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!

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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.

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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.

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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…

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I am an Ironman!

In case you didn’t see my Twitter and Facebook posts last night, I officially became an Ironman!  I finished the Arizona Ironman in 12 hours 32 minutes. It was an incredibly tough, wonderfully challenging experience. I will post a recap of the long day when I can wrap my head around it all. For now I am celebrating and thanking my friends and family and all of you for the support and encouragement!  And thank you to Klean Athlete for their support this past year and sponsoring me in this special race. Now let the rest and recovery begin!

Ironman Arizona Goals

Whew, I have made it to just days before the BIG RACE!  Has it really been a year since I was in Phoenix with my family volunteering at Ironman Arizona so my hubby and I could sign up for the 2014 race?  And now, here it is!  I guess time really does fly when you are having fun (if you call training, working, family life, eating, sleeping, then repeat, fun).

My Batman Family volunteering at the 2013 Arizona Ironman

My Batman Family volunteering at the 2013 Arizona Ironman

A few people have asked, what my goals are for my first Ironman race this weekend. They are not too complicated:

  1. Finish the race in less than 17 hours.  (For those of you not familiar with Ironman races, you have until midnight to finish the race to be considered an “Ironman”.)
  2. Hear Mike Reilly say those magic words: “Beth Ulibarri, You are an IRONMAN!” This gives me chills just thinking about it.

Honestly, there isn’t much else than the two big goals above.  My time simply does not matter, as long as I meet all the cut-off times throughout the day and don’t get pulled off the course.  I also hope to be present and smile as much as possible, because this really is a joyous occassion, right?  I get to celebrate all of my hard work this past year.  Even though I know not all 140.6 miles will feel good, I will remember that it is a privilege and a blessing just to be out there able to move my body all day toward the finish line (hopefully).

The work is complete, the training is over, it’s time to get it done!

For updates over the Ironman weekend follow me on Twitter, @MilesAndTrials and Facebook, Miles and Trials

 

 

Arizona Ironman Taper

Dear Arizona Ironman Taper,

Hello, sweet friend.  I have been anxiously awaiting your arrival for months.  After signing up to race the Arizona Ironman last November, I spent the past year preparing for the challenge of my life.  After months of training, thousands of yards in the pool, hours and hours on spin bikes and my new tri bike, and hundreds of miles of running, the time has come to hang out with you, Taper friend, for the next 2 weeks.

I’m not going to lie, I was hoping to see you last week, as I normally hang out with you for 3 weeks prior to the marathons that I have run.  But, according to my slave driving Ironman training plan, I only get to see you for the next 2 weeks.  Who knew that the longer the race (over 5 times the distance of “just” running a marathon), the shorter the taper?  Hmmm, I feel a bit ripped off.  Oh well, you are here now and I’m going to enjoy every minute with you until 7am on November 16th when it all begins and I get to see if I have what it takes to go 140.6 miles in less than 17 hours.  Until then, let’s relax (as much as possible) and celebrate the journey so far.

Your (hopefully) soon to be Ironman friend,

Beth

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