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Ironman Canada – BIKE

September 16, 2012 Fitness, Friends, Fun No Comments

The day was far from over! If you’re just joining us, my story picks up as I exit Lake Okanagan after finishing my Ironman Canada SWIM.

T1
I entered the Transition Area with a lot of confidence, ready to take on the bike leg. I was already ahead of the game from where I expected to be and that put a little extra spring in my step. I didn’t even have my wetsuit down to my waist when I got to the Wetsuit Strippers (<– great job title). They ripped that sucker off of me as other volunteers were grabbing my stuff from the Sea O’ Bags.

I had my bag waiting for me by the time I was back on my feet. I opted not to go into the tent (not knowing if it would be a madhouse) and completed my transition just outside. I could also see more of what was going on this way and continue to take it all in.

I’m not fast in transition and I don’t necessarily care about it during a long race (70.3+). Especially on this day, I wanted to enjoy what I was doing and make sure I didn’t forget anything critical just for the sake of moving fast. I expected my transitions to be 10 minutes or so, just leaving time to have a minor meltdown. I quickly put on a thick dose of facial sunscreen, my helmet, sunglasses, and gloves. I had also packed and donned a second pair of tri shorts to give that extra padding that I knew I’d want and need. I downed a 5-Hour Energy and ripped open a single-serve packet of Chamois Butt’r, squeezed it into my hand, and did the ladylike thing of jamming that hand down to my pants to apply it liberally. So glad I did!

Official T1 time = 5:04
Greg’s T1 time = 5:21
Kidder’s T1 time = 13:59

112- MILE BIKE
I left the transition area on top of the world. I had a great swim, a great transition, and I knew I had what I needed for a great ride — food, fresh-ish legs, and a good attitude. Just after getting on my bike and pedaling, I heard part of my support crew yelling my name (the other part was busy taking these photos!). I already had a big smile on my face and it was great to see and hear my friends heading into the longest part of the day.

I was on my way! And I love seeing that genuine smile on my face! Looking back now, I can tell you with total honesty that this 112-mile bike ride did not totally suck the life out of me like I thought it would. My training rides were REALLY sucking and I was scared. My shoulders/neck would be so pinched by ~40 miles that I’d involuntarily cry in pain to look over my shoulder for traffic. I was dehydrated, despite stopping at every known water fountain and/or convenience store for refills. You can imagine my anxiety going into this race because of issues like that.

Couple that with the doubt I had going into the taper about not being well-trained, as is often the case with the “taper crazies.” As it turns out, I am very satisfied with the training I did. I came to dread weekends because Greg and I purposely chose long and brutal routes. We’re talking 6500-7000 ft of elevation gain over ~80-90 miles, with a massive headwind for at least half of it. That punishment paid off. As miserable as I was every Sunday leading up to this one, I felt awesome on August 26.

Based on how my training rides had gone, I expected to finish in 7 hours or just over that. That pace is slower than my usual (shorter) race paces, but not slower than my long training rides had been. I had to “shift my paradigm” on the whole matter and get comfortable with a slower pace that would accommodate the situation.

It was ~40 miles until the first climb (Richter Pass), and much of that was on a flat road with a tailwind. What’s not to love? That section travels alongside three beautiful lakes, and then we wound around into the orchards and vineyards. It felt very much like California, and the people certainly made us feel at home as well. I couldn’t believe the number of spectators along the entire bike course.

My average speed going into Richter Pass was 20.6 mph. I knew I’d had the benefit of a tailwind, but I was using it to my advantage. I never let my heart rate get above 145. I was saving my legs. I was enjoying myself.

Everyone had to wear our race bibs on our backs during the bike ride; our names were written on them. I thought it was a good thing because you could let someone specifically know you were coming around them — “John, I’m on your left!“. And you could get to know the people you were riding with most of the way. I was happy to make friends with people, specifically one guy from Colorado named Tory. We’d play cat-and-mouse, chatting when we were riding at the same pace. Having trained largely by myself, it was so great to just converse with someone for a mile at a time. This was his first Ironman also, and we were comparing notes on training and such. On Richter Pass, I talked with a woman named Fiona who had a small sign on the back of her bike indicating she was a Bride-To-Be with a wedding date of August 28. One guy crashed about 100 yards in front of me, rolling over a CO2 cartridge or a water bottle. It was intense in those few seconds to see a bike and cyclist on the ground with 10-15 other cyclists trying to make way for him at the same time.

See that blue mark across Greg’s bib? He got a penalty! Drafting is illegal on the bike and there are several rules about what that means and how to handle it when you are passing someone or being passed. A rider started to pass Greg and was having trouble getting around him. The rules state that Greg had to drop back and allow the other rider to overtake him. He did this, and continued riding at his constant speed. The rider that had just passed him slowed down enough that Greg could easily pass him back. So, he came around the other rider and the officials on a motorcycle monitoring this sort of thing came by and gave him the penalty. You can imagine how pissed he was! He had to sit in a penalty tent for four minutes. No water/food/bathrooms there. Just idle time. His average speed going into the penalty tent was 25 mph and it dropped to less than 24 by the time he was allowed back on his bike. The four minute penalty cost him 8 places in his overall finish. Yeah, pissed.

Let’s talk about bodily functions for a minute. I needed to pee starting around Mile 30 on the bike. I peed twice while swimming with no problem. I tried and tried and tried peeing on the bike, with no success. I need to be able to relax enough (meaning no pedaling) to do it, so I thought I’d be golden (<– see what I did there?) on the descent from Richter Pass, but I couldn’t do it. SO FRUSTRATING.

I saw my new friend Tory again on this stretch of road, who had been successful in peeing on the Richter descent. Bastard! I caught up to Kidder at Mile 65 and it was nice to ride with him for awhile, and that’s where I learned about his less-than-stellar swim experience and the trouble he had in transition. We rode back and forth together (to not get called for drafting/aiding). The Cawston out-and-back was the worst part of the ride for me — other than seeing Greg on his way out and Caryn on my way out. I knew it was the course directors’ way of adding distance. I knew it was where the Special Needs bags were. And I knew it was where I’d have to stop to pee. As in, get off the bike. Along with the Special Needs bags, there were several porta-potties. By this time, my kidneys were aching and my bladder was sloshing so much I was afraid of a UTI or other infection. Time to take care of business. While in the stall, I ate the rest of my sandwich and swallowed a few more salt pills with a full bottle of fresh water so I didn’t feel like it was totally “wasted time.”

Back on the bike, I felt somewhat refreshed and ready to take on the most challenging climb of the day: Yellow Lake Road. Richter Pass is a long, slow climb — about 7 miles all told. You just get in a gear you can handle and grind it out. The road snakes along the outside of a mountain pass, so you can look down at the valley below and marvel at your awesome strength to climb this behemoth.  Yellow Lake is a little different. It’s shorter and steeper, especially at the end. Melanie and the boys were spectating there, and we were going slow enough that they could see us and we could exchange a hello. That was nice! After one steep climb, the road flattens out a bit and then pitches up again for a very steep finish at the top. You just have to remind yourself that it’s all downhill into the finish from there.

Yep, all downhill from there. Except remember that tailwind we all enjoyed for those first 40 miles? That meant a nasty headwind for the last 20 miles. As much as I couldn’t really imagine the idea of running a marathon next, I wanted to be off the bike. My shoulders were pinching. My lower back hurt. This position was not relaxing anymore.

We got back into Penticton and were meeting the runners on their way out of town. The crowds were thick and there was a lot of excitement in the air. This made it easier to forget how tired I was and what lay ahead of me. I was on the lookout for my friends and was thrilled to hear them cheering for me! I was also thrilled as I looked down to see that I was going to finish more than 30 minutes faster than I had intended. Just like in the swim, this gave me tremendous confidence going into the marathon.

Official bike time = 6:26:43
Greg’s bike time = 5:29:07
Mike’s bike time = 6:45:31

Finish this race with the RUN recap.

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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!

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12:59:58

September 3, 2012 Favorites, Fitness, Fun 1 Comment

My gratitude to Jeff Barker for this video. His enthusiasm embodies all of the love and support I felt from everyone that day.

I can’t not cry when I watch this.

YouTube Preview Image

More stories to come, I promise.

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Sleep Trumps All

August 12, 2012 Fear, Fitness, Fun No Comments

Ironman training is over. We have reached the taper. I made it! Well, I made it to the end of the training period anyway…

I signed up for an Ironman knowing what it would take to train for it and compete to my satisfaction. All of those realizations — and fears — are coming true right now. It’s hard. It requires commitment. I have a training plan and I follow it pretty much to the letter. I’ve dropped a swim workout here and a strength workout there, but I’m 98% compliant.

Here are the things I’ve learned as I move into the final couple of weeks before competing:

The human body is an amazing machine. I ask my body to do really hard things and it does them, even when I don’t want to or think I’m too tired. I have watched and felt my body become stronger and more efficient. While I have not lost or gained any weight along the way, my body does look and feel different. I trust it.

The human mind is stronger than any body will ever be. It will make or break you, so learn to be friends with it. If you tell it nice things, it will respond in kind. “Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, you’re right.” <– Henry Ford was a smart man.

High-end gear is a nice-to-have. The will to do it and belief that you can do it is a must-have. That said, treat whatever gear you have with respect. Know how to change a flat. Clean your chain every now and again. Wash the spilled sports drink off your bike frame and don’t leave your Garmin out in the rain just because it’s waterproof.

Don’t underestimate your support system. Support comes in a lot of forms: a team you train with, your at-home people, friends and coworkers, online buddies, and yourself (in the form of positive self-talk). Figure out who is supportive of you and be up-front with them about what you need. Some days you’ll need a cheerleader. Other days, you will need someone who will listen to you bitch. You’ll always need people who believe in you and, as crazy as this whole thing is, don’t insist on reminding you of that every time you see them.

Few things are more sacred than a solid 8 hours of sleep, more if you can get it. Don’t skimp on your sleep.

The work has been done. Doing any more at this point is counter-productive. I have to believe in my training and believe in myself. Thanks to everyone who has believed in me along the way!

Here we go!

 

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It’s All Relative

August 9, 2012 Fitness No Comments

I can run 20 miles. Yeah, that number kind of shocks me, too. I went out to Sawyer Camp Trail two weeks ago for a long run and let my mind wander as my feet plodded forward. I purposely don’t run with music; it’s a good chance to stay in tune with what my body is telling me. For these long runs, I set my Garmin to a screen that only shows my heart rate and I just keep putting one foot in front of the other. I know that’s how it will be at Ironman, so I’m not getting attached to a pace or a time or anything other than how I feel. “Active meditation,” if you will.

As I got to the 2.5 mile marker, I looked at it and remembered it used to be a milestone for me. It was halfway to five miles. FIVE WHOLE MILES. That *used* to be a long run for me! I remember the sense of accomplishment I felt after running five miles. How hard it was, how good it felt to have done it. And I remember feeling that way after every milestone after that — 6 miles, 7 miles … double digits!

In the scheme of 20 miles, 2.5 is nothing at this stage of the Ironman training game. The stiffness has been worked out and yet things don’t really hurt yet. I don’t need food. It’s long division if I’m doing fractions in my head (“I’m 1/8th of the way done. Just do that same thing 7 more times and it’s over.”). On the one hand, it’s hardly worth noticing. On the other, it is a badge of honor for every mile I have put in since then. For every time I have passed that 2.5 mile marker and kept going.

Further Proof

This relativity has been a fun and interesting thing to contemplate during my training because it’s all relative. Sure, I can swim a couple of miles at one time and ride 100 miles and run 20… But that’s all at a pace meant for long distance.

This past weekend, we had to do a “Tempo Brick” that consisted of a 30 minute run at 5K pace (fast), a 45 minute bike ride at lactate threshold (hard), and finish with a 20 minute run at aerobic threshold (less hard). Considering the prior weekends’ workout plans, this one looked easy! In fact, it looked so easy I didn’t take it seriously. Big mistake.

Oh, I did the workout to the letter. I pushed as hard as I could with the idea that “I can do anything for 30/45/20 minutes.” That statement is true: I can and I did. But it hurt worse than a lot of my long workouts have hurt. I thought that all my sprint interval workouts would make me invincible for short distance events. I know now that that isn’t what they were designed to do. They were designed to make my body work more efficiently over long distances. I stand, quite winded, corrected.

This was a very good and effective training day mentally and physically. I absolutely respect the short workouts more than I did before. Shorter distance doesn’t mean less hard.

Everything is relative.

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Did/Did Not

July 21, 2012 Fear, Fitness 2 Comments

Things I did today:

Swam 1.7 miles in open water.
Biked 80.5 hilly miles.
Ran/walked 7.15 miles.
Consumed 200 ounces of fluid.
Lost 6.4 pounds in 9 hours.
Cried.
Revised my estimated finish time at Ironman Canada.

Things I did not do today:

Pee.
Complete the additional 6 miles that were scheduled.
Puke (though it has been touch-and-go several times even since I got home).
Have fun.

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The Elusive Podium

June 4, 2012 Fitness, Fun No Comments

Maybe The Elusive F-Spot is actually the P-Spot. THE PODIUM. Because I have come close to making it a few times now, yet it always eludes me.

*sigh*

It’s a good problem to have, I guess.  Making it into the top 5 athletes, even at a small(er) event, takes a little effort… So you can imagine that I was thrilled we screwed around long enough after the race to check the results as they were being released. I couldn’t find my name anywhere, until I looked at the Age Group Winners page and saw my name in the #4 slot. Yippeeeeee!!!

I didn’t even know what my final time was, so it was a real shock when it said 2:41. But let me back up…

PRE-RACE
I mentioned in my race goals that we were going to head to the race site and camp. We ended up not doing that. I got myself ready, but Greg couldn’t get himself organized and make it worth it to be down there. We went to bed early with the van packed and a very clear plan of what needed to happen on Sunday morning. The alarm went off at 5:17 and we were on the road by 5:30. I am certain this is a new record for us. We arrived at Uvas Reservoir at 6:40; our races started at 8:07 and 8:15.

We opted to do packet pick-up the morning of the race and that was the right call (rather than wasting more than an hour driving to Sunnyvale on Saturday afternoon). It was a small enough event that it was easy to get parking and do all of the body/equipment marking in enough time. The transition area was first come, first served and we found spots close to each other as we applied Body Glide and sunscreen before putting our wetsuits on.

As we were making our final preparations to head to the swim start, Greg realized that he had FORGOTTEN HIS GOGGLES! So, he hopped on his bike and rode the ~1/2 mile up the road to where the van was parked and made it back in plenty of time… But that’s kind of a panicky moment (especially when you wonder what else you’ve forgotten that you won’t realize until it’s too late).

SWIM
The water was warm (69* F) and calm. It was an in-water start and we swam from one entry point out to a buoy on the far side and then back to the boat ramp on the other side of the land mass. The land mass was the transition area. Let me assist with a visual of this…

The swim was fine. It was green murky water, but that doesn’t bother me and there were no panicky moments. I easily found an open “lane” and just kept swimming. I swim with my Garmin tucked into my swim cap and it works flawlessly. I have the device set to beep at me after 10 minutes so that I have some idea of how things are going. I am not very good at gauging my effort level/time/pace while I’m swimming, so I really become conditioned to hearing that beep to have an idea of how far I’ve gone. When I made it all the way out to the far buoy, I was thinking that I was either swimming like a professional or I had mistakenly hit the Lap button on my Garmin instead of the Start button.

When the beeping still didn’t happen, I knew I wasn’t tracking my data. Which is bad. I’m kind of addicted to the data. I knew I was swimming in a very straight line and sighting the buoys well. If I was going fast at all, this could be a really great swim for me. I had no way of knowing… I did know that I was passing men who had started 3 groups (12 minutes) in front of me, which is always a good sign. As predicted, I stood on the boat ramp and pulled my Garmin out of my swim cap to see it flashing all 00:00:00 at me. Dammit!

Official time: 28:43. Not my best, but not my worst. I must need to work harder in the water. As straight as I was going and not being winded, I’m kinda disappointed that this wasn’t better.

T1
I had a pretty quick transition at 2:09, considering I got to my bike and the athletes (ahem, MEN) who were on either side of me had knocked my helmet and sunglasses off my handlebars and I had to search around for them in the rush. No worries. Transition areas are always tight quarters.

BIKE
It was a nice bike ride with rolling terrain, not much car traffic, and a couple of short but decent climbs. The descents on these climbs were pretty technical and I was glad to not be around other cyclists for either of them. Greg said he saw a rider down (crashed) on one of them, and I saw a guy running who had visibly crashed on his bike.

Even though I didn’t feel hungry or thirsty, I kept to my nutrition/hydration plan according to schedule. I drank ~1.5 bottles and ate an almond butter-filled date at 30 minutes and 60 minutes on the bike. I also kept my heart rate within range and didn’t go balls-out, even though there was the opportunity to do so on many of the flats. Even so, my average pace was good and I knew I’d finish ahead of where I thought I would. My average speed was 18.5 mph and I finished in 1:18. Even though I didn’t know my swim time, I knew I had bought myself a little time on finishing the bike early and went into the run with confidence.

T2
Nothing to report here. It was pretty quick in and out — 1:26.

RUN
The bike course went out on the same trajectory as the run course, so I was paying attention to the terrain. There were a couple of rollers near the turnaround, but I knew it would be a cinch compared to Wildflower. I had done calculations in my head to finish under 3 hours with a 9:00 minute/mile pace on the run. Again, working to fulfill my race plan, I set my Garmin to ONLY show me my heart rate and I did not worry about pace/speed/distance until the turnaround. When I got there and clicked over to the other screen, I was pleasantly surprised to see my average pace was 8:16. I wasn’t fatigued! I still had fire in my legs! In all of the races I’ve done, I have NEVER felt like that. Hooray for a plan!

I did pick up my pace on the return 5K, but again kept my Garmin set to my HR only and kept it above lactate threshold without going crazy. A gal that had passed me within 500 yards of starting the run was coming into view and I knew I’d pass her. I got to the 5-mile marker and picked it up a little more. I couldn’t believe I still had a “sprint” in me! I saw Greg with Miles about a half mile out, just as I passed that gal. I finished strong and felt good in 50:29 (8:07 pace), though I still had no idea what my overall time was.

POST-RACE
This race was pretty awesome in that the post-race food included Pizza My Heart along with fruit that was fresh-picked just up the road from the race site. It was really low-key and there were lots of dogs and kids around, everyone enjoying the beautiful weather. We took Miles down to the swim start to play around in the water. He loves swimming and we make it a fun game of racing him to the ball or stick that the other person has thrown. He seems to understand the idea of racing and that’s kinda fun, too…

We decided to pack it up after one last slice of pizza and I said I wanted to stop by the Results table to see how my swim had gone and what my final time was. Again, I was delighted to see that I was #4 in my age group! Unfortunately, the podium only has three spots so I was out of a bottle of wine and some other winner goodies again this time. And when we got home, my position had slipped to #5. I don’t know how or why, but I guess I’m still glad to be in the top 5 (out of 25 participants). It does seem somewhat fishy that the winner in my age group finished a 25-mile ride in 53 minutes (faster than the fastest man and overall winner) and her T2 time was 0:16… But whatever.

Greg came in 6th out of 47 participants with an overall time of 2:23.

We then trekked out to the coast and made a leisurely trip home, stopping at our favorite watering holes for a drink and a snack. It was a great afternoon! At 60 pounds, Miles still believes he’s a lap dog and chooses to nap on my lap. Sweet boy!

And it turns out I was right — racing an Olympic distance event is just so doable. It was a lot of fun and a feeling of accomplishment all at the same time.

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Wildflower 2012 Race Recap

May 16, 2012 Fitness, Friends, Fun 3 Comments

I’m kinda over this race, so I’m not going to totally belabor it. I probably should, for no other reason than to save future unknowing fools who sign up for the Long Course thinking it “won’t be that bad” or that “everyone exaggerates how hard it is” or that it will be “good training.”

This race is hard. It is technically a Half Ironman distance (1.2 swim + 56 bike + 13.1 run), but the notoriety of its difficulty has kicked it up a notch in triathlon circles to “3/4 Ironman” status. I really hope that’s true, because I think I can do 1/4 more work than I did at Wildflower. Doing twice as much will be a real test of everything I am.

The bottom line is that I executed all of my race goals. I guess I can’t ask for more than that, right?

PRE-RACE
It’s a camping event, so no one really plans to be all that well-rested the night before. We had the luxury of sleeping in the van, so that helped tremendously. Greg’s pre-race plan is to make a smoothie the night before and set an alarm to wake him so he can drink it at 4 AM. It was really awesome that his alarm woke up me, the dog, and everyone else in our surrounding area… It took me awhile to go back to sleep, so I laid there and actually visualized my race. In detail. It sounds a little hokey, but I think it was extremely helpful. I would have forgotten two things for my transitions had I not done this! It also helped calm me to visualize myself crossing the finish line.

We got up with the sun around 6 AM and did all the pre-race things. Eating, drinking, bathrooming, making jokes, and finally collecting our things to head to the transition area.

I had my toes done to match my race kit.

Greg and Kidder’s wave started 25 minutes before mine, so I saw them off and  got myself mentally prepared to do this thing. I started 1:20 after the first wave of the day at 9:20 AM. While it’s nice being able to have a somewhat leisurely morning, the down side is being out on the run course in the heat of the day.

SWIM
There were only 75 women in my wave, so this “mass start” wasn’t that brutal. I’m a pretty good swimmer, as it turns out, and I’ve learned that it’s better to be right in the front of the pack going into the water. We’re allowed to swim around for a couple of minutes before our wave starts (after the previous wave) and I’ll tell ya, the water right there is pretty warm with all the athletes peeing one last time before the race starts. My biggest concern was getting my goggles in a spot where they weren’t going to leak or fog over.

The horn went off and we all ran into the water. It’s chaotic, but I’m not a panicky swimmer in this environment so it’s “fine.” My biggest problem was that my goggles were leaking and fogging over. I could not sight the first buoy at all and following the crowd is not always a good thing. I felt like I was way too far to the left, but got my goggles figured out and recovered from that. As is usually the case, it’s hard to get into a rhythm until that first buoy. Things tend to spread out from there and get easier, and that was the case this time.

I knew the lake had been choppy and full of debris (seaweed and sticks) at last year’s Long Course, but that was not the case this year. The water was really quite smooth and clear. Well, not “clear.” This is what you saw when you put your face in the water:

 

It was a good swim for me. I wasn’t killing myself out there, planning for a 35-40 minute swim. I got out of the pack of women in my age group and was passing people from three waves ahead of me, so I knew I wasn’t faltering too much. My Garmin was in my swim cap, so I didn’t have a way of knowing my time/pace. That was fine – I was going by feel anyway. A couple of times throughout, I thought to myself, “This is going to be the easiest part of your day, so enjoy it.” That helped to keep things in perspective and live in the moment. Not to mention fulfilling my goal of having fun!

I got out of the water and got my Garmin out of my cap as I stepped on the timing mat. 33:02. WOO HOO!

T1
I was not pushing myself during my transitions. During an Olympic distance race, fast transitions can make or break your race. This wasn’t an A race, it’s a huge transition area, and I know I’m not going to be Speedy Gonzalez in transition at Ironman. I made putting on sunscreen a priority, and I’m glad I did!! T1 time = 4:44

BIKE
My goal for the bike was to drink enough water and eat at the appropriate times to finish the race without GI issues, and to leave enough in my legs to have a decent run. I had gotten a professional bike fit the week prior and had done a long and hilly ride to test out the adjustments. I felt very comfortable going into the ride and had a solid plan worked out.

Everyone talks about the long hill that starts around Mile 40 of the ride — Nasty Grade. What no one talks about is the hill that happens around Mile 2. It may be even more difficult than Lynch Hill (that the Olympic distance athletes have to climb). I couldn’t believe how many people I saw walking it!

I had to pee starting around Mile 26. I have never even needed to pee on the bike, so this was a good thing. I knew I was drinking enough to stay hydrated! I tried to pee for over 20 miles and could not relax enough to do it. I can’t let my sphincter release while pedaling, obviously. I was close a couple of times, but no go. So disappointing! I even picked up an extra water bottle at the aid station for “clean-up.”

I had a good bike ride. I executed my hydration and nutrition plan, I paced myself and didn’t give in to hammering unnecessarily. I drank 20 ounces of water every hour and ate an almond butter-filled date every hour.

I was passing people in Greg’s age group — they started 25 minutes ahead of me (and they’re men)!! Nasty Grade wasn’t as bad as everyone made it out to be, but I will admit that the last 10 miles of the ride are the hardest. As I was descending Nasty Grade, I saw the medical helicopter landing just up ahead. Someone else was not having a good race… Greg said that he saw the athlete still laying on the ground when he passed by. I don’t know what happened or what became that guy.

I finished the bike in 3:14. Again, this exceeded my time expectations. I didn’t feel totally spent, I knew I wasn’t dehydrated (as is usually the case), and thought I was in pretty good shape to tackle the run.

T2
My 4:32 time in transition is extremely slow. I’m not sure why. I don’t really care.

RUN
So this is obviously where things fall apart, right? Good swim. Good bike. And for the first few miles, things were working out according to plan on the run.

Mile 2 - Still Having Fun

I had to stop to pee right out of the transition area, but that was expected. The potty stop took 56 seconds. I adopted a Run 3 Minutes/Walk 30 Seconds plan starting around Mile 2.5 — which is right about when the hills started to become a problem. This was a good solution and was working well. When I was running, I was running reasonably fast. The walk breaks brought my heart rate down and gave my legs a break.

And then somewhere around Mile 4, this happens:

That hill is no joke. Add in that it’s 2 PM on an 81-degree day and it’s like living in Hell. I don’t think there was a single person running that hill while I was on it. I’m actually not sure which is more demoralizing: that EVERYONE is walking it, or if you see some crazy-ass superstar running it (especially if she’s in your age group). There was chatting amongst us, mostly commiseration. It helped pass the time. And then, when you get to the top and start running again, you think that everything is going to be okay — until you have to climb the next super steep, albeit short, hill.

The whole thing fell apart for me right there. FIVE MILES IN. It’s hard to even want to start running again on the relatively flat parts. I looked at my splits and knew I could finish within my goal time of 6:30 even if I walked most of it. But I didn’t want to be out there that long; I wanted to finish as fast as possible. I started running again and found a couple of people who were going at a pace I could handle. My biggest problem on the run is not being able to pace myself. When I’m running, I’m running fast. Too fast. So I stayed with them awhile, but let them drop me as I walked through an aid station and stretched my right glute.

From then on, my MO was basically to walk all hills and run the downhills and flats. There was a lot of self-talk, and most of it was reasonably positive. I have never been more certain about finishing Ironman than I was on that race course. I was in a similar situation to where I had been in past races (dying on the run), but in this case it wasn’t because I had hammered too hard on the bike or because I was dehydrated.

It’s because this run is a Bitch. With a capital-fucking-B.

I vowed to remember how miserable this 2 hours of my life was and to NEVER EVER sign up for it again (unless in a relay). I thought of Greg and Mike and wondered if they had suffered as much as I was suffering now. I remembered Greg saying last year that he would NEVER EVER do this race again, and how he had to eat those words and do it as a “training race” for Ironman.

There was a male college student around Mile 9 wearing nothing but a sombrero (the race was on Cinco de Mayo). He wanted to high-five me after slathering sunscreen all over his naked body. No thanks.

The later water stations offer Coke and it’s an effective tool for several reasons (fizziness, caffeine and sugar). I declined this time. Some nice college kids were offering beer. I thought about it, but declined. I WAS EXECUTING A RACE PLAN, DAMMIT!

And then, Mile 12. The top of the last hill, and where I knew I’d see my friends. I came trudging up that hill and threw them my water bottle mentioning briefly, “I want to die” as I passed them and started to run. From there, it’s 1 mile down a steep hill into the finisher’s chute. I have never been more thankful for gravity in all of my life.

I finished in 6:15:20. A full 15 minutes over where I thought I’d end up at “somewhere around 6.5 hours.” It wasn’t a fast run. It wasn’t a fun run. It has left a bad taste in my mouth for over 10 days now. But I also didn’t have any stomach issues during the run or after finishing. I didn’t have any chafing. AND I FINISHED.

I made it out of the post-race food fest after eating more than I’ve ever been able to stomach and hobbled down the stairs to the transition area to pack up.

I couldn’t get in touch with Greg (coverage is spotty at best in this remote area), but had planned ahead and brought my bathing suit to take a cold swim in the lake. That helped a little and then I entered the famed “4th Event” at Wildflower — trekking back up the hill to our campsite.

There, I enjoyed refreshing post-race beverages with my friends. It is always so fun to exchange stories with the other folks competing. Greg and Kidder did the Long Course. Martz and Joe did the Sprint Distance (<– they’re smart). The van provided the perfect lounge setting.

I took a week off to recover. I was asleep by 9 PM every night and slept in until at least 7 every morning — no 5:37 AM wake-up calls for early swims. I did do recovery runs on Monday and Thursday and a quick ride on Wednesday, just to keep things moving.

Now, we’re on to the Real Deal. I’m 3 days into Official Ironman Training and had to laugh when I looked ahead to this weekend’s training: Saturday – run 16-18 miles on rolling terrain + Sunday – ride 80-100 miles. Wheeeeeeee!

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Wildflower 2012 Race Goals

May 4, 2012 Fitness No Comments

We’re on the highway heading south to Lake San Antonio. It’s Wildflower weekend! I can’t believe how many cars and vans we’ve seen that are loaded with bikes and camping gear. None, of course, are as awesome as the setup we have.

I’m surprisingly not nervous about tomorrow’s race. I think there still some denial that it’s actually tomorrow, but the real reason is that this is not my A race. So it’s a lot like a very expensive training day with friends. That said, it would be totally unMolly-like to not set some race goals.

1. Execute my Ironman nutrition and hydration plan.
This goal is actually two-fold. If I can get my food and water dialed in, I won’t have a stomachache during the run and for a few hours after finishing. This has plagued me at every race and I really want to do better this time.

I have trained my body to work pretty efficiently while working, so I don’t need much food. But hydration is another story. By the time I feel dehydrated, it’s too late. I anticipate the bike will take over 3 hours and I need to drink one bottle per hour. I’m going to be drinking water and Nuun, taking in my calories from food. I had Greg install a water bottle between my aero bars that has a straw so I won’t have the hassle of coming out of the bars to grab a bottle. It has an easy-fill opening and I’m planning to pour new water in at the aid stations. I’ll carry an extra bottle as backup in case I miss an aid station.

As for food, I don’t do that well with the gels and manufactured food. I’m going with my stand-by from Barb’s Race and having almond butter-filled dates. I am going to aim for about 200 calories/hour and keep my belly full of water so that everything is moving into my small intestine quickly and not sitting in my gut sloshing around.

2. Pace myself.
This race is a training race, meant to test strategies for the full Ironman in August. I am going out with the understanding that I need to be able to go twice the distance at X pace. I am competitive and it’s hard for me to not want to really hammer on the bike. I succumb to this pitfall every time I race and I die on the run. This is a notoriously difficult run to begin with and I need to pace myself to not be defeated when I’m out there in the heat of the day.

3. Have fun!
Because there isn’t a tremendous amount of pressure to hit a time goal, I need to remember to enjoy myself while I’m out there suffering. I’m already somewhat burned out on training, so I need to use this race to recharge my batteries a bit. I’m fortunate that I am able to do hard things like this, that my body accommodates everything I ask it to do. It’s a beautiful venue and a fun weekend spent with friends.

4. Realistic finish time. 
I honestly don’t have a defined time goal in my mind. I’ve kind of backed into it based on what I think I can do at Ironman Canada. I suppose I’ll finish this somewhere around 6.5 hours. My first 70.3 time from 2010 was 5:39. Last year’s time was 6:02. I expect to finish the swim somewhere around 35-40 minutes. Spend a couple of minutes in transition. I’m shooting for under 3.5 hours on the bike. Another minute or two in transition, and then hit the hot and hilly run course. It will take over 2 hours, but I don’t know how much over. I want to stay under a 10 minute-mile (which just sounds slow as I type it out), but I’m really trying to be realistic.

Thanks to all who have sent well-wishes! I’ll carry them with me on the race course!

 

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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!

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