Natural Springs Garden

Gordon and I recently signed up for the Natural Springs Garden CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm share. We are in for the fall season. Each Thursday, for 12 weeks, we will receive one bushel of freshly picked produce. Apparently that is supposed to be enough for two adults with a healthy appetite for vegetables. We will see!

So I find myself eager to revive my blog, having lost inspiration since the training days leading up to IM Lake Placid, to document the produce we get each week and the interesting dishes we create from this bountiful harvest. Who knows, maybe I will re-discover my joy of blogging somewhere in one of those bushels...


My IMLP Race Report

Please hit play to get the full effect of this race report... actually, if you can take your computer into the shower that would work too...

Leading up to the race I was a mixture of excitement and nerves, as expected. Last year in Arizona I pushed the negative thoughts of "I had an injury for the past few weeks, how will I fare come race day?" to the back of my mind. This year I pushed the thoughts of "I had some good training, but I really lost focus in the past 6 weeks, can I do this?" to the back of my mind. I think we're all battling some kind of confidence issue prior to race day - whether it's injury, not training enough, or maybe having trained too much and just feeling burned out. But I managed to stub out the negative thoughts, take in the beauty of my surroundings, become inspired by all the support and words of encouragement, and just focus on my number one goal for the day - to enjoy myself. Leading up to the race this seemed a done deal, how could I not enjoy myself on such a beautiful course?

Before I left Austin I met with my coaches Chrissie and Maurice. Maurice had told me to expect different challenges the second time around. That whatever difficulties I faced the first time would unlikely happen the second time. That I would be faced with an entirely new set of challenges. That two Ironman's are never the same. This proved very, very true. So here my story begins... IMLP 2008.

The Early Morning Hours

I woke up before my alarm, of course, feeling absolutely refreshed and ready for the day ahead. I made some breakfast, coffee, got dressed and we all piled into the car to head into Lake Placid. I am so happy that we stayed away from the hustle and bustle (read: triathlete crazy zone) of Lake Placid. We had a little oasis of peace and calm in our chalet in Wilmington. Unfortunately it meant that Gordon, Kate and Andy wouldn't have a base camp to come back to during the day (the road leading to Wilmington was on the bike course) but they were fully prepared to battle out the next 16 or so hours, as was I.

We arrived in Lake Placid about 4:50am. Transition wasn't even open yet, but the bodymarkers were already setup so I let them ink me with the numbers 2096 and 32. Good numbers. As soon as transitioned open at 5am I headed in, got my tyres pumped up straight away (yay, no line! and so awesome to have someone else pump them up for me), filled my aero bottle with water, put my nutrition on my bike, reset my bike computer, made sure I was in an easy gear, checked my tyres again, then I was ready to leave. Well, kind of. I always have separation anxiety from my bike before such a big race! So it took me a few pats of the bike, squeeze of the tyres, and some gentle reassuring words before I headed out of transition and down to the lake.

As Calm as Mirror Lake

I met up with the others as soon as I left transition and we walked down to Mirror Lake. It was only about 5:30am and still very quiet down by the waterfront. Most other people hadn't arrived yet or were still in transition. I was experiencing a sense of calm that was familiar from Arizona last year. I wasn't nervous, I wasn't antsy, I wasn't excited, I was just calm. I hung out with Kate and Andy for the next hour or so, had some more food and water, and just sat down and chilled. Gordon had already set himself up in prime position for taking photos. Then it was time to put on the wetsuit, give Kate a last hug, and head into the pre-swim holding pen. I found Gordon and had a few words to him, a hug, a smile and a kiss. Then I got into the water and swam out to the start line. I bobbed around for a while smiling at the people around me, floating on my back and taking it all in, watching the helicopter overhead. I still felt calm. Bang! The gun goes off, I start my watch and I'm off swimming.

An Ironman swim is the least enjoyable part of the day for me, and I love swimming! I tried to stay wide on the swim course, but inevitably wound up near the cable line, which was pretty rough'n'tumble. The usual things happened - punch in the head, people grabbing my legs, getting dunked, I also managed to give my fair share back to some of the big blokes who tried to swim over me. Take that. Yes, I still need to work on keeping my focus. Anyway... the water temperature wasn't cold and it wasn't warm, it was just right. After I'd fought my way through the more crowded part of the swim start, I noticed that it was raining and thought that was pretty cool. Swimming in the rain, I always love that. Fairly soon I was approaching the end of the first loop, I pulled myself out, ran back to the swim start and dove into the water for lap two. As I swam the second loop it started to thin out a bit more and I noticed it was still raining but at that stage didn't think anything further, just focused on being smooth and slippery in the water. Then it was the end of lap two and I was out of the water for good, yee-haw!

Down on the ground, wetsuit stripped off by one of the awesome volunteers, then back up with wetsuit in hand, feeling awesome and running downhill into transition. This is one of my favourite parts of a race, I love how strong and excited (and relieved!) I feel after getting out of the water. I looked around for Gordon, Kate and Andy but hadn't yet seen them (found out later Gordon was right in front of me!). Then as I was halfway down to transition I heard Kate and then saw her! That was a huge rush and made me feel so good. We almost high-fived but not quite. But it certainly gave me a high as I finished the run into transition.

I picked up my bag and went into the change tent. A quite well-timed power outage plunged us into darkness, which made it a little interesting trying to undress and get changed in the dark! Before too long I was out of the change tent, socks and shoes in hand. Given all the rain I didn't want to run through the mud with my shoes on and get mud in my cleats. I've had problems with that in the past and taking forever to clip in, so I figured this would be a good approach (and it was). Unfortunately no-one had my bike ready for me, but I knew where it was so I ran right over and grabbed it and made my way out to the bike course. Socks and shoes on, mount the bike, clip in to the pedals and I'm on my way. The first part of the bike is a tight turn on a downhill so we had to be pretty cautious with the wet roads. But I was careful and escaped without incident. I was feeling so pumped and happy and was smiling at everyone. I was on the bike!

Warming up

The first 6-7 miles of the bike are full of rollers that aren't too challenging but you definitely want to keep the effort easy or you'll pay for it later. I took the time to get some fluid and take a gel, settle myself into the rhythm of being on the bike, and feel how my bike was responding to the wet roads. I felt good. Then we came upon the long downhill into Keane. This would be a great section to really scream down in good weather! But with the rain I could only manage around 34mph comfortably. I wasn't wearing sunglasses so the rain was lashing at my face and eyes, and I was squinting just to try and keep sight of the road in front of me. I started feeling a little cold on this section, but as soon as we passed through Jay and took the left turn into Wilmington I started to get warm again, because... this is where the hills started! I really enjoyed the hills on the way to Wilmington, nothing was too steep and I felt fresh and strong. I found myself easily cycling past others on the uphills (only to get passed again on the downhills, oh well).

Mama Bear, Baby Bear, Papa Bear

Once in Wilmington there is a 12mi out and back section. This corner was rocking! Full of cheering spectators in their ponchos. The rain certainly was not dampening their spirits! I was smiling at everyone and thanking them all for being out there. This out and back section was my favourite - you get to see all of the other competitors ahead and behind you, sharing smiles and jokes about the weather. I went past a woman who had scratched out her name on her bib and instead put the words "Vegemite", a fellow Aussie yay! So we had a chat for a few minutes before we went our own separate ways. Once the out and back section was finished I knew it was onto the last, toughest part of the loop. The climb back into Lake Placid. I have to admit, these hills were pretty tough. None of them were very steep, but they weren't spaced out very well and so this section was very tough. My favourite bit on this section back into town was the "Papa Bear" hill - I felt like I was in the Tour de France! Tonnes of spectators lined the hill, including a devil (!) chasing us with his fork, and the energy and enthusiasm and support was so contagious. I powered up that last hill, turned the corner and started cruising into Lake Placid. Everyone was cheering wildly and I saw Gordon, Kate and Andy cheering even more wildly for me! Big grins at them - unfortunately Gordon was only able to catch my butt pedalling away from them on the first loop. Guess I was flying past them too quickly ;)

Why am I here?

The second bike loop was tough. Tougher than the 25mph winds in Arizona last year. Tougher than any of the 100F bike rides I've done this summer. Physically I still felt pretty good, but mentally I had checked myself out. I got quite cold on the downhill into Keane, and that damn rain felt like hail against my skin. I had a bit of a cry. Then I had another cry. Then I stopped at the rest stop in Jay to re-fuel and visit the bathroom - the bright point of this rest stop were the two kids that helped me out. I think they were about 12yrs old. They filled my aero bottle while I was in the bathroom and held my bike for me the entire time. They were so sweet. I gave them a big thankyou and took off towards Wilmington. The out and back section was still the best part of the loop and I kept my spirits up for the spectators, although not quite as enthusiastically as on the first loop.

Finally I was on the last 14mi of the course, heading back into Lake Placid. I had completely lost my motivation. Mentally I was broken. The consistent downpouring of rain had dampened my spirit and this is when the conversations with myself really started. "Why am I out here?". "I've done an Ironman before, so why do I need to do this again, today, in this weather?". "How can I finish the bike, get changed, and head straight back out into this rain for a marathon?". I had even sketched out what I would write in this blog post. That it just wasn't my day. That everyone would understand. I convinced myself to just tough out the rest of the bike, finish strong, and then I could be done. Finished. So I rode the rest of the bike course, went up that last hill, finished strong, and cycled into town. I saw Gordon, Kate and Andy again cheering absolutely wildly for me, and I couldn't summon up the strength to smile back at them. Instead, I gave them a sad little smile, "I'm sorry I've let you down. I'm going to quit now.". I didn't say those words but it was written all over my face. As Gordon describes in his race report, and as you can clearly see in the photo he took of me, you could tell that I was done.

I'm not done

I handed my bike off to the volunteer, grabbed my bike to run bag and went into the change tent. I sat down and one of the volunteers came over to assist me. "I just need a moment", I said. She pulled all of my gear out and I slowly started drying off, getting changed, preparing myself for the run. For some reason I just couldn't utter the words "I'm done". I thought, why not go out there and start the run and see what happens? So I finished getting dressed and ran out of the change tent, onto the run course. I started running. Everyone was cheering. It felt good to be off the bike and running. It was still pouring with rain. I looked out for my support crew but didn't see them. I wasn't surprised, they were pretty far away on the bike course and the run went in the opposite direction. Doesn't matter, I'll see them later.

I ran out of town, feeling strong and the crowds were phenomenal, calling out my name, encouraging me, pushing me forward. I ran about 3-4 miles before I started the run/walk two-step. My stomach was bothering me and I just couldn't summon up the will to run continuously. I was tired and I knew if I run/walked that I'd finish in a decent time. I was either running a solid pace of 9min/mi and easily passing people, or walking 14min/mi (I'm a pretty fast walker, I wasn't just lollygagging while I was walking!). I alternated between gels, chicken broth, cola, pretzels, water. Finally I made it to "Inspiration Station" and eagerly looked for the message from Gordon and Kate on the LCD - "What would Timmy say?". It made me laugh. It's a long story behind that message. Actually, not really such a long story. Tim is Kate's husband. His favourite saying for the past year was inspired by an infamous Australian (ps. only click on the link if you are not offended by profanity. He swears a lot. Don't open it if you're at work. You've been warned). It made me laugh, and I kept pushing on back into town.

Unexpected encouragement!

I was about 10 miles into the run when I saw Gordon. I slowed down to have a hug and a chat. I was expecting some soft, gentle, encouraging words "c'mon Amanda, keep going petal, you can do this", but instead he
started yelling at me! "C'MON AMANDA, KEEP RUNNING, YOU CAN DO THIS, C'MON!" and he ran with me part of the way. Exactly what I needed, mind you :) He had also convinced a whole tent full of people to cheer for me too. That felt good. I did end up walking the ginormous big hill leading back into town. That thing was a monster! I ran the little out and back section and before I knew it I was on my way to the second loop. I was making decent time, nothing super speedy, but okay. I felt like a superstar running down that enormous hill, passing people and feeling strong. I got a lot of great comments on how strong I looked. I even managed to get a kiss out of Gordon this time.

I can do this

Then I was out of town past the showgrounds where the crowd thinned out and I resorted to my walk/run thing again. No worries. Need to keep my energy up for the finish! I passed the "Inspiration Station" again, got another chuckle out of "What would Timmy say?" and headed back into town. Only 3ish miles to go now. I can do this! When I came back into town and that huge uphill Gordon and Kate were there - they cheered me on and ran with me for about 20m or so. That was awesome! I really enjoyed that. Then they yelled out "see you at the finish!" and I was on my own for the last section into town. I still couldn't convince myself to run the entire way in, I don't know why, I just couldn't. But by the time I hit the last mile I knew I had it in the bag and I started running and running and running. I ran into the finish area, saw Gordon, Andy and Kate, ran even harder, through the puddles, towards that finish line and finally heard the words "Amanda McGregor, you are an Ironman!". That makes two for two!!!

Proud, tired, happy

I was so happy to be done. I was so proud of myself for continuing to push through on a challenging day. I almost gave up because I thought it didn't matter if I didn't finish, because I had already done an Ironman. When Maurice had said different things will happen in your second race, he was right on. I had bad weather at Arizona (wind) and bad weather at Lake Placid (rain), but I never thought of quitting during Arizona. The hunger for becoming an Ironman was too great. I seriously questioned myself during Lake Placid because I thought I didn't have that same hunger to finish. But apparently I did. Because I finished. And, I actually enjoyed parts of it too :)


I was awesome.

Torrential downpour the entire day almost broke my spirit by the end of the bike. But I collected myself in T2, changed into dry clothes, thought about everyone cheering me on, and just couldn't utter the words "I'm done, I can't continue". So I put on my running shoes and headed back out into the rain for my marathon and that Ironman finish line.

It took my second Ironman to hear the words, but this time I heard them. "Amanda McGregor, you are an Ironman!".

That makes two for two. It was a completely different experience the second time. Different thoughts going through my head and I had to dig deeper to motivate myself to keep going, but I did and I finished and I had many moments out there that I truly enjoyed.

Thanks Gordon, Kate and Andy. I know it was a long, rainy day for you too, but seeing you out on the course kept my spirits high and drove me on to that finish line. Thank you.


T -16 hours

I am loving my time in Lake Placid. It is a beautiful area of the country and I feel very privileged to be doing my second Ironman here. I like that it's so different from Arizona and although true inspiration can only come from within, I'm sure I will find some of it lurking out there on the course - in the small towns that we pass through on the bike that will be full of cheering spectators, the long climbing uphills that are almost always followed by a refreshing downhill, the lushness of the landscape, my family waiting for me as I come back into town on each bike and run loop, cheering wildly, and my family and friends cheering me on from afar. I can't wait! Yet I am also wildly nervous.

You'll be able to follow me on www.ironmanlive.com - they'll have the race coverage up for IMUSA and you'll be able to "track an athlete". Just search for me under my name or you can use my bib number - 2096. The page should update when I finish the swim, each loop of the bike (there are two) and probably halfway point on the run, then the finish. You should also be able to get a live video feed of me crossing the finish line!

Gordon is also going to update his twitter feed, linked at the top of the page. Now it's time for some final relaxation, a call to Mum and Dad this evening and an early night. Thanks to everyone for all of your support and friendship. I'll be thinking of you while I'm out there tomorrow.


Becoming an Ironman

The water laps your toes and envelops your skin. Close your eyes. The masses become silent and your heartbeat thunders. You have planned for today, talked about today, trained for today, imagined today, dreamed today, and yet you still don't know what to expect.

Manage your day. Stick to your plan. Be flexible. Just finish. Float when your mind and body detach and watch your body move without you - pushed by the crowd, the volunteers, who lust for your finish as if it were their own.

But it hurts. And you don't know for sure why you're doing this and what it will mean when you do. And then you see it. A banner, a clock, a frenzy of applause. And you know you made it happen through whatever means and power source you draw strength from.

Becoming an Ironman, Kara Douglass Thom