New Goal: Recovery

It’s been a while since I have blogged about my adventures of trying new things.  Truth is, I have been trying, just not blogging about it.

Last November, I embarked on a journey to train for my first half marathon.  A few weeks into it and I was feeling confident.  Then, the injuries hit me like a ton a bricks.  Not only did I continue to deal with the wicked ankle, I picked up a few new injuries along the way — hip, knee, IT band syndrome (and a flare up from an old shoulder injury, to boot).  All related to overuse, of course.

Needless to say, my training came to a halt about half way through the program and my hopes of becoming a half-marathoner are on hold until I completely recover.

Today, I had a thorough PT assessment.  In John’s words, “you have a long road ahead of you, but you’ll be stronger in the end.”  For now, we are planning for three two-hour sessions a week for at least six weeks.  Let the fun begin!

Instead of committing to a new training program, accomplishing new PRs, or acquiring new race t-shirts and finisher medals, I’m committing to one thing – recovery!

For what it’s worth, I’ll offer up some free advice:  Listen to your body and coaches, know your limits, and don’t be stubborn (like me!).

In the meantime, as tri season approaches, I wish all my fellow triathletes and runner friends happy and healthy training.

I’ll be back, but only after I recover. 🙂


If it is to be, it’s up to me!

My proud moment with Ruby.

With an emotional finish, on Sunday, September 30, I accomplished my goal and became a triathlete at Girl Power Triathlon in New Orleans, La.  With family and friends cheering me on, it was an amazing experience I will never forget.

While this was a relatively small tri, it was a big deal to me.  After training for a mere two and a half months, I accomplished more than I thought I could.

The Results:

  • 300 meter swim = 8:06 – I could have done better, but the pool got crowded at the walls and I could not get around the other ladies.
  • Transition #1 = 3:54 – I’m not sure why this took me so long.
  • 9 mile bike = 36:07 – The route was shortened a little due to standing water.  I was disappointed in my ride.  The roads were bad.  My computer was not working.  Those are my excuses.  I love cycling and I’ll make it up next time.
  • Transition #2 = 1:30 – Better than T1
  • 2 mile run = 17:42 – Personal Record! In training, I have been averaging about 11 minute miles.  I’ll take it!
  • Total time = 1:07:16 – I estimated I would finish in 1:15.
  • I ranked #28 in my age group; #152 out of 422 overall (top 27%).  My only goal was to finish in the top 50%.

No one can take that smile away from me. I earned it!

Overall, I am pleased with these results, and I know where I need to improve next time.  More importantly, this experience gave me the confidence I needed to get into the sport of triathlon.  The season is nearly over and I look forward to training for my second tri in the spring.

What’s next?  Short term, if my ankle cooperates, I am considering a half marathon.  Long term, a Half Ironman (70.3)!  Did I really just type that?  Gulp!

I’ll tell you, there’s something about achieving a goal, big or small, that makes me believe I can do anything.  And, if I want it badly enough, I absolutely, positively CAN do it – and YOU can, too!  I encourage you to search your heart, set a goal, and don’t give up until you reach it.

With a heart full of gratitude, I would be remiss if I did not thank a few specific people for helping me along the way.

My family:
Their never-ending support and finish line appearance made it all worth it.

My friends (in no particular order):
Jim B. – for coaching me and not letting me give up

Lisa – for inspiring me and giving me the confidence to be amazing and be ME

Jon – for training with me and pushing me beyond my own limits, and for not letting me believe what my “lizard brain” was saying

Christy – for your friendship and for always believing in me

The Tri Blondes are ready to race.

Jim A. – for being my motivation every step of the way

Duane, Gina, Jeff, Neil & Tony – for being the highlight of my week and teaching me to love the sport of cycling

Beth, Cherie, Nancy, Peggy & Steve – for adopting me as a new “Tri Blonde,” after all, it’s about the attitude and not the hair color; and, for an unforgettable weekend, I look forward to many more

Well friends, that’s the race report.  I hope you’ll stay tuned to because I intend to keep trying new things, setting new goals, and getting more out of life.  After all, if it is to be, it’s up to me! 🙂

Why I Try

Many people have asked about my motivation for doing this triathlon. Initially, I considered the idea as a way to meet new people. Selfish? Maybe. Then, I quickly realized I needed more motivation than that to get me through the rigorous training schedule.

I began to share the idea with a few friends and family, mostly to get their reaction. I knew my true friends would be honest and tell me if they thought I could not do it. No one has ever said that to me.

In fact, I have received incredible support from many. My friend, Jim Acton, has been one of my biggest cheerleaders. He encourages me, lets me vent, and always knows how to boost my spirits.

Jim and his wife Kristen

I met Jim and his wife, Kristen, several years ago at the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham. They are a beautiful couple with two great kids.

Jim, 44, is full of wit and kindness. He provides daily entertainment to my Facebook news feed.  Truth be known, he is one of my favorite people!

Nearly five years ago, at the age of 39, Jim was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS is a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement.

For years, Jim has undergone testing and received treatment for both ALS and Lyme disease. As you can imagine, the diseases have taken a toll on his body. He can walk a few steps with a walker, but uses a wheelchair almost exclusively, and his speech has been profoundly affected.

In August, Jim underwent a stem cell transplant and is awaiting results. This procedure offers hope of slowing the progression of ALS.

Jim cruising on the beach.

Although life has changed drastically for Jim and his family, he doesn’t let it get him down. He still enjoys family vacations to the beach, catching up with friends, political banter, and so much more. He graciously lives life one day at a time.

Jim credits his source of strength to Kristen, his wife of 19 years. He says, “I truly think I would be dead now if I hadn’t had her with me through this.”

When I think about my motivation for doing the triathlon, without hesitation, I think of Jim. I am blessed with an able body. On Sunday, I’ll swim, bike, and run in honor of my dear friend, Jim.

The Mock Event

I got a taste of triathlon today.  I did a mock event with the same distances as next week’s sprint tri.  I am glad I did this.  It helped me prepare and gave me an idea of what to expect.  Let me put it this way, I understand why only a small percentage of the population attempt this multi-sport challenge.  It’s not easy…

pre-race transition set up

I survived the swim (that’s the goal, right?), transitioned into my bike gear (spent too much time doing that, by the way), then hopped on Ruby and off I went.

Since I had my fuel plan in my head, I knew I needed a boost early in the bike ride.  As I pedaled, I fueled on the “rolling buffet,” as one friend calls it.

After fueling, I picked up my pace, dropped down in the aero bars, and pedaled harder.  Physically, I felt okay.  I was a little fatigued, but I worked through it.  The bike is definitely my strongest sport of the three.

I fueled some more about half way through and tried to mentally prepare for the upcoming run.  I will not lie, that was tough.  Doubt crept in and I wondered if I could even do it.

Fast forward to transition #2 (thankfully, much quicker than #1).  The run.  Since this is my blog and it’s all about trying new things, I have to be brutally honest … it started off dreadful.  My legs felt heavy, very heavy.  More doubt crept through my mind.  Again, being honest, my thoughts were something like, “Ally, what are YOU doing?  Why do you think YOU can be a triathlete?  YOU should quit now.”

Well, I’m here to tell about it, so obviously, I finished.  For the record, Ally is NOT a quitter.  I pushed until the end, and I’m so glad I did.  It was a proud moment.

This exercise was good for me because it gave me an idea of what could happen next Sunday.  And, quite frankly, I learned that so much of this challenge is mental.  I’m glad I got that out of the way because … NO NEGATIVE THOUGHTS ARE ALLOWED!  Do you hear me?  None.  Zilch.  Nada.

For the next seven days, I’ll be filling my head with POSITIVE thoughts only.  If a negative thought enters my mind, I’ll squelch it.

Friends, I could use your help by holding me accountable to this.  And, I won’t mind if you send some positive thoughts and encouragement my way, too. 🙂

One week and counting…I am excitedly giddy! 🙂

Run, Ally, Run

Ever had one of those days, or weeks, when the priority list grew by the minute and you couldn’t seem to catch up?  Welcome to my life.  It’s a good life, but an ever so busy one lately.  Between working and training, my days and nights are full.  No worries, I’m not complaining.  I am blessed with a wonderful job that I love, and a body, although accident prone, that is healthy enough to be active.

This week, I worked late and missed my usual bike ride night.  On the drive home, all I could think about was running.  After nursing an ankle injury for four months, I am slowly getting back into it and that makes me happy. 🙂

It also helps that the temperatures are cooler and the humidity is at an all-time low since I started running in the spring.  The summer heat and humidity have been stifling, and I have a lot of miles to make up this fall.

I came home from work, changed clothes, and set out to run.  From the first step, my head started to clear and I forgot about the stresses of the week.  I felt like Forrest.  Like I could just keep running and running.  I finished the night with 4 miles, which is a personal record (PR) for me.

Running is challenging, exciting, and exhilarating all at the same time.  Try it.

The Brick Workout

As a newbie, I am learning a lot about triathlon training. Thankfully, I know experienced triathletes who don’t mind sharing their knowledge.

I completed my first brick workout this weekend and quickly realized the importance of this exercise.  A brick is when you train on two disciplines during the same workout.  You complete one workout (bike), then quickly transition to the next one (run). Often, your legs feel strange and heavy, like bricks, hence the name.

I completed a 11 mile bike, followed by a 2.5 mile run.  I felt great on the bike as I pushed hard and worked to increase my average speed.  (By the way, the key to finding a new gear quickly is to have a barking dog chase you.)  When it came time to transition to the run, I felt a little nervous because, due to my nagging ankle injury, it has been over a month since I have trained on the run.

After switching from cycling shoes to running shoes and putting on my ankle brace, I hit the hilly pavement and set out to run.  That heavy, weird feeling in my legs was immediate.  After a few minutes, the blood started flowing normally and the feeling subsided.

I cannot lie, the run was not easy.  Having been off the ankle for a while, I knew sheer determination was going to be the only thing to get me through it.  After my GPS watch calculated 1.25 miles, I turned around for the mostly uphill return. Upon reaching the end, I felt great.  Accomplishment scored (all before 9 AM!).

I’ll incorporate a few more bricks and a mock triathlon before the big day.  Thank you for your continued support and motivation.  When I set out to try these new things, I knew it would not come easy to a non-athletic girl like me.  But wow, in just three weeks, I will be a TRIathlete! 🙂

Four Weeks and Counting

My first sprint triathlon is four weeks from today.  No doubt, I still have a lot of training to do.  I am nervous, excited and motivated.

I have no desire to “podium” as they call it; my only goal is to finish and call myself a triathlete in the end.  Then, I’ll probably go on to start training for the next one.  I already have my eye on one for the spring.  More to come on that later.

Recently, I saw some friends I have not seen in a while.  My visit with them encouraged me in a big way.  It’s like they remembered the person they used to know, and I realized how much I have changed in the past few months.  My physical activity has increased, my goals have gotten bigger, and my attitude has improved.  If you’re wondering, life is better this way.

So, what are you doing to make a positive difference in your life? Or, better yet, in the life of others?

Splash, Mash, Dash

Triathlon training is not for the weak.  Managing three different sports is challenging.  Accepting that you’re not proficient in all of them is even harder.

The swim is the most challenging part for me.  With a lot of practice and great coaching, I will conquer it.  But, I make no promises that it will be pretty.

The proud moment following my first metric century ride.

The bike is by far my favorite of the three.  My progress on the bike is surprising me every week.  I love it.  Seriously love it.  After six weeks of riding, I completed my first metric century (that’s a 62 mile ride).  It was a great ride shared with friends who encourage me in a big way.

The run would not be as dreadful if I were not dealing with a slow healing ankle injury.  Nevertheless, I will keep pushing and trying.

“Stand up to your obstacles and do something about them. You will find that they haven’t half the strength you think they have.” – Norman Vincent Peale