Half Ironman Raleigh

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Half Ironman Raleigh

The day was just like any other. Wake up early, try to eat any of the four meals you prepared; because you knew you’d be picky and nauseous, check and double-check that you have everything you need, and make your way to the village.  Without much sleep, or much nutrition, it’s time to embark on your journey. Half Ironman Raleigh - 70.3.

Having registered just two days prior, and not having swam or trained on my bike since my first triathlon (ever) back in November, Ironman Arizona 140.6, I was justly nervous for this race.  The process felt familiar; head to the expo, find the athlete village, register and sign your waivers.  Pick up your RedBulls, suntan lotion, and competitor bags, sync your timing bracelet, and ask ANY final questions about race day.

At this point, there aren’t too many things that rock me in the athletic world. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel particular, familiar, twinge of terrified when the officials told me this race wasn’t wetsuit legal. Bye, “comfort” zone. Nice knowing you. I can’t even recognize you way back there…  The swim is already my weakest event, and something that I struggle with both mentally and physically – and also my main motivation for ever taking to the triathlon world in the first place.  Knowing that I couldn’t don my wetsuit in the morning, and would be stepping even further outside my comfort zone, I was second-guessing my decision to jump into the race.

Luckily, and simultaneously unfortunately, for me, my payment had already gone through, my bracelet was synced, and there was no choice but to show up on race day. I always tell people that I solidly live in Type Two fun zone – the fun that’s only really fun when you’re looking back at it, but not necessarily fun in the moment. The kind of fun where your comfort zone is so far behind you, you don’t want to even look back to see if it’s still there. Thing is, I don’t just say that – I mean it.

Fast forward through the athlete briefing, packing my transition bags, dropping off my bike, and calling my parents for some calming motivation on Saturday, and before I knew it I was in the car on my way to the lake to start my first ever Half Ironman.

Thankful to have great friends like Cassie to drive me to the race and calm my nerves before the start line, we watched the elite men and women take off. One hour until my start time – let’s get ready and warmed-up.

Before I knew it, they were calling my age group for the swim. Was I ready for my first non-wetsuit legal triathlon?  Guess we’re about to find out.  In a group of about thirty women – I started near the outside at the back of the pack, trying not to get kicked (or drown), and make it to the first turn.  I usually forget what I think about during exercise, specifically during races, but not this time. “Why do I do this?” “How much further?” “Have I really not made it to the next buoy yet?!” “Why are my glasses foggy?” “Why the f*ck am I not swimming in a straight line?” “Who’s foot am I grabbing!? OMG WHY ARE THEY KICKING MY FACE?” “Is this how I die? I just drown out here in an 80* lake?” “Oh thank god, we’re almost there…”

And then we’re on to the bike.  The Ironman Arizona course was three loops of the same course – pretty boring to be honest.  This time, however, we were biking through several different towns on our way from one city to the heart of downtown Raleigh. I knew I placed poorly in the swim and needed to make up time. Even though my toe was bleeding from scraping it on the dock coming out of the water, I didn’t want to waste time with first-aid.  Off to the first couple turns on the bike, ready to get some nutrition in my system, and focus on catching up so I didn’t miss any cut-offs.

North Carolina isn’t flat. At all. I swear we went uphill way more than we saw any downhills, but I guess that’s what makes this course worthwhile.  If it wasn’t challenging, it wouldn’t change you.. and isn’t that the whole point of these races? Passing one competitor at a time, I was making my way back to the middle/front of my age group pack, feeling stronger instead of weaker, and getting excited to get my feet on the ground for the last and final event – the run.

Down the last hill, around the last corner, time to dismount, rack your bike, and get ready for the hottest half marathon I’ve ever run. Chugging some water, scarfing down some nutrition, applying sunscreen liberally, and waving to my friends, it was time to finish this race. Aid station to aid station, that’s what they’ve told me. Just keep pushing. “Giving up” isn’t in our vocabulary. The cold sponges, the ice from volunteers – nothing was cooling down my core. There was no shade on half the course and the sun combined with the heat and humidity was really weighing on my performance.  Let me take a brief segue-way to thank all of the volunteers (and supporters!) out on the course that day - it's a long, hot, hard day but know all of us athletes really appreciate you!  

Step after step, RedBull after RedBull, flat coke after flat coke (and with a lot of BASEsalt), I was catching up and passing more of my competitors. The best part of the run, hands down, is that you finally get to talk to other people on the course. Compare stories. Compare training. It’s nice to chat and motivate each other. Push each other. I met two phenomenal athletes who helped me through my last five miles, and I can’t wait to train with them in the future.

Coming around the last couple turns, seeing my friends helped give me that last boost of energy I needed to sprint across the finish line.  It felt good to be done, to be strong, and to be only a little bit sunburned.  After the pictures, the chat with the medics, and waiting for my newfound triathlete friends to finish, it was time for a beer.

Little did I know that a couple hours later, I would be making one of the biggest decisions in my athletic career.  After age group winners were awarded, they started announcing World Championship Qualifiers. Having talked myself in and out of staying several times, I owe my patience to a couple of other triathletes who were also anxiously awaiting their names to be called. We stood there, carefully listening, anxiously laughing, fingers crossed… until it happened. Confirming that we complied with qualifying standards and that we wanted these bids… here it was. The opportunity to compete on the World stage of Half Ironman, in South Africa later this year.

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Having always been one for living through experiences and not for things, I couldn’t turn this down. All the early morning and late night training, the hustle at work, the struggle of staying on diet, a dream of mine was finally coming to fruition. It was mine to seize or mine to squander. I’ve solidly chosen to seize, but the struggle now becomes paying for the adventure, and finding some sponsors. If you believe in me and my journey, I would love your support to travel to South Africa to compete on the world stage! Thank you!

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Fifty Miles for Lt. Michael Murphy

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Fifty Miles for Lt. Michael Murphy

You know how everyone always says that signing up is half the battle? I stand staunchly against that statement… I’ve never thought twice about registering for an event that sounds cool, could end in an adventure, or would be downright awesome with the right group of people.  All three boxes were checked for the Fifty Miles for Murph Memorial Run in New York.

I honestly don’t even know where to start this story. I hesitate to assign words to the event, the feelings, or the experience, because it’s just such an epic weekend.

For the sixth year in a row, Freddy Rodriguez was in the planning stages of the Fifty Miler. Talking with different precincts to make sure that we always have a police escort for safety (and for the strobe lights, let’s be honest here), discussing priorities with our follow and support vehicles, coordinating travel from the finish line to the start line the day of the race, and making sure that everyone is where they need to be at the time they need to be there. No small feat.

When he originally started this run, he never thought it would become an annual event, let alone that the event would grow to twenty people running with him. It all started with a simple idea - remember and honor Lieutenant Michael Murphy and all the men who served alongside him in Operation Red Wings. Never let anyone forget their sacrifice. Let their legacy live on through an event that can’t be ignored.

Well, it definitely isn’t ignored now.

Friday started like any other day – butterflies in the stomach, stomach in your throat, unstable on your feet because your head is in the clouds. The worries start to set in about injury, timing, pressure… the usual “We’re running fifty miles” kind of concerns that creep in last minute.  Frantic messaging about who’s bringing what and where we’re meeting for rides to our start destination. All of these fears subsided as soon as we met up as a team.

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The conversations at our rally point focused on our prior accomplishments as individuals and as teammates, what we’re looking forward to the next day, and betting each other how far we’ll make it before we tap out. The ride to the start point, the Firehouse Ladder 43 in Spanish Harlem, was filled with more of the same banter, some laughter and excitement, carb loading and hydrating, and race day jitters. We’re doing it. We’re all here. It’s happening.

My first “Oh, Shit” moment happened when we got to the firehouse and were getting ready to take off on the run. The Firehouse has a wall dedicated to Lt. Murphy, his accomplishments, his Medal of Honor, and his family. Who he was and how, why. Staring at the patch that was handed to me in dedication of Lt. Murphy, the same one he wore overseas, it all became very real to me.  As big as the challenge of fifty miles was – this event was bigger than that. It’s bigger than us individually, us as a team, or us as an event. It’s about sharing the stories so that he lives on, the men he fought with live on, and we never forget. I’ve been told that people die three times – once when they stop living, once when the spirit leaves the body, and the last time their name is spoken. This event, this run, ensures that Lt. Murphy will never die.

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After some stretching, a few speeches, and traditional send-offs, we donned our American flags, huge smiles, some calf sleeves, and a naivete that only runners can, and we set off on our run. Down the street. Over the bridge. Onto the next one.

The first ten miles honestly went by so quickly.  Laughing, sharing stories, running games. Boom, done. Forty to go.  It was dark, we were good on pace and ahead of schedule, and in good spirits.  Over the course of the next thirty miles, we stopped at strategic 7-11s and Firehouses to stretch, fuel, and hit the restroom. Some breaks were longer than others, some involved beer and pickle juice while others involved Jelly Beans or Oreos. Almost all of them involved dancing, singing, and a strong dose of camaraderie amongst the crew. By the time we had 10 miles left, we had just started struggling.  Tired, sore, getting too close to quit. So close we could taste it.

We knew we would meet up with the Murphy family, Taylor Kitsch, The Protector Fire Engine, and some other supporters at the Firehouse 2.2 miles from the finish line. Run to the next stop light, walk to the next tree, skip to that mailbox. Bit by bit, we made it. Half a mile to go, we grab our flags again, change into our Team shirts, and get ready to run down that Finish Line stretch. We made it.

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As soon as we got to the Finish Line, the Four Mile Run Around the Lake in honor of Lt. Murphy was starting. As planned, we jumped into these last four miles to personally check out the area Murph protected, life-guarded, and enjoyed. We were enjoying it, too.

Looking back at the run, it’s still so hard to put into words the amount of mental and physical challenge that we overcame and appreciated, and even celebrated. I’m so proud of what we accomplished as a team. The pace we kept the whole way through, including the sub 8-minute miles right at the end. How well we all worked together to motivate, support, and just be with each other during these 12 hours. It’s pretty easy to get twenty people to an event. It’s really hard to get the right twenty people to the right event. And candidly, Freddy nailed it.

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Overall, I’m taking three lessons with me from this event. The first is to never look back, physically or mentally. Keeping track of the miles won’t make them go by faster, I promise. Especially when you get to the final ten. The second is to never stop taking the nutrition you start with. If you start with sugars (coca cola) or carbs (goldfish), continue taking that every 3-5 miles so you don’t bonk or tire out. Your body goes into a weird endurance mode where it just looks to maintain, not exceed, the energy level it’s been putting out. Same mentally – showers don’t last forever, that’s why we recommend them daily. Ditto for mental motivation. I recommend thinking about (and sharing out loud) something motivational every 2-4 miles. (or just dance it out – it really works!!) And the last, especially for this event, is to remain humble. As much as this was event was about how far you can make it, how well you can keep up, and getting that “ultramarathon” notch on your belt, it’s just as much about the team, the memory, and the dedication. First and foremost, it’s about Lt. Michael Murphy.

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Thank you to Michele, Paul, and Corey for driving next to us, being our DJ and our Road-Mom and Dad, and always having what we need, making sure we’re hydrated and healthy.

Thank you to the Airborne Tri-Team for being our follow vehicle, keeping all of our stuff safe throughout the run, and for being general bad-asses on the course. Y’all are one fun team, and I can’t wait to get back out on a course with you. Betcha I can beat ya ;)

Thank you to everyone who donated to the cause in any way – even the love and support along the way. This includes my family and friends, who never failed to let me know what a stupid idea 50 miles is but was still behind me 110% of the way.

Thank you to everyone who came out to run – it takes a special kind of person to register for an event like this, a stronger person to toe the start line, and a totally awesome individual to show up on course to run, and to enjoy doing it.

And finally, huge thank you to Freddy Rodriguez for creating this event, sharing it with us, and allowing all of us to take part in it, no matter how big or small. Thank you for letting me in, allowing me to assist in any small way with the organization, and for being the strongest support out there for all of us, keeping us on pace, and making sure we were safe the whole way through. No pressure, but I see big plans for next year ;)

Freddy and I have embarked on many adventures together, this Fifty Miler included, and I'm so excited to announce that we have another one coming up fast. 2018 Half Ironman World Championships in September.  To learn more about our journey and donate to the cause please visit our website. Thank you! 

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Ultimate Beast Master Pt 1

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Ultimate Beast Master Pt 1

So, naturally, Here I am on the plane to cali for undoubtedly one of the COOLEST adventures of my life..and I can't talk to anyone about it yet! How cruel!! The nerves, the jitters, the what ifs and the oh-nos. Solitude.

Good thing I've got a thick noggin.

All I can tell you is... I'm heading into a competition. A fierce, international one. Six countries represented and only a handful of athletes ready to take it on. Out of the whole world! Its dynamic. Its difficult. Its exciting. Its 600ft long, 80ft high, full of obstacles. And it's going to be shared with everyone, eventually.

 Follow my journey #liveunbreakable // @liveunbreakable

I've been preparing for this moment my whole life, really. Maybe not the silent part. But the adventuring. Meeting cool people. Training hard for the unknown. And most importantly.. The competition.

"Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer," they say. I think we used to blur that line in gymnastics, as kids. We were always in a puppy pile, as we called it. All our gym bags, our belongings, and ourselves as we waited for our turn to compete. Stacked on top of each other, sharing secrets and giggling. Giving each other last minute pointers. During our last few years in the league we would divide and conquer, calling out who would Take what event and the one toss up we would actually compete on.  If one of us did well, we all celebrated.  We didn't compete against each other, we competed to be the best that we individually could be. That was the rule.

Who knows what the rules will be here. I doubt we can divvy up the obstacles or days of competition among ourselves. And maybe I wouldn't want to anyways. Sometimes, life is competitive. In looks. In strength. In perseverance and determination. That's my quadruple threat right there. And I won't apologize for it. Watch out, Stallone... Watch out world. Unbreakable is coming for your Beast.

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Clean Eating Recipes

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Clean Eating Recipes

Clean eating changes lives. From helping me properly recover from harder workout and race days, to improving my attitude and keeping me healthier overall - I am so thankful that I made this change in my nutrition.  With experiences making recipes, and struggling through the easy and hard days - I doesn't just coach, I lives the philosophies that I teach.

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Reflections of 2015

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Reflections of 2015

I have never really been one to wait for the New Year to start something new, to make new goals, etc (must have to do with my lack of patience overall.. hmm..), but I do think that a new year is a markedly good time to reflect back. To really reflect on your decisions and your life, and focus on the year ahead.

If there was one word to sum up entire 2015 in my eyes, it would be "change." This has been a year full of change (both positive and negative) including racing, training, moving, and living life. to the fullest.

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I finished up my 2014 in Boston, MA and started off 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Originally intended as a short pit-stop on my way to California, I ended up staying a little longer than planned.  Life happens, and sometimes it's best to roll with the punches!  I started working full-time for Spartan Race as the SGX lead on-site. I loved every second of the crazy hectic life of a Spartan; from meeting new people, constant travel, changing lives, and learning to accept last-minute plans as a thing that happens - frequently. I definitely learned a lot through this role. It was the much needed break from my previous 9-5 life, a focus on all things fitness, and a trial of something completely new and out there for me.

After a year or so working with Spartan, I decided to part ways. I found that my love for OCR as a sport (as both an athlete and a coach), would be best fulfilled through my business Unbreakable, rather than a single OCR company.  I began this journey with a stint in California, working for a health and wellness camp with a bunch of teenage girls. #challengeaccepted

shaun provost 2015

Leaving Spartan, I was looking for a more stable role in either fitness or marketing (my two main career loves). Upon my return to the 9-5 world, I found an amazingly supportive, innovative, and awesome company out in Utah. Entrata is one of the best things to happen to my (non-racing) career in a very long time.  I've learned through trial-and-error that it's the environment that you're working in and the teammates you have supporting you / that you support that make me feel most fulfilled.  It's definitely important to believe in the work you do, but it's equally important to be valued and to value the team you're on.  I finally feel that here, and damn - it's wonderful.

While all these changes were happening in my professional career, I was focused on rehab and balance in my athletic career. Though I participated in a number of events from Spartan, Battlefrog, and road racing, I was nursing a number of injuries that kept me from going all-out at any of the races I attended and competed in.  The hardest fact for any athlete to face is exactly how long it takes to rehab any injury.  Anywhere from 3 month to 8 months depending on the severity of the original injury (let alone compounded issues).  I learned this lesson (again) in 2015, and I won't let it slow me down in 2016.  I'll focus more on quality than quantity, and being the best athlete I can be. From nutrition to gym time, to focus on balancing muscle groups and racing, I have quite a few goals that rely on my health remaining awesome and getting even stronger.

Looking back on 2015, I definitely embraced change and learned a lot of lessons by living life my way. It wasn't always easy, and lord KNOWS I appreciate the support from my family, friends, and especially my sponsors.  2016 will be the year of improvement, reaching goals, and giving back.  But first, I'll spend a little time reflecting on lessons learned in 2015...

- Your decisions are based on your experiences. Other people's decisions (and advice) are based on their own experiences. Use this lesson as you will.

- Your Mom is almost always right (99.9% of the time) - stop fighting her and just accept it.

- Your Dad is probably also right 99.9% of the time - especially if he agrees with Mom.

- When the Dr.(s) tells you to rest, REST. Not kinda, not sorta, but really. REST.

- Stop trying to make other people happy. Make yourself happy first, and then focus on other people.

- Be a good friend. If you can help your friends, help them. You'll be a friend in need someday, and your friends will be there for you, too.

- Smile. Laugh. Enjoy the moment.

- Never forget to say "Thank You." Those words are never not appreciated, no matter how big or small the reason.

- If you love someone - friends, family, other - tell them. Why wait?

- Remain positive. If you let the negative voices in your life and in your head influence you, it's a quick slip into a downward spiral that's hard to climb out of. (Note... if you ever think no one is there for you, that no one will understand, or wonder if anyone would notice or care if you disappeared.. just message me. I'm here, I care, and I WILL notice).

- Smile. Honestly. To yourself and the world. You never know who you're influencing when you do.

Happy 2016 Y'all!  

Team Ilene Spartan Race




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