Scranton Half Marathon, April 10th, 2016

This is a relatively new race, I believe this year was the third year running? Not entirely sure on that one but I know it’s somewhat new. As I have said in previous race reports, I love trying new races and therefore tend to stray away from the local ones. So, in my quest to find an early spring half marathon this one came to mind. I knew someone who ran the race in the past and he didn’t seem to have many negatives to report so I figured why not run it. The race site was not a far drive from my house so I didn’t need to worry about too much travel time or forking out change for a hotel room. I’m not big on traveling far for half marathons.

Leading up to the race I briefly looked at the course profile but I can’t say I knew very much about the race. From what I could tell the course profile seemed to be pretty flat. The description on the website said a few rolling hills and part of the course was on pavement, the other part on a cinder trail.

The weather seemed to be a little sketchy leading into the race. The day before it was snowing. I think they were predicting 1-3 inches of snow! My friend Allison ended up pacing a half marathon in Lancaster, PA that day and her finishing photo summed it up perfectly! I basically started to prepare myself for running in the snow!

I went to the “expo” the day before to pick up my race packet and visited the local running store. I say “expo” but it was really small and in a small area with tons of people. I literally went in, grabbed my race packet and bag and jetted out of there. Next stop was a trip to a local pizza place for my pre-race lunch. Because, well, pizza! Once I got everything done, I came back, napped, ate dinner (chicken parm with some pasta) and got to bed early.

Race Morning: Since the race started at 9am it wasn’t a crazy early morning. I was able to have my morning coffee, toasted bagel and a banana with some peanut butter. Parking was convenient because it was right outside the building that the expo was in the day before. I went inside to stay warm and also to use the bathrooms. There was a line for the bathroom but it seemed to move quickly. Once I got through the line I made my way to the start since time was quickly ticking away. I positioned myself towards the first half of the start line and kept my warm clothes on until the last possible minute. I decided to race in running tights, a long sleeved shirt, gloves and a fleece headband. It was unbelievably cold but at least there was zero snow on the ground!

Mile 1: It was a little tight at the start, the streets were a bit narrow and there was just a ton of people. I had no idea what the course was like but the first mile was flat for about the first half mile and then a gradual climb. Nothing too severe. 7:49

Mile 2: What goes up, even slightly, goes down. This mile was a bit of a downhill. The cool part was that I could see the race leaders coming up the other side of this hill. Like I said, I didn’t know the course at all so I had no idea what to expect. 7:32

Mile 3: This was a small lollipop loop before making the turn to head back up the hill that you run down at mile two. 7:26

Mile 4: A little elevation change but not taxing. 7:46

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Mile 5: Another climb, a little bit longer than the one at mile 4. I didn’t know about this climb so I had no time to panic. I just took it for what it was. I paid close attention to my breathing and shortened my stride slightly. Quick feet up the hill, recover at the top, cruise the downhill. 7:29 

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Miles 6-7: The last remaining miles on the road. From what I remember these two miles were still a slight downhill or mostly flat. 7:26, 7:37

Miles 8-12: This part of the race was on the Lackwanna River Heritage Trail. What a beautiful trail! Partially paved and wide enough to fit all the runners. This section was an out and back portion so it was crowded but I never felt like I couldn’t make my way. I would say one the way out it was flat and slightly downhill. After the turn around, it was a false flat. 7:34, 7:32, 7:56, 7:41, 7:52

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Mile 13: The finish is around the track at the Scranton High School Stadium. I promised myself that no matter what happened, I would run the loop around the track as fast as I could. I kept looking down at my watch because I knew that no matter what I was going to have a decent PR but I wanted to fight as hard as I could to break 1:40. 7:21

Finish time: 1:39:52, 7:37/mile, 4 min PR!!!

Age Group Results: 2nd place 30-34

I absolutely LOVED this race and would consider doing it again. I thought the race was flawless. The spectator support was amazing. Aid stations were positioned adequately throughout the course too. The course overall I feel is a PR course and highly recommended!!!

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Quakertown 10 Miler, March 3rd, 2016

This will be a quick write up. This course is brutal! I mean brutal. Hills after hills after hills. I have run it before in the past so I knew what to expect. Since I have been training for a half marathon I figured this would be a good race to test where I was at. I knew my previous PR on the course was 1:20, 8:00 miles. The way I have been running lately, I thought I could definitely beat that.

This race is a quick drive down the turnpike and it started at 9am so I didn’t have to wake up race morning super early. Another plus!

Here are my splits from the day:

7:28, 7:47, 7:41, 7:49, 8:11, 7:53, 7:39, 7:53, 7:34, 8:12

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Clearly I started fast the first mile. This is a downhill mile from the start. I just tried to run relaxed and comfortable. After that I was able to settle into an achievable pace. Mile 5 was a decent climb. The last mile, I can’t say much except I was toast!

 

Total Time: 1:18:42 (A PR)

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Age group: 1st place 30-34

4th female overall!

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All racing aside though, I got to spend the morning with a great group of running friends!

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Superbowl 10k, February 7th, 2016

I have a strong dislike for local races these days and I like to venture off and experience new courses. However, I felt very bored this winter with training and I really lacked motivation. Definitely not like me. I talked to my coach about it and he suggested that I just sign up and race this race. No real goal in mind except to show up, run hard/fast and just have a good time. The overall results didn’t matter. After much convincing, I registered.

I run this course quite a bit in training. The course is not far from my work office so I will run it a lot during my lunch runs. I know every turn and every hill. Literally. The course is pretty brutal.

Anyway, I don’t run many 5ks or 10ks so my 10k PR was from this same course two years ago. I think it was a high 47 or something close to that. I knew I was capable of a PR this time around but I didn’t dwell on it. My running has really come a long way. I ran a BQ at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in the fall and I never really stopped after that. I knew I wanted to start out keeping mile 1 under control and pick it up from there. The course is basically an out and back course. The first 5k is all uphill, last 5k mostly downhill. Stay controlled for the first half, let it rip the second!

I showed up with plenty of time race morning, went to the club house to get my race number, used the bathroom and did a 15 minute warm up. It was cold out so I wanted to make sure to get in the entire warm up. I timed it just right because after my warm up was over we started to line up and position ourselves for the start.

I lined up a few rows back from the start line and we were off!

Mile 1: This mile is uphill so I made sure to keep things controlled. 7:34.

Mile 2: After the mile 1 climb the course flattens out for a little bit and descends before starting to climb again. 7:14

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Mile 3: A decent climb with a left hand turn and more climbing. I concentrated on quick feet and just moving forward. 7:25

Mile 4: The climbs were over for the most part and I made a conscious effort to start picking it up. I wanted a negative split for the second half of the race and I had to start doing it now. 7:09

Mile 5: A slight uphill. 7:21

Mile 6: Downhill to the finish. This is always the longest mile of this race. I have no idea why. As many times as I have run this stretch I always feel the same way. It takes forever no matter how fast you are running. 7:07

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Total Time: 45:37, 7:21/mile

*5th in age group

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After the race was over I was happy with my performance. Going into the race I thought if I executed a good race plan I would have the opportunity to negative split the race and hopefully get a PR too. I did both! I was glad my coach convinced me to sign up. Would I jump into another local race immediately? Probably not, but I think it was a good way to start my 2016 season and gave me some good late winter training motivation!

 

Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, 11/7/15

As most of you know, my 2015 triathlon season ended with the completion of Ironman Wisconsin. It was a great race! I finished 7th in my age group and 24th female overall. Even though I was pretty content with my performance there, I didn’t want to stop racing entirely in 2015. I had a long conversation with my coach about racing a fall marathon (I love running in the fall) but he advised me not to. He was fearful that I would end up getting burned out. After much thought, I ended up taking a break from being coached and just did my own thing. My running seemed to be on point and I performed well at a very hilly, local half marathon. My friends Allison and Mark were planning on doing Indianapolis Monumental Marathon and kept trying to convince me to do it. One morning I woke up and basically said screw it, I’m going with them and I’m going to run the marathon. Registered.

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We road tripped to Indiana on Friday, leaving somewhere around 3:30-4am. It was around 11 hours in the car with stops. Mark drove the entire way without complaining one bit. What a trooper. We arrived in Indianapolis in the afternoon, checked into the hotel and then made our way to the expo, picked up our bibs, shopped around a bit, listened to Bart Yasso’s seminar and then made our way to the pasta dinner. I do not recommend the pasta dinner at this race. They ran out of silverware. How do you eat pasta without silverware? It definitely was not the most organized. After mowing down some pasta, we arranged a time to meet in the morning for the race and went back to the hotel for the night.

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Start: I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a goal for this race. Qualifying for Boston has become a goal of mine recently and I thought if I executed a good race strategy it was a possibility. But I was not dwelling on a time, I just wanted to complete the marathon and have a good time. Basically, just wing it. I decided to line up next to the 3:35 pacer (time I needed for a BQ) and at least start with that pace group. I figured if I felt good at the halfway mark I would start trying to negative split from there and try to catch up to the 3:30 pacer. I didn’t know much about the course, but knew that it was pancake flat. Flat is not necessarily my specialty but I figured it could come in handy this time. The gun went off and we started moving. I started my watch as we went over the mat and I stayed shoulder to shoulder with the 3:35 pacer. There were two of them working together. It was a little crowded at the start because there is a half marathon and marathon but it wasn’t anything too crazy.

Mile 1: My watched beeped at the mile marker, 8:45. What?? A 3:35 pace is 8:10 a mile. I was already way over that pace. The pacer holding the 3:35 sign passed off the sign to the other pacer and he seemed to start picking up the pace. They both knew that the first mile was really slow. I decided to stay with them for the next mile to see what that split was.

Mile 2: I don’t remember exactly what the second mile split was, but I do remember it was just a little bit faster. It was at this point I made the decision to move on by myself. I felt great and knew that I could hold a faster pace and stay comfortable.

Mile 3: Picked it up solo. Watch beeped, 8:10. I decided to stay consistent for a few miles. I didn’t want to blow my legs out early. Somewhere around here I saw a guy running in front of me with an M-Dot on his calf. When I finally caught up to him I told him I liked his tattoo. We carried on a brief conversation about Ironman. He was from somewhere around Indianapolis and had competed in a few Ironmans. I forget which one he said he had coming up in the future. I wished him good luck in the marathon and he pulled ahead slightly. I never really lost sight of him but spent the entire race staring at the M-Dot on his calf.

10k: 51:01, 8:13/mile. I was slowly starting to tick away at the overall average but it was still early on in the race. I kept my cool.

Half: 1:46:24, 8:07/mile. I worked from the 10k to the half point to lower my overall average. When I passed through the halfway point I knew that I was right there. I evaluated how I felt and knew I didn’t feel taxed. It felt effortless. I had a half marathon left and wanted to try to descend a little more to try to catch the 3:30 pace group or to at least have them in my sights as I neared the finish.

30k: There isn’t much that I can tell you about these later miles. I wasn’t paying attention to the scenery, the people, etc. The only thing I was paying attention to was how my body felt and what my watch was telling me. I clock watched the hell out of this race. I’ll admit it.

2:30:58, 8:05/mile. Yup, I felt fantastic. I knew that I was going to have a huge marathon PR no matter what. I kept trying to calculate the time in my head, I knew I was going to go sub 3:35 but wasn’t too sure how far under I was going to be. I still couldn’t see the 3:30 pace group.

Mile 24: One thing I remember clearly about this mile. My iPod started playing… “Shipping Up to Boston” by the Dropkick Murphy’s. I thought, Damn straight I am! I knew I was on pace to go sub 3:35 so I tried to pick it up just a little for the last two miles but anyone who has run a marathon before knows that this is a difficult task this late in a race.

Finish: The home stretch was pretty cool. You follow a straight stretch (which was the start line for the race) and then the last .1 you make a right hand turn and the finish line is staring you right in the face. I kicked it into gear when I saw that the clock read 3:32!

Finish time: 3:32:36, 8:06/mile

My very first BQ!

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When I finished I felt fantastic. Nothing hurt, I was walking normal, my stomach wasn’t upset, nothing. I was surprised because that is normally not how I feel after I finish a longer race. I got a mylar blanket, went to retrieve my clothing bag and made my way into the hotel lobby where I finally met up with Mark and Allison. I called my parents and told them that I qualified for the Boston Marathon! I also called my coach (who had no idea I was running this race) and told him I knew what race I wanted to do in 2017. Kind of played a joke on him. He was beyond thrilled!

I love having a coach but this time I was glad that I followed my heart and despite his efforts to talk me out of doing a marathon I made my own choice and signed up. If I wouldn’t have done this race I never would have had the opportunity to qualify for Boston.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that I get in for 2017, that’s all that I can do at this point. I  don’t have any plans to run another marathon between now and the September deadline. So I am banking on pure luck. Fingers crossed!!

Another 26.2 in the books, a BQ and state #6. Check.

indymealli

 

 

Runner’s World Half Marathon, October 18th, 2015

I walked into the expo the day before the race and signed up for the half. Literally. Spur of the moment decision and probably one of the best decisions I have ever made. I had a 13 mile run scheduled that day any way so I figured why not just run this half? It’s close to my house, the course is challenging and I would be surrounded by thousands of other runners. I just wanted to have fun with it. I had no expectations. I just raced Ironman Wisconsin and I knew I was still recovering from that. My longest run before this half was an 8 miler and I did that 4 days before this race. I felt fine at that distance so I figured what was 5 more miles? Ha!

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly nervous. Could I do the distance? How did I want to run it? Just have fun? See what I had in the tank? I figured it would be a race day decision because, I ran a 5k the night before which was a 5k PR. I expected my legs to be sore the morning of this half but I was pleasantly surprised that they weren’t!

Race Morning: I drank my coffee and ate my breakfast while taking a warm Epsom salt bath. I figured I would try this approach since I just ran fast the night before. I wanted to make sure my legs were loose and warmed up. I think it actually paid off and will try this again in the future.

Parks and Laura asked if I wanted to drive with them to the race start. Laura was running her first half marathon! I was so excited for her!!  We got to the site about an hour before the start. It was a super chilly morning so we went to the building with the bathrooms and just camped out. Other people had the same idea but it wasn’t super packed.

As with every single race morning, the time flew by and before I knew it we were walking towards the start, I said my goodbyes and made my way to the 1:45 spot in the corral. I decided that since my legs felt fine I would start with the 1:45 pacer. If I felt good after mile 8, I would try to pick it up for the last 5 miles. I knew that the first 8 miles of this race were hilly but after that was some flat sections and downhills. I figured I would give it a shot and see what I had in the tank. After all, I was basically running 13.1 miles on little run training. I wasn’t expecting too much.

Race morning walk to the start

Race morning walk to the start

Miles 1-8: I got to finally meet Lauren Garges after years of being in the running community this was the first time I ever got to meet her. What a sweet heart and an awesome pacer! I ran side by side with her from the start and she was spot on. Just a little under 8 min miles. The hills were tough, I’m not going to lie about that. I have run these hills numerous times, especially the one on Illick’s Mill Road. You would think it would get easier, yet it never does! The Illick’s Mill hill was the first time I lost Lauren’s shoulder. Approximately mile 7. But once I crested the top of the hill I tried to pick up the pace to catch back up to the pace group. I was able to do that, thanks for a slight downhill! My watch was just slightly off from the mile markers on the course however I knew my overall pace was still sub 8. The first 8 miles were all sub 8 minute pace except 2 or 3 of those miles. Those were the miles with hills. They were a little over 8 minute miles but not crazy over that pace. My overall pace was still sub 8.

Miles 8-12: Once I hit mile 8, I made the decision to leave the pace group. I wanted to start picking up the pace a little but not enough to crush my legs. I still had 5 miles to go and it could be a long 5 if I wasn’t feeling well. Another girl from the 1:45 pace group also started to pick up the pace so I tried to stay with her. I could hear the pace group behind me so I knew I wasn’t gaining large amounts of time but I also realized that Lauren was pacing for a sub 1:45 finish. I didn’t let that get in my head. Running with pacers can be tough since they try to bank some time and finish under the goal time.

At one point there was another hill, not long but enough to feel it and I am pretty sure that Lauren ended up passing me there. I think mile 10-ish. But my watch kept dinging each mile and I was sub 8, sometimes well under. I was definitely negative splitting the second half. I felt great. My legs never felt weak or tired. I knew if I continued to run the pace I was running I had the potential for another PR.

Miles 12-13.1: The funny part about the course is when you hit mile 12 you are basically staring at the Steelstacks and you can hear the announcer bringing runners across the finish line. But, you still have 1.1 miles to go. Mentally it can be draining but I was prepared for it and told myself to give it all I had for the final 1.1 miles. When I got to the 13 mile marker I checked my watch, glanced at the race clock and realized I was going to PR no matter what. I tried to give it one last push to get in the 1:43 time frame but just missed it.

Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.

Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.

I PR’d by over 50 seconds. On a brutal course. With little run training. I can’t complain at all. I really surprised myself this weekend. I signed up for a half marathon the day before just for the fun of it. I PR’d a 5k the night before then woke up and ran a hilly half and PR’d again. Mentally it was a huge confidence booster and just what I needed. I absolutely love fall running and this race!

Overall time:  1:44:08

“The greatest pleasure in life is doing what others say you cannot do.”

Post race beers!

Post race beers!

Finished her first half marathon! So proud of her!

Finished her first half marathon! So proud of her!

Emmaus Halloween 5k, October 17th, 2015

For those of you who know me, 5ks are definitely not my specialty. I was asked by a good friend of mine if I would run this race with her daughter. She is 10.  I have run the Girl’s on the Run 5k with her the past two years. I guess as this race approached, her daughter asked if I would run with her. When my friend asked me if I would, I didn’t even hesitate.

I have to say, running with her 10 year old daughter is not a walk in the park. This little gal is a speedster! I knew going into this 5k it wouldn’t be any different. It wasn’t going to be an easy 5k. Both Girl’s on the Run 5ks we did, our time was 22 something. Her mom wasn’t really sure how she would run that evening since she wasn’t really training. However, I knew I would have to be on top of my game to stay with her.

I got to the race site about an hour before the start. I like to get there early to warm up and get familiar with my surroundings. I did a short warm-up, used the bathroom, chatted with a few runners and then it was almost time to start. I asked little speedster where she wanted to line up for the start. “Up front!” Of course.

We took position one row behind the start line. Before the race her mom told me that she wanted to run a 21:59. My heart started pounding. That time would blow my PR out of the water, but I was prepared for the challenge. This course was also flat, so I figured what better time than the present to attempt it. Since I’ve run with her daughter before, I knew she would be able to keep up. She never backs down.

Mile 1: I left her set the pace, sort of. She always had a tendency of going out too fast for the first mile and then falling slightly off pace come the last. So I slowed her down a little bit but we were close to being on pace for a 21:59. This mile was really crowded for maybe .5 of it, but after that things spaced out. This mile also had a slight downhill. 7:07/mile.

Mile 2: There was a short hill as we approached this mile but my little speedster tucked her head and marched on. This was a little bit slower of a mile but only by 2 seconds. I kept telling her to stay on my shoulder and not to let up. 7:09/mile.

Mile 3: We were still holding about the same pace as mile 2 so I kept it steady. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling the burn. I definitely was. There was probably a point where I thought, I really hope she tires out and slows down a little bit. But, to no surprise, the little gal never slowed or showed any signs of weakness. With about .5 to go, I told her it was time to try to pick it up. Her older sister was just ahead of us and I knew we had the potential to catch her.

As we approached the finish line I knew we were going to be close to breaking 22 minutes but not close enough. Almost caught her older sister too. I slowed up and let her finish ahead of me.

Time: 22:10, 7:07/mile

This was almost a 50 second PR for me. I placed 2nd in my age group. Zero speed training.

But the most important thing about this race was that I got to run next to a young girl who looks up to me. I inspire and motivate her. Yet, she does the same for me. To run a 5k with a 10 year old who never complains or whines because it hurts is beyond inspiring. She puts her head down and pushes on. There are so many times in my training when I think back to the races that I have done with her. When I am suffering, I think of how she is only 10 years old and never complains. It is such a driving force for me. I love her.

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Ironman Wisconsin, September 13th, 2015

Better late than never I guess. It has taken me all this time to come to terms with my race at Ironman Wisconsin. It was an epic day in so many ways, yet disappointing too. This was my second Ironman finish thus far. I absolutely love this distance. I tend to thrive on the long stuff. Something about suffering for over 11 hours brings out the best in me.

Capital Building- Madison, WI

Capital Building- Madison, WI

Race Morning: My dad and I stayed at a Wyndham Resort approximately 45 minutes outside of Madison, WI. It was an early morning wake up. However, the condo had all the amenities of being at home. So I woke up, enjoyed my breakfast and coffee before hitting the road.

Once we got to the race site, time flew by as it always does. The sun was rising over Lake Monona, athletes were scrambling into and out of transition areas and body marking was packed. I kept telling myself to breathe and everything would go smoothly. Body marked, check. Bike tires pumped, nutrition put on bike, bike bottles filled, check. T1 bag/T2 bag in position and ready to go, check. There was nothing more for me to do so I made my way to the swim start.

"I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself." -D.H. Lawrence

“I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.” -D.H. Lawrence

Going into this race I had so many miles under my belt. I was confident. I did 5×100 mile bike rides, countless 70-80 mile rides, 16-20 mile runs. I felt great. My training was spot on. I crushed every workout. I ate, slept and breathed this race. I wanted to get a Kona spot and I knew in order to do that I had to train like a Kona qualifier would train. I spent six months devoting my time and energy to this race. I had some idea of what time I could do in each leg of the race but I wasn’t dwelling on it. I made the decision to put everything on the line and race as hard as I could for as long as I could. I wanted this more than I have ever wanted anything in my life. I live for this.

“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”

"The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving." -Oliver Wendell Holmes

“The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.” -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Swim: This was a one loop, mass start swim. I have never done a mass start before so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly nervous. I decided I would line up towards the front and close to the buoy line but not right on it. I got into the water early so I could casually swim out and find my spot in the mass. I made sure to look at the other athletes around me to make sure I wasn’t paired up beside some olympic like swimmer dude. Everyone seemed to be okay around me so I calmly treaded water and listened to Mike Reilly as he started to get everyone pumped up. “You are going to be an Ironman today!”

Before I knew it the canon sounded and we were off. It was extremely congested for about 200 meters. I was swimming over people. Pretty sure people were swimming over me. Kicking, slapping, you name it. Pure chaos. However, after about 200 meters, it started to calm down and I began to find open water. I was swimming side by side with a guy who seemed to be holding the same pace as me, I was unsure what that pace was but figured I would stick with him until we made the turn to the straight stretch.

Once I made the two turns and was onto this straight stretch, I consciously started to pick up the pace. Like I said, I had no idea what my pace was but I tried making it hurt a little bit. When I did Ironman Lake Placid I didn’t do this. I just wanted to complete the swim and not be taxed when it was over. I had clear water, I could visibly see the buoys and I was relaxed so I figured why not? The swim went by so fast, honestly. Before I knew it I was exiting the water. I took a glance at the clock.

Swim Time: 1:03:58

It’s so on!” I remember saying that as I saw my swim time and made my way to the wetsuit strippers. Off came the wetsuit and I started running towards the helix. This is one really cool thing about Ironman Wisconsin. You have to run up the helix and into the conference building for T1. I thought running up it was going to be a bruiser but it was lined at least 3 rows deep with screaming spectators. I felt like I was running on the clouds. Effortless. I felt like such a star.

I ran into T1, grabbed my bike bag and into the changing tent I went. I quickly put on everything I needed for the bike, except my bike shoes. I had a long run to my bike. It was closest to the bike out so I decided it would be safer to run barefoot across the concrete and put my bike shoes on once I got to my bike. This worked out well. To the bike mount line I went and then it was down the helix to start 112 miles of cycling bliss.

T1: 5:57

Bike: What a beautiful bike course! After descending down the helix, athletes ride 16 miles out of Madison and then do a 40 mile loop twice and then 16 miles back into town. I drove the course days prior to the race and it seemed like it would be a fun ride. I knew I had to bike hard to stay towards the front in my age group, but I didn’t want to over bike it because I still had a marathon to run. I made sure to eat and drink according to my plan. Drink every 10 minutes, eat every 10 miles. I grabbed something at every aid station.

The hills were relentless on this course. I thought it would be an easier course than Ironman Lake Placid however, after riding this bike course I think it’s the other way around. With the Lake Placid course, you have a 7 mile descent. The Wisconsin course there are no true descents. Constant rollers and climbs with short downhills. A few technical spots that could be potential chain droppers too. Short, steep climbs with sharp turns at the top, followed by more inclines. This is a tough course to try to pick up any extra speed. But I loved it. I stayed aero majority of the time and felt comfortable and relaxed.

"If it's hurting me, it's killing them." -Sebastian Kienle

“If it’s hurting me, it’s killing them.” -Sebastian Kienle

Around mile 20 on the bike I was stung by something. Bug? Bee? I’m not sure. I started to panic thinking “oh great, what if I have an allergic reaction? What am I going to do?” but it never came to that so I was safe.

I did not pack a bike special needs bag. I carried as much as I could on my bike and made sure to grab something at every aid station. Bananas are always a big hit for me on the bike. So I just stuck to that. I wasn’t going to waste any extra time stopping for special needs.

Ironman does a great job shuttling spectators out to the 40 mile loop on the course. Once I headed out and my Dad saw me on the bike, he jumped on the shuttle that took him out to the 40 mile loop. I wasn’t sure exactly where he would be because honestly, I have never seen so much crowd support on a bike course. I thought Lake Placid was crazy. This race out does it. I swear the entire bike course was loaded with spectators. Every significant climb, spectators were at least two rows deep. I felt like I was in the Tour De France!

My dad was at the end of the loop. It was great to finish the loop and have my dad there cheering for me. It gave me that little burst of energy I needed to cycle on to loop two. A familiar face does wonders when you are out there flying solo. I gave him a thumbs up and carried on.I checked my overall bike time on my computer and I was somewhere around 3 hours. I remember thinking that may have been to fast for the first loop but my legs felt good so I tried to maintain that same intensity for the second loop.

The road to success is always under construction.

The road to success is always under construction.

The second loop went just as fast as the first one, maybe even faster because now I knew what to expect. I knew where the course would get technical and where I could try to pick up some speed. But before I knew it, I  was making the left hand turn for the final 16 miles into Madison. I was getting choked up. I remember glancing down at my bike computer and doing the math in my head. As long as everything stayed smooth and nothing drastic happened, I would probably have my fastest bike split to date.

Up the helix to the bike dismount line. I dismounted, took off my bike shoes and booked it into T2. It was time to run.

Bike Time: 6:08:19

T2: I ran into T2 which was in a different room than T1. I grabbed my run bag and made my way to the changing tent. One thing I made sure to do in the days leading up to the race was to take a mental picture of where my transition bags were located. They were all placed in rows by number. I didn’t want to have to rely on a volunteer to get my bag for me. Sometimes they just take too long. I needed to make up time any way that I could.

Time: 2:19

The run out from T2 was not as long for me and before I knew it I was making my way out onto a marathon course that I knew absolutely nothing about. But I liked it that way. I raced well not knowing what to expect all season. This was nothing different.

Run: I made a conscious effort to take the first few miles out slow, or at least try to. I have a tendency of running too fast off the bike. My legs certainly felt great starting this run and I knew if I played my cards right I could have a good marathon. I had no idea what place I was in but I knew I was having an outstanding race. My swim time was better than expected and my bike was strong too.

The first loop: State street was just as expected. Energetic and up beat. I couldn’t help by smile as I passed through the crowd of spectators. I really felt like a star. Next came the University of Wisconsin stadium. The course takes you down the ramp and onto the football field. You run one loop around the field and then exit the stadium. I have never been on a football field before. The stadium was empty, no spectators were allowed in there but it didn’t matter. I still felt like I was on top of the world.

I knew that there would be two hills on the run course. Technically only one hill that you had to run twice since it was a two loop course. So you would run the hill at mile 5 and mile 18. When I got to mile 5, the hill, was just as I expected. Some what of a bruiser, but I kept my head down and ran on. After that was a short downhill and then a left hand turn back onto State street. Yes, you get to run that awesome street a total of 4 times. It’s just not possible to get down on yourself on this course. Even if you feel terrible, it doesn’t last long because the crowd support is there to lift you up again.

As with the bike, I made sure to keep up with my nutrition and hydration. I can’t eat solid food on the run so I stuck to gels. One gel every 5 miles. I grabbed water at every aid station too.

The second loop starts close to the finish line. The turn around is right there in front of the Capital building. I stared the finish line down. See you soon. And it was back out for loop 2.

"Come out of the masses. Stand alone like a lion and live your life according to your own light." -Osho

“Come out of the masses. Stand alone like a lion and live your life according to your own light.” -Osho

Loop Two: I was able to manage a thumbs up to my dad on State street and made my way back out on the course towards the stadium. My watch was a little off mileage wise but I still getting mile splits and I knew my pace was staying some what consistent. However, I really had to pee and for some reason could not do it as I was running. No matter what I did I couldn’t do it. My stomach actually started hurting, like the muscles. I had no choice but to stop and hit the toilets before I went into the stadium. I have never done this in a race, ever. But the discomfort I was feeling made it easy to make a decision. Once I solved that problem, I felt better and trucked on.

Mile 18, the hill, again. It was worse this time. I made sure to grab an orange slice at the aid station before the hill. I found that it’s easier to run uphill when I have something in my hand. It seems to take my mind off of the uphill battle. I passed a lot of athletes on this hill. Many were walking. Some walking and talking. Some hunched over. Some grunting. I tried to block everything out and just keep moving. The faster I got up the hill, the faster it would be over.

Around mile 20 I started suffering. Doesn’t everyone at this mile? The Wall. I polished off a bag of Powerbar cola shots. I had to shuffle through the aid station to make sure I could get all the fluids down. I knew I only had a 10k left which consisted of a short out and back, a run by the Univeristy of Wisconsin stadium, one last slog up State street to the Capital and then to the finisher chute. I checked my watch, did the math and knew I had the potential to run a sub 4 hour marathon, let alone accomplish a significant Ironman PR. That was all the motivation that I needed until I approached a female with a 31 on her calf. She was running but it resembled more of a shuffle. As I got closer to her I realized she was one of the girls in my age group who blew by me on the bike course. I remember thinking I’d see her on the run. Surprise! I ran by her, told her good job, she grunted and I picked up the pace. I wasn’t sure if she had anything left but I wasn’t going to stick around to find out. More motivation to get to the finish line quicker. Little did I know, this pass bumped me up in the age group standings.

I remember making the right hand turn onto State street. I started to get choked up. I got one last burst of energy and before I knew it I was making the turn for the finish line. Honestly it was all a big blur. I was trying not to cry because then I wouldn’t be able to breathe. Yet I was crying. I was running as hard as I could toward the line. I passed a guy in the finishing chute, took one look at the clock and broke down.

Then came those famous words that everyone dies to hear from Mike Reilly…

Ashley Stumpp from Northampton, PA…. YOU. ARE. AN. IRONMAN!

"I'm making my dreams come true." -Anonymous

“I’m making my dreams come true.” -Anonymous

Run time: 3:56:45

Total time: 11:17:18

Age Group Ranking: 7th overall, 30-34 female

Overall rank: 24th female

As I said earlier in this race report, I had an idea in my mind of times that I could have potentially done on this course. I kept them to myself but will reveal them now that the race is over. I figured my swim would be somewhere between 1:05-1:10. I cut back on my swimming a lot this season to work on my bike and run. Yet I surprised myself.  I swam my fastest Ironman swim to date. Exceeded that time goal. I thought I could bike somewhere between 6:15-6:30. Beat that goal. Lastly, I thought I could run somewhere around a 4 hour marathon. Beat that. Not to mention, ran a marathon not far off from my stand alone marathon PR.

I did not have an overall time goal in mind. I knew my time from Lake Placid the year before. I knew the weather conditions were not ideal either. I wanted to be just under 12 hours. I knew that if I was able to fire on all cylinders I could set myself up to have a good race.

11:17. No more words needed.

Kona spot? Not even close. This is probably the most frustrating and disappointing thing about this race. It seems that even when I’m at my best it’s still not good enough. I have a funny feeling this may haunt me for awhile…