2017 Grand Rapids Triathlon

On June 11, 2017 was my second year competing in the Grand Rapids Triathlon. This race has special importance to me as it was the first triathlon I competed in ever. I had the best experience last year, and this year was no different!

There were a few changes. Changes on my behalf, and changes on the behalf of the race itself. I had a “new to me” bike this year. An actual road bike. So no more of my heavy duty mountain bike with road tires. Of course, still not as fancy schmancy as many of the other people on course, but whatever. I was there to better myself from last year, not to make it to the podium!

I also was able to compete in my new wetsuit. Last year I had rented a sleeveless full length suit that was a cardio workout in itself to actually get on. This year was a softer neoprene “shorty” wetsuit. Stopped at above the knees and short sleeves.

As per my usualness, I arrived super early. My wave (the Athena Sprint Distance wave) was not to hit the water until 7:45am, but transition opened up at 5:15am, so that was my goal. Get there early so as to get the prime spot at the end of the bike rack. And, that is what I got!

Now, differences with the race itself. Transition was super long! I heard one participant say, “at least our legs will stay warm with the 17 miles we need to run our bikes out of transition on”. Obviously transition was not that long. But the “Sprint Nationals” section was quite a ways farther back this year than last year. The other downside was that the transition isle was not very wide. So, if I was riding out, and someone else was riding in, one of us would have to step aside to let the other through. Again, not really my concern as I knew I was not going to make any sort of miraculous time, but, other are definitely more serious.

That all being said……the race was still fabulous and went very much better this year for me than it did last year.

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Last year I did not properly fuel myself prior to race start. I had no real understanding of what to do in the case of a triathlon, so I went along with what I would have consumed prior to a running race. That was a mistake. I came out of the water, weak and dizzy. I needed to sit down in T1 and eat as I was nervous about the bike portion. This year I made sure to eat much more properly, and in small amounts right up until the time to get into the coral with my wave. I exited the swim course feeling on point with no real issues at all.

In transition, I had already prepared my bike with approximately 5 fuel gels. As I got my shoes on I consumed ½ a fuel gel then got onto the bike course. Now, lesson learned this year…..In an effort to save time in T2, I put my visor on under my bike helmet. Unfortunately this made my helmet not sit very properly on my head by the time I got to the mount line. O I needed to take time to adjust this. Also, while on the bike course, I needed to pull my head back farther to be able to see ahead of me properly, so that created some neck discomfort.

The bike portion was definitely much easier this year with the lighter bike. As I was not really yet comfortable with reaching down to grab a water bottle, I wore a Camelback with a reservoir and was able to easily put the tube in my mouth to attain my hydration. By the time the bike course was done I had not needed to consume any of my nutrition and still felt really good. Also, the biggest difference from last year to this year was the fact that my tailbone did not hurt NEARLY as much as last year.

T2 was a quicker transition than T1. I consumed the last half of the fuel gel from T1 and headed out to the run. However, running was not what was going to happen. My legs were shot! By now the sun was really out and the temperature was increasing to match the high humidity. I walked the first have of the run until my legs felt more able to start running. It was not fast at all. And my run time from last year to this year was slower overall, but, in the end I simply felt better.

Looking at this year in compared to last year, my times were generally better, I felt very much better and once I crossed the finish line I did not need to go to the med tent due to hip cramps.

So once again, the Grand Rapids Triathlon has fed positivity into my thoughts about triathlon competing and have continued to assist me in wanting to do more and more!

Much Love!!!

 

The Good, The Bad And The…….

 

We all have good days and bad days. Hell, we all have good weeks and bad weeks. And I know what constitutes “good” and “bad” is relative to each individual person. And sometimes, we may feel that dwelling on our “bad” is not appropriate given the “bad” that some around us are experiencing. But hey, that does not mean the “bad” for you is not just that…….”bad”.

Luckily, for me, I can feel my emotional “bad” days coming. Sometimes, I have no idea how they come into my brain. Sometimes I do. On occasion I swear it is because my medication is playing a funny little placebo joke on me. You see, when I have a “bad” day that I cannot explain, my whole mood changes. My body, my mannerisms, my speech, everything. Most of the time I am at least nice enough to give those around me (usually my co-workers) a heads up. “Hey, guys, just so you know, today is not a good day”. I am sad. I want to cry at everything. Like the time my pen ran out of ink. I mean, I have like 2500 ink pens in my office. But that pen….THAT pen I loved. Silly, I know.

The sadness breeds thoughts of what I hate about myself. Things I have done. Things I have not done. Where I am in life. Where I wanted to be in life by now. Did I make the right decisions about my life? What if I had done this instead of that? Or that instead of this? Sometimes it brings enough for me to think about running away. Starting over. Maybe even not even finishing.

I am always very open with my counselor about my past, and occasionally current, thoughts of suicide. The plan. It is pretty detailed. Not that I do not care for those in my life, but they would all be okay. Because in my mind there is not much that I have contributed to their lives and well-being. But my furkids would not understand.

Sometimes I wonder whether or not I am the right person for the job that I do. How can I, as messed up as I am, be someone who can appropriately counsel people that suffer in ways I am not familiar with. Sure, I know of addiction. I grew up with it. And I am a pretty smart cookie. But alcohol addiction is not a personal experience for me. And some of the people I work with are just not smart. They do not know if they have a problem. Some don’t even care if they do. And hey, more power to ya, but that’s on you if you drink and drive again. But, knowing that we are all broken in some way or another, maybe even my hot mess self can contribute to the lives of these people. Misery loves company….and I am pretty fun to be around.

Sometimes the “bad” day lasts a few hours. Sometimes days. I am working on bringing myself out of the hole when it happens. See more clearly what I have accomplished in my life. See that yes, there were some life detours, but they were most likely meant to be. See that, occasionally, the people that have come into my life most recently, or even comeback into my life again, hold a special place in my heart and life. Those that needed to leave, never deserved to be in that spot in the first place. That even if I do not speak to some as often as before, I think of them daily and send “Andrea posi-vibes”.

So there will be peaks and valleys with my depression. And it is quick and easy to ride that valley down. And it is a struggle to climb back up. But I am getting quicker and quicker at hitting the top of that peak Every.Single.Day!

 

 

Much Love!

One In Five Marathon Relay

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On May 27 myself and four other amazing women got together to run. We ran for ourselves. We ran for each other. We ran for mental health. The Hope Network One in Five Marathon Relay focused on and assisted in benefitting services for those currently battling mental illness.

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Now many of you know that I myself suffer from severe depression and anxiety. Over 40 million individuals within the U.S alone will experience symptoms and episodes of  mental illness. That is one in five Americans. With that, I am One in Five. This is also true of my four teammates who ran to support  others who suffer as well.

The unique aspect of the One in Five Marathon Relay is the fact that it is not a true relay in the sense of what we know. There are five legs of the relay. The first four runners run 5 miles each, with the last runner running 6.2 miles. This runner represents the one in five. The biggest difference, however, is that there is no hand-off. Starting at 8am, the first runner leaves. At 8:15am, the second runner. Then every 15 minutes until all runners are on the course. All runners, running together, different paces, different abilities, some going 5 miles, some 6.2 miles. All of us representing some part of the statistic.

The day was beautiful, the course was beautiful, the cause was beautiful and the people were wonderful. The four other women on my team, Phoenix Rising, came together that morning before the race to “officially” meet. While some of us knew each other, we had all never been together until that day. Sporting our green (the color of mental health support) in various ways, and making our own “one in five” mark, we prepared. We would wear green bandanas, one of us wearing white. We would sport white star stickers on our faces, one of us wearing green stars. And our amazing connector, Sasha Wolff of Still I Run, made us all bracelets to represent our own words of strength.

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The take-away from this day? We are all who we are. We are the one in five. We are unique. We are slow. We are fast. We are determined. We are women and moms. We are runners and Spartans. We are triathletes and marathoners. But what none of us are is our mental illness. Yes, it is a part of us, but together we are so much more!

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Fifth Third Riverbank……No More.

So this year I ran the FIfth Third Riverbank Run for the third year. I have run the 5k and the 10k twice. This third year was quite a decision maker for me regarding my future choices on Riverbank. If the race itself remains the same as it has for the past three years of my experience I will not be running the race again. There are many factors that have broght me to this decision.

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  1. It is geared towards the Elite 25K Runners and 2-Hour Club.

I get it, 25K is quite the distance, and is not a regular distance race. But even for your “everyday” 25K runner, there is more emphasis on the elite and 2 hour club runners. With that, the 10K and 5K runners/walkers…….low people down on the totem pole.

2.  It could be set up better to accommodate the people and runners.

There are a lot of people that come down to spectate and race. However, trying to get to those places can be difficult. It can be even more difficult for runners of the shorter distances to get back out to support their other runner friends.

Also, is it necessary to put the water, chocolate milk and post race food like, 1/2 mile away from the finish? Seriously……

3.  The time limit is ridiculous.

I have never seen a race have a “2 Hour Club” for runners. But, I can see where they would since they would really like runners to be done by a 3.5 hours race time mark. Now, to the credit of the race itself, this is a stipulation placed on by the City of Grand Rapids. Saturday races need to be done quickly to accommodate the traffic and businesses. However, if the race were on a Sunday………One reason, even if I would run Riverbank again, I will never run the 25K is because if I pay for a race I want an official finish time. To go through all of that then get nothing……hard pass.

4.  Just because the 3.5 hour time limit is up, along with the timing mat, doesn’t mean ALL FREAKING STAFF AND VOLUNTEERS NEED TO BE GONE!

Dear lord, to get through all of that hard work and get to the finish with no one there is tough enough. But to get to the “finish” and have some bottles of water and a box of medals to get yourself on the ground…..fuck that.

Now I may catch some flack for all of this, but, we have all been in races that we will “never do again” for some reason or another. A race isn’t a race without runners. Riverbank will always have their share of runners. But when a 10K runner is coming to the finish and the Race Director is waving for us to hurry across the finish so they can get the tape up for the 25K winner, I wanna punch you in the mouth.

When racers are to be announced as they run across and celebrate their finish, but 10K racers are coming across and do not get announced because a certain Olympian is “coming around the bend”, thanks people. Fuck you too. But it wasn’t Danthan Ritenzhein that made the race a third time decision maker. I really think there could have been more emphasis on other people or parts of the race.  Gazelle Girl celebrate Grand Rapids better. Bridge Run celebrates Grand Rapids better. I my experience, many other races within our wonderful city do things way better.

So with all that being said, next year I think it will be time for me to see what Bayshore is all about.

 

Much Love!

Keep Running!

Gazelle Girl Half Marathon or…. WHY MY RUNNNG PEEPS ARE SO GREAT!

Okay, so this is a little late, but, better late than never, I suppose. Gazelle Girl weekend was great! Volunteering at packet pickup the day before was fun. Great to see all the amazing women whop come out for such a great race! Whether is was to do the 5k, the NEW 10k addition, to the half marathon, simply empowering!

This would mark my second half marathon. I had trained,. I had hopes. I just wanted to be done in under 4 hours and not cramp. It was warm. It was long. And around mile 6.5, my calves gave in. It was frustrating. I had been hydrating well. I made sure to get in enough electrolytes. My nutrition was on point. My legs just were not having it, though. So, I walked. ALOT. I cried. I yelled. I laughed. I smiled. But, I was not……WAS NOT going to give in no matter how much I wanted to stop. At some point they started the progression of opening the roads up to traffic. My main concern was the need to cross the road and have to stop to wait for cars. I knew if I stopped my calves would seize up and I would fall. Luckily, that did not happen. Luckily, around mile 8 was my Gazelle Guys….. Tim, Mark, Andy, Barry, Matt and all the others talking me through my tears and reminding me of who I am. And around mile 10 my Road Warrior savior, Jim Bomhoff, who was finishing at the aid station and walked with me. He talked me down from the ledge. Got me to continue to keep up a good pace of walking. Got me to my training coach, Rob Andro, who had to listen to me complain about the fact I DID NOT want to go up Scribner hill. He reminded me that “hills help make legs”, so……I went. My team leader, Katie Olson was just ahead of me making sure to tell traffic officers that I WAS NOT ALLOWED TO STOP MOVING!

Then, as I got closer and closer to the end, it all got great! No, my legs did not stop cramping, they were not releasing that hold. But it was my people. MY PEOPLE were there! The last half mile. One, then two, then five…..cheering, in my face telling me how awesome I was, getting me through that forward movement. Colleen, Amy, Joann, Stephanie, all of my girls pushing me enough to deal with the severe calf cramp pain and actually manage to run across the finish.

Was it pretty? HELL NO! Was it fast? That is not even a serious question. Did the race feel good? Physically? NO. Mentally? Eh. Emotionally……YES!

As someone who is frequently at the “Party in the back”, it is SUPER difficult to come to the end of a race that tested every ability within you as a person, to no one. I can honestly say, however, that does not happen with my people. With my group. And at this race, with my girls. Because as someone who would rather run alone, listening to music, releasing all my demons and frustrations out into the environment…..the end is where you need those people. Because it is hard, but it is the hard that makes a finish fabulous!

 

Much Love

Keep Running!

The Gazelle Girl Pre-view and the Gazelle Girl Pre-pare….Or What to do When Your Body Wants You to Stop Progression

So, last weekend I ran the Gazelle Girl preview course for the half marathon. Now due to the rain and such, Riverside Park was slightly moist, so we had to be re-routed for the half marathon course. I was excited to do this course because I had such success with the weekend prior and not issues with calf cramps or IT band pain. So I made sure to do all the same preparations. It was a little bit colder, but I was hoping for success still.

However, around mile 1.5 I already knew that I was going to have issues. I tried to walk things out more in hopes that I could get on track, but it was not something that was going to happen. I decided to turn around at the 10K turn around instead. If it was a minor issue, I did not want it to become a major one before the race.

So, my body was speaking to me. And it may continue to do so after the Gazelle Girl half. And I may need to change my future plans for longer distances, at least until I can get some things figured out. However, it is important that I can keep things in check and not get too down on myself for the temporary potential failures. I have accomplished so much more than so many people. I have accomplished so much in the past 3 years, alone. I may not be able to do an Ironman Triathlon, but I can do a sprint distance triathlon. I may not be able to run a half marathon, but I can crush 5k’s and 10k’s. I can continue to better myself and still be able to progress forward. Forward movement is still progress. It just needs some adjusting!

 

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Much Love!

Keep Running!

 

I Cannot Explain The Excitement!

Saturday was another long training run. Not from my favorite location as the roads are very lacking in structure, and…..hills. However, it was on the books. Ten miles. Since October of last year I have not been able to make it much past 6miles before having fairly to very severe calf cramps. So the longer my mileage climbed, the longer I would have to walk back to the start. It is pretty defeating. So Saturday I was just thinking how long 4 miles seems when you walk.

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However, I prepared as much as possible. Electrolyte water on board since the evening before, good breakfast, some good rolling and stretching before, K Tape placed, compression leg sleeves on, electrolyte capsules taken. My thoughts, “Here we go…..”.

I have been working on strengthening my hamstrings so that they can start to take some of the work off of the calves. I have the proper shoes, with good insoles. With everything else I was getting more and more into the thought process that half marathons were not going to be a future possibility for me. The only item left to try was to change my running style.

Now, I am not…..NOT a fast runner. And I describe my running style as more of a shuffle. My knees to not lift much, and I am always thinking about my Good Form Running lessons that I have taken so many times. “Lean forward…..let the lean help to drive you forward.” However, the lack of proper use of my hamstrings was weighing on my calves. So, time to refocus. Pick up the knees, drive them forward. That along with the lean……well, we will see.

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So, I made it to the turn around point. Five miles down. I had made the decision that if I cramped on this run I was going to forgo half marathon races. I made sure to bring the proper amount of nutrition. And while I was going slower than normal, I was remaining focused on upping my knee height. I felt like I was running strangely, a reminder of band camp and having to “high-knee” march. I also did not feel like I was taking long enough strides. However, one step at a time.

Mile six came and went with no real issue. Mile seven. Mile eight brought one quick little twinge. I immediately took it to a walk. At the last aid station I made sure to stretch out a little. Time to continue. Mile nine. All good. The last mile I slowed to a nice pace to “cool down”. I even cried a little. Tears of joy. Is it possible? Could the right combination of everything have finally come into sight?

Ten miles. Technically the longest I was able to do in a training run (or any run,. for that matter), where I did not have to walk the last half distance to the end. Technically, the longest run I was able to complete while sticking to my interval plan at a 90% rate (sometimes you just need to “rest” through a “work” time). And technically, the best run I have had at that distance ever. Recovery was even easier.

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So, fingers crossed as I move forward. But for now, half-marathon distances are still ON the table.

Keep running!

Much love!

I Am This Close To Losing My…….

As someone who struggles daily with symptoms and thoughts of depression and suicide, I find that there are easy days and there are hard days. Sometimes a hard day comes from something as simple as a comment. Today is one of those days. A super poor attempt at making a joke at someone else’s expense.

The lack of tact, understanding and insensitivity of some people who work in public service is quite disappointing. One does not simply understand mental illness because they have a loved one who suffers from symptoms of it. One does not simply understand thoughts of suicide because you come in to contact with some people throughout your day that may or may not have thought about it themselves.

A kid gets drunk and decides he wants to kill himself. He decides to take his car and run it full speed at a tree. Ultimately he fails at the suicide and survives. How shitty is someone who looks at this scenario and says, “well, there were bigger trees he could have ran in to.” Really? You just said that? Out loud? With words….from your mouth? Well, guess what…..there are more non-abusive ways of voicing your poor joke. I mean, yeah, there are better ways of everything. I mean, sometimes I literally think that a safety pin being dug deep into my wrist and carved along the vein will work. It doe not. But hey, you know everything about everyone because that little piece of paper in front of you tells all.

My response…..fuck you. Fuck you for thinking that making an attempt to “joke” about someone else’s situation is appropriate because you are in a room with a bunch of people that may get the “joke”. I got it. And it was not funny. Some statistics:

  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US for all ages. (CDC)
  • Every day, approximately 105 Americans die by suicide. (CDC)
  • There is one death by suicide in the US every 13 minutes. (CDC)
  • Depression affects 20-25% of Americans ages 18+ in a given year. (CDC)
  • Suicide takes the lives of over 38,000 Americans every year. (CDC)
  • Only half of all Americans experiencing an episode of major depression receive treatment. (NAMI)
  • 80% -90% of people that seek treatment for depression are treated successfully using therapy and/or medication. (TAPS study)
  • An estimated quarter million people each year become suicide survivors (AAS).
  • There is one suicide for every estimated 25 suicide attempts. (CDC)
  • 12.7 in 100,000 young adults ages 20-24 die by suicide each year. (NIMH)
  • Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for 15 to 24 year old Americans. (CDC)

*statistics from www.save.org

So, just think about things. We all say things we do not mean at some point in our lives. Just understand your audience. Understand that just because you work, or even live with someone does not mean you know them. Trying to find out about them is more productive than jokes………and in some cases, safer.

Much Love

Getting Back On Track

So…..I completed 8 miles on Saturday. EIGHT! This is a big step for me given all of my issues that I have had since the end of last season. First trying to figure out my calf cramp issues, changing of shoes, addition of insoles, change of insoles, IT band flare up, then I caught the plague of potential death, but survived, then the Michigan cold that my IT band and knee really loved…….ugh.

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So, needless to say, Saturday was a great day! This makes me feel like I am more on track with my goals. Set-backs tend to really bog me down with thoughts that I am totally setting myself up for failure. I am setting my goals too high? Am I able to actually fulfill the goals I have set for myself given my training capabilities? Am I actually crazy? Well, at this point, it all is what it is.

This season is for this season. This season is not for next season. It can only assist in next season’s goals. So I will continue to do my gym workouts, yoga stretching, run camp running and I will make it through this season successfully……then plan for next season!

Keep Running!

Much Love!

With Patience, Positivity Comes

The cold can be a rough time to be an outdoor runner. It can be even tougher if you are dealing with a minor injury. I am currently battling some IT band issues. This seems to be exacerbated with the cold. Can definitely feel it more. It can really bring me down. The best thing I could do was joke about it with my fellow runner in IT band frustration and team leader, Katie Olson. Otherwise it would make me question my goals. Trying to stay positive is the best thing possible. And with the wind whipping your face, drawing out tears that eventually freeze halfway through their facial decent, positivity feels like it is freezing right along with them.

But here is the positive. MY FEET DID NOT HURT ON A 5 MILE INTERVAL RUN!!! That is right, people! On top of IT band issues I have been dealing with the need for more “proper” shoes….okay, okay, okay, Rob Andro…..”the right shoes”, and though some pretty minor trial and error, and the addition of insoles…..a solution has been found!

So, this may seem like a minor concern and a minor plus note, but this is huge for me. I have been thinking that I will just concede and leave my feet to run no more than a 10K, but the fact is, there are ways to work through the issues. Now, you need patience, which I have none of myself, but find the right people, find the right motivation, find the right method that works for you and go with it!

 

Much Love!

Keep Running!