Thursday, December 4, 2014

Three Things Thursday

1. Some people model their medals on their dog.  I have a fox to be my medal model.

Matt has weird hobbies, I know. This lived in our living room for about 2 months but now I've moved him to the "trophy room" a.k.a. the second bedroom full of all our crap. His name is Billy. 

2.  After suffering the worst allergy season of my life from about March to September this year, I finally got to see an allergist.  Since I have HMO health insurance, I had to get a referral from my primary care physician before I could go (or pay for it out of pocket). That took 3 visits before I was able to convince her I was NOT OKAY. 

The good news is that my allergist is awesome.  I got tested again. 

I'm allergic to cats, some grass pollen, some tree pollen, ragweed pollen, and dust.  Which explains why my allergies last from March to November.  The allergist prescribed me some new drugs to try out which seem to be helping more. But the best news is that I feel like she actually listens to me. I was starting to feel defeated with the whole allergy thing.  I was so congested all the time that my brain felt hazy and it was hard to concentrate at work.  After going to my regular doctor a few times and not being able to get over the congestion I thought that maybe that was as good as I was going to feel.  When I told the allergist about the congestion and hazy brain she was concerned that I could have a sinus infection as well so she came up with a plan of attack if I did not start feeling better with the change in medications. 

Thankfully I am feeling better now. 

3. I'm am now part of the Clever Training Ambassador program! Clever Training has a ton of fitness gear including clothing, GPS watches, foam rollers, and so much more from a bunch of the top brands. 

To welcome me to the program, Clever Training sent me a bunch of great stuff including this tank top.  Plus I received CEP compression socks, water bottle with a filter, and a towel! Thanks Clever Training.  

Plus I have a discount code to share with all of you:  NEIERSCT10

That code will save you 10% on your purchase! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Yelp Elite Event @ Peet's Coffee

It's been a few months since I've been able to attend a Yelp Elite Party, due to things like working too much, training for an Ironman, and oh yeah, planning a wedding.  But last Wednesday I remedied that situation at Yelp's Elite Event at Peet's Coffee in Wheaton.  Plus we were able to take +1's so Matt was able to pop his Yelp Party cherry!

About a year ago, Caribou Coffee sold off its Chicago area market to Peet's Coffee.  Peet's has been opening some new stores in the city and now they've opened one in Wheaton.  

Chicago got hit with a terrible cold snap (thanks bombogenesis!) so I was so glad to finally get inside the cozy coffeehouse.  I parked in a parking garage and walked only about 5 minutes to get inside with a winter coat, a hat, and gloves, but I was still freezing.  I really have no idea how I will survive winter because my hands are already freezing 85% of the time.  I already planning my beach vacation for February.

The Peet's staff was walking around with all sorts of samples including drinks and food.  In no particular order, I tried a sea salt caramel mocha, dark roast coffee, rice crispie treat, banana walnut bread, and cookies.  I'm sure I'm leaving things about but they pumped me full of so many sweet treats my memory was altered.  Plus we could try a full-size drink of anything on the menu.  Since I needed food before I got the caffeine-shakes too terribly (I am fairly sensitive to caffeine and a strong cup of coffee in the morning gives me the shakes!), I picked up a cheese and fruit plate to snack on.  Matt picked up a turkey sandwich and we shared bites.  The cheese platter was really good and included brie, Parmesan, pepper jack, almonds, crackers, and apples.  

I also tried a full-size of the Jasmine Lime tea cooler. Matt was not a fan due to the sourness of the lime but I like that puckering sensation.  

The staff had a few demonstrations set up including letting people behind the counter to watch how drinks are crafted and this demonstration below with different methods for brewing coffee. 

It was very interesting to compare and contrast the different methods for brewing coffee.  We were served French press coffee, Chem-x coffee, vacuum brewed coffee, and a cup of Keurig coffee.  Plus the barista explained the different beans to us.  I found all this very fascinating.  The vacuum contraption for brewing coffee was awesome.  I will always love my French press though! 

At a Yelp event, they never let you leave empty-handed so we loaded up on some fresh coffee.  Plus the staff was passing out baked goods so I grabbed a ginger cookie for the road.  Matt went with the oatmeal cookie.  

As we were headed out, we were given gift boxes with a Peet's coffee travel mug, a bag of coffee beans, and a few Keurig K-cups.  Our coffee supply should last us a while now!

In my caffeine-fueled state, I managed to knock out quite a few wedding tasks.  Seriously I edited my programs, called a ton of people who "forgot" to return RSVPs, did one load of laundry, and cleaned part of my house.  Friday was a little rough due to little sleep the night before but I just fixed that with more coffee. 

Thanks Yelp and the new Chicago Burbs community manager, Jacqueline B., for another great event!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Chicago Marathon Spectating Report

A few Sundays ago, I joined Amy and a few of her friends to cheer on runners at the Chicago Marathon.  I love watching races and cheering on runners because it motivates me!

I stayed at Amy's on Saturday night so we could carpool into the city on Sunday morning.  And so I could sleep in a little bit plus I always enjoy hanging out with Amy.  Since Saturday was the Ironman World Championship, I spent most of the day watching the live feed in Kona.  It was a spectacular race and watching Rinny run down the leader after a 14-minute deficit off the bike was nothing short of amazing.

While at Amy's we munched on chips and salsa and got some inspiration from "Spirit of the Marathon".  If you've never watched that movie (it's on Netflix), you should, especially if you want to do a marathon.

Early Sunday morning we headed towards Chicago with Dunkin' Donuts in hand.  We were some of the first people down by mile 18 so we had prime choice of seats.  Amy was very prepared with chairs, blankets, snacks, and a cooler.  We were cheering for the Autism Speaks foundation and they provided us with signs, markers, shirts, and noisemakers! I brought my cowbell along too!

We didn't have to wait to long for the wheelchair racers to go flying by! They were impressively fast!  It was also interesting to watch them draft off each other.  In triathlon races on the bike you can get penalized for drafting--following the bike in front of you too closely. So I would venture to guess that these racers can get a lot of benefit from following behind another racer.

It wasn't long after that when the next motorcade came speeding along. These cameras were focused on the leading men of the race.  

These guys can run an entire marathon at a pace faster than I can run one mile.  

Next up was the amazingly fast women. 

The elite people are always amazing and inspiring of course.  But do you want to know what else inspires me?  The regular old people who don't get paid to run or have sponsorships.  The ones that work 40+ hour weeks and have families and other commitments and still find time to train for a marathon! The ones who are gunning for big PRs and those just trying to finish. When people tell me things like, "I could never do a marathon," I like to remind them that's it is not that they "couldn't", it's that they don't want to! It just takes a some determination and a lot of training!

I got quite a few smiles from my sign!  

And a few comments too!  One guy even came up next to me and told me he'd love to call me but it wouldn't work out because he is a Vikings fan.

But people loved my Packer's hat too so I can't complain! Go Pack Go!  The hat must have been good luck too because they pulled out a win that afternoon!

The Chicago Marathon is one of  a kind!  After watching thousands of runners pass me by, I will admit I kind of have the bug to sign up for another one! 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ironman Wisconsin 2014 Run

In case you missed them:  Bike Recap,  Swim Recap

I was surprised that when I decided to run after the sunscreen station that I could actually run.  Maybe those brick workouts really did help?

As I ran under the Run Out arch I clicked my watch over to the run and was trying to switch it to the screen with heart rate.  One volunteer then shouted, "You've got plenty of time, don't even worry about your watch!" While I wasn't really worried about my pace it was a little bit of a revelation to me that I had a ton of time to finish.

I had set up my watch for intervals of 5:00 running/:30 walking and that was my tentative plan for the run.  It was set up to beep at those intervals but I had turned the vibration feature off to conserve some of the battery in case I was out there for a long time. Good plan, poor setup because when the crowds were cheering I could not hear my watch at all.  

In the first mile, you run around the capitol and onto state street. By the time I got out onto the run course, the first pro finisher was only about 15 minutes away from the finish line so the crowds were already gathered near the finish.  It was loud and awesome.  The bibs had our names on them so spectators would often yell "Go Alyssa!" which to me, makes the cheering even more awesome.

The first mile takes you around the capitol building and onto State Street. The music was a thumpin' here! As I was running by I heard Amy yell out! Then a couple hundred feet later, my cousin Kristin popped out and started running with me! She told me I was way ahead of the schedule I had sent out to everyone. This is what I send to everyone

Swim: 7:00 - 8:30 am                                  Actual 7-8:17
Transition 1 : 8:30 - 8:45 am                      Actual 8:17-8:25
Bike: 8:45 am - (3:20 - 4:05 pm)                Actual 8:25-3:02                 
Transition 2: again 15 minutes                   Actual 3:02-3:07
Start Running: 3:35 - 4:20 pm                    Actual 3:07
At the turn around on the run course:  6:00 - 7:00 pm 
Finish: 8:30 - 10+++++++ pm (before midnight my butt better be across that finish line)

When my first mile ticked off at 9:40, I realized I was going way way too fast.  In no way was I going to be able to run the marathon that fast so I slowed down.  Every time I reached an aid station I would slow down and walk as well.  

One the way out, you run through Camp Randall (the Badger's stadium), the turf feels really good on the feet (and felt even better on the second lap).  A photographer was snapping pictures on the field and it made me wish I had written "Go HAWKS!" on the backside of my bib. 

The course continues out towards the campus area.  For the majority of this part I was running and walking only at the aid stations and hills. Around mile 4, I saw Rachel and her husband cheering!  She asked me how I was feeling and I responded, "Okay." I'd say that's pretty good for just biking 112 miles!  I got to see them two more times as the course passed by them again.  It was so nice to have her cheering out there because those miles were some of the lonelier miles!  

Around miles 5 and 6, I once again ended up on State St. -- this time a little further out from the capitol -- this area is the bar area and  the streets were packed again.  It is always great when people are cheering for you and telling you that you look great.  Kristin and Molly were here again and Kristin ran alongside me while Molly snapped some photos.

Kristin told me that Matt and my mom and dad were cheering around mile 12 and that I would see them there.  That gave me something to look forward to and I kept ticking off the miles.  

Around mile 11 as I ran back towards the capitol and the start of lap 2 I hit a bit of a low spot.  I realized that I had to run that whole loop again and I was getting tired.  The novelty of the run course had worn off. I knew the hills would be coming.  Plus it doesn't help that the turn for 2 is so, so close to the finish line. I was walking a bit more during this portion and right before mile 12 I saw my cheer squad again.  

Matt walked with me for a bit and tried to show me the time on his watch.  I stared blankly at his watch because my mind was tired and I could not read the clock.  He told me that it was so early and that I was going to finish. I conjured up some more energy and started running again.  

State Street was just as awesome going through again and that pumped me up.  Going close to the finish line wasn't too terrible and I made the turn for the 2nd lap.  Right after the turn is the run special needs area.  My back was tight and cramping so I stopped to get my packet of Biofreeze to loosen it up.  While I stopped, the volunteers offered me a chair to sit in and I turned them down by saying, "If I sit now, I might not get back up!"  

Before the race, I read a lot about the mental aspects of racing an Ironman and one of the things that stuck with me is that the race will have high points and low points--be prepared for them.  Miles 11-13 were one of those low points for me.  But soon I was feeling a little better and the second lap didn't seem to bad.  

My dad even ran with me for a little bit. :)

My pace slowed down on the second lap but I was still mostly running (that looked more like a shuffle) and walking anything that looked remotely like a hill and all the aid stations. I was only able to eat one Gu on the run and the idea of eating more sounded terrible so instead I drank Perform and cola and ate orange slices.  When the chicken broth came out, I took a cup of that wherever available.  The salty goodness was like liquid gold.  It was warm and even though I wasn't cold (I still took sponges and cups of ice at a lot of aid stations), the warmness made it go down so easily. 

The second lap was more of the same. I did see a lady running without shoes on and she was carrying her Vibrams-like shoes in her hand.  Amazingly, I did see her finish later in the night too! My feet were killing me.  The good news is that they hurt so bad I didn't even know my legs hurt.  The longest training run I completed was 16 miles and that hadn't gone well at all so I was thrilled when I passed 16 miles and was still moving along. 

I passed the 20 mile marker and it was still light outside.  I thought to myself that maybe I would be able to finish before it was dark.  That turned out not to be true but it kept me running for a bit. I remember a wave of relief when I started heading back toward the capitol again.  Only a little bit longer I thought. I was both passing and being passed by people and a few times we would speak a few words to each other.  Around mile 24 I picked up a glow necklace at an aid station.  The sun was setting quickly. 

Getting back to State Street and the loud music was a huge boost.  I knew the finish line was close. I walked one final time on the hill near the Capitol Building and then I started running towards the finish line. The crowds were so amazing.  It seemed everyone was cheering for me.  I made sure to space myself out from the other finishers so I could have my own moment of glory across the finish line.  

I took my time high-fiving a whole bunch of spectators. 

Matt tried to snap a pic of me but I guess I was moving too fast!  I crossed the finish line and I heard Mike Reilly say "Alyssa Neiers, you are an Ironman!" I had the world's largest grin on my face as proven by my finisher's pictures.  

I was immediately helped by two finisher's line catchers and as they started walking with me I was just overcome with emotion.  I started to hyperventilate a bit which caused me to start coughing.  The volunteer asked if this was my first Ironman.  And when I nodded she just said, "I understand, it can be emotional." And it was. I was so amazed by what I had just done. 

The volunteers walked me over to get my timing chip taken off, then to get my medal, finisher's shirt and hat.  Next they got me chocolate milk, water, and tried to get me a space blanket, but they had just run out. Instead I told them I was fine and got in line for my finisher's picture. 

I was a little bit in disbelief as I wandered over by the athlete food tent. My family was standing nearby so I talked to them for and my mom kept asking me if I was okay and if I could walk.  I thought I would be so exhausted I wouldn't want to walk another step, but I was surprisingly feeling okay.  My mom later told me that she thought was my cough was so pathetic at this point.  Every time I coughed it was really painful and yet the cough was so small.  My lungs were all seized up from the long extended effort. 

I hit up the athlete food tent for some crappy pizza, a sub, and some orange slices.  And I finally found a space blanket.  I didn't need it right away but it definitely came in handy later when I started to cool down.  

I waited for Kelly while eating some of my food and resting on some steps.  Getting back up was hard! I was so excited when Kelly came down the chute! I tried to take a video but I had Ironman brain and forgot to press record.  Duh.  

After watching Kelly, I hugged my parent's and we all took off for our respective accommodations.  Ironically, I made it through the Ironman without any tears but I cried in the shower because holy chaffing! Owwwwwwwww! I had some big spots.  Matt headed off to bed because he has limited vacation and had to work the next day.  I was all pumped up on adrenaline still and headed back to the finish line to cheer in the final finishers.  

If you want to be inspired, the best place to go is an Ironman finish line close to midnight.  The energy was amazing. Out of this world amazing! I cheered my heart out as people came in closer and closer to midnight. I even shed a few more tears as the final finishers crossed that line.  These people pushed themselves to the limit to make it to that finish line. 

I had a wonderful, wonderful race experience and it is still hard to believe how well the race went for me.  My mantra for the stay was "In the box" and I think I did a good job staying on my race plan.  Even looking at my run splits, I did a good job of continuing to "run" late in the race and only had one mile over a 13 min/mile pace. 

Avg Pace

It seems like almost a different person that wrote this post about all of my doubts leading up to the race.  When I forget again will someone remind me that I can do hard things.  

Many years ago I pitched the idea of a triathlon to Matt. He thought I was talking about doing a full Ironman and told me that was crazy.  That planted the seed in my head that some day I would do a full Ironman.  I finally realized that dream.  

Ironman Wisconsin
September 7, 2014
2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run
Madison, WI

Swim: 1:17:16
T1: 7:52
Bike: 6:37:15
T2: 5:05
Run: 5:08:25

Thank you to everyone who cheered me on--both online and in person.  My spectators were absolutely wonderful and seeing them always boosted my spirits.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

Ironman Wisconsin 2014 Bike

The bike begins with going down the helix on the other end of the terrace. Which then leads you out on John Nolen Drive for a short bit before dumping you onto a small bike path.  This is all part of the "stick" as the bike course at Wisconsin is a lollipop shape.  You go out 16 miles on the stick then ride two of the 40 mile loops before coming back in on the stick.

The bike path is narrow and it's sort of a slow-zone with a few sharp corners and no room for passing.  I saw one crash under a bridge on this part of the path and I heard of a few others! I hope everyone was okay but it was a reminder for me to take it easy on the sharp curves.

My mantra for the day was "stay in the box" which might sound strange at first. But I used it to remind myself to stay true to the paces that I've trained for and that it didn't matter what the person next to me was doing. The only person I needed to worry about was me. I wasn't going to win so it didn't matter.  For the bike, I wanted to focus on keeping my heart rate around 150 bpm. I knew it would spike up on the steep hills but I wanted to keep it contained when riding downhill or on the flatter portions.  So when I was getting passed fairly often on the way out on the stick I reminded myself that good pacing would pay off later.  And I mentally patted myself on the back for beating them in the swim! Ha! It's a long day so I can be a little petty.

I tried not to draft off of other athletes because I saw a few bike officials out on the course but at times we would get so crowded in.  The hillier it was the worse the crowding got.  I was pretty thrilled on the hills for the first loop and was passing people up them.  Of course, they would soon pass me on the downhill and flat parts later.  I am so glad I switched my bike over to a compact crank! One guy I kept passing on the hills started making comments like "Hello climbing legs!" as I would go by him! Once I responded, "I love hills!" I was having a great time and the thoughts running through my head were "This is the perfect day" and "I feel so great." I had a big goofy grin on my face for most of the bike ride.

Right before I got to the aid station in Mount Horeb I saw my mom! I saw her before she saw me so I waved at her!

On each loop there are some infamous hills named the three sisters (or b**ches) because they are steep! The crowd support on these hills is legendary.  Like Tour de France style insane.  Spectators line both sides of the road and they are all cheering and the music is playing.  At the first hill, a guy dressed in a devil costume chased me up the hill for a while and asked me how the swim was and how my day was going. I, of course after all the positive pep talking to myself, responded that the swim was perfect and the day was perfect. PERFECT! I saw many more great costumes including a guy with his shirt off holding a sign that said "Free Lube" which made me laugh.

The crowds really pumped me up and carried me up those tough hills! Plus I got to see Amy again! On the second of the three sisters on Timber Lane I spotted my cousin Kristin and friend Molly! It makes me so happy that so many people came out to support me the day of the race!  Next I passed back through Verona where Matt was cheering.  I didn't see him but I heard him cheering but I couldn't look around because I was refilling my aero bottle at an aid station.

Quickly after that we went through a turn and I hit a bump and my full aero bottle went flying off of my bike! Thankfully it skidded across the road and a helpful spectator grabbed it for me so I didn't even have to fully get off my bike.  Thank goodness because I don't think I could have made it the second half of the ride without that water available.

Right after Verona is special needs.  I stopped to grab my extra tube and air cartridges because at the athlete meeting they told us we wouldn't be getting our special needs bags back so I didn't want to lose those.  I spent like $10 on that stuff! Plus I had a peanut butter sandwich in there and some more Honey Stinger waffles and another Bonk Breaker bar that I threw in my pockets as well.  Just a note on my outfit--I wore a Moxie cycling jersey with the Moving Comfort Juno bra and Pearl Izumi Elite cycling shorts.  I opted for the nice cycling shorts instead of tri shorts because I wanted to be comfortable the whole time on the bike.  The Moxie jersey was great because it has three big pockets.  I didn't even eat all the fuel I carried! Plus it was cute! I got a lot of compliments on it!

Right after special needs I stopped to use the porta potty.  I had to go since the swim but I couldn't figure out how to actually pee while I was swimming and I wasn't about to pee on my nice bike! I still was holding my peanut butter sandwich so I just stuffed that down my top while I was in the bathroom.  Triathlon is so glamorous.

Loop 2 was more of the same. It was a little less crowded which was much better.  The hills still weren't too hard. I just dumped it into the easiest gears I had and tried to spin up them.  The crowds on the three sisters weren't nearly as huge as the first time around but they were still awesome! I saw Kristin and Molly again before Verona! Once I was in Verona I saw Matt and his friends Keith and Devon. Then a minute later I saw my mom and dad! Later I found out they weren't even trying to see me there, they were just walking back to the car!

Before I knew it, I was headed back towards Madison on the stick! I still felt great and the only thing that was bothering me was this screw in my bike seat that I kept rubbing my inner thigh on.  And it tore a hole in my favorite pair of bike shorts! :(  But my legs still felt good and my neck and back still felt pretty good!

As I was approaching the 100 mile marker I chatted briefly with a guy who grumbled that the course was measuring long.  This was a great time to use my mantra because I was not going to be bothered by this at all.  I figure everyone has to ride the same course so what does it matter if it comes out to 112.5 miles instead of 112.0.  Plus my watch was measuring slightly behind anyways.

Since feeling like it was so crowded on the loops, it was pretty strange on the way back in to feel fairly alone for quite a stretch.  I could almost always see someone in the distance ahead of me but this was the only stretch of time where someone was not right in front of me or behind me.  I actually enjoyed that part.  There is one significant hill on the stick and I was getting a little bit tired of the hills by then but I just kept checking in on my legs and my heart rate and was still thinking really positive thoughts. I am so glad I rode all those really crappy hilly rides back in Iowa this training cycle.

The bike course ends by going back up the helix to the terrace! As I came up to the dismount line I slowed down and easily put my legs down as I've buckled my legs in situations like this before.  Thankfully my legs held up just fine and I passed my bike off to a volunteer and ran inside the terrace.  T2 is similar to T1 in that you run through a room and pick up your bag and then go into the change room.

I once again got my own volunteer and she was so great.  She dumped my bag out and organized my shoes and socks.  I changed out of my bike shorts and into my running shorts and changed out my socks for a new pair.  She helped me empty out my pockets of my bike jersey and all I put back in was the Clif Citrus shots that I think taste like Mtn Dew. She also grabbed me a cup of water which was very refreshing.  Before I left I slathered vaseline over my top half where I normally get chaffing from my sports bra.  Once outside I got slathered with sunscreen before heading out on the run.  I was a little bit tired from the bike ride but my spirits were still high! I was going to be an Ironman today!

For nutrition on the bike I ate: 1 regular-sized Almond Butter and Honey Bonk Breaker, 1 mini Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bonk Breaker, 3 Honey Stinger Waffles (I think, I can't remember if I had 2 or 3), 1 Clif shot citrus gel, and one peanut butter sandwich.  At the aid stations I was taking a bottle of Powerbar Perform for my bike cage or a bottle of water to refill my aero bottle.  I was trying to eat every 45 minutes to an hour throughout the bike ride.

Bike Time: 6:37:15
Average Speed 16.92 mph

T2: 5:05

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