Category Archives: Race

Thirty & an anniversary

A huge thank you for all your positive comments on my last post about Kelly’s weight loss. I was so happy he let me share his story, and we both liked reading the responses.

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Saturday is my 30th birthday. I remember when 30 was…old. It doesn’t seem that way anymore!

Entering a new decade got me thinking about past birthdays.

Then
My parents used to throw me amazing birthday parties, and my mom always made and decorated the cake to go with the party theme.

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My 1st birthday with the cookie monster and my sister!

On my 5th birthday, we flew to Disneyworld and spent time in the parks visiting our favourite characters!

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Love the ’80s pants and retro Nike kicks!

I remember my 8th birthday. I got a new bike and sat on it, propped up against a wall, watching cartoons all morning while my parents and sister ran around the house preparing for my party.

Fast forward to my 16th birthday. My mom let me skip math class in the morning to take my driving test. There was a snowstorm that morning, but I passed!

On my 20th birthday, Kelly and I ran our first marathon: the inaugural Rock’n’Roll Arizona in 2004. We didn’t train well (just a couple runs over 12km!) but managed to finish hand-in-hand in 3:49:29.

RNR AZ 2004

RNR AZ 2004

Although it took us five years to run another full marathon, it was the start of something big.

On my 27th birthday we were in Florida after running the Disneyworld Marathon a couple days before.

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Now

I’m proud of where I am on my 30th birthday. I hit my stride in my 20s. I graduated from university. I moved out of home. I travelled. We got a dog son. We bought a house. I married my best friend. I found a career I enjoy. I got comfortable in my skin and gained confidence. And I have ran and biked thousands of miles.

Although I’ve been a runner for years, endurance training and racing has kept me going. I’m in better shape now than I’ve ever been (well, not right now after the holidays!). And I love and appreciate the mental and physical benefits now more than ever before.

I have a few goals for my 30s.

I want to get better- at being a good wife, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend; at listening to my body; at relaxing and going with the flow.

I want to stay active and challenge myself to new distances and faster times. I love running, and it has brought me an immense amount of happiness.

I hope to still be running and crossing finish lines in my next 30 years.

Have you ran a race on your birthday? Any memorable stories from past birthdays?

Trust in the taper – what’s your mantra?

I know a lot of people experience taper crazies. Or maybe I just feel that way since I do.

I always get panicky, thinking I didn’t do enough. I walk up the stairs and feel out of breath wondering how in the heck I’ll run X miles, or worse yet swim bike run! My hips and knees act up. I wonder if I’ll be able to finish.

Pre Ironman Arizona 2010 - probably the most nervous I've ever been

Pre Ironman Arizona 2010 – probably the most nervous I’ve ever been

Some people experience the opposite. They’re at peace knowing they’ve put in the work. They feel strong, confident, and ready. They look forward to the start of the race instead of just the finish line.

It’s fall marathon season and many people are heading into or are in their tapers. And I wonder, what makes people one way versus the other and how do people deal with it effectively?

I read a great article in the October 2013 issue of Runner’s World called Taper Stress, how to stay calm and confident when your mind races with anxiety.

The director of the Center for Sport and Performance Psychology in Mankato, Minnesota, who is also a runner, interviewed 21 marathoners and found there are two distinct types: positive taperers and negative taperers.

The article goes on to give tips on what to do to set yourself up for a good race including things like carb-load with caution, set multiple goals, and have a plan for after a big race.

What works best for me? Repeating the mantra, trust in the taper. My husband started saying it to me before big races. He’d be relaxed and feeling good and I’d be a ball of nerves.

Then he’d remind me to trust in the taper. Easy as that, I’d remember the long, hard training days, and know I was as ready as I’d ever be. Pushing hard at that late stage of the game would do more harm then good anyway.

So I remind all of you, whether you’re a negative taperer or just dealing with some pre-race nerves, trust in the taper.

Finished

Ironman Arizona 2010

What category do you fall in to: positive or negative taperer? Do you have any positive mantras?

Watching a professional bike tour – Tour of Alberta Prologue

The Tour of Alberta came to town last week. Yup, a sanctioned UCI 2.1 Pro Stage Race came to Alberta for six days of racing.

We were lucky enough to host the prologue in Edmonton to kick off the race. I was excited because a prologue showcases the racers one at a time. They start at one minute intervals, so there was a lot to watch  unlike a stage where they zoom by in a big clump!

It was a 7.3 km time trial, starting and finishing in the heart of downtown with tight corners and one descent and climb.

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Team Argos-Shimano rider

There were 115 riders from 15 teams including six top European pro teams, 23-year-old Peter Sagan (ranked number two in the world), Cadel Evans who won the 2011 Tour de France, and top Canadian Ryder Hesjedal who won the Giro d’Italia in 2012.

Ryder Hesjedal, Team Garmin-Sharp

Ryder Hesjedal, Team Garmin-Sharp

Kelly and I rode our mountain bikes downtown so we could ride around and watch from various points of the course.

We got there in time to see the first rider take the first turn of the course. After watching a few riders at that turn, we rode a bit further to see them take the second and then third turns right before hitting the downhill. Then we moved on to see them crest the hill about 5km in and stayed there until the end.

Kelly was as excited as a kid at Disneyland! He told me who riders were, drooled over bikes, and cheered like crazy.

I was simply in awe of how tight they take corners, their speed, and their grit.

Team Garmin-Sharp rider

Team Garmin-Sharp rider

It was also interesting to visibly see the speed variances between the pro tour teams and the continental teams.

They saved the best for last with Peter Sagan, Cadel Evans, and Ryder Hesjedal. Hesjedal was the very last rider and, as a decorated Canadian, the cheers he got were pretty incredible.

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Cadel Evans, BMC Racing Team

In the end, Sagan took first with second place coming in 13 seconds behind him and the rest of the field spread to two minutes and 21 seconds back.

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Peter Sagan, Cannondale

The other five stages rode throughout Alberta, with an approximate total distance of 850km or 530 miles.

Rohan Dennis of Team Garmin-Sharp ended up winning the event overall on Sunday.

For a first year event, I think spectator support was decent. In Edmonton there were thousands of fans on bikes and with cowbells, cameras, and maps.

Hopefully we host the race again next year, with a more exciting route to better showcase Alberta and with more fans to cheer on the cyclists!

Have you ever watched a professional bike race, or any bike race? 

Ironman Canada Whistler 2013 recap

I’m going to write this all in one post, so it’s a long one!

The days leading up to Ironman Canada were busy: 16 hours of solo driving split over two days, walking around Whistler, hanging out with family, and of course all the Pre-Ironman activities.

Practice swim in the beautiful Alta Lake

Practice swim in the beautiful Alta Lake

Meeting triathlon legend Simon Whitfield!

Meeting triathlon legend Simon Whitfield!

I was extremely nervous. I think more so than any race I’ve done in a while. My sister-in-law was racing and we had quite a few spectators including my parents, in-laws, and sister-in-law’s in-laws.

But, Kelly wasn’t racing and wasn’t in Whistler either as I was meeting him and Harold a couple days after the race. It was definitely different as he is generally really calming for me!

Race morning

I was up at 3:30 after a few hours of sleep and stuck with my morning ritual of breakfast in the room.

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I was a lot more relaxed in the morning and was really looking forward to the day ahead! I went into it having no idea what to expect but knowing it would most likely be my last tri for a while so to enjoy the day.

I met my parents and sister-in-law at 4:20 to walk to T2 where they had buses to take athletes to the swim start.

We were greeted like royalty by the body markers who started cheering as we approached. Again, the volunteers were incredible all day long.

We got body marked, checked on our T2 bags, and hopped on a bus. Once we got to Alta Lake, I put my bottles with water and Nuun on my bike, added my bento full of fuel, and pumped my tires.

I had to put on my wetsuit fairly early for warmth. Soon enough, all our spectators arrived so we chilled out chatting with them.

The start came quickly. The lake looked majestic with a mist over it and the mountains as a backdrop.

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We got in early for a warm up then decided to stay in the lake since it was a deep-water start. Looking back towards shore was such a cool sight with thousands of athletes and spectators.

The swim

Alicia and I wished each other luck and then we were off!

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I always swim wide. I got punched twice in the head right at the beginning so moved even wider. After that, I had a lot of space for the entire swim. I popped my head up a couple times to look around and take it in. I know way more men than women participate in Ironman events, but I was shocked at how many green caps there were versus pink.

Once I turned the last buoy I was so grateful to be getting out of the lake knowing one discipline was finished! My Garmin showed 4.3 km, so 500m longer! I know I swam wide, but I didn’t think that wide!

3.8 km/2.4 mile swim – 1:19:51 

T1 – 6:36
I got out of the water, found my transition bag, and went into the tent. Thankfully a kind volunteer was there to help my put on my sports bra and arm warmers (hardest things to put on when wet)!

I unracked my bike, walked it up the long ramp, saw our spectators, and hopped on for a 180km ride!

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Easy to spot in my bright orange Hawaiian jersey!

The Bike

The course basically two out and backs- Callaghan Road and Pemberton- with spectacular views, lots of ups and downs, and one flat stretch.

I’m not a strong cyclist and hills, and even more so descents, are not my forte. But I really liked the course! The constant elevation changes kept me on my toes and didn’t allow for boredom.

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There were lots of fans on the ride out from the swim and along the roads in the main part of Whistler. About 20km in, I heard Kelly cheer for me. I was in complete disbelief to see Kelly and Harold on the side of the road, pumping music and ready for a day of spectating!

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I was in complete shock and then completely overwhelmed. I cried for literally 3km before I forced myself to get a grip.

My smile was enormous knowing I’d see them again soon!

The ride was definitely tough, but I would say on par with the old IM Canada course in Penticton and IM Coeur d’Alene. I think the main difference is the placement of hills. There was a long stretch of them the last 30 km, so your legs were pretty fatigued at that point and even more tired heading on to the run.

I didn’t put on my aero bars for this race, and my back wasn’t sore at all and my neck was much less sore. I don’t know if there is a correlation but I was happy to not be too sore.

One thing was worrying me…I didn’t pee once. Normally I stop at least a couple times.

180km/112 mile bike – 6:53:38

T2 – 6:26

A volunteer took my bike, another took my T2 bag and followed me into the tent. I changed socks, shorts, shirts, swapped cycling shoes for runners and helmet for a visor and finally hit a porta potty. Then I got lubed up from head to toe making sure they paid extra attention to my back!

I ran out with an ear-to-ear smile knowing unless disaster struck, I would cross that finish line!

The Run

I quickly settled into a rhythm.

I loved the run course! It was two loops on softly rolling trail and on a path around a beautiful mountain lake.

Although I loved the course, the miles seemed to tick by slowly at the beginning. My body was beat but I just took it stride by stride. A lot of spectators commented I was looking strong, which was nice to hear since I felt so weak!

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I stuck to my walk through aid stations method to get in enough fuel. But this race I really took my time in the aid stations! At one I was stopped eating chips at a table. It must have been a while, as a volunteer joked about getting me some dip! At a couple others I stopped to fish out my salt tabs and take them while chatting with volunteers.

On my way back towards my second loop, Kelly, Harold, and my brother-in-law were cheering in the trails. It was the first time I actually got to talk to them! I stopped for some hugs and chatter. Of course seeing Kelly was amazing, but seeing Harold in the middle of a race was such a boost! It’s not allowed but they ran with me for a couple minutes so we could talk.

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I told Kelly how much pain I was in and that my ankles felt like they were breaking. He told me to tough it out. The sooner it’s over, the sooner the pain is over.

I ran through town again and saw our cheering squad. On the way back out, I knew it was going to be a struggle. I tried to just enjoy the lovely, soft, shaded trail and focus on the next aid station.

I hit the porta potty again and knew it would be tough to get moving! I sat there for a couple minutes rallying myself. (You know I was desperate to sit in a stinky porta-potty for a bit!)

Suddenly with 6km/4 miles left, I felt incredible…talk about runner’s high! I fed off the fans, charged up the hills, and smiled.

We took a turn, ran through Olympic Village then hit the home stretch. I heard strangers cheering, saw Kelly with my Dad and Harold, then saw my Mom and in-laws.

42.2km/26.2 mile run – 3:48:13

I crossed the finish line in 12:14:44.

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I was ecstatic! I got my medal, hat, t-shirt, and finishers photo then got out of there to find my family! It was so awesome to have everyone there, especially Kelly and Harold. I could not stop smiling.

We stood around talking and I felt great. It was a huge difference compared to how I felt after Coeur d’Alene. (The next morning, I was shocked at how decent I felt. My Achilles tendon area was really sore and my knees were a bit achy but that was it!)

I went back and showered before coming back to cheer Alicia through the finish line of her first Ironman! I am so proud of her accomplishment.

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I was getting pretty hungry so Kelly, Harold and I picked up a greasy pizza and I went to town on it. Harold was wiped from a day with lots of noise and people and Kelly and I were both exhausted, too, so we didn’t go back for the final finishers.

I was SO happy and more than surprised with my time. It was my slowest Ironman and swim to date, but I am truly proud of myself. It was a mental battle to get to that start line and I battled throughout the run.

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The Ironman is a beast and one I always look back on with pride. This year has been a great ride!

What was your favourite race, run, or bike of the summer?

Ironman Canada 2013 finisher!

Just wanted to pop in and let you know Ironman Canada Whistler was awesome!

I ended up finishing in 12:14:44 with a 1:19:51 swim, 6:53:38 bike, and 3:48:13 run.

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It hurt….bad at times. It was also a stunning course with challenging climbs on the bike.

My sister-in-law rocked her first Ironman, finishing under 14 hours!

I’ll post a full recap once I’m home from a week off the grid (in the mountains) with my boys!

Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2013 – the bike and run

After a good swim and quick transition I was ready for the second discipline, which is also my weakest.

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I heard in advance the bike course is comparable to Ironman Canada (Penticton). This means lots of hills!

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You do two out and backs for two loops, so you ride through town four times. I tried to get into a groove and hold back at the beginning. The sun was shining, the temperature was perfect, and we were riding along the beautiful lake. What more could I ask for?!

Kelly passed me on the first out and back. I was so happy to see him and wished him speed as he passed.

My stomach started to really hurt so I didn’t eat anything for two hours after the Clif Bar in transition. After a long swim I hoped the lack of fuel wouldn’t come back and bite me later.

On the large out and back loop, there were hills and plenty of them. It was a beautiful ride and I just tried to remember how lucky I am to be able to do this.

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I’m not going to sugar coat it: I really struggled throughout the entire ride, especially on the large loops. The best way to describe it was soul-crushing. It was long and I struggled.

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The highlights were most definitely seeing Kelly a few times and seeing my parents and aunt and uncle each time I rode through town. Crowd support, and especially seeing people you know, makes all the difference!

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I also met Page on the bike course! I was so happy to hear she had a solid swim before she motored on ahead of me!

I stopped once because I thought I heard air hissing from my tires. Turns out somebody’s garbage got stuck between my brake and tire. (Phew- I really didn’t want a flat!) I stopped a second time to fill up two of my water bottles and a third time to hit a porta-potty.

I ended up eating another two Clif Bars, some Honey Stinger chews, and a few goldfish crackers. I also drank two bottles with pink lemonade Nuun and two more bottles of water.

The last few miles before town were awesome. I was just so happy to be nearing the end and to know all I had left was the run! And of course the crowds lining the streets and seeing my family again really helped!

112 mile/180km bike: 6:55:13
Age group placement: 37
Gender: 235
Overall: 1,297

At the dismount line, a volunteer takes your bike from you so all you have to do is grab your second transition bag and go to the change tent.

Again, I had a most wonderful volunteer. She lives in Seattle now but grew up near my hometown. She also participated in Ironman Canada last year! She dumped out all my stuff and asked what I needed, putting away my bike shoes, helmet, gloves, and everything else. I changed my shorts, threw on my visor, number, and runners and hit the road!

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T2: 4:28 (I don’t know how the volunteer and I chatted so much in such a short time!)

The run

Oh how I love to run. My love for the run was really cemented after the tough ride.

Realizing I left fuel in my pockets that hit me every step! I took it out and left it at an aid station.

Realizing I left fuel in my pockets that hit me every step! I took it out and left it at an aid station.

The run in Coeur d’Alene is also two loops and there are some big hills in there.

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I felt pretty good considering I’d already swum 4km and biked 180km. I always fear starting fast and then having to walk later. During an Ironman, I just go with it. If I feel good, I’ll run strong until I don’t feel good anymore! And then I’ll try to push through it.

I saw Kelly on my way out and he was about 10km ahead, but it was hard to do any math at that point!

We wrote an inspirational message on his back!

We wrote an inspirational message on his back!

The aid stations were bumping with music and awesome volunteers! Through neighbourhoods there was music, sprinklers, and people partying. It was such a fun atmosphere!

Since the mini loop on the bike rode along the lake, I knew where the run course turned around. I was experiencing some stomach pains so stopped at a porta-potty on the way out.

I stuck to my tested and true Ironman run plan of walking through each and every aid station to take in proper fuel. I drank something at every one- either water, Ironman Perform, or Coke (so good). I also ate three GU gels throughout, sucking back a little at each aid station.

Heading back into town at the end of the first lap, I started to get a really bad cramp on the right side of my chest. It hurt to breath. There were so many crowds lining the streets and cheering! I was going to stop and talk to my family but knew that if I stopped, it would be hard to get going again. So, I yelled that to them and headed back out for the last half of the run.

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I saw Kelly again and couldn’t for the life of me figure out how far ahead he was or what his finishing time would be! I was so proud to see him running strong knowing that he would be an Ironman again in a short time!

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I stopped at the bathroom again and it was a lot tougher to get moving  after this pit stop!

On the way back out of the second loop I saw Page again. She was absolutely rocking her first Ironman!

I kept trucking along. I was hurting but knew I’d hurt regardless what speed I ran. The hills on the second lap were a lot tougher than the first time around. But I thought it was a bit better since there were tons of people on the course at this point.

I was ecstatic once I hit the turnaround on the second lap and was 3/4 finished the run. All things considered I was surprised at how quickly the day went by.

Running back towards town was great. The people partying at the houses were loads of fun. The people on a corner yelling encouragement into a microphone was exactly what I needed to hear. And all the aid station volunteers were so gracious.

After a tiny uphill, you turn onto Sherman Ave and cruise slightly downhill to the finish. The streets were absolutely lined with spectators cheering.

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My family was lining the finishers’ chute. I, slightly dazed, ran through high-fiving people and crossed that finish line to Mike Reilly saying Abby Kokolski, you ARE an Ironman.

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26.2 mile/42.2km run: 3:43:33
Age group placement: 14
Gender: 94
Overall: 613

The volunteers at the finish line are called catchers and my catcher literally had to catch me as I was overcome with emotion. Kelly was right there waiting for me. I can’t express the feeling of crossing the line.

Overall time: 12:06:01
Age group placement: 14
Overall: 613

I got my finisher’s hat, shirt, and medal then got my photo taken. I did not feel right at all but didn’t want to go to medical since nothing was actually wrong with me. We grabbed pizza, water, and chocolate milk and sat in the grass. I couldn’t eat and felt terrible. We found my parents and my dad and Kelly got our bikes and my bags.

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Not feeling good!

We went back to the hotel to clean up before heading back downtown to cheer on more finishers. I’ll recap that in a separate post, as it is the most inspirational couple hours.

I think this race was the most difficult of the three I’ve finished (Arizona in 2010 and Canada in 2012). I don’t know if it’s because of the course or because I wasn’t as fit going into it.

I am shocked I ran a 3:43 marathon after all that and am even more shocked that I pulled off a personal best (just by 55 seconds, but a PR is a PR)!

Thank you all for reading and for your encouragement. I am so fortunate to have an amazingly supportive family, friends, and this online community.

Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2013

My stats
Swim
: 1:15:58
Bike: 6:55:12
Run: 3:43:32
Overall: 12:06:01

Overall stats
Total participants: 2,274
Men: 1,561
Women: 577
Average time: 13:15:41:49

What race are you most proud of?