Friday, October 26, 2012

Beaches, Battleships and Blondes

Beach 2 Battleship

While sitting around the fire at a triathlon training camp, Peggy, Kim and I decided to do the Beach to Battleship Iron relay. I was to be the swimmer, Kim the cyclist and Peggy was the runner. We came up with the name 3 non-blondes and 6 months later we were hitting the road for Wilmington, NC. The girls piled into Peggy's car and the boys took the Weeks' truck and we caravaned to Augusta for dinner.

We continued on to Columbia, SC where we stopped for the night. Up early the next morning we headed to Cracker Barrel for some breakfast and then back on the road to Wilmington. Once there we met up with Harry who was doing the full Iron distance along with Tripp - both 7 weeks post Ironman Louisville. We arrived just in time to catch the end of the mandatory athlete meeting which gave very little instruction in regards to the relay. We checked in, got our arm bands and swim cap, bike stickers and run numbers and everyone got their gear situated.

Next stop was to check in the hotel, drop off bikes in transition and head to the beach. While at transition we asked about the relay and got passed along to two more people before finding that we would just switch the timing chip at the bike rack. We checked out the swim exit which was pretty far across the road (booties would be worn for sure so I could run across the pavement). We then headed over to the swim start and got the layout of the swim course. Buoys were not in place yet so I checked out the online map to be absolutely sure of the course.

Blondes at the Beach

I originally planned to take a quick dip in the water but it was already late in the day and we needed to get some dinner. Back downtown and dinner with the group. Since I was just swimming I didn't worry too much about my pre-race dinner. I had crabcakes and fries and they were quite good. After dinner we headed back to the hotel to get ready for bed. 

Up the next morning at 4:30 for a 5:30 departure. I slept great. No pre-race nervousness since I just had to swim. I found I had lots of leftover time and could have slept a bit longer. I had all my gear ready to go and a portable pre-race breakfast.

Early morning Blondes
 The logistics of this race are very complicated and without a support crew it could be extremely difficult. The swim start, T1, T2 and finish were all in different locations. This is not typical but not completely abnormal. It was further complicated by the relay so here was the plan: John drove Harry, Tripp, Kim and I to transition. Everyone checked in their bikes and got body marked. I stayed in the car and waited for their return and Peggy stayed at the hotel to rest up. With that task completed, Harry, Tripp and I headed to the swim start while Kim waited for us at T1.

Coach Angry Bird is on the case

Harry, Tripp and I met up with Mike Delang at the trolley to take us to the swim start. We passed the time chatting with some Coast Guard guys that Tripp befriended on the trolley ride. Soon it was time to get the wetsuit on and swim!

There's Tripp adjusting my google strap - swim buddy!!

The plan for the swim was to hang toward the back and then Tripp and I would swim together like we did in Louisville. There was no gun or canon. Eminem's "Lose Yourself" came on the speakers and it was time to go. We made our way to the water where I spotted my coach cheering people on and I gave him a high five but I know he did not realize it was me with cap, goggles and full wetsuit on. 

Tripp and I walked about 3 steps into the water and the it got deep quick and it was swim time. None of the usual butterflies, just a nice swim toward the first buoy. It came up quick as expected since the race is timed for the best current. I heard the left side was the fastest but all the buoys were right so we stayed more toward the middle. 

It was very difficult to see the next buoy since it was very far away but again it came up quick. I knew we were moving well since I didn't have to keep stopping to slow my breathing into a normal rhythm. I guess the fact that this was all I had to do made it seems less daunting. I was frustrated by the lack of buoys to site off of so I chose the hotel at the finish as my target. This worked well until the zig zag turns started. 

The race briefing was unclear as to turn buoys and nothing was said pre-race. Typically, courses are marked by yellow distance buoys and orange turn buoys. The only buoys you have to have on your left are turn buoys. With no instructions and 3 different colored buoys some parts were not clear. The volunteers in the water told Tripp and I to stay to the right of one green buoy on the zig zag so we had to correct a bit before making the turn. At this point the swim was sideways to the current and I was struggling a little to stay on course and not get pushed under the docks near shore. We eventually made it to the next right turn where we stopped to sight for the next left turn. The current here was strong and we could see ourselves being pushed ahead so we swam on and headed toward the next "turn" buoy. This time the volunteers told us to keep it to our right and just keep going so we headed toward the hotel on a direct line. 

My Swim

Just ahead was the swim exit. We had to wait in line (?!) to climb up ladders and once we were out I hauled ass to T1.  Garmin said 1:08 as I began my run. I ran by the wetsuit strippers, ran by the glasses pick up table (to be revisited later), through the showers to rinse off the salt water around the corner through the parking lot across the road then past the transition bags and straight to Kim. It was no short trek but I made the most of my time. We exchanged the timing chip and off she went. 

I am gaining on you

Eat my dust

There was a little friendly competition going on between friends and I was quite pleased to see Harry exiting T1 after Kim. Now that Kim was gone I was supposed to wait for Tripp to get changed and get his glasses so we could later get them to him on the run. Tripp came out of the changing tent and he said he never saw the glasses pick up after them swim. I assured him I would get them and he took off on the bike. I was able to retrieve Tripp's glasses and then John and I started our journey back to the hotel. I kind of wanted to take a nap before showering and delivering Peggy to T2 but we ended up getting trapped in traffic getting off the island. One of the lanes on the bridge was closed because of the race so it took quite a while to get back to the hotel. No nap for me.

I showered and got my stuff together for the evening. We figured Kim's bike leg would be about 6 hours if everything went well. We got to T1 just in time to see Holly and Sandy head out on the run for the Half Ironman. We relaxed and waited for Peggy to run.

Looks a lot like 666 - Runnin' with the Devil

Soon we saw Mike Delang come in from the bike and Kim was right behind him! Kim ran out just behind Mike and exchanged the timing chip and off goes Peggy. 

Kim coming in from the Bike

Peggy is on the Run

We waited for Peggy to come back around for a quick photo op

Kim headed back to the hotel to shower and John and I grabbed some dinner. We met back up with Kim and headed out to the run turn around. Judging by the time we missed Mike and Peggy but soon Sarah, Dale, Harry and Tripp came by. Everyone was looking good with the exception of Tripp. He was nauseous and had been getting sick the last mile or so. John kept walking with him and tried to get Tripp to continue but eventually it got to the point where Tripp decided to stop. John took him to the medical tent while we continued to wait for Peggy. 

At one point we had asked a volunteer if we could cross the finish line together and we were told no but we had just seen a woman cross the finish line with her child so we decided to ask someone else. I found the Setup events tent at the finish line and I asked if we could run across the finish line together. The response I got was "We are not Ironman. We don't care. Just as long as you don't interfere with another finisher then you can do whatever you want." 
So, we ran to the end of the finishers chute and waited for Peggy. Soon we saw her running out of the darkness and we ran across the finish line - 12:57. Woo Hoo!!

Later, Peggy said she didn't realize it was us at first and thought we were 2 nice ladies who want to run with her. She was a little delirious I guess :)
We went to collect our finishers medals and we were told that Kim and I had to wait until midnight or the next day in order to be sure all the individuals got medals. Um, really? Here's a thought. Order enough medals for all the participants and there won't be an issue. Not cool! I later learned they ran out of Half Ironman finishers medals. Really not cool!!

More important things than arguing with volunteers so we headed back to the medical tent to check on Tripp. Tripp was doing much better and was soon to be discharged. A Spartan just checked in because he was peeing blood - all in a days work at the Ironman medical tent. While waiting for Tripp we took some more pictures

Purple, Pink and Blue

Tripp was feeling much better after 2 IVs and some anti-nausea medicine so we headed out to the finish line and just as we arrived Harry crossed the finish line!! Sub 14 Harry - 7 weeks after Louisville!! Yay Harry!!

Coach Vader and his young Jedi

For the most part it was a successful weekend. Tripp was in good spirits and everyone had a fun weekend so it was time to celebrate!!

Race Impressions: A great race for anyone who wants to do a non corporate Ironman or half. You can't beat the fast swim! The relay was a nice way to participate and spectate. Let's just hope they get that medal issue resolved before next year.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What's the Big Mystery?

Mystery Mountain Weekend

Mystery Mountain Marathon 12 miler - I have wanted to do this race for a while but there is usually a conflict and I cant do it. This year it was Stump Jump 50K that was the problem. This race is the weekend afterwards and despite the Redneck Goofy experience last spring, I decided a 12 mile trail race the weekend after a 50K seemed a bit nuts. However, when I dropped back to the 11(.5) miler at Stump Jump this seemed like it was doable. John was on board to volunteer and Coach said it was all good so I signed up. 

The plan was to camp at Ft Mountain the night before. Here we go with the camping again. The Stump Jump experience wasn't so bad so I figured why not? I had to work that Saturday so I was up early after a long week being the late PA. I got a little ambushed with unexpected work but muddled through and was home by around 2:00. We packed up the car and hit the road. 

Fort Mountain is near Carter's Lake and was an integral part of the Mountain Madness half Ironman I did last spring. Thankfully, I didn't have to bike up the mountain. Instead I had to run all around it. Our GPS sent us through Elijay which was celebrating an apple festival or something that day. Anyway, lots of people, scarecrows and activities going on in the main square. 

Here is a nice example but there were also some really creepy ones. In particular outside a funeral home they had a scarecrow funeral complete with dirt plot and flowers. Weird. 

We made it to race check in and the pre-race dinner. We got our tent setup and enjoyed a nice time around the fire with some fellow campers and runners

I did not sleep great. I was up a bunch of times to go to the bathroom. A few beers were had around the fire. Also, it was very cold that night so I slept bundled up in the sleeping bag and kept waking up when my shoulder and arm would fall asleep. Finally, it was time to get up. Unlike last week I had my full allotment of running clothes and was ready to start the day. John had to meet up with the volunteers earlier than the race start so we headed to the race start in our PJs. John continued to wear his PJs all day but I changed in the bathrooms. Bunny slippers don't make great trail shoes.

Once dressed and ready to go I met up with some friends and we got ready to start the race. The cannon went off and we were on our way. The race started winding around the lake and then soon we were climbing and then there was more climbing. The trails were similar to Stump Jump but there were not a lot of places to really run. Whenever possible I ran as hard as I could but mostly it was maneuvering around roots, rocks and trees. I ran through all the aid stations and said a quick hello to John as I passed by. I did not stop to admire the scenery just kept moving. I did not feel quit as peppy as last week and did not pass as many people this time around. We could see the finish line from across the lake but I still had 1.5 miles to go according to my garmin. I started to feel a bit tired having pushed the last mile or two. I slowed to grab a gu and turned the corner and there was the finish. What? I felt pretty stupid but picked up the pace and ran across the finish at 3:03. Having no idea what the course was like I figure 3:00 was a good bet given my time last weekend at the 11.5 miler. Had I not slowed down for the Gu I would have made 3:00 easily. Oh well, not sure if the Garmin was off because of the trees and switchbacks or the race itself was a little off in distance. In the end it didn't really matter since I had a good time and enjoyed the trails that day. 

Post race I "iced" my legs in the lake and then changed into warmer clothes and enjoyed some chili, beer and got to hang out with the GUTS crew. A good time was had by all. Even if the park ranger made me throw out my beer :)

Even though I didn't feel quite as sassy as the previous week I did pretty darn good considering this race had 1100 more feet of climbing. I would definitely do this race again. Maybe even do the marathon. It's always a good time at a GUTS race. Next up Beach 2 Battleship Iron Relay! 

Mystery Mountain

Stump Jump

Ice bath

View from the tent

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Homecoming, Bones, Blood and Bees

2012 Stump Jump 11miler Race Report

Finish Line
One week prior to this race I had a trail run on my schedule where I was instructed to attack the hills and run hard for 1:15. Actually, it was on my schedule for Saturday after an open water swim but I wasn't feeling up to a hard run that day so I pushed it to Sunday. We headed out to Kennesaw to do the Kolb Farm/Cheatham Hill loop when I saw on facebook they were going to be doing cannon firings at the Illinois monument. John had Betty along for his "recovery" run so we decided to cut the 5.6 mile loop short and just do 5 while avoiding the monument. Who knows how crazy Betty would react to the cannons? Turns out Betty could not have cared less. Elevator dings freak her the f' out but she is all good with cannons. 

The run went well, I pushed hard up all the hills and finished in 55 minutes. Probably the fastest I have ever run that trail. John actually remarked I was running fast that day. 
The rest of the week consisted of 3 more runs and a swim that didn't happen (the reasons why were many but in the end lack of motivation sealed the deal). I took it easy for 5 miles at the GUTS Tuesday night run and enjoyed chatting with Kim, one my fellow Lou-natics. Wednesday was supposed to be a quick run with a few short bursts of speed. I took Betty with me on the Comet and it was not a good run for either of us. Usually Betty gets in run mode and nothing gets in her way. That day Betty had to pee and poop about every 50 feet. Now this would have been a real pain if I was in training mode but turns out my left hip was starting to hurt a LOT. Every time I tried to really run it acted up. So, we did a 45 minute walk/run of sorts and that workout was a wash.

I took the day off work on Friday since packet pickup ends at 6:00. Last year was extremely stressful trying to get out of work and then fight traffic to get there in time. They have a nice expo in the riverfront park so I wanted to get there with plenty of time to enjoy the afternoon in Chattanooga. Last year we stayed in town and made the drive up to Signal Mountain for the race start. This year they offered camping at the school for $25. Since I wasn't doing the 50K I thought sleeping on the ground would probably be OK prior to the race. I learned Thursday, via facebook, that Friday was going to be Signal Mountain Middle school's Homecoming and we were assured that the festivities would die down by 10:30. Oh joy!

 I slept in, got a few things done around the house and dropped off the dog. I did a survey on facebook to see which outfit to wear and skeleton girl won out unanimously. I scooped up my clothes, dumped them in the bag and packed the rest of my gear. This will come back to bite me on race day. We packed the car and headed out.

3 outfit choices 

The drive to Chattanooga was uneventful and we arrived in good time. We went straight to the expo and found it to be less interesting than in years past. We checked in and since not much was going on at the park despite it being a beautiful day we headed over to the nearby Brewhaus for some food and beer. Our friend Leah met us there along with Joel and his cousin Bobby. We hung out for a bit and then headed back to the park for the panel. It was comprised of a few of the top runners from Salomon and Vasque team and Max King the expected winner. I didn't know any of these people and this was again a little less exciting than the North face speaker series they had done the last 2 years. While the panel was going on I snuck over to take some pictures of the hot air balloons that were in progress next door. 

This is why I love Chattanooga. Every time I have been there it seems very outdoor oriented. The riverfront park is beautiful and there is a lot of fun things going on, neat shops and everyone just seems really fit. There are tons of trails to run and it's just very "granola-ey" for lack of a better word. Its the same vibe I get in Portland, OR. I wish Atlanta seemed more focused on creating a great place for people to vacation and enjoy the outdoors. Sigh, back to the race report....

We drove to Signal Middle School and as reported the parking lots were packed and there was a football game going on complete with marching bands. Yay! The school is on a huge campus and we wound our way around to the soccer fields. There was someone waiting there to instruct us on the camp site and we began to set up camp. The noise from Homecoming wasn't too bad so I figured things would be OK. There was a bathroom close by and we got our stuff settled and got ready for bed. I realized I forgot to pack calf sleeves despite having the matching ones laid out for the other 2 outfits. Grr! Oh well, my legs might be a little cold but I was only going 11 miles so I should be fine. (I would repeat this refrain numerous times between now and the start of the race). I read for a bit and then just as I was drifting off to sleep I realized something else I forgot. A jog bra!! Doh!!! So, not good. Hmm, well I was wearing a tank with a shelf bra to sleep in so I guess that was going to have to do. If it got really hot it was going to be uncomfortable and gross under my shirt but not much I can do about it now. Again, I am glad its only 11 miles. 

I slept well and we woke up unstressed since were only a half a mile from the race start. John dressed and went to the bathroom while I organized my stuff. When John got back I swear I heard rain drops on the tent. What????? The one thing I purposely did not pack was rain gear because the weather report said 0% chance of rain. Zero percent is pretty damn strong. Clearly, there is no honor among weatherman. Well, crap! Maybe it will stop by race time. So, not only do I not have a jog bra, I don't have calf sleeves which will keep my legs warmer and less muddy(!) and it is raining. Awesome! I was originally feeling whimpy about not doing the 50K but now I was SO glad I was only doing 11 miles. 

I changed, made a pit stop, grabbed some breakfast and then we headed up to the start line. Parking is always a premium at the start but I guess the bad weather scared some people off. We got a great spot and waited in the car until start time. 
The view on a clear day

When I did the 50K last year - my race report - I was blown away by the spectacular views of the river and the beautiful but technical trails. I really enjoyed this race and set a 50K PR that I broke at MS50 last spring. The pretty part of the race was across Suck Creek Rd and I knew the 11 miler did not go that way. I had no idea what the course was but figured we would just wind around the back of the school campus and it would be boring at best. With the rain and mud I figured the views would be less than spectacular and I wasn't missing out so it was good that I was only doing the 11 miler. 

The overcast starting line
John and I lined up and the gun went off. The 11 mile course split almost immediately from the 50K pack. I stayed with the main pack for a bit and we only got gridlocked at a couple of spots. Soon I was running hard to keep up and my watch let me know I was in zone 5. Cool! I backed off a bit and was soon in a smaller pack. At one point a few speedsters flew by us and I assumed that the 50K'ers must convene with our trails at some point yet none of these trails seemed familiar. I found out later in the day that the lead pack of the 50K got lost and had to double back and eventually dropped out. There is something to be said for going a little slower and never losing your way. 

I was running steady and my cranky hip only seemed to bother me on hills. Good thing there were none of those! I found that my inner knee also started hurting at the same time. It was not horrible and I kept moving. Soon I heard the helicopter and saw that we were approaching a clearing. We were getting to see the river and had an awesome view, too bad it was covered in fog. Oh well. I ran up to the clearing just as the helicopter swung by and waved for the camera! I continued on in pursuit of 2 girls ahead of me. We ran together for a while but soon the lead girl was out of sight. There was  pack of 6 guys who kept stopping for pictures and then catching up again. Next thing I know I see lead girl on the ground and the pack of guys phoning for help. I guess she fell but she looked OK to me. Things were covered so I ran on.

About this time I felt a sharp, focal pain in my right thigh. Damn, that hurt! I could only assume that I had been stung by a bee. This continued to burn on and off throughout the race and again made me thankful I was only running 11 miles. I soon found myself in a pack of 4 with 2 women in front of me and a man behind me. I asked him if he wanted to go ahead of me but said he was fine where he was. In a way this pushed me along since I sensed him behind me at every step. I soon overtook the women in front of me who stopped for some walk breaks. I kept running up the hills and he kept following me. I came upon 2 more girls who sped up when they realized I was behind them but they were actually more cautious than me on the slippery trails and I eventually passed them. This is when I started to keep track - 4 down. 

Around the next turn the trails started to look familiar and there was the mushroom rock aid station (pictures in last years race report). Thankful again I was only doing  the 11 miler since this was the beginning of a 2 mile downhill that you have to come back up on the return of the 50K. The volunteers complimented me on my shirt and remarked that they saw a guy wearing the same thing on the 50K trail. I said yup, that's my husband. They instructed me to stay right and I gratefully headed to the finish line.

After a long uphill climb, which I walked, the trail flattens out and is very wide and runnable. You wind around the back of the school and head towards home. There are a few more steep hills but by far this is the easiest 3 miles of the course. Here I passed 11 guys - seriously! They were all moving slow and looked slightly beaten and I relished running by them. This was quite fun! Soon I was back on the road and headed home with a finish time of 2:47. Not exactly what I had planned on but then again I had no idea of the trails or conditions. I was a little down but soon realized that there were people still finishing over an hour after me and that picked up my spirits a bit.

I quick got out of my wet clothes and into something dry and warm. The rain had stopped but it had gotten quite chilly. I grabbed some food and got a quick massage. I saw the 50K winner cross the finish line - 30 minutes slower than last years winner. The conditions and the fact that the lead pack dropped out contributed to such a slow time. Seriously, 4:15 to run a technical, muddy 50K. Geez, my grandmother could kick your ass.

Now it was time to pack up the tent. I drove back to the soccer fields to find our tent on its side - we didn't stake it down. I wish I had taken a picture. It looked ridiculous. I told John I was going to to the godzilla approach and just collapse the tent and throw it in the car but he was not a fan so I took it down and packed in nicely away and headed back to the finish line. I grabbed a beer and read my book for a bit. 

Soon it was time to wait for Leah and John to finish which they did in short order. Leah smoked the course and had also suffered a bee sting. She later developed a severe case of hives and had to visit the ER. John had a 20 minute PR despite falling 3 times. He looked pretty torn up and was again cursing all the rocks on the course. Me, I was again glad that I only did 11 miles. Turns out it was actually 11.55 according to my Garmin but who's counting?

We hung out for a bit and headed home without incident. My bee sting continued to throb and itch and I have had a nice welt for 3 days now. Not to mention a few scratches that would have been avoided with calf sleeves. No hives though. I was pretty sore until today which is a sad state of affairs. My fitness level has plummeted. I have slacked off but not entirely. Its time to kick it back into gear but I am still fighting burnout. I've got another trail race this Sunday. Hopefully, this will go a bit better. My hip feels much improved and I have been stretching it. Then it's B2B relay and then train until Mountain Mist 50K in January.

As for Stump Jump - I highly recommend this race. Chattanooga is close and the 11 mile race is just as scenic and challenging as the 50K. However, there is no medal, no free meal, no nothing for the 11 miler people so keep that in mind. It's all about the 50K which I look forward to next year.

Beautiful trails!

Mud and blood post race
The worst of John's scrapes

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

It's better to burn out than fade away?

I think I am officially burnt out on training. There is not much on my schedule right now. That should make me happy. So why am I tired all the time and lacking motivation? After meeting with my coach I decided to change my Stump Jump 50K race to the 11 miler. This was to give me more time to recover and concentrate on a 50K in January. I then quickly added the Mystery Mountain 12 miler onto my schedule because I miss my GUTS friends and mostly because I am stupid. Now October is crazy! 

Oct 6 - Stump Jump 11 miler
Oct 13 - work and Tap n' Run 4K (probably a bad idea but looks fun)
Oct 14 - Mystery Mountain 12 miler
Oct 20 - B2B swim leg of Ironman Relay
Oct 27 - Tech Homecoming
Nov 3 - IM Florida (supporting)

Seriously, why do I do these things??? I feel like I have made no progress on the mile long "to do" list I have compiled. I have let a LOT of things slide in the last 6 months and now I am manic about not having anything done and simultaneously tired and slug-like. Not a happy place for me. So, what have I been doing the past 4 weeks?

First I was sick. I had a cold that kicked my ass for about 48 hours right after Louisville. On top of that I had a mole removed from the bottom of my foot that made walking painful for a few days. Thankfully the biopsy came back negative. There has been some progress made around the house - pansies and fall flowers planted, minor cleaning, straightening up and organizing and tri gear cleaned and organized. I have completed 15 hours of continuing education toward renewing my USAT coaching certification. A CPR class is all that is left to do toward checking that off the list. I still have some major cleaning to do around the house. A giant purge is on the horizon. We just accumulate too much stuff and my OCD and anti-hoarder mania is about to hit high gear. My gardens need a major clean up but some of that might have to wait until fall really kicks in and stuff starts to die back.

There also has been some much needed down time and quite a few trail runs and short bike rides. Problem is that once I get a run or bike done all I want to do is nap. That is not normal and is a huge waste of the weekend. I am able to do my workouts (yes I still have workouts on my schedule) but they seem to kick my ass. Swimming has been the worst. After 30-45 minutes in the pool I have had enough. Hopefully, I am turning a corner and physically my recovery is about complete. The biggest obstacle right now is mentally I am checked out. The big race is over and its hard to get too fired up over a swim or a short trail race. I know I can do them even though I might suffer a little bit but in a way its a bad thing because it makes training for them hard. I will come right out and say it....I kind of don't care right now.

So, here I am burnt out. I look at my 9 (yes, 9!) workouts for the week and I say really? why bother? I don't want to feel that way. I have been less than compliant these past few weeks but I have tried. I feel resentful toward the workouts thinking I could be chipping away at that "to do list", or playing with my dog or maybe spending time with my husband. That all sounds good except John just started doing Crossfit. So now he is getting up early and going to the gym and or going after work and we still seem to be working at separate purposes. He has multiple long distance trail runs on his schedule and an Ironman next year. I guess this is another thing I need to figure out since my plan is to do 2 half Ironmans after my 50K and possibly a 50 miler/100K in the spring. Finding that balance is going to take some work.

Speaking of cross fit, I would like to try it too but finding time to work that in amongst an already packed schedule seems difficult at best. I thought I would have all this free time after Ironman. I also planned to try Paleo. I think I am actually eating worse post Ironman. A lot of things need to be worked out in the next couple of months. For now, I just need to find that spark to re-light that fire....

Monday, September 10, 2012

Where do we go from here? Go ask Alice

It's been a long journey from my first triathlon (Iron Girl 2008) to Ironman Louisville in 2012. Clip in pedals were a new and scary thing for me. I was just learning how to really swim and the longest run I had done since my sad performance at the Marine Corps Marathon in 2001 was a 14 miler the fall before.  I was training for the Baltimore marathon when I got hurt and couldn't run all winter long. Triathlon was a means to cross train and help heal my mysterious leg pain. It worked and it also helped cross something off my bucket list. It also started me on the path to the insanity that has been my life the last 3 years.

I was reminded of the perfect description of my journey when I drank a Magic Hat #9 to celebrate 9/9.

Magic Hat #9 in a can has the basic instructions of "Drink Me". One of my favorite books is Alice in Wonderland and my triathlon journey was akin to falling down the rabbit hole. I have been falling and chasing that damn rabbit since August 2009 and I finally made my way back home. Here's another great quote from Alice:

Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop

 Now that I have come to the end, what do I do next? There are no plans for an Ironman in 2013 (under penalty of death by my coach). I honestly don't want to do one so I am completely fine with that. There has been a little peer pressure going on since a lot of my friends (and husband) have already signed up for Mont Treblant. There is also a group planning on signing up for Florida in November. Neither interest me but I might have been persuaded to do Florida if enough people were on board. It's all about the shared misery. The latest craze is the Little Rock Marathon since they give out huge finishers medals. By huge I mean Flav a Flav would be jealous. If you don't know who that it is then google it. Public Ememy's "Fear of a Black Planet" is an awesome album but I digress. I have no real desire to do a road marathon but again I might get sucked in by peer pressure.

Right now what is on my race schedule is the swim leg of an Ironman Relay at Beach to Battleship (Team 3 non-blondes) and Stump Jump 50K on October 6th. I did this race last year and loved it. Absolutely stunning scenery and Rock Creek puts on a good show. I PR'd last year so I hope to do the same or better this year. The next race was to be Bartram 100s in December. The race has yet to open for registration and word is that it's cancelled. I was hoping to go for my longest distance ever at that race - 100K. So now what? I can wait until March and try to do a 50 miler or 100K at GUTS' Operation Endurance. Or I can try and find another similar type race that is sooner. Long term goals include a 100 miler one day. Its to become the new "white rabbit" after the 50 miler and 100K dragons are slain.

What about triathlon? I am planning on at least 2 half iron distance races next year but which ones? A return to Mountain Madness? More like Escape from Witch Mountain (something else you might need to google). Never again I told race director Chris Green but I might change my mind. Maybe some Olympic distances? 2013 is all about getting stronger and faster. The plans are to meet with my coach this week and do a post mortem on Ironman Louisville and see what makes the most sense for the future. For now I have made a list of races I would like to do someday and things I think are bucket list items - either super crazy or super hard or both.

Races I would like to do: Ironman Lake Placid, Ironman Coeur D'Alene (score to settle?), Ironman Wisconsin (score to settle?), Chesapeakeman (maybe?), St Croix 70.3, Ireland 70.3, Eagleman 70.3, Vineman 70.3, Timberman 70.3, Eugene Marathon or Half (Pre lives! - I just want to run onto Hayward Field), Pine Mountain 40 (score to settle?), Fuego Y Agua Ultra,  a 50 miler, and/or a 100K

Bucket List races: 100 miler (Umstead?), Hood to Coast, Rim to Rim - Grand Canyon, OtillO - a crazy swedish swim and trail run, Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon

I will let you know what gets decided. For now here are 2 of my favorite Alices

Friday, August 31, 2012

Ironman Observations

1. My number one piece of advice is twofold - Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something but also don’t let anyone push you into something you know you are not ready for. It doesn’t mean you won’t be ready for it one day. It just may not be right that very minute. If its a goal you think is worthwhile, then it is worth it to wait and be really ready for it. 

2. It's OK to fail. It makes success that much sweeter! 

3. It's not OK to belittle someone for failing - also see #8

4. It's OK to make an ass out of yourself

5. Wear something cute - I cannot begin to count how many compliments I got on my bike and run outfit from both men and women, participants and supporters. Helps keep your mind off the task at hand plus you feel good about yourself - even when you are puking in someone's front lawn.

6. For the love of GOD do not wear anything white in the water. Why do they even make white tri suits?

7. Take a moment to enjoy the fact that you are in the fucking tent

8. As in life - don’t be a dick - be polite and friendly to all. Good thoughts and deeds come back to you.

9. Respect the distance and respect the heat - Its a long ass day for everyone - from the 8+ hour finishers to the 16+ finishers - be smart and know your limitations

10. Find people to train with. Preferably people you really like. You will need that support system to get you through. Ironman is the most selfish sport out there but be selfish in a group. There will be misery but there will also be lots of fun!

My Ironman Friends - the Lou-natics!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Today is my day

Text from my Coach: Today is YOUR day!

2012 Ironman Louisville

Where to begin? I fear this will be extremely long but I want to include everything before I forget.

A few words about the night before the race: You never sleep a lot so the big nights sleep was Friday night. Saturday was all about resting, hydrating and staying off my feet. We spent the majority of the time in the atrium/bar of the hotel well positioned on a group of couches. John went out to get dinner and we relaxed and socialized in the meantime. I got a call from my coach and told him I was feeling a little concerned about the swim but otherwise was good. The practice swim that morning had made me feel a little panicky but that is not unusual for me. The enormity of things tends to settle in at that point and you wonder if you are up for the task. I told myself to remember Phil Sustar and his advice to Terrie during the swim around Key West - "Put your head down Princess and swim". Coincidentally, Phil called me when I was on my way back to my room for final preparations and I told him I would think of him during the swim. 

Back in the room for final prep - nutrition bottles for the bike needed to be prepared and final checks of special needs bags, clothes and anything else I needed to deal with. The plan was to be in bed by 8. It was more like 8:30 but still good. I was reading a little Game of Thrones to distract myself when John told me Terrie would be be joining me. Corona, Miles and Mike had just arrived and would be staying in her room so Terrie took the other double bed and John slept on the couch in the other room. Alarm was set for 3am and then it was time to try and get some sleep.

I slept solidly until 12:30 and then I was awake every hour after that. Finally at 2:45 I just got up and started getting ready. I had all my gear, breakfast done and stuff together by 3:45 so John decided to take Terrie and I down to transition to wait for it to open. We picked up Adrienne in the lobby, she couldn't sleep either, and the 4 of us went down to transition. As we drove the short way to the river we saw numerous clubs with people still partying from the night before. It was a little surreal. 

We arrived at transition to be the 2,3 and 4th person in line for the 4:45 opening. We had our little stools to sit on to rest our legs and we just nervously chatted for the next half hour. The race director snapped our picture for the Ironman Louisville facebook page so that was pretty cool. In the meantime John went back to the hotel to shuttle Harry, Kim, Todd and Tripp down to get in line.
Me, Adrienne and Terrie waiting for transition to open

4:45 - transition opens - the goals now is to get in quickly, pump up our tires, get our bikes set up, drop off bike and run special needs bags and get the hell out and down to line up at the river for the swim start. Terrie, Kim and I accomplished this first - Adrienne had some tire issues that Tripp was helping her with so we jumped in the van and John drove us to the swim start. John had procured a IM support vehicle sticker for the van so we could do this with no problem. John sweet talking any woman into doing anything for him is a miracle in itself but we were eternally grateful. Anything to make this easier.

Louisville is unique in the fact that the swim start is "time trial" which means each athlete lines up and jumps in beginning at 7:00. Your chip time starts when you get on the dock and the swim cutoff begins when the last athlete is in the water at around 7:45. Almost all of the other Ironman's are mass start swims where everyone goes in at once and the cutoff is 9:20am. 

We got a great spot in line and the volunteers were on hand to be sure that people were not saving spots. We did our best to follow the rules but with the permission of the people behind us we put Todd and Tripp in line with us since we are collectively the weakest swimmers of our group. Now all we had to do was wait. The waiting seemed forever but our friends and supporters showed up and made things fun. We had about 15 people come from Atlanta to help out and it was so great to see all those friendly faces. Once things starting moving it was quick. We had to get ready to go so we grabbed goggles and gave all of our swim bags to Teesha - I wish I had a picture of her holding 3 bags and various stuff while we ran off to get ready to swim. 

We made our way down to the docks and by then everyone had to really pee. It became a huge topic of conversation since it seemed difficult to pee while swimming especially without a wetsuit. I am not that talented. A few guys dropped their lower halves into the river and held onto the dock while relief spread over their faces. Terrie joined in but I was afraid I would not be able to jump back up or worse cut myself in the process. I would wait till I got in the water and figure it out from there.

In the meantime, Tripp, Todd and I devised a plan to try and stay together until the end of the island and then see how the swim would go from there. Earlier in the year Tripp and I would swim together and he would pace off me. He said I kept him even and consistent and on a good relaxed pace. The most recent long swim we did together I pulled away a bit and swam at a faster pace than I had been able to maintain in the past. We thought this was a good compromise to stay together until the end of the island and if I felt good I could swim ahead or vice versa.

Getting ready to jump off the dock

The cannon goes off and within 2 minutes we are in the water. I immediately lose sight of Tripp but start swimming while staying on the outside. There was a lot of thrashing and I wanted some clear space to myself. Within 5 minutes Tripp had found me and we swam together towards the end of the island. I felt a bit panicky, as per usual, but I could see I was making progress and having Tripp beside me made things better. When we reached the end of the island we knew we had a ways to go to get to the turn buoy. Also, it got really shallow at one point and people were getting grounded. It looked like a great opportunity to rest a second or two and maybe pee. Tripp and I headed toward the sand bar, scooted along and I took care of business. At that time we saw Harry and then he was on his way. I could still see people in line walking up to get in the water and I was so glad we were already a good way through the swim. 

We continued up river to the turn buoy and then it was all down stream from there. I found during the practice swim there was a tiny bit of current so I was looking forward to that turn. It got very crowded at this point so Tripp and I stayed right and continued on our way. This is when things got really crazy. The 2000+ people in line behind us were now all in one place. The water was churning, the arms and legs were everywhere and it was insane. I started to get more panicky but having Tripp with me calmed me down. We just kept going and heading for the first bridge. Typically, I feel a bit panicked in the beginning of the swim and once the super fast swimmers are gone I will have room to settle in and just do my own thing. This NEVER happened. I alternated 20-40 strokes with about 10 side stroke while I tried to get my breathing under control. This went on for the entire swim. There were times when hanging on a kayak seemed like the best thing in the world but Tripp helped me stay focused and moving forward. He kept telling me I was doing great and I would tell him the same. I was tempted to look at my watch but would not let myself do it. The swim always seems so long but you have no real idea of time. I didn't want to freak myself out until I got out of the water.

Finally, we made it past the bridges and we could see transition and the finish. The last couple of yards went so quickly we were basically sucked into the stairs by the swirl of humanity around us. I was up out of the water and 2 seconds later there was Tripp. I looked at my watch - 1:48 - woohoo! and gave Tripp the biggest hug - swim PRs for both of us. My normal swim time is 1:36 to 1:40 in a wetsuit so I was very happy with this time. My ultimate goal was under 2 hours. If all went well I thought I would be between 1:45 and 1:50 so I was on track despite the extra yardage and panicky swim. 

T1 - Tripp and I walk/ran into transition. I grabbed my bag and got ready to change for the bike. The volunteers here were a little less experienced than I was used to. They kept asking what we wanted them to do instead of suggesting things but it was all good. I got everything on, put on my helmet, went to lock it in place and the clasp fell off. WTF??? I started to panic, expletives flew out of my mouth but I somehow was able to nimbly grab it, re-thread the strap and get it back together pretty quickly and then onto my head. Crisis averted. I ran out, grabbed my bike and saw all my friends cheering me on - I felt great!

Don't tell Dan those are insulated bottles on my bike

BIKE - The bike starts out flat and I followed coaches orders and spun easy and made sure I got my heart rate down. I had ridden most of this course before but this part was new to me. I enjoyed the sights and kept things going smoothly. A few hills along the way but nothing crazy. One long one that I noted would be nice on the way back in. Soon, I was approaching the "stick" and familiar territory. 

The stick was an out and back section with the biggest and longest hills of the entire course. When we rode this back in July it was nice to see that the worst of the course was typical Georgia hills and presented no big problems. The problem it did present was the fact that all the bikers were on this road at the same time. All the fast swimmers were now hammering away on these hills and zooming by on the downhills. People were flying by crazy fast in both directions and things were very congested. It was VERY scary. I am sooooo glad I knew what to expect on this road because this added wrinkle would have been really unnerving. I climbed the first big hill to be greeted by the grim reaper and the devil. Always nice when the locals come out to cheer you on! I spun easily and kept the HR down. There were many hills in my future. Now it was time for the turn around. I kept it easy and made it! On the way back I saw Tripp and knew before long he would be passing me. The water stop on this road was very congested and I had to gently urge the riders in front of me to keep moving and not lollygag with their water bottles. 

I headed down the last hill and started up the final climb when I saw a girl flat on her back on the side of the road and 2 people around her. Looked like a bad bike crash but she was being attended to so I said  prayer and kept on my way. I was very glad to be off that road. 

Back onto the main road and heading into the first loop. For some odd reason the Scandal song "I am the Warrior" is playing in my head. Did I hear it along the way or was it how I was feeling? Still keeping things light I began to feel pain in my rib cage on the right side like I felt at Wisconsin. Since I knew this most likely meant I had to pee I began to plot out my strategy. Next rest stop I was going to go if there was not a line. Thankfully, there was no line and I was able to quickly get in and out and back on the bike. I figured Tripp passed me by now and I would not see anyone else until the run. I made my way through LaGrange, remembering the torrential thunderstorm I got caught in last time I was out there, and then over to the hilly section of the loop. This went fine and then I was in the homestretch of loop one. 

At this time I could feel the heat creeping up and knew I was going to be having issues soon. I had been steadily drinking and taking in nutrition but it was time for ice and water. Around mile 50 I stopped and poured water over my head, drank some down and put ice in my shirt and back on my bike. Back on Rt 42, headed in to start the second loop. 

I was instructed to not look at my watch but knew the cutoff to start the second loop was 2:30. I could tell by my avg speed that I was doing fine but was curious so I looked anyway. It was just after 1:00 so I knew I had plenty of time. I made it to the special needs bags, got more water and ice and another port a potty break. I saw Tripp briefly which was nice and then continued on my way. One more time through LaGrange, the hilly section and then we were in the home stretch. I looked at my watch again and knew I should be able to get back in by 5:00 - this was huge for me. The typical IM cutoff is 5:30 for the bike so I knew I was doing well. I kept saying to myself  "Do nothing stupid and don't let anyone do anything stupid to you and you will do this". I spun easily and passed a lot of people in the last 30 miles. Lots of flat tires and sick people along the way. I heard there were tacks in the road again - some locals don't appreciate the race - but thankfully I had no troubles. 

I climbed one of the last hills around mile 98 and saw Miles, Mike and Corona cheering me on - that was so great to see. I knew I still felt strong and good and was doing well. That little burst was what I needed to seal the deal. The last part was flat or downhill and I particularly relished zooming by a 24 yr old guy down hill at mile 100. Seriously dude, I could be your mother. 

I could see the city now and I was almost home. I never pushed it and stayed smart with the water and ice and I was going to finish this thing unlike the tons of people I passed on my way back into the city. I pulled into transition to lots of cheers from my friends and grabbed my T2 bag. 

T2 - I ran into the tent to see Adrienne putting on the final touches before heading out and I screamed "Adrienne, we are in the fucking tent". Coach Vader told us to take a second and be thankful we are in the fucking tent before we head out for the run or bike. I grabbed my stuff, changed and headed out on my way. I made the last minute decision to take off my HR strap - it has been cutting me up on every long run and I was very sure I could tell my zones by my breathing. 

Lots of cheering from our group and I was feeling good. "Don't Stop Believing" was playing and I took that as a good omen. Almost teared up a bit but kept it together for the long road still ahead. I was a little confused by the run course since we had to wind around a bit to get to the bridge but trusted I was going the right way. Then it was up and over the bridge and then back again. I grabbed some water and ice and poured more water on my head. Still so freakin' hot. I smiled for the camera and headed out to the run course. As I came off the bridge I saw Cari and the Goslow children and that was very sweet. Reminded me of running into them on the comet many times this summer. 

Not sure what is going on here - looks like I am saying WTF am I doing?
I had been leapfrogging 2 Chicago police guys since mile 90 on the bike. I chatted with them a bit more and told them I would see them at the finish. I was run walking at this point because I knew my HR was high and I was still really hot. My original plan was to run as much as I could and then go from there. New plan was to take it easy - I had lots of time - and when the sun went down run as much as possible. 

I started the out and back and soon running at all was becoming hard. I could not drink my nutrition anymore and water was the best I could do. I began to wonder if I was drinking too much water but pushed that to the back of my mind. I continued to power walk and try and stay positive. I saw Chris, Anne, Mike, Catherine and Terri - all of which were so happy to see me on the run. Terrie showed me a bunch of abrasions on her shoulder and told me she got hit by a car - WHAT????? - OK, she is still moving so that's good. I saw Kim, Harry and Adrienne and everyone looked good. The only people I did not see were Tripp and Todd. 

Around the turn around I started to beat myself up mentally as to whether I was not running because I didn't want to or if I really couldn't. So, I tried to run some more. I was successful for a little while but every time my HR would skyrocket and I would get so incredibly hot. More water, more ice, more power walking. Soon, I was back at the start and knew I would get my special needs bag. I wanted to ditch my camel bak since I was not using it anymore. I saw lots of friendly faces but no John. This really upset me. I asked more than one person where he was but no one knew. I was starting to feel bad, I hadn't eaten anything in a while and I really wanted to see his face. Not good. I tried to put it out of my mind and keep moving. I tried to eat one of my Oreos and that did not go well so I ditched them. My Mountain Dew was equally unappetizing so I ditched it too. Stomach was increasingly beginning to be upset.

I knew I had not eaten anything in a couple of hours and things were going to go south soon. Combined with the unhappy tummy I started to get worried. I also wanted to punch John in the face. The one thing he was supposed to do was be there for me and he was no where to be found. I was in this super happy place when George came pedaling up with Tripp. Thank God! I talked to Tripp for a while and in turn he helped keep my mind off things. I was beginning to worry about time and was busily calculating my splits and how much time was left. Things still seemed on track but I was definitely disappointed in how far south things had come. I was really hoping for a strong run and this was not what I had in mind. Tripp was feeling good so he went on ahead and George stayed with me.

I had just told George that each burp seemed more ominous than the previous one when uh oh - I ran to the curb, grabbed the road sign and started hurling. I see a man come running towards me and I think its his house and I have just puked on his lawn. I start apologizing and he says what are you apologizing for? I then realize he is an EMT and he is making sure I am OK. He stands there while I empty my stomach of chicken broth - that was a bad idea. Once my stomach is empty I stand up and say I think I am OK now. He looks me dead in the eye to make sure I am all there and lets me go on. I felt like a million bucks compared to how I felt 30 minutes prior. All right lets get this thing over with!!

I keep power walking along and try to drink some water - no good. Still sloshing so no more water. George suggests some orange slices and using the water to swish around my mouth and this plan works pretty well for the last bit. Around this time I am joined by Randy - a guy who was waiting with us at the start of the race - we start talking about our day - he had a horrible swim - leg cramps - and we help keep each others mind off of our own personal misery. Although other than being thirsty and not being able to drink anything, I felt pretty good. I was worried if I started running that would change so we kept a strong power walk going (ultra training made this easy - many people remarked on how my walk was faster than their run) and motored toward the finish. 

We were within a few blocks and were joined by Leslie, David and Celi - I think Celi and George went off to look for Tripp since he had not finished yet and as far as I knew he was ahead of me. Randy and I decided to save the sprint for the finish chute since he was afraid of a cramp and I was afraid of hurling. He got a little ahead and I let him go, saw the lights and finish line and started to run. The soles of my feet were sore from the heat and walking so this was a bit painful but soon I could not feel anything. I had pictured this in my mind and knew I would cry but somehow I didn't, more likely I couldn't I was so dehydrated. I saw all my friends sharing in my victory and finally I crossed that finish line.

A volunteer stepped up to help me and get me a medal and finishers shirt and hat. I told her I felt pretty good BUT had not had anything to drink or eat in hours so a visit to the medical tent would probably be a good idea. We headed over and they got me an IV - first in my life - and while I relaxed I heard Terrie's voice calling out my name. She was being wheeled in for her own IV with Mike and Miles. Mike hung out with me while Miles stayed with Terrie. Terrie refused to do anything until she saw Tripp and I finish. I later learned Tripp had some tummy issues himself but finished just after me.  We all finished under brutally HOT conditions - the No Boundaries Lou-natics were all Ironmen!!

Final Numbers: 

This meant so much to me! I finished the Great Floridian 140.6 in 2010 but they were extremely generous in their time cutoffs. Even though I had done the distance I never truly felt I was an "Ironman" and would never really feel that way until I did it under 17 hours and within the normal cutoffs. This time I did it. Going in I felt a 16 hour race was reasonable but given the heat and my nutrition going south a finish was a finish and I will take it!

There is so much more I want to talk about but I will write about that in followup posts. In the meantime here are some more pictures:

At the finish line

Some of our awesome supporters!

The No Boundaries Lou-natics - Adrienne, Tripp, Kim, me, Harry, Terrie and Todd - all finished! 

Even more pictures here: