Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 Year in Review: how are we gonna top this?!

I don't really know how to start off this blog. So many incredible things have happened in my life over this past year that I didn't know quite how to sum it up. Naturally, I looked to Google for advice. I typed in "2013 quotes" and this one seemed pretty applicable for my year.

"Trust and believe, and you will achieve."

While it absolutely applies to everything I went through this year, I wanted something that really "spoke" to me. I thought about influential people of 2013 and realized that one of the quotes that I love so much is by a man the world lost recently, Nelson Mandela. My favorite quote pretty much ever is by Mr. Mandela: 

Maybe Nelson Mandela may have been speaking moreso in terms of politics and the like, but many of his quotes can easily be applied to any situation. In looking through his quotes, this one in particular stuck out to me because it was how I felt this year 

I felt like my big goal in 2013 was to qualify for Kona. While that goal was achieved, it didn't satisfy me as much as I thought it would have. My original 2013 plan was to qualify for Kona and then get back into marathon training in hopes of qualifying for the Olympic Trials in May 2014. However, after I qualified for Kona, all I cared about was triathlon. What started off as a "hey, let's qualify for Kona so we can celebrate our one-year wedding anniversary in Hawaii" turned into a "holy cow, I actually really like this multi-sport thing." So Mandela's hill saying really spoke to me as I never really felt I was satisfied this season. In saying that, I am VERY excited about my upcoming 2014 season as I felt like I've learned SO much over this past year while focusing on triathlons.

I also got more than I bargained for this year. Early in the year, one of my Dick Pond Fast Track teammates mentioned something to me about how well I was doing in the CARA Circuit, so naturally I looked it up on the website. While I feel like I know a lot of people in the Chicagoland running community, I've never really looked so much at the Chicago Area Runner's Association (CARA) Runners Choice series as something to be competitive in since a lot of the CARA races conflicted with other races/training days of mine in years past. However, after that talk with my teammate, I decided it was something I would strive for this year.

How big of an honor would it be to be named the 2013 Female CARA Runner of the Year? Long story short, I just received an email recently letting me know I am the 2013 Female CARA Runner of the Year. I was beyond excited to read that (though I also knew ahead of time from the website, it's always so much more fun to read the news from the person in charge!). Then I read the part about how they would love that I give a speech. 

I know what you're thinking. I'm a teacher. I speak in front of people every day. How is this an issue? I think speaking in front of 12 and 13 year olds is a little different than in front of a crowd of your peers. Plus, I know last year's winner's speech had everyone in the room tearing do I top that?!?! In all seriousness, I have already started writing down a list of things to talk about. I am hoping by recapping the 2013 year in this blog, I will draw some more inspiration for my eventual speech. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to let me know as I am getting nervous (but excited!) about this opportunity!

2013 Year in Review:
  • January started off with the Snow Fun Run. This is a fun, 5mile race, but the real reason anyone does this race is for the after party. The race takes place at the Grand Geneva, a resort in Lake Geneva, WI. Literally the minute you finish, there is a Schnapps stop with at least 10 flavors of Schnapps shots (including Rum Chata) and pretty much everyone takes at least one before entering the main event room. In this room, there is a dance floor which is home to the Sausage Dance and Hunk Dance. In all four corners, there are kegs. This party goes for something like 5 hours. My new favorite running quote, "Run Scared," was said to me here during the last 1/2 mile when I looked behind me to see if anyone was coming up on me. Luckily, this advice got me to the finish line just in the nick of time. The reason this race is getting the recap it is is because it was the first race in 2013 Ryan and I won together as husband and wife. It was an incredible moment for us....even if the announcer did ask if we were brother and sister:/ I am just so proud to be able to call myself Mrs. Ryan Giuliano and this race gave me that excitement all over again.

 Did I mention we performed LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem" dance? 
 Ryan's BFF John won the Big Hunk dance with his sweet moves:)
All because I changed my last name to Giuliano;)

  • Nothing too exciting this month. Just a lot of training and some indoor tris. Winter in the midwest doesn't really get much more exciting than that.
  • March Madness 1/2 marathon is always a big deal to me because it is put on by my dad's running club. I always strive to make my parents proud, so this race has always been a key race to perform well at for me since my dad is right there watching. Even better this year, my teammate Jonathan was running around the same pace as me so was a HUGE help in my achieving a huge PR (on that course) during this race. Both Ryan and I won...and this time, the announcer knew better than to ask if we were brother and sister;)
 Oh yeah, we also went on our honeymoon to Cabo during this month...
Husband/wife winners (not brother sister!).
  • Double Oak Duathlon, formerly Powerman Alabama, is a race Ryan and I have done for years. It is the National Championships for duathlon and qualifies the winners for the Worlds Duathlon Championships. Ryan and I both qualified for Worlds (but did not end up competing since we also qualified for Kona)....and then drove the 9 hours home, slept 2 hours, drove into the city and actually had decent races at Shamrock Shuffle. While looking back it seems silly to have raced back to back with little sleep, we had teammates relying on us to be there and we actually ended up having good days and helping our teams (and friends, "The Green Guys") out.
 Double Oak Duathlon....the run part:)
my teammates:)
Ryan and his friends, The Green Guys!
  • Finally, our race, the Egg Shell Shuffle 1/2 marathon and 5k, sold out for the second consecutive year and it was even more successful than in years past. We had to give up part of our honeymoon in Cabo San Lucas, but the joy on the runners' faces was beyond worth it.
Who wouldn't want a festive medal? :)

  • The CARA Lakefront 10mile fell into place perfectly: we were able to get some swim work done with our coach, who lives in the city, after this race, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to test out our legs. I was fortunate enough to run most of the race with my teammate Columba until the final mile where a spectator yelled to us, "Only one of you can be 2nd!" (Tera Moody was already a guaranteed first place female).
 Saucony twins:)
Um, yes, can I please take a picture with Tera?!
  • This month was huge for us. Ryan and I had the wonderful opportunity to go back to the University of Illinois to race in the U of I 1/2 marathon. I completely surprised myself and PR'd by over 2 minutes in a 1:18:53. I actually set PRs for the 10k and 10 mile during the 1/2 as well. I joked with Ryan on our way home that I'd PR in our 5k the next day...
 With my Saucony Hurricane love after our U of I performances
 Ryan WON the 1/2!!!!!!
Um. Pretty much sums up how I felt about a 2+ minute 1/2 marathon PR.
  • ....and I did just that at the Race That's Good for Life 5k. The cool thing about this race is that the guys are separate from the girls. I had no idea what to expect having just set a HUGE 1/2 marathon PR the day before, but figured it couldn't go any worse than last year when I raced with (later diagnosed) bronchitis. I ended up running my then-PR of 17:40...and came back to finish strong with mom. Beyond the highlight of my race was my teammate saying, "Your mom must be so proud of you. What a special day that you can share her finish, too." I am so lucky that my parents not only support my and Ryan's passion and excitement for running, but also participate in some of the same races we do as well.
 Words cannot describe how much I love this picture.
 GO legs GO!
 Running scared.
Woo hoo, all ladies race!

  • One week after the U of I 1/2 marathon and Race That's Good for Life 5k was the Palos 1/2 marathon. The field is usually pretty stacked at this race, so I wasn't expecting much besides to run a decent race with some of my favorite teammates. Somehow, my legs shocked me and everyone around me with a low 1:20 finish. Ryan wasn't having a good day so came back to run with me..and this is probably one of my favorite pictures of us ever since he literally led me to the victory and I cannot explain how incredible that felt to have that support.
My incredible husband pushing me to a strong finish!
  • Ryan and I finally had a chance to race a triathlon in May! The Galena Triathlon and Duathlon is always a race we look forward to...but this was my first time racing the triathlon. Luckily, it favored my strength of running with a shorter beginning swim and a strange distance of run at the end (4ish miles). We also had our Sammy's teammates Alex and Dani racing, so it was pretty cool to see an almost Sammy's sweep in the races. We had TONS of people asking about our team and we were very excited to promote such a supportive bike shop. Ryan ended up winning the triathlon and I finished 2nd overall female to a top local pro.
 Some fast friends we have!
 With Sammy's teammates Alex and Dani
Celebrating Sammy's performances!
  • Being the crazies that we are, Ryan and I raced the next day in the Seven Bridges Season Starter 5k (a CARA race). Again completely joking, I told Ryan I'd probably set a 5k PR the next day...after seriously destroying our legs in the hills of Galena. This was a tough race as it was super competitive and it was a back-and-forth battle between me and another female. I had a second in my brain where I gave up, then reminded myself that I PR'd the day after my 1/2 marathon PR and am stronger than that. No giving up. Sure enough, the other female raced me to a PR of 17:37. Unbelievable.
  • May ended on probably one of the highest running notes of the year. I've always wanted to run the Soldier Field 10mile but just hate the logistics of getting into the city and such. I was lucky enough to stay at my brother's the night before, but let's just say he and his friends weren't exactly planning on racing the next day, so I didn't get quite the pre-race sleep I usually do. That frustration apparently fueled me well as I set a PR (but really, how many 10milers does one race in a year?) and won in a sprint finish. I can truly say I gave everything I had that day and could not believe I was breaking the tape after the battle that the top four females fought throughout the race. The recognition that came with that result made me feel like a celebrity
 Check out the talent in that pack. I was pretty freaking lucky to run with them!
 U of I talent;)
 Running buddy pic:)
Holy crap. How did I just do that???

  • The main event of this month was Eagleman 70.3, where Ryan and I hoped to get lucky and win our age groups to qualify for Kona (Ironman World Championships). Long story short, the stars aligned and we found ourselves with World Championship slots. Who would have thought a joke on our wedding day would turn into an opportunity to race the best in the world in Hawaii?
Best day of 2013 so far!
  • June not only was the (second, next to Kona) highest high of the year, but it was also the lowest low of the year. Not one week after we punched our Kona tickets, I found myself in the hospital with a chipped tooth, ballooned up cheek and lip, concussion and scrapes on my left shoulder, elbow and hand. Probably a good time to remind all of my triathlete friends to always check your brakes before every ride. Even though checking the brakes would not have prevented this crash (there have been many lawsuits on this particular model of bike for faulty brakes), it doesn't hurt to check yours every time you go to ride. One paycheck and 6 days of no working out later, I was back in the game.

  • Since I had already signed up for the Elmhurst 4 on the 4th, I figured I'd test my body's healing powers since I had been able to swim and bike no problem. Unfortunately, the pressure from my swollen cheekbone (seriously, how I didn't break that thing is still beyond me) did not make this race enjoyable and I was contemplating dropping out 10 minutes in. Since it was an out-and-back course, I decided to stick it out since regardless of how fast or slow I ran, the pressure in the cheek would still be the same....but if I ran faster, I'd be done sooner. In the end, I earned some CARA points so it was well worth the painful effort.
Not my best moment.
  • I had two comeback triathlons in this month as well. While the results weren't great, the importance of racing in these triathlons was on gaining more confidence in my biking skills. Honestly, it was extremely terrifying for me to get back on the roads. All I wanted to do was ride the trainer because I just couldn't imagine getting back on the bike that caused me so much pain. In the end, Sammy's loaned me one of the best bikes out there (Cervelo P5) and I felt much more comfortable in my second triathlon back than my first because of this.
 Brittany CRUSHED her first tri!
Ryan and I with Sammy himself.

  • The Naperville Sprint Triathlon is not totally up my alley being that the longer distance races suit me better because of my run strength. However, I wanted to be 100% confident in what I thought might be my last tri before Kona, so I gave it a go. Unfortunately, I forgot my bike used Ryan's way-too-big-for-my-feet shoes. The difference in times in the top three overall women was 50 seconds. Guess how much time I lost from those shoes. Never will I ever forget my bike shoes again!

 Thank goodness I'm done biking in those too-big shoes!
Pretty sweet replacement bike!
  • Another PR was earned this month....primarily because no one has ever run this distance unless they've run this race. The Fort 2 Base Nautical 10miler was another CARA Circuit race and by this point, I couldn't help but fantasize about what an honor it would be to be the CARA Female Athlete of the Year. Plus, we had 18 miles scheduled with some faster paced stuff in between, so why not do that during a race
Could not even believe it.

  • Last year, Ryan was working the Hy-Vee 5150 Triathlon and I wanted to just compete for the heck of it since I had been swimming with the youth triathlon team over the summer anyway (I was kind of the chauffeur for a family over the summer). Well, last year I placed so well that I earned free entry for this year so figured I might as well do it since Ryan and his friends were anyway! Plus, this would be yet another experience on the bike for me, and I'd remember my shoes this time. Unfortunately, I was about to learn what it feels like to have mechanical issues on the bike. Never in a race had I experienced mechanicals, so it was probably about time. I finished the swim faster than I thought and faster than last year, so was pumped when I got on my bike. 5 miles into the bike, we made a semi-sharp turn and I was caught on the inside since I did not want to get a drafting penalty. Just my luck, there was a slight bump in the road. That bump sent my water bottle (positioned in between my aero bars) flying. I didn't know the time penalty for "littering" my water bottle, so braked and ran back to get the bottle. I had just worked SO hard to pass 6 girls and had to rudely repass them again....just to have the SAME thing happen less than 10 miles later. We went over train tracks and that caused my water bottle in between my aero bars to go flying again. This time, my chain also dropped. I was in tears from frustration. The poor young boy who tried to help me...I was a mess. Fortunately, it was incredibly windy this day (30+ mph gusts) and I was using a disk wheel (amplifies the wind) so I was able to get experience for Kona. But next year, bet your $ I'll be back for redemption on this race!
 Love racing with these guys!
Stupid water bottle.
  • I also raced the Chicago 1/2 marathon this month. Again, it was a CARA race and I had committed to the goal of trying to win the circuit (which I began to realize was a much loftier goal than I had anticipated it being when training for triathlons). I was fortunate enough to have a Thursday off of school due to a Jewish holiday, so did my longest brick ever of a 100mile bike ride followed by a 10mile run. I felt phenomenal and was SO pumped for the Ironman. Unfortunately, the efforts were still fresh in my legs come Chicago 1/2 marathon time and my body did not respond too well. I still managed to earn a few decent pictures (and more importantly, coveted CARA points) from the race.
This was before the realization that I did my longest brick ever sank in.
 Almost there!
 Included this since I'm, for once, not heel-striking!!!
Almost done!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Right before Kona, I had one more CARA race to check off the list: Park Ridge Charity Classic 5k. I've always wanted to race this as it's a fast, flat course with only one turn that basically guarantees a PR. I knew not to be stupid and risk injury, but I also wanted to be competitive. I ended up walking away injury free and with a new 5k PR of 17:34 :) 
...and my DPFT team won the team award too, so that was fun:)
  • The best month of the year! KONA was finally here!!!! All the training was finally going to be put to use in my debut Ironman. I was never once nervous. I had the support of my family, friends, co-workers at school, and my could I be nervous when I had that much excitement going for me? My school had an incredible send off and after a few days of exploring and figuring out the island, Ryan and I were zipping our swim skins and putting on our swim caps to compete against the best in the world! It was truly the most amazing race of my life and I smile and gush about the race anytime anyone much so that Ryan and I will be attempting to qualify for Kona again in 2014! Kona recap
 My unbelievably supportive school:)
 So proud of Ryan for coming up with these creative outfits for the Under Pants Run!
 Don't worry, I'm practicing putting both arms in the air for the next finish. Yikes.
Right after I finished:)
Words cannot describe this feeling.
 Beyond blessed that our families came to support us<3 p="">

  • Unfortunately, the Chicago Marathon takes place the same day as Kona and it is a CARA race. Since I had committed to the goal of earning the Athlete of the Year honor, I knew I'd have to do another race to make up for not racing the marathon. Even more unfortunate was the fact that one of these races was 2 weeks after Kona. Let's just say the Palatine Halloween Hustle 5k was not a PR kind of day for me. But it sure was fun to see my running friends and hear about their incredible marathon experiences, so that was 100% worth the pain of that race!
Yep. That about sums it up.
Best part of this race: after party with friends!

  • The final CARA race took place in the first weekend here. The Red Eye 8k in Joliet was not one I wanted to race by any means with the early start time and the far distance away...but when I crossed that finish line, I was so thankful Ryan and I signed up for it. I beat the 5k time I ran the Palatine race in a week earlier and was less than 20 seconds off of my 8k PR, 3 weeks after racing my first ever Ironman. I was pretty pleased with that recovery and it made me confident that I could continue racing these crazy things.
  • Ryan and I paced the Schaumburg 1/2 marathon and 5k Turkey Trot again this year with our Dick Pond Fast Track teammates. If you ever have the chance to be a pacer, DO IT. It is probably one of the most rewarding feelings that you can get from just running in a race. I paced with the 1:35 group and one of the runners (who had just raced the Chicago Marathon on 10/13 and the New York Marathon on 11/3 and was now racing the 1/2 marathon on 11/28) fell a little off pace. I had my running buddy Joe come back with me and together we pushed our new friend to the finish. She came up to me after the race to thank us: she placed in her age group:) Tell me a better feeling than helping someone to do something they weren't sure they could do.
 Pacing the 1:35ers!
Check out that awesome pace group! Lucky girl am I!

  • Not really much to report in this month since we haven't done any racing! This month has just been a lot of reflecting on what an incredible year we have had from getting married until now. After Kona, I told Ryan I had no idea how we would top 2013. After talking with our coach recently, we have a few ideas and I cannot wait to blog about them in the new year. 
As I was writing this recap, I could not help but smile every time I typed an event or found a picture to upload. It has just been such a blessed year for me. I would not be where I am without the support of my sponsors: thank you PowerBarSammy's and Saucony for your unending support and belief in me. Thank you to my unbelievable coach Bill Bishop who kills Ryan and I on a daily basis, my incredible families, friends and teammates for supporting, inspiring and motivating me to continually push my limits to achieve goals that seemed out of my reach.

Going into 2014, Ryan and I have set the bar higher than ever and are excited to see the results. First up: Ironman Cabo on March 30th. I cannot wait to begin writing training recaps leading up to this Ironman and am thankful for the continual support you readers give me. Here's to a record-making 2014!


Mersedeh Wiskowski said...

So inspiring!! You two are amazing:) Thanks for sharing your 2013 journey!!!

Michael Cauley said...

I'm glad to have been able to give usable advice to such an incredible talent.

Best of luck in 2014!

jacqui said...

Thank you so much Mersedeh!:) Mike, get that advice ready for Saturday;) Hope to see you there!!