Lessons From Yoga: Just Breathe…

I sound like a broken record. Over and over again I have said that I’m not patient. It’s true. Patience is not my virtue, especially when I’m injured. I went from training anywhere from 10-20+ hours a week for an Ironman to a dead stop. I’m a busy body. I’m an active and physical person. Stillness is not in my vocabulary. For crying out loud, my legs twitch as I sit at my desk at work.

But, with my recent pelvic alignment issues, I have learned that I have to accept the stillness and be patient. Many people have told me to just relax and breathe. How the hell do I do that? I’m the type of person who uses physical exercise to release my stress and anxiety. I often train alone, because it’s my “me” time. I can decompress and let go the stresses of everyday living.

Breath is essential to life. From a science and physiology perspective I understand the importance of breath and its subsequent effect on the body and mind during movement. For the past couple of years I have dappled a bit in yoga periodically, but never really enjoyed it. I always viewed it more of an off-season filler, a change of pace if you will. The various instructors always talk about breath and moving to your own breath throughout your practice. I’ve always just laughed it off a bit and focused more on the actual movements; after all, I’m a more physical person, not some kumbaya hippie (yes, I judged, sue me).

But, there is something to it. I can find stillness in breath, even during movement. I can let go…

A deep breath in, a deep breath out… I can feel the tension and stress of the day leaving my body. My muscles relax and it’s just me and my thoughts. However, my brain still runs at Mach 10 with thoughts. It always does. That will probably never change. But I can slowly release and begin to live in the moment. Just breathe…

Some people are really good at living in the moment. I am not. My brain is always 10 steps ahead of me. I’m a strategic planner, always thinking about the next step and where I’m going from here. What do I need at the grocery store? What is on my to-do list at work tomorrow? When are my student loans due? The list goes on. Since my Mom died almost five years ago my thoughts and attitudes have evolved and grown. Sometimes it takes a life-changing event to change your thought process. Life is short. Cherish the moments.


Source: The Clymb Facebook Page

For the past few weeks I have reflected a bit on moments in my life where I have truly lived in the moment. I think we all have moments in life that we truly feel alive, whether it’s seeing a beautiful sunrise on the beach in Costa Rica, achieving a life goal, or the birth of your child. Each moment is unique to us and our core being.

My expectations going into Ironman Lake Placid were low, but my hopes were high. The night before the race I received some incredible advice from a friend who has raced several Ironmans – you only get one first Ironman, enjoy the moment. 

Yes, completing an Ironman is daunting to most people. Who in their right mind would want to swim, bike, run 140.6 miles for up to 17 hours? Throughout my 14:13:33 hour day I experienced pain, frustration, and negative thoughts, but I kept reminding myself to keep moving forward and breathe. Pedaling up the long, slow incline of the Gorge while fighting a headwind under threatening skies, I would look around and see the beauty of the Adirondack Mountains. My body, even though it was broken and fatigued from the day’s effort, was a machine. My breath feeding the fire that burned in my muscles. Just breathe….

Entering the Olympic Circle at Lake Placid is an indescribable feeling. An overwhelming wave of emotion; it hits you like a ton of bricks. At this point I had tears running down my cheek from the excruciating pain in my right knee from when it gave out seven miles before. Every fiber of my body was willing me to run the final half mile. The cheers from the crowd were quieting the pain in my body and pushing me forward. This was the moment. This was MY moment. The tears quickly turned from pain to every emotion imaginable. Happiness. Pain. Fatigue. 

THIS was the moment that I had been training for over seven months. I put in countless hours of blood, sweat, and tears. It all culminated in this moment. I thought about my mom and how I carried her photo in my sports bra. I hoped that she was looking down on me with pride. Suddenly, my feet across under the arch and I heard Mike Reilly tell me “I am an Ironman.” The moment was surreal. Almost like an out-of-body experience. Just breathe…

There are days I wish I could rewind time and relive moments that I didn’t fully appreciate at the time. But, atlas, we cannot. We can only live in the present and learn to appreciate what we have. Nothing lasts forever.

Source: UpWorthy Facebook Page

Source: UpWorthy Facebook Page

So next time you’re hiking a mountain, running on the beach, or relaxing on your mat at the end of yoga class, live in the moment. Sometimes it’s the little things that are the most profound in life. Sometimes you have to be patient, try something new, and learn to breathe… and finally, cherish the moment.

Just breathe… 


~ Happy Training!

Ironman Lake Placid: The Why, the Data, and the Photo I Carried

So, it’s been over 3 months since Ironman Lake Placid and I finally got around to uploading all my data from my GPS devices for the day. Better late than never, eh?

The Why

I’ve never really come out and said why I wanted to do an Ironman. For a long time I never thought I would want to do an Ironman. The miles and time involved to complete an Ironman seemed impossible, especially for a mediocre athlete like myself. Swimming, cycling, and running over 140 miles in under 17 hours was ridiculous and best left to the crazy, ripped and lean athletes. Even after my first Half-Ironman in 2011 I didn’t want to do an Ironman. Then, I watched the 2011 Ironman World Championships tracking my coach and a few fellow Maine triathletes and watched Chrissie Wellington not only come from behind to win, but with broken bones and serious road rash. I realized that there was something special about Ironman. My resistance against the idea started to turn into curiosity and finally the seed was planted. I was determined to become an Ironman someday. Ironman no longer seemed impossible, but a major goal that I was seeking to reach. Perhaps I was crazy to think little old me with my overabundance of injuries could hear Mike Reilly say that “You are an Ironman.”

I’ve always been very self-critical of myself. My father was very hard on me growing up and often pushed me to my breaking point with harsh, uncalled for comments. But, it formed who I am today. I am stubborn and I don’t give up easy. I will die trying. I hired a wonderful and supportive coach in 2012 to help prime me for my potential debut Ironman in 2013. I was still on the fence about it until I went to training camp and realized that I could do it. The impossible became the possible. I chose to do an Ironman to prove to myself that I am capable of what I put my mind too. I’ve always strived to be the best and worked hard to achieve it. I’m competitive by nature. I know I’m not the best. Many people are stronger and faster than me, but I strive to be the best and strongest person I know I can be. Completing Ironman Lake Placid this summer allowed me to put the little voice in my head that is constantly telling me I’m not good enough to rest. Ironman, the holy grail of triathlon, is achievable to anyone who is willing to take the leap and put in the work.

The Data

As I mentioned above, I finally uploaded all my Garmin devices to Training Peaks. During the race I used my Garmin 910XT and my Edge 800. Of course, being the technical idiot that I am, I messed up my 910XT and had the longest transition one of 112 miles! 🙂 Luckily, I had my Edge on my bike to catch a majority of my bike leg.

I felt like I had a good swim leg. I stayed off the cable to avoid the flailing arms and legs, but I guess I also swam an extra 0.26 miles by doing so! But, that also brings my pace down to 1:38/100 yards!

My awesome ability to swim a straight line...

My awesome ability to swim a straight line…

My bike data was fun to view. According to Training Peaks I gained 10,423 feet! I’m thinking there is a major glitch in their elevation algorithm since I know I didn’t ride my bike a few times up and down Mt. Washington! I averaged a cadence of 80 rpm, which I’m happy with since that includes all the zeros from the 10k downhill section riding into Keene (that happened twice!), thus my cadence is actually higher. Winning! My power VI was 1.15, which is good for me, especially with the ups and downs of the course.

My run data was kind of sad to view, watching my declining pace over the course of 26.2 miles. But, I knew it inevitable. Darn, knee…

Declining run pace

Declining run pace


The Photo I Carried

I knew my first Ironman would be special. I also knew it would be a long, long day that might involve some mental negative talk. I needed and wanted some motivation over the course of the day. My father refused to come to Lake Placid to watch and cheer me on and I was definitely disappointed about that. My mother was always one of my biggest cheerleaders in life and I knew that if she was still alive that she would have been there, getting up at the crack of dawn to drive me to transition and been there until I crawled across that finish line. On race day I carried her in spirit and also a picture in a little baggie tucked into my sports bra. When my thoughts turned negative and the little voice started whispering that I couldn’t do it, I thought about my mother. I was able to find my strength again and proceed onwards to the Olympic Circle. When my knee gave out at mile 18 of the run I thought back to her battle with CJD and realized the last 8 miles of the run was nothing compared to what that disease did to her.

My mom and Duke riding in Acadia National Park circa 1998

My mom and Duke riding in Acadia National Park circa 1997

My advice to anyone doing an Ironman is find something (a photo, a pin, a quote, etc.) to either carry with you physically or mentally throughout the day that will remind you why you are doing the race because there are times that your thoughts will go dark and you start to doubt your fitness, ability, and training. The mind can often push our bodies far past its breaking point when we believe we have a reason bigger than ourselves to be doing the crazy things we do.

One of my favorite quotes! (Source)

One of my favorite quotes! (Source)


~ Happy Training!