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Ironman Canada – SWIM

September 12, 2012 Fitness, Friends, Fun 3 Comments

Let me fill in the details of Ironman Canada, beginning with the swim.

More than 2700 athletes lined up on the shores of Lake Okanagan to begin an epic day. Greg and I got there just as O Canada! was being sung, about 3 minutes before the horn went off at 7 AM. We arrived at the race site later than intended (what else is new?) and were both still in line for the bathroom when the pros started at 6:45 AM. Nothing quells those jitters like being late for the biggest race of your life…

There was no time to get in the water to warm up or test the goggles. This was it! Hug, kiss, “See you in 14 hours!”

I'm the one in the pink cap on the far left...

My swim plan was to stay on Greg’s feet as long as possible. If there’s one thing I can do well (relative to Greg), it’s swim. My swim times have rivaled his, so we’re well-matched in the water. Like every other athlete out there, I wanted the benefit of drafting. We had practiced this just once before race day, during our practice swim on Friday. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, Greg went out like a bullet and I was breathing WAY TOO HARD for a 2.4 mile swim within 100 yards of the shore (as I found out later, so was he). Not exactly the shore — it’s literally a rocky swim start. So everyone kind of hobbles into the water for several yards before it’s deep enough to get down and swim.

I lost Greg and was on my own. Sighting was easy because we were swimming away from the sunrise. The course measures 1800 meters out to the first turn buoy, a short distance to the next turn buoy, and 1800 meters back. I have my Garmin set to beep at me every 10 minutes and every 1 mile. I was thrilled when it trilled at me indicating I’d swum a mile. I checked my Timex watch (tracking overall time) — 26.34!! Faster than my fastest mile EVER! This gave me confidence.

I rounded the first turn buoy, spotting the SCUBA divers below with their GoPro cameras! I waved! It was then that the gravy train pulled into my station.

I happened upon a girl who had a super strong kick and I latched onto her. It was amazing. She was probably just a little bit faster than I would normally be, sighting well, and easy to follow because of all the bubbles. I gladly let her tow me around that lake for the final ~1.5 miles.

Regarding the mass swim start and being “beaten up” because of so many bodies: I was very concerned about this. I anticipated a 1:30 swim because of how my open water swims were going, and knowing it would be worse with all of the jostling. It was not nearly as bad as I expected. There were a few minutes-long sections where I was swimming in a crowd of people and it was uncomfortable, but there were also long sections of clean, open water where I was by myself. No one was overtly rude, kicking to make a point or purposely swimming over the top of me and pushing me under. In fact, the only times I had to get a little aggressive was when someone tried to get in between me and the girl who was pulling me along. Ha!

My Garmin beeped again at 2 miles — 52 minutes. I was holding a steady pace! I held on to my sherpa as long as I could and marveled that I was not totally out of breath (as I had been in many training swims). I wasn’t killing myself to move through the water. I wasn’t sighting straight into the sun. This swim felt effortless and I was truly having fun! Similar to Wildflower, I knew this would be the easiest part of the day and I was glad that I was enjoying it. I thought about Greg, wondering if he was having as much good fortune as I was. I also thought about Kidder, who is a phenomenal swimmer (easily able to swim 2.4 miles in under 1 hour), and wondered if/when I’d be able to catch him on the bike.

I got to the last buoy and saw many people standing up, hobbling over the rocks to the shore. I knew right then I was taking a different approach to the finish. I swam over all those rocks until I reached the sand and stood right up. What the heck was wrong with those people?? I checked my Garmin and was thrilled to see 1:14:16 (though I saw the timing mat was still painfully far away). I also noticed that my total distance swum measured 2.7 miles. What the  ?! I know that Garmin data isn’t *totally* accurate, but it did make me wonder what my swim time would have been if I hadn’t over-shot it by 0.3 miles…

Even so, I was very happy coming out of the water. Completing the swim in 15 fewer minutes than I anticipated gave me confidence. Not feeling exhausted or beaten up gave me such a positive attitude heading into T1 and the bike. The day was off to a great start!

Official swim time = 1:14:29
Greg’s swim time = 1:10:02
Kidder’s swim time = 1:00:15

Turns out, Kidder had a horrible swim. The strap on his goggles BROKE THREE TIMES! Talk about bad luck! He was literally stopped, treading water while fixing them as all the other fish passed him by. Still, he was able to narrowly miss the one-hour mark — good enough for 8th in his division and 102nd overall.

You can read my BIKE recap here!


Reservoir Triathlon – Race Goals

June 2, 2012 Fitness No Comments

I have a race tomorrow. Crazy, huh? As I sit here sipping a glass of wine on this very windy afternoon, I’m in disbelief myself. I guess the up-side to this whole Ironman behemonth is that I am being desensitized to the anxiety that goes along with racing…

The training plan that Greg and I are following calls for an Olympic Distance triathlon this weekend. There just-so-happens to be an event happening about an hour south of here that we signed up for — the Reservoir Triathlon in Morgan Hill. Since I started racing at the Half Ironman distance three years ago, it has been fun for me to walk around saying, “I can’t wait to go back to shorter distances. The Olympic distance is just so doable. I mean, it’s less than three hours of suffering on race day and the training doesn’t affect your entire life.” We’ll see how much of that is true tomorrow. The obvious difference between a sprint or Olympic distance race is that you are pushing your very hardest the entire time, whereas the longer events require you to pace yourself.

It has been an enjoyable week of shorter workouts, culminating with a pre-race brick this morning. We had to bike 30 minutes with four 60-second sprints mixed in, then run 15 minutes with three 60-second sprints. My workout went quite well, and it was a beautiful day to be out there. The fog was still rolling over the mountain at 10 AM — I was glad we were not climbing Skyline today!

Greg just informed me that his plan has been to drive the van down to Morgan Hill and sleep there tonight so we won’t have to get up sooo early in the morning. That was news to me! I’m going into high gear to get everything packed and ready to go.

As for goals, the training plan says to practice transitions and mental aspects of racing while keeping my my effort level (measured by heart rate) at my lactate threshold until the last 5K of the run, where I will pick it up through the finish. So I guess that’s my goal, right? Ideally, I’d like to do that as well as these couple of things:

  1. Execute my nutrition and hydration. My plan is to carry 2 water bottles on the bike (one on the aero bars, one on the down tube) and not stop at the aid stations. I’ll eat breakfast as usual, take a 5-Hour Energy before starting the swim, and have 1-2 peanut butter-filled dates on the bike. I should not need nutrition on the run, but I’ve got Clif Shot Bloks in my race belt just in case. I will not carry water on the run.
  2. Finish under 3 hours. The course looks to be fairly flat and fast, so hopefully I’ll be able to pull this off. I can finish the hilly Wildflower course under 3 hours, so that’s my benchmark. Today’s training brick incorporated those sprints, which did increase my average pace and I may try to test this approach tomorrow.
  3. Have fun! I think this will mostly come in the form of, “At least it’s only 6.2 miles of running and not 26.2!”

Back tomorrow with results!


8 Days and Counting

April 27, 2012 Fitness No Comments

I am competing in a Half Ironman triathlon in 8 days and I haven’t made mention of it on this blog. At all.

Is that you, Denial? It’s me, Molly.

I actually think it was denial for a long time. It took until mid-March for me to realize that I am not, in fact, training for Ironman Canada — a race that takes place on August 26. I am training for the Wildflower Long Course. IT TAKES PLACE ON MAY 5. I also can’t believe the mental block. I love Wildflower!

Wildflower 2010

A huge mental shift had to happen in my head for Wildflower to come into focus. For the last two years, the 70.3 triathlon distance was my “A race.” It was the hardest thing I had ever done and everything I had ever trained for wrapped up into one 6-hour day (give or take 23 minutes). The shift happened, and very little changed.

Here’s why: I’m not going balls-out for this race. My coach’s orders are to compete at my projected full-Ironman race pace. I can tell you that I will not be swimming 2.4 miles in 1:04. I will not be averaging 18.8 mph on my 112 bike ride. And I will not be running a sub-4-hour marathon.

My training these days is good. It’s consistent. I complete 99.5% of every workout prescribed, as I have for the last two years. I am just as tired and just as hungry as I have been in years-past. I know I’m fit, but I feel slow. In some cases, the data proves I’m slow(er). The difference this year is that I don’t care. I don’t have anxiety going into this race with aggressive goals and expectations for myself.

I gotta tell you, it’s freeing!

My #1 goal is to get through the race without feeling like shit. And let me tell you something else — I haven’t ever finished a race without feeling like shit, so that’s a pretty big feat. I’ve been focusing on my nutrition and hydration. I’ve been pacing myself, especially on hills (both Wildflower and IM Canada very hilly). I’ve been doing strength workouts that include plyometrics. I get the proper amount of sleep.

So this race is uncharted territory for me. That it’s not about going as fast as I possibly can NO MATTER WHAT. It’s about racing smart. It’s about enjoying the journey, and taking notes for the Big One.

Eight days until the gun goes off!


New Ride!

April 16, 2012 Fitness No Comments

New stuff should be is fun! While un(der)employed, I basically went  2.5 years with minimal additions/upgrades to my triathlon gear (or my wardrobe. or my living space…). I’ve taken Greg’s cast-offs like gloves and foot warmers and have otherwise made-do with what I have. When I do shop, I tend to buy high quality stuff, and that has served me well.

My road bike doesn’t fit me that well, so it seems, and even a professional bike fit isn’t going to make riding 112 miles any more comfortable (or fast or ergonomically conducive to run a marathon afterward). Everyone talks about how much better they feel getting off a triathlon-specific bike. Greg has had a tri bike (also called a time trial or TT bike) for a few years now and swears by it for being faster and more comfortable.

So, I put myself in the market for a tri bike. I’ve got money to spend now, right? According to some documentation on Slowtwitch, the Cannondale Slice is a perfect fit for someone like me. And by “someone like me,” I don’t mean to compare myself to Chrissie Wellington. I mean someone with really long limbs and a really short torso.


A local bike shop happened to have the 2011 Slice model available. IN MY SIZE and ON SALE. This must be the Universe, right? I took ‘er for a spin and decided to commit. I spent an hour getting fitted on the bike and then waited a week for it to stop raining so I could finally ride it.

Well, I went out that day with a few tools in my pockets to tweak things as needed and hoped for the best. The training calendar dictated a 45-mile ride  + 3 mile run. Greg was [supposedly] on stand-by with his phone to help me out in case something came up.

I got three blocks from home and realized the seat was too high. I got off to adjust it and found that it was down as far as it would go. The tech at the bike shop had cut a significant amount of the seat post off, based on how we had sized it in the shop on the trainer, but had given me no leeway to put it down farther. It would have to do (because I was too stubborn to ride 3 blocks back home and have Greg cut it down farther, obviously).

About 3 miles down the road, it was very clear that the seat was tilted up too high ifyouknowhatImean. The tools I had were not the right size to fit in the seat screws so I tried to call Greg, only he wasn’t answering. I left a text and voicemail, hoping he’d call me before leaving the house on his own ride. I made it two more miles and had to stop again, calling and calling and calling him again. No answer. More frustration.

I was about 12 miles from home at this point, and had already decided that 45 miles would be 30 miles and that was that. I was too uncomfortable to push it for the additional hour. Greg called back when I was nearly at my turnaround point, so I told him to not bother with it (we weren’t anywhere near each other) and I’d suffer through for the trip home. Bright side: this would be good mental training!

I made a turn and started to down-shift to accommodate a slight incline and my gears wouldn’t catch. They kept slipping as I pedaled and I finally had to clip out, as not to fall over from lack of momentum. I looked down and saw my chain nearly dragging on the ground. I thought I had just dropped the chain and I’d put it back on and keep going. I got to the shoulder and saw that something was amiss with the rear derailleur.

I called Greg. And called him. And called him. And called him. I CALLED 24 TIMES AND HE NEVER ANSWERED. Between buyer’s remorse and spousal unresponsiveness, I was over it. He finally called back… and had to turn around on his ride to go get the car and rescue me. He confirmed the rear derailleur was completely broken.


I drove the bike immediately to the bike shop for them to repair it. By this time, it was nearly 4 PM on St. Patrick’s Day and I still had to get back on my other ill-fitting bike and ride 20 miles +  run 3. It was cold, the wind was howling, and I was grouchy (<– understatement). Again, I chalked it up to good mental training and was proud of myself for not quitting.

It took me a week to pick the bike up. Then it rained for about a week after that, so it was awhile before I got back on my new ride. And believe me, I wasn’t that excited about it anyway. I had the guys cut more off the seat post, and I’ve had Greg cut off even more twice now. I also bought three new saddles to try out, and I think I’ve found one that works. Greg made a bunch of tweaks to the seat, seat tilt, and aero bar positions before my next long ride. He then followed me in the car with a bevy of tools and made many tweaks along the way for the first few miles. This was priceless — and much greater than an insignificant kindness!

I’ve gone for a few long rides now, and while I will admit that I don’t love my new ride just yet, it is getting better. Patience is what it takes, and that’s something I lack most of the time. Again, I’m chalking it up to good mental training…



February 2, 2012 Fear, Fitness 1 Comment

I did not do today’s workout because I wanted to. It was a beautiful day and I had a nice dog to run with. I woke up and instantly put my running clothes on — ready to go! But that didn’t make it any easier getting myself out the door. In fact, I didn’t actually go on that prescribed run until 2:30 PM. And I was ‘dressed and ready to go’ at 7:30 AM.

As I think about it now, I don’t want to do tomorrow’s workout. It’s a low-mileage speed workout on the bike. The forecast is sunny with high temp of 63*F. Ideal, really.

Of course, I’ll do it.

I do each day’s workout not because I WANT to, but because of what I DON’T WANT: I don’t want to look like an asshole and feel even worse than that on race day.

See you out there tomorrow! And the next day, hey!


Pants = Soiled

September 20, 2011 Fear, Fitness 12 Comments

Consider my pants soiled. For the next 11 months or so.

P.S. Greg’s doing it, too!