Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Off Season

It has been almost 2 months since IMFL and I am finding myself in a new place, I struggle daily to go out for a run, a bike or even a swim (actually haven’t swam since race day so this one is not something that has even crossed my mind yet).

I took the first four weeks after the race as a ‘decompression time’, I always like to take time off at the end of the season and catch up on quality family time, friends and anything else I feel as I have missed while in training. Every year I deal with different demons in the off season. In the past it has always been around the fact that I go through ‘triathlon/racing withdrawals’, this year though is quite different.

While training for IMFL I kept feeling guilty, especially once I started working, about the time I was spending away from the kiddos, but I knew this was just temporary and in my mind I did not want to do a second IM so it was a once in a life time kind of thing. Now that I have no races close by I feel even worse to spend any time away since during the week they spend more time with the nanny than they do with me.

 Unfortunately after getting sick and having three thousand things going through my mind I kept finding myself asking the question ‘is it really worth it putting all the eggs in one basket?’. So at first I just decided that going forward when I’d plan for the tri season I would just do the races I wanted to do that year, forget about having an A race because at the end of the day this is not swimming where all conditions are always constant. The pool doesn’t change, the weather is not a variable that affects your training and lets be real above all I am a grown up woman, I have a career, a husband and a family so triathlon is just a hobby.

Those that know me would not hesitate to say that one of my ‘strengths’ is my consistency, I am one that thinks that success does not come without a price. I believe consistency and hard work take you far and yes one of the things that makes you stronger is how you learn from your experiences and keep going at it, there is always a goal to train for and at the end of the day is all worth it.

I have been racing triathlons for four years now, my first year was with TNT and I have been working with my coach Jeremy Sipos since my second season, in those four years I can count with one hand the workouts I have skipped in that period of time and it has always been for health issues, I have never skipped a workout because I couldn’t get motivated, I didn’t feel like it or just because… well that was up until two weeks a go, I have officially been back on a ‘training plan’ for two weeks now and have not completed a whole week as of yet.

I love triathlon and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE racing, otherwise I would have never gotten started on this crazy world of endurance sport. Even more now that I work, now that my ‘ME’ time does essentially not exist. While I was still training for IMFL, I loved my morning runs (by myself, without music or kids screaming, or TVs.. I know I am weird!) I loved my morning rides on the trainer, having coffee while the house was still ‘asleep’ and enjoy the peace and quiet knowing I had already had time for myself and had done something good, I craved the sense of accomplishment every time I’d get out of the pool feeling as if I had gotten a good workout (or a ‘swimmers high’ like some people like to call it). And as much as I know that I USED to LOVE all those things I am still struggling to get back to it.

So, for the next month my goal is to find myself again. To keep up with my training and enjoy my ‘ME’ time.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

IMFL Race Report - Part 2

The alarm went off at 4:45 am, had breakfast and talked to mom, Raquel and Sami at the apartment. My mom was asking about my times and how long I thought each leg would take me. I made a prediction and told her what I thought I could do and where I should be instead (being conservative keeping in mind a- this was my first IM and b- I had not had a good run since my last long weekend and wanted to make sure that even not feeling 100% healthy I could still have an ok run). After breakfast I met some of the girls and headed down to transition, set up my nutrition and headed to the beach start. I can still feel the rush of the morning, before I knew it I was standing on shore waiting for the gun to go off.

 At the Swim Start
I had so many friends out there (racing and cheering) that I couldn’t feel by myself but even with all that support and the 2800 athletes lining up next to me for a sec I tried to savor the moment and find some ‘peace’. I knew my first IM experience would only happen once and I wanted to make sure I could take in as much as I could. 

Getting ready to line up at the start line (Thank you Haley for the wetsuit!!)
The gun went off and it was CRAZY!! I am a swimmer and I never thought for a second that I would struggle out there, and I didn’t, but I honestly didn’t expect so many people swimming on top of each other, kicking you and basically trying to stop you, on top of that it was pretty choppy so I got thrown from one side to the other. I finally found my comfortable pace at some point after the first turn around. I got on an easy rhythm and made it out of my first loop, got back in and went for a second one. By the time I was heading to the swim finish I was ready to be out of that water.

Predicted swim time: 1:00hr
Actual time: 1:00:05

Transition went a lot faster than I expected, if you are a friend of mine on FB you know what some of my dilemma was between using a tri kit vs bike short on the bike. I end up wearing my tri kit and had no issues at all! I also wore my compression socks since I had ran all my long runs with them, that is probably the one thing I thought it would take me a bit longer but thanks to Jill Poon and her ‘how to’ video I got those on in no time. It was pretty warm so I end up deciding against the arm warmers, and as soon as I headed out on the bike I was glad I did that.

T1 time: 4:38

The bike was ... well long. I knew I wanted to keep my HR in Z2, I had never ridden anymore than 4.5 hours in training so I was a bit ‘scared’ of how I’d feel once I’d be done. I knew that by being a mass start there would be a lot of passing on the bike (as of me being the one passed). The one thing I also expected was to see drafting out there, but OMG I didn’t expect to see groups of 20+ riders passing me on a ‘peloton’, I am so NOT kidding! Honestly it was pretty sad. I tried to stay in my zone and not look at anything else other than my HR, I kept it low and steady the whole ride. Around mile 80 I started to break the rest of the ride on smaller portions (10 miles at a time), not because I was tired but because I was ready to start running. My neck was getting stiff and I just wanted out! I kept my head ‘on the price’ and tried to stay on the moment.
The last 10 miles went by pretty fast, heading back into town just brings so many emotions. I had gone for a training ride the day before with Sami and I recognized the scenery.  As I was heading to T2 I saw Sami, Joe, Melissa and Don cheering.. I was SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO happy  to see them.
 Coming back to T2.. ALL smiles!

Predicted bike time: 5:45-6:00hr
Actual time: 5:44:37
Handed my bike out to one of the volunteers (who by the way were AWESOME!!) and headed to T2, grab my run bag and went to the ‘changing tent’. It literally took me seconds to change, I think I have taken longer on some of my sprint and Olympic distance transitions, again big part of it was the amazing volunteers out there. As I was putting on the shoes they would put stuff in my pockets and before I knew it I was running out the ‘run out’.

T2: 2:22

I felt pretty awesome coming off T2, especially considering I had just biked 112 miles. I knew I needed to get into an easy pace and not start faster than 8:30 pace. As soon as I passed the area where the Alpha Ironman tent was with Raquel, mom, the kids and all the awesome families I checked my Garmin and realized I was running 7:30 pace, so I slowed down. It took me a bit to get into a consistent pace, and as soon as I did my asthma started acting up.
At that point my mind started playing games ‘you are never going to finish, just give up’, or ‘it is not worth it, so much easier to sit on the side of the road’. I would have never thought my mind could be SO NEGATIVE!, around mile 6.5-7 I had to walk to keep my breathing controlled as well as my asthma, I needed my inhaler and I knew it wouldn’t be until mile 13 or so before I would see Sami and could ask him for it… it was tough. I wanted to cry, I wanted to walk, I wanted to give up. Somehow that first time I only walked for a couple of minutes max and started back up. Around mile 12 it was getting hard to breath without the inhaler, I didn’t want to walk again and knew I was close to where my family was.

Beginning of the second loop

As soon as I saw Sami I asked him to get the inhaler, from that point on (approx. mile 12.5) til he brought the inhaler I was honestly taking it one step at a time. This was probably the second lowest point of the day, as I ran by the PT Solutions tent Dale ran with me for a little bit, I so appreciated his words of encouragement, this are the little things that make you realize how big of a support group you have out there and although it feels like it, you are not alone.

 Not the greatest picture of me but love that someone got this moment on a pic (Thank you Corey!!)

Sami caught up around mile 15-16,  once I got the inhaler I took a couple of puffs and started walking again with the hopes the inhaler would make its way through my body and I could start ‘running’ soon.
It took a bit longer than expected but I was finally able to get at it again, I couldn’t go very fast because  anytime I got to a good pace my asthma would come back, but at least I got to ‘run’ for most of the second loop. I only walked once again at mile 20 for approx 1 min. and after that I just had one thing in mind… ‘Carmen Brahim you are an ironman’, when I took the last turn around and saw the Balmes family, the Homekes and everybody else out there I forgot about all the pain, I knew I was SO close!!
Out of the thousand times I had pictured the race on my head I never imagine I would straggle the most on the first loop on the run, I always thought the second one would be the tough one, but somehow my second one felt so much more doable than the first.
The final shoot is something you have to live to appreciate. I remember last year when we all came down to volunteer and went for a run while everybody was out on the bike course, talking to Brian he mentioned how I needed to make sure I could soak in the whole finish shoot, he couldn’t remember his from his first IM and that is something he was looking forward this time around. And that I did… I was not having the day I knew I could have, but I was having a darn good day and I was about to enjoy the best part of it. I high five every single person I saw on the shoot and took the time to enjoy the last minutes. I made sure I heard the famous words and as soon as I crossed I embraced my friend Sina who was one of the catchers. Apparently some of my friends back home who saw me cross the finish line didn’t know I knew her and thought it was a bit weird how I just cried my eyes out on this stranger’s arms.. well, she was no stranger. After I calmed down she took me to where they were taking the finisher picture and then handed me out to my family. As soon as I saw them I started baling again, having Sami, the kids, mom and Raquel is something I will always be thankful for, as I hugged Raquel my first words to her were ‘It was AWFUL! Don’t you ever do it!’.
Predicted time: I honestly didn’t have one, I wanted to think I could do it in 3:45-4:00hrs, but I also knew that this was going to be the true test of the day and I could even end up walking the whole marathon.

 Carmen Brahim you are an IRONMAN

All worth it

Run time: 4:30:01
Total Time: 11:21:43

A heck of a time for a first IM and the experience I got out of it and what I learned is just priceless. Do I think I can do better?? Heck YES!, but I also know that in triathlon we’ve heard so many times how there are lots of variables that you can control and some that you can’t, unfortunately for me there were some thrown at me that took me a bit to react to but for my second IM (IMKY 2013... more on that later), I got some things I can improve on EVEN if I am not having the best day out there.

IMFL Race Report - Part I

Let me start by saying I am thrilled with my race, I think I posted it in FB or on an email to somebody before but in a few words it really was an unbelievable experience, I learned more about myself that I thought possible and at the end of the day I did the best I could, and I am proud of that. I had up and downs not only on the last year but during training, at work and of course on race day, but overall I am proud the way I handled it and I am looking forward to be back on the IM circuit soon.
With that said, if you are reading this long report is because you want details and that I will give you (the good, the bad and the ugly).
Leading up to the race I felt ready, since Augusta I put some of my best runs to date. Talking to a friend of ours right after Augusta I realized I needed to change my nutrition plan. I did so and it seemed to work VERY well! As soon I finished my last long weekend (two weeks before the race) I felt tired and achy, but of course I knew that was just from the long weekend and my body was ready for some rest.
On Monday I started feeling sick, my throat hurt and had a temperature. Again I thought it was just from the long weekend and I decided to ignore it. By Tuesday I knew it was no joke so I decided to go to the dr’s, they told me it could be strep but they wouldn’t be sure unless they sent cultures in, but even so he recommended I started with antibiotics and steroids to make sure I was healthy by the end of the weekend and the medicines were out of my system by race day.
If you know anything about me, you know: 1- I do NOT like to take anything (medicines) and 2- I like to do my ‘research’ about EVERYTHING. So I started reading about antibiotics and the effect on long distance racing, everything seemed to say ‘STAY away from antibiotics unless they are completely necessary’. When the dr gave me the prescription he recommended I waited 48 hours if I didn’t want to take them, if by then I felt better I should be ok for the race, if not then chug it up and take the antibiotics.
The day after I felt a bit better, and 48 hours later I decided I was not taking them. I took Tues to Thursday completely off and by Friday I decided to go for a run. Throughout the weekend I was still not 100% but I could feel I was getting better. This continued until Tuesday, all of the sudden it wasn’t my throat anymore but I was completely congested on my chest and my sinus.
Tuesday evening I went for a run, came back home and cried my eyes out, all that hard work I put in! hours away from my family, soccer games missed and so close to race day and things weren’t looking too good for me. Everybody kept telling me ‘don’t worry, you’ll be ok’, of course I would have said the same to them. Thursday I was worse and I started debating if I should race or not. As I was laying on the back of our car on our way down to Florida I came to terms that I was not going to let all that hard work go to waste, I was going to do my best and enjoy the day as much as I could.. of course I have to recognize that on the back of my head I kept thinking ‘maybe by Saturday I will be fine.’

 Comfy on your way down to FL

I mentioned before here how there was a big group of us racing, there were so many things to celebrate and I somehow changed things around and started looking forward to a great day out there.
At the last minute I decided not to go to the IM dinner, I wanted to make sure I was rested and hoped to feel a bit better the next day. By Friday the whole town was breathing IM, you could sense the excitement and I made sure I took in every minute of it.
The day went by pretty fast, went for a group picture, racked my bike and gear bags and headed back to the apartment to rest til the next day. I had run through the race on my mind a thousand times and did it again before I went to bed; The plan was very simple: I wanted to take the swim easy, my words to Jeremy were ‘the swim is my warm up’. I wanted to set myself up for a strong run and I knew that pacing myself on the bike was crucial, I read somewhere that you are better of coming off the bike thinking ‘I took it too easy’ and have 26.2 miles to make up for it, than thinking ‘I just blew it’ and having a long marathon ahead of you.

 Rob and after dropping our gear off

Sunday, July 29, 2012

You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore

Once again I am probably butchering the quote, but remember English is not my first language which entitles me every now and again make up my own quotes and sayings J.

We spend our lives asking ourselves ‘what ifs’, regardless of what decision we make when a choice is prompted at some point in our lives we ask ourselves how would things be if we would have chosen the ‘other’ path.
Four years ago when our daughter Nora was borne we made the best decision of our lives at the time. Having been a nanny myself and not having family close by (other than my sister), the idea of having some stranger taking care of our kids was just far from realistic. We had interviewed people but I always had an issue, we finally narrowed it down but at the end of the day I knew I could not find anybody who met my requirements because they weren’t me.
At that point we decided I was going to quit working. Having a full time job, a husband and kids just didn’t seem as what I wanted/needed anymore. As most moms I’ve always wanted to make sure my kids had good values and didn’t want to look back and regret missing the toddler years.
I have told myself multiple times during those four years that eventually I would go back to work, but I wanted to wait until Nora started Kindergarten. Long story short, Nora has one more year to go until she starts K BUT an opportunity came by that I thought it would be silly not to consider.
After much thought and weighing in the pros and cons, Sami and I decided I should give it a try.  Tomorrow will be my first day back at work. Much different than my corporate America days but I am very hopeful it will be something I will really enjoy. I have joined the staff at a local school (5 miles from home) where I will be teaching Spanish and will be the head coach for their swim team. I am not sure there is any other job posting that would fit me any better than this one.
I would lie if I said I am not nervous, I have never been one person to be scared of change. I tend to do well with change in my life, I am also one to think (as much as Sami hates me saying this) that things happened for a reason. I might not know what the reason is at times, but I am confident that I was ‘meant’ to do this.
As I look forward to the next three months I see lots of early morning workouts, long weekends of training and times when I will question if I made the right choice given the fact that I have an IM in November, but I have seen so many people who does just that. Full time parents, full time workers, full time triathletes or maybe I should call ‘us’ weekend warriors.
I am ready to face the next challenge and I am sure that with determination, hard work and lots of caffeine I will still cross that finish line coming November.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Allatoona Sprint & Chattanooga RR

Due to some changes (more on that later) I have been trying to fit in the last couple of weeks everything that I have not gotten done in the last 4 years. That is my excuse for not being able to keep up this blog alive, I am sure I can think of many other excuses but for now on I am going with this one… So before I update on my latest changes I wanted to post a quick race report on the last two races I’ve done since I got back from Spain: Allatoona Sprint & Chattanooga Waterfront.
The Allatoona Sprint is one of the 3 races PT Solutions puts together, Dale and the crew do a phenomenal job at having plenty of volunteers and making the finish line even more memorable. Knowing that the venue is the same as the Acworth Women Sprint Tri, I debated on doing this one but at the end of the day I decided to sign up for a couple of reasons, time wise it worked out perfectly with my trip back from Spain. After a three week hiatus is always good to have a reminder on what the racing scene looks like and get some adrenaline going.
I started on the last wave and knew there were a couple of overall contenders ahead of me, their wave started 3min before mine. I got in the water and felt pretty good, went as hard as I could and hoped to put a bit of a gap on my competition. On the bike leg I felt strong and pushed hard, I knew they had changed the run course but on a sprint distance tri there is only one way of racing. I came into T2 and saw one of my competitors heading out of transition, I knew she is a very good runner but I did a quick calculation and thought… she started 3min behind me so I would have to have a really slow run for her to make up for the difference, well apparently either my run was that much worse or hers was that much better (however you like it best J) but she put a heck of a run leaving me on the dust and as 2nd OA female.
Two weeks later I headed to Chattanooga for my dream race (not really!). Like I’ve said many times, there is always that one race that you do once, twice… or THREE times and you have the same exact thought ½ way into the run … ‘I am NEVER doing this race again’, somehow I’ve manage to do it three times (and counting) , I am 100% I will be going back, because for once I’d like to say ‘I had a KILLER race in Chattanooga’.
The swim was fast as always with the current, this was the fastest I have ever swam 1500m breaking the 19min, I would love to give full credit to my coach, masters coach and swimming partner but the reality of the situation is that there was a STRONG current this year, but I’ll take it. I got off the water and realized I had never started my watch, got on the bike and felt good right away. Since this was my third year doing the race and I ALWAYS die on the run I decided to hold back on the last half of the bike, I caught up many of the girls who had an earlier start time and wanted to make sure I could held on the gab for as long as I could.
Halfway into the run I started to feel the fatigue, the heat and the overall exhaustion, coming into the Shute I was very tempted to  get on the floor and just roll down the hill as I was pretty much done.
1st Masters, 5th OA female
Overall I was happy with both of the races, specially Chattanooga, not so much for the results itself but mentally these are the ones that make you stronger and at the end of the day are the ones that differentiate you as an athlete.  Like I said to my coach after Chattanooga, I am hoping this mental toughness pays off coming race day in IMFL, cause I do have to admit that other than NOLA this season’s races have been a 'mental test’

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Where there is a Will There is a Way

Back in May and before heading to Spain I typed a post which for some unknown reason I never posted on this blog. Since then I’ve been meaning to catch up but after a three week hiatus with the family and a much needed break from social media it has just gotten harder and harder to get back to it. Since I’d still like to go back to this one post I decided to post a ‘summary’ of it and some afterwards thoughts…

The majority of this blog is about me and my thoughts on my way to IMFL, but as I got ready for our big trip to Spain, I started to think back the last 6 months and how Sami had completely dedicated himself to IM training and set a precedent to what I have in store…

Last year when we decided that 2012 would be a good year for me to do an IM we discussed the ins and outs, the training, the family the dedication, and everything else that entails IM training. Being both of us triathletes we have to plan our races and training schedule together so that we make sure there is always somebody with the kids. Being that said, and since I was going to sign up for IMFL 2012 was going to be my year and then Sami would do his IM in 2013.
A couple of weeks after I signed up for IMFL Sami’s training partner registered for IMLZ (Ironman Lanzarote), this is a race that Sami has always said he would love to do, knowing he would have somebody to train with just sounded too good to pass on. After we looked at our options and checked with our coach, we realized that both IM (IMFL & IMLZ) were further apart enough that we would be ok and training schedules would not coincide.
Sami & John morning of IMLZ

Sami signed up for the race and that is all she wrote. As I was training for NOLA70.3 him and John (his training partner) trained for their IM race. I would lie if I said it was easy, Marc started soccer season and every Saturday there games and other family responsibilities going on. So , I pretty much got all my weekend rides either early in the morning on the trainer or later in the afternoon while Sami got his long days in.
They say ignorance is a bliss which I completely agree, I now know what is in store for me. But the one thing I have to say is that I will always have the ‘if Sami was able to do it, so do I’. Our social life has pretty much been nonexistent, weekends were for training and during the week the lights went off a lot earlier than we are used to.
I have a great sense of admiration for anybody who works full time and trains, and if is IM training even more so. The hours, dedication and energy that training takes is something only those who do it know, add a family to it and a second person trying to get in workouts, races and such.
I look back at race day in Lanzarote and it was such an unbelievable experience, the boys were ready and I had just a blast. I just wish we hadn’t add more stress to the race than what an IM already entails. But our competitive nature had already dreamed big, not knowing what the terrain or the competition was it was like Sami likes to put it a ‘humble’ experience.
All in all I am SO proud of Sami and John, for sticking to their plan on race day, for fighting til the very end on conditions that I can only tell you weren’t ideal.
I take my Sherpa responsibilities very seriously :) 

If anything I have learned two things, first of all as much ‘respect’ as I have for IM training and as nervous as I am I really think that ‘where there is a will there is a way’, Sami and many others are proof of it. Second of all, this is my first IM, I don’t need to add any more stress to it, the goal is to get all the training in and ‘enjoy race day’, do I really think is going to be ‘enjoyable’?? well, I am sure it will be as soon as I hear the words ‘Carmen Brahim you are an Ironman’, but I am sure I will have my up and downs in race day as well as training. I am determined though to make the best of it, and like they say enjoy the journey.