Thursday, December 20, 2012

What a ride!

One of the goals of this blog is to inspire people to EXPLORE the big, beautiful world!  The rivers and hills and roads and lakes gives us abundant avenues to FIGHT APATHY and go discover who we are, push past our boundaries all the while smiling and sweating and hurting and ultimately discovering that:  
"Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!"

This year we went from Oceanside to New Orleans to Bristol to Maryland to Gilford to Franconia to Maine and then more Maine to Poconos to Miami to Arizona! 

In no particular order and in beautiful photo format here was the 2012 situation:
Doing my #1 dance move before the Poconos 70.3

Llamas? Hairy Moose?

On top of Mt K.


Dancing on the Moon

Trying to avoid Popsicle status  on LaFayette
Zooters at Eagleman!

My twin!

Everyone needs a lift 



Very true

Working on my aero situation

Dancing in the rain

Doling out some love

Rock and Race!

thinking I am much more aero than I actually am...
Fueling the tank

Tri Bike Transport ROCKS!

This was taken soon after IM Arizona. Laughing because I just realized that due to recent quad pummeling I may be permanently occupying this chair

This was also taken soon after IM arizona. Laughing because I have been hiking for 5 minutes and I am near cardiac arrest


Chasing down Danny

Sweating like a pig

No limits!

Cheering on Glo bug!

Climbing again

Dancing again
That's a wrap!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Save The Best For Last - Ironman Arizona Race Report

Let's do this a bit differently:

11th Professional Female

67th out of 2,954 Athletes

Swim:  56:53

I went into this Ironman wanting badly to break the 55 minute mark. Arizona's one loop swim course is perfect for me; smooth, cold water and female professionals were starting 5 minutes back from the males.  Meaning the swim would be slightly less of a late-night all-out brawl variety.   I positioned myself right next to Ironman Champion super swimmer Meredith Kessler and double World Champion Leanda Cave .  Gotta set your sights high, right?! :)  This particular race start is so exciting because of the size of the pro field and the fact that thousands of spectators are whooping and hollering above us on the beautifully lit bridge.

The familiar Ironman Cannon signals the start and I hung on to Cave and Kessler for about.....5 minutes.  Ugh! I really have to work on sprinting off the line.  I also had not-so-conveniently found myself in no man's land.  I refused to swim this Ironman as the lone guppy so I focused hard on catching the few girls ahead and as many male pro's as I could.  At the first turn around buoy I sighted a sliver cap - male pro number one! Go get him and don't let him sit on your feet!   I made the pass and sighted another silver cap - male pro number 2!  The swim would continue like this until I exited the water in 56:53 in 7th place.

Transition: 3:53

Thank you to the 6 (six!) Ironman volunteers for stripping my wet suit. I have the lovely habit of getting stuck in that thing. I'm still a work in progress.

Bike: 5:07:50

WOOHOO!  [Insert me jumping up and down and doing the happy dance].  The bike portion is a huge work in progress but the race proved that things are coming along.  And I have the man below to thank for that.

Kurt Perham of PBM Coaching - My Coach!!
I was super excited for this bike course because in my honest opinion(IMHO) breaking 112 miles into 3 loops is the way to go.  I started the first lap smooth and steady and tried finding speed everywhere I could.  Linsey Corbin passed me about 45 in and yelled GO GIRL!  I am a huge Linsey fan and I secretly hoped she would win. (She did!)  No more Mrs nice girl now. When Corinne Abraham  tried to pass I fought back for 92 miles, saying tiny prayers that my groin didn't cramp like it did in Miami and resisting every urge to lift my head even a centimeter to soak in the beautiful Arizona landscape.  As per usual the wind made a 180 degree shift the second loop.  I rolled into T2 in 5:07! WHOOP WHOOP!  And next year I will get my hands on a Zipp disc so I can go all WHOMP WHOMP on the Bee Line highway.

T2: 1:21

Rolled in, shoes on, rolled out.

Run: 3:24

Ugh. This 26.2 was also known as Amber's Arizona Tour-of-the-Port-a-Potties.  Ooops.  The run PACE left a lot to be desired. For the most part it was a mix of low 7's and then high 7's, potty stops, and then the last 5 miles I am calling upon every little mitochondria to try and run sub 8's. The good news was I saw my twin Angi Axmann  who always makes me laugh-even when I am hurting!

Finish: 9:34:51

A solid race on my favorite course. I will be back next year for sure!

Thank you to all my sponsors: Zoot, GU, Garmin, SPY, PR Bar and MYLES CHASE of MC CYCLES

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Poke - a - Nose 70.3

Out with the old and in with the new! Before I get into the race report I wanted to take a second to say goodbye and good riddance to something that my friend Ryan should have retired back in 1988. But he didn't. He hung on to that dear, wrinkly, decrepit wetsuit for some unknown reason to the rest of the triathlon world who could clearly see it resembled the creature below.

It was so textured and NON buoyant that he could actually strip it off without unzipping.  So when we arrived at the Pocono's 70.3 expo we started our hunt for an upgrade to the 'elephant.'  As imagined, it wasn't hard to find an upgrade.  But apparently 2012 neoprene is a world of difference from neoprene circa 1988 and I think Ryan still might be wrestling with his wetsuit somewhere in the Pocono's...

The next day we drove the course which proved to be an EXCELLENT idea as part of the course had wash out - twice!

We were also able to ride the technical portion of the course prior to race day which proved to be EXCELLENT idea number two! Read on for the deets...

Race morning was cool and misty - just the way I like it. I had enough time in transition to realize that I would go sans arm warmers and gloves. I walked over to Ryan's transition and saw that he would be doing the exact opposite.  His transition site was complete with all the winter riding gear including the one piece snowsuit from The Christmas Story ('just in case' he told me).

We were in the water before we knew it as the announcer was yelling: Pros have 5 minutes before the start. I took 3 strokes and then I heard: Pros have 90 seconds before the start. What was that?! Oh well, here we go.  Except it was super misty and foggy and no one could see a thing. Everyone was shouting: We have no clue where we are going! The announcer shouts back: Just follow the jet ski! We shout back: where the heck is the jet ski!?  BAM! Here we go into the mist.  The blind leading the blind. It actually added a new dynamic to the swim. I swam without a clue where I was until about the ten minute mark when who do I see to my right? Ryan! And who do I see to my left? Tenille!  Perfect spot. Just stay on Tenille's hip. This proved difficult as this girl can swim.  I exited the water and clicked my Garmin 901XT.  (By the way if you don't have one of these - GET ONE.)  My Garmin showed 24:01 - short swim! But we all swam blind - so I will take it.

I was out of transition in 3rd and decided to approach the 4 mile screaming descent the same way I approached the swim - blind!  Don't worry - I didn't close my eyes but I did cover my Garmin because historically as soon as I hit 40mph the breaks go on. But not this time my friends! I passed girl number 2 and was proud of myself for once not being a chicken. It was only later when I looked at my Garmin Power File that I realized I had set a new personal downhill record of 48.3 MPH!!! OH YEAH!!! This little chicken learned how to bike downhill!

The next section was a flat-ish out and back. At this time I was riding steady with 3 other girls. There were two Referee's on motorcycles escorting us the entire out and back making sure we were being legal and not drafting or slotting in.  I was feeling antsy like I wanted to just GO when super biker Beth Shutt when flying by, making a 100 yard gap in no time.  I put my head down and the chase began! This was a race after all!  I watched the Watts spike and starting to think: Coach Kurt will most likely rip me a  new one for this little stunt.  I had already committed though and once I caught Beth decided to make a move to see if I could shake her.  Nope.  The course then took a jog to the left onto a roller coaster section complete with sharp downhills and banked corners. The one section I had practiced over and over and over and over and over the day before.  I took advantage of this and tried to make another move on Beth.  Didn't work. But, we did shake the other three girls and for the rest of the ride it would be me and Beth going back and forth.  The plan was to get as far away from the rest of the pro girls as possible going into T2 because the run fitness is coming along....but it is a work in progress.

Beth and I entered transition together and I remember thinking how awesome this bike course is - but I was excited for the run!   Especially because I got to wear these BAD BOYS:

Despite what the course map looks like - the run is NOT flat. That's just false advertising. It starts up hill and goes down hill, then up hill, down hill, up, up, up, up, until the turn around and then repeat. When I hit the turn around I had the pleasure of seeing 6 pro girls within 1 minute of me. GULP! RUN AMBER!!!!!  The closest was Beth and she was so close at times that the runners going in the other direction would cheer for me and 5 seconds later I would hear them say to Beth: Go get her! She is dying! You can catch her! This really lit a fire under my posterior and I willed every little mitochondria to MOVE!!!  Beth was not giving up and every time I committed the cardinal sin and looked behind I felt like she was gaining.  I also knew that the Ironman Lake Placid and Ironman Mont Tremblant Champion was running strong behind me along with a slew of other quick runners.  I have never had to will my legs to turn over while constantly trying to convince myself I wasn't dying so frequently. I fought harder than I have in a long time.  The runners going the other direction were encouraging and I used their energy and cheers to power my stride.  In what felt like an eternity I finally passed a spectator who yelled: 200 yards to the finish. FINALLY!  I sprinted as fast as my little legs could go and crossed the line in 2nd. Just 22 seconds ahead of the speedy Beth Shutt. Phew!  I gave Tenille ( the winner) a big hug at the line and smiled big! In the end it was a good, honest, gritty race to the end - just what I like!!

Two thumbs up to the Pocono's 70.3

                                              Next up is Miami 70.3 - WOOHOO!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Pumkinman Challenge

Danny and I headed up to South Berwick, Maine on September 7th for a weekend of racing! The Pumpkinman challenge consists of a sprint race on Saturday followed by a half ironman on Sunday.   I had competed in the half two years ago on a whim and fell in love with it. After a year off from Pumpkinman due to an ill-fated white water rafting trip, I am back! I decided to usher my return to Pumpkinman (and my first half since Eagleman) with the challenge. What better way to test my fitness than against the speedy sprint racers. Let me be upfront: I am a highly aerobic creature so the sprint race would surely be a suffer fest for this one.

The Sprint!  30 seconds prior to the gun going off I pull a rookie move and unknowingly drop my goggles in the water which promptly sink like a brick. Panic! I plunge my head and as luck would have it, I manage to scoop my goggles up just as Catherine Sterling reminds me that the course is a 2 loop swim. It is?!?!  Just for you, she says with a smile :) And the gun goes off! What a jokester that Catherine is. And also what a fish!  She was off the front in a jiffy.  I managed to have the world's worst sprint swim of my life which included water in the goggles (should have let them sink), water in the lungs and a cramp in the side. I had to laugh...or I would cry. This may be a long weekend I was thinking. I know you are all scared for my professional career but I managed to exit the swim and start the sprint UPHILL to transition. However, my swim performance felt that it needed to be out done by my transition skills. As I was donning the Rudy Helmet I realized my bike shoes were on the opposite side of the bike rack. So I pulled a 'tuck and scoot' under the rack and then KABAM! Head makes contact with said bike rack. Good thing I had my Rudy Helmet on.  I did manage to mount my bike with just a mild concussion.  I rallied on the bike and kept a smile on my face. Maybe smiling because I had forgotten where I was due to the recent concussion, but smiling nonetheless! The run brought even more smiles because I was running relatively pain free and just happy to be out there. I crossed the line in 3rd and was very pleased with the start to the weekend.

The Half!  30 seconds prior to the gun going off I pull a rookie move and ask Amy if the course is a two loop course. Yes, she says with a smile. It is?!?! But this time it really is two loops. Note to self: Read the darn course map.  Bam! There goes the gun. Catch, Pull, Catch, Pull.  Find some fast feet, pass the fast feet.  No leaky goggles and no cramps. I exit the water as the second human! Danny is yelling at me from the side lines: 'Good Job Am! You are second overall!'  I sprint up the hill which always almost induces vomiting.  Thanks Kat! :)  Helmet is on, shoes are on and I'm off for a 56 mile ride through beautiful rolling hills of South Berwick. I managed to stick to the Power Meter numbers and road strong the entire way on my speedy FELT. My bike used to be my weak link and now I can finally see that it may one day be my strength.  And the man to thank for that is the one and only KURT PERHAM.  The only mishap happened at mile 45 when I hit a HUGE pot hole and my nutrition went catapulting.  Lucky for me I had managed to gorge myself on peanut butter GU which may or may not have been why a honey bee had been 'hunting' me the entire ride with an eventual sting to the left shoulder. OUCH!  The adrenaline is flying now and I get ready for the real CHALLENGE of the weekend. The run. I encouraged myself to not over think it and just run. I reminded myself to be happy that I was out there racing and don't worry too much about pace. I am nervous but also excited and in the last 2 miles I find myself itching to get into my new Zoot Ultra Tempos and test the leg speed.  The first mile went by quickly, my Garmin beeped to fill me in that I had just passed through in 6:31. I smiled. It was going to be a good day. I felt very relaxed and in control. I saw Danny at the 2nd mile and he informed me that I had 12 minute lead. Time to just enjoy the run and take in the energy from the other racers.  And the energy was amazing! I had been looking forward to this moment for the past 3 months and come to think of it I believe that my mid season break will set me up for a strong end of the season.

I couldn't have been happier to cross the line in first with a much faster time than my 2010 performance.  Andy Schachat ushered me in with his usual kind words and energy! I cross the ling with a huge smile and then gave a big hug to Danny. We both made like two honey bees and bee-lined for the Pumpkinman Feast of turkey and whoopee pies.

Big thanks to my wonderful team of sponsors (ZOOT, GU, GARMIN, SPY, PR BAR) Kurt Perham, Myles Chase from MC CYCLES and everyone that cheered me on that day :)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Time to Trial and Rev 3 Old Orchard Beach

I recently competed in the Timberman swim - bike - gorge yourself in the food tent event. Oh wait, you have haven't heard of that race? Sorry suckers! Because let me tell you it was a grand day. It started with the the announcer commenting that the men's pro wave looked like a bunch of porpoises as they dolphin swam their way from shore. This made me laugh. :)

Before I could perseverate on the porpoise comment too much it was the pro girl's turn and we were off! Since I had only committed to the swim/bike I was going to try and go ALL OUT.  The fast start I had been getting used to in the pro field was no different here and Cait Snow was off the front in a jiffy.  I got jostled a bit and lost some feet, and than caught some feet and before I new it I was getting stripped from the wet suit in 4 place. Now it was really TIME TO TRIAL!

Instead of paying attention to my power meter, I got to have some fun. I covered it with duct tape and just hammered as best as my little quads could hammer. Out of transition, out of the saddle, up the hill, zoom down the hill, stand and climb, hunch the shoulders, tuck the head, ouch this hurts! I ended up catching a girl and not letting anyone pass me except for the wonderfully, talented Linsey Corbin around mile 30. She is a machine.

I stripped my duct tape off the power meter half way through and noticed I was averaging 20 watts higher than normal! WOOHOO!

I zipped into T2, unclipped, handed in my chip and made a made dash for the food tent with my friend Ry who also signed up for the Timberman swim-bike-food tent.  After our bellies were full we went out to cheer on my friends and my little sister Deidre who qualified for 70.3 World's in 2013. Vegas here we come!  I also learned later than day that my husband finished Ironman Mont Tremblant in 10:50:13. What - a - day!

On to Rev 3 Old Orchard Beach Olympic triathlon! Why didn't anyone tell me that Olympic distance triathlons HURT BAD! Oh wait, my coach told me. And I still signed up.

My friends Connor, Ry and I traveled down to Old Orchard Beach early Saturday morning so we could get a workout in and then get on to the real pre-race ritual. (i.e.: Trying to wedge as many pancakes into our guts as we can - most often followed by food coma - most often followed by afternoon nap.)  This is a pre-Ironman ritual but I feel obliged to practice it even before sprint races.  Ever wonder what a pro triathlete eats? So do I!

The ride up was smooth and before we knew it our clown car (packed to the brim with 3 humans,  3 bikes, 3 pairs of race wheels and training wheels, and 6 bags of race gear) had arrived. All we had to do was open one door and everything pretty much exploded onto the driveway.  The driveway belonged to the awesome Marc Dupius who opened his home up to not only one or even two but three absurdly smelly triathletes.  Thank you Marc!

The workout went well. I have been feeling strong on the bike and the hip is getting better each day. Workout done, pancakes in the belly and then as we were walking to packet pick up I saw this:

Oh my! A larger than life picture of my melon! It was actually a very cool aspect of racing Rev 3. Overall race organization and little perks like this make Rev 3 series worth RACING!

And the race pretty much went like this: 30 seconds prior to the gun start Connor yells from the side lines: "The Honey Badger Don't Give a Shii...."  I proceed to crack up just as the gun goes off to the one and only beach start I have ever participated in. we goooo...the sand is hard to run in. Oh boy I just belly-flopped like a porpoise...swim Amber....catch those feet. Ouch! Olympic race pace hurts so good.

Okay I am vertical now. Out of the water....running the 1/3 mile on concrete into transition and onto the bike in 4th.......2 minutes behind the leaders....go!  Again, I covered the power meter and tucked my head and just went for it. I kept Sarah Gray in my sight the entire race and never let anyone catch me until the last mile. The bike course was beautiful and rolling and just a blast.

Here comes T2! My first run off the bike in 11 weeks and only my 5th run in 11 weeks. GULP! This could be ugly (could = most likely, without a doubt would be UGLY) I promised myself that I would not be afraid to fail. What would you do if you knew you could NOT fail? Sprint your butt off!  So I did indeed sprint out of transition. I saw my coach and he made me smile. He always, always tells me the girl in front of my is dying. What an awesome little liar.

I checked the watch at mile one: 6:04. Oh boy. Mile 2: 6:20.  Gulp. Here we go. Time to hit a massive wall in an Olympic distance race. Who knew?

I ended up passing 2 girls and then getting nipped in the last mile and ended up 6th which is a podium spot in the Rev 3 world. I will take it!

Up Next: Pumpkin Man! Man!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Focus on the Positives

I have high expectations for myself in the world of triathlon. And I had very high expectations for this year's Ironman Lake Placid.  But unfortunately the nagging hip injury was not cooperating and I was forced to make a very tough decision.  I would pull out of Placid and take a (gasp) mid season break.  I wanted to cry and stomp my feet and feel bad for myself.  How was I going to deal with not being able to reach one of my biggest goals of the season?  How could I deal with NOT racing and even worse being forced to REST for a few weeks?

The answer was to learn from my mistakes and try and grow as an athlete. I did indeed pout for awhile but I also took the time to take a critical look at my diet and training and recovery protocols and learn from the mistakes I had made.  Too much intensity during a training run, not enough calcium in the diet and forgetting that recovery days are when you get stronger.  Everything happens for a reason and sometimes you have to take a step back and realize it's all about the process.

I am back in full training mode now and I actually got to race the Top Notch Triathlon as my first race back.  The rest period proved helpful as I felt rested and absolutely raring to go on the start line.  I was 100% mentally ready swim/bike/run myself into the deepest darkest depths of the pain cave.  Not to mention the race takes place in Franconia, NH - one of the most beautiful places in the state.  It was just a wonderful, beautiful, adventurous day.

I say adventurous because this triathlon includes a mountain bike portion.  And mountain biking is NOT this little ballerina's forte. The day starts with the bike - 3 miles on the road and 3 miles on a twisty, rocky, muddy trail. Gasp! I did this race back in 2007 and I couldn't mountain bike then and despite putting a little practice in on the old mountain bike nothing has changed.  I'll save you the sad sorry details but will say I survived the mountain bike (i.e. only face planted a few times). After I disengaged myself from my muddy mess of a bike the race for the course record started. I knew it was going to be close.  I plunged into Echo Lake for a quick 1/2 mile swim to the base of Cannon Mountain.  The run portion of this race goes directly up mountain.  I traded my swim cap for my Speedy Zoot race shoes and off I went! There were parts of the run were I kept doubting myself. Was I breathing so hard because I was out of run shape or was I breathing so hard because I'm running straight up a vertical? :) When my mind began to wander I tried to re-focus on the positives. I reminded myself that I am finally racing and that I do love uphill running.  Danny was hiking up and cheering on and as I passed him he told me good job and gave me an update of the runners ahead of me.  Just as I thought my quads were going to explode from a steady stream of lactic acid I saw the finish clock and crossed the line proud to have gotten the female course record. I was even more proud of one of my friends, Ryan Kelly, for winning the race overall!
We are so hungry after the race that our medals looked tasty

Link to the race article - Page 20