bike Mom Ambassador Teammate officially

For my 40th birthday, my amazing parents and sister paid for my room in FL, which was so cool.  All I had to do was get there, 15 hours south of home.  I ended up making plans with my friend Sara to drive to her in Raleigh, and head to FL together.  Always a risk to take on a long car ride with someone you barely know, but I had a good feeling... and spoiler-alert, I was right! 

bon voyage sign Jack left for me
I left Maryland on a very snowy Thursday morning and headed down to Raleigh.  Sara and I loaded our bikes in her car, and all our other gear, and proceeded to make it to Darien, Georgia, to stay the night.  I had never met Sara in person before this, though our SBMAT group on Facebook is very tight despite our mainly "internet" relationship.  We clicked almost instantly... it only took some 80's music, a love of Chick Fil-A, and mommy/triathlon talk too... not to mention our mutual love for Will Farrell, Downton Abbey, and making fun of everything around us.

After our kid-free peaceful night in Darien, we head south then east, across the panhandle of Florida, to Panama City Beach.  It was a long and very, uh, dueling banjos kind of drive.  But it really went quickly, as we basically never stopped talking.

We arrived at our place, which we were sharing with one more SBMAT-mate.  We went for a short
Sara & I, post beach run
but beautiful 3 mile run on the beach, after some grocery shopping and settling in.  Then our teammate Sarah arrived from her trek from Louisiana; so fun to meet her in person too.  We all walked over to the conference room together and met Doc (Georgia) and Therese (Iowa); our 6th person Kimberly (also Georgia) ended up having to cancel due to a family issue which was a bummer.

Sarah plans on doing her first IM this year.  Doc is doing her first marathon in Paris and her first IM too.  And Therese who has done several IMWI, is focusing on the half distance this year.  So fun to meet them and chat in person.
view from our room

Then there was Meredith.  My mom (sorry mom) had some concerns that this all might be a scam of some sort, that Meredith was just taking my money and this may not be all that I think it is.  But within seconds of meeting Meredith, I was able to tell that my mom would have loved her too.  She's genuine and kind, and really embraces everyone to the sport.  All the other women who were there, about 25 others, were from all over the country and from all different backgrounds.  And she made a point to welcome each person.

Brett, teaching nutrition
That night we had a great session about race nutrition, and injury prevention stretches and exercises.  Brett and Jack both were very obviously smart, and it was fun to listen to them.  They both work for PTS Sports, and are triathlete coaches.  Listening to them, gleaning knowledge from their talks, reminded me of the great parts of having a coach like I did when I was swimming.  If you are considering a coach, I'd look into them.

The Florida weather proved a bit cooler than we had all hoped.  It was also very windy.  So we had to change some of our training plans up a bit.  The open water swim (OWS) in the Gulf had to be cancelled, and the bike/run were made a little shorter.  On Saturday morning, we drove over to the Panama City Beach Sports Complex for swimming.  In Florida, there are no indoor pools.  So, while the air was only 50 deg, cloudy and windy, the water was a warm 80... lots of people running from locker room to pool to dive in!

The swimming was fun.  I was with the A, or faster, group.  I really enjoyed being with a group to swim again, doing sets, like practices when I was little.  I shared the lane with Sarah, and two other women both from Michigan.   Those two learned to really swim later in life, which impresses me so much.
SBMAT: Doc, Sara, Therese, me, Sarah and Meredith
Coach Meredith on deck

that's me in the light blue cap in front of Meredith

swimming up behind Sarah, who is kicking in the pink cap
We left from the pool parking lot on our bike ride.  Like the swim, we broke ourselves up in to group A (faster, more experience), B (not quite as fast) and C (more technique work).  I initially put myself with the B group, set to do about 30 miles.  I just got new aerobars on my bike, and wanted to play with those a little, and take the time to focus on technique.  Sara started with me here, too, as did Doc and Sarah.  Therese, the Iowa Ironwoman, took off with the A group, doing about 45 to 50 miles.
the whole gang, before heading out

Sara and me
At some point B caught up with A, because Coach Brett got a flat.  Sara, who was obviously an amazing biker, decided to switch up.  Since I had ridden over with Sara and Therese in the car, I decided to step up too, though it made me a bit nervous to do so.  But I decided even if I was slower, I would be able to keep up enough and the challenge would be good for me.

The headwinds were awful, and the A group was moving at a fast clip.  But I managed to keep up for the most part, and did it.  Coach Jack road behind me the whole time, so I had to formally introduce myself after... I mean, the poor guy had been staring at my backside for about 25 miles or so!
rockin' my awesome Baltimore jersey from James


After the bike ride, we did some transition (where you change from swim to bike, then bike to run, during a race) practice. 
huddling for warmth with Therese during transition practice

Coach Brett had some good ideas on how to be more efficient in changing your gear around, but at that point I couldn't stop shaking from being cold.  We went back to our condos for lunch and to shower up, before more talking sessions.  Meredith was going to give her "keynote speech" and Coach Brett was going to talk about the 70.3/Half Ironman Distance.


Meredith was wonderful.  Her speech was heartfelt, and she even brought a backpack of Coors Lite to
staying classy with Sarah
share with all of us. Meredith read an essay she had recently had published in a book, about owning yourself as an athlete.  

Coach Brett provided us with lots of information.  Listening to him got me excited about training when I got home.  I hadn't officially mapped out my training for Eagleman or IMMD, but now I was totally ready to fill in my calendar and get it all figured out.

Afterwards, the whole group went out for dinner at the Back Porch, a fantastic seafood restaurant in PCB. 
one of our two tables!
Doc and Coach Brett
Sunday was running day.   We got together as a group, and learned some great stretches and warmups from Brett and Jack.  And then we were off.  I decided to go with the A group, which ended up doing 10 miles.  I really enjoyed the run, as I ended up with Coach Brett the whole time.  It was fun to chat with him about triathlon and kids and life; he's a really good person aside from being very knowledgeable about triathlons.  And I really love that upon taking on Meredith as his athlete, he is helping her with her Swim Bike Mom mission.  He's a majorly fast athlete; majorly fast male triathletes tend to be, well, "mean" about those of us "regular folks" who take up triathlons.  He was the total opposite... in fact, the quote I remember during our chat about this topic was "Our sport is filled with enough jerks."  If I could put money towards a coach, I would ask for Brett.

He asked me to "drop the hammer" on the last two miles, i.e. finish the ten miles at a very fast pace.  Of course my pride kicked in and we really hit it from mile 8 to the finish.  It was fun to have a coach for a day!

After the run, Sara and I hung around for awhile with Therese, who had an afternoon flight home to Iowa.  Therese is coming back to FL in May for the Gulf Coast Tri and was not leaving FL without her open water swim.  So she and a few others actually donned their wetsuits and went into the drink.  It was Therese's first time swimming in salt water and waves like this.  She is a tough cookie, as it was cold!
Therese heads out

Then Sara and I got a start on our drive home.  We stopped in Tallahassee for dinner, and Jacksonville to sleep over.  Once again, despite the very long hours in the car, Sara and I had a fantastic time.  Of course, on Monday, it was sunny and 70 deg on the drive north.  Sara and I considered staying in South Carolina, specifically at the famous tourist trap South of the Border, and starting a new life there... but we missed our children and our men-folk, so continued home
silliness with Sara

South of the Border, possible sight for Swim Bike Town
I am so happy I had the opportunity to go, to meet Meredith in person, to train with some amazing women from around the country, and especially to meet some of my SBMAT girls.  I came home to snow, snow and more snow, but now two weeks later spring seems to have arrived.  Traincation got me motivated and excited to plan out my training, to get out on my bike more, and really get moving. 

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