Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Only Way To Know How Strong You'll Get...

The Only Way To Know How Strong You'll to keep on testing your limits. (Yep, I stole that quote from Jon Kent. You know Jon Kent? Father of Superman. It's got to be good advice...)

The training volume and intensity may be just picking up speed but that doesn't mean I haven't been hard at work doing all sorts of crazy things. My big season goals have been etched in stone and duck taped to the refrigerator.  BUT in the mean time I needed some short-term winter goals to satisfy my hyperactive self. The goals listed below are slightly smaller - slightly crazier - may not make me a better triathlete-but they are too fun to pass up- in no particular order:

Goal #1

Master the Pull Up. And I mean I want to be able to do 20 in a row.   Right now I can do maybe 7. On a good day. And I look like a wiggle worm on the last 2.
Wiggle Worm!

Goal #2

Master the Butterfly. This weekend I will be participating in the New England Masters Short Course Championships. Yeeehawww. I get to start off the blocks and try and complete 200 METERS of butterfly. If I don't drown it will be a good marker of forward progress.

It is a MASTERS meet so I will likely be getting schooled by this guy.
Goal #3:

Complete at least 4 MONSTER WINTER HIKES. Just because! And because I live in New Hampshire. And because the mountains are right outside my doorstep. And because winter hiking makes you strong like bull. And, and, and...

the mountains are BEAUTIFUL...

Goal #4

Take back my 2011 National Snowshoe title. Did you know snowshoeing racing was a national sport? :) Oh yeah!!! And this year Nationals are in Vermont!

My atomic face plant happened shortly after this great pic was snapped. 

Goal #5

Learn to cook....

Just kidding!!!  I hate reading recipes and I prefer the little of this, little of that method....and then a little more of this... Which is why when I attempted to cook Thanksgiving Turkey the bird came out looking a little like this:

Half raw, half blackened. And then a small house fire ensued....

Test your limits this winter!!!!!!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A pair of 7's and 9:07!

Phew, what a week!  I first got the idea for the dirty double (Miami 70.3 followed 6 days later by Ironman Florida) after the boss sent out an e-mail entitled: Use It Up! Meaning, use up the fitness you spent all season gaining on some end of the season RACING. The wheels starting turning and soon after the Miami 70.3/Florida IM double was set in stone.

I have been wanting to go back to Miami 70.3 since about 5 minutes after my race there in 2012. I had a tough day last year complete with groin cramping and stomach issues and I wanted to redeem myself. The goal for Miami was to better my 2012 time and prove to myself that I can compete with the best (the international field this year was STACKED).

The adventures started early as the swim was non-wetsuit and full of weeds! I laugh now but at one point I was completely immersed in swamp like willow weeds.  I exited the water thinking this was the toughest swim of my career. Never did I imagine I would eat my words in 6 days at Florida Ironman.

Out of the water and onto the speed machine I put my head down and got to work. The flat course is ironically difficult because of strong winds and the thus need to constantly produce power. Aggressive biking was the goal for the race however it became clear half way through that I was totally over biking. I decided to play the odds (it was the end of the season after all) and continued to push hard on the pedals and pound down the GU Roctane. I was feeling quite good.  However, the wind and heat were turning up their A-games and finally I allowed myself to look at my average power for the ride.  After seeing the number I usually hold for 10 minute intervals I bolted straight up and laughed out loud. Somebody (me) might be doing a death march on the run.

Not thinking, just biking.
As happy as I was with my ride entering T2 was very scary because it would be the first time I would really see how much damage I had done to the run legs. And yes, the quads had taken a beating.  Two strides into the run and I was already having to chase off the demons. The bike had sapped the legs and I was absolutely suffering the first 2 miles.  I reminded myself to think positive and put one foot in front of the other and before I knew it things started to come around.  Danny was cheering his head off and informed me that Leanda had 4 minutes on me but he thought I'd catch her.  This gave me a jolt of adrenaline and soon I was hearing splits that I had closed the gap to 3 minutes and then 90 seconds and then with 2 miles to go I was within 45 seconds of her. GO legs GO!  Finishing the race stronger than I started was a huge confidence booster considering the craziness that went down on the bike.  I just missed catching the one and only Leanda Cave by 25 seconds but I cross the line with a smile.  70.3 PR done and dusted! 6 days till Ironman Florida.
Two of the tricks in pulling off a double like this is to enter well prepared and then to take full advantage of all the recovery protocols.  Usually post race I indulge in an obnoxiously large burger and fries. This time it would be different. I crossed the line of Miami 70.3 extremely happy with my race but so much of me wanted an even stronger performance at Ironman Florida. So I hydrated and took a cold bath, squeezed into the Zoot compression and then it was off to Java and Juice for some wheat grass, lemon and beet juice smoothies and huge organic salads. (Oh just slightly less exciting than a burger and fries). I also spent a solid amount of time with purple teeth (and poop!) from all the beet juice I was ingesting. Sorry, I know, TMI.

All for the love of the sport.
Next stop - Panama Beach City for Ironman Florida!

We had some driving to do but we also had a week. In that time we made it to Java and Juice again (and again), got 2 massages, surprised my doctor cousin at work, took advantage of a water park, explored a self-tour Alligator park (yikes), snorkeled, road the speed machine a little, splashed around in the gulf of mexico, ate oysters, rode some waves, tickled the sand with our toes, spotted a bald eagle, discovered 2 great coffee shops (I chose decaf), got my hair cut, indulged in fresh seafood, and attended the HUGE pro meeting for Ironman Florida. Phew!

White Sand....Ahhhhh

Dinner on the Bay at the Shrimp Boat

Coffee! It excites me even when its Decaf
FINNS: local, fresh, organic, fish tacos!

Pre race Oyster. Yeah, that's right.

Evening Sunset from our room.

Before I knew it race morning was here and I was getting my butt handed to me in the swim:

IM Florida: Flat Bike Course, NOT flat swim.
I took one look at the swim course on Ironman morning and was pretty much jumping with the excitement of a coma patient.  Normally I love challenging things but this was a little scary.  But how could I complain when everyone had to deal with it? Gun goes off and I'm attempting to tackle race #2 as the angry Gulf of Mexico rears its ugly head. After multiple run ins with giant waves and nauseating swells it looked like I had been practicing a new swim stroke which unfortunately resembled something more like an out of control somersault.   I exited the water sick to my stomach and so beat up my first thought was: I am in for a looooonnnggg day.

Endurance racing has taught me a lot including the power of positive thinking.  The mental component is crucial to master in order to have success in long races.  It is absolutely true that the mind can either win or lose a race.  So I kept repeating a 6 word mantra my friend Andrew e-mailed me a few days before the race: 

Steady, Primal, Consistent.

Focus, Hammer On, Be great. 

Over, and over and over I repeated those 6 words. After 10 miles of biking I was totally feeling the mojo and I was just hammering on!

If racing Miami 70.3 6 days prior did anything positive for me it gave me a great deal of confidence in my current bike fitness. I broke through a barrier in that race and was determined to continue with the aggressive riding. At times I laughed to myself because I knew I was taking crazy chances on the bike but it was the last race of the season, go big or go home right? I was chasing girls down, guzzling the Roctane, dumping water over the head, staying cool and going after it.  I had a bit of a low point at mile 90 but other than that the energy was steady and I knew I was in for a great bike split.

Not thinking, just riding.

I stopped the Garmin after 4:48 of riding. Yeah!  I sprinted into transition, zipped into the Kiawis and started moving. Danny reported to me that I was currently in 10th. I smiled and tried to relax. I slowed at the aid stations and focused on fueling, cooling and steady breathing. I was clicking off 6:45 miles and if felt like a jog. So much of me just wanted to GO! And this may have been due to the fact that I was still in half ironman race mode or possibly due to the awesome crowd and Danny support.

After a few miles I moved into 9th and then caught 8th. I went through a bit of a rough patch around mile 16 but regrouped, cooled off with ice down the shirt and tried to remind myself that I only had 2 x 5 miles left. Easy!  At around mile 18 I moved into 6th place and I was about 20 seconds down from 5th when the wheels started to come off. The mind was willing and wanting but the legs were not responding.  In the last 4 miles it was if slowly but surely each of my little mitochondria crossed their arms and called it quits.  The Ironman demons were out in full force.

Ironman Demon
But Danny reminded me that I only had 4 more miles. Run, Amber Run!

Double Ouch

 In the end I crossed the line in 7th and really could not have been happier. I went 9:07 and was absolutely jumping for joy. This was a huge breakthrough race for me that stoked the fire.  I feel so lucky to be racing these super girls and it just goes to show how the sport is growing. In 2010 9:07 would have been 1st, 2011 it would have been 2nd and 2012 it would have secured 3rd.

Of course I really don't deserve the credit because I have a HUGE team of support: Kurt Perham (PBM Coaching), Danny Ferreira, Zoot!, GU, Garmin, McCyles (Myles Chase), super friend and training partner Ryan Kelly!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Quick Update: The Dirty Double - Florida Edition

In 7 days this crazy kid will toe the line of Miami 70.3 ready to fight hard and then recover harder because after Miami, and just 6 days later, I will be toeing the line of the Florida Ironman. The purpose of the dirty double is to try and scoop up some points for the 2014 season, use up my fitness, and to honor my crazy self! I am lucky the boss OK'd my request even though I'm sure multiple eye rolls ensued after he got my e-mail begging to race back to back.

Now that I'm in a bit of a taper mode I am able to look back at the past 4 weeks with a smile. The volume during the past 4 weeks was LARGE! Big rides, big runs, copious amounts of GU, lots of laughing, a little pouting but nothing that these 2 staples couldn't fix:



I am happy to report that I stayed mentally tough and nailed every workout. This does NOT mean every workout was pretty but I made a habit to train the MIND during rough patches and practiced positive thinking when the going got tough.  Because unless your super human there is nothing easy about a 6 hour the rain...with 2 flats.  

After 70.3 World Champs, the house cleaning, phone calls and blogging went out the window because I was either here:

OR here:

OR Here:

And sometimes I really wanted to be here on the back of this:

But now that the work is done I'm super excited to race! I have nothing to lose and I am going to put up a great big fight!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

70.3 World Championships: Giving my inner critic a swift kick in the booty!

Danny and I arrived in Vegas for the Ironman 70.3 WorldChampionships on Wednesday. And then it hit me: I would be toeing the line with the best Professional female triathletes in the world on Sunday.  Yay! To say I was a little excited was an understatement. I felt fit and ready to fight a honest battle.  This year has been one of mini breakthroughs and benchmarks and I felt motivated to race aggressively against some of the fiercest girls in the world in fabulous Vegas.

The training on Wednesday was a swim session and shake out run.  Since we were both tired from travel I decided to complete my swim workout in our hotel pool since it was quite large.  I did briefly forget that I was in crazy Vegas vacation land which meant I spent the majority of the swim dolphin diving and zig-zagging over/under/through the copious amounts of tipsy Vegas goers.  Just picture dozens of bikini/speedo wearing drunkards and ME with my swim cap, goggles and one piece.  I was happy to have made it out alive. 
Big Dork

After the scorcher of the shake out run (temps hit 105!) we spent some time wrestling the one arm bandits.  I chose the penny slot machines because that’s the kind of high roller I am.  And I would like to point out that at one beautiful moment in time I was 360 up. And I’m talking 3 dollars and 60 big cents. And then I lost it all.  But you know what they say in Vegas? Fold and forget.

On Thursday I completed my swim workout at the local YMCA. It was a beautiful facility with no drunkards. Perfect. I then hopped on the speedy Felt DA for a ride which was very short lived because I couldn't shift.  I dismounted thinking I would give it another check over since yours truly assembled the bike and that is always a fingers-crossed-hope-I-did-it-right ordeal.  Soon after getting off the bike I noticed the pulley system of the rear derailleur was in bad shape. 

First I cried. And then I got down to business. Luckily my great friend and bike mechanic, Myles Chase, would be flying into Vegas that day.  

Short story: we ended up over-nighting a rear derailleur. 

Long story: the derailleur did NOT arrive in 24 hours and fell subject to Murphy’s law.  And the long story also involves a grand UPS mix up, a lazy loading dock, an incompetent stripper, a large annual gay parade and the sketchiest back alley Vegas has to offer.  What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. All you need to know was I got my derailleur.  ;) 

My sister was also competing in the race and it was awesome to have her there. Our parents came down to cheer/Sherpa as well so the positive energy was flying high.  We filled the days with lots of relaxing, laughing, eating and of course wrestling some one arm bandits. 

Race day came quickly as always. I miraculously was able to sleep the night before which may or may not be due to the VERY strict caffeine taper I had completed. I started 2 weeks out and made an honest effort to wean my way down to 0 mg of caffeine for several days pre-race.  And if you know me and my coffee addiction this was a big win for me.

Race morning I woke with good energy at 3:30am, showered, massaged my muscles, ate my breakfast and had my first coffee in weeks. Ahh, the sweet nectar of the Gods!  I was totally ready to go and then someone gifted me the best race day present: As we drove to Henderson it started to sprinkle. And then it started to RAIN. It was raining in the desert. Sweet Jalissa!  I was psyched, smiling ear to ear. I LOVE racing in the rain and to go from expecting race day to be a dry 105 degree scorcher to getting rain and humidity made me giddy.

Danny and Myles had scored themselves VIP passes so they were in transition helping the sisters out. The rain was cooling me down, but even so, right before heading off to the swim start I shoved a mound of ice down my Zoot speedsuit. The water was 80 degrees and I had no intention of overheating 20 minutes into a 4+ hour day.  I said good luck to my sis, my awesome teammate Heather Jackson, my friend Magali and then I was diving into the brackish water that is Lake Las Vegas. They announced the pros, gun goes off and I’m feeling great! And then trouble strikes. I am on the front line but a distinct pack is forming to my right and my left. I want to jump on a lead pack but I have to literally make a split decision. I chose the pack to my right because the course eventually turns right but I got caught up on some slow feet and had to swim to the very edge of the big pack until I moved myself up to the top of the 12 girl pack. I spot Magali and Heather Wurtele so I know I’m swimming strong. Gotta love aquasphere goggles for allowing you to actually survey your environment.

The pace felt easy and relaxed.  Actually, a little too easy so I swam out to the side of the pack to test some open water and tried to make a move. That’s when someone swam over me and then another grabbed my feet and pulled me under. Never had that happen! I calmed my breathing and made the executive decision to expend as little energy as I could in the swim.

I exited the water and sprinted through the long transition. I mounted the Felt (with the disc!) and immediately had to discard the glasses. It was dark and pouring. I laughed out loud. It’s raining in Vegas!  

The first 5 miles of the bike I dealt with some bad luck and got stuck behind some girls who were sitting up going down the first descent. I lost some time navigating around them and it frustrated me as I knew my teammate Mandy Mclane was just up the road and I wanted to bridge the gap. Cat Morrison passed me around 20 miles in and I tried my hardest to keep her in sight. I stood up on the hills and tucked my head and pushed hard on the pedals.  I was trying to stay aero and do all the little things the head honcho Kurt taught me but at the same time my stomach started to revolt. After that point I had trouble keeping any liquid down and I spent the ride vomiting the GU I tried to take down. At one point I wanted to put my head in my aero bars and cry.  My worst enemy was giving me 100 reasons why I should throw the towel in.  I was way out in no-man land, feeling sick and not very powerful. I knew how important nutrition is on the bike and here I was unable to take anything down. Would I be able to even finish? And then it happened. I smartened up and clubbed my inner critic over the head.  

I began to think of all the POSITIVES. All the wonderful people I have in my life that had helped me get here: my husband, my coach, my training partner Ryan Kelly, Myles Chase/MC cycles, my mom and dad and so many others along the way.  If I wimped out, I would not be honoring them.  At that moment I quieted my mind and regrouped.

Of course it’s easy to have self-confidence when the race is going great.  But I am a strong believer that BIG breakthroughs rarely take place in that environment. The most worthy breakthroughs happen when you dig yourself out of very uncomfortable/tough situations.  During the race, I believed that even on a day of vomiting my nutrition, getting T-boned on the swim and getting caught in no-man’s land, a breakthrough was possible but not if I quit.  I was going to fight tooth and nail if I had to and get myself to the finish line.    

I finally dismounted the bike, slipped into the Zoot Kiawis and sprinted out of transition. The miracle of this day was I felt OK on the run.  Except for the 4 emergency bathroom stops - at least I wasn’t throwing up - I felt better than I thought considering I had zero nutrition in me. My cadence was up and I was chasing girls down. The course was an intense roller coaster and an absolute quad buster. My Mom, Dad, Danny, Myles, Jim Johnson and PJ (my wonderful homestay/friends from Oceanside), Jake, Kim and other Zooters were cheering like crazy and it was so helpful. I was smiling on the run and absolutely loving that I was finally getting in a groove!  

I crossed the line hurting, suffering and smiling. The moral of the story is there is ABSOLUTELY no harm in giving 100%. Ever. Even if 100% on that day does not live up to your expectations. After giving my inner critic a swift kick in the booty I was able to move past the challenge of the moment and strengthen myself as an athlete, physically and most importantly, mentally.  I stayed tough, stayed engaged, gave 100% and got what I was looking for: a world championship worthy mental and physical battle.

Next up: The dirty double of Miami 70.3 and Florida Ironman!


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Timberman 70.3 Race Report

Last year at Timberman 70.3 I was dealing with a slow healing hip injury and opted to compete in just the swim-bike portion.  It was very hard to drop out after the bike in 2012 but I knew it was the right thing to do.  It definitely left me wanting revenge and to prove to myself that I was a stronger more durable athlete than I was one year ago.  I was extremely excited to return to my hometown course and really give it a go.  I was also prepared to take some chances this year as I was already qualified for Vegas and this race would be a good indicator of fitness.

Because of the excellent race organization, challenging course and large prize purse ($50,000) Timberman always attracts a strong field.  This year was no different and attracted the likes of Andy Potts, Terenzo Bezzone, Leon Griffin, Amanda Stevens and Melissa Hauschilt as well as many other strong pros which would make for some fast racing!

The day before the race I had my traditional gluttonous pancake breakfast with Danny and my sister Deidre. We then rolled ourselves to the pre race meeting and pro panel. I was honored to take part in the panel and it was great fun to joke around with the Melissa and Amanda. Two very humble and very fast girls.

I had a great "homestay" with my friends Audra and Alex. Alex made me the best dinner before the race and for that I owe him big time.  Thanks so much you two!

Race morning snuck up fast - (I dealt with my usual race night insomnia...Anyone out there have any ideas how to fix that?) - and before I knew it I was chugging some coffee and getting ready to DO WORK.

SWIM: 27:17

The video below is worth watching. Stroke for stroke this is how the swim went down. I somehow landed myself smack dab between super swimmers Mandy McLane and Miranda Tomenson.  And let me repeat: I was in the middle.  Lots of time for the little menace to strike again.  I would swim into Miranda, over-correct and swim into Mandy, say sorry under water, over correct and swim into Miranda.  Oops.

The menace

Except for the feeling of claustrophobia throughout the entire swim I was happy with how relaxed and strong I felt. I was also confident Mandy and Miranda would swim quick which meant minimal thinking and guess work on my part.  And as far as I'm concerned the less thinking I have to do, the better.

Bike:  2:29:01

HOLY MOLY!  My bike legs are slowly coming around. This was a big step in the right direction.  Lot's of credit goes out to this guy:
See that blood on his face?  He means business.
And lot's of credit goes out to these guys from MC CYCLES:

See that Aero helmet and moped?  He means business.

See that intensity he has during flip cup?  He means business.

And so I was determined to be all business on the bike.  I was frustrated with my performance in Germany. I know I am a better athlete then the one that showed up on that particular race day. However, I've come to realize that you can't always predict when you are going to have a not so great race. No matter how hard you train, sometimes you just have an off day. I had an off day in Frankfurt but I did NOT let it get me down. I know that one bad race doesn't define you and it really is all about the journey.  Onward!

I started the bike feeling a bit nauseous but kept the positive thoughts flowing. After 20 minutes I had my game face on and was rolling along on the speedy Felt going back and forth with Mandy and eventually Miranda.  I love a good hometown course because I know every bump and turn and hill. Keeping the speed rolling into and out of the turns is hugely beneficial in saving watts but keeping up speed.

I actually felt strong enough to charge on a flat section. This never happens to me. Flat sections are this little midget's nemesis.

Pulling away on the flat. What!?

I did feel a tinge of remorse charging on the flat because Mandy was fighting a great battle with me but I also knew she could run so I was actually excited to get a few minutes on her entering T2.

Head down charging.
And in case you were wondering, I am indeed aero in the above picture. As Kurt will point out: the pointy end of my helmet is much smaller than my head. So head tucked = good aero position. And head tucked is especially good if you have an exceptionally large melon.

RUN: 1:27:17

First things first, I would like to give a shout out to my lead biker. What an awesome volunteer. She absolutely made my day.  I needed her words of encouragement because I had so many bad thoughts popping up in my head. I would be cruising along and then think: On no! Look how fast the girls are running behind you.  I spent the entire run trying to think positive and stay focused. I was pushing as hard as I could and I could only hope it would be enough.  There were so many people out on the course giving me words of encouragement and Danny and Ry were giving me splits that were also encouraging as I was slowly catching Amanda Stevens.

I finally hit the last mile and breathed a sigh of relief. I was confident I had secured 3rd female and that was a great feeling on a hometown course.


At this particular moment in time I thought it would be appropriate to clap for myself. Not sure what I was thinking.

Amanda, Amber, Melissa
Overall the race was a big step in the right direction and makes me even more excited for VEGAS BABY!  2 weeks!

Thursday, August 8, 2013


I am happy to report I took the overall female win and broke the course record this past weekend at Top Notch Triathlon. This event is great fun and anyone looking for a challenge should mark the date on their calendar for next year. The event starts with the bike which is half road and half mountain style, transitions to a beautiful swim across Echo Lake and finishes with a quad busting run up Cannon (mountain goat style). 

Overall I felt very strong the entire day which was a pleasant surprise because this was a non taper event. The morning started with showers but as the seconds ticked down to start the sun starting poking through and it got warm!  As soon as the gun went off and I charged to the front hoping to pocket some time because there was a 100% chance I would be losing ground as soon as I entered the woods. I’m not only awful at mountain biking I’m actually quite the menace.  

And this is how the  mountain bike portion went down:  attempt to bunny hop a rock, fail, scream like a child, fall off the bike, curse, fumble to get back on,  pedal like hell to make up time, face plant, curse, mount the darn bike again, inadvertently get in someone’s way, apologize, pedal pedal pedal to try and catch said person,  hit a rock, nose dive over the handle bars, face plant, and curse.  If nothing else, my spastic riding gets the heart rate going which turned out to be a good thing. Historically, I have had great swims post spaz-attacks and this year was no different. I called out one last curse and hurled myself into the water like a crazy amazon lady.  I noticed my arm turnover was fast and my catch was strong. I exited the water in 15 overall and also was lucky enough to break the female swim course record.  Who would have thought riding like a goon could help your swim stroke?
The hill run was what I was looking forward to all day because this is where I am in my element. My secret dream is that all Ironman will someday end in a 26.2 mile UPHILL run. J  I smiled at the awesome crowd as they cheered me on and informed me I was first girl. I jumped into my ZOOT SHOES and charged up the hill. 

Right off the bat I felt strong. I passed a few guys and found myself in 10th overall. My breathing was steady and my legs were ready to charge.  I was running with a great guy who I later learned was a talented Nordic ski racer and we kept encouraging each other through labored gasps the entire way.   The percent grade was relentless but I’m pleased that I kept the pace up and was able to run the entire grind except for about 30 seconds during the rocky scree section.  I crossed the line with the run course record, overall female course record, and and 6th  human overall. The first person I congratulated at the finish was my great friend Ryan Kelly who took 2nd overall and bested the guys course record!  

To date, my season has been full of pleasant surprises and I am surpassing many of my goals.  Because of this, numerous people have approached me and asked me what I have done differently in my training this year.  And my answer is: NOTHING. I have changed nothing and this is a great thing.   The secret is this: I have an outstanding coach who I believe in 100%.  I have been fortunate enough to be amazingly consistent in my training, I have a wonderfully supportive husband  and I have great, great training partners.  I can count on one hand how many workouts I have missed in the past 3 years.   I have put my head down and have been consistent day after day;  5 hour trainer rides, pool workouts that make the lungs scream, stupid long bike rides in the rain and early morning long runs with the stomach and the legs revolting.  I believe that if I am consistently strong and I push through the sub par workouts and the lactic acid  and bottle up all the positive energy I get from nailing workouts  I never thought I would get though, I believe that I will surpass even my wildest dreams...   

Up next: Timberman 70.3!!  

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Vegas bound and Ich Lieben Germany!

I will rewind a bit to June and my 5th 70.3 of the season: Mont Tremblant 70.3.  I went into the race a bit tired because the weeks leading up went down like this: 

Race three 70.3's to chase Vegas points
Jump into training for Ironman Frankfurt 
Race a 70.3 to chase Vegas points
Right back in the saddle training for Ironman Frankfurt
Race a 70.3 to chase Vegas points


There was no doubt I had accrued a bit of fatigue in the legs but I also felt myself getting stronger and I really needed one last solid 70.3 to solidify my spot to the World Championships in September. 

Overall Mont Tremblant was great fun.  The race kicked off with a bag-piper, a cannon and what I thought were fireworks (but that last part could have been in my head.)  I fought hard in the swim and found myself in good position heading out onto the bike. The bike course was beautiful and green which took my mind off the lack of power my little quads were able to push.  I struggled the entire race and was proud that I was at least able to fight off all the mental demons that were thrown my way.  When Christine Fletcher caught and passed me on the bike she offered some words of encouragement: "Don't worry Amber you will get off the bike and run some people down today."  And this is one of the many examples why I feel so lucky to be racing pro along side these awesome women.  I feel honored to call so many of them my friends. We push each other to the limit on the race course but in the end I can honestly say I love to see them succeed as much as I love to succeed.    When all was said and done, I raced myself to 4th on very tired legs but managed to get stronger as the race went on.  Even though I view 4th as the cruelest finishing spot in endurance racing I have to admit I was content with the placing as I stayed mentally tough the entire day.  I was also stoked to see the powerhouse Linsey Corbin dominate the field after dealing with injury.  Come backs like that are truly inspiring.   

In the end, Mont tremblant is a spectacular venue.  They absolutely embraced the Ironman which is important as they will host a staggering 4 world class races next year: a 5150 in June, a 70.3 in June, Ironman in August and the WOLRD CHAMPIONSHIPS for 70.3 in September! I am absolutely stoked for the change in venue for 70.3 and think that it will be a fabulous place to host a world championship race.
Amber, Magali, Linsey, Annie

So with my spot to Vegas solidified I went into Germany with nothing to lose. I knew deep down I was a bit tired but I was very excited to race my first full Ironman of the season and test out the old diesel engine.

We arrived in Germany on Tuesday via a red eye. Germany is 6 hours ahead of us and even though Dan and I were exhausted we made the executive decision to stay up and explore the city.  Like 2 little zombies we walked around Frankfurt and soon stumbled upon the beer gardens. It was a beautiful night on the river and with the excitement of being in a new country, the good beer and the fun atmosphere we perked right back up.

The next few days were filled with castle hunting in Heidelberg and Darmstadt and then an ancient bathing experience at Baden Baden. This involved hot tubs, cold tubs, german scrub downs, steam rooms and herbal aroma steam vaults.  It was slightly nerve wracking in the beginning until you embrace the sans clothing community bathing experience.

6 pretzels, 3 helpings of sauerkraut, 3 castles, and one big 'ole scrub down later it was Friday morning and I was getting blood drawn for the doping control pre race.  Next up was the race meeting in which I quickly realized I was not in Kansas anymore. The Europeans just seem to bring more intensity to everything and everything about the race had a world championship feel.

Swim: 52:14
Oh yeah! I swam aggressively in the beginning got in a good group of german guys and rode the draft to the finish. The transition started with a uphill sand climb and like lickety split I was well into the bike course.

Bike: 5:18
The bike was double loop style complete with teeth chattering cobblestone, winding roads, switch backs, sweeping turns, hay bails (in case you misjudged a sweeping turn), steep downhills, and steep uphills with crazy German fans who understand bike racing. It was Tour de France style!  

The basic truth about riding on cobblestones is the uneven surface KILLS your speed and forward momentum.  On cobblestones there is no place to hide, if you don't pull up your big girl panties and pedal hard and aggressively you might as well dismount the bike and walk home.  This is the place to apply some brute power.  And this is why I came to race in Europe. Test myself on a very difficult course against tough as nails competition.  I can't say I am master of the cobblestones but I will be back!

The bike course proved to be relentless and to throw another monkey wrench in the mix every time I asked for gatorade on the bike I got VASSER!  (Water!) Maybe it was the language barrier or maybe the Europeans are too tough for that silly electrolyte mix.  I kept thinking to myself okay time to problem solve. I love problem solving. So with sans gatorade I was force to ingest more GU's to get some sodium in.  And just before I turned into a little pot belly pig stuffed with far too many GU's I was gladly handing my bike to a kind volunteer. 

RUN: 3:30:01
UGH! The run started promising as the first 14 miles I was right on 7:15 pace. I had the pleasure of running with the speedy Charisa Wernick for awhile and we seemed to be rolling right along. And then something happened. Maybe the lack of gatorade/calories caught up with me but my leg turnover came to a screeching halt.  The one thing that saved me from cry baby status was Danny, Genny, Brando and Kyle and Greg on the side lines cheering their crazy heads off.  The run course was 4 loops around the river which were very populated with fans (and bier gardens!).  As much as I was hurting I was also loving the energy and, truth be told, I really do always enjoy a good solid butt kicking.  And that is what Ironman Frankfurt gifted me.  The last 10K was an absolute death march.  Everything below the waist was seizing and everything above the waist was crumbling.  
But the finish line is eventual and before I knew it I was running down the red carpet so happy to be  here!
Lucky number 13th overall
I crossed the line, hugged a volunteer and then my world started to slowly close in on me and moments later I woke up horizontal with a IV.  Oops.

Many FIRSTS in Frankfurt:
1.) first time racing on European soil
2.) first time completing the entire 112 bike portion with only water!
3.) first time on cobblestones
4.) first time hitting the real ironman wall
5.) first time in the med tent 

In the end it was an absolute adventure and I would jump at the chance to go back. I raced as hard as I could, learned a lot and feel even more motivated to tackle the second half of the season. And just to clarify, the second half of my season kicks off with a midseason break.  And let me tell you I am mastering the sleeping in, legs up, dessert indulging days.