Thursday, July 26, 2012

Active MSer Feature: Beth Ulibarri

Beth is from Albuquerque, NM and was just recently diagnosed with MS. She keeps up to date on a blog to document her journey: 
You can also find Beth on Twitter: @MilesAndTrials

I also want to say CONGRATS to my most recent Active MSer feature Jill Walsh, who recently finished Ironman Lake Placid; Jill, You Are An Ironman! 

Here is Beth's story, in her words.

Hi Kelly,

I have been a fan of yours since I saw you do so well at Boulder 70.3 last summer as I was there to cheer my husband on.  It was with great delight when I saw your personal interest in supporting the MS community, as I have been recently diagnosed.

My MS story started about a year ago, first with some leg tingling that I would feel after a long run (I was training for a marathon at the time), then an electric shock feeling in my rib cage, and fatigue is pretty much a constant in my life.  The tingling and numbness in my feet and legs got gradually worse in the Fall of 2011 and finally got my attention enough to get it checked out.  I thought it was simply a pinched nerve or something like that, but test after test later, I got the disturbing news that I have MS.  

That was in March of this year.  I am still adjusting to the news, but one of the first things I did was research athletes that have MS.  I have been a runner for a few years and fallen in love with running marathons, so I was hopeful that I would not have to give this passion up.  I was pleased to find many runners and triathletes who have MS that continue to train and even do amazing things like run marathons and do Ironmans!  I plan on continuing to run marathons, do the New Mexico MS 150 bike ride this summer, and possibly even do some triathlons.

I decided to start a blog ( to document my journey of trying to stay in shape while dealing with what MS might throw my way.  I hope that I can inspire others to not be deterred by this diagnosis and to keep moving, or start moving their bodies, because exercise is shown to be so helpful in dealing with MS.  I just completed my fifth marathon, my first one post MS diagnosis (PMS, as I like to call it!).  It was my fastest marathon so far, and I even qualified for the Boston Marathon.  I hope and pray that I can stay healthy enough to have many more marathons and triathlons in my future.  Thank you for your commitment to MS awareness and fundraising.

Keep it up Beth, and thank you for submitting your story! 
And let's keep the donations coming! Ironman Hawaii is in just 3 months, and we're almost halfway to my goal of $10,000 via MS Can Do. Please consider a donation, 
none is too small!

Thanks for reading,

Friday, July 13, 2012

Muncie 70.3: An Indiana Win!

Life is full of uncertainties. We can have the best plan of attack; and things may go right as planned for awhile. Then we hit a road bump; an unexpected detour. It’s natural to be frustrated, angry and ask questions. But it’s these times in life that force us to keep moving forward; prevent us from becoming complacent, and constantly motivate us to stay on our game and make us appreciate why we do what we do. At the time the road blocks suck, but in hindsight, think they’re an essential part of life.

 I headed to Muncie 70.3 with a fire in my belly. It was no secret that the previous race (Rev 3 Quassy) left me in the aforementioned state; confused, frustrated and with some discontent. Sure maybe I was not firing on all cylinders that day, but bottom line was I got it handed to me and I didn’t like it. That led Derick and I into talking about ‘what next’ before Muncie, and we decided upon my escaping Austin to ride my bike. The goal was open roads, lots of climbing and many miles. I landed in Henderson, Nevada and did my solo 8 day training stint, which included about 500 miles over the course of 7 days, many rides with 3000-6000+ feet of climbing. For me, this was a huge amount of cycling. I headed back to Austin, recovered, and sharpened up for Muncie 70.3. I was 2nd in 2011, so I definitely wanted to try to move up the podium this year, but also bounce back from Quassy and find my form again.  

 When the decision was made to shorten the course (which we found out about on Friday at the Pro Meeting), understandably many of us were a bit annoyed. However upon talking to the race staff, I realized that this was purely for the safety of all involved; athletes, volunteers and spectators. In hindsight, this was the right decision. I’ve realized having been in this sport for 10+ years that people love to find things to complain about; if they had gone ahead with the full distance under nationally issued heat advisories, you know some would have said they should have shortened it. Bottom line is a race is a race; the directors are in that position for a reason; and it’s our job to race the course presented, and respect their decisions. With that attitude, I embraced it and got excited to go hard the next day. I had a bit of concern about my cycling, since I had put in all of those fairly ‘slow’ miles in Nevada; what if I didn’t have the high end power? Then I quickly said to myself “Kelly, remove head from ass and race.” Sometimes you just have to tell yourself to shut the hell up!

 We arrived at about 5:30AM for the 6:30 start and things kicked off right on time. The small women’s field (about 10-12) took off into the warm waters of Prairie Creek Reservoir (supposedly 88F!) 4 minutes after the men. I was stoked that my Zoot Ultra Speedzoot was so thin, as you really didn’t want to wear much more than a bikini in this water! I tried my best to hook in behind Jodie Swallow, who is an incredible swimmer. I got gapped a bit but was able to maintain a few meters behind her throughout the 1 mile swim and about 21 minutes later, we exited; I was pleased to see I was only about 10 seconds behind her. Good start! 

 Up the hill from swim exit and onto my QR Illicito, we headed out to the cornfields of Muncie for the 30 mile journey. I remembered this course from last year and I really liked the bike; they closed the course to traffic, which rarely ever happens, and it was fairly flat and quite fast. Being among a bunch of farmland and corn made me feel right at home (as I grew up in Zionsville, IN, just 1-2 hrs away). Jodie and I were quite evenly matched on the bike, again something I was pleased with as she’s one of the best out there on two wheels as well! I tried to break away and put a gap on her a few times, but it seemed each time I did she’d come back around me. That said, it felt good to push hard and feel so dang strong in the TT position; something that I have truly been striving to find for years. I taped over my SRM, but I felt like that high end power that I was worried about was there just fine. Every time I felt like I was letting up, I’d try to hit the gas again. It was fun knowing I could really go to the well without risking a blowup knowing that the bike was only 30 miles. Ah, another interesting part of the bike was this… I had a gel flask on my top tube (intended for the 56 mile distance) with 400 calories of Powergels. I downed the entire thing in the 1 hr 10 min on the bike! I think that my body was craving the sodium (that was also 800 mg Sodium), so I figured I’d just go with it. That gel flask along with water and I was good to go for the 10k run.

I took off out of transition and I tried to start off fairly hard. I knew that Jodie was close behind, but I also didn’t really know exactly how far back the other women were. I told myself that they were within a minute so it forced me into thinking that I had to go and go hard. About 1.5-2 miles in, the lead biker looked back and told me ‘noone in sight’ so I was able to take a breath and relax, just a bit. The run here in Muncie is not full on hard, but it is not a walk in the park either. It consists of a few rollers and not much wind, which makes it feel a bit more challenging than it may appear. It was a very nice treat to turn around after only 3 miles, and I was able to get a better view of what was going on behind me at that point. I had a good lead, however I always try to assume that people are hard charging and that I can’t let up; I have been caught at the line before and it sucks! I think it’s just a small mental trick that helps. Finally the last couple of hills approached and with a quick turn to the left, the finish was in sight! I was so happy to take the win here, as there is a bit of history with Muncie 70.3. It was my first half Ironman in 2004, so it’s an incredible feeling to, after 8 years, finally be able to win this one in my good old home state of Indiana. 
I have to give a huge thank you to my parents and family for being there to support; they were there in 2004 (even though my dad did mock me that year upon the bike exit saying “Kelly, where ya been? <chuckle>” when I came into T2) and they were here this year. My mom even informed me that this year when they heard the bikes were approaching, he said “Ooh! Well let’s count the women as they come in to see how far back Kelly is!” My mom hit him and walked away. One of the best parts of the weekend was getting to go back to their cabin in southern Indiana, unwind and do the rope swing my dad built over their lake on Sunday. Thank you to my incredible sponsors, I feel fortunate to have the best support team out there and I’m always confident in my gear, equipment and nutrition. Also thanks to the fellow pro women who raced Muncie; it was a solid field assembled and I’ve said it a million times, it’s our competitors that propel us to be our best on the day. And a huge thank you to my husband (and coach) Derick; he of course is the one who sees the ups and downs in raw form, and he always keeps me even keel mentally and emotionally; but he also is constantly helping me push myself a little beyond what I may think is possible. Without him, I’d not be where I am today.
It’s one thing to hit ‘hot streak’ and find a groove, win races, and feel (if even a little) invincible. It’s nice to say that after many years at this, I think that I’ve at times found this ‘groove’ the past few of years. That said, I think it’s invaluable to get knocked down at times as well. It forces us to re-evaluate, dig deeper and remember that on any given day, anything can happen. Past results don’t mean anything when we toe the line; it’s always about US making it HAPPEN on the DAY. This win is a little bit sweeter given that I felt like I overcame some questions and doubts the past few weeks. Next up is a few weeks in Salida, Colorado, our little training escape and then it’s a big few races: HyVee, Vegas 70.3 and Kona. It’s nice to take a little confidence into this training stint.

Thank you for your support & see you out there!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Active MSer Feature: Jill Walsh

Jill Walsh, Active MSer,  is in the process of training for Ironman Lake Placid.
Here is her story, in her words.

Please consider a donation to my Can Do MS Fund, which culminates in my Ironman World Championship race on October 13, 2012. Help support all of those living, training, and competing with Multiple Sclerosis. My goal is $10,000 and we are almost halfway there! Every bit helps!

Best of luck to Jill on July 22nd; soon, you will hear "Jill, You Are an Ironman!"

As I started to write my story, I realized it was going in an unexpected direction. 
Here it is.

I have been physically active my whole life. A year and a half ago I was 48 years old, still playing soccer twice a week, running most other days, and training for my first ½ Ironman. I started to suffer from vertigo, dizziness, and balance issues. I thought it was due to overtraining.

Fast forward to today, and I still have bouts with vertigo, dizziness, and balance issues, and have added foot drop and left arm weakness to my growing collection of issues I am learning to navigate with.

I have M.S., and am training for Ironman Lake Placid on July 22, 2012—just a few weeks from now. All I can think about is, “When is I all of this training going to be over? I’m tired”. But when I start to reflect on my M.S. Ironman journey, I realize it’s not really about me; it’s a lot more than that. Regardless of what reads after my name in the race results: a time or DNF (but hopefully not a DNF), my journey has taken a village—my village.

My husband should be sainted, and my three teen-aged kids should be rewarded for being abandoned for my training schedule. Hopefully, there will be, “Go Mom,” posters along the course.

My coach, Brandi (an Ironman, herself), who would say—no matter how much I whined, “It’s supposed to be hard. You will be an Ironman!”

My physician, John (also an Ironman), thinks it might have been foolish for me to have entered,  said that if it is what I want to do, he will help me any way he can to get to the finish line. He did have to add, “But the run it won’t be pretty”.  Ugh.

The brace maker Jim, he is my new BFF. He has been very patient and helpful through the many adjustments to my two braces. I now have a magic biking shoe and a magic running shoe! Both braces are working well to keep my foot where it was meant to be, regardless of M.S.’ opinion on the matter! He is looking forward to hearing about my Ironman experience with his artwork.

Jeremy, the bike shop guy: After I told him I didn’t have enough strength in my left hand to safely brake, he found and installed a part that allows me to now brake both wheels using only my right hand – it took a few patient adjustments.

My favorite running shoe store (Fleet Feet!):  Can’t say enough good things about all those guys! This shoe, that shoe, mismatched sizes to fit my brace (Yes, you can buy mismatched pairs).
All my old friends and new training partners: Well, I will start to cry if I go into how that have helped, encouraged, and supported me along this journey.

Yup, it takes a village. We all belong to one, and I am glad. Now my hope is – after what I know will be a long day for me—to hear the voice of Mike Riley: “Jill, you are an Ironman!”