Thursday, December 29, 2011

Where Have I been...

It is pretty unbelievable how attached we grow to this thing called ‘technology’. You have not seen a post from me in a while, truth be told I have been busy with life, training, kids, getting ready for the Holidays but most importantly I had no computer. Yup, in a matter of two weeks we lost two of our PCs. At the end of November I was getting ready to send Xmas cards when all of a sudden I realize my PC upstairs was fried. I still had my laptop but the whole idea of sending Xmas cards early this year kind of fell through the cracks since my file with addresses was in the so called fried PC.
Less than a week later my laptop decided to join our PC and the screen just went blank. We were able to hook it up to the screen upstairs but let’s be honest having your laptop downstairs where you spend most of your days is a lot more convenient than having to go to the office, not to mention I would have to trust my kids to be by themselves for a long period of time which we all know when it comes to 3 and 5 years old that is NEVER a good idea.
Somewhere in there was my new laptop
So, thanks to Sami and Santa Clause I got a new toy. I am back on the blog wagon and hope to have this new puppy for a while. With that said not much has gone on in my life since my last post, if you ever wondered what I was doing during that time the answer is probably running. As I put the highest run volume ever (for me) on the last couple of weeks, I feel as if my body has just been trying to recover from one run to the next.
We have also added a second swim, which it started with a shorter one and this past week just got up to my regular 4K. I have been doing 99% of my rides indoors, nowadays my longer rides are 2hours max and sometimes with the kids and the Holidays is just easier to get on the trainer and get it done early in the am rather than waiting for the craziness starts.
I think I mentioned on a previous post how I never get sick… well apparently my body decided to get better at that; back in November I got sick when my asthma flared up, it was a short downtime and I think I only end up missing one day (two workouts), the second time was two weeks later, the kids, Sami and then Raquel took their turns at the stomach bug. I thought to be invincible but I guess that is not the case, end up in bed for a day and sick for four days, this one kept me off the workout routine for a day and a half; With all the running I’ve been doing I just thought to be ‘normal’ that my legs were to feel like concrete blocks, so yesterday when I went on my long run I thought the feeling of having bricks instead of legs was just normal. Unfortunately when I got back from my run I started feeling achier, so for the third time in a row I am sick.
Hopefully wont be seeing much of this guy again
As we start the New Year it just makes sense to me that I ask for a healthier one, obviously I rather get in all my sick time now than once we get closer to race season but it would be nice to be able to go more than two weeks without ending on a virus or anything that keeps me away from having to skip a workout.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tis' The Season

Not sure who came up with that expression, but I like to think that they were thinking on people like me who just happen to love this time of the year.
Growing up Christmas was a big deal, we are a big family and during the Holidays we always had an even bigger crew. I always wish the Holidays lasted longer, but it just seem as if the older I got the shorter those were.
Moving to the States changed things a bit, instead of starting the Holiday Season a week before Christmas we get to enjoy it a bit longer with Thanksgiving.

 Following the tradition Pilgrims...
and Indians
For the last four or five years we’ve driven to Baltimore to spend Thanksgiving with Sami’s family. Traveling during Christmas is not an option for us, our kids are little and we want to make sure their Christmas memories are at home, with mommy and daddy and not packing suitcases to visit either side of the family.
So for the fifth year in a row we got in the car and made the drive up the weekend before Thanksgiving. Every year on the way up I tell myself how I am going to behave and not stuff my face with everything is in front of me. And every year I do the same… stuff my face with everything is in front of me, or in the pantry :).
So for the fifth year in a row we drove back with some extra weight and sick as a dog. I try to do as much running outdoors as I can and while up there that is all I did since there is no treadmill available to us. Somehow I always manage to get a cold and by the time we got back home my asthma flaired up.
I am a grown up woman, I will be 39 Christmas Day, I hate whinny people and I can assure you that I would NOT like ‘me’ when I am sick. I always miss mom and her cooking, but when I am sick it seems as if she is the only one that could make me feel better, well her and her chicken soup of course.
It is very VERY rare that I skip workouts, some days are easier than others, but they always get done. Sunday after Thanksgiving though was one of those days that I just couldn’t get myself to run or swim as I was suppose to. I was out of breath just getting out of bed and I was using my inhaler way too often. I decided to stay in and try to cure what I had.
Four days later and I am still fighting it, my workouts this past week have been all but pretty. A combination of my inhaler and the antibiotics has had some crazy effect on my HR, my muscles ache and I just want to be done with the medicine. So, right now, I am just looking forward to get and feel better.
Happy Training,

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Love - Hate Relationship

As a child I grew up with the smell of chlorine imbedded into my skin. When I walk into a swimming pool I feel right at home, and swimming up and down following the never ending black line just comes as a second nature to me. But you already knew that!
What you probably didn’t know is that we trained countless hours with our swim team and part of our training, especially during the off season, was spent running trails and countless loops around the pool. Back then running was my number one enemy; I would do ANYTHING to escape that part of our work outs. As a matter of a fact, I was notorious for walking as much as I could, out of sight out of mind… or so I thought. I would keep an eye on my coach and as soon as I was out of his sight I would start walking. At times we were 40+ people training and guess who was the last one to make it back from all those runs… yup you guessed right, it was me. If it was not the last one I was pretty close to being the one.
As a teenager that was one of the ‘medicines’ we had to take if we were to come back from the off season with some extra lbs. The rest of the team would get to play soccer, basketball or any fun sport, while ‘us’ would go around, and around, and around the pool. I think that is when my love-hate relationship with running started, to start with I already despised it, but during those years it got even worse because I saw running as a punishment.
After my swimming years were over I had no desire to step back into a pool for a long time, I would coach swimming but you would not see me swimming. This lasted for almost ten years and even then it was pretty sporadically. It wasn’t until I got pregnant with my son Marc that I started swimming again on a more regular basis.
Those years in ‘hiatus’ from the pool I also took a break from working out for a while, but after I realized I had to do something I got into spinning, aerobics and even running. As a matter of a fact that is one of the things that got me and my husband to spend time together, who would have thought that something I used to hate as much as I hated running would be the one thing that brought us together.
Back then we just ran for fun, we would do 5 or 6 short runs a week, no HR monitors, no specific paces, no races… that is how I started falling in love with running.
Right before I started triathlons I thought I was an ok runner (little did I know), it was quite the eye opener when on my first season with TNT I realized that the only thing I was ok at was swimming.
After working on my run and bike with Jeremy, I improved quite a bit on both, but surprisingly enough (for me anyways) my bike splits seemed to be stronger when compared to the rest of the field. So, last season, being the second season working with J we focused on my run. And although my run has come a long ways I still didn’t feel like I could run forever (the same way I feel in the pool).
As I have mentioned before on this blog this year is about improving my run again, which means I’ve been running quite a bit, and this is just the beginning. I have notice a big difference from last year though, although I am not running with a Garmin (naked running is so much fun J) I have a bunch of different loops from my house, depending on how long I have to run I know what I should be able to do.
Last year I remember struggling with the off season running, not only I was running more than I had been accustomed to which means I hurt physically, but even mentally it was hard on me.
This past couple of weeks I’ve felt strong on my runs, being back on some structure was good the first week but took me a couple of days to get back into it. Being the excitement of going down to Florida or just the energy from the race has really lifted my spirits and I have seen a change on my running, for the best. I can tell I am running faster than last year during the off season and I am kind of looking forward to my daily runs. I guess what I am trying to say is that I am falling in love with running again and since I know J is got plenty of painful runs in store for me I hope I get to keep the hype for a while.
This brings me to week 2 & 3 of training; swimming has been good since I don’t have to force myself into the pool but once a week. With the trip down to Florida and Sami traveling I had to do most of my riding indoors and being shorter rides there are pretty manageable while watching TV.

Week 2 Total
Swim - 75 min - 4000m
Bike - 4 hrs
Run - 4.2hrs
TOTAL - 9.5hrs

Week 3 Total
Swim - 75 min - 4000m
Bike - 4.3hrs
Run - 4.4hrs
TOTAL - 10.1hrs

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Live and Learn

Sami gets tired of hearing me say ‘Things Happen For a Reason’, but I truly believe it to be true. By that I don’t mean to make excuses for things I don’t have an answer for, instead I believe things might not always go the way you like but as long as you get something out of each experience you are moving forward.
Last weekend was a big one for me, but I would not be Carmen if I had not been taking mental notes throughout the day from athletes, volunteers and cheerleaders to use for next year’s race (YES my mind is always working J). Since I know I will come back to these earlier posts as my big day approaches I wanted to make sure I wrote some of those down, some of these are things I learned, others are pure observations that I thought I could benefit from if I found a ‘better way’, so hopefully  will have an answer for all of those that require one before Nov 3rd 2012…

-         To Swim or to Run: Some athletes got in the water right after completing their first loop, making their way to the start of loop 2 swimming. Others chose to run back to the swim start and then headed out for loop 2. For those watching from shore it was very obvious which was the fastest way… run the stretch instead of swimming it, 1st you are always faster when running and 2nd you can get a bit of a breather in between loops.
-          They have wetsuit strippers… use them, UNLESS you are in the middle of a big pack then it might be worth just heading to T1 and have volunteers peel it off there.
-          Long vs Short Sleeve Wetsuit; this one is a tough one for me. I can’t swim with long sleeve wetsuits, if you’ve seen me swim you know that I am like a windmill, which means I have a very HIGH turn over. My shoulders get very tight with long sleeve suits and feel very constricted. I own a sleeveless and love using it. Unfortunately Panama City has a lot of ‘visitors’ as I like to call them (AKA jellyfish). I can’t even remember the amount of people I saw at T1 who got stung by jellyfish and the people who got stung the worse were those with sleeveless wetsuits. I also know that purchasing one just for that one race is not smart as I will not be using it again. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

-          Compression Socks: I am debating on using these or not. I use them for recovery all the time but I have never run on them, I was thinking it might be something good to try in training but there MUST be an easier way to put those on, specially on race day when you are wet. I think I have seen a video on the past (maybe in Twitter?) that shows you how to put those most efficiently. If you know which video I am talking about please forward it my way. I guess I will need to practice that before race day.
-          Arm Warmers: I saw some people who had baby powder on those and it definitely made a difference. But again, some people took forever to put them on, like the socks, there must be a more efficient way. I saw some guys putting them halfway up I am assuming they pull them all the way up while on the bike, this would be of course the best case escenario if it weren't that my bike handeling skills are non existent.
-          Biking Shoes: so far I have not been able to master getting on the bike with the shoes attached to it, hopefully I will be able to do so before IMFL, but if not the best solution would be carrying them with me and putting them on by the bike since is a bit of a stretch you have to run til you get to your bike.

-          Everybody I’ve talked to emphasizes on how important it is to change position on the bike every now and then, as the course is flat and you keep using the same muscles over and over again.
-          Changing tires: right now if I were to have a flat in the middle of a race I would have to call it a day. They came up with this spray thingy for tubulars but I yet have to learn how to use it. My friend went through 2 CO2 cartridges on race day and had to wait for mechanical support, 45 min. later she wished she had used the cartridges on training rides.
-          PACING is the big game here. I am an expert on blowing out the bike leg of a half IM and then not having anything left for the run. I better start thinking on something to keep my mind entertained for 112 miles so that I don’t find myself going too hard.
-          Set small goals so that you can break the course into small segments, thinking 112 miles ahead of you seems like very very long day ahead of you.

-          Not much to do here, in and out.

-          Form, form and more form. The best way to be effective with your running is to have a good form. Mine is not pretty but is either that or it gets really, really, reaaaaaaaaaaally UGLY. So, concentrate on high knees, relaxed shoulders and face and keep checking yourself through out the marathon.
-          I have opted for not running a marathon before IMFL, which means my first marathon ever will have a swim and bike warm up. Being an out and back course, thinking I have ahead of me 4 times one stretch seems a lot more doable than 26.2 miles.
-          Pacing is also big here, stay on track with your pace for the first three ‘stretches’ and if you have anything left bring it home on the last one.
-          I loved seeing everybody out there on the run course, but let me tell you that big part of that is that everybody had a HUGE smile on their face. One person in particular didn’t (I am not saying names) but my bet is that this person made it a lot more miserable than necessary. I am not a smiler, I am one of those people that LOVE having support out there, but you will probably not get a hug from me in the middle of the race, or a very enthusiastic wave for that matter. Please know I appreciate your support and I NEED it, I just tend to stay focus on my ‘goal’ and I promise I am going to try and smile. I have even been smiling on my training runs this week just thinking on what is ahead of me.

Smilling on the Bike is so much easier than on the Run

-          If you have to go, you have to GO! GI issues is one thing, having to go potty is another and you can take care of that in no time.
-          Coke: everybody swears by it, I have used it on a couple of races but I think I did so when it was too late, I am thinking incorporating it as part of my nutrition plan might be a good idea.
-          Advil?? This was new news to me, I heard from more than one person that took Advil on their second loop of the run. If you have done this before or if you know of it, does it really work?
-          Lastly, enjoy the finish chute. Sometimes we forget to savor every little thing and when we realize we haven’t done it we regret it. I have been ‘known’ for pushing so hard that I can’t remember the last minutes of a race, I don’t know how many more IM races there are in my future so I need to make sure I enjoy this one and I can hear out and loud the ‘Carmen Brahim you are an Ironman’, isn’t that why we all do it?? Brian B mentioned to me how one of the only ‘bad’ memories he has of his first IM is that he can’t remember coming down the chute. His family was there and he didn’t even see them, I am sure he will make sure to enjoy every second of it next year and I am planning on doing the same.

 And this is what makes it ALL worth it

I think I have covered everything I can remember right now, if you have anything to add that think I might find beneficial please send it my way!!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Race Week IMFL 2011

Given the nature of this blog (scroll up for title in case you are not following me), you will understand how big of a deal this past week was for me. YUP! It was IMFL 2011 race week, which means I had thousands of thoughts going through my mind, thinking on how important this week will be for me a year from now.
As I mentioned on my first post one of the reasons why I decided on IMFL as my first IM was a group decision; what started as a group of 20 people potentially doing IMFL 2012 and going down to volunteer this past weekend, ended up on 14 of us heading down.

Part of the 'Alpha Ironman 2012' group

Unfortunately for me one of the people that had to back out on her decision to race next year was my sister Raquel. Some of you might have read my posts on FB so this will be a bit repetitive, but basically she started nursing school this semester, she has always been very dedicated to her studies and her GPA shows it. I like to say she’s got the brains in the family. So after two tests significantly below to what she is accustomed to she had to really think about her decision of committing to something like IM training when she already has a big commitment with school.
So Wednesday evening I get a call from her asking me to ‘pull email’, she couldn’t even talk about it, we had planned this for a while now and we were super excited to share this journey together. And although is the smart thing to do for her, the idea of not sharing it with her just makes me sad. After I got through the initial shock I realized my traveling plans for the weekend where now up on the air. After a shout out to the group, the guys offer to take me in their car, the schedule worked out great for me and I took them on the offer.
We headed down on Friday around 10 am, share some funny stories and made our way to Panama City. Friday was the volunteer meeting, it is pretty unbelievable the amount of people an IM takes to be successful, what makes it even more unbelievable is that a LOT of those people were there so that they could sign up for next year.
For those that are unfamiliar with the rules, IMFL is one of those races that fills out rather quickly. Athletes get first priority (they get a chance to register before the race), and then the day after the race volunteers get a chance to do so, after the volunteers they open registration to the open public (those that are physically there) and lastly if there are any slots available they open it online. Well, we definitely made the right decision because online registration sold out in 12 min. It is just CRAZY!
After a short meeting we headed for dinner and then to bed, out of the 10 girls in our condo we all had different shifts but we were all as excited. Race morning we headed to the swim start so that we could see the whole thing unveil. Let me tell you, that was nerve racking! Walking down to the beach I had butterflies in my stomach, the closer I got the more emotional I got. There is something about a mass start that just makes it for a unique experience and I am sure the only thing better than watching it is being part of it.
Me, Stacey and Sarah were in the women changing tent (T1). It was so cool!, one min. the first swimmer was entering the room and the next one you didn’t have room to even move with all the bags and clothing and people in that tent. It was so great to be able to help the athletes, and was even more special when we had friends walking in. I have to say that 99% of the people were very thankful and relaxed, it really was a great experience.

T1 Volunteers

The shift couldn’t have ended any better with Sina entered the changing tent way before the swim cut off, we were all very worried about her. We knew that if she made the swim cut off she was good to go, but after having a friend of mine not making the cut off last year I knew it would have been devastating. Sarah, Stacey and myself kept checking the clock and looking at the tent entrance. When I heard her yelling my name I burst into tears, it was so good to see her and she was in such good spirits!

Sina getting ready to get on her bike

After our shift was over we knew we had a while before everybody started making it back from the bike, so we headed for a run, took showers got lunch and found a good location on the run course to see everybody.
It was great seeing everybody out there, it is one of those things that if you have never experienced you HAVE to do. I am one of those people that just love watching others race but there is something special about IM races, the energy, the vibe, the excitement, it is just surreal. I really can’t put it into words everything that goes through your mind every time you see one of your friends go by. Smiles took over the run course and emotions just ran through, just imagining next year’s race I get goose bumps.
I have to say that there were a lot of emotional moments; Sina finishing the swim, seeing her Dana, Bonnie and Cheryl on the run course with a big smile on their faces. Darin, Jeff and Carl cruising by making it look easy, but what really got me was when PT Solutions team mate Tony C ran by us at mile 25, at that point he knew he was about to cross the finish line and get his ticket to Kona. We all started cheering for him and the look on his face was just priceless and one that I will never forget, he kept saying ‘I am going to Kona!’, we were all caught on the excitement and it was truly amazing!
I can not think on anything more motivating than a day in IM land, needless to say I can’t wait til May when I will be traveling to Lanzarote (Spain) to see Sami and John race, that will keep motivated for a while and hopefully through the heavy training weeks.
Sunday morning we woke up and headed to register for 2012, registration was schedule to open at 9:00 around 5:30 we got a text from Michelle saying there was already a line! Since most of us were awake, we just headed down and froze our little behinds off. Luckily the line was so long that they decided to open up at 7:30 which made it for an earlier than expected trip back home.

People lining up to register for IMFL 2012

Needless to say I am static about this upcoming year, I am thrilled to share this experience with so many friends and looking forward to a very exciting 2012 season. Happy training!!!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

2012 Tentative Race Schedule & Week 1

As I mentioned in previous posts I am a planner, so here I am six months out from my first race and I have pretty much planned the whole season. In Carmen’s perfect world I kind of had planned my races a couple of weeks a go, before 2012 race calendars were published, that of course means that now I am forced to move things around and not be able to do some of the races I was looking forward to race next year (i.e. West Point Lake).
I had originally planned to start with NOLA 70.3 like last year, get an Olympic distance race in a couple of weeks later and head to Spain again for a 3 week vacation around Sami’s IM (IM Lanzarote in May).
Last year I did St A’s for a third year in a row, that is probably one of my favorite races but this year they changed the timing and it is only one week after NOLA. That means no St A’s for me, I think I am at a point where I can recover from a HIM in a couple of weeks but one week is way too close.
Looking at my options (and based on last year’s schedule) I thought Peachtree city International would be a great one. I did it a couple of years a go (that was actually my first full Olympic distance tri), it is a very fast course and I could drive there the morning of. Of course you will understand my disappointment when they published the new date: May 19th, great! I am in Spain that weekend, so I had to look for another option.
My only other option was REV3 Knoxville. I kept telling myself how I need to concentrate on bigger things, yes REV3 is not what I wanted but the bigger picture for 2012 is IMFL, REV3 allows me to get one Olympic in before heading home and I know that with the Oly being the bigger race in Knoxville it promises to be a very competitive event.
So that part is set, into the second half of my season. Again I wanted to do an Olympic around June when I got back from Spain, I was hoping to do West Point Lake again but they just changed the date on that one as well, that one really kills me. I have done it two years in a row and I really wanted to do it one more time, specially now that they’ve moved the date (April 29th) which means there wont be any issues with the heat which is always a big factor on this race.
Once again Carmen the planner has to adjust (you see? I told you I was flexible J), and is looking like I will have to look at some of the SETUp races (NC/SC). From the time I get back from Spain til September I am going to concentrate on Olympic distance races, hopefully get in one a month. Augusta 70.3 at the end of the month and after that I will focus on IMFL.

April 22nd - NOLA 70.3
May 6th -  REV3 Knoxville Olympic
June 10th  – Festival of Flowers (SC)
July – Chattanooga Waterfront
August 4th or 5th - Trying to decide between Lake Logan (NC) and Acworth Womens Tri (??)
August -  New PT Solutions Olympic distance (date TBD)
September 8th  – Tugaloo
September 30thAugusta 70.3
November - IMFL

I also have to report that I finally got a plan for this past week. It felt good to be back out there, with a 'purpose', even if is not much. The structure does me well and allows me to focus on other things. Unfortunately my body was not craving a healthy diet as much as I thought J, but overall was a good week.
As I mentioned previously, during the fall training (or off season) we will focus on my run, for me this means we are taking one swim off and leaving just one session a week.
This change has been good so far, it is so hard to get motivated to swim nowadays, unless I have somebody to swim with which is not very often. Since I only have one session a week now it is not as bad, I know I need to get it in if I want to maintain some fitness in the water and knowing I don’t have to get back to it til the following week gives me the extra push to pack my bag and head to the pool.
I am not Haley Chura when it comes to swimming, Elaine Sipos on the bike or Katie June on the run, but for the most part I can count on a solid swim and a strong bike. Running is something that doesn’t come naturally for me (like most swimmers), and even though I made huge improvements last season, it seem as if I still struggle with consistency on longer distance racing. I am hoping this will change with the running I will be doing in the next couple of months.

Week’s Total
Swim -   75min. – 4000m.
Bike -  4 hrs
Run – 4.1 hrs
TOTAL – 9.3 hrs

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

2011 Race Season Recap - Part 2

After West Point Lake it was time to get my mind back into HIM, we had already started ramping up training the week before since I had decided on a race and I only had four weeks to build up after WPL.
I opted for Muncie 70.3; reason being it was driving distance and that meant no need to re-assemble the bike. I have improved tremendously on bike maintenance but I wouldn’t trust myself putting it back together before a race. Also, a friend of mine, Jennifer Lesser, was thinking about doing Muncie as well. So the thought of having a traveling partner made it that much attractive.
Once again girls weekend was a great experience, we laughed, had a good time, and the best thing of all we both got a slot for Vegas. Muncie was a hard race on the sense that I had to mentally ‘readjust’ the plan, one of my goals this year was not to walk in any of my races. The week before I got sick and took antibiotics, the combination of the heat and lack of salts made it for a pretty miserable run. But I was able to stay with it ‘mentally’, I decided on walking the aid stations and run the rest. The plan worked and end up 3rd on my age group and with a ticket to Vegas.

 Jennifer and I with our 'tickets' to Vegas

My training and focus was Vegas from this point on. I did Acworth Women Sprint Tri in August which was a fun race, probably one of the weakest this season but not bad for being in the middle of HIM training and coming off of a week vacation. I did learn though, that regardless how much of a 'B' race you have ahead of you, you do NOT race the day after you get back from vacation, it was just tough to get in race mood when the only thing I could think about was the beach I was at just a day before J.
Next up was Vegas, what an experience that was! It was amazing, being there was just surreal, the venue was just astonishing and tough, as a World Championship should be. Miss Carmen here thought she was Julie Dibbens and took off on the bike as if I was going to eat the world, a combination of that with not taking in enough calories resulted on a very painful run. This was probably the one race I learned the most… pacing and nutrition are CRUCIAL for HIM distance. But still had the time of our lives and I am hoping to be back (not next year though).

We extended our stay in Vegas for two days

I had planned to do one more race before calling it a season (Tugaloo), but I was bummed that I was not going to be able to take advantage of my fitness from Vegas in another 70.3.  After breaking down the race and realizing where I went wrong I just wanted to be out there again and ‘fix’ it.
We got an email from our team two or three days before Tugaloo, one of our sponsors (Muscle Milk) had a free entry for the REV3 race in Anderson, SC. After thinking about it for a couple of days I decided I was going for it.
Tugaloo was good, the only regret is that I used my brand new wetsuit and the zipper got stuck, had to stop on my way to T1 and ask one of the volunteers to unzip it for me, that kind of messed me up a bit. But overall was a solid race.
My sister, the kids and myself headed to SC two weeks after Tugaloo for the REV3 race. This was my race, but I told my coach I was just his puppet. He insisted to take it easy on the swim and not to overdo it on the bike, the whole goal was to have a solid run. And that is exactly what I did, I was able to end the season on a good note.
It is always good to end the season with a good race, but not so good that you let yourself relax too much. Last year after Augusta, I was so mad at my run that I didn’t want to forget how I felt after the race. I wore that race’s t-shirt over, and over, and over again on my runs. I think that anger helped me get through a lot of the hard workouts as I knew I did not want to feel like that after a race ever again.
Don't take me wrong, I know we can't have estellar races all the time, but to me if I cross the finish line and I know I gave it all is a HUGE accomplishment. When I start thinking back and realizing I didn't give it all, I didn't follow the plan or I just 'gave up' is when I consider that race a failure.
This year is a bit different; I had a good end of the season but one that I know I can improve on, as I run through the fall-winter I will keep thinking about how determination and hard work pays off.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

2011 Race Season Recap - Part 1

Since I will be referring to some of the races I did this year through out my 2012 I figure it would be good to have a recap of all my races so that I have something to go back to. I have full RRs for all these but there are key things I learn or took away from each race last year and that is what I am looking for to reflect here.
2011 was my third year doing triathlons, and my second with a coach. Me and Sami (my husband) both started triathlons with TNT (Team in Training) and although we loved the experience and made great friendships our competitive nature wanted a bit more. In 2010 we hire our awesome coach Jeremy Sipos, Jeremy has taken our fitness to a level that we never thought possible. Our first season working with Jeremy was a success but it was this year that both Sami and I surpassed our expectations.
Our last race in 2010 was Augusta 70.3 for both me and Sami, he had a great race and placed 7th in his age group (40-44), I had a strong swim and bike but blew it going too hard on the first two legs leaving nothing left for my run. This was probably one of those races I will never forget, it was the toughest mental wise and one experience that I chose not to forget.
We stayed for the awards ceremony with the hope Sami would get a slot to Clearwater (IM 70.3 World Championship), there were 5 slots on his age group and being the 7th we figure he had a VERY good shot. They started calling age groups and got to F 35-39 (my age group), it was clear early on that not a lot of girls in my age group had stayed and even with a poor performance but with lots of luck I got a slot. I was standing on the line waiting to pay when they called out Sami’s age group, at that point we discover that there was one slot left but the 6th guy took it. I felt awful, I didn’t deserve the slot, he did and I decided I was not taking mine. We headed back to the hotel and without saying much we just drove back home.
A week later we found out that there were some slots on the roll down and one of them went to Sami’s age group, lesson learned… never, never, NEVER go home if you are looking to get a slot before the announcer says is over.
From that point on we both made that our goal for the 2011 season, we wanted to go to Worlds, specially once they announced they had moved it to Vegas. Once we put our race schedule together we prioritize on our 70.3 races, I wanted to do maybe 3 this season so that at least I got one more than the year before.
I started the season with New Orleans 70.3, me and Raquel drove there for the weekend and this was going to be her first 70.3. We had a great time, girls weekend with some racing in there, what else can you ask for? Race day came and they announced they were canceling the swim due to 20+mph winds, the buoys were flying and the water was ROUGH! As the planner that I am, this was sure promising to be a downer, but as I looked at everybody else around me I realized that I still had a chance to have a good race. I had worked on my run very hard and I was looking forward to see the results.
To make a long story short I had a GREAT race, PRed in both the bike and the run and end up being 5th in my age group. Unfortunately the top three girls took the 3 slots there were for Vegas, but I was still thrilled with my performance.

NOLA was by far the windiest race I've ever been to

If I have learned anything from my athlete career is that nothing comes for free, if you want something you have to work hard at it, and even then you still need some luck. If I wanted to qualify for Vegas I was going to have to podium at a 70.3 otherwise I was going to have to rely on other people’s decisions and I would rather have the last word.
Two weeks after NOLA we headed to St Anthony’s, this time around with the whole family which always adds some stress, but end up being a fun weekend (I LOVE that race, probably my all time favorite) and were lucky our friend’s daughter was able to baby sit while we were racing.
Once again the morning started with not so good news, they change the swim course due to the winds and with that we had a new swim distance as well (1000m. vs 1500m), GREAT! That was the first thing I thought, the second was ‘I can either be pissed off about it and ruin my race or I can do like I did in NOLA, at least we are getting to swim some this time around!’
I end up having the race of my life, the part I was most proud of was my run. The year before I was in most Oly distance races around 48min., after St A’s (I ran 43:24) I knew all that hard work had paid off and I was able to put a solid race.
Looking back these were the best 2 races I had all season, not for any other reason that I finished and I felt as if my performance exceeded my expectations, once you’ve done that you just tend to ‘expect it’ every time which means you become harder on yourself when you get anything but.
I went home for three weeks which was a nice break, training wise probably not the best but I disconnected from everything and was still able to get some good training in. While in Spain Sami did Florida 70.3 and got a slot for Vegas, so I knew I was going to give it one more shot just needed to decide when and where.
After I got back I had two races back to back, the PT Solutions Allatoona Sprint tri and West Point Lake the weekend after. I did great on the first one, had a very solid race across the board and it just helped to put my mind back into racing mood.
West Point Lake was brutal the year before, I wanted to do well and I knew there was going to be some tough competition. The swim was loooooooooooong and it didn't help the fact that when sighting the sun is just on your eyes, this is the only race I have ever had to stop in a swim. I thought I was done after realizing I had swam off course and couldn’t find the fourth buoy, but once in transition I was pleased to see I was in the same boat as everybody else. I push way too hard on the bike as I was trying to keep in sight one of my competitors who passed me around mile 15. I started too hard on the run as well just trying to close the gap on her, passed her around mile 2 and ran out of fuel around mile 4, the last two miles weren’t pretty, but I held to the lead and like my coach says a win is a win so, although I wasn’t particularly pleased with my swim, bike or run I was happy with the overall performance.

After the race w Stacers

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Offseason... Is it Over yet?

We spend hours, days, weeks and months training our butts off, we are tired, sore and cranky but we love the feeling and wouldn’t change it for the world. For me that is usually true from January to September, or October in this year’s case, basically goes from the time we start training for our first race til the end of the season.
Somewhere in the middle of the season I start ‘dreaming’ about the off season, thinking how it will be SO nice to get a break; run, swim and bike without a Garmin or a watch and enjoy the fall (which by the way is my favorite time of the year down here in Georgia). As I get closer to the end of the season I find myself dreaming about the ‘off season’ more often, this usually fades out two or three weeks before my last race, at that point I start getting ‘depressed’ that my season is going to end and I don’t know what I am going to do for the next three months.
My coach likes to give us 2-3 weeks off, that is the time to do whatever we want, no structure, no plan just do whatever you feel like doing and take a break from the crazy world of triathlon. Well, I am not a very flexible person, if you keep track of my blogs you will soon realize that I am a planner, I like to know when and where I am doing whatever it is that I am doing and last min. planning or change of plans are not welcome in my lifestyle. That doesn’t mean that I wont adjust, we are all adults and have learn that life sometimes throws you through a curve, as much as I dislike it I will adjust, but my perfect world is surprise free.
So you can imagine how crazy I go during that time, which coincidentally is where I am right now, no plan, no purpose. I use these weeks to get back into my pilates/core training, it just sets me up for a good routine once I get into fall training (some people like to call it offseason, others base season, I don’t really like the term since that would imply I am off and that doesn’t work well for me for obvious reasons).
This is also the perfect time of the year to spend quality time with the kids, there is always a Fall Fest somewhere close by, not having to worry about a weekend schedule makes it even better for me and the family to visit as many of those as we can. Our weekends jump start with a soccer game on Saturday morning and from there we just head to wherever the day might take us, there is always something fun to do in this great weather.

Everybody gets a pumpkin

I also use that time to eat whatever I want, I am very good at eating the right things once I am in season, some might call me a bit anal, but I have been around in this body long enough to know that I don’t do well if I drink a lot the night before, which means I basically waste the next day training and possibly a couple more since that is how long it takes me nowadays to recover from a crazy night. Same applies to sweets, I can have a sweet hear and there while I am in season, but I try to stay away from those. So for 2-3 weeks I eat everything and anything I have craved during training. Sami thinks I am crazy, but this works well for me, at the end of that period (aka TODAY), I am so sick of eating this stuff that I have no issues walking away from it for a while. I feel tired and lazy, although there should be no reason for me to be tired since I don’t do much, but whenever I feel like eating some of this ‘bad stuff’ during the season I think back on how I felt, how that is just not functional for my training and for the most part I can walk away without Oreo cookies (just to name one of my weaknesses). 
That period is almost over (thank GOD!), my body is already craving structure, some training and a healthy diet. The next three months (or fall training as I called it earlier) are going to include a lot of core strengthening, I like to take 2 core/pilates classes a week and I am looking forward to getting into TRX.
I will also do a lot of running, I will have a separate post about this in the near future, but my biggest area of opportunity in this IM (and any triathlon) is running. If I want to have a solid race and stay competitive I need to improve my running. So I will be freezing my butt off (hopefully I can add ‘little’ right before butt at some point in the near future after logging all those miles) but I will be out there. Last year I improve my running a lot and it was part of it due to the running volume I did during this time of the year, we are going for the next level which means more days than none you will see me running around the Windward/Webb Bridge rd area… if you see me please honk and wave, I am sure I will appreciate the distraction.

Nobody said it would look pretty

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Who am I and why I am here

I have been meaning to start a blog for a while now, but never found the time. Honestly I am not even sure how much I will be able to update this one, but I am hoping to be able to do it at least once a week. I don’t have the perfect grammar (yeah I know… shocking), nor do I always know how to put things on the right words, Spanish people are known for lack of PC, so this might not even be the typical blog, for all that I know this might never be read by anybody other than me and family but that is the whole point… I am documenting this year ahead of me so that in the future I can come back and read it, and most importantly that my kids can read it in the future. I want them to know how crazy their mom is! And I am one of those people who love writing RRs (race reports) so I know for sure my RRs will not be lost somewhere in my PC anymore, they now have a home!
As an adult I have gone through two huge milestones in my life, and I was able to document these by bloging. In 2004 I married my best friend and then in 2006 & 2008 I became a mom, to my son Marc and my daughter Nora.

Marc & Nora

Mommy hood is so much challenging than I ever thought possible, this is a whole topic on itself that maybe one day I will address on a separate post, but as challenging as it might be I love being home with the kids.

Me & hubby

Being a wife is not any easier, but the four of us try to make our best at making it a ‘functional family’.

The Brahims

It is time to hit another big milestone… doing my first IM. Why now? Well a couple of reasons; first of all I will be turning 40 and I always thought it would be pretty cool to start the new decade with a big statement, I can’t think on a bigger statement than being able to say ‘I am 40 and I am doing an IM’. My second reason is a group decision… triathlon can be a very lonely sport if you do most of your training on your own, but if what you are training for is an IM distance then it becomes just plain miserable. A six time cancer survivor and friend of mine, Brian Balmes, decided as he was laying in a hospital bed recovering from his surgery that he was going to do his second IM in 2012. With Brian doing an IM some friends started talking about doing it with him, to make a long story short we are now 20 of us (12 girls + 8 guys) doing IMFL. It is going to be an exciting year and I can’t wait to go through it with all of them. To make it even better I was able to convince my sister Raquel to join in the fun, so there will be two Gil sisters toeing the start line... it can’t get any better than that!

The Gil sisters

So, come back here for some action as often or as little as you want, in the mean time I will be making my way to IMFL and mumbling about anything and everything that goes through this crazy mind.