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Training with the fam

This past weekend I spent with my family (minus Ross and the boys) up in Michigan remembering Grandma Bea. Grandma Bea was a wonderful woman who touched all of our hearts with her kindness, loving spirit and zest for life.

While the weekend was devoted to being a celebration of our grandmother, the best way we could spend it was to be with one another. Grandma (and Grandpa) are the reason that we are all here. They raised two wonderful daughters, who in turn, fostered families of their own all based on what they learned from my grandparents.

Grandma Bea's grandchildren and great-grandchildren (minus Morgan, Hunter and Lincoln)

Family has different meanings to different people, but for me, whether they know it or not, they are my rock. I draw strength from my family and their support is unmeasurable. People have asked why we are doing Madison for our Ironman. It’s not the easiest course, nor the fastest. It can be hot, humid or downright freezing cold. The bike (my hardest discipline) is supposed to be very technical—so why Madison? The only real reason we have is: it is because my family will be there.

With a full weekend ahead of me, I set out to get a few good workouts in and try to involve my family as much as possible. While they have been more than supportive of our training efforts, sharing the “complete Ironman experience” (ie, training and day) with them has only drawn me closer, so I was looking for ways to further share the experience of training with them.

Workout #1. Swim Workout. First, I asked my super-awesome-swimmer niece, Olivia, if she wanted to swim across Grand Lake with me. She was game for swimming some of it with me—she is only 10, so the whole way would be too much. Knowing that it was a grand adventure, but probably not the safest with boats in the water, we recruited a canoe escort to tote water, the camera, provide support and keep me/us safe from possible motorboats.

Support crew: Cousin Melissa, niece Olivia and nephew Mathew.

They were awesome. Generally, Mathew is quite afraid of the canoe when they boat too far out in the lake, so canoeing all the way across was quite a challenge for him.

It was rocky and hard. I fastened my Garmin to the front of my suit, so I could get a distance and figured I would swim across the lake OR until my Garmin beeped 1 mile—whatever came first.

Swimming across, I tried to focus on a cabin and shoot for it, but I was getting tossed around a bit by the waves, so I think I changed my focus a few times… oh well. More than once I heard “Aunt Randi! Aunt Randi!” (Mathew) “You wanna turn around?”. To which I answered,. “Not really, is that ok?” And he agreed. What a little trooper. Melissa did her job, too, by singing with the kids and keeping them entertained.

What a great cousin!

I swam into shore, turned around and then back out to the canoe, which had stopped for a rest pretty far from shore. My Garmin read about 1.8 miles. Huh? I guess I hadn’t felt my Garmin when it hit 1 mile. Oh well, I guess I was in for a longer swim than planned. Onto the swim home. It was a tad bit easier, but not too much. The canoe knew where the cabin was, so I was just content following behind the canoe.

About 500 yards or so from the end, Olivia jumped in the water and swam right up to me like a little fish. Awesome! Now I had someone to swim with and it made my day. I kept her right to my right-side and we swam in together.

We approached the dock and the whole family was hooting and hollering for us. Cheering us on! It was so fun to see everyone out there to greet us after our hour plus excursion. I am pretty sure that it lifted Mathew’s spirits, too—who I am sure was exhausted by this point.

It was a lot of fun to have that support for everyone: Melissa, Mathew and Olivia for canoeing and me and Olivia for swimming. Not only did I achieve a great deal, they also did as well and I was so proud of them.

Me and Olivia once it was all over.

Workout #2. 14 Mile Run. While I tried to recruit as many as I could, asking people to run “any part of 14 miles” was quite intimidating to most, but I managed to have two takers—Auntie and my cousin Justin.

We started out as a threesome and ran a mile out and back from my Grandpa’s home. Auntie is a special person to me who I don’t get to see enough of.

Then, Justin and I grabbed our waterpacks and bottles and headed out for a beautiful run. Justin has been logging time, not miles, running around the nature center by his house, but he was pretty sure he was up for it. And boy was he ever! Justin was an excellent running partner. Very chatty and more than happy (and capable) to run whatever pace.

Both of us had spent time during our summers growing up playing along the water and in Rogers City, but neither had run along the path as much as we did today. It was neat to run through the terrain where both of our parents (and grandparents) had grown up and explore it as much as they would have living there 18+ years. It was beautiful.

The route was a side of Rogers we don’t normally see in our short visits and even less now that we are out of state. We ran through the forest outside of the city and onto stretches where we gazed at Lake Huron. On top of that, me and Just got some time to connect and I got to learn a little what is going on in his brain. Fun stuff.

As we got to the end, we found my favorite finish line—Grandpa Art. Who just told us that we were crazy (and shy-ed away from my sweaty kisses) in a lovingly, grandfather-ish way.

While my family may not realize it, but their willingness to involve themselves in my adventures—whether it is as partakers, care-givers, supporters, canoers, or just plain telling me that “you are nuts, but you can use my shower anyway”—means more than they will ever know.

My family rocks!

Rev 3 Knoxville Half Ironman

So, what's Rev 3 you ask. It is pretty interesting. A relatively new company that looks like they are trying to brand themselves to excel in many aspects that Ironman is criticized for. Rev 3 is more focused on being family friendly, having big purses for pros and amateurs, lots of attention to detail, making the races feel important, etc. And, I will say from my experience, they did a good job at it.

First, family friendly. Hello, we show up at the expo and there is this:My kids were in heaven. And, since this was also the finish line. And right outside of our hotel. Perfect way to keep them entertained while we were racing.

Second, they really pay attention to detail and try to make the racers feel important.

Since we were racing on Mothers Day, and I was a "mom", I was given a special gift of a new race belt and pink Trakkers visor (triple yay! for me because (1) I love visors, (2) I had lost my Trakkers visor earlier this year and (3) did I mention it was pink?). On top of that, my number was coded pink so that everyone knew I was a mom and cheered for me accordingly on race day.

Then, Ross and I went down to bike check and we found nameplates in our transition spots. How personal. It was like we were pros, only not really cuz the pros actually had banners with their pictures by their transition spots (not to mention $30,000 bikes which we did not).
Then, Ross and I went down to check out the river we would be swimming in. Gorgeous.

And then we decided to take a car ride and see what the bike course was like. I was already excited because I liked the greenery of Knoxville and I was anticipating a very pretty course. I was right.
Since there was no elevation on the website, I figured it would be a fairly flat course. Boy, was I wrong. Someone told me that "the car ride is worse than the bike", that helped ease any nerves, but again, they were wrong. :)

Ross and I were really lucky to have my parents there to help with the kids, both when we were figuring out the logistics and also when we were racing. For me, it was really special because they came all this way to both watch us and to help us out. That amount of support is priceless.

That night, we got a good meal in us and off to bed. The morning came and it was a quick 10 minute walk to check on our bikes in transition, then off to the water. Again, gorgeous.
I like to think of this as the calm before the chaos.

The start was exciting to watch. The pros (all 50+ of them!) started ahead of us in two waves. Then, the elite amateurs. Since the olympic distance was the *featured* distance at this race, everyone gunning for money was in those waves and this would be basically the only time I saw them all day. Then it was Ross' wave and then mine.

The start was probably the most aggressive start I have ever been in. There was a lot of pushing, shoving, kicking, but I held my own. I think I even swam over someone at one point. I have had problems in the past with anxiety in these types of starts, but I kept my nerves and my heart rate in check and just did what I could. I am actually pretty proud of myself for this because this was one of my bigger fears going in. Plus, I had not been in open water since last August and I was happy with how fast and easy I fell into my groove. We swam upstream to the turnaround. Even though the dam was shut off, I was secretly hoping for a current to make the second half go faster, but didn't get one. Oh well.
Got to the end and hopped out of the water onto a dock, ran up the dock, through the boathouse, across the street to transition. Whew!

Coming out of transition is where I saw my dad and boys. This made me so, so, so happy. I thought this would probably be the only time we would see them all day since it is pretty hard to time when we would be in transitions and herd the boys there, make them wait, etc. So I stopped and gave them a quick kiss and was on my way.

Now, the one thing I will have to say about the bike is that it is hilly. Whether you were in the city of country. Hills, hills, hills. 56 miles of hills. While I figured my net time would be slower than on a flat course, I think that I actually did better than others (of my similar ability) on the hills. I say this primarily because when I would pass people, it would be on the hills. And I was able to climb them standing whereas others sat the whole way. This made me happy.

Coming back into transition I saw... NO WAY! My parents and kids. Yay! I changed quick and ran out to see them. More kisses and my mom said, "Ross has a few minutes on you". I shouted back, "That's ok, he started a few minutes before me".

Ross heading out for the run.

At this point, I was hurting. My back had started to tighten up on the bike, so I took some ibuprofen in transition. Now, my back had full on ceased up. I stopped and stretched and then tried to run. Still hurt. Continued to stop and stretch, run, pain, stop, stretch until I found the right stretch that alleviated some of the pain. By mile one, I had stopped 5 times, but found one stretch. After that, I would run (slowly b/c of the pain) and stop about every 3/4 of a mile. About 6 miles in, the pain got to be manageable so I didn't have to stop. Then it was a matter of ticking down the miles. One by one. Just get 'er done.

I will say the one thing I did not like about this course was there were many turnarounds and out-and-backs. While I did like them because I got to see Ross at each one, they played a big part on my mental, especially towards the end. Around mile 11, you were running back into transition area and, instead of turning and running towards the finish, you had to continue running up the road for about 1/2 mile and turn around and run back (ugh!). But the WORST one was once you ran back to transition, up and around it, up another hill and then were heading to the finish (where you could see the finish line) you had to take a left and run UP a hill for about another 1/3 of a mile. (Come on! Could you not have found 2/3 of a mile to add on (a) in the middle of the course and/or (b) where it was a bit more shady and/or (c) a little flatter and/or (d) where you weren't in eyesight of the finish???) But, I saw Ross as he was coming down and that is all I needed to make it to the end.

So, I am on my way down the hill and I see- no way!- my kids again, waiting for me. They take my hands and get to run down the finish line shoot with me! And there was Ross at the end, waiting for me. So, it was the perfect finish for me. My parents and our friend Anthony (who had done the Olympic distance), were there, too. Ross and I both felt good and we both finished!

After the race, we had some food, stretched and went to check our times. Considering the conditions, the hilly course and how I felt and my crappy run, I was thinking I was probably out there 6:30 or so. Our times ended up being 6:05 & 6:07, so I was more than happy with that.

Plus, I got to see my kids and parents at each transition point. It's not easy to entertain little ones, but my parents did an excellent job! Here's my dad in action:It was such a treat to spend the weekend with them and I am grateful for all that they did with us.

To top it off, Knoxville was a pleasant surprise. I loved the greenness of it, the river, the people, the cute areas of town, the numerous fountains for kids to play in, everything.

Before I knew it, it was time to take my little bears home from the Smokies.

**Thanks, too, to Sonja who supplied me with some of the pictures above.