3 Year MS Anniversary

It is my 3 year anniversary this week.  No, not my wedding anniversary.  (Shout out to my husband, we are in fact coming up on our 20 year anniversary in May.  When did I get so old?)  Anyway, this week marks my 3 year anniversary of being diagnosed with MS.  It’s a bit ironic that this week is also National MS Awareness Week and March is MS Awareness Month.

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For those of you new to my blog, you can read about my MS story here.  I talk about what symptoms I had, the testing process and eventual diagnosis, and how one of my first thoughts was if I would be able to continue running marathons.  Isn’t it interesting where you mind goes in challenging times?

I’m happy to say that since my diagnosis I have gone on to run 7 more marathons, including 2 Boston Marathons (my third coming up in just 6 weeks!), and last year completed my first Half and Full Ironman races.  I never would have imagined this was possible 3 years ago as I sat in my car at the doctor’s office after getting the bad news.

Has it been an easy journey?  No, there are many days when my symptoms are acting up and I would rather not get up early to work out before getting the kids to school and going to work.  However, what I realize is that if I give in to those feelings, I would probably never get out the door to exercise.  It is rarely easy, however, it is always rewarding.

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I’ve asked myself why set such lofty goals?  The answer is that I find strength in persevering and working toward things that may seem difficult or even impossible.  I believe that God has planted the desire to set big endurance goals in my heart and will use this in some way to His glory.

I am not saying that everyone with MS should go run a marathon or do an Ironman.  I am aware that MS affects each of us very differently and that many are not physically able to do these things.  I feel very blessed that currently I am able to push my body and mind to this level, however, I know that may not always be the case.  While MS is unique in everyone it affects, it is also unpredictable and can change overnight.  What I do hope for is that along the way I can inspire someone else to work toward something they think is out of reach, whatever that may be.

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Thank you to my family, friends, and blog readers that have supported me in this journey that past few years.  I honestly could not do this without you.

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What’s Next?

My Ironman recovery time, which consisted of no workouts for a couple of weeks post-race, then slowly getting back to running and just going when I felt like it for however long felt good, to eventually taking some spin classes, has now brought me full circle back into training.  So what does my 2015 race schedule look like?

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First up will be my return for the third year to the Boston Marathon!  My first time running the Boston Marathon in 2013 ended with a horrible act of terrorism while I was in the finisher’s chute.  My second time last year was an amazing celebration of strength and support for the city and victims, and it was the best birthday celebration I’ve ever had!  I can’t wait to be back in Boston again this year to experience the energy and passion once again.

As I alluded to in this post, I did not meet one of my goals at Ironman Arizona in November.  Yes, I did cross the finish line faster and feeling better than I ever could have imagined, however, I did not hear Mike Reilly call my name as I ran my heart out those last few meters.  Would I really take on all the training and sacrifices required to do another Ironman just to hear my name as I cross the finish line?  Maybe not JUST for that one reason, however, I thoroughly enjoyed my first Ironman and having a big race to work towards helps keep me moving, which in turn helps me (both physically and mentally) not lose myself into the abyss of MS.  So…Ironman Coeur d’Alene here I come.
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My husband and some friends did this race in 2013.  I remember cheering them on and can’t wait to be out on the course with some of them this time.
I’m hoping to squeeze a 70.3 Ironman race in between Boston and Coeur d’Alene, which is looking like it will be the St. George 70.3 Ironman on May 2.  
That takes care of the first half of the year, with a few other races and bike events thrown in for training, as well.  While I may not feel great every day (or week), and sometimes the last thing I want to do is go workout, what keeps me going is knowing that others are not able to, due to MS or other ailments.  Someday I may not be able to either, so I want to embrace the moment and do what I can with what I have been given right now.  I am so blessed.
Tell me what you are training for in the comments:
I have some exciting news coming up in the next month!  Be sure to follow Miles and Trials on Facebook, click here  and on Twitter, click here
Also, thanks to my awesome sister for redesigning my blog header!

I’ll Stick With Triathlon

I received an exciting email this week:

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 I’m not entirely sure what this entails, but I’m honored (and surprised) to be in the top 10% of my age group for the Half Ironman and Ironman races that I competed in this past year.  My husband tells me it’s a pretty big deal, so I guess it is!

I suppose the cross training of swimming and biking has been good for my body (and mind) and apparently I’m not half bad at the long distance triathlons.  While I’m still in love with running, and missing running as many marathons as I used to, I think I’ll stick with triathlon for awhile (with some marathons added in whenever I can!).  I loved the triathlons that I participated in last year.  It was a great year of firsts (first Half Ironman and First Ironman), and I’m excited to see how things go this year.

Looking Back

I’m back after my Post-Ironman/Holiday Hiatus.  It’s hard to believe it has already been 2 months since I completed my first Ironman.  Yes, I’m still basking in the warm fuzzy feelings of achieving one of my bucket list goals.  However, it is starting to feel like the distant past and I’m sure everyone is tired of hearing or reading about it!  Time to move on, but before I fill you in on what this year has in store, I wanted to reflect a bit on last year.

2014 was a big exciting year for me as I changed up all the running I had been doing and jumped into triathlon with both feet.

The year started with running the Phoenix Rock ‘n Roll half marathon, and then 6 weeks later I ran my 10th marathon, the Phoenix Marathon, where I set a PR and qualified for Boston.  This was a great race and I hope to someday run it again.

Never been so happy to finish a race!

In April I got the best present imaginable and ran my 2nd Boston Marathon on my birthday.  In 2013 I was in the finisher’s chute celebrating my first time running Boston when the bombs went off behind me.  Boston holds a very special place in my heart, as do all those that were affected from this horrific act.  I was blessed to run the race again in 2014 and be a part of the healing and strength of this great race and city.  It was truly an incredible day.

My sweet friend, Sheilah, that ran with me the entire race and even got runners to sing Happy Birthday to me at mile 25!

My sweet friend, Sheilah, that ran with me the entire race and even got runners to sing Happy Birthday to me at mile 25!

In June I completed my first half Ironman in Boulder.  Having only done a couple of other shorter distance triathlons years prior, this was a happy accomplishment that I was able to get through 70.3 miles!

My sister and kids after the race, I have the best cheerleaders!

My sister and kids after the race, I have the best cheerleaders!

September brought the annual MS 150 Bike Ride, where our Miles and Trials team road 150 miles for the 3rd year in row to raise funds for MS Research and Awareness.  I got to reconnect with friends I had met in previous MS Rides and make new friends, all while riding across Northern New Mexico with my husband and supportive friends.  I am so grateful to be surrounded by people that support me every step (and mile!) and help me feel like I am not going through the journey of MS alone.

2014 Miles and Trials Team Riding to cure MS

2014 Miles and Trials Team
      Riding to cure MS

Next up, the culmination of a year of hard work and training.  My first Ironman!  I won’t bore you with the details, you can read all about it here.  What I will say is that if any of you have ever thought about “someday” doing an Ironman, or you have watched the Hawaii Ironman on TV, as I have for years and were inspired by it, you too could be an IRONMAN.  I am not anything special, I was not born naturally athletic, and I did not grow up playing sports or running, biking, or swimming (unless you count hours and hours of playing Marco Polo swimming).  All I had was the thought and desire years ago to complete a marathon and check it off my bucket list, and a very small part of me thought that someday I would also do an Ironman.  (Keep in mind I could not even run 1 mile at that point, nor had I even been on a bike or swam 1 lap in a pool for many years!)  I simply started one step at a time.  You could too.

2014 Ironman Arizona, a dream come true

2014 Ironman Arizona                     A dream come true

These are just a few of the highlights of 2014.  There were other great moments too, running the Boston 5k with my sister, who recently took up running, meeting a fellow Ironman that also has MS at the Buffalo Springs 70.3 Ironman, completing 2 years of an MS clinical trial, just to mention a few.  It was a fabulous year.

While this post and the majority of my blog focuses on the exercise and physical goals that I aim to achieve while fighting MS, my life is about much more than this.  I have a wonderful and supportive husband, 2 beautiful children, amazing friends and family, and most importantly God who has allowed me to pursue my passions and turn a diagnosis of MS into something that hopefully can inspire someone else.  All of that means much more to me than any medal I get from crossing a finish line.  My ultimate finish line will be the day I go home to Jesus.


Arizona Ironman Race Recap

Happiest finish line ever!

Happiest finish line ever!

“Beth Ulibarri, you are an IRONMAN!”  Unfortunately I did not hear Mike Reilly say those words, however, I did finish the Arizona Ironman!  I’m still a little sad that I didn’t hear those iconic words, but I won’t let that take anything away from the awesome day I had at my first Ironman.

All the pink and green caps lined up to get into the water

All the pink and green caps lined up to get into the water

The morning started with a short walk from our hotel to the start.  I had to drop my special needs bags off and then went to my bike to inflate my tires.  I lost my husband at this point, but fortunately found him in time to get our wet suits on together. The entire area was so crowded that we never found our other friends that were racing.  I was just happy that I had my husband with me as we got ready for the start of our day.  We held hands as we were herded like cattle into a narrow space where we descended some steps to enter the water.  We wished each other luck, had a quick kiss and the next thing I knew I was jumping into the cold water and swimming a few hundred meters to the starting line.

Treading water awaiting the start of the race

Treading water awaiting the start of the race

I was definitely nervous, but had to put that aside and just suck it up and get going.  After a few minutes of treading water, I heard Mike Reilly say to us over the loud speaker “May the wind be ever at your back” and the cannon went off (these words would run through my head later in the day when the wind was doing the exact opposite!).  There is much to say about the swim, but I’ll keep it brief and say that it was brutal. I was hit in the eye, the temple, punched, run into, swum over, and even took a kick to my wrist that I didn’t realize until later in the swim had turned my Garmin off.  I did my best to remain positive and used my favorite Nemo mantra “just keep swimming”.  The good news is that I got out of the water intact after a 1:16.50 swim and was ready to get on with the rest of my day.

2700 athletes plowing through each other at the start of the swim

2700 athletes plowing through each other at the start of the swim

Once I got out on the bike, I began my fueling (Bonk Breaker bars, gels, Skratch drink mix, and Klean Athlete Endurance tabs and Electrolytes), and told myself to bike smart.  I didn’t want to ride the bike course too hard and put my legs at a disadvantage for the run.  I think I did a good job of really holding back the first of the 3 loops, and I’m glad I did, because the wind kept getting stronger and more punishing throughout the day.  We rode up a 9 mile stretch of the Beeline Highway each loop directly into a 20-25mph headwind, with occasional crosswinds that pushed me a few feet to each side.  I had to stay alert and focused all the time for fear of a gust blowing me over.  I saw 4 crashes throughout the day, which scared me, and I hope that everyone was alright.  Around mile 30 I hit a bump in the road and the right side of my visor popped off my helmet.  At first I tried to fix it (as I’m riding down the road) thinking I just need to pop it back into place.  When it wouldn’t reattach, I had to figure out what to do.  I tried riding with it hanging on by one side, it must have looked hilarious hanging titled across my face.  When I realized that wasn’t going to work and that I could not reattach it (the screw had popped off), I pulled the other side off and completely detached the visor.  Then I stuck it in my back pocket, but a gust of wind came and blew it away.  After messing around with that, I was happy to be rid of it and settle back down into my ride, fortunately, I was wearing sunglasses under my visor!


I stopped once around mile 60 to use a porta potty and refill my aero bottle with the drink mix I was using.  Other than that, I was on my bike, getting water bottles at aid stations while riding by and staying on top of my fueling strategy.  It was a welcome relief at the end of each lap coming back into Tempe where my friends and family were cheering us on.  It gave me a burst of energy to go back out and tackle the uphill into the wind each time.  6:37.47 later I was off the bike and never so happy to put my running shoes on!

Time for my favorite part of the day, the marathon!  Even though I have run 11 marathons the past few years, with this being my first Ironman, I had no idea what to expect after biking 112 miles and swimming 2.4 miles.  My number one goal was to cross that finish line, and I hoped to do it feeling strong.  My strategy was to run much slower than I would in a marathon, so I started out at around 10 minute per mile pace.  I walked through every aid station and took water and poured ice and water on my head to keep cool.  Luckily the temperature was in the low 70s, so the heat was not a factor for me at all.


I made a few new friends along the run and enjoyed chatting with them as the miles passed. I saw my husband for the first time all day on an out and back section of the run.  I was around mile 2 and I guessed that he was around mile 4.  I was running on a path on top of an embankment along the lake and he was down at the bottom, but with his awesome MS-orange shirt on, I saw him and yelled and we waved, so happy to see each other and know we were both doing alright.  The run course crosses to the other side of Tempe Town Lake and about an hour and a half later we got to see each other again and managed to stop and kiss before heading our separate ways.  It was so comforting to know he was having a good race and was out there on the course getting it done.  I saw one of our friends on the run course, but I never saw our other 3 friends that were racing, despite knowing we had to have passed each other at some points throughout the bike and the run!

Looks like I made a bunch of friends on the run!

Looks like I made a bunch of friends on the run!

Out of nowhere, my knee started bothering me around mile 11.  It was on the outside and felt related to my IT band.  I think it was from running on the hard concrete path.  At points it almost felt like it was going to give out on me and I got a little concerned.  I debated stopping to get some ibuprofen, but never ended up doing that.  I just kept telling myself only X more miles to go and I can put some ice on it and I don’t have to run for weeks!

Other than my knee, I felt great the entire run.  I stayed on top of my fueling, and continued to walk through each aid station.  Sure it got tough toward the end, but it never felt insurmountable.  I think that since I biked and ran very conservatively all day, constantly afraid of pushing too hard and hitting the wall, I was able to maintain a decent pace and push through the rough parts of the run.  Around Mile 25 I started to hear Mike Reilly’s voice at the finish line calling people in and at that point I knew I had done it.  I knew I would become an IRONMAN.  I knew all the training and sacrifices had been worth it.  I was so happy to be feeling good and present in my head (no brain fog like when I push hard in a marathon sometimes).  I couldn’t wait to hear Mike Reilly call my name!  I began passing people the last half mile and even managed to pass a few people in the finisher’s chute, it was like I was sprinting on air, it just felt so good!  I finished the run in 4:27.54 and crossed the best finish line of my life.  My total race time was 12:32.46, which was good enough for 24th in my age group.


The journey of the past year has come to completion and I could not be happier.  Ironman is about so much more than the twelve and a half hours I was out there racing.  It’s about determination, perseverance, hope, dedication and proving to myself that the impossible can become possible.   I want to give an enormous thank you to my family and friends for their unwavering support and their huge part in helping me reach my goal.  I was blessed with an incredible race experience and am grateful to Klean Athlete for the opportunity, encouragement, and of course, amazing products that helped keep me healthy through hundreds of hours of training to get me to the starting line in top shape.

Some people have already been asking…Am I going to do another Ironman?  Geez, can a girl have a few seconds to just enjoy finishing an epic race?  Maybe my friends know me too well and think I already have the “next” race planned!  While it is a bit soon to figure all that out, what I can say is that I did not get my goal of hearing Mike Reilly call my name at the finish line, and that irks me just a tiny bit.  Possibly enough to do another one…