Spring in my Step.

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Where to start…

December 2013, was one of the hardest and most amazing months of my life.  While I had developed the most debilitating injury of my athletic career, I also embarked on a trip of a life time with the family to South Africa.  Bad and good.  Sometimes those world’s collide. In my case it was like a head on collision with the Acela Train!

Fast forward to April, 2014.  I’m trying to find the silver lining in this injury that has dropped me to my knees, left me in tears, and has changed me. I’ve withdrawn from races, the biggest one being Galveston 70.3 which takes place this Sunday and is one of my absolute favorites! Lemons to lemonade as my dear friend, Leslie said she did last year (and it obviously worked because this gal crushed IM 70.3 Oceanside this past weekend winning 45-49 and crushing all the 40-44 gals in the process)!  

So, Leslie wasn’t a cyclist (albeit she has Kona qualified a ton of times and raced 70.3 World’s too – so she obviously can ride).  She spent the last nine months surrounding herself with the top women cyclists out there in Cali (namely Julie Dunkle).  What she did was transform her cycling, Leslie became a cyclist and an amazing one at that.  So my achilles heal (no pun intended Leslie) is I am not a runner.  BUT RUNNING DOESN’T HURT!!  I can ride but I can only ride on the trainer (great power numbers too), but I am forced to stare at the ground because of the disc(s) injury in my neck (I need to see where I am going).  Swimming is also difficult due to the ridiculous amount of atrophy in my left shoulder, back and arm.  I can swim and am swimming, it’s just really slow.  So right now I work on form and consistency (2km three times a week seems to be about what I can handle).

BUT RUNNING DOESN’T HURT!! 

So JRM (coach extraordinaire) and I had a long conversation this week about a change of focus.  I have four solid years of Ironman training under my belt, two, sometimes even three IMs a year in the process, so I can step away from the bike for a little while and work on my running.  I’ve always, whimped out when I am racing the running part of triathlon.  Fear?  Who knows, but I want it and I want it really bad now.  I want to be a runner!

Take a look at just a few days of intense focus!

Tuesday, I did an EASY 6 mile run….I am listening to coach and running easy when I am told!

Wednesday, was a progressive run (no looking at the watch for pacing). The instructions were…Perceived Exertion but progress through the run…..SPOT ON!

Thursday, was 15 minutes off a very hard two hour stare at the ground ride which included 30, 20, 15, and 10 minute sets at 70.3 pacing….trust me the 15 minute run was easy, if I broke 9 minute miles that would be amazing, needless to say I am pretty confident I did not run more than 1.6 miles in that 15 minutes.  But coach said easy, so easy it was….and that prepared me for today’s track.

Friday….OH MY GOSH! Main set was 3×2 miles at 10K pacing (200m), threshold pacing (200m) repeat….I haven’t run like this ever, especially this early in the season.

ImageI took complete ownership of this place that has scared me time and time again.  I got in my car after the session and just smiled.  Even before looking at the file I knew I won!  

Lemons to Lemonade.

On another note, I’ve been listening to lots of new music.  I was in a Eric Church, Luke Byran, Miranda Lambert rut, and I am exploring stuff my girls are shocked I am listening to!  Take a listen to the teenage phenom Lourde, 17 years old seriously??

Finding new music can make you happy and help you see beauty in things you may have missed before.  I want to stop and smell the roses, I think I have been forgetting to do that lately.  But, with my new found love in my running, I have a SPRING IN MY STEP.

Lemons to Lemonade.

 

 

Defying Age

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As a woman, and a woman in the latter half of her forties, I find my self trying very hard to defy age.  Is it human nature? Or is it my nature?  Today at lunch, Jeff asked me how I stay motivated…..I should probably rewind for a moment.

Today, I woke up at 4:10am, and rather than fluff my pillow and roll over for another hour, I stumbled quietly out of bed, grabbed my “daylight” machine and went into the kitchen to begin my morning routine.  By 6am, I was already on my bike mashing out the watts, dripping wet with sweat, and downing Scratch to Eric Church’s new album.  By 8:15, I was done with my 75 minute bike session and 6 mile run, and wondering which part of my schedule I would accomplish first.

By 11:30, I was ready for lunch, Jeff had called and we met up at our favorite lunch spot The Street.  Our lunch conversation turned to motivation and what propels us? Me?

My knee jerk response was, “what else am I going to do?”

But on the drive home I started to think about what drives me? What motivates me? Why do I do what I do for countless hours, many of which are lonely.  I was alway active after college, I never really fell into the mom only mode, I had to be doing something.  I owned every apparatus one could to stay active with the girls. I had the baby jogger, the Kelty back back, then the double baby jogger. There were hikes, runs (aka jogging – silent J) and power walks with the girls; but it wasn’t until Jeff signed up to do a duathlon in 2001 in Rye, NH, that I took the “chance” and signed up to do the 5K.

It’s funny when you are competitive by nature, and you are given the small taste of “glory” it can spark a lifetime of change.  I received a small medal that day in June 2001, and it prompted me to sign up for many more 5ks over the years…and in 2004 I did my first triathlon, at the Danskin All Women’s Tri.  Wow, have I transformed.

So back to defying age.  I look at the image I try to maintain. I eat healthy, take copious amounts of supplements, get the proper rest and recovery, and try to be a role model not only for my girls but for the many women in our community and beyond, who too, will take that “chance” and sign up for a 5k.  Am I defying age, absolutely.  But age is only a number on a calendar, it doesn’t reflect how we feel about ourselves and our environment.  There are days when I feel ridiculously old, when I have to hold the cell phone so far from my face to read the text message my daughter just sent me about staying after school. Then there are days when I feel like an absolute teenager, riding my bike down a crazy steep hill and doing it with confidence!  It also helps when two of your best friends are 28 years old.

But as I look at how I transformed my body since 2001, almost 14 years later, I know I have defied age. I’ve added years to my life by the choices I have made to be healthy and strong, both physically and mentally.  And while I don’t always agree with the face staring back at me in the mirror, I respect and treasure every line there is….each one holds a story.

So here you have my defying age moment from this past weekend….

*2001  38   2/10   F3034   24:45   7:58 KATHLEEN DONATELLO      32 F YORK            ME   
*2013  26   1/15   F4049   21:31   6:56 KAT DONATELLO           45 F ELIOT           ME

The famed Kona Underpants Run!

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(I am 2nd from the left, Kristin Mayer-Betty Designs 3rd from left)

Let’s take a step back….

It all started with a simple email on August 20th, from Betty Designs founder and master kick butt designer, Kristin Mayer…..

“Hi Kat,

Just caught up on the results from this weekend and wanted to say congrats on qualifying for Kona.  Looking forward to seeing you guys over there. A couple things…..

BLAH BLAH BLAH

……and second, would you and your hubby want to wear the new Betty Designs swimsuit design for the Underpants Run?  I’ve got a fun group coming together to wear a new print I am unveiling in Kona.

Let me know.

Stoked for you!

Kristin”

Breathe deep…..holy sh*t!  Have you seen the Betty Designs girls??  Oh my gosh, forget swim, bike, run, get CRUNCHING!

And so, began my morning routine.

  1. Brew Coffee
  2. Prepare oatmeal – set microwave for 7 minutes
  3. Drop to the floor and CRUNCH until the oatmeal was ready

I did this from August 21st (the day after I fell off my chair and was able to type an email yes back to Kristin), until I left for Kona on October 4th.  And, let me tell you it worked, I got a four(ish) pack.  Now mind you Jeff DID NOTHING!!!  Genes they are a wonderful thing.

So fast forward to Wednesday, suit pick up day.

The entire thing fit in the palm of my hand, but I was going to be a team player and put this cute little suit on.  And I did, and it was the MOST FUN I have had in a long time.  I was joined by a tremendous group of girls including Best Abs in Kona Kristin, Tawnee (a suitsuit model in Triathlete magazine!), Lora, Laura, Jordan, and Hailey (and a stellar group of brave men).

We were supermodels for the morning (check out the photos on GoShiggyGo’s facebook page).  My daughters Lydie and Mia will never be the same after what they witnessed.

The special part about the underpants run is the levity is brings to the event.  Everyone is so serious for so long, it’s nice to let loose (literally) and just have some good clean fun! Over 2500 athletes and friends participated in the event which raises a tremendous amount of money for local charities.  To see more Underpants Run fun, visit You Tube!

And we did RUN! Like maybe ¾ of a mile.

Part 2 of my IM World Championship Adventure

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So we had now settled into a routine in Kona.  Jeff and I woke every morning before 4am, and planned the day.  Having brought the girls, it’s very important to give them the vacation they deserve after putting up with my racing drama since 2010.

On Sunday, Jeff and I drove to the end of the Queen K, so we could ride the 38 mile round trip ride to the turn around at Hawi.  It’s my kind of ride!! CLIMBING!!! Whoot Whoot, but that also means descending, which I am never fond of.  I’ve been working on that skill these past few months, and my ride at Mont Tremblant this year, proved I can handle it….or my new BMC is just God’s gift to cyclists.  Either way, I think I smiled the entire time we rode.  We even found a souvenir license plate on the road which now graces our garage race bib wall.

The ride to Hawi can be one of two things: relentless winds or dead quiet.  Regardless of the ride to and from Hawi on race day, WIND will play some kind of role in the 112 mile ride.  The roads are beautiful, smooth, and well maintained, mainly because they don’t have to plow (I have now officially seen plows on four trucks since I have been home)!  But on the day we rode the winds were active but not scary, I got a good idea of the lay of the land and felt confident about this section of the course for race day.

In the afternoon, we started the exploring part of our trip and visited a beautiful beach called Manini’owali/Kua Bay (in between mile marker 89/88). It was awesome, the girls played in the water, body surfed and did some snorkeling.  In the afternoon we headed back home, got our first taste of Da Poke Shack (to die for, we ended up visiting it four times), and the girls snorkeled with Jeff in front of the condo at Kahalu’u Beach (probably some of the best snorkeling on the island).

Monday and Tuesday were absolute treats!  I got my first taste of the Kona Aquatic Center (amazing) and a day long trip to Hilo.  We took tons of side trips and saw some amazing sights.  My favorite thing we did was drive the Hamakua Coast and a side trip to Laupahoehoe Point, Onomea Bay, and the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens (I have a thing for orchids, and I’ve never in my life seen more in one place).  We also stopped at a great roadside place called What’s Shakin’ (great smoothies, food and funny take home gifts).

I think many athletes come to Kona and never see beyond Kona!  Adventure out, life is short and this is a beautiful island with amazing people!

On Monday evening we connected with friends, Jennifer and Pat Dwyer and Steve Roulier for a fantastic dinner with delicious wine at The Kona Inn.  It was a treat to havePat’s insight into the race and I must have asked him 100’s of questions!  On the way home from dinner, Pat took Steve and I to the famous jewelry store to sign the infamous IM World Championship Poster.  The store has all 35 posters, and each year’s poster is signed by as many athletes as they can gather.  It was a surreal moment, and it finally hit home why I was there.

Tuesday evening was date night.  Jeff and I headed over to the Four Seasons for a wonderful dinner and the most picturesque sunset we had ever seen.  Again, get out and be adventurous and see the island.

Wednesday morning, Jeff and I got up early and headed to the Queen K for my last key session. I had a two-hour ride with a 20 minute set with 10 minutes at 10 watts below IM pacing, and 10 minutes at IM pacing, with a 15-minutebrick run.  Jeff said I was like afilly let out to race!  I felt fantastic, loved riding in the lava fields, and was feeling the Kona energy all around me.

Just as we were finishing our cool down, we heard a cyclist coming up from behind “HELLO DONATELLO’s!!”  A quick hello and brief chat with the Cait Snow (who would catch Meredith Kessler in the finishchute on Saturday to claim 6th in the WORLD)!

Jeff didn’t have to run (and nor did he want to), so he headed inside the coffee shop where we were parked and had an ice-cold dark roast coffee for me as a treat for such a productive and great session. LIFE WAS GOOD!  Mind you, we would stop as we did every day at Lava Java!

Another day at the beach exploring, this time to the KekahaKai State Park.  Getting there was half the fun, as we had to drive thru the lava fields on lava roads for 1.5 bumpy miles.  It’s an adventure of a beach, and I highly recommend it. Lot’s of shade, beautiful water, and the fresh water gurgles right out of the sand.  We saw a huge turtlet here on the beach relaxing for the day too.  Jeff and I chatted about my season and how this was such a wonderful place to come the close it out. It had been a season of a lifetime. I had been racing for something bigger than me, and it’s what has kept me going.  I thank Mary and John for allowing me to race in their son’s honor.  I hope I have done them proud.

After a long day, a good night sleep was is order because….THURSDAY,was the KONA UNDERPANTS RUN. Uh-oh.

A Most Excellent Hawaiian Adventure (part 1)

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We arrive in Hawaii, and I pinch myself awake.  After what feels like days of travel,we had finally arrived in Kona.  We were about to have a wonderful vacation, and I was about to embark on a quest of a lifetime.  We stop for a quick bite to eat at a cute little take out place on the Queen K Highway, and I think to myself, I have to ride and run on this road, and it feels like 1000 degrees,but I won’t get ahead of myself just yet.

It’s October 4, 2013, and Jeff is driving us down Ali’I Drive.  The scene is to say the least, surreal.  There are athletes everywhere, running, cycling, walking around in tiny bikinis (and every form imaginable of compression gear). It is possibly the most fit place on the planet.  I suddenly realize, I don’t belong here.  I am not worthy.  And yet, I know, I earned the spot for the IM World Championship, but I as a look around during the five-mile drive down the road to our condo, I have lost all confidence in my ability.

I am eerily silent for the next hour or so, trying to take it all in.  My friend, Ang Bancroft hooked us up with a beautiful condo directly across from the most amazing snorkel beach and the Ali’i Drive 5 mile run turnaround….it’s far enough out of town that I can actually breath a sign of relief to not to have to continue to look at these uber athletes, who all seem to be running sub 6 minute miles.  We are nine days out from the event, and I know I can acclimatize myself to the heat in a little over a week, as long as I am smart and make good nutrition and hydration decisions.  The fitness part, well, that’s another story.

Having just qualified seven weeks earlier at Mont Tremblant, as well as having a big missing week of training (Pumpkinman), and a trip to Bermuda thrown in there, I wondered if I had what it took to have the end result I was hoping for.  I was able to get in three long runs (18, 21, and 17); and four very long rides andnumerous intermediate long rides, but did I recover enough from Tremblant?  I had been wrestling with a calf issue and was attempting to keep an Achilles injury at bay, as well as nagging knee pain, I felt rested and antsy, which are always good signs for me.

BUT, this was KONA! How can every little ache and pain not try to creep into your mind?  How can one not look around this place filled with the WORLD’S CREAM OF THE CROP of triathletes and think can I do this?  Am I ready?  Can I even finish what will be the hardest test of my endurance fitness? And I was thinking all of this before I even unpacked our first suitcase!

So rather than detail the minutia that occurred for the next eight hours, I will fast forward to Saturday.  (See side note #1) We decided about two weeks before the race we would participate in the swim “race” of the course from Dig Me Beach.  The race was to start at 8am, with approximately 300+ athletes racing, but we had been up since the wee hours, so we decided to skip the race, and just swim the course at 7:15.

I have never in my life been so enthralled with a swim venue quiet like this.  I thought the course at IM Cozumel (which I did in 2010 and 2011) was amazing; well this was like swimming in a giant fish bowl! The coral and reef were beautiful with colorful yellow, vivid blue, and speckled fish everywhere.  We saw sea turtles diving and soaring through the deep blue sea, and as the sun came up,we could see everything below us crystal clear.  I stopped at the first large buoy after we got out beyond the pier and was practically in tears as I am not a confident ocean swimmer, but on this beautiful Saturday morning, I felt like a mermaid.  We weren’t swimming at all fast, but had settled into a nice go forever pace.

Jeff had not been swimming much this summer.  When we did the Lowell race together, our wave went off together.  He drafted off me that day, and the plan was to do the same on our 2.4-mile adventure.  I stopped maybe 30 minutes in and we treaded water for a bit and suddenly three large dolphins dove out of the water in front of us.

The fearful New Englander in me thought SHARK….but Jeff calmly reassured me and we watched them play for a minute or two.  When we started back swimming I looked down deep and there were at least 25-30 dolphins swimming effortlessly below us, mothers with their small babies and others of all sizes swimming all aroundus.  It was something I will never forget for the rest of my life (see side note #2).

When we finally got back to shore, almost 1:40 later, we wandered over to the Swim Race exit to watch the pros come out.  Pete Jacobs (last year’s World Champion), Jordan Rapp and Matthew Russell (IM Canada 2012 and Pumpkinman 2013winner) were all “racing” so it was exciting to watch them come out of the water in under an hour!  We had an opportunity to catch up with Matt and Gillian that evening for a wonderfuldinner at Huggo’s (which I highly recommend).

Side notes:

#1 Do not upon arriving in Hawaii, think if you go to bed at 6:30pm that you won’t wake up at 2:30am or in Jeff’s case 12:30am!

#2 Later in the week a 6 month seal pup decided to play witha couple of athletes, and actually bit them.  The 100-pound pup was removed from the bay for its safety.  I posted a picture of the newspaper article on facebook.

going to kona 13

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