Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Wrapping up my season HALF FULL...

This is not just a race report, this is also an "End of TRI season" report. As you may have noticed, things have been quiet on this blog and with good reason. I've been struggling with some undiagnosed pain issues and working closely with my Doctors to try to find the cause for the pain.

Of course, as you can imagine - this undiagnosed pain has put a real cramp into my active life style. Initially, in as much as I could manage, I had fought hard against letting the pain dictate my workout schedule. More than a little "hard-headed", I know but truthfully, sticking to my training plan and staying on target are important to my personal self-identity. The idea of "not working out" seemed wrong and I just couldn't see the connection between the workouts and the undiagnosed pain.

So after willingly putting aside IronGirl Columbia to watch my nephews in late August, the next race on the schedule was the Savageman Half with Team Shoemaker. A relay where I would swim 1.2 miles, my hubby Jim would bike 56 "very hilly" miles and then I would run 13.1 "very hilly" miles. Unfortunately, as the race drew closer, this "undiagnosed pain" I have been experiencing grew in intensity. I was skipping more workouts than I was getting in and while I knew I had the "base" to handle the distances - common sense and my Husband stepped in to suggest that perhaps this was not the best time to toe the line at "one of the hardest half ironman's race courses in the United States." So Team Shoemaker did not start the 2010 SavageMan Half but stayed home - to rest, do light workouts, and hopefully get some answers for my pain issues.

4 weeks have gone by, since this has all started, and I am sorry to stay that my Doctors and I are no closer to having any legitimate answers for what is going on. There has been lots of blood drawn, x-rays taken, ultrasounds done and still nothing to identify cause. That is good and bad news - because it means "More Tests."

In the meantime, while I am waiting on "more tests" and "more Doctor visits", my race calendar moves on. The next event on my calendar was this past weekend and was an event for a foundation that is near and dear to my heart: The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults.

Teams "CT5K Chicks" & "RacerZ with Sole"

Holly & Jess - Ready To Swim

This weekend was the HALF FULL TRIATHLON to benefit the Ulman Cancer Fund and the LiveSTRONG Young Adult Alliance. I put together a great relay team with Team Z team-mates Leanne Layne and Meghan Rooney. Together we made the Relay Team "RacerZ with Sole" - Swim - .9 miles: Holly ; Bike - 56 miles: Leanne, Run - 13.1 Miles: Meghan. In addition, I had put together a fantastic crew of volunteers from CANCER to 5K and UCF's Team FIGHT to run the "Gatoraid Hill Aid Station" at Miles 1/7.5 of the RUN course. It was going to be a busy but fun-filled Race Day.

THE SWIM: .9 Miles - 51:29

Well, truth be told, I had it in my mind that I was going to set a PR on this Swim. I knew the course well (Centennial Lake - Ellicot City, MD) and I have a season's worth of swim PR at every race I have done in 2010 - so why would this race be any different....Oh how naive I can be...

The SWIM was a 2-person "time-trial" start with swimmers starting every 5 seconds. We were set in waves and paired up. I was in Wave 10 with the rest of the relay folks and was thrilled to start with Jessica Datta, who was racing with Judy Layne and Jennifer McRobbie on the "CT5K Chicks" Relay Team. Jess and I both got hugs from Executive Director of the Ulman Cancer Fund, Brock Yetso, and then we were in the water and on our way.

The first half mile of the swim felt good to me. I was having no problems sighting, I was not experiencing any shoulder pains nor any other significant pain of any kind (which had been a concern) and I really did feel like I was doing well. As I got to the first turn bouy, I did notice that there did not seem to be as many swimmers around me as before. I brushed it off and just put my head down and focused on the next turn buoy.

It seems to take FOREVER to get 300 yards to the next turn buoy and as I got there and sighted, I thought to myself again "Where the heck is everybody?" and I sat up for a second to look around. There were a few people in front of me but nobody behind me and that threw me into a little bit of a panic because I knew there were 2 waves that started after our wave. I didn't feel like anything was wrong with my swim, so where the heck was everybody?

I put my head back down and focused on getting to the next buoys and damned if it didn't seem like it was taking forever to go these last 400 yards. At one point I looked up and saw that a man pulling an inflatable raft and his son, was passing me like I was treading water. That got me moving - because I knew he was the last wave and if he was passing me, than I was in some trouble in terms of losing time and missing the swim cutoffs. Still I didn't look at my watch, just put my head down and kept swimming. At this point, my calves began to cramp - and I would have to stop for a moment - and try to let them recover. I now had a kayak escort, which confirmed for me that I must be one of the last swimmers in the water - and still it was taking me what seems like "forever" to get the last 100 yards to the Swim Out.

Finally, I was standing up on shaky legs, to kind hearted cheers of some friends/CANCER to 5K teammates and the SWIM OUT volunteers and running up the long parking lot and up the steep hill to Transition. My Teammates let out a big "Yeah Holly" when they saw me (THANKS FOR TEAMMATE LOVE!) and Leanne and I switched the race chip as I apologized profusely for taking so much time to swim. Leanne would hear nothing of it and just told me she was happy to see me finish and she would see me when she got back from her BIKE. Meghan was super sweet and supportive and gave me a hug and told me not to worry about my swim time, we all have the occasional unexpected "rough swim" and told me not to be so hard on myself and I took her comments to heart and tried to do just that but I was still secretly feeling awful for having taken away a good 15 minutes from Leanne and Meghan on the race clock.

Holly, at Swim Out, Looking as Rough as I felt...

The Next Stop was to change clothes and then leave Meghan to take a rest in her car (and stay off her feet) while I headed up to the top of Gatorade Hill to work the Mile 1/7.5 Aid Station with volunteers from Team CANCER to 5K and Team FIGHT.

If I do say so myself - WE ROCKED THAT AID STATION! We were placed at the top of the first significant climb on a very hilly 2-loop Half Marathon RUN course. We had GU, GU CHOMPS, Water, CereSport (electrolyte replacement drink) and 10 volunteers for the AM and PM shifts! We rang cowbells of all kinds, left motivational signs on the course coming up the hill and played some awesome music on an portable iPOD stereo system to keep the energy UP and help all the Triathletes stay strong and fueled as they tackled Gatorade Hill twice on their way to finishing the HALF FULL TRIATHLON.

Just a portion of the GATORADE HILL Crew!

We got your GU, right here!

Working Hard for the Triathletes on Gatorade Hill....

Highlights of the Day:

1.) Witnessing CANCER to 5K volunteer and Relay Runner for "CT5K Chicks", Jennifer McRobbie, running so strong on the course! Her Marine Corps Marathon training made this 13.1 mile run look effortless and she proudly represented for Team CANCER to 5K!

Jenn McRobbie of "CT5K Chicks"
looking strong at the top of the climb!

2.) Watching CANCER to 5K volunteer Andrea Hampton keep a strong and steady pace on the run course. HALF FULL TRI was Andrea's first attempt at the Half Ironman distance in Triathlon and she expressed concerns that she might not make the bike cutoffs - so seeing her come up Gatorade Hill, strong and steady, was just a thrill! I knew deep in my heart that as long as Andrea made that bike cutoff, NOTHING was going to keep her from finishing the race! And FINISH she did - with a big smile!!

Andrea looking "great" coming out of the water...

Andrea looking "great" AGAIN on the run course...

3.) Seeing my "RacerZ with Sole" teammate Meghan, come running up Gatorade Hill, in all her bright green Team Z glory. Until that moment, I had no way to know if teammate Leanne had made the challenging and hilly BIKE cuttoff (SHE MADE IT WITH 1 MINUTE TO SPARE) so seeing Meghan brought of flood of relief. Meghan would have the toughest challenge of us all, she was in the back of the race pack, with 13.1 hill miles of running ahead of her. Talking to her, as she jogged through the aid station, she expressed some concern but said that she was going to do what she could for the first loop and then see how she felt. I could tell she was nervous but I also knew that her reason for racing with our relay team was to honor the passing of her grandmother, who recently passed away from cancer. So if anybody on our team has a reason to keep going, even with it got tough, it was Meghan.

When I saw Meghan for her second loop, it was like a fire had been lit deep inside her, I jogged up to her to ask her what we could get her from the Aid Station and asked how she was feeling, she told me, in no uncertain terms that "I am finishing this damn race, even if they take the finish line down!" I told her that Leanne and I would meet her at the Finish and that, according to my RUN COURSE Captain, she was not even the last runner, so she was doing great!

It was a good 10 minutes before the last runner came through the Aid Station and we were released from our Volunteer duties. We cleaned up the station and I headed towards the finish line with Meghan's friend Giovanni, to see Andrea and Meghan finish their races.

Leanne and Judy had gone to the park entrance, 1 mile from the finish line, to keep an eye out for Meghan while I stayed near the finish line, waiting for both Andrea and a text from Leanne, saying that Meghan was on her way. It was an honor an a privilege to be at the Finish Line of the HALF FULL TRIATHLON in that last hour.

As a slower, or "Back of the Pack" athlete myself, I know what kind of physical and emotional effort it takes to race when you are clearly one of the last racers on the course. It takes courage and deep inner strength to find a reason to keep going, to shut our the negative voices that can creep into your head telling you that you are "slow" or "not good enough" or that this is "too hard" and too keep putting one foot in front of the other. As much as I love to marvel at the fast racers and cheer the average athlete, my heart and soul goes out to the "Back of the Pack" because I believe there is a completely different "race" that these athletes experience. One by one, the last athletes made their way across the finish line. You could see in their faces the struggle and the deep pride in what they accomplished.

It was an honor to be there to watch my friend and CANCER to 5K volunteer Andrea Hampton cross the the finish line. She toed the line to this race not really sure that she had what it took to complete a Half Ironman but ready to take on the challenge and all to honor her sister Sandra, a breast cancer survivor. Andrea's smile as she crossed that finish line and was handed her FINISHER shirt and race medal was just beautiful and I was so proud and happy to be able to share in her accomplishment.

I sat with Andrea for a few minutes, listening to her tell me about her race and finding out that she and Meghan had exchanged encouraging words throughout the race - switching back and forth with the last runner and the bike sweep during the last few miles. Then I got the text from Leanne, telling me that Meghan was on her way. At some point late in the race, Meghan and the last runner had switched places and as the second to last runner came into the finish line, I was already looking up the course, to the corner where I knew that I would catch site of Meghan on her way to the final climb to the finish line.

I rang my cowbell like I was a crowd of 1,000 people for Meghan - so very proud to see her with a big smile on her face, heading up to the finish line to complete what Team RacerZ with Sole had started at 7:45 that morning! Both Leanne, Judy and I ran to the Finish Line corral to congratulate her and we all received our HALF FULL Finishers Shirt and Finishers Medals and were the last RELAY TEAM to complete the Inaugural HALF FULL TRIATHLON on October 3, 2010. It was quite honestly, the perfect way to represent the Team Z BOP. We may not be fast, but WE WILL ALWAYS FINISH WHAT WE STARTED!

Meghan, just yards from the Finish Line!

Team "RacerZ with Sole" - HALF FULL TRI finishers

TEAM "RacerZ with Sole" - 8:12:59 (51:29 - 4:48:12 - 2:31:48)

As I drove home, exhausted but happy with my experience both as a RELAY RACER and a VOLUNTEER for the HALF FULL TRIATHLON, I took some time to think about some good advice that a fellow Triathlete and a CANCER to 5K volunteer and teammate Coleen, had given me while we were working the Gatorade Aid Station. She had asked me, in reference to my currently issues with undiagnosed pain, if I had considered simply taking a break from training and racing. To give my body a break and to take "exercise" out of the equation as a possible "cause" for the pain. At the time that she asked me, I hemmed and hawed, not really comfortable with considering the possibility, especially in the midst of the excitement of a race. But now, alone, coming down from the long day and race excitement, I took Coleen's suggestion to heart.

With all that that happened in the last 4 weeks, "What did I have to gain by trying to push through this pain and try to race the Beach2Battleship Half Ironman" in 6 weeks? Wasn't it more important to really focus in on getting some kind of answers to this pain? Isn't part of holding myself to the "LiveSTRONG" motto, facing unexpected challenges that come along and having courage? Maybe the courageous thing to do right now was to call this a season, and take a break from training and try to figure out where the pain is coming from and work with my Doctors to get back to being pain free?

The connections, if there are any, are still up for serious debate, both by myself and my Doctors but in an effort to "eliminate a potential cause", I've decided to completely back off of my regular training schedule for the next 2 weeks - to start. This will allow me to track the pain and determine if it is truly associated to any of my workouts.

Additionally, I am getting ready for another round of tests which should get a more detailed picture of what is going on internally. I have the love and strength of my friends, family and teammates at CANCER to 5K, the ULMAN FUND for YOUNG ADULTS, Team FIGHT and TEAM Z to help me through and I know that the future holds miles and miles of races for me so for now, the 2010 TRIATHLON season is closed and that is fine....

Because I am ending it HALF FULL! Who could ask for anything more?

Never forget, Life is Good! LiveSTRONG!

Saturday, October 02, 2010

10/2 - Today is LiveSTRONG DAY!

Wear Yellow! Show your support! Find an event going on today in your community!


Life is Good! LiveSTRONG!

Friday, September 03, 2010

How's that workin' for ya?

I'm not blogging very regularly anymore - call it a "sign of the times" - it's easier to post a quick update on FACEBOOK - so the Blog posting has become less frequent but I hope it is seen as "quality over quantity" for those of you who still read this sometimes. LOL

I wanted to do a brief UPDATE on the TRIATHLON BIKE CHALLENGE that I set for myself a few months ago near the end of April....

40 lbs = NEW TRI BIKE with Custom Paint Job!

The Goal was pretty aggressive, as far as permanent weight-loss goes and my body doesn't respond quite the way it did in my late 20s so I simply have to accept that and stay focused.

10 pounds lost in 18 weeks
(since the Blog Post)

I'm not unhappy with these results, I am happy with my progress - it is slow but it is steady and that is the ideal path to long-term, permanent weight loss. I intend to keep going until I reach my goal - but at this rate - it looks like my "New TRIATHLON Bike" is still a good 6-9 months away.

It all balances out though...because there has been a lot going on in my life, and honestly, right now is not the time to drop $3000.00 on a brand new bike. So, there will be no new bike this September and probably not a new bike by Beach2Battleship Half Ironman in November. It will be Me and Sunshine, my trusty road bike, on the course together, as we have been for 10 years now. Sunshine is good to me - that trusty old Reynolds Steel Lemond Buenos Aires...

The challenge is still ON and GOING STRONG! It just might take me a little longer than I had originally planned.

And sometimes, that is the way life goes, right?

Life is Good! Keep Living STRONG!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Resistance is futile...

• 12-17 hours of training a week
• early morning workouts
• yards of swimming... long runs... longer bike rides...
• money spent on race fees, gear, coaching, gym fees, ect.
• fatigue, aches, pain, hunger, taper madness, post-race blues...

And for WHAT?

• 14-17 hours of racing?
• a medal?
• a tshirt?
• a running hat?
• a waterbottle?

But it's not the stuff...It is about:

• the fellow ATHLETES

I have the support and consent of the most important person in my life, my husband - my training and racing impacts him the most....

I thought once would be enough...but it doesn't ever seem to be enough. So why deny myself?

Forever LiveSTRONG!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

2010 IronGirl Columbia: The AUNT HOLLY Race Report

(Author's Note: You can read Heather's IronGirl Columbia Race Report HERE)


They're two they're four they're six they're eight
Shunting trucks and hauling freight
red and green and brown and blue
they're the really useful crew

All with different roles to play
Round Tidmouth sheds or far away,
Down the hills and round the bends
Thomas and friends..."

Our Race morning started with Thomas and Friends on DVD, as we sat in the darkness of the Scion in the field in Centennial Park - slowly waking up. I spent an hour monitoring sippy-cup levels and making an internal list of things to accompany our race day (cowbells, signs for Mommy, snacks, camera, cell phone, jog stroller) waiting for the light to come up and for my partners to decide they were ready for some adventure....

My partners in crime for this Triathlon Adventure? Newphew's Rowen (nearly-4) and Kain (nearly-2).

Rowen: 5:45am

Kain: 5:45am

My Role: Aunt Holly/ Triathlon Sherpa / Keeper of the Peace / Creator of all things Interesting & Fun / Navigator of the IRONMAN Double-Jog Stroller

Sleepy Aunt Holly (self-portrait)


Rowen was the first to speak-up and tell me that the time had come to "get our of the car..." and so I turned off the DVD (with the help of my nephew, who had to tell me "Just close the top Aunt Holly..." because I honestly couldn't figure it our myself) and went outside to set up the IRONMAN Double Jog-Stroller that would be our "race equipment" for the day.

With all the items on my list packed onboard, next came my nephews, and then the rain flap which Rowen (nearly-4) quickly dismissed saying "We don't mind sprinkles..." and taking him at his word, away we went, into the crowds of spectators and racers to find "Mommy" (my sister Heather).

We headed to directly to the Team FIGHT tent via the big hill, circumnavigating the crowds the first time around, the BIG STEEP HILL didn't feel so bad the first time over!

Once at the Team FIGHT tent we quickly realized that Mommy was not to be found - she was with Jessica Tanner, checking out the PRO swim start. So I took the boys on a walk, through the masses, to the docks so that we could watch the ducks and the swimmers for a little bit.


After about 20 minutes of watching the PRO swimmers and the ducks, I decided that we should try to find Mommy again, before her race day started. The boys and I worked our way though the masses again (people do not care to move or give you any room even if you have a double wide stroller with two children in it, for the record!) and headed back to the Team FIGHT tent where we were successful in locating MOMMY and in getting some tasty watermelon to enjoy as breakfast! We also were treated to the first of many unexpected rain showers that would continue throughout the rest of the morning.

Spirits were HIGH for everybody, in spite of the rain, Watermelon and Donut holes were involved!
Watermelon Rocks!
7:55AM: SWIM

Heather's wave was off and swimming so the boys and I headed back to the docks to watch the swimmers. We had a GRAND TIME! The boys really loved watching the mass of swimmers heading into the swim finish. We spent time looking at cap colors (pink, purple, blue and red) and the boys were keen to tell me when they started seeing RED caps, knowing that RED was Mommy's cap color!

I kept an eye on my watch, hoping that maybe we would be able to anticipate Heather's swim time and see her get out of the water but Rowen and Kain were having so much fun watching the swimmers and clapping and yelling "Yay Swimmers" that when I suggested we move to see if we could "See Mommy", I was vetoed 2-1 - so we stayed on the dock for an hour watching the swimmers come in and naming a row boat "Ancient Old Crumugeny" (because all old rusty row boats have names, ya know...)

8:55: T1

Our transition from SWIM to BIKE came with a short stop in the ladies room so that Rowen could take care of some morning business, followed by a walk to the transition zone to look at all the bikes while Aunt Holly determined that Mommy had indeed finished the swim and was on the bike...

9:00: BIKE

The BIKE portion of our event was split between "Playground Time" during which I was literally torn in two by the need to chase a screaming "nearly-2" Kain (screaming with joy, I might add!) and a enthusiastic "nearly-4" Rowen who was happy to "stay close by" but desperate to do his own thing. Sadly, my multi-tasking playground skillz are lacking and I cried "uncle" long before my Nephews were ready to stop playing.

Just about that time, the rain picked up again, prompting me to hustle my nephews back to the IRONMAN Jog-Stroller with promises of "fast bikes" and "cowbells" and a "Mommy sighting" and so we headed down to the BIKE IN to cheer on the triathletes as they finished the BIKE and headed back into transition.

We stood (they sat) in that spot for about 20 minutes, while the boys happily rang cowbells and I anxiously watched for Heather (aka Mommy) - eventually convinced that we must have just barely missed her - we headed "downhill" to check the Bike Rack to confirm that Mommy was off the bike and on the RUN...

9:50: T2

A walk down to the edge of transition confirmed that Heather was, in fact, off the Bike and onto the Run course, and so it was time to head over towards the FINISH LINE - in hopes that we could at least cheer her into the finish. Just as we were getting ready to leave the transition area, the skies opened again and the rain poured down, as I hustled my way to the jog stroller to pull down the rain flap as both Rowen and Kain giggle madly at the rain coming down and Rowen yelled "Aunt Holly, Aunt Holly, The Rain, The Rain..."


Anybody who tells you that the transition from BIKE to RUN is easy, has NEVER done a TRIATHLON! And anybody who tells you that pushing 50 pounds of IRONMAN Jog-Stroller with two 2o+ pounds nephews over a BIG STEEP HILL multiple times is not a workout - simply doesn't know of which they speak!

By the time we got to the Finish Line area and the end of the run course, I thought for sure the boys would be excited to ring their cowbells and finally see Mommy but I underestimated the excitement of the day - so by the time we got to a good "Cheering Spot", I looked down to find that both my newphews were OUT COLD! They were sleeping so deeply that not even the surrounding 100 spectators and the various cowbells (including my own) stirred them from their sleep.

So I stood, by their side, as they slept, and rang that cowbell and cheered on the triathletes as they passed. I saw many Team FIGHT athletes and friends pass by, big smiles as they finished strong. Then about 20 minutes into the boy's nap, over the hill came MOMMY! (HEATHER) with a big smile on her face - running strong and finishing her race! We "high-fived" and she laughed as she saw that her little boys were out cold in the midst of the commotion.

Then Heather came and stood with me and the boys as we waited for our friends Jessica and Ginny to finish their races and we cheered more Team FIGHT teammates on in their accomplishments. Eventually the boys woke up, and were happy to partake in some post-race snacks with Mommy and Aunt Holly before we headed for home - long morning complete with a successful race day for MOMMY and for AUNT HOLLY & Rowen and Kain, too!

Some will read this report and say "But I thought you were racing too?" and Yes, that was the original intent - for Sisters to race IronGirl - side by side. When plans changed for Heather and the boys, I stepped forward and offered to "transition" my own race plans to watch my nephews. So many times over the last 8 years, my sister Heather has stood by me, on my big race days, and traveled far and wide, to support me - that I was happy that this time, I could do the same for her, especially for a race that I knew she had been looking forward too for quite some time.

Besides, I got to SWIM, BIKE, and RUN with my nephews all day long! There isn't a medal in the world that is worth more than the memories we made on Sunday....Life is GOOD!

Go Team FIGHT!!

Friday, August 06, 2010

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to ME! $5 for 5 Years - LiveSTRONG!

Alyssa P. and Holly S. @ Crystal City Twilighter 5K

Well that about does it...just about two weeks ago, I turned 40!

I certainly do not feel any different (aka OLDER) but I did have alot of FUN celebrating with friends and family - in spite of the HEAT WAVE.

Try running a 5K at 8PM at night with temps at 96F = MELT DOWN! Not my best 5K time but I had a good time and was joined by fellow CANCER to 5K teammate Alyssa P.

As many of you may know, my sister Heather and I are racing the Irongirl Columbia Triathlon on August 22 with TEAM FIGHT!

The money raised for TEAM FIGHT go to benefit the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults and it's programs. One of those programs is very dear to me: CANCER to 5K.

So, I am putting it our here - it's been more than a year since I have done any soliciting on my blog - HELP ME RAISE SOME MONEY FOR TEAM FIGHT and CANCER to 5K. I'm just $225.00 away from my minimum goal of $750.00.

That's 40 donations of $5 each....Consider it a Belated Birthday gift....After all, I will only be 40 once AND this year is the 5th Anniversary of my Melanoma diagnosis...Help me celebrate 5 years as a SURVIVOR - just $1.00 per year...I know there are 40 of you lurking out there...

And if that is not enough to motivate you...here a little bit more!

Two weeks ago we started our SECOND CANCER to 5K Team in Howard County, MD. They already have 11 survivors training and this weekend the DC/VA CANCER to 5K Team begins!

CANCER to 5K: Getting Fit, Having Fun and taking your life back from cancer - ONE MILE AT A TIME....via The Ulman Cancer Fund!!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart! LiveSTRONG!
- Holly

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fat & Happy: A Mini Musselman Race Report

Umm...let me explain my race title first: I had a GREAT TIME at the Mussleman Triathlon Festival this weekend! It was by far the most fun I have had at a race since my Beach2Battleship victory last fall.

Having said that: Good Lord, I want my 2009 IM/Wedding body back! I'm busting out of my darn Team Z kit and with Irongirl around the corner in August, I'm NOT really looking forward to what my Team FIGHT kit is going to look like in photos. I've been working hard at the solution but the progress is slow and not readily apparent in the pictures....yet. Must keep working hard - I want my new bike *before* Beach2Battleship Half in November!

Saturday, Mini Mussel Race Day with Team Z teammates Priscilla and Mike

Now onto the - RACE REPORT!

I was supposed to race the MicroMini but pouring rain and lightening forced the race director to modify the event and the "regular bike" division of this race was canceled. We still had a BLAST watching IronCat and Es and a few other teammates - Rock IT OUT in a "Tricycle Duathlon" in the pouring rain! GOOD TIMES FOR EVERYBODY!

Mini Musselman: Sprint Distance Triathlon
750yd Swim - 16m Bike - 3.2m Run

Overall Time: 2:14:35

SWIM: 750 yds - 21:08 (New Open Water PR for this distance!!)

The swim was a lovely 750 yards in Lake Geneva with an in-water start. The water was about 74F and crystal clear and even though I didn't really need it temperature-wise, I still wore my wetsuit. I had no problems with the swim overall but I think I could have taken another minute or two off my time if I had sighted a little more efficiently - doing Tarzan drills instead of stopping dead in the water and looking around like a "holly-sized buoy". I pretty much stayed in the back of the pack of the Yellow Caps and only ended up seeing a few of the Dark Green Caps that started 6 minutes behind. To stay with my pack - even in the back - for the entire swim is a huge improvement for me. My pace may not be mid-pack but now I am not getting completely dropped! Room for improvement but still a PR so I am thrilled!

T1: 3:36

Nothing of note here, this is a typical T1 time for me - I take time to dry my feet and put on my socks cause I hate blisters on the run!

BIKE: 16 miles - 1:02:49 (Pace 15.7 mph)

Whoot! There it is!!! - The goal that I set for myself for the bike for this race was 1:00-1:05 - as close to a 16 mph pace as I could get and I did it! I'm VERY satisfied with this pace and felt - if it had been a little cooler, temperature wise, I would have been able to maintain a solid run pace off the bike even after this kind of effort.

Of course Keri and Leanne, my close friends and Team Z mates, will tell you that I wandered around pouting a bit all day Saturday afternoon/early evening because I *thought* the bike course was short by a mile and my bike computer was giving me an average pace of 13.8 mph for the Bike. NOTE TO SELF: Trust the GARMIN 3:10XT and not the Bike Computer which is fussy and can change just because a magnet shifts slightly or a battery is running down...

Riding on Sunshine and enjoying a strong Bike ride...

T2: 03:16 - WTF?

Completely baffled by this time that I spent in T2 considering that all I did was rack my bike and change my shoes and put on a hat - I have no clue where the time went as it didn't feel that slow but it was sooooo slow.....

RUN: 3.2 miles - 43:46

What can I say except that today I just didn't have it for the run? The temperatures were in the high 80s and the course was not hard or hilly. I started out with what I hoped would be "a nice easy pace" and by the time I reach Mile 1 - I just was not feeling it - at all. I did some self-reflection on my race goals for the day and decided that I wasn't in the mood to "suffer" or "HTFU" so I just went with the flow and ran when I felt I could and walked when I wanted to.

I saw plenty of teammates out there - all looking great - and while I today I would not "catch" my teammate Jackie on the run (she was looking to strong and nearly a 1/2 mile ahead of me) - I did have in the back of my mind that my teammate Priscilla was out there somewhere - catching up to me. That kept me running more than walking and by the time we got to the near the finish line, my teammates Tracey and Emily confirmed as they cheered me in, that Priscilla was right on my tail because they cheered for me and then less than 30 seconds later were "Whoohoo"-ing for Priscilla! By that point, we were about 300 yards from the finish line so I just sucked it up and ran it in to the wonderful cheers and high-fives of my Team Z teammates!

On the run to the finish line - see the green the background
- that's Priscilla closing in on me...

So that is my Mini-Musselman Race Report. The rest of the weekend was spent cheering on my Teammates who were racing the Musselman Half Ironman and AquaVelo and ringing a cowbell all day long! That's my kind of fun!

Cheering folks on Sunday at the Half Ironman - More Cowbell!

My CONGRATULATIONS to all my friends and Team Z teammates who ROCKED the Musselman Course this weekend! It was a great way to spend a summer weekend and I highly recommend the race to anybody!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Summer is here: ALLEZ, ALLEZ, ALLEZ!

I looked at my husband last night and said "Le Tour starts on Saturday?"

Summer is officially here and Le Tour de France could not come soon enough because I needed a visual *kick in the pants* to get me going...


On the Race Horizon:
Independence 5000 (5K) for FUN!
This Friday night with some good friends

Mussleman Weekend with Team Z
Just a Utra-Sprint and Sprint TRI for me then I will cheer on my Team Z peeps as they go long at the Musselman Half (70.3)

IronGIRL Columbia TRI in August with Team FIGHT and Heather!

Savageman Half in September with Team Shoemaker.
Plans are currently to CRUSH our combined time from last season and move up several places in our division!

Beach2Battleship Half (70.3) in November to wrap up the season.
Focusing on this fast, flat course to net a solid PR for the Half Ironman distance.

On the NEW BIKE challenge: Slow, SLOW start but a start none the less! I am 5 pounds down with 35 pounds to go. I'll start shopping in late August...

The biggest challenge Day-to-Day is still finding "balance" in my life.
I'm figuring it out slowly, just like everybody else. Ironically, I have learned that without some "big scary, seemingly impossible challenge" on my plate - (Fighting Cancer, Finishing an Ironman, Planning a Wedding (not scary but a big challenge! LOL), Launching a Running Program - I loose focus and tend to just flit from thing to thing. That has been a bit of an eye-opener for me now that my life has much less drama in it.. for which I am VERY THANKFUL!

So in honor of Le Tour de France 2010, I will spend the next 28 days moving my body (training), racing, working, living - in general - finding some balance and keeping my eyes on the horizon ahead - because you never know what is just around the corner!


Life is Good! LiveSTRONG!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Team CANCER to 5K: Spring 2010

Words fail to describe how proud I am to be a part of Team CANCER to 5K so for the Spring 2010 Season, I am going to let the pictures to the talking.

I will say this much: 15 Cancer Survivors, 6 states represented, 3 races (in FL & MD x 2), over 25 Pace Leaders and Sherpas, 1 - Coach Bob, 3 - Assistant Coaches, myself, the Ulman Cancer Fund, a lot of CowBell and 5 more CANCER to 5K Finishers Medals went into the Spring 2010 season!

To-Date there are 32 Cancer Survivors in the United States who have earned the CANCER to 5K Finisher Medal by running/walking their FIRST 5K or 10K since having been diagnosed with cancer.

Way to LiveSTRONG! Enjoy the SLIDESHOW!

This Fall 2010, we are *thrilled* to be adding another local Team CANCER to 5K Training Program in Howard County, MD in addition to our Northern VA/DC Team and our "At Home" Training Program for out-of-area Survivors!

Friday, June 04, 2010


Another 12-weeks has flown by and SPRING 2010 marked some HUGE firsts for the CANCER to 5K program. I'd like to take a moment to share them with you all.

This season CANCER to 5K:

• had 16 runners training for 5K or 7-mile race distances
• doubled the number of NEW RUNNERS to the program this season!
• 3 of our 16 runners trained "at home" in FLORIDA, SOUTH CAROLINA and ARIZONA
• had 25 volunteer pace leaders and sherpas help through the 12-week season
• had one broken toe (not running related)
• had our first fundraiser "COLORS OF EMOTIONS" art show with The CRUZ Collection and raised over $3200.00 for the program

As with any running season, sometimes life gets in the way - we have 4 runners who will not be racing a 5K at the end of this season. The reason's are varied but there are two positives that come out of this:
• Nobody has had to stop running due to cancer reoccurrence
• 3 of our 4 runners have ALREADY COMMITTED TO COMING BACK IN THE FALL to start a new round of 12-weeks of training!!!

I want to take a moment and say THANK YOU to a set of very special people - our Coach, the Ulman Cancer Fund, Assitant Coaches and Volunteers, without whom, none of this would be possible.


• Coach Bob Shaver, ShaverMulti Sport - for your hard work and dedication and for wearing both hats, whenever necessary: "Nice Coach Bob" and "Mean Coach Bob"

Even "Mean Coach Bob" isn't really that mean...and we *do* listen...and everything is "good", "fine", "_____" (insert one syllable word here! - THANK YOU for your love and dedication to the CANCER to 5K program for the last 3 years!

• Arnetta Davis, Destiny Iorg and Andrea Hampton- for once again stepping up and being excellent "Assistant Coaches/Head Pace Leaders" even when your lives were pulling you in different directions, you still found the time for the Team. Your dedication and love is appreciated.

• Denny Cruz, Thomas Schmadtloch., Elizabeth Yap, and Leona Spencer for all your 6 months of dedication and hard work. You made the COLORS OF EMOTIONS Art Show and Fundraiser a huge success in bringing Awareness and Funds to the CANCER to 5K program and the ULMAN CANCER FUND.

• Katrina McGowan and Brian Satola of UCF for their constant and unwavering support of the CANCER to 5K program and for being the program's "Hands and Hearts" at the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults main office. We can't WAIT to welcome the FALL Howard County CANCER to 5K program to the TEAM CANCER to 5K Family!

• Jeff and Peter Stehm (& William Stehm and Adrian Threat) - THANK YOU for joining the Team this season and for being so generous in letting us run in Helen's Memory at Survivor Harbor 7 next weekend. I hope as you have trained with the Team and put on the miles, that you have had the same fun and positive experiences that Helen did while running with our group. My hope on race day is, as you run SH7, that you push hard and deep and embrace every mile you are covering - knowing that you are on the same roads that Helen was on - pushing hard and living STRONG - Giving CANCER "the bird" the entire way!

• The Team's Volunteer Pace Leaders and Race Day Sherpas! You guys are AMAZING! I hope that you know what a HUGE impact you have on our new runners. Your love for running, your enthusiasm for life and your endless and unwavering support has made this the most amazing team. THANK YOU for unselfishly donating your time, support and energy so that our Survivors can feel safe to push the limits of what they imagine is possible, mile after mile. YOU GUYS THE REASON THE MILES FLY BY AND THEIR ARE SMILES AT THE END OF EVERY WORKOUT!

THANK YOU: Rishi Bharathan - Linae Bohemne-Terrana - Janet Chow - Colleen Cannon -Denny Cruz - Arnetta Davis - Monica Datta - Amy Fabella - Ben Fabella - Catherine Goldman - Keri Hadley - Andrea Hampton - Jessica (Bosworth) Hawkins - Destiny Iorg -Rachael Schoenbaum - Esther Letsche - Yuneng Li - Shawn Newton - Tara O'Hare - Monica Ross - Katy Smallwood - Thomas Schmadtloch

• To our CT5K Runners/Survivors: THANK YOU for your trust, faith, courage and for taking a chance on the CANCER to 5K Program.

Alisa Brook, Cyndi Clark, Jessica Datta, Ginnie Degause (SC), Michelle Hastings (AZ), Erika Johnson, Brad Lunz (FL), Christina Noboa, Alyssa Petroff, Shari Shuman, Beth Sherring., Paula Sternberg, Cheryl Stucky, Jeff & Peter Stehm, and Jessica Tanner.

For all your HARD WORK over the last 12-weeks, my hope for each of you is that you cross the finish line with BIG SMILES and feeling SO PROUD OF WHAT YOU HAVE ACCOMPLISHED!

It has been an honor to run and train with all of you. Thank you for reminding me everyday what it means to LiveSTRONG!

I come to you all with the deepest gratitude for making my life fuller by sharing your lives with me and for indulging my love for running by having the courage to give it a try yourselves.

You may not find that you love to run, but I do hope that this experience has left you knowing deep in your heart, that you CAN DO ANYTHING you set out to do and that you can FACE ANY CHALLENGE with hope, courage and endurance. You already all LiveSTRONG everyday...now you'll just have a MEDAL on the wall that you can show your friends and family that says:

"Yeah, I had cancer but really cancer NEVER HAD ME! I LiveSTRONG!"

With Love and Respect - remember Life is GOOD! More COWBELL!


Monday, May 17, 2010

Melanoma Monday: SPF or Chemo?



Any Questions?

Five Years ago TODAY, I started my first round of Interferon Chemotherapy Infusions. I sat in that recliner for 5 hours a day, 5 days a week for 4 weeks. Then I graduated to giving myself "self-injections" of Interferon 3-days a week for the next 48 weeks.

Yep - that was 52 weeks of Chemotherapy.... ONE YEAR of my life spent doing CHEMO!

So...in memory of my 5-year Anniversary of Chemotherapy, let me share with you the following in honor of Melanoma Monday!

Remember Life is Good! Live STRONG!

SLIP, SLAP, SLOP on that Sunscreen!!

(More Info on this can be found HERE)

Proper Use and Application of Sunscreen:

Most people use sunscreen improperly by not applying enough. They apply only 25% to 50% of the recommended amount. Sunscreen should be applied liberally enough to all sun-exposed areas that it forms a film when initially applied. It takes 20-30 minutes for sunscreen to be absorbed by the skin, so it should be applied at least a half an hour before going out in the sun. Sunscreen should also be the last product applied especially on the face since some sunscreens can break down in the presence of water contained in water-based foundations and moisturizers.

Reapplying Sunscreen
Most instructions on sunscreen labels recommend reapplying sunscreen "frequently", but the definition of "frequently" is vague. A common instruction is to reapply sunscreen after 2-4 hours in the sun. However, one study has shown that reapplying sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes after being in the sun is more effective than waiting 2 hours. It is possible that this time period is more effective because most people do not apply enough sunscreen initially, and this second application approximates the actual amount needed. Sunscreen should also be reapplied after swimming, excessive sweating, or toweling.

Daily Sunscreen
Sunscreen should be applied daily. The daily use of a low-SPF sunscreen (15) has been shown to be more effective in preventing skin damage than the intermittent use of a higher SPF sunscreen.

Sunscreen and Insect Repellents
Insect repellents reduce the sunscreen's SPF by up to one-third. When using sunscreen and insect repellent together, a higher SPF should be used and reapplied more often.

Monday, May 10, 2010

You've Come a Long Way Baby....

Wow...I was looking back through my posts when I realized that 5 years ago today I was just getting my drains removed from my second round of surgery for Melanoma and spent the day meeting with my Oncologist to discuss the start of Chemotherapy the next week.

I'm definitely one of the LUCKY ONES, no doubt about that. To be here, happily married, racing in Triathlons again, around to meet my two beautiful nephews (who had not even been conceived yet...), to be able to do Team CANCER to 5K - all of this while having been diagnosed with Stage III Malignant Nodular Melanoma and give a 75% chance of reoccurrence within the first 2 years.

It's days like today that I realize how truly bless and lucky I am...Life is GOOD!

Have you bought fresh Sunscreen for this coming season yet?


2010 Kinetic SPRINT Report: What the watch can't tell you...

"Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care about time?" - Chicago

Time and Triathlon, intertwine deeply - my races are almost always about TIME.

What time is my swim wave?
Does this race have cut-off times?
Can I beat my previous time?
Did I have a good time?

The last race of my 2009 TRI season was "NOTHING BUT TIME" and it had to be, of course. In an Ironman-distance event there is only one time that matters 17:00:00. Anything under that time and "You are an Ironman" anything over that time and you may finish the race, you may go the distance but your not official.

Along the way in Ironman, time is always on your mind. Time to the Swim Cutoff (2:20:00) Time to the Bike Cuttoff (09:30:00) - miss those times and your day is over - no matter how long and hard you have trained. I should know, I missed the first loop Bike Cuttoff for IM USA in Lake Placid, NY in July 2009 which was why my last race of the season in Nov 2009 was Beach2Battleship Ironman-distance Triathlon in Wilmington,NC.

In Nov 2009 as I ended my season, time was on my side....I completed my 10-year goal of becoming an Ironman in 16:17:48.

So with that BIG GOAL behind me, I started the 2010 Season determined to race short, have fun and enjoy the sport of triathlon as much as I can. But as my first race of the 2010 season got closer and closer, again TIME took over my thoughts.

Can I race this event faster?
Can I race this event stronger?

Faster is a TIME driven denominator but Stronger is not necessarily all about time. Stronger has so many variables you can measure by....Power, Mindset, Pace....That idea had me intrigued and a little scared...

Could I race a SPRINT TRI, stronger?

In my 10 years of doing Triathlons, my goals have always been to finish, to finish longer, to finish faster, but never to finish stronger. I may not be a fast racer but as Coach Ed has said, "Holly won't quit until you pull her off the course..." I do have endurance but that endurance has always included a "little bit of walking" - Walking in Transitions because I saw it as a chance to recover before the next leg and walking during the Run because well "Hills are hard" and "I'm not a fast runner" and "I can still finish" and "I'm tired."

In 10 years, I'd never dared to challenge myself to truly push beyond my comfort zones - I think partly because I already knew I could FINISH doing what I always do (run/walking) but what if this time, on a SPRINT race course that I knew pretty well (racing it in 2005 & 2008) I took a big risk and set my goal for racing STRONGER than ever before?

What if I RAN it all this time? Run out of the water to transition, Run through T1, Run through T2, and (OMG!) RUN the entire 5K with just a few steps at the water stop so that I can actually drink the water and not wear it ...(my one concession...)

So I started out on Sunday @ Kinetic Sprint Tri but I only shared my big goal of "Running the whole thing" with about 5 people. A short list of folks, In part to be accountable and in part because I was scared of failure on a grand scale. Of course, I shared my PR swim goal with the world via FACEBOOK.

My goals: 1.) PR the swim - 750yds and 24:00 has been my fastest time. 2.) NO WALKING

People I told about Goal #2? My husband Jim, my teammates/friends: Keri, Leanne, Andrea H. (Cancer to 5K friend/teammate) and Coach Ed. Keri, Leanne and Coach Ed were told, If you see me walking for even a second "GIVE ME HELL!!"

SWIM- 750yd: 22:30 (Garmin 310XT time) - 2 minute PR at this distance!!!

The water was a balmy 72F and with just a little chop to make us rock and roll a little, I was nervous but had no fear. I think swimming 2.4 miles 4 times last year really built my confidence as has actually going to regular swim practice 2-3x a week for the last year.

I tried to find feet and "stick like velcro" but I never did find any. Instead I just counted and sighted and tried to remember to reach long and pull. I was on the first turn bouy very quickly and was surprised but happy. The next turn buoy took a bit as I was getting pushed around alot by the chop but I just told myself "rock and roll with it" and tried not to fight the water but move in it. Soon enough I was making the turn for shore and that last leg seem to take *forever* but I just "kept swimming" and soon enough I was on shore and jogging up the ramp to transition. I felt good, there were still bikes on the racks around me so I knew I had a good swim but I didn't dare look at my watch because while I wanted a PR, I knew that I had to stay focused on "No Walking" and any TIME on the watch could effect my MENTAL FOCUS so I would have to find out after all was said and done...

T1: 4:30 (Garmin 310XT time) - about the time I was putting on my bike helmet, I thought to myself, "What is this,Holly, a picnic? Get Going!" They added a bit more run to the "mount/dismount" line than in times past so that added some unexpected distance to Transition so I am happy with this time.

BIKE - 18 miles : 1:14:xx (Garmin 310XT time)

I *love* this particular race bike course. It is on low traffic roads and is a rolling bike course that is mostly rolling downhill. There are two things of note for my third time doing this course. NOTE 1.) I felt like *a lot* more people passed me on this course than normal. I can usually hold my own - during the race itself, I considered the possibility that "maybe I did PR my swim" and found myself in a new spot in terms of bike start." That thought made me SMILE even if I still was not that happy at being passed on the bike very much. NOTE 2.) I passed at least 6 people in the last 3 miles of the bike. It would seem that when we got to the park entrance, all the folks that I couldn't seem to catch on the bike course, decided that they were going to relax for a bit. I wonder if those people realized that we still have 3 miles of riding left? I took that opportunity to get in my aero bars, and push the pace and gain 6 places off the bike in the last 3 miles. I figured with 3 miles left, I still had time to spin down a little and if they pass me on the run, so be it BUT they will have to pass me....we are in a triathlon folks, you still have 5k to run!

T2: 2:10 (Garmin 310XT time) - Considering the extra running post dismount - this is okay. I ran through only stopping long enough to rack the bike, toss the helmet, changes shoes and grab my visor.

RUN - 5K: 40:00:xx (Garmin 310XT time)

Okay, here is was, my biggest challenge of the day, right in front of me - I only had one goal - Find a stride and pace that I could stick to all the way to the finish. Immediately, I told myself "THIS IS NOT ABOUT TIME" this was about being STRONG - physically strong enough to run the entire 5K - which I already have proven time and time again that I can do - and mentally strong enough to resist the usual tempation of walking when I felt tired or saw other triathletes around me walking. This was MY RACE, it did not matter what anybody around me did - that did not give me justification to "walk" - my goal was to RUN - at whatever pace that needed to be - for the ENTIRE 5K.

And that is what I did! I took my time up the big hill at the start - finding a steady pace and keeping my stride short - my reward - lots of love and good vibes from strangers and good friends alike. Andrea H. was there to cheer me on at the crest of the steepest part of the climb and she was like my own personal guardian angel, keeping me from focusing on the hill by making me smile with her enthusiasm. Then I settled into a nice easy stride and just rolled up and a over the rest of the gentle climb, past mile 1 and around the corner and down the hill to the turn around. Cheering on Teammates as I passed them and as they passed me, having fun and keeping my inner-dialog on "Run, just Run" & "Feeling Tired, Go ahead slow down a bit but Just RUN".

Soon enough I was at the turn around and running back up the hill. That was hard but I just kept my stride nice and easy and focused on getting to the Port-O-John since I needed a quick pit stop. I ran to the John, did what I needed to, popped back out, grabbed a handy wipe and a cup of water, took 3 walking strides (enough to drink the water) and then resumed running. Soon enough I was past 2 miles and turing left for that last rolling mile to the finish line.

I kept my eyes up and on the horizon, thinking about the lovely downhill run through the trail on the trees that would preceded the finish line. Knowing that I could have some free speed with that gentle downhill and could surge onto the beach to the finish. As I crossed the street, heading to the trail, the smile was big and wide - I was doing it! After 10-years of racing triathlons - every distance from Sprint to Ironman - I was racing STRONG!

The energy, the accomplishment, my determination and the cheers from Andrea H. and from my Team Z mates at the finish line just made the finish that much sweeter! While I'm not sure I was smiling at the finish (Keri said I looked and sounded Stern and Very Determined) I was SO PROUD of myself for pushing my boundaries that it didn't matter WHAT THE TIME was on the Race Clock or my Garmin 310XT.

I set a goal to Race STRONG and NOT WALK the Kinetic Sprint TRI on Sunday, May 9, 2010 and I MET MY GOAL. I also learned, post race, based on how I am feeling now as I recover, that I probably could have pushed the pace up as much as 30 seconds a mile and been able to hang on - so next time maybe TIME will be a goal again. As it turns out, I also PR'd my that swim distance by 2 minutes AND overall, came within 1 minute of my 2008 finish time at this event.

I may not have race faster BUT I am racing STRONGER than ever! And that...is a heck of a way to start the 2010 season and my next 10-years as a Triathlete...

Life is Good! LiveSTRONG! Race STRONGER than your fears and make sure you have good friends and teammates on the course!

Holly S.