Challenge: Week 3

Standard

I’ve read about many successful people who plan out their days when they wake up. They take 5 minutes to visualize how their day will unfold, what they will eat, what kind of challenges they may encounter, and what they would like to accomplish for the day ahead. They set priorities for their time, knowing how valuable it is, and make sure that the way in which they spend their time is aligned with their goals.

brooke-lark-254998

Photo by Brooke Lark.

For a long time I loved the idea of visualizing your day but I thought I was too busy to dedicate the time to set my priorities, plan my meals, figure out my exercise schedule, consider my challenges, etc, all before heading out the door. Who has that kind of time, I thought? And so I would start my day feeling a little rushed and unraveled, then would think all day long about what was planned, when I would fit in important meetings, appointments, and workouts, and feel like I was always one step behind where I needed, and wanted, to be.

Things changed for me when I had no choice but to become a great planner. We’ve likely all been there – all of a sudden your work, family, and workout schedules overwhelm your days. You have to schedule in ‘free time’ as to not have back to back meetings and appointments. For me, it started in medical school, but continued on through my endurance training. The benefit though was that as I planned out my workouts for the week, I had structure. And as I planned out my days, I felt accomplished. The funny thing with planning and goal setting is that it wires our minds to take action. It allows us to follow a path, as we set out to check off the boxes.

jazmin-quaynor-392995

Photo by Jazmin Quaynor

 

For this week the challenge is to plan out your week – and we’re starting simple. Plan out the exercise and activity that you will do, as well as how you will add joy, gratitude, and kindness into your schedule. I added these 3 pieces because it’s important for our well-being to have balance in your day. We feel better about ourselves when we give selflessly to others. Also, what brings you joy? We need our free time to be interesting and engaging. There is a reason why successful people pack their days in with activities, hobbies, and events. They want to constantly grow, improve, and be exposed to new things. So focus on bringing more joy into your life – be that by doing something new, or revisiting an old passion – and feeling like a kid again.

Here’s the planner to print out and use for this week’s challenge. I’ll also be using it every week moving forwards. It’s meant to be simple, so don’t overthink it. Planning is an important step in behavior change – and one that we could all get a little better at. For the next 10 weeks I want you to print out and plan your weeks, and post your planner somewhere visible. The daily reminder will help you set yourself up for success.

Screen Shot 2017-10-15 at 9.44.05 PMFor me this week is all about recovery – I am sick and on antibiotics for the first time in years – but that means I have plenty of time to plan my weeks ahead. Next week I want to start back on an exercise routine, aiming for a few new athletic goals, so stay tuned!

Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 9.46.06 AM

Girl crush-ing on Lucy Charles. What an athlete!

This past weekend I watched the Kona Ironman championships and was so inspired. Not inspired to race at Kona necessarily, but inspired to become the best version of myself possible. How will I do that? And what goals will I aim for? I’m excited just thinking about it.

Happy planning,

xo

 

Advertisements

Challenge: Week 2

Standard

It’s the second week of the Health Challenge! This week I’m focusing on goal setting, and breaking out each goal into manageable components so that we can all succeed!

IMG_1823

Throughout my Ironman training journey I’ve written all about goal setting. I’ve written about the need to not only set goals, but about the importance in setting big, scary goals. Really big. Really scary. Goals. Pushing ourselves past our comfort zones to really stretch, evolve, and grow.

nasa-43979

Remember that time someone said: “Let’s walk on the moon.”? #bigscarygoal

The challenge for many of us is not knowing how to breakdown our goals in a way that is effective. We all want to succeed, but how can we create a simple step by step (repeatable) process that will ensure our ‘I can’t believe it but I actually did it!’ moment? How do we train our minds and bodies to accomplish great things?

Motivation. Imperfect action. And consistency.

First off, you have to be motivated. Motivation is tricky though – you can be motivated both by internal and external factors. Do you feel good when you complete a certain task, like you’ve accomplished something? Are you someone who likes to challenge themself, and seek out new experiences for the sake of curiosity and achievement? You can also be someone who is motivated by external factors like incentives and rewards. Without motivation though you are unlikely to change your behavior. And why would you be motivated to change, in the first place, you might be wondering.

We are motivated when we want our basic needs to be met – from our needs for food, shelter, for love, for belonging, as well as for self-esteem and self-actualization.

quino-al-382178

So, first off, ask yourself, what am I motivated to do? What do I really want to accomplish? Which need do I want to fulfill? (If you’re unsure, look over your Reflections Sheet from Week 1 to determine what your ideal day would look like, and what you’d like more of, or less of, in your day to day life.)

Follow your motivation and take that first step. Make it small. Make it imperfect. But take it. I’ve struggled with this one for years. As an over-thinker and a perfectionist (can you relate?) I often want to dissect the action from every angle, and consider all possibilities before taking that first step. But guess what? Through trial and error, experience, and failure I have come to appreciate the power and the beauty of imperfect action. That’s right. There’s beauty in imperfect action. It is in taking that first step that we are able to wire our minds to continue to push forwards. To allow our attitude to shift from being crippled by perfection to being strengthened by experimentation. So take that step. Trust yourself. Then take the second step.

Motivation, after all, gets you in the game. Habits keep you there.

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 10.02.54 PM

Jim Rohn was right.Β 

How can you break up a goal in a way that you can take these small steps every week? It’s simple. Say it will likely take you a year to achieve your goal. Write out what you need to accomplish in a week, in 3 months, and in 6 months, in order to reach your goal. Ask yourself – what milestones do you need to hit if you want to achieve goal X in 12 months time? I’ve created a simple worksheet for you for this week (click on the image below to download and print) – keep it simple, but specific. Take note of how much time you need (give yourself deadlines), ensure that the goals are realistic, and that you can measure and evaluate your progress as the weeks go by. Want to run a half-marathon next fall? Outstanding! Run a 10km in 6 months, and a 5km in 3 months for instance. Every week aim to run three times for 20 minutes – break it up with walking if you need to. Or maybe you want to switch jobs in 12 months? Amazing! Aim to conduct research every week, and informational interviews in the first 3 months. Start applying for needed courses, exams, or new positions in 6 months, and create your transition plan at your current employer at 9 months. When something seems big and scary and new, we often freeze. Breaking a goal into manageable sections makes it a lot more friendly.

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 9.27.12 PM

Now, looking at this week – what do you need to accomplish this week to get you closer to your goal? What are some concrete actions that you can take that will reinforce your motivation to continue to move forwards? Action breeds confidence. Action breeds action.

Write it out:

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 9.33.13 PM

Your 10 minute exercise this week is to consider your goals for the year ahead – and then map out a weekly planΒ  to hit your first weekly goal!

Of note, none of us live in a vacuum. Since we are all influenced by our surroundings and our family and friends, I also want you to think about what might help you reach your goals and what might hinder your progress. Where are you right now? Be present and aware of your surroundings.

marion-michele-277282

Challenges are inevitable and so acknowledging them is important. Can you dismiss these barriers? Perhaps. But more often than not, we must be malleable, and realize that these barriers will come along with us for the ride. Will your goal to become a fit mom be challenged by the fact that you must wake up at 5am in order to get a 30 minute workout in, before the children wake up? Perhaps. But will you maybe be helped on weekends when your partner or a family member can babysit for 30 minutes? Yes. Consider your help and your hindrances when planning out your goals.

Here’s the kicker. Goal setting is not simply saying, Just do it! (Thanks Nike.) We are all complicated human beings, with past lives, present challenges, and future dreams. We want to be better, stronger, more fulfilled individuals, but we sometimes need a nudge to push us in the right direction. I’m a perfect example. After a month (or is it 6 weeks already?) of no Ironman training routine, I think about my next athletic goals but remain unmotivated to really commit to a new challenge. Why? I don’t feel connected to a goal. Yet. But this post-Ironman break has been needed. And much enjoyed. My motivation to take on my next goal is mainly intrinsic in nature, and so with time I’ll regain that sense of challenge, pride, and curiosity to try something new. To aim for new heights. To take that first imperfect step. And to repeat.

Where will your goals take you? How will you put aside perfection in order to take that first step? Let me know in the comments below: What can you do this week that will bring you closer to achieving your big goal?

Go get ’em!

xo

Challenge: Week 1

Standard

As we say goodbye to summer and hello to fall (oh hey there crisp mornings and cozy sweaters!) it’s time for something fun and different!

With 12 weeks to go until Christmas, it’s a perfect time to challenge ourselves to be a little bit healthier every week, so that we can feel and look our best come the holidays.

cecile-vedemil-41257

And who doesn’t want to feel and look their best when it comes to work and family gatherings, not to mention New Year’s Eve parties? Or sometimes the motivation to take charge of one’s health really comes from within – from the desire to have more energy and less stress in your life, to the revelation that as you age you want to focus more attention on your vitality.

matheus-ferrero-226756

Whether you’re 20, 50, or 70, there are always steps that you can take to be a little bit healthier and happier, and I’m going to lead you on that journey in the next 12 weeks. Ready to get started?

Screen Shot 2017-09-26 at 5.33.22 PM

The facts about the ‘Choose Health’ Challenge:

Duration: 12 weeks

Start date: Monday October 2nd

End date: Sunday December 24th

Who can join? Anyone who wants to take control of their health in order to look and feel their best.Β  You’ll be able to customize the program for your goals and your current health status too (I’ll be throwing in a few diabetes specific ideas for my fellow T1s, as well as some suggestions for anyone wanting to lean out).

What’s required? Motivation to get started, and consistent weekly actions to be successful! Mini daily challenges will be ten minutes long or shorter. That’s it. Pretty simple, right?

Bonus? Every week I’ll be sharing free downloadables for you to print and fill out. Writing out your thoughts, goals and habits allows them to cement themselves in your day to day life, and having a visual reminder to do x, y, and z will help nudge you in the right direction too.

So, are you ready for Week 1?

Week 1: Self-Reflections

Before we can jump into weekly challenges that focus on exercise and diet and stress management for example, we’re going to spend the first week doing a little bit of self reflection. Too often we fall into a rushed weekly routine, without thinking about what we actually want to accomplish, and how we are feeling about our life. So, this first week will be all about YOU and your wants and desires!

So, download this week’s Reflections worksheet (click on the image below) and spend 10 minutes filling it out. Think about what an ideal day looks like for you, visualize and write out what elements of your life you would like more of (Yes please!) and which parts you could change or do without (No thanks!). As you think about what it is that you truly want to go after (what are your goals when it comes to your health?) you can also brainstorm and jot down your big, scary, goals. After all, wouldn’t it be great if…

Don’t forget that these goals can relate to any aspect of your health and wellness. You define what healthy means to you. Do you want more energy? Do you want to lose some weight? Do you want to perform better at work? In the bedroom? Do you want less pronounced menstrual symptoms? Do you want to nourish yourself with a better diet? Do you want better diabetes control so that you can exercise more regularly? The list goes on.

Every morning take a look at your reflections and remind yourself of the things that would improve your day (What would make you happier? What would make you truly come alive?) Guess what? With only 10 minutes a day, by the end of the week you should have a much better sense of your goals! And then you’re in luck, because next week we’ll dive into goal setting!

Screen Shot 2017-10-01 at 6.36.25 PM

Make sure to tell your family and friends to join in on the 12 week challenge too – the more support and accountability you have, the better. It’s go time! Are you ready? I know I am!

Happy reflecting,

xo

 

Post-IM Plans? Challenge time!

Standard

It’s been a month since the Ironman and it’s time that I fall into a new routine. I enjoyed the time ‘off’ as much as a type A athlete could. Truth be told I wanted to sign up for a race right away. I didn’t know what to do with myself for the first week. I was lost while trying to figure out a workout plan without having an end goal. What was I supposed to do in the gym or in the pool if there was no big goal at the end? Simply enjoy it? Yes, I tried, and I did. But after over two years of training for the ultimate triathlon goal I was suddenly not sure what to do next. The post-Ironman blues hit me. Not in the ‘depressed mood and complete sense of emptiness’ way that I know some others have reported (this is in part due to the adrenaline crash after a big physical and emotional undertaking) but in the ‘I was chasing this goal for two years and now it’s done’ kind of way.

image(85)

And so as this transition period continues, I am allowing myself the time to figure out my next athletic goals and taking it a day and a workout at a time. Stay tuned!

In the meantime though I have to focus on my nutrition, and my strategies for fueling as my training volume has drastically diminished. After my Ironman I had a hard time cutting down my food intake – in some ways I was so used to eating enough to fuel my training and recover from my workouts that I didn’t really know how to switch back to a non-Ironman diet. What were the key steps I needed to take to make sure that I was eating a healthy and balanced diet? How did my needs change now that I wasn’t working out every day?

I researched and made notes, compared strategies and philosophies, and simplified everything as much as I could. Here are my main take-aways for the post-Ironman transition period, and my plan for the next few months.

image_3

  1. Keep it Simple

I’m a creature of habit and I love routine. I know that planning out meals is important but struggled throughout my training to keep to a consistent schedule. I am also a fan of fill-it-out-yourself calendars where the guesswork is taken out of the equation. The benefit of creating a simple menu plan is that you can also post it somewhere visible – I like the fridge – and your partner/the family can see it too. Simplifying your meals also means selecting meals that are balanced and easy to make – make sure to have a protein source, low GI carbs, and vegetables/greens. Even though you’re not working out as much you still need protein and carbs and so although you can now focus on filling your plate up with more vegetables, do not forget about the carbohydrates. Your immune system and your body will thank you!

Here’s an example of a super simple template that I like:Β  https://wholefully.com/locker/menu-planner.pdf

2. Be Aware of ‘Unhealthy Healthy’ Foods

When I was training and putting in 10 + hours a week of workouts I was also trying to lean out. Some of you may remember my #projectraceweight post from the spring, when I talked about wanting to improve my performance by leaning out. The challenge I faced was that although I ate a healthy diet, I also fell into the trap of thinking I could eat anything since I was working out so much. Sound familiar? Here’s the thing: As much as hummus, peanut butter, and avocados are sources of healthy fats, they are also providing a lot of energy for your body, and not necessarily giving you the right kind of energy or satiety. And so as I realized that I needed to eat more carbs at lunch I noticed that I had no problem lowering my afternoon hummus and cheese intake. For me it was better to eat quality carbs than fatty snacks to fuel my body and mind.

3. Find other ways to be Energized

This is a big one. We eat for many reasons – from fueling our workouts to providing our bodies with the nutrition needed to feel energized and be healthy, as well as eating for enjoyment, when bored, stressed, or, tired. Many of us eat when we are tired. We know that logically food provides energy but we forget that certain foods (high GI foods especially) can actually make us feel more tired, due to the insulin release and sugar spike and crash. So if you find yourself eating when you’re tired, think about other ways to gain energy:

  • Go for a walk, do some yoga, dance around – light movement will awaken your brain and your body will thank you.
image(86)

My puppy Josephine is a great reason to put the runners on!

  • Go outsideΒ  – If you spend the majority of your day indoors you will benefit from some outside scenery and fresh air. Even a 10 minute bout will work like magic.
  • Go to bed earlier – Think about what you accomplish in the hour before bed. Can you do some of those activities during the day or in the morning, with a rested mind? (Do you really need to watch another episode of Fixer Upper or House Hunters? Tempting, I know!)

There’s no question that setting up successful nutrition strategies is hard. If you’re an athlete, and especially if you’re a type 1 athlete, nutrition is often the last thing that we think about. It’s crucial though that we spend the time planning out our needs and our strategies to fuel properly.

Now that I don’t have an Ironman to train for, I will be focusing my energies on simplifying my diet and eating healthy foods that energize me on a daily basis. I’m also going to start up and lead a fun 12 week challenge starting next Monday October 2nd, and ending on Christmas, for those who want a goal and need that little push before the holidays.

Screen Shot 2017-09-26 at 5.08.34 PM

The 12 week challenge will help you Choose Health – Every week will revolve around a different topic, and will include one behavior for you to work on. The actual work required will be simple, and take up 10 minutes or less per day. That’s it. The challenge will involve weekly blog posts and videos, as well as education around one health behavior topic per week, taught by yours truly!

Screen Shot 2017-09-26 at 5.33.22 PM

So will you join me and commit to this challenge? I’m pretty sure you can invest 10 minutes per day towards your health.

Get excited! (Don’t worry, leotards are not required – but so fun, right?)

tumblr_o3le2qS8mY1td9f37o1_500

I’ll be sharing the challenge on my social media accounts (follow me on twitter and on instagram if you aren’t already), so keep an eye out on my handle @SweetRunMD to follow along. The challenge is open to everyone and free of charge. The idea is to equip you with the right knowledge and tools to make healthy decisions this fall season, leading up to Christmas.

Is there one health or nutrition topic or challenge that you’d love for me to talk about during the challenge? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll dedicate some time to it.

Happy eating and happy training,

See you next Monday!

xo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Help a girl out?

Standard

As mentioned in my last post, I am now focusing my energy on growing my health business. As I refine my services and products, I have put together a quick 10 question survey and would love your feedback.

Thanks!

(Don’t worry though! I’ll be back here blogging about my post-Ironman life, in the next week. My next post is all about creating successful nutrition strategies, whether you’re training for an Ironman race or simply keeping active on a day to day basis!)

Here’s the survey (Click on the image). Feel free to send the link to your friends or family too. Thanks!

Screen Shot 2017-09-21 at 5.02.04 PM

 

 

Tremblant Ironman. Part 3: What’s Next?

Standard

It’s been a week since I finished my first Ironman. The race was such a special experience that it will undoubtedly take some time before all of the emotions and reflections sink in.

IMG_1845

This week has been wonderful – I have been able to sleep in, and enjoy a ‘normal’ weekend – spending time with my loved ones, and not rushing to or from an endurance workout. This is what ‘normal’, non-Ironman, people must do. Right?

image_8

With my big scary goal complete I am now left to think about my next challenge. There are so many options…. Should I train for another Ironman? Qualify for the Boston marathon? Sail around the world? Or, perhaps more importantly, just ‘be’?

Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 11.14.57 AM

All of a sudden I no longer doubt my abilities. Anything is possible. I know that any grand goal will require planning, sacrifice, and hard work. I know I am not meant to live an ordinary life, following a path that others have deemed to be ‘normal’. Now it’s a question of finding a new challenge that suits my passions and my desires, as well as my future plans to start a family. What makes my heart skip a beat? What will get me out of bed in the morning and make me feel truly alive? How can I continue to push myself and inspire others to do the same?

There’s no question that I like to push myself, both mentally and physically. I want to be the best version of myself, not necessarily the fastest or the best out there. I want to continually grow and explore the world, fitting in as many adventures and experiences as possible. In order to do so though I know that I need to dare myself to think differently.

Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 10.06.20 AM

So here I am, ready to take the take step, but I’m not sure where to go. And so I’m going to take some time in the next few weeks to research new opportunities and challenges. I’m going to spend some time reflecting on my desire to experience more of life than some may call ‘acceptable’. There’s no fun in living a safe life.

img_9429

In the spirit of learning, there are a few things that I now know for sure, having finished my first Ironman:

  1. Training for and racing an Ironman is a huge sacrifice, both in terms of time, money, and in terms of family support. You will have to switch your schedule in order to get up and go to bed early. You will need to cancel non-athletic social gatherings. You will be tired or hungry, almost all the time.
  2. That said, the journey of training for and racing an Ironman is one of the most amazing experiences of a lifetime. You will grow and evolve. You will become stronger physically and more importantly, mentally. You will realize that you are the only person who is able to set limits on your life and your achievements, and you actually ARE capable of creating a life full of extraordinary experiences, how ever you define ‘extraordinary’.
  3. There is no difference between you and a professional triathlete, or an Olympian, or a CEO for that matter. You are capable of achieving grand goals – you simply have to take that first step, and get the ball rolling. If you want something badly enough, and hustle and sweat for it, you can achieve it.
  4. As much as you plan and prepare for your race, or your goal, uncertainty is certain. Be flexible and able to change the course of action when things go differently than planned.
  5. There is never a perfect time to take that first step. This one is a big one – all of us have life responsibilities that might impede our goals – we have a full time job, a family, a new baby, a dog, a sick parent, etc – but that does not give us the right to put our dreams on hold. There is no perfect time to live YOUR big amazing life.

Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 11.22.26 AM

As I look to the future, I think about my greatest passions and how they might intersect with my next big scary goals and adventures.

image_7

  1. Running – I love to run, that’s no surprise to any of you who have been following my blog.
  2. Sailing – I love the water, whether swimming in it, or exploring the shore lines or the horizons on a boat. I grew up sailing, and long to return to the open waters.
  3. Mountains – Take me to the mountains and see me come alive.
  4. Medicine – As a medical doctor I have worked in various health related positions. Particularly interested in childhood obesity, exercise as medicine, and rehabilitation medicine, I am an advocate for preventative and holistic medicine.
  5. Technology – I am a geek at heart. I eat up all information about health start-ups and new technology solutions to help us live a healthier and happier life.

image_9

  1. Type 1 Diabetes – Having lived with Type 1 Diabetes for 30 years I consider myself to be an advocate and a role model for the Type 1 community. I agree with the common belief that ‘Yes you can do anything with Type 1’ but I like to add on ‘It will present challenges but you can overcome them.’ Many newly diagnosed individuals hear the positive (and rightfully so) belief that they can achieve anything while living with the chronic condition. It’s equally important though to acknowledge that it is a condition that requires work and acceptance, trial and error, and compassion for yourself. It is not easy to manage this disease and that is ok.

IMG_1532

So what will this next year hold? What am I thinking about in the years to come? For now a few general thoughts:

  1. Become a faster runner. I will run the Scotiabank Half Marathon in October and aim to set a PR, and a sub-2 hour time. I know I have the fitness and the strength to perform well – it’s now simply a question of taking a couple of weeks off, then hitting the ground running.
  2. Continue to enjoy the triathlon lifestyle. I will continue to swim, bike, and run. I have already signed up to swim with my tri club for the fall and winter and look forward to tweaking my technique and getting faster. I will ride indoors over the winter too, but without a firm schedule, and I will limit my rides to 2 hours. I want to be leaner and faster (will focus on nutrition and type 1 management in future posts too), and will put in the time to become a stronger athlete and cyclist.
  3. Research and pick one or two fun triathlon races for next year. No, I won’t race another Ironman next summer. Or the summer after. I likely won’t return to the Ironman distance until (if ever) I enjoy long distance cycling more. For now a half Ironman distance is enough. Next summer I will likely pick out an Olympic and/or a half Ironman race early in the summer so that my summer can be filled with summer fun – cottage time, lake time, and more time with my loved ones.
Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 11.44.09 AM

St. George 70.3. Tempting.

  1. In the future:
    1. Think about qualifying for the Boston marathon. This goal will require me to become a faster (by a lot!) runner. I know I can do it.
    2. Research and consider a trail ultra running race with friends. I have no desire to complete anything longer than 50km but I do love the idea of returning to the mountains for a trail race in beautiful scenery. In 2011 I ran in the relay portion of the Great Canadian Death Race in Alberta. I ran the midnight shift of 23km and loved every minute of it. (Heather – maybe you and I take on the Trans-Rocky run?)
    3. Daydream about the Clipper Around the World Sailing Race – this race is one that I have thought about for years. I chatted with the recruiter years ago, and simply can’t stop thinking about being out on the open water for many months. Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 11.45.10 AM

4. Take on perhaps the biggest adventure of all – raise a family. As I plan the next few years of athletic adventures I need to remain realistic with my goals and my timing. Qualifying for Boston while pregnant might present challenges! Of course my adventure and experience seeking will never stop, it is simply a question of aligning my desires and goals with that of my partner’s, and our future plans together.

And so there you have it, from becoming a faster runner, to focusing on becoming leaner and stronger, I will spend the next year continuing to pursue my passions. I will dream up another big adventure in the next few years, but for now my focus will shift to professional and personal goals – from growing my technology start-up (check out my health site at drannemariehospod.com) to dreaming up adventures on the personal front – I have no doubt that this next (post-Ironman) chapter will be amazing! As always, thanks for reading, and thanks for the support,

xo

 

 

 

 

Tremblant Ironman: Part 2

Standard

Race day!

(Warning: This one is a long post!)

Race Morning

IMG_1820

Rise and shine!

I woke up at 4am and within the first hour I stated that ‘this is crazy’ about 25 times! I was in good spirits and far less stressed than prior races, but I also could not fathom why on earth I thought that this was a good idea. I laughed it off, and just kept repeating ‘this is crazy’.

IMG_1864

My boyfriend, keeping count. Ha!

So crazy. Looking back I realize that the times we push ourselves past our limits, both mentally and physically, are in fact crazy moments. Crazy exciting. Crazy scary. Crazy amazing.

I tested and was 7.2 when I woke up. Perfect! I gave my usual insulin for breakfast, with my 1 unit for 10 grams of carbohydrate calculation. I ate toast with peanut butter, and drank coffee with cream. For me it’s important to make sure that I eat early enough to not have any insulin on board when the starting gun goes off. I know that my insulin is active for about 2.5 hours, and so I made sure to give my insulin by 4:15am. Some athletes have race day rituals – I simply made sure to eat breakfast, and pack up all of my transition and morning bag necessities. I wrote down a list the night before to make sure that morning nerves wouldn’t interfere with my packing. A few must haves:

  1. Morning/Beach Bag: Timing Chip, Cap, Goggles, Wetsuit, Tri suit or bathing suit, Any food or drink for the start, Flip flops or running shoes for the walk from transition to the beach, extra blood glucose tester and/or insulin pump supplies, small towel, extra sunscreen.
  2. Transition Bags: Any additional fluid (I bring my water bottles the morning of the race), as well as any additional nutrition that I forgot the night prior. In the past I used to bring a bike pump but with so many other triathletes, as well as a bike shop, I now don’t want to risk getting separated from my family and consequently stuck with a bike pump as I walk over to the start.

I wanted to be out of the hotel by 5, giving myself 30 minutes for the 6 minute drive. A touch ridiculous, but buffer time is key! More time at transition = less stress. Less stress = steadier blood sugars.

IMG_1821

Arrived early enough that we managed to park in the closest parking lot and walk over to the transition without having to wait for a shuttle. I separated everything in my bags – run and bike special need bags (I had counted out my food and marked ziplock bags for 2 hour intervals.) I left half my bike food in the bike special needs bags, and a bit of run food in the run special needs even though I had a feeling I would be fine with the food provided at the many run aid stations. I then went to drop off my boyfriend’s Garmin watch in my run transition bag (we were planning for my watch to die since it only lasts about 12 hours), and I also dropped off my water bottle for the run (which I didn’t really need to bring on the run with me, but it was helpful to have some water ready as I got into T2.)

I dropped off my water bottles on my bike, and connected the bike computer (some people left their computers on their bikes overnight but I preferred to charge it overnight and keep it safe). I also took a look at the notes I had written on my aerobars – cut-off times, names of my family and loved ones, my quote for the day: ‘She believed she could so she did’, and some reminders that I was supported by the T1Ds (the type 1 community), as well as reminders of some of my previous accomplishments: medical school, and my first marathon. Lastly I had notes reminding me about how hard I had worked for this goal, by waking up early, and putting in the time. I thought about my DNF last year, the long day ahead, and felt calm, and ready. I remember thinking this is crazy (#26?) but amazing, as I walked off to join my family and head to the beach after being body marked. I was smiling and taking it all in.

image(62)

Never give up. Thanks Peter for the picture!

My blood sugar when I got to the beach was 10.1. I know that the adrenaline of the start would cause my numbers to go up, but I also knew that the swim would lower my numbers significantly. As my mom and boyfriend kept up the conversation, making sure that I was calm and ready (I was), all I was thinking about was by how much to lower my basal rate. Time and time again in triathlons I have come out of the swim with a high blood sugar. Then I would start the bike with a high blood sugar and not feel strong or well. I would consequently not eat enough early on in the bike portion of the race, and I would struggle to regulate my numbers for the entirety of the bike leg. Friends would tell me, treat the athlete then the diabetes. But it wasn’t so simple. I couldn’t bring myself to eat when my numbers were 4 times higher than normal. Maybe that was part of the reason why I never loved the bike portion of triathlon races – my sugars weren’t cooperating and my confidence took a hit. I’ve had type 1 for 30 years. I should know what I’m doing. So this past Sunday, for this race, I knew I had to be a touch riskier with my management decisions. I needed to trust my gut. I needed to realize that although I’d be in a lake for approximately 1.5 hours (read – without the ability to test my blood sugar and hence would have to rely on my body’s own symptoms), I would be alright. I would have access to sugar (I swim with two gels under my wetsuit sleeve) and I would have access to safety lifeguards and kayakers if I didn’t feel well. But how do you know if your blood sugar is low when there is so much going on around you – from military jets flying overhead (so cool!), professional athletes sprinting into the water, family and friends being emotional and excited, first timers who are equally nervous and energetic, not to mention swimmers kicking and bumping into you. As my boyfriend and mother kept talking I calculated, considered, and confirmed in my mind my decision. I would lower my basal only by 40%, which was a bit less than in previous races. I would eat the gel during the swim only if I really felt like I was low – if I started swimming in a messy line, if I had any troubles with vision, if my body simply felt ‘off’.

img_1827.jpg

Reunion time!

Once the wetsuit was zipped I received a last minute hug from a wonderful medical school friend who I hadn’t seen in years (has it really been years Jac?) and thought about his influence on my decision to complete my very first marathon, now almost 10 years ago. I remember he distinctly told me that “Of course you can do a marathon. You just have to work for it.” Can I thank/blame him for my being here at the Ironman start line!?

The Race

The Swim

IMG_1869

Swim start, photo courtesy of Thomas McArdle.

Took 10 minutes to do a proper warm-up (again, something that I highly recommend), and lined up in my group of 1:30-1:35. The self-seeding start was interesting. Every 5 seconds approximately 10 athletes are allowed in the water. The start is less hectic, but the swim becomes quite packed. If you accurately select your swim time you will be surrounded by swimmers the entire way. The benefit is that you can draft a bit, but you also have to be prepared for kicks and bumps. My swim was easy and comfortable. My coach told me to use the swim as a warm-up for the bike, and that’s what I did. I had a bit of trouble with sighting on the way out, with the sun rising behind the mountain, but managed to sight off the large buoys quite well on the way back.

Screen Shot 2017-08-24 at 7.54.09 PM

The swim only has two turns, as it is an out, across, and back. You can swim on either side of the yellow and orange buoys, but you have to swim on the outside of the two red turn buoys. The water was pretty clear and quiet, and I really enjoyed the swim.

IMG_1851

Feeling great post swim!

I exited the swim with a time of 1:37 and spotted both my family for a quick air kiss, and my friends who were volunteering as wetsuit strippers (You were super speedy wetsuit strippers Lori and Katrina! Thanks!). On my jog over to the transition I felt good and so gave myself 2 units right away for the missed basal insulin during the swim, and because I knew I would want to try and eat within the first 10 minutes of the bike. I changed into my cycling jersey and checked my blood sugar in T1 and was 8.2! YES! I gave another 1.25 units for the gel I was about to eat, and grabbed my bike to start my bike before 9, just like I had hoped. Received some encouraging words at the Bike Out from my friend Kim, who yelled out to remind me ‘You LOVE the bike buddy!’, and I couldn’t help but laugh. This runner was about to bike 180km. Yikes.

So far this day was going as planned! But as they say, the Ironman never goes as planned. It’s too long a day, with too many sports and logistics. Throw in type 1 diabetes and you really never know what to expect.

The Bike

Screen Shot 2017-08-24 at 7.59.50 PM

The Mont-Tremblant bike course is a two lap course of 90km. The section is often divided into 3 sections. There is the Montee-Ryan section which consists of rolling hills, short and punchy ones with nice little descents. Then the longest section is on the 117 highway, first going north to Labelle, with a couple of slow and steady climbs, a speedy descent, and false flats. On the way back into town there’s a not so speedy ascent of the latter descent (surprise surprise!), easier riding due to the false flats which are now a bit of a descent, and a little loop of St-Jovite where amazing locals and volunteers cheer you on. The third section of the course, once you return on Montee-Ryan, is the 20km ascending and descending on Chemin Duplessis. The climb up consists of 3 punchy stair climbs, where I spun up the hills and even passed a few cyclists (win!), and the descent back into transition and/or to the second loop is downhill and fast. There are only really 2 ascents but they are short and very doable. Having raced and trained in Muskoka this year I found the Chemin Duplessis to be perfectly manageable, provided you are patient.

IMG_1852

My strategy going into the bike was to mentally split up the distance as 100km, 50km, and 30km. I knew that the bike section would be the hardest section for me to mentally conquer. I knew that I had the physical strength this year, but still doubted my ability to enjoy or persevere through 180km. The first loop was comfortable and felt easy (I know, an Ironman shouldn’t be easy but I still had to do another 90km, and run a marathon!). I followed my plan and was happy to come up to 90km after 3h45. I was eating, my blood sugar was steady (I kept my usual 100% basal, and would give between 0.5-1 unit/hour depending on what I was eating), and I, gasp, was kind of enjoying myself. After blowing kisses to my family and friends, and stopping at special needs for some extra food, I made my way back to the 117 highway.

img_1058.jpg

This is where I started to have a hard time. The wind had picked up and I felt like I was barely moving. My numbers on my Garmin confirmed my worry. The more I worked against the wind, the hotter I became. It was a beautiful day but with the sun shining down on the highway, and there being no shade, I was hot. I started taking in a bit of Gatorade but couldn’t stomach it. I knew I simply had to keep moving forwards. All of a sudden the 2 hour buffer that I had was an hour, and then, when I reached the turn around at 123km I only had a 45 min buffer to make my bike cut-offs. Mentally I was struggling too. I wasn’t enjoying myself and all I wanted was shade.

IMG_1059

Why on earth would I decide to do an Ironman on an open highway with full sun exposure in August I thought? Why would I do a race that involved 180km of biking when I didn’t really enjoy long distance biking? I enjoyed rides of up to 4 hours, but after that point I became cranky and unhappy. Why-oh-why did I voluntarily choose to do this? I couldn’t help but laugh. Because you like the challenge I thought. Because you wanted to push your limits. Because at one point in your life you didn’t think that you could ever do an Ironman. Because only other people did Ironman. Because you can.

Because you can.

Feeling grateful for the opportunity to move, to be physically active, in this beautiful area, to inspire other type 1 diabetics, to show my friends and family that all of the sacrifice was worth it, to prove to myself that if I put my mind to something I could do it, I continued pedaling. I stopped and took breaks. I put water down my jersey to cool down. I focused on breathing. I shed a few tears. Physically my legs felt fine, but my body was not happy. In a dark moment I texted my coach that I was struggling. Keep pushing. Put your head down and push he said. My watch would vibrate anytime that I received a text. I didn’t read the texts but knew that people were watching the tracker, likely seeing that my speed had significantly dropped, knowing that I was struggling. I saw other participants slowing in front of me too – likely also affected by the heat – and gathered strength from their journey too.

Keep pedaling. Keep moving. Never stop moving.

I wanted to make it to the 150km mark so that I only had 30 km to go. I discounted the last 10km on Duplessis because they were mainly downhill. Yes, only 20km to go until I no longer have to ride this bike. Then only 15km to go until I never have to ride this bike. For a runner like myself this was the hardest portion of my day. I was acutely aware that I was close to heat exhaustion. I would never risk my health for an Ironman finish, and I put my doctor hat on to make sure that my heart rate and breathing were still in check.Β  You’re almost there I thought when I hit Montee-Ryan. Even though I still had ample time to make the cut off I suddenly doubted myself. My mind was getting a bit foggy and the idea of biking 15km in an hour seemed like a lot of hard (mental) work.

I found my cheer squad right before Duplessis and had a minor anxiety attack. (Sorry mom for scaring you!) It’s one thing to internally deal with your emotions and demons, and yet another to show them to others. I didn’t know at the time what I wanted to hear, or what I needed to do. Rationally I knew that I had plenty of time to make the cut-off. I was motivated by the idea that there was no way that I would not make the final 180km cut-off. Just imagine. Making it this far to only be told that you didn’t make the very final cut-off. No way. After a few deep breaths I continued on the hardest part of the course. Up Duplessis I rode, knowing that I had fewer than 20km to go. And then I would be free of this bike. Running shoes make me happy. Even if I would be sore and suffering on the run no doubt, I would be wearing running shoes. It would be cooler, and as the night would fall I would hopefully start to feel better. The heat exhaustion would fade, and I would have a second wind.

The Run

Screen Shot 2017-08-24 at 8.00.18 PM

As I rode into transition almost an hour later than planned, I knew that I made my big goal for the day – make it to the run course. My coach gave me a pat on the back with the best text of the day – ‘You freaking rock’. Thanks coach!

I checked my blood sugar and was 5.4. Could it be even more perfect?! I disconnected from my pump, knowing that I would not need insulin at this level, and slowly started on the run course. I had a lot of time to make it to the finish by midnight. I would simply have to put one foot in front of the other. I could even do a run/walk. Since my body still felt off I decided to be cautious and do a run/walk pace. I mentally broke up the run portion into quarters, going off for 4 x 10km runs. The last 2.2 kms would be icing on the cake, coming into the finishing chute. I wouldn’t run up big hills, and I would walk the aid stations.

The run course is a two loop path, with about 5-6km on a winding road with a few hills, and the remainder on a smooth and flat trail in the woods. My first loop went by relatively quickly. My long legs helped me out, as I would pass slow runners with my walking pace. When I ran I felt at peace, and content. Running I thought, is my thing. My love. I knew that even though I had swam 3.8km and biked 180km, I could physically do this run. Mentally I was tired though, and felt like I needed support. My mind was still foggy and when I saw my family and friends at the turn-around I knew that I needed reinforcements. I wanted someone to join me, even if for parts, on the course. To run and walk alongside me. To tell me that I am keeping the right pace. To make sure that after all of this nonsense I would see that finish line. I passed by my medical school friends, who yelled out not to quit, ‘NEVER QUIT’, he repeated. It sunk in. Life lesson, right there.

When the going gets tough, never quit. Never quit.

As I made the turn to the second loop (which is terribly placed only 25m or so from the finish line!), I reconnected my insulin pump as my numbers were slowly going up from the food I was taking in. I remember thinking that I wasn’t yet deserving of an Ironman medal. Yes the bike was hard, and yes I dug deep. But I could still push, still challenge myself. This second loop was where I would really become an Ironman.

With support on the second loop I started to mentally do better. My coach told me to run/walk in 2 minute intervals. Run at any speed he said, just be sure to make your run faster than a walk. My boyfriend counted down as I switched from walking to running to walking to running. Two thoughts were going through my mind:

  1. You can do anything for 2 minutes.
  2. The more you run, that faster you’ll be finished. (Thanks Eric for the reminder!)

Motivated by the finish line, and knowing how many people were following my race, I kept pushing. I passed numerous runners on that second and last loop, all of a sudden starting to realize that I was getting closer and closer to the finish. With only 4km left I was surprised by two friends from my triathlon club who saw me at the turn around and heard me asking for support. They walked out in the dark and joined me for the final few kilometers of running and walking. They told me stories and bad jokes (thanks Katrina!) and before I knew it they were letting me go as I entered into the village for the final stretch to the finish.

This is where it really got real and emotional. Strangers and friends (Merci again Isabelle and Danny!) giving me high fives. Smiling and congratulating me. In awe of my perseverance. I expected to be coming in a couple of hours earlier, but was thrilled with my decision and ability to push hard to see that finish line. To hear my name. To be an Ironman.

I thought about my journey – about my type 1 diagnosis 30 years prior and the many challenges I faced while training with type 1, about my father’s sudden death twenty years ago and my desire to soak up every bit of life that I can, about my family, specifically my mom and brother and sister-in-law, supporting me and my crazy athletic decisions, about the Diabetes Sports Project and the type 1 community who never doubted my ability to complete this race.

img_1872.jpg

I thought about the selfless love and support from my boyfriend who drove me to early morning workouts, and took care of the household so that I could train, take longer baths and go to bed earlier.

IMG_1833

I thought about life, about how we are all destined to live an exceptional life – filled with adventures and experiences. How many of us don’t take full advantage of this exceptional life. How we are able to choose our path and surmount any challenge that we may be faced with. How, at the end of the day, we are all so fortunate to see the sun rise and set, every single day.

As I crossed the finish line, soaked in the finisher chute experience, (had to give Mike Reilly a hug!), I checked my blood sugar and was 7.3. BOOM! I had the most perfect diabetes day. I stayed in range, between 4-8 ALL. FREAKIN’. DAY. Who knew that Ironman races are the cure for Type 1 Diabetes!

I also spent the night looking through all of the messages of love and support on my social media accounts – thank you all so much! Your support throughout the whole process has been unbelievable.

Finishing this race is about a lot more than swimming, biking, and running. It’s about stamina and commitment. It’s about passion and perseverance. About community. Support. And love. And I am the luckiest girl in the world to have the best support crew by my side. So thank you!

IMG_1823

You guys! I did it! I am an IRONMAN!

And so just like that, I am now an Ironman! I finished one of the more challenging endurance races out there. Now what? What’s next? I’ve been thinking about it for awhile, and am excited to share my thoughts with you in my next post. Obviously this adventure and experience junkie needs a new challenge now! Let’s make this exceptional life unforgettable! Stay tuned!

xo

(Thinking of racing IMMT or simply want to get a better feel of the day? Here’s the official race video:)