Sieze (Seas) the Day | Personal

Sometimes I find it hard to get going. Does anyone else feel that way? I have ideas or things to work on or things I want to do, but it’s hard to just start. I think much of my issue comes with being overwhelmed by the process and worrying something won’t work or that the result will be less than I wanted it to be. So it’s much safer to just hang out on Facebook and Instagram instead, right?

Tell me I’m not alone. 🙂

If I’ve learned anything over the last few years of training and racing long-course triathlons and starting a photography business, it’s that there isn’t time for lingering and there certainly isn’t time for too much fear and doubt.

Otherwise you stagnate. How many times have I stared at the start line of a triathlon, petrified to dip my toes in the water? Or even worse, 100 meters in, flailing around in a full fledged panic? When that begins, there isn’t much forward progress towards the swim exit.

The same is proving true in the hustle required to be a successful photographer and business owner. There have been many times I have wanted to climb under the covers, deactivate my business Facebook page, and just disappear from the entire scene because it has all felt too overwhelming. Luckily that only lasts for a few minutes before I calm down and take stock of why I love it despite how terrifying it can be.

Even still there are times when it feels like it takes all of the courage and energy I can muster to move forward with a project, a blog post, or even preparing for a session. I love this journey; I love meeting so many amazing clients and capturing memories for them, but I’m an introvert. It takes everything out of me, and it’s old habit to want to hide.

And this is why I absolutely adore the necklace giveaway I won from Amanda Hedgepeth Photography and All Washed Up Jewelry. Not only is it gorgeous and all things beachy, but it is a fantastic reminder for me to get to it, to keep hustling, to forget fear and keep moving forward.

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Because nothing at all will happen by hiding under the covers, and great and amazing things won’t happen without being fearless and taking risks and embracing limitlessness.

So there are a few fun things in the works! A uniquely beachy wedding styled shoot geared towards beginner photographers is what is coming up in July. Eek!! Stay tuned for details!

#seastheday (My new favorite hashtag!)

<3

Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Henson Photos, and I LOVE this one. Happy!

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Growing Pains | Personal

Rowan is next to me doing the same puzzle for the fifth time. It’s a challenging puzzle for a three year old. Twenty-four pieces. Several different patterns. She’s had it since last Christmas, but still she needs help with it each time. We’ve shown her how the edges and corners work. We’ve talked about working on one animal at a time, breaking the puzzle down into manageable bits. But still, for the last eleven months, all of that advice just hasn’t stuck: she tries to force middle pieces along the edges; she leaves the pieces in a jumbled mess instead of flipping them over so she can see the pictures. And she usually ends up in frustrated tears when she tries to do it on her own.

But tonight, tonight is suddenly and amazingly different. For the most part, she’s doing the entire puzzle on her own. The pieces are still a bit of a mess. Every so often a middle piece is forced along the edge. And she might slam a piece in place out of frustration before she finally asked for help. But her independence is stunningly obvious.

Cue the sixth puzzle attempt.

Lately I’ve been feeling these same sort of growing pains. The same sense of frustration at where I am in my learning and growing process. I know I’ve made amazing progress in the last six months. But the internal struggle of admitting that I am growing and still have so much to learn is hard for me. I’ve always been a perfectionist; I like to be right and feel secure in what I do. Photography has shifted all of that for me.

It has forced me to embrace myself exactly where I am at the moment. After a session is over, I have to find peace with the result because there isn’t usually a chance to change anything. And gratefully not one session has been disastrous. I know I am being very critical of myself and my work, but I believe that is where my growth comes. At some point in my past, I would have experienced just a touch of this awkward stage and judged it too hard, too challenging to continue. It is much safer being stagnant, but stagnancy doesn’t bring happiness. Ever!

So I’m trying to find peace amongst the dissonance of each session’s learning moments. I’m pulling all of them together and moving forward. Sometimes it sticks immediately. Sometimes I have to learn it again and again before I really own it. Most recently, after being frustrated with too many soft images for my liking, I’m celebrating finding the absolute sweet spot shutter speed for my 135mm lens to avoid camera shake. (1/640 if you’re curious!)

Some days the pressure of growing so quickly feels too much; some days it feels like an amazingly exciting ride. I can equally be ecstatic and terrified about this journey all at once. Finding balance between these two extremes is never easy, but it helps to have others who have been there. They help me flip over my own puzzle pieces and guide me to putting them in the right place. Even if that means putting them aside for the night after a meltdown over the seventh attempt. They understand and encourage me to breathe and believe in myself and come back again later. And trust in the process, growing pains and all.

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Reset: 40 day goals | Personal

I spent a recent Saturday evening out with my closest friends and our husbands. Over several different dinner conversations, I started to really understand why I’ve felt just a little off over the last several months. I haven’t been able to pinpoint it exactly, but despite a thriving and exciting new business, despite everything seeming to be moving along quite happily, I wasn’t entirely happy. This summer really proved it. I was turning inward, holing up inside the house more often than not. I didn’t want to write; training for this weekend’s half-ironman was more of a chore than something that I once enjoyed. The kids and I didn’t do much of note this summer, and while that is okay, while I know I don’t have to entertain them constantly, I also want some memories of our summers together. Aside from a fun trip to my parents’ house, there isn’t much to mark our time. And I knew it; I could watch it happening, and despite that, I constantly longed for the end of summer to let me off of the hook.

The conversation that night that highlighted all of these feelings in an incandescent light was about hiking Old Rag Mountain in the Shenandoah Valley. Two of my sets of friends were talking about their experiences with this hike. I was half listening to that conversation and catching part of another, but suddenly I had the very clear realization that I was almost back to sitting on the couch, watching life go by and feeling twinges of jealousy of others’ lives. That’s been the reason for this blog all along, hasn’t it? It’s been the meat of my about page since the beginning.

I know I’m better than I was. I’m making dreams happen. I’ve taken steps in a photography career that I once thought were unachievable. I’ve completed races in distances I once believed were unmanageable. I’ve written more frequently than I’ve ever before. Life is more multi-faceted, more beautiful than it has ever been before.

But still. Something is missing, and I realized that in the life span of this online space, I’ve become less transparent about some of the more day-to-day things, some of the posts that used to be fun, light, and happy. I’ve talked about that pressure to be something, both in writing and in training for triathlons. I need a reset. Here. In training after this weekend’s big race. In the day-to-day. In our family experiences.

But back to Old Rag. In that moment, I realized I needed my 40 day goals more than ever right now. I sense that I am beginning to float again. I am anchored in photography, but everything else is becoming somewhat ethereal. Again it is coming back to balance and finding the courage, the inertia, and the strength to create more of the life I want to live rather than thinking that maybe one day I’ll hike Old Rag. Maybe one day, we will have that experience. Maybe.

I’m tired of maybes. So here are my new goals. Follow along. And maybe join me and share some of your own!

    October 3-November 12

  1. Consistently meal plan again. This has been hit and miss over the last several months. I get lazy and forget to write the grocery list until the last minute. Then we wing it for the week. Life is so much simpler with a meal plan! Going along with the meal plan, I need to eat healthier breakfasts and lunches. Lack of planning here has lead to some questionable food choices. And extra pounds!
  2. Update the photo wall. We repainted our family room this summer, and the photo wall frames are still in a pile on the mantel. I have two prints I bought that I have wanted to add to it, and I really need to order updated pictures. The most recent one of Rowan framed in our house is from when she was four months old. Yes. Four months old. She’s changed a bunch in that time. And so have my photography skills for that matter!
  3. Enjoy the breathing room that comes with finishing Ironman 70.3 Augusta on 9/28. It’s been a struggle to enjoy triathlon training, running, swimming, biking, or anything for a while. I’ve found more joy lately, but I’d love to really engage with running again. And make some improvements with being free of races and plans for several months. I’m purposely leaving this goal open-ended.
  4. Plan a family trip to the mountains. If it doesn’t actually happen in these 40 days, I want to have it planned. We’ve been talking about it since last fall. And all through the summer. Those maybes and one days got in the way of doing it.
  5. Yoga on the beach. This is another one day and maybe item I’ve talked about for over two years. Rowan is in preschool two days a week, and I have the time to make it happen before it gets too cold and windy.
  6. Bringing this one back from my second set of 40 day goals ever: Smile at and say hello to strangers whenever I’m out. This pushes me entirely out of my comfort zone. I’ve definitely gotten better at this than I used to be, but I know I can be more outgoing than I am now.
  7. Do nice things. Pay it forward. Buy a stranger coffee. Snail mail a friend a small gift. I know that I need to step outside of myself more!
  8. Explore a new place for a photography session. I’m starting to get a little too comfortable in my favorite spots. I would really like an urban setting. Anyone want to schedule one in downtown Norfolk? Richmond? How fun!
  9. Take the time and energy to explore more of this area with the kids. I get stressed thinking about traffic, length of time to get somewhere, the energy it will all consume. But that leads us to sitting around and not doing much of anything. I’ve lived here for more than twenty years, but I know there are so many things we could do together that we haven’t done yet!
  10. Breathe. Sometimes it feels so easy to get caught up in stress and miss just how beautiful life is.

Kristy is restarting her goals, too! Read about her goal to say yes more!

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Augusta 70.3 Ironman Race Report | Personal

Photo Sep 29, 2 55 29 PMThis was such a huge, huge weekend for me! I hardly know where to start. I really have so many thoughts and feelings to reflect on; this race, maybe even more than the first one last year, has been life-changing!

It’s been no secret that I’ve struggled with training this year. I nearly dropped Raleigh at the last minute, and even at many, many times this summer Augusta was always a shaky reality. The thought of long training days and hard workouts constantly felt overwhelming. Somewhere along the way I had lost my love of the sport, and I know that signing up for two 70.3 distance races this year was impulsive, post-race anxiety and completely fear based. That’s another post altogether, though!

After a great training weekend in North Carolina with a great friend I met on Instagram, I felt ready. We put in 65 hilly biking miles, ten total running miles, and over a mile of swimming in Jordan Lake. I was confident that Augusta would happen. It might not be faster than last year, but I knew I was as ready as I could be.

Jon, Rowan, and I left a few days before the race and stopped in Columbia, SC, for the night. We visited the zoo and some outlets and took our time getting to Georgia. I had managed to stay mostly calm on the way down, but as soon as we crossed the Savannah River and into Georgia, I was incredibly anxious. We made it to the expo and packet pick up. I bought my traditional t-shirt, we had dinner, and checked into the hotel. I was reaching internal meltdown mode. I felt like a fraud for being there because I hadn’t trained as long or as hard as I had last summer. I knew I needed to calm down, so I found the fitness center and the treadmill. Two, sweaty miles later I felt much better!

Photo Sep 27, 10 44 01 AMOn Saturday we had to check my bike in at transition. We checked out the river and stopped over at Aiken, SC, for a fun lunch. That afternoon, I was going to do a practice swim. I arrived at the dock and found my friend, Olivia, whom I had met last year at the race. We made our way down the river together, and I am so glad I did. It was much colder than last year, and between the first two buoys, the river grass was so thick that it almost wrapped around my arms as I stroked. I may have panicked just a bit then, but it ended up being a strong swim.

Photo Sep 27, 10 50 19 AMWe had a quiet dinner in our room, and I slept really well through the night. We were up early and found our way to the race site. I spent the morning with Jon and Rowan enjoying the nervous anticipation of all the racers, the gorgeous sunrise, the sky divers, and the beautiful sky. I kissed them goodbye, and found my swim wave. I was ready to see what the day would bring! My only goal was to smile all day. I knew Augusta held magic for me last year, and I wanted to find it again.

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The corps of engineers had released water from the dam upriver overnight, so the water temperature was even colder than it had been the day before. For the first 200 meters or so, I could not get into a breathing rhythm. My exhale was shallow in the water, and it left me feeling like I was gasping on my inhale. I started to get frustrated, and for a brief moment, I even flipped on my back to backstroke. But I immediately stopped myself. Backstroke is a go-to when absolutely necessary, but I knew I was stronger and more focused than that right then. I knew I could figure out what the problem was without panicking. I unzipped my wetsuit halfway, and that was all it took. I could inhale more deeply and exhale fully. Suddenly, I was swimming strongly, and the rest of the swim was uneventful. My arms felt fatigued from the swim less than 24 hours before, but I was so glad I had done that to prepare my mind for the river grass, the water temperatures, and the feeling of my wetsuit, which I hadn’t put on since June. And for the beginning of the swim breathing issues, I still made it out of the water faster than last year! And smiling!

Photo Oct 01, 5 27 19 PMTransition 1: 5:58

I spotted Jon and Rowan along the swim exit. I cheered, skilled, waved, and made the long, winding way to my bike towards the back of transition. A slightly faster transition than last year, too!

Bike: 3:32:48

I was ready for this bike course. The 65 miles that Erin and I biked in early September were much hillier and harder than I knew this course would be. My legs felt tired, and it took at least five miles to loosen up and find a good pedal stroke. There was a stiff headwind on the way out and it was fairly consistent for most of the ride until the end. I still kept a good average for the first twenty miles. We pass by the Savannah River Site, and the road surface is extremely bumpy and can get frustrating and that is also the area where you find the first climbs of the course. On the second big climb, I too hastily shifted into my small chain ring in the front, and my chain came off. I managed to unclip from my pedals before falling over and spent a few minutes getting the chain back on the rings. Thankfully, that was the most frustrating part of the entire 56 miles. I kept an eye on my time, and I knew that with the wind and the chain issue, I would come in slower than I did last year by about ten minutes. But that was okay with me. I really enjoyed the ride, and it made me love my new bike even more. And still smiling!

bikeTransition 2: 6:39

As much as I enjoyed the ride, I was ready to find the dismount line and park my bike. The most important part of long races is to stay present with what’s immediately in front of you, but I was looking forward to the run leg all day. It is definitely hard at that point, but I knew the energy along the course would be great, and I knew Jon and Rowan would find me several times. I’m not sure what I did differently, but this transition was two minutes faster than last year.

Run: 2:49:05

I completed all of my long training runs at a 4:1 interval. I knew from last year that it was the most effective and focused way to finish for where my running is right now. I felt really good for the first two miles. I saw Jon and Rowan at the end of the first mile, and after that I began to feel a little dizzy and my stomach felt off. I knew that I needed to check in with my body to see what it needed. Fortunately, I took in all of the nutrition and fluid I should have on the bike. During the run, you eat and drink what your body demands. I mentally ran through what the aid stations have– chips, cookies, pretzels, bananas, oranges, water, sports drink, and Coke. I knew for sure I wanted oranges and some Coke. I did that at the next station and immediately felt better. I alternated between water and coke and oranges for the rest of the race. It worked perfectly! Jon and Rowan also gave me the Honey Stinger chews I had them pack each time I saw them.

The Augusta run course is fantastic. There is enough crowd support that the energy is always up, but there are also times when you are alone with other racers, and that is really when you have to test yourself mentally. I stayed focused on my 4:1 and kept it fairly consistent except when an aid station came up, when I stopped very, very briefly to see Jon and Rowan, or when I just felt I needed an extra minute to walk.

My knee started to hurt around mile seven. I know this issue so well after all these years, and I can tell when it is a superficial problem or when it will become something big. I had a feeling it would be big if I didn’t adjust somehow. And really after all of these years, I’m still not sure exactly what causes it, but something told me to straighten up and lead with my chest. As soon as I did that the pain completely dissipated. This is a huge breakthrough for this issue! It hurt again at mile ten, and I readjusted and again it was gone.

This was at mile 12. All smiles!

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Otherwise, the run was great. I was happy and focused. I was ready to see the finish line and really the thirteen miles were over before I knew it. Time becomes a funny thing during these long races. You are completely unaware of time of day and overall passing time in a larger sense, but very focused on it in a micro way. I turned the corner to run back onto Broad Street and could see the finish line several hundred feet away. Jon and Rowan caught me just into the finish chute, and I finished my third 70.3 in twelve months smiling and happy. The same way I finished the first one. My run time was exactly the same (within seconds) as last year’s!

Finish time: 7:09:21

finish3 finish2I have so many thoughts about this last year. I found so many dark spaces in training and racing, and almost gave up on this sport all together. Augusta will always hold a special place in my heart because it was my first 70.3, but also because it became about redemption through the struggle this past weekend.

I finished six minutes slower than last year on training that was hit and miss this summer. I realized that I am much stronger than I think once again– both physically and mentally. And surprisingly, I returned home from this race reenergized rather than depleted, which is such a huge difference from last year and especially this year at Raleigh. I feel ready to take on newer, maybe bigger, challenges, which is such a nice feeling after dreading every run, swim, and ride for most of the summer.

Mostly I’m overwhelmed and grateful. I’m overwhelmed that I was able to find the focus to follow through with both 70.3 races this year. I’m overwhelmed and grateful that my body can do things I never thought possible and that I have built such a huge amount of mental strength. Whenever I think of the numbers– that I can run 13.1 miles at the end of all of the miles of the first two legs, I am still amazed.

And most importantly, I am endlessly grateful to my wonderful husband who has stuck through all of my crazy ups and downs this year. My proclamations of being done with running, with dropping this race or that one. He has encouraged me and challenged me to see it through but gently and lovingly has helped me to that point. I know I am capable of being strong on my own, but with him, I am able to shine even more brightly.Photo Sep 28, 8 10 21 AM

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First Days | Personal

2014-09-15_0023Last week I sent a fifth and seventh grader off to school. Over the next two weeks they will turn eleven and thirteen. I look at myself in the mirror and wonder how it is that I’m suddenly the mom of a teenager.

2014-09-15_0021I remember anxiously worrying about these days when I was still pregnant with Pacey. I fretted that he would be one of those teenagers. The disrespectful, rude ones. One of those skaters who would intentionally block the street at the entrance to our neighborhood. Those teenage days, a bit hazy and still so far in the future, seemed like the end of all that could be good about motherhood.

2014-09-15_0022And now, teetering precariously on the cusp of those hazy days, so close that they are sharply in focus, I tenderly hold that scared soon-to-be girl-mom in my heart. The lanky, deep-voiced, almost thirteen year old that has taken the place of the round face and soft curls is no more frustrating or less lovable than he was at three. The circumstances have changed. The frustration points are much different. But underneath the lank and rasp, he’s still Pacey. He’s still curls and cheeks and snuggles. And I find that I expected a sudden disconnect because of an age humorous.

2014-09-15_0020So it’s first days around here. First days of seventh grade and fifth grade. First days of three year old preschool. First days of the teenage years. All at once they are the squinty-eyed newborns, the curly-haired and ornery toddlers, and the freshly minted teenagers. First days of seeing again and again that motherhood evolves and grows with our children, but is seamlessly and gently timeless.

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Rowan is clearly more interested in the camera than the boys are now!

Invested: May, June, and July edition | Personal

I’ve gotten a little behind with these! With Raleigh 70.3 being on June 1 and being on vacation over the end of June and early July, I thought about doing the monthly recap and then that thought quickly evaporated.

Staying invested and actively connecting with my life has always been my struggle, but over this summer it has seemed more second nature than a focused practice, which I take as positive progress!

The summer has been filled with photography, so much photography growth and learning and connecting. With friends and music; with running and happy miles again. With family bike rides and fresh fruit and sunsets and sunrises. With a big race finish in Raleigh and a long stretch to stay focused for Augusta’s finish line in September.

I’ve made some big changes, some subtle changes, and some promises to myself to stay on this path no matter how overwhelming or sometimes scary it may seem. It’s so easy for me to withdraw into myself in a protective way, but when I notice that more readily, I’m able to extend past those old habits and grow.

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If you haven’t read my other posts in this series, you can catch up here:

January
February
March
April

This is a joint project with Breath of Sunshine that was created when we were wondering how we could stay more focused on our words for the year and celebrate them along the way. Check out her posts, too!

Zucchini Bread | Grandma’s Recipe Box

2014-07-26_0004It’s been way too long since I’ve made a new recipe. Life got busy through the spring, and I got a little (a lot) distracted. But taking a break is always a great way to be energized to start fresh, and with all of the local and fresh veggies around this time of the year, it was the perfect time to make something with zucchini!

Zucchini bread has always been a favorite of mine. I remember having it all the time when I was a little kid, and by the looks of this card, it was definitely a well-loved recipe. And our muffins came out just a great as I remember! I sprinkled them with powdered sugar, which the recipe doesn’t call for because why not?

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The best part of getting back into the recipe box was enjoying it with Rowan. She’s definitely become a much better helper in the kitchen these days. She understands pouring and mixing and even helped to crack the eggs!

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Zucchini Bread (or Muffins)

3 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp nutmeg
3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
3 eggs (well beaten)
1 c oil
2 c grated zucchini
3 tsp vanilla
2 c sugar
1 c chopped nuts
raisins optional
powdered sugar

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  1. Beat eggs and then add sugar and oil and continue beating.
  2. Add vanilla and zucchini and stir.
  3. Sift flour and remaining dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  4. Stir in nuts and raisins.
  5. Pour batter into floured and greased loaf pan (1 large or 3 small) or into lined muffin pan.
  6. Bake for an hour (loaves) or 25 minutes (muffins) at 325 degrees.
  7. Cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

2014-07-26_0003 2014-07-26_0005New to Grandma’s Recipe Box? Catch up on the details and find all the past recipes here!

 

 

Chasing Dreams | Personal

Sometimes it takes my breath away and tears fill my eyes to look around and see the changes in my life over the last two and a half years. I’ve written about the struggle over and over again. This entire blog’s concept has always been rooted in the promise I made to myself after Rowan was born to get up and live, to love each step. To engage and find the sparkly edges of life rather than wistfully watching other people do the same.

You may have noticed the header change above. With the beginning of my photography business, I’ve considered a few options for blogging through the process and sharing my work. I have managed two Facebook pages for a few months. I thought about starting a separate blog for photography and keeping this one close for personal and training thoughts like it’s always been. I questioned whether shifting the title for this blog was moving away from the promise to myself.

And then I realized that whether it’s training for races or tackling parenting or marriage questions or finding my writing voice or showcasing photography and the journey that comes with it, all of it still holds fast to the original intent. All of it is still loving each step. A name change that makes it more cohesive, that evolves with me doesn’t forsake anything.

All of it is me. Me chasing dreams and conquering fear. Me setting goals and providing a positive example to my children that you can figure out your life, one step at a time, even though there have been many moments over the years when everything was incredibly hazy and confusing.

You can bring everything into focus (pun intended).

The Love Each Step Facebook page is going to be disabled shortly– two pages are too much to manage. Everything will be posted to my new page. Please join me there if you haven’t already!

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A Respite | Personal

It’s been about six weeks since Ironman 70.3 Raleigh. Today marks the start of training for Ironman 70.3 Augusta. Technically, training for Augusta probably wasn’t intended to have a clear starting date. It should have quietly morphed from recovery to build again. But life has a way of taking its own turns and bouncing back from Raleigh was just as hard as I thought it would be.

Within a week, I felt ready to begin again. And for a week that held true. Then school ended and the days were filled with pool time and beach visits, ice cream stops and donut mornings, evening beach cruiser bike rides and dinners outside. And I just didn’t want to swim. Or bike. Or run. And on one particularly hot Saturday morning run, the quiet pressure I had been feeling for months regarding triathlons, running, and training peaked. I cried and shuffled and walked as the realization that I had been evading for a while sunk in more deeply: I didn’t like running anymore.

That shook me deeply. Running and training for triathlons has been a very big part of my identity since I had Rowan three years ago and especially since I stopped working to be at home with her and the boys. Shortly before Raleigh I wrote about how unbalanced it became especially through training for Augusta last year. Training and racing have always given me the chance to see how strong I am, to know I can succeed, and to set goals. What I missed in that process is taking responsibility to own myself beyond that space, and in that misstep, I mistakenly began to resent all of it.

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Some of the gorgeous scenery from our Pennsylvania trip. #iphoneography

As frustrating as the beginning of this year has been with training, I now know it was the process of shedding those layers a bit. And after the last two week break while on vacation in Pennsylvania with very little training and many runs without my Garmin, running and I are finding a happy place again. With the beginning of training for Augusta, I am excited to travel this road over the next several weeks. And I am equally excited to step back afterwards and reduce my training volume.

Photo Jul 12, 7 43 29 AMSo there have been growing pains through the past two years that have been about finally finding the courage to own myself, to see and love who I really am, and to be confident to go for my dreams. But coming out on the other side now (I hope), I can appreciate the process especially as I feel such immense joy with beginning my photography business. Because I don’t want to exchange one crutch for another. I don’t want to simply trade labels: Heidi-the-triathlete for Heidi-the-photographer. Over the last several months I’ve come very close to letting go of triathlon all together, but luckily there was a quiet part of my heart that knew the truth of the underlying process, that knew that letting triathlon and running fall away wasn’t the solution. Instead I have had to allow my ego’s attachment to it to fall away.

And in these early and exciting days of photography, I want balance. I want to always approach it with excitement and with the sometimes teary-eyed bliss of finally knowing what I want do. But I also want to hold fast to perspective and know that if all of it were to fall away somehow, I’d still be me. That I’d still love who I am without the running shoes, bike, and camera.Photo Jul 04, 10 29 06 AM

Ironman 70.3 Raleigh Race Report

I know. The last time I talked about Raleigh here I was reporting my tough decision to back out of the race and take some much needed down time. And I did. Following that hard decision, I came down with a terrible cold that I think I had been fighting off for about two weeks. After almost two weeks of rest, I began feeling better. I slowly started back into some basic training. And it felt good. It was during the first great swim back that I started thinking that maybe Raleigh was a possibility. Maybe by letting my mind, body, and heart off of the hook for a little bit, I was able to reset and reconnect with why I choose to do these long distances in the first place.

So quietly and with the help of friends, Jon, and my coach, I decided to go. I decided to think of it as a training day and stay happy, and before I knew it race weekend was upon us, and Jon, Rowan, and I were traveling three hours to Raleigh.

All of the prerace activities were business as usual with the exception of the split transition area. Jordan Lake is thirty miles from the finish line in downtown Raleigh, so that made the entire experience different. From dropping off my bike the day before to getting up at three in the morning in order to set up T2 and board a charter bus to get to T1 in enough time.

I was incredibly lucky to finally meet a wonderful friend I’ve made on Instagram. She was returning to Raleigh for redemption, and we enjoyed a prerace dinner and all of our race morning jitters were easily shared and dismissed as we watched the pros exit the water and waited for our own swim wave, which was third from the last.

IMG_7119This was the source of most of my anxiety. With a late swim wave, we only had 1:18 minutes to exit the swim in order to continue to the bike course. Jordan Lake is fairly calm, but it lacked the friendly current of Augusta’s Savannah River, and wetsuits were a race morning decision. Luckily the water temperature stayed in our favor. As I watched wave after wave leave the beach, I gave myself permission to be confident instead of nervous. I knew I was trained enough to swim 1.2 miles. And even with the lack of open water practice this spring, I knew I was able to stay focused and not panic.

Swim 1:00:46

I planned to take the triangular swim course buoy by buoy, and for the first leg, I was fine. I breathe to my left, and even with the buoys on my right and the typical swim start melee, I was able to stay focused and calm. Once I turned and started the second and longest leg, the sun was in my face and with the buoys still on my right and my googles fogging, it was impossible to sight. I stayed with the crowd, but I was feeling winded and short of breath, so I unzipped my wetsuit. And then the calf cramps started. As soon as I started to kick, they would seize, so I was only able to pull for the rest of the swim. My mental focus was shot, and I stopped often to reset, but I knew I was making enough consistent forward progress that I would make the cut off even if most of the other blue swim caps were well ahead of me. And just to add humor to the experience, when I was twenty feet from the exit ramp, I attempted to kick, and both calves seized, so I had to flip over and float and loosen them. The officials at the exit and the spectators probably wondered why I chose to take a break when I was within feet of being able to touch the bottom! I could only laugh to myself at that one.

Transition 1 4:57

This was an easy transition, and at least this time improved from Augusta!

IMG_7123Bike 3:55:47

I knew that this course was hilly, and some had even said it was similar to Augusta’s bike course, so I felt confident that I could handle it well and hopefully come close or faster than my Augusta time of 3:23. Oh how wrong I was! Out of transition was a slow 3.5 mile climb, and that set the pace for the entire course. For every slight downhill, it seemed there were many short, steep climbs or long, gradual climbs. The few flat sections were coupled with a headwind or a crosswind. Every so often, we were graced with a nice downhill cruise, but it was immediately followed by climbing. I felt strong until mile 30. The second half of the course was a bit more challenging, and my pace slowed. The course was mostly scenic and very beautiful, but there was constant traffic passing the bikers. At one point, I had to cross in front of cars to get into a turn lane to make a turn. At another point the cars were attempting to pass bikers in front of me and were at a slow crawl, and I felt hesitant to ride with any speed next to them on the narrow roads. By the time I reached downtown again, and had to make one last climb into transition, I was exhausted. Mentally, I was frustrated, and it took an incredible amount of willpower to stay focused for the ride and not allow the intensity of the course to deteriorate my confidence.

Transition 2 6:46

My rack was near the run exit. After a long walk in bike shoes, a shoe change, and a bathroom break, I entered the run course.

10352900_684479501588856_830415184703607121_nRun 3:01:32 

As I exited transition, I tried to focus myself for 13.1 miles. I knew the run course would be hilly– rolling hills with a few gradual uphills and downhills. Because of that, I knew I had to stay very aware of my knee, so I started with a 4:1 interval. That quickly shifted to a 2:1 interval, which quickly became a walk the uphills, run the downhills. The only thing that kept me moving through the run course was Jon and Rowan. I knew I would see them during miles 3, 6, and 9 and then at the finish. Each time I passed them (and stopped to talk to them), I fed off of their energy, and as I left them for the last time at mile 9, I spotted a girl in my age group who had been walking at a quick pace. I had passed her at the beginning of the second loop, but with my last extended visit with Jon and Rowan, she had gotten ahead of me again. I began running again and considered the three miles that remained. My knee was hanging in with the hills, but it was getting achy. I knew I had two options. I could continue with a sporadic run/walk and hope my knee held on, or I could catch up with this girl and make a friend. I chose the latter. I ran up to her, said hi, and we walked quickly and chatted for the next two miles. It shifted my entire experience. Because of my late swim wave start, my calf issues, and my run up to that point, the participants on the course were sparse, the crowd support was minimal. My knee ached a bit on the uphills, but I was happy just to find another smiling face and somehow finish the race on a happy, light note versus the grueling mental game it had been up to that point. We ran part of mile 11 and all of mile 12, and I finished with a smile on my face, seeing Jon and Rowan there waiting for me.

Finish 8:09:48

I’ve had many people ask me if I’m glad I decided to race. I am. I don’t regret the experience. The course was challenging; it exposed many of my weaknesses. I never reached a dark, frustrated place, but I was also not happy and smiling like I was in Augusta. It didn’t feel like a celebration of training, a victory lap; it felt like a hard end to a hard training cycle but rewarding at the same time. Mentally I won a big battle within those 70.3 miles. For some reason, training for Raleigh never captured me. Racing it didn’t either. Instead I had to hold on to any shards of positive thought I could. I had to fight to make the race a positive experience, and I think that’s something to celebrate.

At one point during the run, I decided I was burnt out on this long course training and racing. I thought that maybe I wouldn’t do Augusta in September, and I would enjoy the summer with short, hard workouts and strength training and yoga. But after a few days, I feel invigorated for Augusta’s course. I learned so much about mentally committing to the training and the race, and I can’t wait to feel the energy there again. There is a little more than a month of time where we can focus on run training and speed work and strength before miles and hours have to pick up. I’m looking forward to a renewed sense of focus and commitment and being positive and excited about a race again.

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