The Aftermath…

03/22/2013

Here we are…almost a week post IM Cabo.  I’m back in Charlotte, which means COLD temps, stark reality and plenty of time over the past week to digest my thoughts on the race.  I’ll start and end with my positive thoughts.  🙂

Most importantly, I am proud of myself.  I’m proud that I pushed through months and months of pain and trained my ass off for this race in shitty conditions.  I’m proud that I had the guts to start the race knowing the pain I would later be in with my foot (and the race in general as Ironman hurts for everyone!)  And most of all, I’m proud that I finished.  It was the toughest day of my life, hands down (blows any other Ironman I’ve done out of the water), and I didn’t quit.  In fact, despite how tough the course and race were at times, I never had one single thought of quitting.  And for that I have to hold my head high.

But…there’s always a “but”.

1.  I am better than my performance

2.  I know I have a ~3:40 marathon off my bike in me

And I’m dying to unleash it!  I am so beyond ready to have a good race, it’s killing me!  Being who I am, I am not satisfied with just completing the race.  Proud, yes…satisfied, no.  A fellow athlete on the course said to me as he set out for his first lap of the run and I was coming around on my third “oh you have nothing to worry about, we have almost 5 hours to finish this race”.  On one hand, I respected his willingness to get out there with the goal to finish before the cutoff.  I give the 17 hour Ironman a LOT more credit than the 9 hour Ironman in all honestly.  17 hours takes a lot of mental fortitude and takes guts in itself to get out there with the risk you might miss the required time.  On the other hand, I had a strong urge to punch him in the face.  Didn’t this guy know I don’t race to make the cutoff!  I am not wired that way!  Like anything in life, I race to do the best I can do, be the best I can be and this race was no different.  There is no possible way for me to train day in and day out, for 5-6 months, with one race in mind, not do what you set out to do, and not feel disappointed not achieving your goals.  It’s human nature and it’s absolutely Kim – nature.

On the flip side, there was a lot of race chatter after the race as there always is.  Here are some comments I heard that have helped with my overall feelings of disappointment since crossing the finish line over 90 minutes hours slower than I hoped (key word, helped):

1.  Nearly 40% of participants did not finish

2.  “This race was as hard or harder than Kona”

3.   I didn’t meet or talk to one single person after than race that finished in their goal time (I’m certain there were some, but no one I spoke to).

4.  One girl took 8:30…to complete the bike course alone.  She rode +/- 6 hours in her previous 4 IM’s.

5.  “The race was more brutal than ___ (5, 7, 13) other Ironman’s I’ve done”

6.  “The bike course was the hardest course I’ve ever ridden”

7.  “What happened to ‘flat run course’?”

8.  “I thought it was supposed to be 70-75 degrees?”

9.  “Where did those waves come from?”

Fact is, I had a really, really bad “run” and still finished pretty darn well in my age group and actually, overall.  But when it’s all said and done, completing the race is what matters.  I still have my Ironman fire and goals, but for now I have memories of 140.6 miles that I carried myself in some of the toughest conditions I’ve been in to date without quitting.  I balled my eyes out hanging my medal on my rack today – a similar feeling I had while crossing the finish line.  This one took all I had, but I earned it!

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Ironman Cabo

03/18/2013

Ironman is quite a journey. The more of them I do, the more I respect just how much of a challenge that the distance is. I am amazed, envious and in awe of those who do them over and over and do them FAST time and time again.

I chose Ironman Cabo for these 5 reasons:
1. It’s Cabo!
2. Wetsuit swim in the Sea of Cortez (more calm than the ocean)
3. Rolling bike course on pristine pavement
4. Flat run course
5. Average temp this time of year ~72 degrees

Keep those in mind.

Yesterday started calm and collected. I had a great dinner, was in bed early and slept ok the night before. When you are physically prepared, there is only those situations that are out of your control to stress about and I think after racing as much as I have for the last 5 years, I’ve quit stressing about the uncontrollable. I arrived in plenty of time, pumped tires, water bottles, sunscreen, and ready to go. Side note: if you ever want to make friends on the morning of an Ironman in a remote location, bring a bike pump into transition with you. I felt very loved. 🙂

Swim: 1:18 or so.

By the time I made it down to the water, there was about 1 min till the gun went off which was fine because I’d prefer less time to think about the mayhem that will shortly ensue. I was unsure where to line up as I always am. I’m not fast enough to suituate on the front line, however lining up anywhere past the first 2/3 rows of people is always tricky. It was a mass beach start with 2,000 other athletes. Use your imagination if you’ve never done one of these. C. H. A. O. S. I got up as far as I could and hoped for the best.

The gun went off and we were rolling. The waves were 3x’s as big as they were during all the practice swims getting into the water. The undertow was in full effect pulling you back towards shore. I felt my chip float away no less than 30 seconds after I dove in. I think the first 500 to the turn buoy took me (and most others) no less than 15 min. It was a boxing match, as it always is. I stayed amazingly calm throughout said boxing match. My only frustration came with my goggles which kept filling up with water. Salt water in the eyeball stings! I am certain the sunscreen I slathered on had something to do with that. Note to self, sunscreen on face in T1, not before the race. I got that situation remedied about 500/600 meters in and all was ok thereafter.

The next 1500 meters to the next turn buoy continued to be eventful. Yes. The opposite of uneventful, which would be more ideal during a swim. 🙂 I’d like to notify the men in this world that physically trying to swim over another human is nearly impossible, dangerous, and extremely unnecessary in a 9/10/11/12…hour day ahead! Please go around me. Or hey, since we’re swimming the same pace, maybe we could work together and draft a little? Men. I almost had to punch one over the head, but I refrained…barely.

The water was extremely choppy and I was thankful to have a longer, slower stroke cadence for once because the rhythm of my stroke seemed to coincide with the up and down of the waves. I felt very calm and relaxed despite all going on. I knew I wasn’t breaking any speed records but exiting the water feeling good was my goal. After the 2nd turn there was a nice little current to bring us 300 meters to the last turn buoy for the final 1500 meters in. This was very choppy and the undertow was pulling hard. There were people stopping, breast stroking, even back stroking all around me. I continued to swim the best I could and even drafted a bit till the finish. I saw 1:18 when I stood up which is oddly enough the same time as my first Ironman in much calmer, more friendly conditions. There’s no comparing swim courses, even at the same race because you never know exactly how far the course is so I’m going to say that yesterday’s 1:18 was an improvement given the conditions. And leave it at that.

Reality: Sea of Cortez = not really more calm than the ocean.

T1 – ~4 min.

Not much to report here. The run to the changing tent was long and sandy. Running in sand is hard. Running in sand post kick-your-ass swim is more hard. That is all I remember. 🙂

Bike – 5:48 – 178 NP / 148 HR / 95 rpms

The say I felt anything but awesome during the ride would be a lie. I felt very strong the whole time, stuck to my nutrition plan to a tee, nailed my power plan of 175-180 watts and never going above ~250 on the climbs.

That said, this course was an absolute bitch. I certainly fair better on hillier courses and this one did not disappoint. The course was a two loop which included one advertised climb and the rest rolling. To say this was rolling is a lie. I might need to discuss the definition of rolling with the course descriptors. 🙂 It was downright hilly. And hot. And incredibly windy. I had ridden some of the course everyday leading up to the race and there was minimal wind. Ironman power for those rides was getting me about 22 mph. I noticed the day before the race later in the afternoon while sitting at the pool the wind was kicking up. I hoped it was just for that day.

Coming up off the water and out of transition was about a mile long climb that included some cobblestones. The first turn left onto the highway (the only road in Cabo really) was dead into the wind. The stretch was about 10 miles long and was difficult to say the least. I averaged about 13 miles an hour at slightly above my goal watts during this stretch. Between the wind and the climbs, all I could think was how long a day this would be if my speed was like 15 mph. Thankfully as we turned back for the next 15 or so miles we had a decent tailwind. With no shortage of climbs.

The pavement was generally very nice. However, there were several patches along the course with “reflectors” bunched up to make cars slow down for turns ahead or coming into town. They are placed in an alternating pattern making wedging your bike tires between then very interesting. One section of said reflectors came during one of the faster descents with a tailwind making it a booby trap for water bottles, cages, and unfortunately, even a few people. These were scattered along the road that we rode up and down twice meaning we rode over 4 times. They were also in several places. I opted for caution while crossing vs dukes of hazard style like many chose. I think I made the right choice. 🙂

The “best” part of the course was the tollroad that leads to the airport. This was where the “one climb” was. And yes, it was a climb. It was about 2 miles long but not super steep for the most part. Going so slow for 15 or so minutes on black pavement with no shade, no clouds and 80+ degrees made for quite a hot stretch of the race. It was stifling. I was patient on the climb sticking to about 200 watts and being sure to pour water on myself and my head to keep cool. After cresting the top of the hill, there was a nice downhill followed by several other larger rollers. On the first time down the decent, the gusts of wind were so strong from the side that air must have seeped into my disc cover and literally ripped in half! I pulled over and tore the rest of it off (while getting a huge gushing bloody gash in my finger) and was on the road shortly after. I was curious how riding with one half of my wheel covered and the other opened would be. It didn’t feel any different riding, though my second loop was a bit slower than the first, which may be part due to stronger winds. Something I’ll never know.

Other than being tossed by a massive gust of wind to the right while passing a guy going downhill and rubbing wheels nearly causing him to wreck, the remainder of the ride was the same. Hot, windy and hilly. My 5:48 bike split was one of the top female splits! I think I passed almost 500 people on the course which always feels good. But there’s still a long race ahead, so not as good as it could. 🙂 I stood up a bunch on the ride and my legs felt awesome every time. I was ready to run!

Reality: Rolling bike course on pristine pavement = hilly as hell with some much less than stellar pavement in parts and massive wind. Doh.

Run. 5:something Goal: finish

Well feeling ready to run didn’t last long. I expected my foot to hurt and it didn’t let me down. I expected my legs to be sore and stiff for the first few miles, but my glutes were not firing. At all. I’ve ridden hundreds of miles training on this bike, in aero position at these exact watts so I’m not sure why my glutes failed me, but they sure did. As I continued to run, given how slow the pace was, my foot revolted. The sole of my foot began to hurt tremendously from trying to avoid pressure on my heal. I was getting hot spots all over my foot. Pain in my ankle ensued from trying to land on weird parts of my foot. My left hip started hurting from all the crap going on in the right foot.

By 4 miles in I changed my mindset to finishing. I knew it wouldn’t be fast or the race that I trained so hard for but it would be the best race for me on this day. And that is what Ironman is all about. The run was also scorching hot. It reminded me of Louisville with pretty much no shade. I stared feeling dizzy about 15 miles in and crammed whatever I could down my throat to avoid it. I have never done well in the heat but I didn’t better today than I ever have. And it only took 41 endurolytes!

Reality: Flat run course = a bridge than you go up and over 3 times, several long gradual hills and zero shade. And like 85 degrees.

Finish: 12:33

So I crossed the line in 12:33 cause I know everyone is wondering how bad it really was 🙂 It goes down as my slowest Ironman by over an hour and 20 min, but this one goes down as one of my proudest. Setting out for 26 miles in pain and putting one foot in front of the next for over 5 hours is nothing short of mentally challenging. There was no way I wasn’t crossing the finish line yesterday after what I’ve put myself through with this foot for the last 5 months. I remained relentlessly positive the whole time and reminded myself that the finish was all that mattered. Yes I would have loved to earn by sub 11 hour race, my slot at Kona and all the bells and whistles with racing the race I’m capable of, but there will be another day for that (maybe). Accepting the good and bad is part of this sport, any sport, and I’ve made huge gains in that department.

Reality: I never expected this race course to be “easy” cause that word doesn’t belong in the same sentence as Ironman, but I did expect it to be a little friendlier. That also comes with doing an inaugural event, I suppose.

I’ll end with what I always end with. Huge thank you’s to everyone who followed (or tried to follow), supported, cheered and reached out to me. Leigh-Ann you are awesome. My cousin and Ashley are awesome. My mom and dad are awesome. And my sister, there are no words. I am so lucky.


I Have a Plan

03/15/2013

Greetings from Los Cabos!! I’ve been here since Tuesday getting the lay of the land, relaxing, focusing and getting my mind right for what I hope will be a great race for me. This place is beautiful; the weather is absolutely perfect, the food has been great, the resort is wonderful and I’m an all-around happy camper. 🙂

I realize I just took a very long vacation not that long ago (October) but this is a different kind of vacation. My trip to NZ and AUS was nothing short of amazing, but there was little to no relaxing since there was so much we wanted to do and see. Despite my inability to relax indoors and watch TV or lay around, I have a surprising ability to sit in a lawn chair by a pool for endless hours doing nothing. This vacation was much needed!!

The only thing left to do before the race is a quick swim, ride, run tomorrow, rest, drink fluids, and some last minute logistics, which can be daunting. This is a point to point swim, as well as a 2 separate transition race which always makes things interesting. Bike check in, pre race meetings, transition bag drop off, etc…a lot of “schlepping”. Such is triathlons though.

I get butterflies in my tummy as I go through my race plan in my head for the millionth time, but I think they are butterflies of excitement vs nerves. I have a plan, I’ve rehearsed my plan on every workout in some form or fashion for the last 5/6 months, and now I just need to execute that plan on one day. I feel more confident than ever going into this race. My fitness is huge. I’m 5 lbs lighter than I have been at my 3 previous IM’s. We’ve spent hours on my mental game. My nutrition is beyond basic and (hopefully) foolproof. I have a detailed plan for how I will race and even backup plans for various scenarios. The makings are there and it’s up to me to get ‘er done!!

I’m relaxing in my hotel room for the next day and a half trying to stay out of the sun and get hydrated. Takes a lot to not want to grab a chair and work on my (still very lackluster) tan. Please email or text me (iMessages only) or FB me or something before I go stir crazy! 🙂

I will check in after the race. Hopefully with a good report!!

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2012 Year in Review and Some Totals for the Number People

01/03/2013

I think I’ve been kinda of dreading the whole recap post because when I think back on my 2012 race season, it wasn’t one of my best. I had a few good, shorter races / results here and there, but as a whole, all of my “bigger” races did not go as planned. Despite wishing my races had been more successful, I managed to take each “bad” race with a grain of salt, learn something, and move on. Hence why I’ve been a little less excited to reflect back on races I’ve vowed to move on from. 🙂

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Looking back, I had three big races planned for 2012 starting with White Lake (and I only consider it big because of its distance, not necessarily its importance), Eagleman 70.3 and Worlds. Each race left quite a bit to be desired on the results front (or lack thereof) but I can confidently say that each race taught me a very valuable lesson about either myself, my training, my nutrition, course selection, etc.

White Lake: Long and short of it was, I woke up ~25 min before my swim start and then my left adductor starting absolutely killing me 1/2 way through the bike ride. I headed out on the run in pain and unable / unwilling to suffer through 13+ miles in 90+ heat. DNF’ing at any race, big or small, A, B, C-race, long course or short course, pretty much sucks. But, I made the decision to call it a day with fear I would further injure myself and I’m proud that I was able to do so. I never really got to the bottom of what exactly caused my leg to hurt so badly, but I imagine a lot had to do with a new bike and a new fit. So I learned a lot at this race – 1.) set two alarms 2.) that it takes quite a while to get adjusted to a new bike fit 3) that my new bike fit (little did I realize) was pretty darn aggressive for a longer distance racing 4.) that you shouldn’t attempt a 56 mile ride, on a new bike, with a new, aggressive bike fit, on a pancake flat course, when the longest you’d ridden on the bike prior was ~45 miles and lastly, 5.) that its possible to wake up, down an eGel for “breakfast”, sprint to a race site on your bike, set up your transition, get your chip (thanks to my sister), get in your wetsuit and get to the start of a race in less than 25 minutes. Hopefully I won’t need to be practicing that ever again!! I think the bike issues have worked itself out as I have zero plans to get a new triathlon bike for at least the next 47 years and I’m more than comfortable at this point.

Eagleman: I stretched at mile 0.25 on the run only to have my entire hamstring tie itself in a ball. What I learned / confirmed is that I don’t do well in the heat. Period. I learned a lot about salt intake for 90-100 degree temps and confirmed I don’t like pancake flat races. I finished here in ~5:40 I believe (truly cannot remember), my slowest 70.3 race by a lot after the longest 13.1 mile death march of my life….but I gutted it out and earned my medal and I’m happy that I did. 🙂

Worlds: Well, I think of all the races that didn’t go so well, I learned the most at Worlds about preparation, mental toughness and changing your race day plan / expectation on the fly, which we so often have to do in triathlon. From the minute we arrived in Auckland, my race day plan needed revision and so did my bike set up. I had only brought along my deep dish wheels and with winds of 40-50 km/hour, I learned to come more prepared. Given my bike bag can hold two sets of wheels, going forward, I’ll be sure to take advantage of this. I also learned after the first 400 meters of the swim that I was going to have to revise my race result expectations and even more so, after about 10 miles into the bike ride after pulling over two times for various mishaps. Instead of giving up, I used the bad swim and crappy bike ride to fuel me for a great, “enjoyable’ run and vowed to smile the whole time. Turns out, smiling is infectious! Adjusting your expectations on the fly is a crucial part of this sport.

Though I didn’t have the day I’m capable of, or that I hoped, in any of these bigger races, 2012 did have a lot of ups that I am truly proud of! In no particular order…

1. I raced my first year in the “open” category for the NC series (huge tail between my legs moment) and was delighted to finish as the 5th overall female for the year.

2. I joined MAC Masters – a program I’ve heard about, been encouraged to join, been tempted to join for over 3 years, but never had the courage.

3. I came within a minute of an Olympic time trial gold medalists time at the Lowe’s TT and posted a top 3 female times ever (21:49).

4. I led two Olympic distance races for the first ~2 miles of the run and despite getting passed, managed to hold on to 2nd in both. (There will be no getting passed in 2013!) 🙂

5. I won the NC State Time Trial Championship.

6. I upgraded from a Cat 4 to a Cat 3 road cyclist.

7. I ran a 5k PR (20:10) and a 13.1 (1:36) PR.

8. I hired a new coach whom I adore, is understanding and truly my friend.

9. I got an new awesomely sweet bike that makes me go really fast.

10. I got a great promotion at my “real job”.

And, last but maybe the most gratifying of them all…

11. I coached 18 amazing athletes to PR’s, new distances, and great seasons of their own!

All in all, I’d say 2012 was a very successful year!

As I do every year, here are my totals for 2012 as compared to 2011.

2012 2011
Swimming: 355,939 yards – 127 hours 323,707 – 128 hours
Biking: 4,533 miles – 235 hours 5,113 miles – 257 hours
Running: 1,188 miles – 150 hours 1,113 miles – 148 hours
Strength/Yoga: 86 hours 56 hours

As a whole, it was a great year for me training-wise. Given my focus on shorter distance, my volume is lower than it was in 2009 and 2010, which is to be expected. I suspect 2013 will include a lot more swimming and quite a bit more of everything, which makes me happy. I credit 86 hours of strength training, which is primarily in the form of yoga, for keeping me generally very healthy and injury-free despite training hard with little down time for 5 years now!

I hope everyone takes the time to reflect back on their race season, their big races, their good races, their not so good races and pats themselves on the back – regardless of the results. Whether you finished 1st or 101st, you trained day in and day out, you had the courage to toe the line and you got yourself to the finish line – and that’s what really matters!


The Turkey Trot

11/26/2012

I thought I’d provide a quick update on the Turkey Trot this year, cause that’s just what I do….race, and update.  🙂

If you read last years Thanksgiving post, it was the first year I’ve missed Charlotte’s Turkey Trot since 2002 due to my parents ailing dog who had just had a stroke of sorts.  Most importantly and actually pretty miraculously, Parker is STILL with us one full year later!  He’s at least 14/15 years old now but hanging on, “smiling”, and going on walks, albeit very slow, but we are  just so thankful to still have him though, even though we realize it won’t be forever.

So needless to say, I was excited to be here in town this weekend to get out and do my favorite run!  Dawn planned to run the 8k also and my parents were on board to walk the 5k.  I was instructed to run this as a test set to get some good, threshold, stand-alone running paces/data.  Test sets always provide a small amount of angst, even if the only person you’re competing against is yourself.  I also had a bit of uneasiness about how my heel, and some (short-lived) adductor pain I’d been feeling would hold up during the race.

We got there with plenty of time and I headed out to do my pre-race warm up.  My adductor was causing me to limp and my heel felt like it had needles in it.  I ran about a mile before turning around and was so annoyed to say the least. I had gone to masters swimming bright and early that morning thinking it would help loosed things up, but apparently no go.  I continued to warm up slowly and on the way to the start line I contemplated for a good 10 seconds about not running and risking further injuring something.  Then I thought about the apple cobbler I made and my mom’s stuffing and decided to do the race.  🙂  I figured I could always walk if it hurt.

The gun went off and 6,000 Turkey Trotters were off.  I was about 25 rows from the front, and in hindsight, just need to line up further to the front.  People in front of me took off at a blistering, oh, 10 min pace, which is by far the most annoying thing to deal with.  I don’t understand why people prefer to be trampled?

There isn’t much to say about this race other than I ran smooth and hard and really didn’t feel either my heel or my adductor much at all!  The tugging in my adductor forced me to keep my form tight and not over-stride, which I have a tendency to do.  I could feel it every time I did so it served as a “nice” reminder to keep my cadence high and hips in good alignment.  For the most part, it was all good!

Given the undulation of the course, my mile splits were a little up and down, but it seemed most people’s varied at least a little.  They ranged from 6:37 – 7:00 which I was happy to hit these paces given no rest on my legs the day before and having swam masters before the race.  My chip time was 34:14 (6:53 pace), but the website has me listed at 31 something for some reason.  I can’t take credit for running quite that fast.  🙂 Not yet at least

This week is recovery for me and I’m kinda excited.  Short speed stuff and a few days of rest!  Wooo hooo!!


Feeling Good Feels Good.

11/18/2012

Getting back from my trip, my body felt absolutely awful, I was somewhat disappointed with the results at Worlds (but also not in some ways), I was so sleepy tired that I was feeling off in my workouts, and I admit, I had a bit of angst / regret / stress about having registered for an Ironman in March.  I had exactly 21 weeks from when I got back to get ready, which is plenty of time for someone with my base fitness, but a taking a winter break was crossing my mind more often than I wanted it to….likely fueled most by the aches and pains I was feeling.

My coach was awesome, understanding and accommodating of my two weeks of not hitting my all of workouts like I normally try to do and she also allowed me to do as much yoga as my little heart desired.  Yoga is so restorative to my body and more importantly, my mind…it’s hard as all get out, I get so hot I see spots sometimes, I drip sweat more than your average girl, and I smell like crap when I leave, but I have never once left the studio not feeling better than I did when I went in – both physically and mentally!

Fast forward to this weekend where I had Thunder Road and a ~3 hour ride planned.  As I stated in my last post, I was instructed to use the race as a training run.  I had very specific paces that I was to stick to and I planned to do just that.  Well, I have proved to myself once again, that I am not capable of toeing the line to a race with a chip on my foot and following my coaches orders.  Must keep working on that! 🙂

My instructions were to run the first 6 miles no faster than 8:15 pace, and even slower was ok.  Then I had some tempo miles with some threshold work towards the end.  Well, when the first mile ticked off at 7:45, with my heart rate not even to my official zone 1 yet, I thought long and hard about my workout and what I was going to do for the next 12 – either slow the heck down or continue to run based on feel.  I decided on the later.  I told myself not to let my HR go above 168 (zone 2), which correlated to a ~7:25-7:50 pace.  Obviously to keep your HR under zone 3 on a hill requires to you run it REALLY easy.  After the half way point though, everything still felt really good so I picked up the pace just a bit.  By mile 11, I was hitting low 7:20’s and mile 12-13.25 averaged 6:59 with a HR never higher than 178!

My official race time was 1:40 and change, but I’m protesting that because my watch said 13.22 miles despite running the tangents pretty dang tight.  🙂 1:39/1:40 is irrelevant to the matter – it wasn’t a PR and it wasn’t supposed to be.  What IS relevant is how great I felt and with such relative “ease” that I ran it.  It was by far the most enjoyable half marathon I’ve ever run.  I checked my log from running this race 2 years ago and my average HR was almost 16 bpm higher average and I only ran it ~2 minutes faster overall.  I realize I’m not breaking any ground speed records and I probably never will, but I am still very happy with making progress. 🙂

Given I’d had 16 miles on my legs from yesterday (3 additional miles with a client who was finishing up the full), I was somewhat skeptical with how today’s ride would go.  Happy to report that I felt absolutely perfect and was able to hit all power numbers as prescribed.  And what beautiful fall day for a ride.

It feels good to feel good!

What does not feel good though is my heel.  Grrrr.  It felt great during the run yesterday – I don’t recall ever feeling any pain at all.  I was really hoping I was in the clear!  However, stupid heel has reminded me who is boss.  😦  I’ve iced, rolled, stretched and slept in my boot and it feels a bit better after the ride today.  APR session #2 and a visit to Dr. G is in the plans for hopefully tomorrow or Tuesday.

Hope everyone enjoyed their weekend and I hope you’re feeling as good as I am!


Survive, Don’t Crash, Run

10/22/2012

While this race is fresh in my mind, I will provide the skinny though this one will be hard to forget!  🙂

The sprint race was first in the morning making my start time after 9am and it was nice not having to be up and out and the butt crack of dawn for once!  After  setting up my transition area, I came back to the hotel gym to stretch out well, spin on the bike and do a quick 5 min run to get the juices flowing.  I felt really really great and loose and giddy with excitement for the adventure ahead!

I arrived at my corral in plenty of time and was anxious to get in the water.  It was very cool to be around 100 girls all my age wearing wet suits that hid the different countries we all represented.  At that moment, we were just 100 girls all feeling the same anxiety of the day ahead and it was one of my favorite moments of the day.

Swim:  The 59 degree temperature of the water that we were so anxious about leading up to the race was the least of my concerns at this point.  Given I’d gotten a good warm up in and we’d been standing in our wet suits for 30 minutes, the cold water actually felt quite nice.

The swim course was like a T in block lettering, if that makes sense.  The vertical part of the T was about 300 meters within a wharf where you were “protected” by the huge docks on either side.  The rest of the swim was out past the wharf in the open seas.  I was with the main pack for the whole first 300 meters and was swimming very good for me!  Wet suits and really salty water seem to bode well for me.

But that didn’t last long.  At about 350 meters, we hung a left at the first buoy and, there’s no other way to say it other than “shit got crazy”.  As I sit here almost 24 hours after the race is over, I’m still rocking in my seat.  With having only ever swam one other time in the ocean in my triathlon “career” at my FIRST triathlon in 2008, and having not done much actual free style swimming in said race, I was literally a fish out of water.  I made it to the right turn buoy with minimal issues but the best was certainly yet to come!

As we rounded the next buoy, shit got really interesting.  A HUGE barge/cruise ship came by us about 500/600/700 meters away, which upped the ante quite a bit on the already 3 foot swells.  I’m not sure how the girls who swam “normal swim times” navigated through these conditions.  I was swimming, but it was ugly.  I remained calm and tried to remind myself that I wasn’t the only one in these conditions, but after seeing the results, clearly they affected me far more than the other girls.  I don’t know how you train for conditions like this, but apparently I need to step that up if I plan to do any more ocean swimming in white cap waves.  The rest of the time out on the open water was horrific and felt like a race of survival.  All I wanted to do was get the hell out of this water.  Little did I know, the next hour or so would be just as interesting.

T1:  The run to T1 must have been at least 1/2 a mile.  On frozen feet, it felt even longer.  As I mounted my bike, my foot slipped getting into my left shoe which resulted in the strap flying open.  I couldn’t get it threaded back through the latch while riding so the first mishap of the ride occurred 1 min later when I stopped, pulled over and latched my shoe.  Ugh.

Bike:  This goes down in the record books as the craziest, scariest ride of my life. I am not a fearful rider but I rode scared, because I was.  I have never hated my very expensive, beautiful Zipp 808 wheels as much as I did for these 25 miles.  The wind here, like most islands, is not steady but rather random gusts of winds from all directions.  And it’s frightening.  Those without race wheels were much better off than us with them and I wished I had my road bike for the entire ride.

The course was a 2 loop “P” shaped course, more or less.  The round part of the P included 3 steep climbs, about 1/2 – 1 km long, with very technical descents on the backside.  I really enjoyed the climbs with all of the spectators lining the streets and it was also the only time of the day thus far that I wasn’t mildly afraid for my life.  I stuck to my normalized power goals, more or less, and felt great while climbing, but was clung to my handlebars pumping my breaks for every descent with my bike flailing all over the road like a leaf.   I passed a lot of girls which felt good, but knowing my swim time, I knew it really didn’t matter.  I also got passed by three or four 35-39 year old girls who presumably went on to win their age group.  I’ll admit, getting passed riding is unusual and was quite humbling.

On the 4th climb of my first loop, my stupid chain fell off.  I have no idea why, honestly.  I don’t think that has ever happened to me on this particular bike but it did.  And I don’t think with Di2, you can just shift to your big ring and pick it back up but I’ll have to look in to that.  So I pulled over yet again to get that taken care of.  Double ugh.

The second loop was much less of a disaster, as a whole, but by then I didn’t feel as if I was actually racing….more damage controlling.  Overall, I wished I could have enjoyed this beautiful ride more than I did, but I did the best I could to take in the scenery and remind myself of this once in a lifetime experience.

I couldn’t wait to run.  Five words you will not hear me say very often.

T2:  I hopped off my bike and made the 1/2 mile long trek into transition feeling a wave of relief wash over me.  It was at this point, I was certain October 22nd wouldn’t be my last day on this earth.  🙂

Run:  it took a few minutes to get my legs under me – thankfully it took no less than 2 minutes to run out of transition so by the time the run course actually started I was good to go.  From that point on it was just run with whatever energy I had left.  The mental exhaustion of the swim and bike certainly took much more of a toll on me than the physical.  My legs felt great, and I ran the first 4 miles strong.  I faded a bit at the end, but I think I somewhat subconsciously slowed down to try to savor the moments.  I was suffering, but I was also enjoying the crowds and the support of everyone out on the streets a ton.  I battled back and forth with an Aussie girl for about 4 miles which made it feel like I was actually racing for the first time during the day.  The wind was also very present on a few parts of the course.  Though it was flat, running hard along the water into 20-25 mph winds made it feel there were actually hills on the course!  Regardless, the run was the most enjoyable part of the day for me.

I met the cameraman who would be compiling all of the age group race video in the gym earlier that morning.  He told me if I did something cool at the finish line he would put me in the video.  So for the last 1-2 miles I contemplated what I could do that would be cool.  I contemplated a cartwheel, but I was feeling a little queasy by that point and was afraid a cartwheel might make me toss my cookies.  Laying down sounded much more appealing.  So I decided to mirror one of my favorite triathlete’s signature move (Chrissie Wellington) and do a Blazeman roll over the finish line.  The man who took my chip said it was the best finish he’d seen all day 🙂

By the end of the race I had come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t actually competing for a place or a prize, but proud of myself for enduring the conditions, the bike mishaps and finishing the race mentally strong.  I didn’t expect to be a top contender by any means, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t expect to finish slightly higher than 48th out of 98 in my age group.  Sans my transition and chain mishap, I may have finished 40-42nd or so, which is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

What it boils down to is these girls are some of the best in the world – the Kiwi’s brought a very strong team considering the race is local, and the Aussie’s weren’t far behind – and quite frankly, I’m not.  I’m realistic to realize I don’t train in these conditions and I certainly wasn’t prepared for them, but I also realize that I’m simply not as strong or well rounded as they are.  Some people will look at it from the prospective that I was better than 50 other girls in my age group.  The realistic / competitive / pessimistic side of me, however, looks at it from the 47 girls were better than me prospective.  Which is what keeps me training hard I suppose.

As I’ve said many times this week, I was beyond thankful and appreciative to just be out there representing my country.  Hearing “Go USA” time and time again as I passed spectators nearly made me tear up nearly every time. Running down the finishing shoot with an American flag waving and the crowd cheering is truly something I will never forget.   Congrats to Sandy on a great race and for being able to run the full 10k despite a hamstring injury for the last 5 weeks!

Go Team USA!!!