Hi all! Today I am featuring my girl Sara Gelder! She is an amazing, inspirational, beautiful lady who I met at the Marathon Expo! Here is her story..
Ok, wow. I don’t even know where to begin! This is a total surreal moment that I am actually BLOGGING on POWERCAKES!! Holy cow. I am flabbergasted by the chance to do this. Thanks so much Kasey!!
A quick background on myself: I’m Sara (Sayya to most) , I’m 27, I live just outside of Pittsburgh, have the cutest basset hound you’ll ever see (His name is Guinness) and have been known to enjoy a few woodchuck hard ciders here and there. And everywhere. Oh and I really REALLY love racing triathlon.
Which brings me here I started doing tris six years ago. I met my coach (and most favorite person in life) Sue, at a gym where I was doing rehab after a car accident.
Rewind: On Memorial Day of 2005, the rear axle on my car snapped, causing me to roll 3 times and total the car. I was lucky to escape with only a few fractured vertebrae, dislocated hips and a bunch of bruises and cuts. All in all, pretty lucky, but it did put an end to my college soccer career (I would have been starting my Sophomore year with the Seton Hill Lady Griffins in the fall) and caused me to severely limit my activity for many many months.
She approached me at the gym one day asking me if I would like to join her all woman triathlon team, The Mighty Tri Girls. I remember thinking “ You’re wasting your time lady. I’m a soccer player and I can’t do that anymore, so no sports for me”. I didn’t even really know what a tri was then, but I knew I only swam when it was hot, didn’t have a bike, and HATED to run. Plus it really really hurt and I wasn’t cleared to do it yet. Sue ended up convincing me (and my mom!) to at least sign up to see if we liked it. Little did I know that would change the rest of my life.
To make a long story short, I wasn’t very good my first few years. I didn’t really take it seriously and just wanted to have fun and something to do after work. I never worried about times, or how I placed or if I missed a workout. Another thing I was totally lax about was my eating. After the accident and going from playing college athletics to basically being sedentary and becoming a local at the neighborhood watering hole, I gained about 30 lbs. I knew I was unhappy, but I just chalked it up as the hand I was dealt so might as well be fat and drink and do sprint races once or twice a year. Sure. Why not. Wrong.
Let me take a chance to break down the different distances of triathlon:
Sprint- .5 mile swim, 12-15 mile bike and a 3.1 mile run
Olympic or international distance- .9 mile swim, 22-25 mile bike, 6.2 mile run
Half Ironman – 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run
Full Ironman- 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run.
Yes, all in one day. They give you 17 hours.
My 3rd year on the team I did the Olympic distance race in Pittsburgh, still not totally sure that I would be able to run 6 miles. I was in SO much pain after. I told myself I was done. Fun while it lasted, time to get a new, less painful hobby.
A few months later, Sue got some people together to watch the Ironman World Championships on tv. Sue is an amazing athlete and was actually able to compete in the top race there is in the sport, known to triathletes as “Kona”. While watching that race on tv, hearing Sue relive all her memories and feelings from that day, stirred something inside me. I wanted to do it.
That following season I signed up for the half ironman in Florida and while the training obviously ramped up and was really hard and time consuming, I still wasn’t putting my all into it. The race was hard, but I didn’t push myself and just kind of “did it” Looking back, I feel like I wasted all these years with a “half assed” approach and I wish I could go back and really commit to the sport.
Post IM 70.3 Florida
Last year, my best friend Matt and I decided we were going to go for the full ironman. Matt has joined the team a few years after I did and to be honest, he was reason I started doing the longer distances. He wanted to do them and I couldn’t have him be more bad ass than I was! Again the full was his idea and I didn’t feel ready mainly because I knew this was going to be a huge life change. The race was in August and after talking with Sue, we decided we would start training January 1. How appropriate.
Up until this time, I had been feeling really down and bad about myself. While I was away at a race the previous October, my family’s business had an electrical fire, causing complete destruction to the building and also resulted in me losing the apartment I was living in. So fast recap. 25, single, living with parents, and 30lbs overweight. I was not a very happy person.
I remember laying on my parents couch, feeling like CRAP and I decided to email Sue. I told her I was tired of being fat and miserable, tired of not having any control over anything and tired of being a half assed athlete. I wanted to lose weight, get better at swimming biking and running and really commit myself to the full. I can’t say one specific thing brought it on, I just knew I was tired with how things were going and I was ready to make a change.
With Sues guidance, I started learning about food. What’s in it, what certain things do for your body, what specific things help and hurt while training for an ironman. I started following healthy living/ clean eating blogs (ENTER POWERCAKES!) and really became educated about the process of fueling your body, while enjoying delicious food!
Sue also allowed me to only have 3 drinks a week. You’re talking to a girl that would drink 3 beers while getting ready to go out to drink. I’d have a beer with dinner, or just because. I really REALLY love beer. This was the hardest part for me, but I stuck with it because could see the changes almost instantly. Plus, I was saving a TON of money. With the help of all that and the intense workout schedule of training for a full, I lost 35 lbs in 8 months. Also, to my surprise, I not only finished the race, but I did really well! Go figure, a little (ok a lot) commitment went a long way.
I also won my age group at the Pittsburgh tri, the race I barely finished 2 years earlier, qualifying me for the USAT Age Group National Championships to be held this August. That’s pretty dang cool if I do say so myself. Winning my age group at the Pittsburgh Olympic tri.
Seeing Sue at the finish line of IMNYC.
This is the happiest moment of my life and will forever be one of my greatest memories.
Months of hard work paid off and I kicked ass, coming in 5th in my age group.
Before this training season began, I decided I wanted to go for all the marbles, I wanted to qualify for Kona. I talked to Sue about it and we decided we would give it a real shot. I had no idea if I would be able to hang with some of the best triathletes in the world, but I wanted to try.
I once again committed myself to clean eating and making sure I was getting enough protein and when to eat to best fuel and recover from workouts. I can also honestly say (and I’m really proud of this) and I NEVER missed one workout! Some of them may have been modified due to weather or time, but I did each and every thing Sue asked of me. And boy, did that make the difference! I went from running a 10 min mile avg to being in the 7:30s! My swim times got a lot faster as well and I learned how to save energy on the bike for the run. I learned so much and yes, while at times it was really stressful and hard and I didn’t feel like doing it. I stuck with it. That isn’t to say that I didn’t partake in a few beers and bar food dinners every now and again, but by doing that I was able to stick with my game plan of healthy eating 95% of the time.
The race I was attempting to qualify at was the Honu 70.3 in Kona, Hawaii. That’s right, the same place (yet different course) as the World Championships. I also was very lucky in having Sue and Matt do the race with me! In order to qualify, you have to win the age group. The girl that had won the previous year was racing again so I was able to see her times to give me a base to work off of, and I trained with those goals in mind. I felt very confident going into the race and I knew that even if I didn’t qualify, I worked as hard as I could and was in the best shape of my life. I was ready.
The three of us at the swim start the day before the race.
Race day came and it was both the hardest yet most rewarding day of my life. I got to swim along side my coach, mentor and favorite person, Sue for the first mile of the swim. That was awesome. The bike was a thousand times harder than I thought ever possible. There was constant 30mph winds and some people heard rumors that the gusts were up to 60mph. Ironman veterans, people that have raced the full course for years had said that these were the worst conditions they had ever seen. The run was HOT and long and on grass, something I never really run on. I knew at about mile 20 of the bike that it wasn’t my turn to win. I felt ok with that, but knew that I would be disappointed in myself If I didn’t continue to give it my all. So I did. It sucked and was amazing at the same time.
I ended up placing 8th in my age group, and after how hard it was and crappy I felt after, I was really REALLY pleased with that. The girl that won last year won again and she totally deserves it, I am in AWE of her ability.
Congrats and amazing job to all of the finishers, especially those that beat me!
**I ordered my finisher pictures today, so hopefully I will have them in a few hours to download. I was going to insert my finish line photo here**
After that race, I thought t myself that that was enough. I worked the hardest I could, gave it my all, got to race in Kona, lets go back to just having fun with this. Grow up and move on. Then I talked to Sue and my friend Sarah who did her first half (and ROCKED IT) a week after mine, and I got that damn bug back.
I’m not totally sure what my future in triathlon is. I know I love racing and competing and pushing myself to do well. I really like winning. I’m going to finish out this season with two Olympics, a sprint, and one more half, then take the off season to see what I want to do. My mind changes by the minute, much to the distress of my family and friends!
Ok. If you made it this far, I am impressed! Its probably a good thing I don’t have my own blog, apparently I’m not very good at keeping things short. Now the real reason (I think?) that Kasey asked me to do this was to send out any tips I had about training and cleaning up your diet. I am in NO WAY a coach, personal trainer or dietitian. These are just things that have worked for me
Educated yourself- before you being your new nutritional journey, read up on it. Learn what different foods are, what they do for your body, and ideally how much of them you should have a day. Your knowledge on the subject will only grow as you get deeper into it and sometimes there is misleading info out there, so take the time to really discover what this is all about
Keep it simple- don’t worry (at first) about all the latest fad ingredients and expensive, exotic ingredients. Stick with whole, fresh, easy foods until you get comfortable with your new lifestyle. Then experiment! Powercakes.net has introduced me to so many amazing things that I had no idea even existed. Jump on board the “Nooch” train, people!! So many healthy and delicious things can be made so many ways if you just get creative. Oh and you aren’t always going to like everything and that’s OK
Allow yourself some wiggle room. I made a deal with myself that if I stick to healthy, nutritious foods when I am home, I can order whatever I want when I go out to dinner. This includes beer (provided I’m not driving and depending on training) and it works really well for me. I like knowing that if I really REALLY want Jayhawk wing pizza (local specialty) that I can have it and it wont totally undo everything.
Get a coach! Luckily, I have an amazing one and YOU can have her too! Check out www.trainingwithsue.com – I could go on for another 5 pages about this amazing woman has changed not only mine, but everyone she meets life. The team started as a small group of women doing sprint tris. Now over a hundred women and men (that’s right boy, Total Chaos is our mens team!) have crossed the finish line in all four race lengths, all because of Sue. She’s amazing. Check us out on youtube!
Decide exactly what you want out of your experience. Some people just want to have fun and do it as a hobby and that’s amazing. I admire that. Heck, I used to be like that! Now looking back I really wish that I would have been more serious all along. I think that once you set your mind to do something, you need to have an honest convo with yourself about how and why you are doing it. Don’t regret missing out on something that could have been a thousand times better with a little extra effort.
ENJOY IT. You aren’t going to do something you don’t love and trust me, this sport isn’t for everyone. I LOVE racing. Its what I dream about, think about, pine for. Know what I hate the most? Race morning! All of us do. It’s the waking up at 3am to eat then setting up transition and getting last minute announcements and just all the anxiety of the day. Its almost enough to make you not want to do it! Then the cannon blows and you take your first swim stroke and its FUN and HARD and you LOVE it and you never want it to end. Ok, that last part is a little bit of a lie because there are definitely times during a race you just want it over. Then you hit the chute to the finish line. Music is pumping, people cheering, you can hear them announcing peoples names that are finishing. There is no greater feeling than crossing that line and hearing you name.
All the months of hard work and pain of the race get pushed aside and you just feel incredible.
Trust me kids, its all worth that feeling.
Thank you so much for reading all this and THANK YOU to my coach Sue for making this all possible. I love you (:D.
Also, how awesome is my life that I got to do this? Powercakes, YOU ROCK!!