Sunday, September 4, 2016

IMMT 2016: Perseverence, Heart and Grit

It wasn't the day I trained for or planned for, but it sure was a day. I made a lot of sacrifices this year and prioritized training, recovery, and nutrition to prepare for this race.  I spent way more time in the pool, improving my swim more than I ever have before.  I was prepared mentally and physically for the course and for the day.  
Texting Kim, assuring her I feel 'fine'.

Unfortunately, my body had other plans.  Early on in race week I noticed a scratchy throat, I didn't think much of it other than allergies.  I took some airborne and continued on.  We traveled, quite smoothly with our bikes, to Tremblant on Wednesday and by Thursday I was completely congested and had a nice sinus headache.  I was still convinced this was just allergies and a non-issue.  We swam every day in Lac Tremblant, I did a couple of runs, and had a nice 2 hour ride on Thursday.  Everything still seemed on point, the cooler temperatures and lack of humidity helped me hit some good numbers power and pace wise in those lead up workouts.  I exchanged a few texts with coach on Friday, still sure I was just having
some allergy issues.  Then Saturday rolled around, and I was a hot mess.  Literally hot - I was flat out on my back for most of the morning with a fever.  I didn't want to take meds due to the effect they can have on HR, but I had to give in.  If I didn't start feeling any better I knew I wouldn't have the energy to make it down to rack my bike that afternoon, let alone see the start line on Sunday morning.  A cold washcloth and a cocktail of vitamin c and zinc later I had the energy to get up, pack my gear bags and make it down to bike check in.  I did a short swim and then laid low for the rest of the day.

Best sleep I've ever had the night before an IM!  I woke up feeling decent, went through the pre-race routine and got a ride to the bottom of the hill to take care of business (load food on bike, pump tires, setup Garmin, etc) in transition before walking to swim start.  There was energy in the air and excitement all around me, but I could tell something was off inside me, yet I remained hopeful that my body would perform once the cannon went off.  

Swim – 2.4 Miles - 1:26:11

I was feeling good and confidant going into this swim with the work I've done in the pool.  I felt fine during the swim and was even able to draft for a good portion of it.  I was surprised – not in a good way - by the swim time, we were thinking I'd be in the 1:16/1:17 range with a decent swim and even be sub 1:15 with a good swim.  This was a total crap swim for me, yes the water was rough out in the lake, but I should have swam sub 1:20 at least.  Maybe it was my body being low on energy or who knows what but it was disappointing and frustrating. 

T1:
A decently long run from swim finish into the change tent.  Moved as quickly as possible through here.

Bike – 112 Miles - 5:44:37


Fantastic race day weather.
I was able to quickly put the swim behind me, and was excited to get out on the bike course and do some work.  It started out fine and I was feeling good, then just before the turn around on 117 my return to center shifter (bar end shifter on a tri bike) stopped working and any attempt to shift made the chain jump around but ultimately stayed in my hardest gear. Luckily within the next mile or 2 I was able to wave down a bike mechanic.  He tried for about 8 minutes and was able to at least get the chain to stay on a cog when I would shift, but I had to hold the shifter in place in order for it to stay in anything other than the 11 in the rear.  As I got back on my bike I figured I'd finish the first loop and see how things were, hopefully see Adam at the U-turn and ask him to call coach and ask if I should DNF.  At around mile 40 my HR just stopped responding, it became increasingly hard to even keep it where it was at, and got to the point where I felt like I was fighting just to get into zone 1.  Cue my body stopped sweating and the feverish chills came back.  The kickers on the 2nd half of the ‘loop’ didn't seem so bad, though with the shifter issue I had no choice but to remain seated and it made U-turns, eating, and refilling water much more difficult than it should be.  Every time I had to use my right hand for something other than holding the shifter I dropped into the hardest gear, not ideal.  In order to set yourself up for a good run you do a lot more than just ride your bike in an IM and a lot of it requires use of your right hand.  From mile 22 and on I had a decision to make – was what I wanted to do with my right hand worth letting my bike drop into the 
At least my bike got washed.
hardest gear and/or crushing my legs for a minute or so? Refill front bottle, take water at an aid station, and eat all required this decision to be made.  On a course like Mont Tremblant with 5000+ feet of climbing sometimes the answer is keep the shifter in place and take care of food/water etc when you get to a downhill.  Then there were times where I just had to let go of the shifter because my right forearm was killing me.  Needless to say, not my best bike split.  I was very happy to hand her over to the volunteers at the dismount line.  At this point I figured I would get through T2, start the run and see what I could do.  I was hopeful that since I basically just did an IM bike in my recovery zone, perhaps I was setting myself up for a PR marathon.

T2: 2:37
In and out for the race belt, shoes and visor.  I love bike handoffs at IM dismount lines.

Run – 26.2 Miles – 4:36:48
I came off the bike and was running decently and figured I'd hold it there and slowly bring up my effort after the first 6-7 miles.   I was very very wrong, HR started dropping again despite all the caffeine I could handle, I also was pee-ing my pants literally every 10-15 minutes.  Anything hydration wise I put in came straight out.  And not pee-ing resulted in a painful bladder.  As I came through the village around the halfway point I told Adam, I’m sick, but I’ve made it this far so I might as well finish.  I wanted to quit multiple times, I wasn’t a happy camper on the run course and I think my face showed it. I actually managed not to walk at all, though I really perfected the Ironman shuffle by the last 4-5 miles, and it wasn't much faster than walking.  

Finish Time: 11:56:14 (9th Place AG)

Final Thoughts
Bike mechanical and illness tested me throughout the day. I had planned on DNF-ing about 6 times out there. When I got back on my bike after the mechanic 'fixed' (not really) the issue I remembered what Rory Finneren told me years ago while playing yard soccer...'you can't just quit whenever you aren't winning'.   I’m so thankful I was able to remember that in the moment when my day was falling apart in front of me. On the run, since my body wasn’t having any of it, I had the opportunity to cheer on friends and patients, many of them to their first Ironman finish line.  There were moments during that 2nd half 
There must be giants in Mt. Tremblant, the chairs are huge!
of the run where I was reminded, this is Ironman and if you’re capable, you get yourself to that finish line.  There are people who would love to have this opportunity, don’t take if for granted.  In the end I was very happy to not have a DNF next to my name. Mentally and emotionally that was the toughest finish line I've gotten myself to, so thankful for the opportunity to once again cross IM finish line #5 and see what I'm capable of. Thank you to everyone who tracked, cheered, and supported - you all played a part in getting me there. 

Now the door is closed on this race.  It happened, I was lucky to come out of it healthy.  A small silver lining - since I basically did an Ironman in zone recovery, my recovery has been smooth and it looks like I’ll have the opportunity to race another full this year.  An opportunity to really see the culmination of the training I put in this year, an opportunity to have the best day I’m capable of having, an opportunity is all I’m asking for.

**...I don't really care if nobody else believes, 'cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me...**

To answer the most often asked question: Placid or Tremblant?  Hands down for me it’s Placid.  My view of Tremblant is tainted, I know that, but I love Placid, and would go back in a heartbeat. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Syracuse 70.3 Race Report

I had decided pretty early on that I wanted to put Syracuse 70.3 on my race schedule...again.  I had done this race back in 2014 as prep for IMLP.  It was a fine race but I was left knowing that I needed
to come back to the course at some point, ready to give it everything I had.  This year I was actually able to convince Adam to race with me, which helped make for a fun weekend all around.

Pre-Race
After a short day of work on Friday we were Syracuse bound by mid morning.  We arrived with enough time to head to packet pickup and visit with friends at the race site before checking in to our Air BnB in the quaint town of Tully, NY.  I'm so glad we stayed in Tully instead of Syracuse.  We were a quick/straight drive from the race site, only a couple miles off the bike course and right across the street from 2 excellent restaurants.

Saturday is one of my favorite days pre-race, because it means big breakfast!  The few mornings per year that I *have* to eat pancakes..schucks.  We started our Saturday with a nice easy ride on a bit of the bike course and checked out one of the awesome descents that we would get to speed down the next day.  We saw some beautiful log homes, barns and lakes that reminded me of my roots and why I love "up north".  After our ride we quickly headed across the street for breakfast.  It was glorious and I think the waitress was slightly concerned about the amount of food 2 relatively small people just ordered and consumed.

The rest of Saturday was filled with bike racking, a short on course swim (thanks to some locals that live on the swim course), preparing nutrition and laying around trying to watch soccer and succumbing to my guilty pleasure of The Mindy Project.  With the predicted race day temps I made sure to snack on salty pretzels and hydrate with Osmo all day long.  We headed across the street for our 2nd dinner at Sweet Basil before calling it a night.

Race Morning
Rinster ready to fly.  Undefeated in AG bike splits :P
I was happy to have slept well and woke up to my alarm bright and early ready to slam some sauce for breakfast.  We were very lucky that our host was flexible on checkout time, so we didn't have to pack up everything pre-race.  We headed over to the race site and arrived with plenty of time for transition set up and all the usual pre-race routine.  While bike racking on Saturday I had noticed the
bike next to my was racked incorrectly, thankfully a kind volunteer noticed and flipped the bike.  On race morning the bike on the other side of me was racked correctly but she was setting up her transition area on the completely wrong side - basically where my stuff was supposed to go.  Unfortunately she wasn't actually there, all her stuff was everywhere but she was nowhere to be found.  Thankfully, again, a race official noticed something was off and came and straightened things out.  Not that these things are a huge deal, but it was definitely flustering me.

THE SWIM - 39:56 (36th AG)
Ready to go, feeling strong.
I've been putting in some good work in the pool and making some pretty big gains there. Unfortunately, we haven't really seen these gains translate to the open water yet.  I've got some ideas to really try to help myself here over the next couple of months.  I felt strong during this swim and I was able to hang on to some feet for most of this swim.  Hoping to take the good from it and build on everything else pre IM MT.

T1: 3:45
A quick stop at wetsuit strippers and quite a long run into T1 makes for a long transition here.  Once at my bike it was a quick stop for shoes and helmet before running out.

THE BIKE - 2:51:16 (1st AG)
After having raced here in 2014 I knew the bike course would be challenging, then they announced a new bike course.  There were rumors that the new course was more challenging but I wasn't going to make any judgements until seeing it myself.  Getting out onto the course you have a couple miles to get comfortable and let your HR settle before starting into some extended climbing for 10-11 miles.  My legs felt great, my HR was coming down nicely and before I knew it I was catching a lot of my competition within the first few minutes on the bike.  I had a few weekends of some nice hill climbing on my tri bike in May - including 92 miles in the hills of West Virginia with some awesome teammates.  My climbing legs were on and ready to rock on Sunday and I was quite happy.  I spun up every climb I could on the bike course never really having to come off the saddle.  I was happy to do a lot a passing on the bike course, specifically to the cheers of crazy spectators and never once got passed by another female on the bike course.  As we approached mile 45 I knew I'd be in for a treat with the descent that was soon coming.  I tucked in and pushed my cranks until I spun out, hoping that maybe I could break 50mph, alas I hit 47.6, one day perhaps I'll hit 50.  There was one more decent climb before heading back into transition.  I had hit my nutrition and hydration plan spot on as well as my bike execution plan.  Though the time was far from what I usually do on a 56 mile bike course, I had stuck to my plan and I was confident things were going well (turns out I had the fastest bike split of my AG and most ladies were 3+hours).  That was one tough bike course but I was ready to see what I could do on the run (PS it was a solid 91 degrees when I dismounted my bike).

T2 - 1:29
I came into T2 neck and neck with a fellow AGer (we'll call her alligator jersey).  Helmet off, socks and shoes on and a quick spray of sunscreen and then I was off.   I alligator jersey run out of T2 maybe 10-15 seconds ahead of me.  She came out on fire, getting into the applause of the crowd and taking off.

THE RUN - 1:51:30 (5th AG)
Coach Kim and I had talked a bit about this run.  We knew it was going to be hot, we knew it was a tough run course, coming off of a tough bike course, and we knew that there would likely be carnage on the course.  I watched alligator jersey open up the gap between us as I settled in, getting in my bottle of Osmo+Pre-Load and getting my legs under me.  The first mile or so of this course is awkward - grassing on the side of a hill awkward.  It kind of makes you feel like you're going to have the worst run of your life as you're running uphill on this weird angle in the beating sunlight.  As I ran through the first aid station I took every cup of ice and water I could get my hands on - in the mouth, over the head, down the jersey, down the shorts.  I knew if I could keep myself as cool as possible things would go better.  As I made it out to the road me legs felt much better running on the pavement and I was able to find some shade.  Running through the 2nd aid station was a repeat of the first, with a couple swigs of gatorade added in.  I knew it was after this aid station I'd have a bit of flat before the climb up to the turn around.  As I started the climb  felt strong I saw alligator jersey and a fellow AGer heading down.  Alligator jersey had opened up a sizeable gap and looked strong and the other AGer was far enough in front of her I was left with hope that I was at least in podium position and just wanted to hold onto where I was.  I stuck to the plan, I kept cool through aid stations and I took in my nutrition as planned.  Coming through the 1/2 point and starting my 2nd loop I was feeling good and had noticed that the gap was not any bigger, and maybe, slightly smaller at this point.
Tank empty, crash coming...
 Again through the 1st 2 aid stations staying cool and getting in hydration.  As I made my way to the turn around both alligator jersey and the other AGer were considerably closer to me.  As I made that turn around and headed past he 10 mile marker I knew it was time to put in work.  Time to drive the HR up and leave everything I had on that course.  Through mile 11 I was pushing but still in control and feeling good, I looked up ahead and there was the fellow age grouper who had started out pretty far ahead, she didn't look great, had been reduced to mostly a shuffle, and I quickly caught and passed her.  At this point I was pretty sure alligator jersey had passed her too and I as probably well ahead - then I look up as I start the last significant hill, and there she is mid - hill just past mile 12.   I put my head down, told myself this was good practice for IM MT and if that could be a Kona spot I need to go and get it.  I put in enough work to catch her on the downhill portion of the awkward slanted grassy section.  I sat on her heels for just long enough to pull myself together and get ready for a hard effort into the finish line about 1/2 mile away.  I pulled out from around her and never looked back, just putting everything I had into that last stretch.  I was so relieved to see the finish chute and finish line and not hear any foot steps or breaths behind me.  I raised my arms in celebration the best I could as I crossed under the arch before stumbling towards the cameraman and taking a rest on the hot black pavement.

5th, 4th, 2nd Place F 25-29


OVERALL FINISH: 5:27:56 (2nd AG, 9th OA)

This race was one to remember.  Though a far far cry from a PR time, this was a tough course and definitely not a PR type of course for someone who has done quite a few 70.3's.  For the first time I felt completely in control of pushing the pace towards the end of the race.  Usually I 'pick it up' and really just hold a steady pace or go slightly faster.  For the first time I used some tactics on the run course as I made those final 2 passes.  I saw competition in front of me, believed, and executed.  I know how frustrating it can be to be running, holding on to a certain place/slot/etc and get passed near the end when you just have nothing more to give.  This race was about being confident in the plan, being patient, managing the day/conditions and digging deeper than I thought was possible.  On a day that presented a course that doesn't suit my strengths, in conditions that are difficult for a big sweater, I was able to manage and execute well enough to finish hard and run myself from 4th to 2nd.  Bigger and better things are coming - 8/21/16.

Ultragrain FYP Kit by Coeur Sports


Thank you most of all goes out to Fuel Your Passion Coaching, I was well prepared and confident in our plan, Adam and my family.  Thank you to my newest sponsor, Ultragrain, for helping to incorporate healthy whole grains into my diet (#haveagrainday). Thank you to my sponsors DC Tri Club, Snapple Triathlon, Team, District Taco, Xterra Wetsuits, Rudy Project Helmets, Louis Garneau, Pierce Footwear by Seven Dynamics, and Rose Physical Therapy Group.  Thank you to all the DC Tri athletes racing and cheering at Syracuse, it was great to be pushed  by  friends on the course!  Looking forward to a big chunk of prep work coming up to set the stage for the rest of 2016.


Monday, June 6, 2016

Kinetic 1/2 IM Race Report

Just 2 weeks after the first tri of the season (Rumpus in Bumpass Sprint) I was headed back to Lake Anna for the Kinetic 1/2 (70.3 distance race).  I love this race and was happy to be back after missing it in 2015 due to IMTX.    We were once again grateful for the generosity of our friends to let us stay at there Lake House and make race weekend that much more comfortably.  When we headed down mid-day on Friday it was a torrential downpour.  Amazingly, as we rolled into Lake Anna State Park in the early afternoon the sun came out and the pavement started drying.  We jumped in the comfortably cool, wetsuit legal water for a short swim before heading out on the bike to freshen up the legs.

Who am I kidding, I'd head to Lake Anna every weekend if I could.  This was our 3rd weekend in a row down there.  The previous weekend we were there for a big training weekend, getting in 99.5 miles on the bike followed by a hard run and a long run the next morning on the Kinetic 1/2 course.  Seems every year I do Kinetic,  I am blessed with a huge weekend just before race day.  Kinetic has never been an A race for me so I like the big training leading up to race day.  Racing slightly tired and fatigued really helps you appreciate those races you get to taper for ;)

Friday evening was pretty low key, the way I like to keep the night before a race.  A simple dinner followed by all the fun pre-race stuff - stickers on helmet/bike, putting race wheels on, organizing nutrition, etc.  Just as I thought I was done and happy to have my race wheels on without much trouble (or brake rubbage) Scott decided to check my brakes.  Unfortunately, we discovered that my rear brake wasn't releasing all the way.  Since 3 people in our crew all work at bike shops we looked at it and decided the best course of action was to ride it as is and use the rear brake as minimally as possible along with the idea that the road vibration would help disengage the rear brake if I do use it.

Snapple Teammates at the Finish!
RACE DAY
Saturday morning was gorgeous, a little cool but the sun was rising as everyone set up transition and
prepared for what was likely their first long course race of 2016.

THE SWIM - 38:06 (4th AG)
This was an in-water start about chest deep.  At the sound of the horn I went hard but tried to get into my own rhythm as quickly as possible.  I could tell the lead group was pulling away within the first couple hundred meters.  I kept my head down and tried to keep working hard.  I was able to find feet and stay on them for a a few hundred meters before losing them and was on and off other sets of feet for the remainder of the swim.  The course this year was a basic rectangle as opposed to the trapezoidal shape of the past.  As we made the final turn for the long straight away back toward the beach teh sun was directly in our eyes.  It was almost impossible to see the beach, let alone any of the signting buoys.  This led to following other caps - not the best technique when trying to swim a straight line.  I felt strong during this swim, but know that I should have and am capable of swimming a couple of minutes faster.

T1 - 2:30
I ran into T1 almost positive my bike was in the row 2nd from Bike Out.  I ran to the 2nd row from the fence and stood there in disbelief!  No bike, did someone really take my bike.  It would have been super helpful to have the ends of the rows numbered or lettered.  I quickly realized that I had run rows past my bike got my wetsuit off, helmet and shoes on and I was off.  I almost had to push some slow men out of the way on my way to the dismount line.

THE BIKE 2:34:31(1st AG)
Oh boy, so eventful and uneventful all at the same time!  Shortly into the bike course while still in the state park I heard a bottle fly out and hit the ground.  I looked over my right shoulder and saw a yellow tinted deer park bottle hit the ground.  I couldn't believe it but I figured I had just launched a bottle of Osmo.  My rear cages have never launched a bottle, not even on super bumpy crap, let alone just riding relatively easily out of the park.  No worries as there were multiple aid stations along the course, I knew I could get the hydration I would need on course.  I was able to stick to my race plan and execute a pretty great ride.  The temps started out nice and cool but definitely started heating up towards the end of the 56 miles.  Around mile 45, as I am feeling a bit comfortable pushing just a touch harder and finishing this ride up, I was passing some dude (he likely started 8-12 minutes before me) and as I was passing him he sped up just enough to stay even with me, I push a touch more, he pushed more, I glared at him, he stayed there, I glared again and he finally says 'your front wheel is in front go ahead'.  Wow, thanks dude I'm only 8-12 minutes ahead of you now and have obviously been moving faster than you this entire race.  Note to guys - as a woman passes you encourage her and let her go, don't yo-yo with her, don't jump on her wheel and for goodness sake don't try to prevent the pass.  He never let me get too far away as we passed a couple of my Snapple teammates and headed back into the park toward T2.  First attempt at a flying dismount on Rinster...and I realized getting my leg over the top tube was a bit tricker than on MR and decided to just hop off the bike once slowing.  My feet were already out of the shoes, but I guess I need to practice the flying dismount on the new bike to quicken things up just a bit.

T2 - :52 (1st AG)
In and out as quickly as possible as I knew there was at least 1 female ahead of me and 2 not far behind me.

THE RUN - 1:46:07 - (1st AG)
I was looking forward to seeing what I could do on this run course.  I came out of transition just a
Loop #1, first time up the hill!
minute or so ahead of my teammate Heather and she was only a minute ahead of our teammate Paige (#snappledomination). My previous best on this hilly course was a 1:52 and my previous best in a 1/2 IM being a 1:42.  I was able to keep my cadence up and get my legs turning over pretty soon into the run.  I started the run with a throw-away bottle of Osmo to help top off hydration.  I was so thankful for this as the day started warming up!  I settled into a comfortable pace and ticking off the first few miles.  I only ever saw the first place female heading back toward me but I was told I was in 3rd.  Shortly after the 3 mile marker my Snapple teammate, Paige, caught up to me and after exchanging a few words she was off to try and track down #2.  Once I was about 6 miles in I tried to pick up the effort level just a bit, but I was sort of stuck in the moderately fast cruise pace.  I was trying to just bring the HR up one beat at a time but it seems like anytime I'd start to bring it up it would go right back to where we had been.  Was this an indication of slightly over biking or the fatigue of the previous week catching up with me.  I pushed the uphills and used the downhills, trashing my quads by the final few miles.  I put everything I had into the last couple miles and was happy to finish with a course PR and come in as the 4th OA female with some tough competition on the heels of a tough training week.

POST RACE
Overall this was a great early season test and let's me know where we are at on some things - like swim, bike, run but also other important things (nutrition, transition, etc).  It was a great day with so many friends and DC athletes racing, there was always somebody to cheer for on the run course.  Still plenty of room improvement in all areas, but good to see that I am headed in the right direction.

Snapple and DC Tri Crew with Hardware!


Thank you most of all goes out to Fuel Your Passion Coaching, The Wodiska's for hosting us, and Adam and my family.  Thank you to my sponsors DC Tri Club, Snapple Triathlon, Team, District Taco, Xterra Wetsuits, Rudy Project Helmets, Louis Garneau, Pierce Footwear by Seven Dynamics, and Rose Physical Therapy Group for helping this season get off to an awesome start.  Thank you to all the DC Tri and Snapple athletes racing and cheering at Kinetic, it was great to be pushed and challenged by my teammates and friends on the course!  Looking forward to a challenging and fun day in just 2 weeks at Syracuse 70.3 and a taper that comes with it!

Post Race treatment from Rose PT!
Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.