Since shacking up in SoCal beginning in late March, I’ve been concentrating on swimming, partially because it’s GORGEOUS AND I GET TO SWIM OUTDOORS HERE!!! …. and mostly by default: running and biking haven’t happened since unraveling some old injuries. Tis a pity, seeing as I have a sweet new bike setup and brand new fit, but we’ll have to talk about that another day. For now I want to talk about a little swim meet I did and my experience doing the “aquabeer” at Wildflower.
You know I grew up swimming. That doesn’t mean that I love it, it certainly doesn’t mean I’m the fastest one in the pool, and I’m definitely not swimming 9x a week or anything (though I could, seeing as there are pools and practices EVERYWHERE here). I am putting in about twice as many yards as I ever did while training in Chicago. <rant> Gains in swimming are infinitesimal and don’t happen overnight, or even in one season. They aren’t even measured in seconds, sometimes, but in how you feel going into and coming out from the water: are you anxious? Do you have to soft pedal the opening miles of the bike? If you want to play at the pointy end of the race, you have to get in the water. A lot. A lot more than 2x a week, swimming behind the same people, never pushing or making it uncomfortable for yourself. </rant>
On April 27 I partook of my first swim meet since college. The Conejo Vally Multisport Masters (CVMM) group has been wonderful and welcoming, and I was happy to register for the 500 free to try to earn a few points for the team’s standings at this little regional champ meet. Coach Nancy Reno and her staff are legit swimmers who put together great workouts that really challenge me and help set benchmarks. I’ve identified exactly where I’m weakest (swimming 25s, 50s, and 100s –still can’t sprint!), and where I’m stronger (finding a pace and nailing it). I had formed a general idea how to swim the event: to take the first 100 for what it was (it would be fast given the dive and initial adrenaline rush), but manage the effort so as not to completely fall apart in the back half. Ideally my last 100 would be my fastest, but since I hadn’t swum the 500 in 19+ years I didn’t give myself enough credit to pull off a negative-split like that.
The 500 was the first event on Saturday morning, which allowed us to get in a good warm-up and do the event as a swim test, then move on with the rest of our day (Dusty had a ridiculous bike and run. I sat by the pool). I had thrown out my back TWICE in the previous week, though, so wasn’t sure if I was going to participate. We got there and I just felt like jumping in the (gorgeous, sparkling) water. I’m really glad I gave it a shot, since my back loosened up nicely during warm-up in my ol’ practice suit.
The hardest part of the day was squeezing in to my new Blue Seventy neroXII race suit before the event. Anyone remember paper suits? It’s like that, but with way less “accidental transparency” (plus it’s now available in blue and pink!). I had never used the suit before, and decided to go into the event “dry” (ie with no splashy-splashy before diving off the block). What a feeling! The FINA-approved suit is really incredible: via space-age voodoo, it basically repels water so you have that shark skin effect, and it compresses your bits so there’s no extra flop when you flip. Quite a rush.
Thankfully we had done some sets off the blocks at Saturday morning workouts, so I remembered how to keep my goggles on and didn’t mess up my depth too much. What’s eerie is as soon as I dove off the block, my mind went blank and all I did was swim. I didn’t over-think, and I wasn’t distracted so kept count myself (but big thanks to CVMM’s Addie for being my lap counter anyway!), and I even put together my walls and underwaters with both feet planted on my turns and tight butterfly-kickin’ streamlines. I guess it was like “going back to my roots” –back to summer league swim meets when all you had to do was GO –executing the race as your coach prescribed wasn’t even a *thing.* Really, though, I think it was the lack of pressure for tying something NEW(ish). I didn’t know how I’d do or what I was capable of, so let it all go and just swam. I really encourage everyone to join a masters team to make new friends, learn what “swimming like a swimmer” really means, and remember what it’s like to HAVE FUN on race day.
Anyway, I’m pretty happy with the results, and I like that you could play a game of “go fish” with my 50 splits.
On to Wildflower!
A few weeks ago, Dusty kindly skipped the Mulholland Challenge so as to allow me to preview the course at Wildflower. All I can say is… wow. After running a mere 5.4 miles of the course, I was totally OK when Coach Steve and I decided it was best if I didn’t push through 12.7 relatively untrained miles on race day. When Blair told me it would be best if I avoided using my hip flexors for a little while, not biking was kinda OK too. The Wildflower bike and run courses are really challenging, especially for a flatlander like me, and going into it crippled and out of shape wouldn’t have been too smart.
I would be “just swimming” the long course course on Saturday, and otherwise generally hanging out with the Wattie Ink crew there to support Heather Jackson as she defended her title from last year.
After a stop in Ventura for some MAT with Blair, and a quick lunch in oh-so-charming Solvang, Dusty and I arrived at Lake San Antonio on Thursday. We were greeted by Massi (who may or may not be associated with the now-famous Eurostar) and Mrs. Massi, Jeff “Pompadong” “Big Pompa” Mo, and Robert “Flabby” Flannigan, as well as Wattie, Heather “HJ” Jackson, Chris “ChiChi” Jackson (Heather’s dad, who races long course, as does her mom), the Leavitt family, and other assorted Inkers. It was great to meet people, and to be there early enough to enjoy a few beers before race nerves set in for everyone –or while Heather could still hide hers. =)
Friday was fairly quiet, beginning with breakfast in the VIP tent –where I ran in to the Anderson brothers (hey Gavin, update your blog!) and Michellie Jones– then a brief 10 minute swim chasing Heather and Jackie Arendt (unbeknownst to them). Later, we received shipment of our much-awaited special-order Blue Seventy Helix wetsuits! I took mine out of the package to admire it and let it flatten out a bit before its maiden voyage the following day. I was thrilled to find a cap and timing chip strap, some RAD STICKERS (which I love), as well as a bright yellow cap and matching Vision goggles, both of which will get a test run at the Tower26 open water swim workouts I’m going to starting next week! Squee, new equipment!
I prettymuch sat around and drank beer while everyone set up their bikes and started getting more and more “in the zone.” We Watties gathered at the top of Lynch Hill for a group photo shoot with Dusty’s buddy, Tyler Olson, as well as the Reynold’s Cycling (wheels, yo) reps. The pics look pretty badass, but I can’t share them yet Then early to bed, early to rise, etc.
Saturday wasn’t that early for me, actually. The pro race at Wildflower begins at a very civilized 8am, and transition remains wide open, you just have to have bikes racked by 7:30. I didn’t have to worry about a bike, but I did want to watch the start and Sherpa for Dusty as he set up. Michellie Jones and Julie Moss were emceeing the event… which, between Michellie’s Aussie accent-cum-drawl-cum-question-mark-at-the-end-of-each-statement? and Moss’ penchant to shout into the mic, was comedy (and not in the Lucy/Ethyl sense). Dusty got settled in and we watched many many waves together before he went off at 8:30. After bidding him adieu for his start, I had plenty of time to watch the pros come in, then see Dusty transition and take off on the bike before my wave at 9:20 –or so I thought.
Among the highlights –beside seeing Thomas Gerlach (who I didn’t realize was here) run up the boat ramp wearing shoes (not “pro” but it gave him a slight advantage)– was watching Wattie take pics and spot for Heather. He positioned himself on the boat ramp and signaled that Heather was 3 minutes behind the leaders after her non-wetsuit swim.
When you’re the defending champ and at the front of the race, you need this kind of help to inform your race tactics. Heather has always been a baller cyclist, but has sacrificed some of that speed in order to become a stellar runner (with a 1:14 open half-mary time). She has confidence in her run, and was able to run down ITU athlete Sarah Groff at the Olympic distance. Her race would require her to manage the competition and her effort on the bike to ensure a great run on in extremely challenging conditions (HJ’s ebullient race report here). I also got to see Dusty head out of transition onto the bike. He was being smart in the opening yards while the riff-raff around him were weaving all over the course.
So then I had aaaaaaaaall this time before my own wave, right? I meandered back into transition and put some things down in my spot, then started working in to my new wetsuit. Before I knew it, though, Michellie Jones was shouting “OKAAAY WEHMEN 35-39 WEETH THE BROITE GREEN KEPS? YOOAH NAEXT?” into the mic. FUCKBALLS! I yanked up my wetsuit and went barreling down the boat ramp (this “ramp” is like .2 miles long of sharp ouchy concrete, by the way), paused just long enough to get two other women to help me get my sleeves on and zip me up, then elbowed my way up to the front of the pack. The adrenaline was great, but so much for a good warm-up.
Before I knew it, Julie Moss was counting us down from 5, the airhorn blew, and we were off. I got a quick running (some would say “slightly illegal”) start and found myself a body length ahead. WOOO ADRENALINE! Before we got to the first buoy, however, I felt constant tapping on my feet. As we rounded the buoy, FOUR women surrounded me and quickly shot off into the distance. WTF? This is a new experience for me. Or, not since 2010 have I been so thoroughly trounced in the swim. I immediately started referring to (cursing) them as “the Cali girls,” and sure enough, when I reviewed the results later it turned out that all 4 were from California. The fastest of them went on to have a 25 minute swim split. Shitfire!
The remaining mile of the swim was pretty unremarkable: after the Cali girls went by I didn’t see another BROITE GREEN KEP to pace with. Instead I saw a sea of bobbing purple ones: my wave went off third-to-last and after the Team in Training wave. So. I spent a ton of time and effort weaving between the Teamsters, attempting to sight into the sun, and regretting not having the opportunity to soak my brand new (tight) wetsuit the night before. The Helix is amazingly buoyant with the most flexible arms of any wetsuit I’ve ever used, but it didn’t save my lats from getting a little tight (lack of warm-up is to blame, really, not the suit). I completed the swim in 30:21, which is pretty good, but I wish I had arbitrarily broken 30. (Concensus is that the course was about 200 yards long, accounting for slow pro splits and making me think I could have gone 28ish in better circumstances. C’est la vie!)
I decided it would be HILARIOUS to run through T1 in my wetsuit and steal the fastest split from whoever looks at that kind of thing. I shuffled up the boat ramp and straight to the bike out. Hilarity (?). The boat ramp is looooong and I was slooooow and can’t run right now, certainly not uphill. My split there was 1:49.
And that was the end of my race day.
I spent the rest of the day managing the heat and waiting for people to finish. I just missed Jesse THOMAS (NOT “THOMPSON,” Michellie and Julie) win his third Wildflower, but did see the bulk of the pro men come in. There was a lot of build up for Heather’s finish: she had taken the lead at mile 4 on the run, having finally caught superstud cyclist and dark horse Kat Baker, and was putting in time. After grabbing the tape in triumph, she immediately clutched her side, suffering from a major side stitch brought on by the massive downhill on Lynch just before the finish. That was her second win at Wildflower, and her third major win this season.
I “get” why both Heather and Jesse came back to Wildflower: Ironman St. George 70.3, which took place the same weekend, offered triple the appearance fee, triple the primes, triple the prize money, but Wildflower is a true, grassroots race with high production value, and EVERYONE is treated really well there. Your attendance is rewarded with a great event and rockstar status. I can’t neglect to admit that my experience was made particularly amazing for being there with Dusty (race report
pending COMPLETE!) and Wattie Ink: we had a great RV rental (I DON’T DO TENTS) set up in a little Wattie Ink enclave, right next to Wattie and Heather and everyone. We were hooked up with the VIP treatment, and got a ton of attention from the Tri California folks as well as grateful and generous Wattie Ink sponsors including PowerBar, Scott Bikes, Reynolds, and BlueSeventy (in absentia). The Wattie Ink Elite Team is twice as big as it was last year, which makes it an unruly but noisy bunch of promoters, but also means that we had people finishing across the board, all day; from OG and neo-pro Erin Green, to overall female winner (Sarah Barkley), through all the age groups, to second-to-last. Heather’s likeness, smile and tats and midriff and all, was engraved on the back of this year’s prize medals –even Jesse’s, which was funny. Here’s fellow Wattie Gerry Forman, the new owner of the 75-79 course record and all-around inspirational guy, with his.
Saturday night was the awards ceremony (where we squatted with Wattie and Heather as well as Jesse THOMAS and his something-like-37-week-pregnant and arguably-the-best-athlete-in-attendance wife, Lauren Fleshman), and a huge party (made sweeter by being able to toast the champ, and made weirder when we merged with Triathlete Magazine’s party). Sunday was a major shift in weather and the Olympic distance race (featuring a major Collegiate competition). All in all, Wildflower was a great time, and I highly recommend making the trip to anyone who wants to feel close to both the roots and the stars of triathlon.
So as I described, I’ve been attempting to “rebuild” my season… which officially starts ThIS CoMiNg wEEkEnD at Wildflower, followed by a number of races Dusty and I already planned out and arranged for.
Ummmm, little problem. I’ve obviously run out of time to get into shape for this weekend, and at the moment I can’t walk without pain, let alone run or… well, sleep.
“That sucks,” you may say. “Roll it out and ice it,” you would advise.
NOSSIR! That’s not how we’re treating this thing: weirdly, this new, indescribable pain shooting down my ENTIRE LEG is a good thing. It is a sign of progress. And I have to deal with it. Until it hurts somewhere else. Then I get to deal with that.
And this isn’t some twisted “no pain no gain” game, either. This is merely peeling the onion of physical issues I’ve had forlikeever. Remember 3 years ago when I was rolling around in pain in the grass at track practice, but I was running again 2 days later? November 2011 when I couldn’t walk one day, went to acupuncture the next, and ran a 10k the next? Or last April when I had just started running again after taking 4 months off because my calves were hard as rocks? Turns out all these ouchies are connected through the kinetic chain. All my overnight “comebacks” weren’t miracles; it was my body recruiting what little muscle groups still functioned properly and running them into the ground, too. Now I’m rewinding all this poop.
You seeeeeeee, while in California, I’ve been working with Blair Ferguson at Ventura Training & Athletics. He works in Muscle Activation Technique ((MAT) and Resistance Training, which I haven’t worked my way up to yet). Blair’s big *star* client is Jordan Rapp. Jordan doesn’t stretch. He doesn’t do yoga, he doesn’t foam roll, and he doesn’t take Advil. Jordan sees Blair, who doesn’t manage pain, he fixes weaknesses. And yes, Jordan was seeing Blair before and ever since the horrible bike accident that nearly took his life in 2010.
MAT is beyond explanation without mixing metaphors grotesquely, so I’m just going tell you what’s going on with me.
The basic idea is that we are bilaterally symmetrical beings and are designed to be equally neuro-muscularly strong on both sides of our body. Pain and injuries occur when weakness sidelines muscle groups, causing other muscle groups to pick up the slack. You’ve heard of “overuse” or “compensatory” injuries, right? You START “overusing” or “overcompensating” after some kind of trauma, be it whiplash or a broken bone, a contusion or a concussion.
So what was my trauma? Well, evolving from a swimmer to a land-sport mammal was certainly traumatic, particularly in my feet, which are pretty important and complex body parts. I can dorsiflex like a champ, but when it comes to plantar flexion, it’s a wonder I don’t fall over backwards when I try to stand. Yeah, STANDING isn’t possible for me without compensating somehow –namely pronating my feet, which stresses my knees, and throws my hips back, stressing my lower back. Imagine what happens when I run and train for an Ironman or two, two years in a row.
I was born with another “trauma;” I am a freak and have two extra bones. One is a tiny rib off my C7 vertebra, and one is an extra Lumbar vertebra (an L6) that didn’t fully fuse into my sacrum, but is fused into my ilium instead. I HAVE A TAIL! Kinda. I saw an X-Ray several years ago and don’t quite remember the details, but Figure A in this image stolen from the internet is almost the idea.
The sacralized vertebra in particular, we think, is another major culprit in my kinetic chain. It results in extra and/or inhibited movement in my lower back, creating muscle imbalances, and presenting almost like scoliosis when things get really bad.
So I already knew a lot of this, I just didn’t have a long term plan or a method to deal with it beyond yoga, ice, and compression socks. None of that is going to address a deformed spine or a foot that basically points the wrong way if I want to do anything other than lay on the couch.
The MAT protocol involves testing both sides of the body for weakness . When a weakness is identified (ie, you’re not able to resist a force as well on one side as the other), we start messing with of “turning on” the muscles that aren’t functioning properly. MAT is NOT massage or pain relief. I walk out of treatment drained and exhausted, not refreshed. In fact, last week my back spazzed out twice as we’ve worked to unravel my weaknesses. Blair didn’t once touch the muscles that were causing me pain, but worked on their counterparts –the theory being that muscles were spazzing for being overworked because the guys on the other side of my back. The muscles he palpated had never bothered me or caused me pain just weren’t doing their fair share.
Wake up, guys. I need you!
And of course, some of them hurt once he started poking at them.
Although I’m currently peeling the onion and rebuilding my house, I know that this is the tough part of the “getting worse before I get better” equation. I know that ultimately Blair and MAT are going to help me function better by getting some key players off the bench and in the game. (See what I did there? METAPHORS!)
We’re heading to Wildflower this weekend, where I will just be swimming, and to Boise 70.3 in another month, where I’m guessing I’ll aquabike as I try to get my run (ie back, ankles, calves, hips, and knees) back online. It kinda sucks, but I’ll have a longer career for sitting a few races out. Hopefully, although I’m missing out on building some fitness right now, I’ll be back at it and better than ever soon(ish).
Here’s a list of Blair’s favorite MAT practitioners in Chicagoland, for those who asked:
- Shawn True, Wheaton/Naperville, IL 630-291-2322 firstname.lastname@example.org Master MAT/Instructor
- Michelle Amore, Chicago, IL 312-550-9468 email@example.com Master MAT
- Joel Reynolds, Wilmette, IL 847-530-5801 firstname.lastname@example.org Master MAT
- Johnny Cooke, Chicago, IL 312-305-4118 email@example.com
- Charlie Cates, Chicago, IL 608-469-1721 firstname.lastname@example.org
An “Experience Report” from Wildflower and my first swim meet as a grown-up will come next week.
Happy New Year!
Say what? We’re 4 months into the new year? Whatever.
MUCH has happened since my last post. New apartment!
New job! New neighborhood! New coach! New mug! New schedule! New training logistics!
14 15 weeks later, much of the above is new again. I attempted to make the new job and new training situation coexist, and ended up unable to whip myself into shape in either arena: long days and late nights made morning workouts that much harder for a decidedly un-morning person. My fab new apartment was coming together nicely, although I haven’t seen it in a few weeks: a new relationship has rescued me from the doldrums of wintery Chicago, whisked me away to Southern California, and made me ridiculously happy. It has brought a new sponsor and training partner, as well as daily inspiration to work as hard as he does… almost (and within reason for an “off”/non-Ironman year).
I also have my 2013 race schedule more-or-less set, and there’s nothing “old” about it. No traditional “favorite races” from years past, and no course/competition retributions.
Spectating Oceanside 70.3 (March 30).Spectating totally counts. This was my first time in a support role at a major event (my attendance at IMOO and IMKY don’t count), and it was a total blast. Aside from wishing Dusty luck and keeping our eyes peeled for the distinctive Wattie ‘W,’ Lindsay Zucco, Eurostar, a number of Watties and I just hung out on Oside’s “hot corner” and watched the pros and our friends kick ass. I learned a lot about tactics at the pointy end just by watching: watching Heather Jackson make her move on the run, watching Andy Potts not panic with 7+ guys hot on his heels, then making his move decisively late in the run, watching Jesse Thomas move up in that pack give everything but recognize why Potts won. It was awesome to party with HJ after her victory, BTW.
- Surprise! Piru 20k TT (April 7). 32:0x, 1st Public Woman, 1st Overall Female. There were only 7 women there, but I’m told my time was good, and I executed well: negative split, higher power in second half…pretty good for just going out there in my regular training trim: the only thing aero about me was my position and my helmet.
- I’ll be swimming a 500 at Master’s meet in 2 weeks for Conejo Valley Multisport Masters. My first Masters meet, can you believe? First meet since… NCAA Division III MIAC Conference in 2000. Wow.
- Wildflower Long Course (May 4). I previewed the course last weekend. More on this below.
- Boise 70.3 (June 8).
- Spectating Vineman 70.3 (July 14. Sold out by the time I realized I’d be available on this date… so I’m going to watch and eat and drink, like ya do. We have rezzies at The French Laundry, la di da de.)
- Boulder 70.3 (August 4)
- Age Group Nationals – Olympic (August 10, Milwaukee)
- Vvvvvvegas for IM70.3WC?
Meanwhile, thanks to digging a hole for myself after Kona last October, then not being able to find my footing for a few months once I was ready to start training again, and overeating all along the way, this season is off to a slow start, ifyouknowhwatimean. I’m rewriting my expectations for this season as I go. I’m also catching up on all of the physical therapy I haven’t done in the last 2-5 years, which is more important than pushing through for another year… I guess. As a result of my current condition and conditioning, and after seeing the course and recognizing my weaknesses right now, Coach Steve and I have agreed that Wildflower will be an aquabike. We called it now, a few weeks early, just so I can wrap my head around having to surrender my timing chip after T2. Ouch.
We’ll see where I am another month hence at Boise. It could be another aquabike, a great training day, or maybe we’ll take the reins off. In any case, emphasis will be on Boulder in August and generally rebuilding for another Ironman year in 2014.
Recently, an esteemed acquaintance said that I haven’t yet paid my dues to the sport of triathlon. He didn’t mean it in a jerktastic way –in fact he was saying it to comfort me— but it made me think. I trained for my first triathlon when I was staring down the barrel of my 30th birthday.* I turn 35 today (having spent this entire season as a F35-39) and am looking forward to 2013 as my 7th season, although I still haven’t figured out exactly what I’m doing with it. In an ongoing effort to calculate my next move, a few friends (including Ms. Kate Bongiovanni and her enormous compliment, as well as the “dues” comment), have inspired me to reflect on my little “journey”* so far. Join me as I gaze at my navel on the 35th anniversary of having my umbilical cord cut, won’t you?
*I didn’t know about the USAT age-up rule, so was completely pissed when body markers wrote “30” on my calf. And is “journey” not the most over-used word in triathlon human-interest stories?
We’re no Boulder or San Diego, but amateur athlete-wise, Chicagoland has an embarrassment of riches: I’m surrounded by hyper-talented people who train hard but make winning look so, so easy. These people win their age group regularly and qualify for Nationals/Worlds/Boston/Kona repeatedly, and sometimes on their first try. If there’s some mythical socially acceptable rate of improvement, these people surely overstep it: they have many happy returns on their investment. Sure, they’re human and suffer occasional setbacks and injuries, but they navigate around them toward their goals.
I do not see myself as one of these freaks.
I’m also lucky enough to train and race with people who work their way toward better and better results. Their trajectory may be a slightly slower than some of the local superstars, but it’s thrilling to watch their names climb closer to the top of the results page. Some make their goals known publicly, and sure enough, they cross items off-season by season. They demonstrate their efforts, and though the rewards may be harder to come by, their pride and gratitude is that much greater.
As I’ve described, I’m embarrassingly un-type-A about a lot: I don’t really set goals, much to the dismay of, like, every coach I’ve ever had. I joke a lot about keeping the bar really, really low so that it’s that much easier for me to hop over. Then I get to go “TA DA!” from the other side no matter how narrowly I clear said bar. Yes, I train, I race, I’ve improved, and I’m grateful and proud, but I’m not self-directed when it comes to la vie sportif. I’ve always had coaches and teams to whom I was accountable. That part on my resume where I talk about being highly self-motivated? Total lie. Fear and pressure motivates me. Here’s my background:
…And memo to self: delete this post when conducting next job search.
Swimming was my Thing, growing up. I remember being put in a floaty-O and learning how to eggbeat my legs so I spun in quick circles. After work one evening, my mom taught me to float on my back while standing on deck in her beshoulderpadded blazer. We joined an athletic club and the lifeguard/swim coach made me sign up for the diving team because I pointed my toes every time I jumped in the pool. That meant being on the swim team, too. I swam the 25 backstroke at my first meet and came in dead last and terribly confused: I accidentally ducked under the lane rope mid-length and disqualified myself. Watching the big kids, I learned how to approximate a butterfly stroke so swam that next.
Swimming was heretofore a summer sport, but in 3rd grade a swim mom told mine about a species of winter swimmers. These fish included Tommy Malchow, who I trained and traveled to a few meets with. You know Tom, the 200 butterfly gold medal winner from the 2000 summer Olympics? Yeah, before he beat pubescent Michael Phelps, he once loaned me his goggles. My mom took me to my first United States Swimming (USS) meet where I swam three events and was disqualified in two because I didn’t know the rules.
From 3rd through 11th grade I was on at least three teams a year (summer league, school, and USS). I swam a lot of individual medley and whatever stroke I happened to be good at that season (usually fly). Really, though, my coaches slotted me into the roster where ever they needed to fill it out: the smart ones made it sound like my idea or like it would be a fun experiment. “You like backstroke, don’t you? No? Sure you do, let’s put you in this relay. Learn how to do a start before the meet, OK?” This is also how I briefly became a distance freestyler in 7th grade (200 and 500 free). I choose to believe they valued my “versatility” versus taking advantage of how little I cared what race it was, as long as I got a ribbon at the end!
My best season was my sophomore year in high school: I had moved to Emmaus, Pennsylvania from Colorado just before 9th grade and was completely fuuuucking miserable (sorry, fellow Hornets). Everything had changed. Everything but my Thing, swimming. I was almost always the first one to throw myself in the pool and start warm-up, 9 times a week. Being on the swim team, staring at the record board every day, and hoping that if I got really fast I might make some friends became my purpose in high-school life. It was a coping mechanism. During that horribly awkward time, swimming was more natural and comfortable than walking the halls at school. There was a depth of talent on my team, so I never got to be the best at any event, but I did go to the State Championship and swim the butterfly leg of the medley relay (against a girl from our rival high school who went to the Olympic trials. I got my ass handed to me).
Then I moved back to Colorado. Everything changed again, including my body, and I lost my drive. As a surly senior, I quit.
I returned to swimming at Carleton College, though, and made great friends there. Every year I thought about quitting: dedicating two of three trimesters per year to such a time-consuming extracurricular along with the rigorous academics at Carleton was overwhelming. So was the thought of not having swimming, though. Not just the sport, but the people. Just by virtue of knowing the team, I knew 8% of Carleton’s student body (small school), and knew them well. We spent a LOT of time together. We were family, and still are. Facebook lights up every time we hear Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” (see 2012 Superbowl) or if there’s a remarkable development in our world.
Collectively, we loved this video so hard. If anyone had a camera at our winter training trip in Florida, we would have created something similar. Actually, the infamous “Men’s Team Entry” video is the late 90s VHS Bizarreoland equivalent. Why isn’t this on YouTube?
Cut to post-Varsity life and several years in my 20s of thinking about joining a swim team, or taking up jogging, or bike commuting… but finding excuses not to. I was pretty convinced I couldn’t do land sports: a lifetime of virtually zero impact on my joints (unless skiing counts? And I injured myself plenty doing that) made it seem out of the question. That meant triathlon was out too, although I was really attracted to the funny-looking bikes and cool running shoes.
Anyway, I spent a few years watching teevee as my 30th encroached. Then this episode of “Scrubs” came on.
I signed up for a training program that would get me to Danskin Sprint Triathlon for Ladies and gave it a shot. I procured a wetsuit, already had a road bike (“Denty” was about four sizes too big for me), and figured I could walk the run if I needed to. I tested out my joints during a few training runs wearing my very fashionable Pumas, which LOOKED vaguely like running shoes, but had no function other than being really blue.
Training was a lot of fun, even the running part –actual running shoes made a big difference. And hey, guess what? When you start out slowly and follow a training program, you can do just about anything. The Chicago Tri Club took me in and I got hooked fast, partially because after half a year of working alone at home, I found a social group. Moreover, after five years of living, studying, and working in an area dominated by gay men, I met some STRAIGHT BOYS! Yaaaay, triathlon FTW!
I once had no idea how anyone could move their legs fast enough to break a 9 minute mile. It seemed impossible to me… unless I was chasing the boys at the front of the local fun run. I would listen to them having easy conversations while I turned purple and doubled over at stop lights, wondering how they could talk and run at the same time. The “fun” part of the fun run lasted less than two miles before the boys started disappearing in the darkness between street lamps blocks and blocks ahead.
I spent my first several events calculating my results in various races and was triumphant if I was anywhere near the 75th percentile (or the 50th, in a road race). Thank you, Athlinks! I thought it must be cool to finish in the top 20, then 15, then 10 percent. I admit to stalking past results and a few competitors’ times to better understand what that might take at certain events, but I didn’t know what I could pull off myself.
After volunteering at Ironman Wisconsin (IMOO) in 2007, my friend Mike and I hatched a plan to do it together in 2009. The 2008 season would just be about ramping up ambitions: I’d do a few races, including a half iron and a marathon. I wanted to know I was structurally sound enough for the higher mileage of long course triathlon events. Mike, by the way, conveniently forgot about our pact. He was busy qualifying for Boston anyway.
Thanks to illness and travel, as well as general cluelessness, I didn’t train well in 2008. My first half at Racine went OK (I went sub 5:30 thanks to a REALLY short swim course), but I wasn’t fit enough to bounce back. I lost steam and basically didn’t train for the marathon. I did one long run a week and spent the rest of the week sore and afraid my knee was going to explode. I finished the Twin Cities Marathon in something like 4:07, then sat on the couch for the next two months.
Well-Fit opened the Training Center in early 2009, and I joined immediately. I also lucked into winning a spot in Liz Waterstraat and Keith Klebacha’s Ironman training program. GOOD THING, since the Elite Team rejected my application that year. =P I also finally got a new bike with aerobars and everything, which was a significant improvement over Denty.
I really liked training for Ironman, especially with a group. I had my own agenda after hours (I mean I lived with another triathlete) so it took a while for me to warm up to the dynamic. Like my old swim team, however, I couldn’t imagine training without my little tri family. We were all fairly-to-brand-new to triathlon, but had some strong people in the group. I did a few more halves that year in the build-up to IMOO and had a pretty good day. Actually, it was the best day of my life to date. (Here’s my long race report on Facebook.)
I applied for the Well-Fit Elite team AGAIN and was accepted for the 2010 season! Hurrah. I spent most of that year feeling comparatively slow and self-conscious. I still couldn’t run, and my bike was only slightly improved thanks to many more miles in the saddle. Although I was a swimmer, I felt like I was drowning next to the fast lane’s wake. I think that year I just rode Stacey’s feet and hung on for dear life. I also didn’t have a very ambitious race plan for the season. I felt slightly burned out from Ironman, completely intimidated by the team, and generally meh about my lack of goals. Coach Hayes and I had signed up for the Branson 70.3 in mid-September as our ‘A’ race, but decided to ditch it, so it was a pretty anti-climactic year.
The good news is that after a few months of mental recovery and dieting, I was really ready to hit my off/out-season plan. We registered for the Cary Half Marathon, which kept me running during the cold and dark months. I did my long runs on Sundays just before heading to my girlfriends’ dinner parties to stuff my face. 1400 calories out, 1400 calories back in! Hayes had also become serious about coaching and was reading just about every book published on training. Doctors Skiba and Coggan were informing some seriously intense trainer rides at home. I don’t think I swam at all during this time, figuring it was better spent making my legs suffer.
Ironman Wisconsin gave me a driving force behind my season, which was just the fear of Ironman and hoping I could do better than my 2009 time. I knew I could shave off a few minutes thanks to experience and better decision-making in race execution, but who knows what the day could bring in terms of other obstacles. Weather, nutrition, mechanical disasters? After a few months of Elite Team workouts, though, people started asking me if I wanted to qualify for Kona. Ummm… sure, who doesn’t? But that’s not going to happen. I thought I MIGHT be able to squeak into the top 10 of my age group, and that’s all I really dared to hope for. It would take a lot more than that to qualify.
Sharone really started shoving Kona qualification down my throat. I choked on it. I told him I wanted no one to expect me to do anything of the sort. True, I was placing well in local events and on familiar courses throughout the season. Time-wise, however, I didn’t do anything too remarkable. Barely sub-2:20 at an Olympic here, survived a hot half-iron there. Big deal. Kona qualifiers finish well at big events, right? They podium at 70.3s with national draws (which I hadn’t done), and they run WAY faster than I do.
Well, I never
wrote finished my race report from IMOO 2011, but suffice to say it went better than I expected. I have Sharone and others to thank for putting the idea in the back of my head, at least, which made me take my race preparation quite a bit more seriously than I would have otherwise. Still, I set that bar lower than I needed to, so was completely gobsmacked a spectator told me I was the 5th amateur off the bike and only two minutes down from Sarah, the leader of my age group (and eventual winner: I cashed myself catching up to, passing, and then getting passed back by her). I had friends on the side of the road who had their eyes bugging out of their head in disbelief and/or excitement. My teammates greeted me on State Street, then at the finish line with high-fives and congratulations. It was another amazing day at Ironman.
The “journey of Ironman” is horribly cliché, so here’s my new metaphor:
The cocktail of endorphins, adrenaline, and achievement that is Ironman is the sweetest ambrosia I’ve ever tasted. I would get drunk on it every day and twice on Sundays if not for the hangover.
The aftermath of qualifying for Kona without really doing the mental preparation has brought unexpected consequences, though. By “mental preparation” I mean I didn’t have the confidence within myself to believe I could do it, so when I did, my perception turned upside-down. Being surrounded with freaks and diligent athletes hasn’t lent much perspective in terms of where I stand in the greater scheme of things. I spent time asking for validation: did that really happen? Who DIDN’T show up that allowed me to qualify? Dare I ask for help next season? Will PowerBar take me on? (Yes.) Timex? (FUCK. NO. Dream on.) I glossed over my 2012 season here.
2012 was a year where I lost everything from top down EXCEPT my races. No, I don’t think I’m the shit. Although I wasn’t able to train as hard as I would have liked, I did work on quite a few other things: barely eight months ago, someone told me it was pathetic how I can’t enjoy small victories (personal bests in workouts, for instance) any longer than two minutes before questioning whether or not I gave it everything. I’ve since tried to draw the connection between hard work and positive outcomes, which are always nice. Before this year I never really posted my race results, but a) sponsors want to see them (sorry), b) it’s not about self-promotion; it’s about thanking the teams I love, and c) I finally feel kinda proud of the races I’ve learned to put together. As much as my Minnesotan nature chafes at doing it, hello, I like racing, I like doing well, and I like telling my friends about it. It’s just nice to do something and to feel supported. Not everyone gets it, appreciates it, or understands that I’m still just gunning for the pretty ribbon at the end. It’s just positive outcomes, see?
So I set the bar low for Kona (to “just have a good time”) –I knew I wasn’t at my best anyway—so that helped take the pressure off. Predictably enough, I cleared it. Seriously, try not enjoying Kona. It’s impossible.
What’s funny and/or hypocritical is that I always harp on people who take our little hobby too seriously. I’ve told grown men “this is supposed to be fun, and you don’t have to be here, so quitcherbitchin’.” However, I’ve also told teammates to stop complaining and get the fucking workout done. =) OK I didn’t say that, but “quitcherbitchin’” is a softer version of that general sentiment. I’ve also told people “you’re your worst critic, you have nothing to prove to anyone, no one will judge you based on your results.” Well sure, except for YOURSELF, and that is a person who can be hard to answer to. I don’t want to let anyone down, including, like, ME. And as much as I say “we’re adults, no one is making you do this to look good on college applications,” a lot of this still feels like high school. I want to get fast so I can feel like I belong. I don’t need to prove ‘em wrong or anything, but I do have to remind myself that I have worked for it, like, since I was six and put on that swim team.
Maybe I should just quitmybitchin’.
It seems that I have brought up more questions than I’ve answered: can I suddenly become a self-directed, goal-setting, driven and disciplined triborg? Is that honestly something I have to do to continue progressing in the sport? Can I fully realize that there is no peer pressure to do this: it’s my choice and for my own benefit? There’s still work to be done here, both mental and physical.
Meanwhile, here’s to ageing up and paying my dues.
So I had this whole navel-gazing post all worked up in advance of my birthday this Saturday, but have decided to publish it another time (like, maybe on Saturday). Meanwhile, I noticed someone was directed to my blargh here by searching for the “’shower smoothie’ recipe.”
I don’t know if the searcher was looking for Craig Alexander’s recipe, here (scroll down), or what, but I have a different favorite. It’s the deliciousness that’s pictured with my blue toes in a post-long-run ice bath.
Here’s the basic premise:
(frozen solids (fruit) + liquid) x blender = smoothie
smoothie + supplements = post-workout smoothie
post-workout smoothie + ((hungry)(stinky))^post-workout athlete = shower smoothie
Caution: the shower smoothie is prepared in the kitchen, but shower smoothie time is spent in the bathroom. If you have a problem mixing food with fixtures, this is not the recipe or recovery method for you.
First, choose your frozen solids:
Frozen bananas are kinda clutch, in my opinion. They make your shower smoothie frothy and filling. I peel and freeze smoothie bananas once cereal bananas become too ripe for my taste. My freezer looks like a banana morgue.
Choose your own “flavor fruit”: mixed berries, blueberries, mangos, cherries, even spinach (yes, I KNOW spinach isn’t a fruit). Take into account what kind of supplements you may be adding; don’t mix spinach with vanilla protein powder.
Next, choose your liquid:
I always have almond milk on hand, but you can use anything (except water. Blandzilla!): orange juice, apple juice, coconut water, coconut milk, regular milk, even iced tea. Almond milk is my favorite. Apple juice is good for “savory” smoothies like Green Monster-style spinach ones, and tea is nice because it lends herbaceousness and is non-caloric. I wouldn’t use tea with protein, though I’ve never tried it.
There’s plenty to choose from out there, but I like the vanilla flavored whey protein stuff from Whole Foods’ 365 line just fine. Adding protein makes a shower smoothie what it is –a recovery drink– and whey protein is faster absorbed than soy protein. I have this FRS concentrate stuff on hand if I just want a jolt in my breakfast fix.
Two “specialty” items I include in a good shower smoothie are lecithin granules (not pictured; I’ve run out) and flaxseed oil. Add 1-2 tablespoons of each. The oil has all yer Omega-3s and whatnot, which are good for your muscles, and the lecithin is good for your brain and nervous system and junk. The lecithin also acts as an emulsifier, so your water-based fruits blend nicely with the oil.
Pro tip: shake up your flaxseed oil and store it on its side in the feezer. There are solids in there –the hulls of the flaxseed which are high in fiber and good for you– and this helps squirt them out in even ratios with the oil.
Here we have:
1/2 banana + mixed berries + coconut milk + vanilla protein
Throw it all in there. There’s no point in measuring everything, especially after a workout when you’re just concerned with cramming something into your stomach, getting clean, and going to bed. If you’re an obsessive food logger, God bless you. Let’s just say a whole banana plus ¾ to 1 cup fruit needs about 1½ cups of liquid (?).
Serve and enjoy!
I’ve tried lots of combinations of all of the above. I think my absolute favorite so far, though, was this combo:
Banana + cherries + almond milk + vanilla protein (+lecithin + flax oil, optional) = amazeballs.
November 28, 2012 Update:
I just tried a new combo. I was dragging after my run this afternoon and realized I hadn’t had anything but coffee beforehand. Oops. HOWEVER I was about to leave for an insanely delicious meal involving approximately ZERO vegetables, so wanted something low cal and green to hydrate with. Enter HULK SMOOTHIE:
1/2 banana + 2 tbsp Green Vibrance* + frozen mango chunks + iced tea (+ flax oil, optional) =
This is a variation on a tried and true but about 500 calorie smoothie I’ve made while doing crazy cleanse diets:
1 full banana + 1 cup unfiltered apple juice + 2 tbsp each (Green Vibrance, lecithin, flax oil).
stay tuned. maybe i’ll keep adding to this post…
It’s Sunday. I’ve tried to make sitting down and writing my “job” on Sundays. I love writing, but what toooooootally sucks is having nothing to write about. So I guess this is my blog about nothing.
Maybe not “nothing” so much as not knowing
what’s watt’s next. Tis the off-season and I haven’t come up with a plan for next year, yet. Earlier this week, the 13th, marked exactly 31 days since that thing I did. While I feel it’s time to get back on the horse, I also want to give my mind and body a break, heal up any injuries, and make sure I’m ready to commit.
I’ve always taken a ton of time off after my season ends:
a) I’m highly effective at talking myself out of proactivity.
b) I’m a natural couch potato. My ass is perfectly accustomed to sitting in cars, chairs, and planes. Any cushion I’ve ever plopped in has a shorter-than-tested double rub count and develops a sizeable dent. Actually, this also helps explain how I’ve worn through so many saddles in my relatively short tri-life.
c) I’m super wary of burnout. Feeling obligated to follow a training plan when my upcoming season isn’t even outlined yet doesn’t feel good. I don’t necessarily need a big A-race to shoot for (though the fear of failure certainly helps motivate me…): it’s enough just to know that I plan to race a bunch next year, want to do well, and could/should maintain some fitness for it.
During the season, I looked at showing up to swim practice with the team my “job,” getting enough rest as my “job,” filling in my calendar with a completed workout was my “job.” Well, now I’m basically unemployed. Is fixing myself/having fun/reconnecting with the world at large my “job” now? Even that sounds haaaaaaaaaard and I don’t wanna work anymooooreeeee. Just let me sleeeeeep.
See how good I am at talking myself out of accomplishing anything? Yup! Usually, I sit and I wait until I totally hate myself and the wad of melted wax my body has become before I start training again. Nothing productive happens in the meantime. Although triathletes have a reputation for being “type-A” (the polite way of saying “douchebags” or “borderline schizophrenic personalities with OCD and psychopathic tendencies”), some of us are just fucking LAZY. I’m not going to make a judgment on whether my brand of off-season sloth is good or bad, because it works for me in some respects.
Having a goal is important, though, even if it’s just “I’m going to nail the next X-number weeks of workouts so that on Y-date I can start my season with Z-omg fitness.” I’m just not ready yet. Namely, I tend to wait until my schedule is totally clear of interruptions, and, well, the holidays are coming up, I’m planning a semi-cathartic solo road trip, and more change is coming my way soon. Aaaaand, excuses, excuses, etc., etc., QMB.
I AM starting to chew on next season, though. My idea is to lock in on the half iron distance and learn how to really race it. I had good and bad luck with this season. I love the balance between mind and body in long course triathlon. You have to have the power, but you can’t turn off your brain and skimp on nutrition, pacing, and strategy. I’ll probably throw in some Olympic distance races too, because that is really my Achilles’ heel for almost the opposite reason: I conserve too much for fear of blowing up. I let my mind get in the way.
This is exactly what I tell my short-course friends when they’re like “Ironmerg, ermahgerd!” I personally find speed WAY more daunting than distance.
Of course, I also tell people that spectating an Ironman is harder than doing one. It doesn’t make sense to some, but I believe it.
So, now what?
I was recently introduced to this concept of Vision, Priorities, and Alignment. That’s PowerPoint talk for setting a goal, prioritizing actions to help reach that goal, and evaluating how each action* is helping you reach that goal. Or something like that.
*Within reason. All RELATED actions, maybe, though it’s pretty life-encompassing when it comes to health and performance.
Ugh, what was that about not wanting to work? OK, I’m just thinking aloud here. Chime in if I’m being dumb. Here are my PowerPoints for 2013:
Vision: continuing to improve. 2013 will be my 7th (? WOAH!) season of triathlon and I haven’t had a setback yet.
Priorities (not prioritized, yet):
- I need to run faster. Right now I can basically only-barely hold onto whatever advantage I build in the swim, and I can’t excel past that. I lose it on the run and race results become too close for comfort (like the girl at Kansas 70.3who ran more than 12 minutes faster than I to finish within about 2 minutes of me? Yeah, like that). This means:
- Working on my form.
- More mileage, as long as I don’t get injured (still nursing a stupid calf issue).
- I need to bike faster, too.
- This might require more consistency than I was able to have this last season, meaning, in part, a trainer at home, which I haven’t had.
- More intensity work, bumping my “roof” to raise my “ceiling.”
- Weighing less = faster. I cut *some* weight a few seasons ago, and again about this time last year, but did horrible things to my body this summer and gained it all back (see bloated marshmallow pics from Kona). Ugh. This is going to be hard.
- Sorry, Traveling Triathlete, who once asked how I did it, it involves obsessively counting calories. I don’t go in for the denying your cravings—dafuqs the point of that? Luckily, I find that calorie counting is the gateway to making better decisions in general, and is way easier than any periodized plan where you can only have so many mgs of magnesium within 3 hours of waking up or whateverthefuck. So short of adopting a crazy diet of denial (NO grains/white food/gluten/dairy/alcohol/JOY), just count.
- Maybe I’ll adopt a higher-protein diet, says the girl eating a package of gnocchi right now, with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s in the freezer for later.
- SHIiiiiiiT. All of this is adding up to “strength.” I basically have to get stronger, and that means doing more strength work. If speed is my one Achilles’ heel, I’m going to have to say that not having the patience, discipline, or attention span to do strength workouts would be the other (you get to have two Achilles’ heels, right? Bilateral symmetry and whatnot?)
Alignment: ummm. Figure out what’s going to get me there? I guess? Maybe it’s time to switch up the plan. Swim like a swimmer, bike like a biker, run like a runner, and do strength… well, I’ll still be a triathlete there. Only functional work, please! La de da!
This is the part I’m still trying to figure out.
Good thing I’ve got a little time before the semi-arbitrary deadlines of my birthday and the New Year come. (Arbitrary deadlines are also motivators.)
Now if you’ll excuse me, my ass has worn a dent into this chair. I need to go take a nap.
Saturday October 13, Race Day
Alarm at 3:30. Eat by 4, leave by 4:30. Pro men start 6:30, pro women 6:35, the rest of us at 7.
I got six great hours of sleep (thanks, Ambien!), stretched, blinked, and rolled out of bed. I pulled the tags off my new white Wattie Ink. World Championship edition kit, and threw it on, then headed to the kitchen to hit the go button on the coffee maker. I had two packets of Quaker Oats (maple), a banana, and a bottle of infinIT (no protein in this mix). The infinIT was swapped out for coffee as soon as it was ready.
Russ and I nodded good morning to each other, but went about our respective business. I went back to my bedroom to savor a little more time horizontal, and check posts, Tweets, and texts. During the dark moments on the course, it always helps to know exactly how many people may be watching.
Russ and I did a final check and headed out the door, special needs bags in hand. We trudged down Ali’i Drive, in the dark. I noted the stars and the breeze, and looked toward the ocean as we crossed a bridge. There were some serious waves out there.
About ½ mile down the road, someone offered us a ride. Turns out it was Matt Curbeau and his mom, Bonnie. She was able to roll us right up to what would be the finish line chute later that night.
We cut through the King K Hotel on our way to the massive tent behind it. We dropped off our special needs bag(s) along the way, and got body marked with those big, greasy stamps. Athletes were strewn all over the lawn in various states: sleepy, fear, denial, acceptance, jovial. We skipped through them and headed to the transition area on the pier.
Here’s a map.
I headed straight to my bike (blue arrow) to set up my nutrition, computer, helmet, sunglasses, etc. I slapped on a Wattie tattoo on my right shoulder and a PowerBar tat on my left arm, and then turned to the porta-potties nearby.
Sorry for the level of detail here, but these porta-potties? Their doors face away from transition, so you wait sea-side at the end of the pier (green arrow). As I walked toward them, I heard someone gasp.
I came around to the end of the pier and saw two sea turtles floating not two feet away, checking us out. These were the first turtles I had seen all week. I completely squealed with delight. Russ was there, too, so we laughed and hugged and watched them a little longer. One submerged while the other took a last peak and breath, and then submerged too.
A woman next to me commented how fantastic it was, and I realized it was someone I met earlier in the week (Helen Kay of NZ). We wished each other luck and to have a fantastic day. I returned to my bike to find Sarah J. Robson Braunshausen nearby. She got first in our age group at IMOO when we qualified. It was great to wish her luck. I then ran into Ryan Frederickson applying sunscreen on one of his buddies. I made him smear some on me, and then slapped a PowerBar tattoo on his lower back. TRAMP STAMPED! Good luck, buddy.
Over at the racks of T1 and T2 bags, a volunteer was assigned to me and supervised me peeking into my bags one last time. In a gap between the changing tent and the racks, I caught a glimpse of Kona, street lights on, waking up. The shadow of the volcano’s slope behind it, and over that…
“The moon is smiling at you.” My volunteer caught me pausing, taking it all in. Sure enough, the crescent moon was lit from beneath and looked like a little grin.
Well, between the moon and the turtles, it was shaping up to be an auspicious morning.
There was plenty of time to kill and admin to do back on the lawn. I realized I needed a bike special needs bag for an additional nutrition bottle, so took care of that, dropped off my morning clothes bag, and sat with a gel and a bottle of water near the Vaseline table. I put LOTS of that all over my neck and shoulders to prepare for my first time in a Blue Seventy swimskin (thanks again, Lindsay!). Nothing like new stuff on race day! The swimskin worked great.
Soon enough the National and Hawaiian anthems were being sung and the helicopters were swarming. It was time to head toward the water. I heard the cannon go off for the pro men, and I think I was at the water’s edge when the pro women went off. I stood in knee deep water for a bit, taking it all in. There were people lined up along the sea wall as far as I could see. The DZNuts reps were standing right in front of me, so I waved and “saluted.”
This set the tone for a pretty light-hearted day. I swam close to the sea wall for a few yards, took in another 360-degree view, then made some last minute adjustments: I realized my pony tail wouldn’t let me get my helmet on later, so took off my cap and goggles, readjusted it, and put my goggles on first so the strap was underneath my cap. I don’t usually swim this way, but I heard the contact here was so bad, I might not want to risk getting them kicked off. I swam parallel to the start line to scope out where to park myself. Steve Johnson said he liked to be pretty far left, but in front, and he found clean water there. That’s about where I landed, too: maybe 30 yards from the end of the line-up, in the 1.5th row (two guys were slightly ahead of me, off both of my shoulders. They said they planned to swim about an hour, so I felt comfortable here). The sun came up over the volcano, and I said “good morning, sunshine” out loud. Some of the dudes near me turned, smiled, and nodded. It’s nice to know in a field of athletes of this caliber, no one takes themselves TOO seriously.
So we floated and tried not to drift for a long while, waiting for the cannon at 7am. I love that cannon. The swim course director told us on Thursday night that we would be able to FEEL it, so I waited for a sonic boom in my chest… and waited. Mike Reilly just started screaming“GO GO GO GO GO!”
Swim (2.4 miles: open water, out and back. Blue Seventy swimskin on top of kit, new TYR goggles, standard-issue bright pink swim cap) 1:01:52
ACK! Alright! Splash splash splash, arms and legs everywhere. At most races I can break free of the crowd within a few strokes, but I was completely surrounded here. Still, I had ZERO contact. None. I did not get kicked or punched, I did not have to shorten my stroke, and I did not have to sight. It was pretty nice, actually. I remained pleasantly surprised until my group got a little crammed next to a buoy. I caught a fist in my eye socket then, but nothing too bad. The turn was a little screwy—the buoys weren’t quite lined up with the catamarans, so we zigged and zagged a bit before heading back.
I should say here that all week they had been adding buoys along the swim course. It seemed like each day another buoy was added to the end of the line, until we could see the last one from my parents’ condo, 1.7 miles down the shore. It is a MUCH longer course than it looks on the teevee.
The way back was quicker, but became a little more congested toward the end. By then I had named a few characters near me: Feet, Red Suit, Chick Over Here, Chick Over There, and More Chicks (alternatively, Pink Caps) kept coming nearby. Yes, I could have raced them, but I decided it wasn’t worth it. I just tried to keep my stroke long while my shoulders got fatigued. Soon I was swimming REALLY CLOSE and parallel to the pier alongside a Pink Cap. I stayed on the inside, hoping I could get a quick exit. I also tried to stay conscious of the wave action as we got closer to the exit. I had seen footage of pros standing up too soon and just as an undertow prevents them from lifting their feet off the sand. As usual, I swam until I couldn’t pull anything but sand, then popped up and ran up the stairs.
I don’t use a watch when I race. I can see the benefits; I just never have and don’t really miss the extra thing to think about. I also didn’t look at the clock on my way out of the water.
T1 (swim out, change tent, end of the pier, bike, put on helmet and glasses, run with bike allllll the way to the bike mount line) 2:23
I stripped my cap and goggles immediately, waved to a camera, grabbed a hose and squirted myself, and fumbled with my swimskin zipper. An athlete exiting behind me reached forward and grabbed it for me. Mahalo! I overshot my T1 bag (purple arrow) but grabbed it and slammed myself down in the first chair I saw in the change tent. My volunteer dumped my bag and I looked at the contents. A race belt, which we didn’t need to wear on the bike here, and, YES, gum! I grabbed two pieces of gum, chewed and ran (I CAN do both at the same time!). This helps get the taste of salt out of your mouth. My volunteer took care of repacking everything else.
I shoved on my helmet and glasses, buckled up, and ran my bike through transition. The volunteers were great and the path was clear. I got to the mount line and the crowd was incredible. I waved with one hand while I put my foot in one of my shoes and pushed off.
Bike (112 miles: a squirrely bit through and south of Kona, then north to Hawi on the Queen K. Via Parlee TT, ENVE carbon clinchers, and a CycleOps Power Tap that I neglected to set up. Copious amounts of chamois cream.) 5:51:20
So there I was on my bike. I consciously decided to treat the first 10 miles or so like a parade. I waved to people on Palani, everyone was so encouraging! I let dudes (and chicks) pass me. I listened for my name, and heard my dad scream it. A girl in a Wattie kit came by me and over the course of the next several miles we introduced ourselves. She, Allison Linnell, went on to win the 18-24 year old age group!
On a quieter section of the opening miles I started hearing a thwapping sound and tried to identify it. Eventually I saw the piece of electrical tape stuck to my front tire and tried to scrape it off with my fingernails while I kept rolling. No good. I stopped and peeled it off quickly and carried on. Seconds later, Henry saw me from where he and Sharone were parked in the median of the Queen K. I waved as Henry got out a “good job!”
Around this time I noticed that my bike computer didn’t and wouldn’t turn on. I noted the time on the clock (it read 2:20… the time in New York City?) and kept pushing buttons, but to no avail. I guess I’d be doing this ride by feel: I had no power, pace, odometer, cadence, nothing.
The out and back on Kuakini was mayhem: first, Mustafa and Tina made me jump out of my skin, they yelled so loud! Then there were athletes everywhere and it was impossible to ride legally. It was fast, too. I saw Russ not far behind me after the turn around and kept an eye out for others. Soon we were heading back up Palani toward the (in)famous Queen K. I spun uphill, then shifted into my big ring. Somehow I threw my chain off. That was a surprise. I stopped briefly and put it back on. A spectator offered help and wished me better luck and a good day. Mahalo again!
I think Russ passed me while I was stopped because I didn’t see him again for 60 miles. We all tore up the Queen K on that smooth black bitumen. It was really pretty, and I didn’t notice the wind. Yet. Except for the other athletes and the occasional aid station (every seven miles after you leave Kona), it was a pretty lonely course. North of the airport, there are maybe four crossroads and one golf course where spectators congregate, then the town of Kawaihae before the road tips up toward Hawi.
North of Kawaihae I really took note of the wind. It was bad. I had been expecting the worst, though, so when I felt it, it didn’t shock me. First it was a pretty terrible crosswind that felt like conditions at Kansas 70.3 earlier this year. Except this wind switched directions suddenly. One minute I’d be struggling to stay upright by leaning left, and a second later I’d almost get blown over to the right. I tried to stay locked in aero and push a steady cadence to beat the wind, but occasionally it beat me.
The pro men came by at some point, but I couldn’t really identify any of them at high speeds in their new kits and with their small frontal areas. One guy had the lead, one guy had a flat, another guy in green and yellow was passing him by as I came on the scene. I definitely saw Andy Potts. The women came by too. Leanda and Rinny caught my eye, but I wasn’t really looking.
The seven mile climb into Hawi was pretty mentally excruciating. I didn’t have any idea what my speed was, and that’s probably a good thing. I’m sure the conditions and slow speeds there bruised a few egos. Sugar cane leaves fluttering on the side of the road reminded me of hurricane footage. I was surprised to see happy people with hair blown in their faces standing around in Hawi. Are they used to this wind up here?
I grabbed my special needs bag on a slow roll, a volunteer running alongside me as I dug out my bottle of nutrition and handed the bag back to him. Then the fun started: downhill and with a tail wind, WHEEEEEEE! This time I was sorry to not have a working computer.
A few miles later I felt a splatter from a guy I was catching up to. As I passed, I asked if he just peed on me. He swore he didn’t. We mostly-legally passed and re-passed each other over the next several miles, and came to find out he’s my teammate John’s good friend Craig from Milwaukee. Such a small world.
The last 30 miles or so into Kona were slightly miserable. I had been taking salt tabs occasionally, whenever I felt particularly bloated (I was super puffy in general, so it was hard to tell), and at one aid station I grabbed a cola just to see how that would treat me. I really REALLY had to pee, but I really didn’t want to stop pedaling. I’m sure I slowed down significantly. The good thing is that I eventually did pull over to the shoulder to slow down and pee just as a mini-peloton that had been cruising around me got carded. They were all drafting, but one woman in particular was also blocking, so she got the penalty.
Soon enough familiar landmarks came back into view: the oasis-like beaches north of Kona, the airport, the Energy Lab. As we got closer to town a woman was riding down the middle of the highway shouting “GOOD JOB EVERYONE!” and giving the thumbs-up. I identified her as Chrissie Wellington just before passing by and thanked her for being out there.
More squirrely bits of the course led back into Kona, and I hit the very-exciting Hot Corner. Again, the crowds were deafening, stadium cheering for everyone. I smiled and waved my way down Palani and was happy to kick off my bike. Except for the whole looming marathon part.
T2 (ditch bike, run to the end of the pier, then back to T2 bags and the change tent) 3:23
My legs felt great. I’m sure not having a computer and generally slowing down in the second half of the bike helped me “conserve energy” (i.e. I likely didn’t go hard enough). I zoomed over the green carpet to the end of the pier and doubled back to the T2 racks (yellow arrow). I really really overshot my bag and had to run back for it. I tore into the change tent and didn’t want to trip over anyone on my way to a chair, so just dumped the bag on the ground and started sifting. Volunteers came over with everything I needed: a towel, cup of water, and sunscreen. I wiped off my feet and put on my Smartwool socks and KSwiss shoes while someone put on my race belt as someone else carefully applied sunscreen to my shoulders and neck.
This transition could have been faster by a) not running past my bag, and b) putting together a smaller go-bag of things I could deal with once running (visor, Garmin, race belt, etc.). HOWEVER, I think a 3:30 transition is pretty worth getting sunscreen on, especially in Kona. Still, I was happy to run out of there not looking like Casper –sometimes they get a little over-generous with the sunscreen.
With profuse thanks I popped off the ground and ran out of the tent. I left the pier for the crowds lining Palani again.
My legs were still spinning in bike mode and I had to consciously slow my roll. I have no idea what pace I was running, but I felt great. Even my back!
I was carrying two things:
1) A latex glove I stole from John’s hospital room a few weeks earlier. Studies have shown that one of the best ways to cool down your core temp is to hold ice in your hand, or better yet, submerge your hand in ice. That’s what the glove does, plus the benefits last longer as the ice melts into cold water, AND you don’t have to TRY to grip anything. The order of the day was to stay cool. So I dumped several cups of ice down my bra and back, and into my glove at EVERY AID STATION. Later, Mustafa would remind me to dump some down my pants, too, which is THE most effective way to cool down your core.
2) My Garmin. I was about to strap it on when realized that, because I hadn’t run all week due to my back, I also hadn’t turned it on and located satellites. Guh. Sure enough, after several minutes, it asked “ARE YOU INDOORS?” Grumble.
Whatever. There was a lot of support along the roads and I waved to many familiar faces. Stacey found me on Ali’i, then Paige and Zev were across from Lava Java, standing in the shade of a telephone pole and Paige’s GIANT HAT. Paige’s brim flopped up and down as she jumped and screamed for me. A few blocks down the road Henry started yelling at me. I smiled and just handed him my Garmin. “Make this work, please,” and I carried on south.
Ali’i rolls a bit, so I saw my dad on the uphill that led to our condo’s driveway. He shouted encouraging words and waved up the road to my Aunt Linda, who ran with me for several yards too. My mom was in a lawn chair at the driveway. I waved to her, and it always cracks me up how surprised she seems to see me.
After the turn in Keauhou, things started getting tough. My quads tightened significantly and it became that much more difficult to run. I remembered that last year at IMOO my quads tightened around mile 18 of the run, and a little while after, Sarah came back to win our age group. This time I saw my teammate Erin Kersten running strong behind me. She’s been inspirational to me for several years in both her focus and dedication, and this season she threw down at Ironman Canada to qualify for Kona. I knew she was beyond strong enough to catch me, so I just made a mini-goal to delay that for as long as possible.
I had one or two things helping me through the pain, though. First, I was still smiling (most of the time, anyway) and enjoying the experience. A certain amount of misery is part of Ironman’s game, but I personally don’t think they should have any major presence in your average age grouper’s race day. Second, I knew a few friends had pitted Erin and me against each other in a bet (along with pairs of other age groupers they knew racing). The loser has to pick up the first post-season bar tab. I knew at least one friend who bet on me and I tried not to let her down! =P pppbbt on the rest of you, HATERZ! But seriously, motivation comes from strange and/or insignificant places once the hurt starts rolling in. I kinda hated the idea of that bet, but it did help me HTFU just a little.
Anyway, Henry had run in my direction and had my Garmin and a “don’t give in!” for me. I saw my family again yards later, and my dad gave me a quick rundown of my standings on the day (8th out of the swim, 17th-or-something after the bike). He asked how I was feeling, and I said “like I have another 20 miles to go.” John was farther down the road on his bike. I told him Erin wasn’t too far behind. Sharone waved from the 4th floor of his hotel. Paige and Zev were still near Lava Java, hat brim a-flappin’ =)
Peter Leavitt and Mustafa met me at the bottom of Hualalai and ran with me for a block. Mustafa reminded me about ice down my drawers, and Dr. Peter asked how my back was. So far so good, but I kinda knew the toughest part was yet to come. I power walked up the hill on Palani but the grade evened out and I got moving again soon enough.
The Queen K has few resident cheer squads, including the Erdinger tent, which was pretty entertaining to run by. As it was during the bike leg, though, the highway mostly just hosted aid stations and not much excitement. My strategy of grabbing as much ice as possible continued. I took in water and the occasional gel, but didn’t want to fill my stomach. Later I’d start grabbing cola, but really it was ice, ice, and more ice that kept me going.
Although my Garmin was working again, my pace meant nothing to me anymore. When I ran it was registering between an 8:30 and 8:50 pace, but then another aid station would come up, and I’d walk.
I made the turn into the Energy Lab and straight into the sun. The pavement in there is really uneven –well, a lot like Chicago’s. What surprised me was how LONG that section of the course was. They make it sound like you go downhill, then turn around and come right back up. No, there’s a slight downhill straight west and into the sun (you see footage of this), then you turn left and run for another mile before the turn around. None of it was that bad, but it was as hot as promised.
After the turn around I saw Erin again and told her to stick with it. I didn’t think she saw me, but she told me later she acknowledged me with a weak wave.
Once out of the Energy Lab, you’ve got a mere eight miles to go. I kept with the ice and water, occasional cola, and after 3pm chicken broth came out. Hey, why not? I had some of that. Kimber was coming my way, smiling, which I was happy to see. Turns out she was having a rough time, but she wasn’t letting it show.
At one aid station, an NBC camera was tracking a guy as he walked through, then picked up his pace to a jog. I passed him, so the camera started tracking me instead. The cameraman soon realized I had about two pounds of ice in my crotch and backed away.
The mile markers seemed to get farther and farther apart. 20 came along eventually: I told the guys around me “10k to go!” 23 finally came up, and that was also uplifting. Just shy of mile 24, a bystander said something like “you’ve got 20 minutes until 11 hours.”
I started doing the math and, provided nothing happened between here and there, I might go sub-11! It wasn’t over yet, though. I didn’t stop taking aid until I made the turn down Palani. There I started pulling the ice out of my bra and shorts, threw out my glove, and tried to straighten myself up a little for the finish line.
Well, I totally forgot the Hot Corner is a “corner,” like you have to TURN there. You can hear the finish line, and can see the pier, but I had several blocks to go yet, as the course loops around one last time so you can finish on Ali’i. That was a minor bummer, but the crowd support buoyed me. I saw Todd and Mustafa and Criss and Valerie on my to the finish chute –and I felt a little bit like Dorothy. I smiled and started doling out high-5s long before I got to the carpet. It was awesome. At the end of the day, my race time didn’t matter (but I went 10:58:37, and I was happy to learn my marathon was just under 4 hours). I had one of the best days of my life and was thanking strangers on the side of the road for it.
I surprised myself by not crying. I suppose that means I did a good job of enjoying the moment. I put my arms up, then turned around at the finish to give a two-armed wave to Kona and the people who helped get me there.
That night I wrote:
This place is powerful and humbling, but I’m proud of a lot: to have had the opportunity to come to this AMAZING island and raced with the best in the world; to have thoroughly enjoyed myself –even during the really tough moments– and not take it for granted that I’m here; to have kept expectations realistic and given myself over to what the day (previous week, season, and year) brought –a true test. I’ve shed more than a few tears in anticipation of this event. It would be selfish and futile in its aftermath to do anything but smile and give thanks for the gift of health, family/friends (ohana!), and the sun/moon/wind/clouds/(lucky?) sea turtles/competition/helping hands along the way. So, aloha and mahalo, Ironman World Championship! I hope I’m lucky enough to return some day.
I’m a TEASE! Here’s a post about the week leading up to the big event. Race report still pending (and honestly, I have little of substance to say about my race. My report will only expand on the central theme of “WHEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”).
Leading up to my departure on October 5th, I missed most of my workouts thanks to hectic weeks of trying to wrap things up before taking off for my vacation. I had several appointments to get to in the middle of the day, including a race check for my bike the Get A Grip Cycles and getting my awesome Enve race wheels (courtesy of the even more awesome David Kholi and Perfect Circle Cycling) put on before dropping it off for Tri Bike Transport on September 26th (so early!). My teammate, Kristin Bagley, loaned me her bike for a week, which allowed me to get in a few rides on the lakefront, at least. I had to complete or wrap-up all of my pending work projects, drive to and from Notre Dame for a day of research and site visits, and answer my boss’ thrice-minutely progress update requests. A final tune-up with my wonderful acupuncturist, Tim, and I was ALMOST ready…. It was a pretty bumpy road, those last few days.
The weeks were filled with all kinds of pleasantness, too, including amazing and generous gifts arriving by mail and messenger from friends and acquaintances: my aunt sent me a cool gift from Resource Revival; Fons adopted a baby otter in my name; Lore compiled a bag full of necessities and my favorite things (sunscreen, candy, more candy) on behalf of my IMOO’09 friends and others. Every time I feel invisible and like this whole triathlon thing is a silly game, someone out there proves they’re really pulling for me. Nga and Nick gave me MORE CANDY and magazines for the plane ride and, after a final panic-stricken packing session, dropped me off at the airport.
Russ and I traveled together to my sister Sara’s place in Oakland, CA on Friday night, then took off for Kona via Maui on Saturday morning. It wasn’t a very restful trip, but as soon as we got off the plane(s) in Kona I felt like I took a deep breath, exhaled, and left everything behind.
Saturday October 6: A new reality smacked me in the face while we were taxiing into Kona on the Queen K and, while watching the grass on the side of the road blow sideways, we caught a glimpse of Natascha Badmann on her Cheetah (this is my fave video of her, when she starts talking to her bike at 3:30-4:00). We drove on and by several Ironman landmarks –Queen K, Palani Road, the King K hotel (race central), the pier, the banyan tree, Ali’i Drive. OMG I’M REALLY HERE!
Russ and I dropped off our stuff off at his condo and packed up for a day of fun downtown. Industry people were there setting up for the week, slapping banners on any flat surface, but it was pretty quiet, athlete-wise. What looked like a dark rain cloud obscured the volcano, but the town and coast were under full, wonderful sun. We met up with Russ’ friend Alex to go for a swim off the pier after a pretty entertaining trip through the King K hotel.* Swimming was amazing. A few times I forgot to breathe or take a stroke, having lost track of what I was doing, distracted by amazing fish and corals. As we swam away from the pier and into deeper water, the color changed from milky blue to bright turquoise then slowly faded to deep saphire. I kept thinking “THIS is my favorite color blue, and I get to swim through it! … no THIS is my favorite color blue, and it exists in nature!… OMG no THIS is the best color blue….”
Yeah I liked swimming there. My only disappointment was not seeing any turtles on that trip.
Later that night we met up with some Wattie Ink.s and industry people for dinner at Humpy’s. It was great to meet Wattie and Heather Jackson, finally, and the Leavitts Three. Our first meeting kinda devolved after the jello shots came out, though. Humpy’s was celebrating Octoberfest that night. I’ll decline to post some photos, here, but there was a limbo contest (Heather rocked it), a beer stein girl slalom course (eventually closed for public endangerment), and a sausage eating contest that Wattie fully committed to (I think you’re supposed to get disqualified after you puke the first time…). Lots of fun. By about 9pm (2am CST) we were preeeeettymuch ready to head back to the condo. I slept like the dead that night, until 3am local time, that is.
Sunday October 7: Russ got up early to swim, then watched Alex run the PATH 5k. I slept, duh, and woke up with a tight back. I started stretching, ate some breakfast, then headed to the finish line of Alex’s race. We stood around waiting for the awards ceremony, staring at the sea and the vog. I kept stretching and trying to crack my back. Something was slightly out of place.
About an hour later, I was lying in the grass doing a full yoga routine, trying to get my hips and back to relax, but they kept tightening. A few minutes later, I couldn’t breathe or move. My lower back was officially spazzing out.
This has happened before –I’ve got a weird sacral issue and a few extra bones that makes for some fun muscle imbalances—but NOT THE WEEK OF THE BIGGEST RACE OF MY LIFE. Efffffff. Russ picked me up off the grass and we walked very, very slowly down to the pier, each uneven step hurting more than the last. We thought maybe trying to swim would help loosen things up.
Yup, no. Didn’t help. Also, no turtles again.
Oooooooohmahgerd what am I going to do about my back? I was pretty panic-stricken at this point, until I remembered my Wattie teammate, Shelby-from-Boulder, mentioned her acupuncturist guy would be on the island. A few frantic texts later I had an appointment set up with Todd Plymale-Mallory, LAc for the following morning.
We walked back to where TriBike Transport was set up and waited to be able to pick up our bikes. Russ napped in the grass and I just stared up at the palms hoping I could still race on Saturday. Would It be that bad if I couldn’t? Disappointing, sure, but at least I’m in HAWAII.
Luckily biking didn’t hurt my back at all. Quick change back at the condo, and we headed to Kona Brewing Company for a late lunch. Steve Johnson –who earned 3rd in his AG at Kona in 2011— showed up, so Russ and I (both first-timers to Kona) joined him for a beer and got some sage advice about the course and what to expect (upshot: the unexpected). He mentioned where he would be lining up for the swim (mental note taken), and said the Energy Lab was his favorite part of the run course (interestiiiiing… not something I had EVER heard before from ANYONE before). I told him about my back. He was like “you should really see my guy –he’s coming in tonight…Todd….” Yup, got it. So glad I set up that appointment already!
Monday October 8: It was an uncomfortable night’s sleep, but I got myself out of bed to go wait in line for a free Rudy Project Wingspan helmet. Pretty awesome schwag, that. At one point I was standing on the street corner with my bike when a portly Texan walked up to me and said “hi, I’m John Cobb. I designed your saddle. Thanks for riding it.” OK! I saw him and his wife later and we talked about saddles (I should really be on something narrower), and the Wingspan helmets, which he also designed. He told us “it’s not going to be THAT hot, only 95 or so” so we should keep the grill in the front and the panel in the tail for aerodynamic savings. That was some pretty awesome advice from THE. EXPERT.
By 10am I was off to the condo Todd was operating out of for my massage/acupuncture session. He did a quick assessment and said “I see you’re in a lot of pain.” Physical? Yes. Mental, too. He determined that among other things that my gall bladder channel is blocked. Gall bladder: that would be the meridian in charge of decision making. Sounds accurate: I’ve been about as indecisive and foolhardy as they come this year.
The treatment was great and I felt some immediate relief, but my back still needed a little time to stop spazzing. We set up another appointment for Wednesday morning. I went for a quick swim to test it out –it was still very painful, especially in hyperextension while coping with the swells and sighting. And still, no turtle sighting.
More athletes were flooding into town by the hour. Russ and I spent the day meeting vendors set up near the PowerBar “store” (i.e. where as a member of the PowerBar Team Elite we got to grab a ton of nutrition products, stickers, gear, etc.), including DZNuts, Tony DeBoom’s Endurance Conspiracy, and Rudy Project.
That night we went to a little expo of Hawaii’s cultural legacy at the King K’s luau grounds. Great (free) food and show, thanks, Ironman! Paula Newby-Frasier, Julie Moss, and a bunch of the Ironman/WTC honchos were standing around, and I invited Mike Reilly and his wife to slide up to our table. We talked for a bit and got a picture before taking in a cool luau demonstration and making a new friend.
Tuesday October 9: I met up with the lovely and talented Michael Folan of infinIT Nutrition for breakfast at Lava Java. I’ve used infinIT for years as my sole source of nutrition on the bike, and had met him a few years ago in Chicago, but we bonded recently via Twitter over a mutual love of Modernism. Mr. Michael is my new fwiend.
He walked me to athlete check-in. WOW! It’s always an exciting time to check in at Ironman –to get your race number and pile of stickers, bags, and instructions— but at the World Championship is really something else in terms of languages/accents overheard and the excitement level. Everyone was all smiles. The woman who went over my paperwork with me flies in with her husband every year just to volunteer –they don’t do tris or any sport, but love the atmosphere of Kona during Ironman season.
That afternoon we were off for a 2 hour bike ride with Matthew Shanks, an 18-24M who Russ met at Ironman Mont-Tremblant. We rode north on the Queen K for a bit of a race preview. It was hot, windy, and gorgeous. My back felt great on the bike (I think because my hip flexors are nice and contracted in aero position, so they weren’t trying to stretch out and pulling anything else out of whack), so I went off the front a few times. The Queen K is so nice and wide, with huge shoulders and glassy smooth bitumen… a big change from Chicago!
That night we missed the Parade of Nations, unfortunately, but headed to a really cool (and free) Paula Fuga and Mike Love concert at Hulihe’e Palace sponsored by a bunch of our new friends from the expo. There was food, too, catered by Skratch Labs’ Biju Thomas (Alan Lim’s partner in writing this collection of yum). It was a great night in the sea breeze and under the stars with Russ, Jackie, Matt, and Henry.
I think later that night the expo opened, so we wandered around in search of free stuff. There’s lots of it.
Wednesday October 10: My parents arrived from Oahu really early in the morning, so we caught up and headed to Lava Java (what can I say, really good food and coffee, and it’s the epicenter of The Scene). It was great to have them there, and they made it clear they were a phone call away if I needed anything, but otherwise they would remain out of my hair. Perfect support crew!
Later, I had my follow-up appointment with Todd, who noticed my back and everything had made good progress in the last few days. He had his work cut out for him, but I was feeling much better.
That afternoon, Henry, John, Kimber and I drove clear across the island to Hilo to fetch John’s rental car and to see some sights. Wellllll it was a bit of a boondoggley road trip, but I highly recommend driving the Saddle Road. It follows the slight valley between the Big Island’s biggest volcano mommas, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. It’s a really fascinating trip ecologically and geologically: you pass through a bunch of different climate zones and above the clouds. The road passes over the intersection of the volcanoes’ cones, and the Mauna Kea side looks like the Sangre de Cristo range, while Mauna Loa looks like the MOON. A few blackened trees on outcrops of pahoehoe and backlit by white clouds looked just like Chinese watercolor paintings. Uh-mazing.
We raced back across the island to try to make it back to Kona in time for a (free) sunset cruise on the Body Glove boat, thanks to Leon. More food and booze, a lot of fun, and a school (pod?) of spinner dolphins to give us a show. No turtles.
Thursday October 11: Well, first thing was the Underpants Run (UPR). Basically, everyone sports a bunch of flesh and runs around downtown. Hijinks and laughs ensue. It was pretty hilarious. Good clean fun, all for charity.
My back felt pretty uncomfortable, still, even during the 1.2 mile UPR. I went for a swim afterward, and it felt better there, but not 100%. SIGH. I stopped by the expo and got taped up with KT tape, hoping that would help.
That night was the famous welcome banquet and “mandatory” course talk. Cool kids tend to think they’re too cool for school, but the show and banquet was fantastic and the course talk was really helpful. Russ earned us two free tickets and two VIP passes, so we sat in the VIP area (at the empty PowerBar table), and passed the tickets along to my friend Stacey Mullins –wife of my college buddy Mike Mullins, he who most inspired me to Ironman. Stacey was in Madison in 2011 to catch me at the finish line, and came to Hawaii to support her friend and catch me again! Awesome.
PAIGE AND ZEV arrived too! After I saw them in Austin in May, they decided to come to Hawaii to support me AND celebrate their 2 year anniversary. These two do it right –they landed and went straight to sushi, and met me on Ali’i with chocolate-covered macadamia nuts in hand. Fantastic.
Friday October 12: T-minus like… 20 hours to the start of the race by the time I woke up. Paige and Zev and I headed downtown for breakfast at… any guesses?
…Lava Java. Duh.
Then we wandered to the expo. I should have been off my feet, but I wanted to swing through and panic shop. I had my back retaped with massive amounts of PowerBar branded RockTape and sat in some recovery boots, bought some sunscreen, then went home to try to focus on the race. You can tell about how much of that I’ve done so far on this trip? Yeah, I was really unfocused….
We had to check in our bikes by 4:30pm, as well as our helmets, T1 and T2 bags. I had a lot of work to do! Because my back was out all week, I didn’t do a lot of shake-out preparation. Note to self these workouts aren’t just for proper tapering, but also to make sure your shit is together. I hadn’t run all week, so had to dig out my Garmin and pack it. I had barely biked, so had some set-up yet to do. I hadn’t even decided if I was going to use my Speedfil or a regular bottle cage on race day (ultimately, I went with the later).
I was totally underprepared. Russ was ready to head out the door to check in his bike, but I just wasn’t. I told him to go ahead while I continued to walk around in circles. I couldn’t believe I had 13 months to think about this race and just HADN’T.
Later, downtown, most of the Ironman infrastructure had been set up. Ali’i was partially barricaded I had to get off my bike and walk it the last block to the pier, past the finish line. I caught my breath and got a little teary. Everything was suddenly really, really real.
Bike check-in was LEGIT. There was a long line of athletes waiting to get onto the pier. They shuffled us through the bike count sluice where you walk past industry people who tally the brands of bikes, wheels, components, tires, pedals, saddles, you name it. I walked slowly through. A volunteer asked to see my T2 bag and my helmet, specifically, so I had to dig those out of my massive bag. I pretty much dropped everything on the ground in front of a bunch of cameras, which was cool. I looked up, though, and caught a glimpse of Wattie, who got a pic of me “locked and loaded.”
Each athlete is assigned a volunteer chaperone through transition. Once they check to make sure you match your bike’s number and that you have a legal helmet, they put an additional special Ironman sticker on your frame. Then they walk you through each step of your transition set-up: swim exit, T1 bag, the route through transition, bike exit and entrance, the route back to your T2 bag. They escort you to your bike spot (mine was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay on the end of the pier, meaning I’d have to run a really long way with my bike in T1), watch you set up your bike (you’re allowed to keep your shoes on your bike! –that’s different from IMOO), then walk you through to set up your T1 and T2 bags. Again, it was really for real now, and the details started piling up.
I planned to head downtown for check-in, then go straight to a team picture and dinner with the Well-Fit crew. However, I got caught up in the press scrum around Crowie (look for me in the background during the Ironman coverage). I also had to meet up with Lindsay Zucco to borrow her Blue Seventy swim skin (yeah, I would be wearing one for the first time on race day!). All these tasks, distractions, and the aforementioned unconsidered details kinda collided, and whatever stress I hadn’t felt all week finally broke me down. I found myself waiting on a street corner for Lindsay or her surrogate and missed our team picture. I just couldn’t be in two places at once. That hurt a lot–I was sorry to hold my teammates up and let them down. I was really proud to be a member of the Well-Fit Elite Team and associated with such fasty-fasts who I looked up to (still do), though I think wearing a different uniform doesn’t always reflect that or help endear me to my teammates. Sadface.
We met for a light dinner of spaghetti and meatballs and carpooled back to our respective condos. Thankfully, Russ was all settled and ready with his own stuff, so he was there to calm my nerves, help me focus, and talk me through setting out my things for the morning. Special needs bags were packed, my kit set out, and my breakfast all prepared in the kitchen.
I read a lot of good luck posts, Tweets, and texts, sent out as many replies as I could, and snuggled down for bed. My alarm would go off at 3:30am, Saturday October 13.
I haven’t blogged about anything that has happened since May. There are multiple reasons for that, namely it hasn’t been an easy summer for me, and I hate talking “aloud” about stuff. Stuff like training, racing, and FEEEEELINGS. The pressure I put on myself in training for Kona and my other races, traveling twice as much as normal for work, major strains in close relationships, and bouncing from couch to couch just didn’t make for happy or healthy times.
I have one of those little journals where you only have room to write five tiny lines about your day. I even gave that up early in June. Too hard. Too much/little to say. Too much changed from day to day, and I wanted to ignore the frequency and find my node. Get me, physics nerds? (Sorry, I barely passed that subject in high school.)
Anyway, to summarize the sportif part of my summer, which was oddly successful despite everything:
Late May: The week after Galena, I traveled to Austin, TX for work. I had a great time pretending to be a resident, hanging out with my besty from high school, Paige, and her wonderful husband, Zev. Training was limited to Yoga Rave with Tyler at Black Swan, some sickly, sticky hot runs in the evening, and a great 2+ hour ride out of Mellow Johnny’s. I was the only girl there, and pretty quickly realized the only role a chick plays in a group ride is managing the egos of the dudes around her. Push the pace and get caught, drop behind and get asked how you’re feeling. Annoying. I’m on a 50 pound rental bike, guys, it’ll be OK.
June: The first week of June, Well-Fit represented in a big way at Leon’s World’s Fastest Triathlon. Our women’s team won the team competition (they take the fastest 5 times of a team of 10 people) and a gigantic trophy and some sweet schwag from title sponsor Zoot. I didn’t enter the elite/”all-star” division (it sounded really ostentatious when I registered…), so won the W35-39 division with the third fastest lady-time on the course. The overall winner was the amazing Adrienne Shields, who also won our race at Galena.
The very next weekend, a group of us headed to Kansas 70.3. I traveled with my teammate Jessica, and we formed a quick bond over bad coffee, worse pop songs, and stories about boys. We met up with other Chicago teammates and a contingent from Boulder, including former teammate and Timex neo-pro Christine Anderson, her brother Gavin, and thoroughly charming boyfriend, Owen. It was a great trip. I entered the weekend with a bit of anxiety about my preparedness and fitness level, but decided to relax and see what happened. WELL, what happened was a wire-to-wire Age Group win with the 3rd fastest amateur time. Sooooo I earned my pro card (should I choose to accept it, which I don’t think I will). That’s pretty cool.
The rest of June was really tough, with tons of travel for work, a fair bit of upheaval in my living situation, and plenty of emotional duress. At least I got to steal away to Madison for a weekend or two to start ramping up my bike miles, but the month was horribly inconsistent otherwise. I also got celebrate with my IMOO teammates at the end of the month (Veronica’s blog) AND travel to San Diego to see some of my family, which was long overdue.
July: With only one more ‘B’ race left (actually, two), I entered the phase of my summer where I really needed to buckle down and start adding volume to prep for Kona. Luckily, I had a number of friends training big too, including Jeffanie: Steph and Jeff, the amazing power couple. They made room for me on their near-weekendly trips up to Madison. My very good friends up there, Claire Pettersen and David Kholi, had room and endless patience for me dropping in on them ALL THE TIME to train.
The weekend of July 18-19th, my teammate Laura and I traveled to Door County, Wisconsin for one of my favorite races, the Door County Triathlon. It is a fantastic event: organized, fun, spectator-friendly, community-oriented, non-branded, and makes for a really fun weekend. New friend Fons comes up with his family every year, too. Laura and I stayed well outside of town at our teammate Jeremy’s house, with his lovely wife Michelle. They’re pretty much the coolest people I know, and Laura is a tremendous Sherpa and person.
This was my third year participating in the Half Iron on Sunday, but there’s also a Sprint on Saturday. I wanted to do both races: just for fun, and to jump-start my big-volume training. The Sprint was a BLAST –I hadn’t done that distance in a while and really enjoyed flipping the switch from a mentality of conserving energy for the run to SHUT UP BRAIN, GO GO GO! I won overall by a minute or two.
The Half didn’t exactly go my way: there was some stiff competition, including Kimberly Goodell and Adrienne Amman and others. I came out of the water second, then got a flat in my rear tire immediately out of T1. I spent something like 5-6 minutes fixing it. Special thanks to super-studette Jenny Parker Harrison for reminding me to stay calm as she blew by me on the side of the road. The bike was a little lonely and I got pretty discouraged at times. I basically decided to QMB and HTFU if for no other reason than that I REALLY needed to do a long run, so might as well finish the race.
So I moved forward in the field during the run (this is new to me), and thought I was in 3rd of the Elite wave. Door County plays it a little differently, though: counting age group participants among the overall results, while not letting Elite participants into the age group results. A dark horse ended up stealing first from Adrienne and a few more pushed me out of the overall standings. Well, I wanted to take home something shiny, but had a great time that weekend.
August: I finally FINALLY FINALLY was able to buckle down a little and get in some good training. I was still traveling for work, but trundled up to Madison most weekends. My swim was feeling good, bike was great, but I had no confidence in my run. Track workouts had been going well, but I didn’t do much in the way of long runs all summer. I had a great opportunity to run in Waterfall Glen with the R^3 team and went for it: my longest TWO runs all summer had been at my half irons (13.1 miles) so of course I went for 19 miles with a big “fast finish” push during the last three miles. I did plenty of big bike mileage weekends, too, and had lots of fun with Steph, Jeff, Claire, David, Lindsey Heim, and other good friends. I tried to close my eyes, compartmentalize my life, and just do the work.
Work sent me to Louisville the weekend of the Ironman there, so I got to Sherpa and spectate and get inspired by many friends racing that weekend, including pros Jackie Arendt (2nd) and Thomas Gerlach (3rd). I was texting with a fellow spectator at Ironman Canada and learned two additional teammates, Erin and Kimber, would be heading to Kona. Big, big year for us!
September: Traditionally the end of the end of the tri season for Chicago triathletes is Ironman Wisconsin. Prettymuch everyone was tapering or recovering at the beginning of the month, just as I was trying to do my biggest volume. Luckily Russ was in the same position so we banded together for a few big workouts, including a 2:40 run and 135 mile ride one weekend. Really, I had done HUGE bikes like that in July, when the IM Lou/Canada crew was building, and again in August with IMOO friends.
I had a lot of mixed feelings building into Kona: a lot was in my head, not the least of which was major doubts as to whether I had been able to prepare well. My summer was inconsistent at best. Until August, I hadn’t hit a stride in training, and was basically only doing what workouts I could when I could, and making up the rest. I didn’t see a steady progression in my training log and knew I had been battling some major handicaps. Just as I had leading into Kansas, though, I kinda resigned myself to relaxing and taking it for what it is, knowing I wasn’t at my best.
They say you can’t ask anything of your first time at Kona: that expectations will be shattered by the conditions and competition. On the advice of many people, including some deep, beer-fueled conversations with Rich Strauss, I decided to basically follow this advice from Endurance Nation and do my best to take control of my own experience there. The race would unfold as it may, but I would not forget that it is an honor just to be there.
Thanks for reading. A hopefully more succinct Kona race report is next.
FIVE weeks and many many beers later, my memory and testimonial of the Galena Triathlon may not be too reliable. Luckily, this was my fifth time racing this event, it is near and dear to my heart, and it marks the kickoff of the tri season hereabouts. I have good institutional and emotional knowledge of Galena. It is a beautiful setting.
Setting (Geological): Galena is a sleepy, lush Mississippi-River-tributary town in the very northwestern corner of Illinois, that is carved out of the Driftless Region’s hills. Technically speaking, this area of the Mississippi River Valley is the hilliest shit we Midwesterners can hope for. The hills aren’t long, but they’re frequent and steep, and the race organizers do a pretty good job of finding some challenging roads for us to sweat on.
Setting (Sociological): Several Chicagoland triathlon clubs, including the Chicago Tri Club and Well-Fit, of course, use this race as their first major social/training/racing event of the year. Very large groups rent very large houses in the Galena Territory and Eagle Ridge, make a weekend of it, and turn the post-race party into a shit show (more on that later, maybe).
Setting (Political): I don’t know if it’s necessarily fitting that Galena is the home of U.S. Grant or not, but the Galena Triathlon has the power to divide houses. All things being equal – namely the reach of this race is hyper local, attracting mostly flatlanders who have little to no experience on hills this early in the Midwestern tri season – this race helps shake out “who’s fast/strong” among local athletes. It is surprisingly competitive, exceedingly difficult to get on the podium, and sets a baseline for the rest of the season. At least I’ve always seen it that way. In prior years, I had finished 7th AG, 6th AG, 4th AG, and (weirdly) 3rd OA, and basically had entire seasons to match those results.
Setting (Mental): Sparing some details here, a week and a half prior to this event, I snapped and left my life as I knew it. Training/sleeping/eating was pretty difficult (but had been for a while), but I got to move in to my friend Stacey’s spare office. Thank god for Stacey! Around this time, another major breakup involving a teammate and good friends took place, and my teammate Marc lost his father. The emotional milieu was NOT ideal, but (almost) everyone decided to make the best of it out of respect for the tradition of having insane amounts of fun at the race.
Let’s start a little before race day. Three weeks prior, a group of Well-Fitters rented a house and held a big bike weekend in the Galena Territory. I rode pretty well for 2 days, didn’t do much in terms of running (I mean it is so goddamn hilly, people) but dug a little hole for myself in the nutrition and sleep department. I didn’t rest or recover, or take in enough calories while training, and had a totally shitty bonk on our third day. I suppose it’s best to get that type of thing out of the way when training and hope you’re spared of the experience on race day.
Race weekend, we arrived in Galena laaaaaaate Thursday night in order to enjoy all of Friday doing “shake out” shit and race prep. This involved sleeping in, a group bike wash on the front porch, brief group ride in full race set-up mode, and a really fun swim. Unlike previous years (when organizers have kept a daily vigil by the thermometer, hoping that the lake temperature will come up enough to actually hold the swim and not force EVERYONE into a duathlon situation), there was no doubt the swim was on for race day. Friday, the water temp was comfortable enough that we left our wetsuits in the car. Thank you La Nina and global warming for the beautiful spring! Anyway, a group of us swam the entire course, with a king-of-the-mountain play break at the diving dock, obviously, and practiced a few beach starts.
Race day… I don’t even know what happened. I’m pretty sure I didn’t sleep and have no recollection of what I ate (English muffin and peanut butter, banana, Starbucks Double Shots as is my tradition … maybe? Boring!). We set up T2 and trundled over to T1 in this point-to-point setup. I did a little 8 mile ride (nearly killing Henry when he took a fun left turn right in front of me as I was descending at 30 mph. Fucker), said howdy to a few people, but generally tried to keep calm and not freak that there were 3 former pros in attendance (my former coach, Liz Waterstraat, Jenny Parker Harrison, and Jennifer Garrison (two of whom are in my age group)).
Who am I kidding: I was TOTALLY freaking out.
Somewhat-unfortunately for me, I insisted I be put in the F35-39 wave for USAT accuracy (which the race organizers are a little soft on). That took me out of the wave with the F30-34ers, who would have been great to race against too. My new wave went second-to-last. More time to watch friends in previous waves and be proud of my teammates. In retrospect the lesson is, if you have a chance to be in an earlier wave (and against the presumed winner), take it.
Swim: my new roomie Stacey and former coach Liz and I all toed the line together, front and center. The two of them planned to stay on my feet…like as part of their race plans. I mean, talk about pressure! So basically I went balls out and tried to look for them over my shoulder at the first turn. They were a few yards behind me, but as I looked for them I ran into two big dudes from a previous wave and a kayak, all hiding on the other side of the buoy. I popped my head up and screamed “MOVE! MOVE!!!” Although I could bust between them myself, there were 30 pairs of arms and legs behind me, too. I swam hard but never found a good rythem thanks to having to swim over so many bodies stranded by their waves. I exited the water first in my wave with Stacey close behind. Thanks to a clumsy attempt at wetsuit-stripping efficiency on my part, Stacey entered T1 before me. I was on a different rack, though, so I never saw her again (apparently we passed again at the mount line).
Bike: haaaard! My grand experiment for this race, as a swimmer/biker, was to blow myself out and try to hold on for the run. This is a biker’s course, but the run is, as always, important too. As is the way with hilly courses (especially after a hypoxic swim like I had), I never quite caught my breath during this ride. I don’t train or race with a heart rate monitor, and that’s probably a good thing or I may have psyched myself out. I stayed aero almost the whole ride (unless I was climbing at <11mph, or about to crash into someone who had crashed on the trickiest descent on the course). All power data from my Power Tap is long gone by now, unfortunately. It would have been fun to look at.
Run?: This didn’t go well. I started out feeling pretty strong, but soon the sun and unfamiliar heat got to me. I couldn’t feel my quads after that ride. Or more accurately ALL I COULD FEEL WAS MY QUADS SCREAMING AT ME. LIKE THIS!! AAAAAGH!!! About a hundred yards outside of transition, you have to run down a giant hill, then up another. I let my legs really spin for free speed on the downhills, but going up the other side they flipped me the bird. To keep this unpleasant portion of my race report brief: I melted. Down. Luckily there was some great stranger who was running slower than I, but who kept chugging along while I took little (walking, shh) breaks. He encouraged me every time he passed, urging me to stay strong, complimenting my pace, and saying “there ya go!” every time I passed him back. All I could muster was a “nice!” whenever he came around me.
Eventually I got over myself and wanting to die and realized Liz Waterstraat was a hard-charging runner and would be coming for me any second. Sure enough, on a switchback about a mile from the finish, I saw her coming. I dug deep and kept running, knowing a pass so close to the finish would be hard for her and heartbreaking for me.
Settling: The finish line is a little like the first day back at elementary school. There are not only bananas cut in half and wax paper cups filled with bright liquid, but a lot of familiar faces and people you’ve lost touch with during the off-season. Lots of asking about summer plans, lots of “how ya been, how’d ya do?” stuff. I rehydrated and took a little walk with some teammates, then ran back to the after party. The waiting game is intense, eased with more fun conversation (and, in my case, a little Frisbee, and a handstand competition with an 8 year old). There was a lot of speculation among the 30-34-35-39 women under the Well-Fit tent as to who did what. I was told by agents doing recon (“WHAT WAS YOUR TIME?”) that I most likely got 4th overall, winning my age group, at least. Cool, hand me another beer now, please.
By awards time I was pretty well ruddy with sunburn and drink, and I gave up caring about results. They finally got to my age group and rattled off Stacey’s name… which meant… something… I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Liz won the age group. My name wasn’t called. They probably fucked up my timing thanks to switching waves. I decided to go for a jump in the Bounce House instead of caring. I handed out a few high-5s to people heading up for their awards. Then they called my name.
Swim (660 yards) 8:53
Bike (16.8 miles) 48:02:00
Run (4.3 miles) 32:20:00, pace 7:31
This was 8 seconds behind 2nd (my teammate, Erin), and another stellar competitor, Adrienne Shields, who crushed us all with her run.
Hand me another beer.
It’s been INSANE, kids: the last 7 weeks or so have been full of heady madness… and the same could be said of the last 7 months (at least). Follow me here, in roughly chronological order:
- My personal and coaching relationship with Hayes came to an end.
- I became homeless, but for the kindness of good, generous friends and teammates
- 2 friends announced their pregnancy (waiting for a third announcement any day now, as things happen in threes).
- I raced 3 events in 4 weeks, none of which I took lightly or wanted to use as a “training day.” (Galena Triathlon, Leon’s World’s Fastest Triathlon, Ironman Kansas 70.3)
- Work has taken me to new places (literally), and thankfully delivered me into the arms of good friends in Austin, TX, Madison, WI (my home away from home), and Virginia.
- 2 friends’ parents passed away (NOT waiting for a third tragedy here, thank you, Universe).
- I’m homeless again.
- I’ll hopefully be “settled” in a new home sometime this week.
- Heading to San Diego this coming weekend for family time.
- Heading back to Madison and to New Orleans for the first time for work….
CAN I SIT DOWN, NOW?
So for the purposes of keeping this blargh somewhat on-topic, I’m going to concentrate on the 3 races, with all the other ancillary stuff (which is NOT SMALL STUFF, mind you) in the margins. Here we go!
Sooooooooooooo, I’ve wanted to
participate RACE in a Time Trial for several years, but the only one(s) I heard of for a long time was the kinda-intimidating Bong Time Trial Series (not what you think, hippies). It always conflicts with something or another in my schedule, year after year, though. Luckily, it turns out there are a lot of events out there, and Coach Hayes sent me a link to this lil’ Cherry Valley, IL 20k TT thinger.
“Shitfire,” I said, “let’s do this.”
My biking has been coming along nicely in the last two seasons, especially, and this year Get A Grip Cycles was kind enough to supply me with a new Parlee TT ride. The thing is sweet! I’ve been able to achieve a way more aggressive, steeper, lower, ALL POWERFUL position on it than on my old frame (the beloved Planet X Stealth formerly known as Ziggy Stardust), so I couldn’t be happier on it.
For the race, I didn’t do anything extrordinary in terms of set-up: I took my bottle cage off, but left my Fuel Belt Aero FuelBox (full of contingency items) on. After much struggling with a sticky locking ring, I slapped my Wheelbuilder aerojacket on, and borrowed Hayes’ Zipp 808 for my front wheel. I knew it would be windy and I’d be really twitchy, but I’m a stronger rider now and know I can handle it. (Let me tell you about the century ride we did in 2009, wherein I came home sobbing because I almost blew into a cornfield several times, like Dorothy heading back to Kansas.)
Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.
I managed to talk Henry into not only doing this thing with me, but driving me there. His idea was to register for two events, both Cat4/5 and Age Group, to hedge something going wrong during one or the other race, and in the name of getting a good workout in and our gas money’s worth. I loved that the second race only cost $10. If this were tri-land, it would be $75.
Although I solicited advice from Coach Ted Ramos, I never really followed up to tell him, yes, I’d be riding with my trusty CycleOps PowerTap. I know my current FTP, and knew most advice I’d get would be to ride at or above it over the 20k course. Sure enough, general instructions from Coach Hayes were “go balls out.” Problem being, I have a real hard time pushing up to and past my FTP when out on the road. I just don’t like the pain cave, and back off. Even at Olympic races, I tend to ride conservatively at nothing more than 85% of what I’m capable of. I don’t know what that’s about, but IT WILL BE FIXED.
So, needless to say, I didn’t have much of a plan or mindset for this thing. Fine with me, it being my first TT and all. I don’t want to expect much.
Henry and I made good time up to Cherry Valley, outside of Rockford, IL, made some friends at the gas station (ol’ boys like my swagger, s’all I can say), picked up our race numbers, and set up our trainers in the parking lot.
We got maybe 20 minutes of warm-up before riding 3 miles to the start line, and waited. HH went off 6 minutes before me. There was one woman about 4 minutes ahead of me, and none for at least 10 minutes behind me. =/ I really wanted to target my competition, but it looked like it would be just me against myself (oh, and the clock, and some dudes) out there.
So then I rode. Snore.
Big headwinds with serious YAW on the way out, and I was mostly miserable, but got really low and powered through. The course has one 90-degree right hand turn (left on the way back, duh), plus the 180 degree turn around. I almost killed myself on the right bender, thinking I could stay in the aerobars through it. Nope, not with those winds, a disc, and an 808. I’m not THAT awesome. The return trip totally made up for all the wanting to die, though. WHEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee, I think I hit 33mph on the flats at one point!
So again, ignorance, I didn’t look at my time, didn’t hit lap or check out my averages. Whatever, results would be posted soon enough.
By the time I finished, HH had about 10 minutes until his second race, so we pinned new numbers on each other and got ready set. At some point he had decided not to pace himself for two events and really pushed and spent himself on the first race. He killed it, so he was all “whatevs” about this one. I was also “whatevs!” but more in a “that was fun, let’s do it again and go get burritos afterward!” kinda way. It was less of a race than it was Six Flags, in my head.
Winds had picked up even more in the 27 minutes between my races. Cray. But this time I knew I wasn’t going to die, I just hunkered down and kept pushing. My Watts were not where I wanted them to be, again, but my legs were pretty trashed from a hard week of training and a fun (read, fast) ride the day before. My quads went numb every time I pushed to my FTP, so… I guess I rode tempo? I did NOT try to kill myself through the 90 degree turn, this time, and pulled it off with some panache. Again, big headwind meant BIG TAILWIND, and this time I hit 35 mph. So, so fun.
Burritos ensued, a Dairy Queen was located, and Henry and I headed back to check results* and gather up some awards. Looooooong painful story of-waiting-for-results-and-for-the-race-organizers-to-get-organized short, Henry came away with a Win and a Fourth, and I got a Double Win. My two rides were within 30 seconds of each other, confirming that a) I don’t sprint, b) I’m stupid good at pacing, but not at making myself hurt, and c) Half and Ironman distances are about right for me.
When it came time for Overall awards, I was happy to have earned $20 (!!!ZOMG!!!) by placing both 2nd and 3rd with my two rides. Anyone who knows me knows that about a split second after I say “oo cool! GIMMIE MY $20!” I’m like “waitaminute, who the hell got first???” Yeah, I never saw her out there, but I’m pretty sure she only raced once. The $20 went to Blizzards at DQ. I finished mine first, so counted that as my third win of the day.
Verdict: TTs are fun. Thumbs up, recommend, would do it again, again. =)
*it’s bullshit they way they reorganized the results, but just look at the times. That’s all that counts, anyway.
Sorry I’ve been MIA during what has turned out to be a gorgeous early spring here in the Midwest! Although I’ve always been one of those people who says “I could never live anywhere that doesn’t have all four seasons,” I have to say I now *get* the appeal of a non-existent (or at least curtailed) winter.
The great weather and resultant vitamin D-induced high has not only inspired a few dreams of running away to anywhere in the Southwest, but has:
- healed up my calf injury, and I’m happy to report that I’m back at running (within reason –I still have to be smart, which is HARD). I’ve been hitting the track and hill repeats, the transition runs, and some hour-ish whatever runs, and will be working on getting my long runs longer in anticipation of Kansas 70.3
- inspired me to get outside and not spend my weekends shackled to this laptop, which is how I spend most of my weekdays. So, sorry for the lack of BLARGH entries, here.
Watt I’ve been doing instead of Blarghing:
I’ve been rolling with an ever-changing crew of Well-Fit Elite and Development Teammates out in the suburbs for a 50-something mile ride once a weekend. This ride is honestly the highlight of my week: Chase tapes a $10 speaker and his iPod between his aerobars and bumps a really random mix of terrible songs the whole way. We dance and sing, and when “Jump Around” comes on, it’s time to bunny-hop and practice those bike handling skills…on your TT bike. AWESOME!
A few weeks ago I participated in the Barry-Roubaix Killer Gravel Road Race. I say “participated” instead of “raced” because I was COMPLETELY unprepared for the thing. This was my maybe-fourth time on my CX bike, definitely-first time riding it more than 9 miles, and virgin-run as far as, uh, gravel or the 2-mile stretches of deep sand and puddles. To everyone who said “with your power, it should be no problem,” I say EFF-U, it was a problem. However, after I let my ego get bruised within the first 5 miles, I had a really, really, really fun 30 left to enjoy. The best part (for me) was the last 4 miles on ACTUAL PAVEMENT (thank God), where I got to channel my inner Fabian Cancellara, drape my forearms over my bars, and TT my way home.
TT? Did someone say TT? Yup… To Be Continued in next post…!
I have the very good fortune of being able to train with a group on a regular basis. I’m a member of Well-Fit Triathlon and Training, a coaching service and training facility here in Chicago. We have an Elite Team (who doesn’t these days? But Well-Fit’s was one of the first!), comprised of good-hearted but crazy local athletes who push themselves and each other to the limits of physical and mental well-being. If you know what I mean…
(…I *mostly* mean we push each other to perform, and sometimes we drive each other insane.)
ANYWAY, in addition to seven months of Elite Team workouts, Well-Fit offers group workouts for “everyday heroes” that run all year: something like two swims a week, a Computrainer ride or three at the Training Center, and informal groups usually organize around runs on the lakefront or outlying forest preserves.
Personally and inexplicably, I avoided these workouts this fall. Instead, I convalesced for a few months after Ironman Wisconsin, trying to recover well, to preserve my sanity for what will be a long 2012 season, to enjoy my down time, and to become a “real human girl” again. You know, a girl with manageable hair and soft IT bands. Unfortunately, without any structure or group activities, I’ve just ended up nursing what turned out to be a pretty serious case of the Post-Iron Blues.*
*I hope that by capitalizing this condition I can help codify it. It’s a real phenomenon, people, trust me.
January 1, 2012, was my deadline to get the fuck over it, though: IT’S TRI SEASON, BITCHES!
I mean, not really. It’s actually tri-OUT-season now, but I need the motivation. Months of feeling emotionally and physically worthless coupled with impending Chicago winter-induced cabin fever means time to buck the fuck up, be social, and get some endorphins flowing again.
Overall, it’s great to be back in the saddle again. –I’m spending a lot of time literally “in the saddle” because I’m nursing a calf boo-boo that hasn’t let me run much in the last month.– Before specific training starts and people split off for random races each weekend, getting together to get our sweat on has been just what the doctor ordered. At this point in the season, I don’t care what my training plan calls for or if the planned group workouts are properly periodized *for me.* If I need to modify something, I do. If I need to swap workouts between days to accommodate the group schedule, I have been. It’s worth it. I value my team, my coach(es), and my training partners. I love accomplishing something every day (even if it’s *just* recovery, yoga, or surviving Sharone’s “treatment” of my calf) and giving others who do the same high-fives.
My new normal is getting up before dawn, something unthinkable for me as recently as 2009.
2010 was my first year on the team. I spent a lot of that season felling slow and fat, comparatively. I didn’t go to a lot of the workouts because I was afraid I couldn’t rise to my teammates’ levels. I thought I would drag everyone down. I didn’t get that I was only hurting myself. My season and disposition suffered accordingly.
2011, I got over it (mostly).
2012, all I have to say –to myself and others who may feel the way I did– is QUITCHERBITCHIN’. Show up with a smile on your face and ready to work. I hope everyone at Well-Fit knows how lucky we are to have each other, and how much I’m looking forward to this season.