Thursday, July 5, 2018

Mont Tremblant 70.3 - Fries covered in gravy covered in cheese

I have raced all over the world and Mont Tremblant is one of my favorite race venues on the planet.  And it's not just because I get fries covered in gravy covered in cheese at the finish.

It's because the race magic at Mont Tremblant is real. The race organization knows how to put on a show and make you feel special. Everything from fighter jets soaring overhead to signal the start of the race to the red carpet you sprint over through transitions. The race venue is beautiful the people are beautiful and the experience is magical. And you get fries covered in gravy covered in cheese at the finish.

Special thanks to Delta Dental for supporting my crazy dreams. I love to work hard and dream big and its so special to have support of a company that believes in me and dreams bigger than me!


THE SWIM - 27:30 ( 1:15/yard)

The fighter jets soared, the gun went off and I got off the line fast! I actually said in my head, "Damn that went well." For 3 blissful minutes I was on the feet of super swimmer Rachel McBride who was on the feet of Meredith Kessler who was on the feet of Jen Spieldenner (3 of the best swimmers in the world/sport).  Shortly after this I deviated left (or they deviated right) either way I was now in the chase pack.  The question is this: with lats like these why can I never hold the front pack?  All feedback is welcome.

THE BIKE -2:30 (21.9 mph)

One benefit of completing 60 Ironman events is I have  experienced ALL. OF. THE. THINGS: intense fatigue, superhuman powers which is then usually followed up by cramping quads, severe nausea, bliss, delusions of grandeur, heartbreak, ecstasy, lothing, ravenousness which is then usually followed up by, once again, severe nausea.

Not every one of those races went well and I've learned a lot from my previous bonks/blowups/sufferfests.  I make a point to make a bad race a learning lesson and I have latched onto some physical and mental tricks when the legs/body refuses to cooperate.  For instance, during the initial 60 minutes of the race my legs would not come around.  First on my list of tricks is reverting to the tried and true bullying technique.  This simple trick involves me verbally harassing my quads.  If the bullying technique falls through I ditch my power meter data and make a point to thank all of the family/friends/sponsors that support me every 5 or so miles. And if that doesn't work I pull out the dependable Donkey card which will be detailed in a moment.

Mont Tremblant does a fabulous job in regards to televising the race.  The TV crew on motorcycles zipped by me at around 25 miles ( just as I was contemplating the donkey move) and stopped for a moment to film. I know the entire race staff at Mont Tremblant so I smiled and waved and they smiled and waved back.  I'm not sure if this was the race magic or my legs just decided to play along but this smiley interaction gave me some gumption. It also coincided with me spotting a few ladies up the road.  I knew this was the moment to pull the move and I decided to do a strong 15 minute surge to try and catch them. Fifteen minutes of above threshold power had me catching and passing the females and moving myself into 5th position and making a big gap on 6-10th. Donkey move #1 of the day pays off!

The RUN - 1:25 ( 6:29/mile)

Right out of the gate my legs were on board. Turnover felt fast, breathing felt in control and I was on the hunt.  The run legs don't always come around so fast so I tried to enjoy the feeling! I looked down and I was holding 6:20's which I thought was perfect for the first 3 miles.  Ry guy was awesome out on course and I couldn't have asked for a better sherpa/support team.

Ry guy brought his road bike so he could navigate the run course better and it seemed as though he was cheering and giving me splits all over the course.  Two mile into the run he screamed that there were 5 girls chasing hard and all were with in 90 seconds. GULP. Talk about a nail bitter.

I was constantly having to think positive and believe I was running faster if not just as fast as the ladies behind me.  When your breathing is labored and your quads are screaming, positive thoughts can be few and far between.  One of my mantras I always recite is: full effort is full victory. This is straight out of my homeboy Ghandi's mouth.  This mantra will come back to help me in a big way at mile 10.

At 10 miles I REALLY started to suffer complete with nausea and the beginnings of quad cramps.  But that is why I train so hard and remember to push even when I am having "off days" in training. In endurance sports it is crucial to teach yourself to suffer. And no one can help you with that. The art of suffering/appreciation for suffering/love of suffering ( whatever you want to call it ) comes from the HEART. 

At mile 10, I was having a hard time keeping any nutrition down and my turnover was slowing. This is when the 6th placed female ran up beside me.  We were now running stride for stride, both breathing hard, focused, hurting.   Ryan was on the sidelines cheering and telling me to be strong and keep charging.

And here is where I made the risky move to run the 10th mile like it was my last mile. I told myself I would run as fast as I could until mile 11 and if it broke me, oh well, at least I gave it my all.  I gritted my teeth, closed my eyes for a second and just went for it. Valerie held my pace change for 5 minutes. Stride for stride, breathing, focused, hurting.  With a little less than 3K to go Valerie surged again.  I pleaded with myself, "Hang on! Dig deep! One step at a time. Keep pushing!"

Suddenly I realized I had a half a step on her and then 2 strides an then I was back in the lead! But I immediately started worrying. Is this fast enough to hold her off? Was my surge going to come back to bite me. Stop thinking! Just run!

I pushed up the hills and threw myself down the hills. Ry was cheering like crazy and with 1 mile to go I see 4th position 15 seconds up the road!  Everything was a blur as I flew up the last hill spurred by the awesome crowd cheering like crazy.   I had 4th place running 10 seconds ahead and 6th place 5 seconds behind me. A 3-way SPRINT to the finish.

And as painful as it was - this kind of racing is what I live for!  And with that finish I successfully qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.  I am honored and excited and I will make the decision to head to South Africa for World's after IRONMAN LAKE PLACID :)


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Lessons Learned in Spain

Barcelona 70.3 would be my first Ironman race back after the extended recovery/get chunky/rest break. After I resumed training I made sure to do 'just enough' and to 'always save some in the tank' to avoid running myself into the ground again.  The 'always save some in the tank' was extremely hard for me.  Truth be told I like all aspects of training but I LOVE to train hard.  The intense sessions are the ones that excite me and energize me.

I believe if you want to grow/get faster/be stronger/crush goals - you need to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Actually, you need to get comfortable being WICKED uncomfortable.  And being 'wicked uncomfortable' in this phase of my life meant NOT racing for strava segments every damn ride, sleeping in past 5:30am and not always racing the guys at swim practice.   

In retrospect, abiding to the 'do just enough' principle was great for my recovery but really terrible for my mindset.  Hard training gives me race courage and I wasn't feeling especially courageous going into Barcelona 70.3 -  But the motto has always been BE BRAVE.  Feeling scared and being brave ESPECIALLY when it's difficult is when all the magic happens.

Lesson 1: "This is a wonderful day. I have never seen it before" Deidre and I flew into Barcelona and took an hour long bus trip up to the beautiful coastal town of Calella.  I could feel the magic of the European city as we hiked our luggage and bikes through the tiny streets of Calella to our hotel.  We took a dip a in the Mediterranean Sea which was a convenient 2 min walk from our hotel and I felt immensely grateful for  the places sport has taken me.  We did a quick check over the luggage - everything arrived including the super fast VELOCIO SPEEDSUITS powered by DELTA DENTAL. Phew.

Lesson 2: "Never Trust Anyone Who Doesn't Drink Doffee" It should be noted that every day started with espresso. What is the appropriate number of espresso/capuccinos/americanos while in Europe? Turns out the answer is N+1.  Jet lag should have been setting in but my workouts were going great. Espresso anyone?

Lesson 3: "If you love life, life will love you right back" One piece of advice when traveling and racing is EMBRACE the culture.  I always make a point of eating the local foods and taking the local mode of transportation. Sport is really fantastic but this is lift after all - LIVE IT.   Embracing the culture in Spain looked like copious amounts of cheese, chocolate, baguettes, espresso and of course basket bikes. 

RACE DAY: "The scariest moment is always just before you start."

The swim start was no joke. Here I am in the middle of the pack about to enter a 1.2 mile water battle. For one reason or another it was an extremely aggressive swim but we were racing in the beautiful Mediterranean Sea so I couldn't help but smile ( and convince myself I was swimming fast).  I exited the water around 6th and started to CHASE.

I wish I had pictures of the bike course because the Catalonian Mountains were no joke. The climbs lasted 45 minutes and the descents were UNREAL.  I have never spent so much time out of my aerobars than I have on this course.  It was deliciously climb-y and beyond beautiful. 

The legs were feeling snappy and I was ready to hunt some ladies down when around mile 10 on the bike I dropped my chain which proceeded to get stuck between the frame and the little ring. DOH.  After 7 minutes of yanking the darn thing as hard as I could I finally dislodged it.  I spent the next few moments ordering myself to stay calm and to avoid over-pacing to make up for lost time.  But my rational brain lost this battle which ended in me putting my head down and chasing as hard as I could until I was nearly cross-eyed. You would think after 60 Ironman races ( yep, 60!) I would learn to be less reactive but once a spaz, always a spaz.

I made it onto the run course in 9th and put my head down to do some serious work. The first few miles felt great. And then it got HOT. Really hot.  I convinced myself that all the other girls were suffering more than me and focused on turnover, ice down the jersey and water on the head.  Five miles into the race I had passed 2 ladies and could see 6th place female a few minutes up the road.  The energy from the crazy Spanish crowds spurred me on and with 1/2 mile left I overtook the 6th position for the last spot on the podium and some prize money.  It felt great to be able to push the body hard again and to take an epic trip with my sister.


Deidre and I have been talking about this adventure non-stop since returning.  The beautiful country, the beautiful people, the delicious wine. 

Lesson 4: The best wines are the ones we drink with sisters.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Race to the Clouds + 2018 Snowshoe Nationals: Mindset is Powerful

"Athletic endurance began to seem like a question of plumbing - whose heart could deliver the most O2 rich blood through the widest vessels to the largest muscles.  There was one big problem with this approach - it couldn't predict who would win an endurance contest..."  

Last week I was gifted the opportunity to Race to the Clouds on the new fat bike AND race the 2018 Dion National Snowshoe Championship.  My present fitness is low right now which is understandable considering the amount of time I took off and how slowly I have been adding volume.  I am presently hovering around 10-11 hours per week which breaks down into the following:

swim ( 3.5 hours/~11k yards/week)

bike ( 5 hours/week)

run ( 1.5 hours/ ~15 miles/week)

strength ( 2 x 30 min sessions)

The old me would have scoffed at the idea of anything less than 20 hours of training/week but I feel proud for giving my body the giant rest it so desperately needed.

The goal of these 2 events was to push hard and maybe get a little fitness boost from the intense efforts as well practice staying mentally tough. Because, lets face it, I was going to suffer. 

First up on the race agenda was RACE TO THE CLOUDS.

Of course the decision to race UP MOUNT WASHINGTON was made about 3 days before the actually race was set to take place.  And this was exactly 4 days after I bought my FAT BIKE.  Isn't there a saying along the lines of, "All good decisions are made in haste?"  No?  Okay, moving on.

I am obviously not THAT smart but smart enough to realize I needed some proper off road training before I race to extremes of elevation on slippery slide-y conditions.  I took the new Fat Felt out for a romp on the roads with Ry Guy. He patiently taught me some skills on little mounds of dirt in the park.  We  then road across one sad patch of snow and then I road confidently home. Hey, this off road thing isn't too hard!

Here is my over-confident-I-got-this face

I then demanded that Ry guy put my road bike pedals and cleats on the fat bike because now that I was an expert fat biker/off roader I meant business.

We arrived at the race site early so I could, of course, do some last minute practice and test the bike on ACTUAL snow.  I immediately regretted the pedals and cleat decision.

 A.) the pedals and cleats were so tight I had to muster all of my energy just to unclip a foot


 B.) As soon as I put a foot down snow would stick to the cleat and turn to ice making it impossible for me to get my foot back in the pedals.

Also, biking on mash potato snow is actually very difficult.  It's nothing like riding on dirt. Gulp.

The race was 3 waves.  First skiers ( GO RY!!!), second snowshoe runners, and finally the fat bikers.

The race starts at the base of the auto road and completes a loop out on the rolling cross country ski trails before the real climbing starts. I started in the middle of the pack thinking I would begin conservatively and 'feel out' the conditions. The gun went off and I was immediately in dead last. I looked behind me. No one.

Here is where I had to muster up all sorts of positive talk and tell my mind to just keep pushing.  Some of the mantras I use when things get tough are BE BRAVE and YOU ARE A FIGHTER.

I also reminded myself that you can't be afraid to fail.  Instead, you have to accept that sometimes you will fail and that is how we find our limitations and then ultimately that is how we improve.

Over and over again I told myself to BE BRAVE and KEEP FIGHTING.  I arrived at the base of the Mount Washington Auto Road ready to climb to the clouds (pictured here in 2nd to last place ).

Be Brave.

You are a fighter.

Turn over the pedals.

 As the race climbed I started to get in the zone.  The snow was packed on the auto road so there was less skill involved and more head-down-grinding.  My strength is climbing on the bike so I was confident I would pass a few people on grueling climb.

As we climbed, I was passing more and more racers started to get in a groove.  I slowly worked my way to the front of the race.  I took a glance at my heart rate. Wow, those are some high numbers!

Be Brave.

You are a fighter.

Turn over the pedals.

I hadn't raced this hard in so long my laborious breathing was welcomed. I wanted to make myself hurt in the best way.  At mile 3 of the climb a spectator shouted that I was the first female and in 12th place overall.  I smiled and got a little adrenaline boost.

I also made a point to be grateful that my body was allowing me to push again. I stole a glance at the views and it was spectacular!

I managed to cross the line as 1st female and gave Ry a hug as he had placed 2nd overall in the ski.  We both agreed this was one of the coolest races and we will definitely come back next year.

"Athletic endurance began to seem like a question of plumbing - whose heart could deliver the most O2 rich blood through the widest vessels to the largest muscles.  There was one big problem with this approach - it couldn't predict who would win an endurance contest..." :)

2018 Dion National Snowshoe Championships.

I told Ry before Nationals that I was so thankful that my body was healthy enough to race.  I just wanted to hear the gun go off and BE TOUGH.  My run volume is extremely low and slow but I didn't want that to stop me from being aggressive.  I knew I had some swim and bike fitness and perhaps that would carry over to snowshoe racing ( which favors a strength-based athlete).

And, I am a huge believer in racing with all of my heart no matter what.

It was a MAGICAL snow year at Nationals. Literally the best snowshoe race conditions I have ever raced: waist deep powder, single track, cold, windy, snowy NARNIA!

I found Sarah Canney before the race and we did a 2 mile warm up together.  I knew Sarah was going to have a great race as I have been following her run training and she has been putting in some serious work.  It's been fun to track her progress and I know there are big things in store for her this year!

I was feeling a little nervous but also psyched on the epic conditions. I told Sarah that when I was suffering out there I was going to remember to smile because these conditions were EPIC.

And suffer I did! As predicted, the race started fast as the defending World Champion and 2x National Champion were in the pack.  I immediately found myself in 3rd place and kept my eye on the leader.  I wasn't wearing my heart rate monitor but I am sure it was maxed out from the gun.  The snow was so deep it made for a race of taking one step forward and 2 steps back.  It was the ultimate strength race and what all snowshoe races should be like! In addition, the ladies raced before the men so we had FIRST tracks on this course. EPIC!!

I fought for as long as I could in 2nd before the 2016 National Champion and Sarah passed me in the waist high snow single track portion.

Here is where I had to stay positive mentally because physically I was failing.  My lungs were on fire, my quads were on fire, and my face was frozen. If I haven't convinced you to try snowshoe racing yet I don't know what will :)

Racing in 2nd place up Prospect Mountain ( a.k.a Narnia)

I found myself running in 4th for the last 35 minutes of the race and boy did I have to dig deep to even make forward progress at times.


After 90 of the most exhausting minutes I crossed the line in 4th and made my 4th National Snowshoe Team (Top 5 make the team).  Hands down of one of the hardest races of this duration I have ever completed.

Racing in 2nd around mile 3.7  - Ry Guy cheering! Me suffering.

Even when it gets hard, never quit the things that are important to you. Throughout the years of racing I have learned that NEVER QUITTING, DIGGING DEEP and BEING BRAVE are really good for your SOUL.  If you practice mentally staying in the game it's amazing what you can accomplish.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Recovering from Adrenal Fatigue and How to Be Brave Podcast

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Kelsey Abbott who is a confidence and performance coach, triathlete and in general awesome person.

Here are some nuggets of the podcast and the full listen can be accessed at the link below.

Amber Ferreira: “Sport is so heartbreaking”

Amber Ferreira is a professional triathlete, a physical therapist and a multisport coach. She’s the 2014 Ironman Lake Placid Champion and the two-time US National Snowshoe champion. She’s also a heart-driven, spunky human who loves to dream big and loves to laugh.
Amber’s laugh is contagious. There’s a lot of it in this episode. Prepare to smile while you listen.
In this episode, we talk about Amber’s pro career to date, her love of racing up mountains, her mindset, resiliency and heart. We dig into her current project—recovering from stage 3 adrenal fatigue. She shares her big goals for this winter: to sleep and gain weight. And we discuss the mental shift required to go from constant movement to a whole lot of stillness. Amber is fun, grounded, brave, real and totally inspiring in this conversation. Listen and laugh along with us.


“Just because your thighs touch or your butt’s a little bigger doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t mean you’re lazy. It doesn’t mean you’ve given up. This time in your life, this is what you should be doing right now.”

“It’s actually really empowering to gain weight, get out of shape and still be okay with it and know that you’re going to be stronger because of it.”

“The endurance community sticks together because everybody has had a good race and everybody has had a race where they look like a little monster running along.”

“We train hard so we can get used to the pain and then accept it on race day.”

“I’d like people to remember me for, ‘when the race got tough, Amber didn’t give up,’ or ‘when life got tough, Amber didn’t give up.’”

“I get a little nervous about accepting pain because racing is painful. But I get more nervous about putting myself out there and racing as hard as I can and then coming up short.”

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Hardest Part

The hardest part about endurance sport is when you train and race your heart out, make sacrifices, put everything on the line and come up short in meeting your goal.

There is no lying I love the most brutal workouts. Bring on the workouts that make you grimace and find that inner strong.  And this is why it  stings to work so hard only to fail. After Ironman Louisville I immediately called Ry and cried and cried and cried because I felt like I had let so many people down.

I also felt like my body let me down. I always thought I could do everything. And why not try to do everything, right? Life is short. I chose to race on the pro Ironman circuit, trying to be the best physical therapist and coach and trainer and rebuild a home.  As it turns out, training hard is really only beneficial if you can ABSORB it and ADAPT.

Sounds obvious as I type it but it is so easy for the type A triathlete crazy girl to fall into a bad habit.  Subpar result? I can fix that with extra training.  It's easy to fall into the mindset that endurance sports rewards the athlete that goes the extra mile and pushes a little bit deeper. But that is not always true.

I am definitely not giving up.  I have too much passion and love and respect for the sport.  So I am going to do the hardest thing right now and take an extended break.  A break to let my body and mind fully heal.

My plan is to get a little out of shape ( yikes ), focus on yoga and daily walks and let the body that has raced 20 Full Ironman, 33 Half Ironman , 3 Marathons and countless bike, run, uphill races in the past 6 years REST.  I don't know how long I will have to rest but I am going to put all of my energy into this scary endeavor.  I am motivated to make 2018 my strongest season!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Finish FAST

I raced DOUBLE this weekend!  (Talk about a little pig in shit.)

First up was a SUPER trail race in Gilford NH to benefit the local conservation and recreation land. My soon to be brother in law race directed and did a fantastic job!!

The course was delightful (even for someone like me who is a disaster on trails). Ry guy took first overall, I took 1st female overall, Deidre snagged 2nd female overall (!!!) and Kanoa took first overall in the 3 miler. Kanoa is coming off a dominating performance at Vermont 50 miler so I won't give him any crap for choosing to race the shorter event. I'll save the sh!t talking for next blog.

After weeks of high volume and intense training for Ironman Louisville I was gifted a mini taper for the upcoming weekend of racing. I chose to participate in the trail race because I had a hunch it would lend optimal Muscle Tension for the half marathon I was racing the next day.  Tapering properly for a race is probably the hardest aspect of training.  The goal of taper is to drop fatigue and sharpen up for race day.  But if you drop too much volume and forgo intensity you risk feeling "flat" on race day.

What works for me is a drop in volume with the right amount of intensity to keep me sharp and keep muscle tension optimal.  I would say I am predominately a slow twitch athlete (duh) so I do well with this set up. A good coach will know their athlete and what is optimal for the athlete and the event they are racing.

My plan for the trail race was to race smooth on the flats and push it on the short, steep uphills in hopes I'd feel "snappy" the next day.
It worked. On half marathon race morning I was super BOUNCY and ready to roll. However, this brings me to the point of this blog which is the importance of the NEGATIVE SPLIT (or how NOT to start a race like a crazy lady.)

I was so excited on race morning and feeling so rested and amped up that I literally started my 1 mile warm up jog at 5:40 pace. Talk about little spaz. Reign it in AMBER.  This got me thinking how important and beneficial it is to start a bit slower and build into longer races to PR YOUR NEXT HALF MARATHON:
I get to race 2x this weekend?! Is it my birthday?

(Just so we are all on the same page a negative split run means the second half of your race is FASTER)

A few keys to a Negative Split and a Race PR:

1.) Start the first 1/4 of the race as what feels like painfully slow.  I promise it will probably only be slightly slower than goal pace. Remember, on race day there are all sorts of stimulants working to make you perceive the race start is easier than it is: adrenaline, coffee (!), a loud starting gun/race music, recent taper.

Personally, I was also born with the Hyperactive Crazy Gene so I have that to deal with as well.

It may be nerve wracking to be slightly behind in pace the first few miles but trust the training and trust the fact that you are setting yourself up for a strong second half which is where the majority of your competition will lose the most time.

At the 5K mark I was paying close attention to Heart Rate

2.) Starting out a bit slower than goal pace helps tolerate taking in a bit more fuel (Infinit Nutrition - super sugar) earlier in the race which can help glycogen stores in the later stages. If you have enough glycogen stores in the later portion of the race finishing faster won't be as difficult and will help you avoid hitting the dreaded wall. 

Furthermore, if you slowly build heart rate to race pace you won't burn through as much glycogen as compared to sprinting out of the gates and spiking your heart rate. Trust me, let the guy wearing the American Flag Tutu sprint up ahead. When you eventually catch and pass him you can tell him how much you love his tutu.
Just chugged 4oz of Infinit. If you look closely you can see me licking my chops

3.) Overtaking people in the latter stages feels great.  No matter how fit you are the last 1/4 of a race hurts! To be passing athletes in the later stages can give a huge mental boost and can inspire you to finish even faster.
Finish FAST

 4.) Focus on crossing the line feeling strong and perhaps it will allow you to recover and adapt a bit quicker for the next race. A race is hard but finishing fast can lead to a feeling of: ‘I can do anything,' rather than feeling like someone just bull-dozered over your legs.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017


“What was the secret, they wanted to know; in a thousand different ways they wanted to know The Secret..." 

..."And not one of them was prepared, truly prepared to believe that it had NOT so much to do with chemicals and zippy mental tricks ( or fancy equipment ) as with that most unprofound and sometimes heart-rending process of removing, molecule by molecule, the very tough rubber that comprised the bottoms of her training shoes. The Trial of Miles; Miles of Trials.”

If you haven't read Once a Runner, you should. The quote aptly refers to doing the WORK. Swim, bike and run hard enough that you remove, molecule by molecule the very tough rubber of your training shoes.  

I ran a double run session today which looked like 12 aerobic miles in the morning followed by a light spin and then 10 miles in the evening with specific pace/tempo work.   This double run workout is great for glycogen sparing and the ability to do faster pace running with less chance of muscle breakdown/fatigue as compared to doing one continuous 22 mile run.

I started the run on fatigued legs and it took some effort to finish that first morning session  It took even more effort to get my butt out the door for the second round.  As I neared the 20 mile mark today it occurred to me that if I wasn't 'training' for these crazy endurance events I wouldn't have done that second run.  I would be living in the gray instead of mustering the fierceness to take big chances and dig in real deep and cry and hurt and laugh and win and lose.

I am deeply thankful for endurance racing and training for the daily lessons learned: Life is tough darling, but so are you. #DoWork it pays off.