Monday, December 17, 2012

So I know these rockstars.....

I work with a lot of different people, and come across many different challenges when I am helping someone lose weight, or prepare for an event. More often than not though, my clients are not a challenge at all. They are fun, quirky, interested in learning, and incredible people. I could write several "bragging" blog posts, but I want to tell you about these two rockstars in particular!

Meet Elizabeth and Kimberly. They are awesome!

Elizabeth and Kimberly: BEFORE
Elizabeth: BEFORE
Kimberly: BEFORE
I first met them at the gym with Jason. They were training for their first Olympic triathlon. Super sweet, and energetic about the sport. We happened to be at the race ourselves, and it was great seeing how well they did!

When I started doing nutrition and health coaching, Elizabeth contacted me. She was interested in my services. Several days later I heard from Kimberly. We were off and running!

 In order to be successful working with me, a certain level of dedication is required on the part of my clients. Right off the bat I knew that they would be successful. They were committed, eager to learn, and very dedicated.Within a couple of weeks weight started coming off, then headaches went away. Energy levels were increasing. Then next thing you know, race times are getting faster. It felt like every time I turned around one of them was PR'ing at a race. I was so excited for them! They both signed up for Augusta 70.3, and I knew that they would do great. Questions popped up about race day nutrition, salt intake, cramping, run form, etc, and I answered them the best I could. It was truly invigorating to be around people who were experiencing distances for the first time. I will never forget reading an email from Elizabeth the first time they rode 60 miles. She was proud, and I was too! I had flashbacks from 2006 when I was new to the sport and was in totally uncharted territory.

The week of Augusta we emailed about attitude. It really is the most important element in long distance racing. A bad attitude will ruin you, a great attitude numbs the pain from blisters and puts more spring in your step. Elizabeth sent me a picture of her hand. She had written a smiley face on it with the words "smile!" I knew they would be fine. Jason and I tracked them in our hotel room the day following Texas Tejas bike race. I was anxious for both of them, and when crapped out while they were on the run I just about lost it. I started sending off panic texts trying to figure out what happened. "Are you finished?" "The tracker stopped working!" "How are you feeling?" HELLO?!?". I am not psycho when it comes to race tracking. I promise.

Just as I expected, they both totally rocked the race! Finishing at 5:53 (Elizabeth) and 5:42 (Kimberly).  They both trained so hard, and were prepared for this race. I LOVE it when hard work pays off! In addition to growing as triathletes, they both look incredible!
Elizabeth and Kimberly halfway through the season! 
Elizabeth: AFTER 
Kimberley: AFTER

Elizabeth and Kimberly continue to impress me. I hope that by sharing their story, you are inspired too! They are always looking for the next challenge, and they are talking about running a marathon, and I've heard rumors of a 2014 140.6. It's been so much fun working with these ladies! They are proof that hard work does pay off, and if you want something bad enough, you can make it happen. 

Ironically, yesterday we were at Elizabeth's house decorating ninjaman cookies. I was the only person that ate any. Huh. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Why 2 chicks want to travel 3000 miles by bike....

In Amy Snyder's Book Hell On Two Wheels she describes Race Across America as "the toughest test of endurance in the world". She goes on to compare  the 3,000 miles as the equivalent of 114 marathons, or 21 Ironman triathlons. In the 3,000 miles covered from Oceanside, California to Annapolis Maryland riders will climb more than 100,000 feet. Temperatures can range from 125 in the desert to 30 degrees in the mountains. Solo racers vying for the win do so on as little as one hour of sleep per day. Sleep deprivation can cause riders to hallucinate, become highly suggestible, confused, and angry.

I read her book and in my mind I thought "this is crazy!" but my heart was totally fascinated. Last year, Kacie rode as part of an 8-person team for RAAM. I tracked her every step of the way. I wanted to know what her riding rotation was, how they rotated crew, everything. The logistics alone of traveling 3,000 miles are tough enough without factoring in having to use a specific route and people on bikes. Once Kacie returned she started planting seeds in my head, and I knew that she wanted us to tackle RAAM as a two-person team.

In one of our first of almost a million e-mail exchanges Kacie said " we need to be on the same page about our goals, and why we are going this." Here is my response:
When I am thinking about taking on something like this I ask myself the following:

 Can I get off the couch and do it tomorrow?
Am I overcoming some type of fear by completing it?
 Does the idea of doing it scare me?
 Will the experience outweigh the sacrifices to get there?
 Can I use this experience to inspire others?
 I saw on your wall where one of your former students posted about how proud she was of you. If I could get one kid to believe in themselves and their abilities by riding my bike, it'd totally be worth it to me. 

And thus, Power, Pedals, and Ponytails was born! 

I have to first of all say that the response that we have had to peoples reactions has been amazing. We are so very blessed to have such an incredible support system in our lives. I talked with Jason at length before committing to doing this. It's a huge sacrifice on his part as well, and I would never be able to do it without his unwavering commitment to me and his support. Everyone should be as lucky as I am to have someone like him! My dad totally rocked too. He said "Wow. 3,000 miles huh? Better make sure you bring some extra tires. And sunscreen." Many people have had questions about how it works, so the basics are that Kacie and I will cover the 3,000 miles as a team, so we will split the riding. Shorter shifts during the day, longer shifts at night. Someone will be on the road riding 24 hours a day. We will have a support crew, made up of 8-10 exceptional people that will care for us the entire time. For 8-9 days we will turn our lives over to them. They will be in charge of everything, when we eat, when we sleep, when we put on a jacket, etc. Our job is very simple. We will ride.

Kacie and I decided early on that we wanted to partner with an organization for fundraising that we really believed in. Camp Twin Lakes was an easy decision for us to make. I first learned of them when I was 18, and volunteered at a Camp they hosted for kids who had lost a sibling or parent to cancer. Camp Twin Lakes puts on multiple of camps and events throughout the year for kids to give them an opportunity to know that they are not alone in their individual struggles. Children with medical conditions like kidney failure can all play together, then camp stops and they can received dialysis treatments on site. The camps regularly puts on family retreat weekends too for everything ranging from  kids with Type 1 diabetes, Lifestyle and Weight Management, Victims of abuse, and wounded warriors and their families.  80% of camp costs are covered by Camp Twin Lakes, the other 20% by sponsors of the individual camps. Thinking about these kids and the challenges that they so bravely face will be motivation for us as we ride across the country. THEY are truly the inspiration!

Camp Twin Lakes wheelchair accessible treehouse! So cool!

Your support of us as we tackle this adventure would mean a lot! We will be hosting several local fundraisers to benefit Camp Twin Lakes, so please make sure that you follow our blog at You can find updates on our training and progress by liking our facebook page, or following us on twitter @PowerPonytails

Please visit to donate to Camp Twin Lakes!

I am excited about Race Across America. I have a team mate that is a strong cyclist, but more importantly, a passionate person. We are ordinary women, with extraordinary dreams, and our vision is being made a reality by people like you. Thank you all in advance for all the ways you support and encourage us! Stay tuned for some really cool news! 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

This is SO not your fault!

I either have AWESOME rides where all the stars align and I feel great, perfect weather, pace is fast, or I have HORRIBLE rides. I get lost, flat, rained on for 70 miles, run out of fluids for 20 miles, etc. I don't know why I can't seem to find middle ground in training these days.

Unfortunately, many of my bad days are when I am riding with Jason. I may have a tendency to blame him on occasion for things not going well for me. After all, he rides too fast, he tries to drop me on purpose, makes me work too hard, he always insists that we ride really hilly courses, and he is constantly yelling "quick like a bunny! come on!" when we stop to refuel.

Last night Jason told me that he wasn't sure it was a good idea for us to ride together. He "claimed" that I might blame him if I didn't have a good day. Since I had already rode 91 miles the day before I was supposed to ride 8.5 hours in the gaps, instead of doing the ride Saturday and a 4 hour recovery ride Sunday like my coach had on my plan, I kinda already knew things weren't going to be that awesome. Little did I know......

5:54 am I see blue lights flashing behind me on 400. REALLY? Again? Cops love to pull me over. There must be something about the way I drive that just attracts them to me, because I get more tickets than anyone I know. I looked down at my phone and see a text from Jason "theres a cop shooting radar at 400 & 285". Well, can't blame the ticket on him, he tried to warn me!
I just wanna go fast! 

I normally eat super clean, pretty normal food. Of course, I choose last night to eat things I don't normally do. I offered some of these said foods to Jason as well and he responded "I'm not eating that crap the day before the gaps." Suite yourself. More for me.

My food decisions came back to haunt me right before we started to ride. I've been VERY fortunate in both training and racing that I've never really had many GI issues. There was one time when Jason left all our nutrition at home and I rode 165 miles fueled by convenience store bought honey buns and pay days and it didn't sit well, but other than that, I've been lucky.

We climbed Woody's and I didn't feel that great. We started up Wolfpen and I thought I was going to vomit. Then it started raining. Lots and lots of rain. Of course, we kept riding, and making that descent down wolfpen in the rain was SCARY.

I told Jason I needed to stop because I thought I was going to be sick. We pulled over and I told him I couldn't get anything down without feeling like it was coming right back up. My stomach was in a full on revolt. Jason suggested that I turn around because continuing would just put me further and further away from the car. He said that without food I would start cramping and bonk. "I want to go that way" I said, pointed up Jack's and away from the car. So we starting climbing. I decided to stop trying to take fuel in and just sip on water. By the time we got to the top I knew continuing would be impossible. Jason was right. I needed calories and since my stomach wasn't feeling better I should probably head back to the car which was still at least 1.5 hours away.

The irony of the situation was how fantastic my legs felt! I was climbing with Jason and not putting out much effort. I felt surprisingly fresh which made bailing on the ride that much more depressing.

Pro tip: riding for more than 2 hours with no fuel will cause you to BONK. Just an FYI.

I made it back to the car, slightly delirious, still unable to eat, and tried to text Jason only to find out that my phone was totally fried. For that I blame for showing a 20% chance of rain, otter box for being a complete and total FAILURE, and the two ziploc bags I used for sucking as well. This just SUCKS. Guess I am making a trip to the dreaded Apple Store.

I decided to drive straight to the Apple store because I have to have a phone ya know? Without a clean sports bra to change into my shirt was getting really wet. I decided to take the shirt off and let it dry on the dash of my car. Changing while driving isn't my strong suite, and my shirt got caught on my hat, causing me to swerve. Apparently swerving caught the eye of a police officer, and next thing you know I am pulled over.

"Good afterno-----" It took about that long for Officer Wide Eyes to realize I didn't have a top on. And I was freezing.

Let the rambling begin.....
"I know why you pulled me over. I was taking my top off and I couldn't see for a minute. I had to take it off because I got rained on while I was riding my bike and it ruined my phone and I am going to the Apple store. I already got a speeding ticket this morning and my boyfriend is a cop and he's going to be pissed. So I am sorry. Please don't give me a ticket."

He started laughing, told me to have a good day and walked off.

I would like to publicly say that none of the days mishaps are in any way directly related to, or a result of Jason. This was so not your fault. Clearly, todays events were the conspiracy of multiple people.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Confessions of a 1406.2 mile couple.....

So this blogpost is WAY past due, I have been kind of busy training, watching Breaking Bad, researching races in far away places, and trying to convince Jason to get me a platypus.

During our "peak" season Jason and I raced one thousand four hundred and six point two miles. In 12 weeks. That is an average of 117 miles of racing a week. The 12 weeks in between racing doesn't even begin to compare to the countless weeks spent preparing for such big events. I actually think it is EASIER for us to both be training for long stuff. That way neither of us are to blame for our house looking like this.....

Athletes need fuel. We need LOTS of fuel! And his and her blenders. Double smoothie time!

Dining Rooms are for people who sit down for dinner. Training rooms are for people who train for dinner!

You never know when the world is going to end and you will need 500 water bottles! 

2 people. 1 run. Lots of bottles! 

No true triathlete couple is complete without a garage full of bikes. Road, tri, mountain, track, we have it all....and sadly this isn't the entire collection! 

A rare occasion where we are out after dark!

It's definitely a unique life. One that might not work for everyone, but it definitely works for us! And now that I have finally gotten all the bottles clean we are both back to 20+ hour training weeks. I could complain about it but who am I kidding? I love it. Now please remind me of that in 10 weeks! 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Raising a healthy kid....

On twitter today Ashley posted a picture of a recipe that was sent home from school with her son. I am not totally sure how it was branded, whether it was supposed to be super healthy, or fun, or easy, or whatever, but the point is, it was NOT healthy. And seeing it stirred up many emotions, mostly related to my classes on health promotion and program planning. I had to do quite a bit of research on childhood obesity for a program we had to develop. The state of Georgia has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in the nation. Rural counties have even higher rates than inner-city areas.

I don't have kids, but as someone who has struggled with their weight their whole life, it's really not hard to understand why kids are FAT.

My research focused on what we could control, which was the calories kids consumed at school. Since many schools have before and after-school programs, kids are now consuming more calories at school than they ever did before. And the schools are exactly offering exceptionally high quality foods.

I get it. Processed food that isn't fresh is cheap. Bottom line...everyone is looking to save a buck. If I was a single parent, struggling to make ends meet, working at least one, maybe two jobs, I would probably be tempted to pick up food from the dollar-menu at McDonalds myself.

But for those of us that have the means, and the time, cooking can be FUN, HEALTHY, and INFORMATIVE.

Overweight kids have an 80% chance of becoming obese adults. 80%! That is HUGE. Children are like sponges, they absorb everything around them. They learn from what they are exposed to. So the solution? Limit TV, computer, and video game time. Kids over the age of 6 watch an average of 4 hours of television a DAY. That is more than I watch in a week!

 Focus on YOUR health. Yes, it might require that you take some time away from your kids, but you being a healthy, active adult is the best example that you can set for your kids! So skip the "kids" yogurts loaded with sugar, the "kids cuisines" meals that are high in sodium, the fruit juices that are actually only 20% juice, the cereals that might as well be candy bars, and bake up some yummy alternatives!

Huge thanks to Kacie for turning me on to this gem of a website! I made some modifications, so here is my version of the Chocolate Chip Blondie Bars:

1 can Organic Chickpeas
1 Scoop Vanilla Protein Powder
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
2/3 cup Turbinado
2 Tablespoons Natural, unsalted, Almond Butter
1/8 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
3 tablespoons Organic dark-chocolate chips

Drain the chickpeas. In a food processor blend up the chickpeas until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients EXCEPT for the chocolate chips. Blend until smooth. Add chocolate chips and mix with a spoon. Use a greased 8x8 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

Makes 12 bars. Each serving has:
104 Calories
3.3 grams of fat
16.25 grams of carbohydrates
2.4 grams of protein

These are gluten and dairy free. What they aren't free of is deliciousness!

**disclaimer: Dani doesn't have kids, and doesn't know the difficulties associated with raising miniature people. She does have the energy and maturity level of children, so she easily associates with their needs. Dani thinks kids like being healthy, because being fat sucks. **

Saturday, April 21, 2012

I get knocked down, but I get up again!

Last week I suffered some set backs in the kitchen. First, my dog Poncey, helped himself to my Blueberry-Chobani Mix One protein bread. It really was good. And he thought so too.

The second set-back was when I decided to "make-up" my own recipe for clean brownies. It can be REALLY tough sometimes baking without gluten. Things don't taste the same, or bake for the same times, and I learned that almond meal just doesn't work. I wanted brownies, I made chocolate flavored cardboard.

Monday was the Boston Marathon. My friend Jill ran an incredible race, despite being injured. She did it with the help of my teammate Mike. Every time I hear this song I think about Jill!

I decided not to stay knocked down! So today, I was back in the kitchen. Only this time, I decided to follow recipes that I knew were trustworthy!

First up, I made Cinnamon Protein Bread. I tasted it and it turned out GREAT!

Second up, I made chocolate-peanut butter protein bars.

It too turned out great! I did change the recipe up a little bit, and used this instead of regular PB. Yummy! For those of you that are nutella addicts, this is a WAY healthier option.

I seemed to be on a roll in the kitchen, so I went ahead and made Jason's meals for the rest of the week at work. He's on second shift now, so has to eat dinner while working. I was at a conference last week and he said that he would make his own food, but for some reason he just ate out all week. :)

I was still in a cooking mood, so I decided to make one more thing. These are "clean" peanut butter cups. They really are quite healthy and delicious!

In case you are wondering how I had enough energy to do an open water swim, trail run, yoga, grocery shop, bake, sweep and mop, AND do laundry, it's because I am now on the JUICE! I have a juicer! YAY! This concoction is celery, carrots, granny smith apples, and ginger. It tasted 100 times better than I thought it would! Honestly, its not the secret to my energy though. I am just like this everyday!

Hope you enjoy these recipes, they all have the Dani seal of health approval! I made sure to protect the goods from Poncey this time!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Mix One inspired Blueberry Protein Bread!

So I went running today and I was thinking about how yummy mix one is. I was also thinking about how many of my clients do not get enough protein. Most people tend to snack on carbohydrate dense foods, and at the end of the day, they are really lacking in protein. Not many people like to eat egg whites and shakes like I do. So I came up with the following recipe!

The Players:

6 oz Vanilla/Blueberry Mix One
2 Scoops Vanilla Protein Powder
6 tablespoons Coconut Flour
1/8 cup Stevia
1/2 Cup Fat Free Vanilla Chobani Greek Yogurt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 tablespoons egg whites
1/2 cup milk
1 cup blueberries

Mix up all your ingredients except for your blueberries. Add 1/3 mixture to a 9x5 loaf pan, add 1/3 blueberries, continue to layer the mixture with blueberries. Throw it in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Optional: do 30 minutes of core work while it's baking!
30 minutes later, you've got a snack that is FULL of protein and gluten free! It should be noted that if you have never baked with coconut flour, the consistency tastes different than a normal wheat flour. You can use any flour really, but you might want to play with the exact measurements!

This recipes makes six servings: 127 Calories 2.3 g Fat 14 g Carbohydrates 13g Protein

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

You get what you paid for....

I spent $390 in the two weeks leading up to the Florida Double in various expenses related to my Achilles injury to try and find some type of cure. Unfortunately, not all the money in the world could buy me what I really needed: time, and specifically, more time on my feet. I knew that having only completed a 17 and 20 mile long run was dismal and not going to be sufficient to prepare me for a 52.4 mile run. But you know what else money can't buy? Friends that are so incredible that they give up their whole weekend to support you, stay up all night and move at a snails pace with you, a support network back home of virtual cheerleaders, sharing the course with some really incredible people, and having the love of your life cheer for you even when they are suffering. When it came right down to it, there are certain things that money and training can't provide, and getting myself to that finish line was about one thing: sucking it up and moving.

I COULD write this entire post about how much I was hurting, and how horrible the run was, and how I would never recommend anyone attempt a double Ironman. But that really wasn't the case. Instead I will tell you how 30 1.747 mile laps went by in virtually no time.

I got off the bike and felt pretty decent. I wasn't in much pain, and I took off at a reasonable (but certainly not fast!) pace. I saw Jason and he told me how awesome I was doing. I was sad because I could tell he was hurting. It really breaks my heart when he doesn't have good races. But I appreciated the support.

I didn't actually get on the run course until pretty late, around 10:30 pm and it was quite dark. I used a handheld bike light. Another runner told me two laps in that it was blinding him so I ditched it with my crew. For some reason, it seemed like a good idea to run in the complete and total darkness. A couple laps later I ran off the asphault path, tripped, and fell. My left knee hit the ground pretty hard, but it was my right foot that really took the brunt of the fall. I felt immediate, sharp pain. I saw blood. I stood up and said "you're hurt" then right as I started to get upset the following words came out of my mouth: "GET YOURSELF TOGETHER DANI. YOU'RE FINE. KEEP MOVING. QUIT BEING A PANSY." The only other runner on the course that saw the incident laughed when I yelled at myself, and I trudged forward trying to bury the pain the best way that I knew how.

I got a pretty sweet scar to remind me of my clumsiness!

I think my crew saw my bleeding leg and decided I needed company. I cannot remember who ran with me, and in what order, but I do know that what I wanted was some really good stories. Emily and Jill chatted with me about everything from refusing to wear clothing as children, to kids asking anatomy questions, to disney movies. Everytime that we approached Jason he would call out "Is that Dani?" and as soon as he knew it was me he told me how awesome I was doing and that he loved me. It was really sweet!

Signs your hubby is awesome: he wears a pink shirt, temp tattoos, and dances for you!

Kacie's crew provided me with quite a bit of entertainment as well. They were wearing lights, playing vanilla ice, and being VERY encouraging and supportive. Kacie was running strong, and she must have had the chattiest friends in the entire world with her! Everytime I saw her they seemed more like they were having girls night than "let's run all night"night. Attitude is everything in these things, and so is having people that can take your mind off the pain!

Because there were still bikers out on the course, they had us step off the road and run around a cone so that we would trigger the timing mat. It was a VERY small step back up but everytime I did it, it caused a searing pain in my achilles. I asked them if they could move the timing mat and they told me that they couldn't do it until everyone was off the bike course. It seemed like it took forever, but I will never forget chugging up the the line and seeing a picture of a gift with the words "Dani" and an arrow pointed up ahead. Kacie's crew had drawn that for me, and it meant a lot. It's the little things people!

I was in some serious pain during loop 17 (around mile 28 ). I crossed the timing mat and sat down in a chair. Jason was also resting for a bit trying to let his stomach settle. I knew that I had a really nasty blister. I pulled off my sock and shoe and found that the source of the pain was a blister that was underneath my toenail and the surrounding area. It really hurt! The doctor said that he didn't have a way to pop it while still keeping it sanitary. Frusterated I grabbed it and popped it on my own. I threw on a blister bandaid and wanted to get moving again. That was the one and only time that I sat down the entire race, and it was also my slowest lap!

In good spirits like always!

Turns out when I crossed the timing mat I had lapped Jason and was actually ahead of him. To think that this whole time, in several races we have tried salt sticks, pepto pills, saltine crackers, ginger ale, and a million other concoctions to cure Jason's cramps and stomach problems, when the real cure was TO HAVE DANI AHEAD OF HIM. Before I knew it, I saw him charging forward like he was racing a 10k. It wasn't long before he had repassed me, and all was right in the world.

This is the determined look of a guy who doesn't want to get chicked!

I didn't get tired or delirious on the run, and I didn't really think that I would. I did however, start to find humor in some strange things. Like running up on Ben, and realizing that his Clemson Tri Team uniform had a small tail on the back of it (they are the tigers). This really humored me!

Once the sun came up the following day you were able to see the absolute carnage that is the last 10-30 miles of a double Ironman. I saw people passed out in lawn chairs, people in the grass, people walking with such an incredible look of pain on their face, and some people that flat out quit. One thing that remained the same during the entire time that I was on the course was that the WOMEN were moving! And they were smiling!

"Ok, I admit it. This is starting to hurt."

I wasn't in the best of shape around mile 42. Keith was running with me. I was begging him for stories. He told me he had none. I asked him questions in hopes that it would lead to some long and interesting story about something, ANYTHING other than the race. Instead Keith spoke to me in a way that only he can. He said some special and inspiring words that motivated me. The strangest feeling in the world came over me. All the pain went away. I started to pick up my pace. Laps 25 and 26 out of 30 were actually my fastest other than lap #1!

THIS is what inspires me!

People often ask me what goes through your head during periods of long training and racing. I think a lot about how fortunate I am, in so many ways, to be able to do what I am doing. Scott Rigsby, a local double amputee Atlanta triathlete was on the course with Kacie. What an incredible source of inspiration he was! I also thought about another Scott, Scott Whitney, who was involved in a very serious bike accident a couple weeks before the race. He underwent major brain surgery. I thought about how precious life is, one minute you are training at Columns, and the next minute you are having to re-learn how to walk.

My pre-race tradition is to eat Chick-Fil-A 2 days prior to racing. I got a kids meal, and there was a book on Helen Keller. The book was titled "Determination" and I didn't think that it could have been any more appropriate to read before this race! The end quote was:

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."

Headed out for that final lap!

When I crossed the timing mat for the last time to head out on lap #30 I started crying. Jill took over for Keith. I am not quite sure what the tears represented: the pain that I was in, the disbelief that the race was almost over, the overwhelmed desire I felt to hug Jason and give him a kiss, or a combination of it all. I cried the entire lap, and well into the finishing area.

It felt so good to finally fall into Jason's arms!

I ended up finishing 4th overall, and the 2nd place female. I was not the fourth fastest person on that course. I certainly didn't put in the training that many others did. To say that I was in shock and disbelief is a complete and total understatement.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention something about the incredible WOMEN that represented! There were 33 people that started the double. 8 didn't finish. That's an almost 25% DNF rate. Out of the 33 starters, 6 were female. 6 females finished and 3 of those 6 were in the top 5 overall of the race. I am proud of everyone for making it to the finish line in tough conditions like that, but the ladies deserve some special recognition because they really represented. I don't think that I have ever been so proud to be a woman in my life!

And now for the part of this post that has me crying all over again!

To my fellow racers: What an honor and a joy it was to share a course with you. I love these small close-knit races because of the people you meet along the way. Thank you for your encouragement! I am sure it's only a matter of time until our paths meet again....

To Coach Shanks: Thank you for your patience with me. You never doubted my ability to finish this thing, and I appreciate that. I am not an easy person, and I am sorry for the many times I caused you to want to pull your hair out.

To my awesome sponsor: All3 Sports, THANK YOU! You take care of me and I love you for that! Best Triathlon store in the WORLD!

To our friends and family: The support and encouragement that you provided before, during, and after the race meant a lot. We are fortunate to have people like you in our lives! You might not understand it, but you still support it!

To our amazing crew: Emily, who became a bike mechanic for almost everyone (except for us because our bikes were already in great shape!), thank you for being so willing to help others. Your laid-back, easy going spirit and sense of humor fit right in, just like I knew you would! Sorry that you didn't get to yell at me more to get moving, I knew you wanted to!

Poon family: Thank you for letting us borrow your mom and wife. To Jill, thank you for being Mama Poon to us! You are so nuturing and caring, and never once complained about moving at my snail pace. You spoiled us rotten "would you like ice in your bottles?" and now crewing for us is never going to be the same!!! We love the Poons!

Keith: Wow. Where do I even start? I ran my first mile with you. Rode my first loop around Stone Mountain. You remember when I couldn't clip in without crashing. Having you share this experience with me means a lot to me. You are such a wonderful person!

And last but not wonderful man Jason: I could take up competitve cross-stitching, or tell you I wanted to ride my bike across the nation, and you would support me every step of the way. You encourge me and you believe in me, and you never once doubted me in this journey. I love you!

Don't live the length of your life friends. Live the width of it as well. The title of this blog is a Katherine Hepburn quote that pretty much sums up how I think everyone needs to be living their life! Disobeying rules and having fun. Believe in yourself. Surround yourself with people who believe in you as well. Take that risk that you have always wanted to take. Life is short. Make it count.

"Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push through the obstruction." -William James

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I likey my bikey!

I LOVE my bike!
So I spent a LONG time in T1. I found out that Jason had an amazing swim and that made me happy. I dried off, ate a banana, chatted with Jill, and made sure that I applied my bag balm.

The bike was the one and only portion of the Double Iron that I was thinking might not kill me and would probably be really fun. Last year, racers left the YMCA pool and got 30 minutes to get to Flatwoods Park by car due to construction. This year, racers had to ride over. Which meant we had to follow directions. And cross over interstate 75. All while maintaining a heart rate in high zone 1, low zone 2. I will admit, that I am NOT the best at listening to directions/instructions. In between looking for cool bugs with Kacie, and listening to racers argue over whether or not it was safe to ride over to the park in heavy traffic I heard something about "there will be a volunteer at every turn." So, I rode out of the YMCA parking lot and kept riding, and then the road came to an end into construction. Doh! I turned around, and found my way out to the main road.

So the main road was really busy. As I crossed over 75 and had to merge with traffic I saw a huge white Tahoe speeding towards me. It didn't look like it was going to slow down. I peaked at my HR. It was NOT in low zone 1. I made the executive decision to dart across the traffic to make it to safety (which was the volunteer that I saw wildly waving her arms at me) I got to her and she said "turn left at the Home Depot". This happened to be the exact time when a fellow racer, Ben, caught me. He made fun of the fact that despite beating him out of the water by 8 minutes he got on the bike before me (I am a woman, hello?! It takes us some time!) We didn't see the Home Depot, second guessed the turn, then missed it, then found it!

I was SO relieved to find Flatwoods Park. I was very stressed out, honestly the ride over added some years to my life. Once we got to the park, we had to do a small section of a loop, then 30 6.674 mile loops. This gave me the chance to see my height-challenged crew 30 times!
Jill and Emily hard at work!
I noticed that it was REALLY windy. It had rained the day before, making it quite humid as well. My asthma was acting up on me and I was trying to do the ONE THING I swore I would do: keep my HR REALLY low. Because the ride was a complete loop the wind took turns, cross, head, even a little tail. You can never really get enough tail ya know? But I tried to enjoy it while I could.

The lead guy blew past me at mile 30. Jason wasn't too far behind. He said that he was cramping some. I STRONGLY encouraged him to slow down. The single most important thing I learned from riding across Florida is that you cannot fight the wind. It always wins. People were riding strong, and I was getting passed, but I honestly didn't care. I was sticking to my plan. I caught Jason around mile 75 and he had full blown cramps. I knew that he had an upset stomach too and wasn't being honest with me. I offered some words of encouragement, and he promised that he was going to slow down and take a couple of breaks. I rode away hoping that the cramp God would have mercy on him!

At mile 120 I noticed people were getting pretty tired. No one seemed as peppy as they did earlier in the day. I felt great. Even better than I did when I started. I offered words of encouragement every time I saw someone. The ride got really spread out and I got a little lonely. I saw a couple of snakes and several small rabbits and that made me happy. There were quite a few cyclists out there training and they all said the exact same thing to me: "you're crazy!"
"Next time I want a sandwich with MORE MEAT!"
I was trying to not stop unless it was a nature break, so I did the very professional looking water bottle toss with a request for what I wanted on my next lap. The crew was AWESOME at the handoffs!

At mile 160 I realized that I had forgotten to put sunscreen on. What a horrible mistake. I was fried! I also realized how HORRIBLE my saddle is that I have owned for about 6 weeks. I will be taking suggestions for new saddles please! I wrote an open letter to my girly parts and read it outloud.

When I stopped to put lights on I inquired about Jason. Since I hadn't caught him, and he hadn't caught me, we were likely riding the same speed. This wasn't exactly in his race plans so I knew something was up. "Where's Jason? He's puking isn't he? He's puking and y'all aren't telling me!" Emily and Keith said no, Jill kinda looked uncomfortable and said "he had a little to get out, but he's better now." Uh huh. I wasn't happy that Jason wasn't passing me like he should have been.
"Um, you might wanna get back on the bike. Dani is catching you!"
I was excited for the sun to go down. I really like riding in the dark. Flatwoods Park was a great place to be, it was totally unlit, with lots of wild life. You could hear animals, but couldn't see a thing. At one point a pack of wild boars came walking across the path. 4 of them. That was quite possibly the highlight of the ride!!

I caught up with Kacie, the other chick from Atlanta around mile 200. I was so excited that she was having a great ride! I knew it was her first night time ride, and that she likes animals too, and I kept thinking "I hope Kacie is seeing these animals!"

220 miles into the ride my lights started flickering. Although I enjoy night riding, riding in complete darkness is not something I am fond of. I started to freak out a little bit. I saw a light blinking up ahead. Another rider! My light was dying and I went into panic mode. I caught the rider up ahead and pleaded with him to let me ride side by side until I made it back. It was Ben! My buddy from the missed turn at Home Depot. Turns out Ben is a student at Clemson, 20 years old, and hasn't been on a bike for more than 30 miles since October. He gave me one of his lights and instantly earned my respect. Not very many 20 year old kids would attempt something as daunting as a double-Ironman. Especially if you are taking a million classes and don't have time to train. Ben clearly is my long lost cousin!

I finally made it to the end of the last lap. Jill and Emily had all my stuff ready for me, and because it was totally dark I just changed behind the car. They told me that I wasn't far behind Jason, and that he seemed to be doing better. I got changed into my run gear and couldn't believe that I was 2/3 of the way done with this thing! The fact that I had tendinitis in my achilles and had not run in 5 weeks actually didn't cross my mind one time. 52.4 miles to go!!!
Bike Time: 12:33:44 for 224 miles, 17.83 mph avg, female course record!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Dani's Fantasy Land.....

The pool was SO pretty!
Dani's Fantasy Land: Finish ride across Florida. Recover for two weeks. Start swimming way more. Go from around 8 miles of running and week and turn into a gazelle overnight. Toe the start line of the Double Iron in the most amazing shape of your life.

Reality: Finish ride across Florida. Develop an overuse injury in your ARM of all places. Pinch a hoffa pad in your knee from bad tracking on the bike. Hurts to ride. Hurts to swim. Guess that means you will run. A lot. Go to Hawaii for 12 days and slack off. Get back in town and freak out. Use the insane fitness that you have to run WAY more than you should. 10% rule turns into 110% rule. Develop tendinitis in both achilles 5 weeks out from the double Iron. Develop a bacterial sinus infection a week before the race. Toe the start line in not-the-most amazing shape.

Life has a way of throwing curve balls at you every now and then. I had 12 weeks from my ride across Florida to the Florida Double Iron. I had great intentions of lowering my biking way down, ramping up my swim and my run training, and everything being just fine. Of course, I never imagined that I would be injured going into this race, but I also never really thought about doing something this long either.

5 weeks out my achilles decided to stage a massive revolt on me. I was very nice to them and stopped running completely (honestly, I had no choice). I had to curtail the biking quite a bit too.

2 weeks out from the double, I went to my Orthopedist in a last ditch effort to find a miracle cure. I also wanted to make sure that I wasn't going to rupture my achilles by participating in the race. The doctor gave me topical anti-inflammatories, pills, inserts for my shoes, told me to ice my achilles everyday, find a hyperbaric chamber, and be prepared to be in some really intense pain.

My coach didn't freak out at all about my injury. His exact response was something like "you're tough, you'll be fine." I did a 45 minute run the week before the race. After Jason saw me limping around he said "babe, I just want you to know. This is going to be rough. You are going to be HURTING."

I made one last trip to the doctor the week before the race. I had a bacterial sinus infection that left me insanely dizzy. Plus I had to make sure that my innards weren't going to come spilling out of my hernia. I got the green light from my regular doc to do the race. Bases covered. I was about 99.9% sure that I wasn't going to die.

Interestingly, despite FREAKING out leading up to the race, the week of it, I was totally and completely fine. Not nervous at all. I did a social media purge, which I found to be quite pleasant. I unplugged and told myself every single day that I was healed.

We rolled into town Wednesday, our height-challenged crew came Thursday, and the race started Friday morning.
We are still really happy, which must mean the race hasn't started yet!
The swim was in a pool and we were seeded by our expected swim time finish. I had ZERO expectations for this race. Goal #1: Don't die. Goal #2: Don't come in last. I only "had" a swim time estimate because I had no choice. Other than that, I had no time goals at all.
Please don't show Maria this horrible form!
I ended up in lane 2 with four other guys. Jason was in lane 1 with the fast peeps. Kacie was in lane 3. I LOVED the fact that I could see them swimming next to me. It didn't feel like a race at all since we were in a pool. I really felt like we were just in masters swim practice. The swim started off rather fast, and despite the guys telling me that I could lead the lane, they all got past me within the first 200 meters. I swam my "I can hold this pace forever" pace and felt fine.
I stopped at the 2k,4k, and 6k mark to eat!
I counted the laps and stopped every 20 for nutrition. I felt great until the last 600, which was the first time that my arms got fatigued. The longest I ever swam in training was 6000 meters without stopping, so I was surprised I didn't feel worse earlier! My lap counter said that my 100's were all almost the exact same split! Even pacing for you! I exited the water in 2:23 for 4.8 miles. Pleased with my swim time because I am not really a swimmer. Very shocked that I had the 6th fastest swim of the day! And now...onto the bike!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Aloha Spirit....

The Aloha Spirit is the coordination of mind and heart within each person. It brings each person to the Self. Each person must think and emote good feelings to others. In the contemplation and presence of the life force, Aloha, the following unuhi laulâ loa (free translation) may be used:
  • Akahai, meaning kindness to be expressed with tenderness;

  • Lôkahi, meaning unity, to be expressed with harmony;

  • `Olu`olu, meaning agreeable, to be expressed with pleasantness;

  • Ha`aha`a, meaning humility, to be expressed with modesty;

  • Ahonui, meaning patience, to be expressed with perseverance.

written by Hawaii's treasured kupuna, Auntie Pilahi Paki.

These are traits of character that express the charm, warmth and sincerity of Hawaii's people. It was the working philosophy of native Hawaiians and was presented as a gift to the people of Hawaii.

Jason and I had the amazing fortune of experiencing the Aloha spirit in numerous ways. It was by far the highlight of our trip to Hawaii. The people that we met, and the kindness that was extended to us was unbelievable. After I mentioned for the millionth time how amazing everyone was, someone called it the "Aloha Spirit". When I read the above description, I couldn't have agreed more. The Aloha Spirit for us was:

Chet "The Jet" Blanton let me borrow his bike, his cooler, his spitz, all without evening knowing my last name! I can't wait to see him again at the Florida Double!

David, a local Oahu resident and runner, volunteered to drive me around the island following Jason. He took over 8 hours out of his day to volunteer, then he even came back that night and the following day! He showed me the Dole pineapple fields, shrimp farms, north shore surfing, etc. He has run virtually every race on the island and I truly enjoyed listening to his race stories and getting to know him.

Wayne, another local Oahu resident basically adopted all the crew members. He brought extra kayaks to the swim start. He brought a cooler for Kellie, ice for the rest of us. When it got windy and chilly at night he went home and brought back sweatshirts and towels. He is the person responsible for getting the magical seagrams brand ginger ale (that Jason swears tastes different and fixed his stomach). Wayne even went so far as to going to the local bike shop and buying extra water bottles for us because Jason lost one on the bike!

Have I mentioned how awesome the volunteers were? It was hot and sunny. I had been awake for over 35 hours. The sun was too bright to get any sleep in the car. So they made me a fort!

Jen will forever be one of my favorite parts of this experience. She is the director for Team in Training , Hawaii and was an assistant RD for the race. She is incredibly encouraging, and very dedicated to helping others! It was my first real experience with TNT, and I have to say, I can't wait to do a race for them and fundraise. Her partner in crime, Rebecca was also an amazing asset. They supported all the athletes and crew with so much love!
Jason Lester went so far above the call of duty for an RD it's hard to explain. If you have never heard of him or his mission, I suggest you take a look at his website and book. He is the person behind the vision of Epicman and Epic 5 and is the definition of what it means to live life without limits and Never Stop.

Although this was a self-crewed, non-supported event, it was the most supported race I have ever been to! People might think that the whole ultra thing is a little crazy, but I think people are crazy for NOT doing these things. How else would we have ever met such wonderful people and experienced such incredible selflessness and kindness from total strangers? I might not make it back to Hawaii anytime soon, but the Aloha spirit is still in my heart!

A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble. ~Charles H. Spurgeon