Sunday, September 9, 2018

You Shoot Me Down, I Won't Fall...I AM TITANIUM. MiTi 140.6 Race Report

When I found out about Michigan Titanium (MiTi) I knew I wanted to race.  Race day would fall on August 19, 2018 - the day that would have been my dad's 65th birthday.  It was only a couple hours from my hometown, registration was very affordable, and there was prize money, now I just needed to figure out what race to do! One of the great things about MiTi is that almost any variation of triathlon is available to race - Triathlon, Duathlon, Aquabike - and all of those races are available at 3 different distances - Full Iron, Half Iron, and Olympic distance.  I knew my late season goal race of 2018 was going to be Ironman Chattanooga, I knew my heart wanted to race the full but I was weary that I might trash my legs before Chat.  I sat on it for a couple of weeks and decided to go for it, knowing that my history plays in my favor.  My 2nd full of the year, on the 2 occasions that I've done 2 in one year, have been my best executed fulls.  Also, MiTi was almost 2 years to the day of IM Mont Tremblant while IM Choo would be almost 2 years to the day of IM Maryland (the double I did in 2016 that got me a KQ).  And that was that - let's get on with this race report!

PRE-RACE - FRIDAY
Andrew and I rolled into Grand Rapids Friday afternoon.  We got checked into the hotel, took some things inside and got ready to do a little shake out bike/run.  We actually had a nice loop near the hotel with minimal traffic that was perfect for a shake out ride.  I felt good, the cooler temps and lower humidity were very much appreciated.  Once we were done shaking out and feeling good we got cleaned up and headed into downtown GR with Mom and Gary for some dinner.   This is my first time since my first Ironman that I stayed in a hotel.  I usually prefer AirBnB during IM week so that I can cook my foods and keep my routine as close to normal as possible.  The hotel worked out great and wasn't too far from the race site or race check in at the YMCA.

PRE-RACE - SATURDAY
We woke up and met up with the crew at Anna's House for BIG BREAKFAST.  If you're in Michigan and looking for a good breakfast I highly recommend this place.  They were perfect for big breakfast and for some lighter fare for those in our group who wouldn't be racing 140.6.  After breakfast we headed to the race site for the practice swim.  Water temp was announced at 78.0 and wetsuit legal.  I happily donned my wetsuit and went off to follow Andrew's feet.  I felt awesome, swam well, swam fast and was feeling confident for the following day.

Mid-Day we headed over to the YMCA for packet pickup.  The entire gymnasium was set up for the race - including the expo, packet pickup and a curtained off section for the athlete meetings.  Packet pickup seemed to start earlier than originally planned due to athletes arriving early and seemed a bit disorganized for the first bit (small thing but definitely noticeable in that the volunteers doing check in didn't have time to go over all that needed to be gone over - including giving full athlete's their transition bags).  Athlete meeting was good and actually "mandatory" in that you had to attend in order to get your blue athlete wrist band that allowed you access to transition in the AM.  After the meeting we checked out the expo portion, grabbed some sandwiches and headed back to the hotel.

Kara helped me pack my transition and special needs bags.  She's pretty much become a pro at it after helping and watching my do it over the years.  Once the bags were packed and bottles were full, Andrew and I went over to the race site to rack our bikes.   We were able to grab a close and easy parking spot, get the bikes rack, walk through transition and get outta there in time to drive the bike course before dinner.  Now, on paper, the bike course doesn't look bad.  3,500ish feet of climbing
over 112 miles.  Less climbing than on my usual Saturday long ride route and much less than Kona, Tremblant, Placid, etc.  There was talk of newly paved roads on the Facebook group.  The 3500 feet of climbing was spread out in such a way that I never really felt like I was on a flat.  I was either going up or down.  Sadly, the new pavement appeared to be new chip seal.  I guess this is better than torn up, pot hole covered concrete but I was hoping for fresh smooth black top.  Such is life, everyone would have to deal with it.

After driving the bike course we headed back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner.  Met up with the entire crew for a pasta filled dinner before retiring for the night.

RACE DAY - MORNING
Usual morning routine - wake up, eat the traditional Apple Sauce, Banana, Osmo Protein Powder breakfast and down a bottle of Osmo Active.  Pulled the hydration bottles out of the fridge and distributed them to there proper bags, got the race day braid in the hair and hit the road.  We used the athlete parking lot and caught the shuttle to transition.  It was simple and easy and I'd definitely do that again. 

Once at transition I took my bike over to the mechanics to top off the tires with air, loaded her up with nutrition and hydration, and ran through the brakes/gears to make sure all was well.  Calibrated my power meter and made a couple obligatory port a potty stops before heading out of transition to chill on the bleachers near the finish line.  This was the most calm I've felt before a full - and I think with the contrast of my last full being Kona the difference was stark.  I was calm, I was at ease.  There was a buzz in the air and energy, but not a crazy-nervous-media-covered event type of energy. Nothing left to do but execute and see where the cards fall. 

Water temperature was announced at 78.0 again, and wetsuit legal.  I was thrilled and donned my wetsuit excitedly.  As the sky lightened and go time neared I made my way to the water after morning hugs and good luck wishes from my crew.

THE SWIM - 2.4 Miles - 1:23 (1st AG 30-34, 10th OA)
So much to say about this.  I position myself near the front, on the buoy line.  Confident I would be able to have a strong swim.  The water was calm, the buoys were easy to sight and I was feeling good.  I swam in a pack for most of the 1st loop and I was through the 1.2 mile mark on pace for my goal time (1:13).  Once we neared the orange turn buoy that marked the start of our 2nd lap it seemed
like people started swimming multiple directions.  Some straight towards the line of site buoys for the 2nd lap, some towards the finish and a couple of us towards the actual turn buoy.  As I started my 2nd lap I was still with 2 men that I'd been trying to swim with/near then a couple buoys in they were gone.  I made my way down and around and eventually to the back 1/2 of the 2nd loop.  I got too comfortable and super warm and slowed waaaaayyy down until a pack of people caught me a few hundred yards from the finish.  I pulled my head outta my bum and swam it in with them. 

Looking at this after the fact I would never wear my wetsuit in 78 degree water again for a full.  It was way too warm.  It dawned on me during my 2nd loop that I wouldn't be in a wetsuit if this were Ironman (and I shouldn't be in one now).  If I had to do this over I'd wear my speedsuit or even a pair of buoyancy shorts (that I don't own) but probably the perfect situation to wear those. 

T1 - 3:39 - (1st OA)
I utilized the wetsuit strippers before making my way into T1 to grab my gear bag and hit the change tent.  There was 1 female finishing up in the change tent as I came in, much more empty than I'd expected it to be given my not great swim time.  As I was departing a small group of women were headed in and I overheard them discussing the swim distance they got...2.7 miles!  Well at least I'll forget about my crappy swim time...

THE BIKE - 112 Miles - 5:24:38 (1st OA)
I was off on the bike and ready to get to work.  The skies were overcast, the temps ideal.  I dialed in my heart rate and power and started hydrating like a maniac to replenish fluids from the hot swim.  The first 10-12 miles were on a rolling, gradual uphill.  I was catching many people here including duathletes (started at 8am), aquabikers, and full triahletes and maybe even some Olympic Distance athletes.  Thankfully we were easily identifiable with tattooed markings on our calf for our race and different colored bike # stickers based on race.  About 20 miles in I had to pee - earlier than usual but ok, I guess I've replenished the fluid.  But then it never stopped - I was peeing every 20-30 minutes.  I backed off on hydration because it got uncomfortable and annoying to be going that much.   Out to the loop around so Western Michigan farmland before heading back in to complete the first loop of 56 miles.  The newly paved road turned out to be chip seal, which was fine, just annoying.  There weren't any real big climbs just more of a constant undulating up and down that never really allowed me to get into my rhythm completely.  As I was making my was back towards the turn around after coming off the loop I started picking off some more full triathletes.  At one point a spectator told me I was 2nd female.  I took his info with a grain of salt because I didn't know how closely he was paying attention to what races people were in, but either way I least this let me know I was near the front.  A few mile later I made the pass for first.  There apparently was an aquabiker or 2 still ahead of me, but not to worry about them.  They aren't in this for the long haul.  As I came in to the turn around and special needs I heard Rory and Kara cheering!  I made my usual quick stop at special needs to replenish my Osmo hydration bottles and restock my Honey Stinger waffle supply.  While I was refilling I heard Rory and Kara cheering and asking how I was feeling, I responded "Great!" and was off on my bike as I heard Kara tell me to go get the Thousand Bucks.   I then pondered what they would have done if my response would have been "shit" when they asked how I was feeling.  Haha, at least it kept me entertained for the next 20 miles or so.

Shortly after the turn as I was headed back out I saw Andrew headed in for the 1/2.  He was looking strong and smiling. Out on lap 2 I started to feel like my saddle had slipped down.  I was not feeling as powerful on the climbs and my hips just felt real low.  Nothing I could do about it so I focused on my posture and for and just kept at it. Then my heart rate started dropping.  I was eating, I was drinking (again) and my power was staying the same but down goes my HR.  Similar to what happened in 2016 at Mont Tremblant (also a race where I couldn't stop peeing and I was on my period for both of these races).  Granted Mont Tremblant had illness, bike mechanical, etc but nothing I did kept my HR up where it should be.  I decided not to worry about it since I was able to hold my power.  Around the loop, through the manure and through the aide stations, back past the old people cheering mid course and finally to the main road. As I made it to mile 84 I was mentally ready to be off the bike - I was no longer very comfortable due to the saddle and rough roads and we now had full sun.  Gone were the overcast skies and cool temps.  Things were heating up and quickly!  The temperature had gone from 70 at the beginning to 73 by 3.5 hours in to 80 by the 4 hour mark and 88 by the time I was dismounting my bike.  As I approached mile 110 there weren't anymore cyclists in sight - behind me, in front, etc.  I was alone and just working to bring this thing in and run.  I saw to motorcyclists sitting off in a driveway on the left side of the road.  They pulled out in front of me which I thought was weird since I was literally the only one in sight - vehicle or bike!  One moto was wear a rider instructor shirt and the others shirt said something about a motorcycle school on the back.  I figured they were just out for a lesson and enjoying the otherwise low trafficed roads.  They seemed to slow up and I was figuring out how I was going to pass them if need be - they were riding
side by side - is there room on the shoulder for me to pass right? But passing right seems wrong, but to pass left puts me almost on the double yellow.  I saw one guy looking his mirror and gradually speeding up to match my speed.  As we approached the road closed section he gave me a hand motion to move left and this is when I realized - "Oh they're part of the race and escorting me back to T2 because I'm in the lead! Sweet".  We made the left hand turn onto the main drag and I saw my mom and one of my sweet best friends jumping up and down and screaming as I came in with my moto escort. 

T2 - 1:50 (1st OA)
I quick run in after my flying dismount and handed the bike off as a volunteer grabbed my T2 bag off the rack for me.  I changed my shoes, switched out my helmet for a visor,  snapped on my race belt downed some water and got some ice before heading outta there.

THE RUN - 26.2 Miles - 4:11:12 (1st OA)
As I made the turn out of the park and onto the main road my lead bike escort joined me - not a moto this time, just a normal bike.  I had convinced my brother to volunteer for this role a couple weeks before the race, so yes my bike escort just so happened to be my brother.  The energy was contagious and I felt awesome starting out on the run.  Andrew was there and let me know what he thought my lead was on 2nd place.  I tried to settle down and take water and ice at every aid station and keep with my fueling plan.  The run course was  out and backs or "laps" as I'll call them.  The first lap was fun, I was picking off a ton of half athletes, and enjoying having a bike escort.  The back half of the lap was shaded which was much appreciated.  There were some wild and crazy fans about midway down on the lap.  The aid station volunteers were attentive and helpful in giving me what I needed as I called it out while approaching the station.  The long part of each lap was more rolling than I'd expected.  The course map made it look like we'd be along the water which I thought would be flat, haha, we weren't quite and never had a view of the water.  We made our way back toward the park and around the turn around cone where my crew was cheering and ready to give me more info.  My lead was growing and I was looking solid, or so they said.  I had the opportunity to get into my special needs bag at this
time but chose to make myself only access it 1x (near the 13.1 mile mark) to better simulate Ironman.  I still felt good during lap 2 - continued with ice and water and started taking soda at every aid station.  The course now had more full athletes on it and some 1/2 athletes still out there.  I was able to get a glimpse of the women in 2nd and 3rd and cheer them on during the out and back.  As we made our way back to the turn around cone near the park I let my bike lead know I was stopping at Special Needs.  I had the info that my lead had continued to grow and knew I had time to grab my refill of chews and a small bottle of Osmo mix.  I attempted to grab some cold water from the special needs table on my way out...unfortunately it wasn't water.  It was luke warm pickle juice.  I promptly spit it all back out and said "what the f*ck was that?" as I ran off.  Lap 3, not feeling as awesome, legs felt more like I was at mile 20 than 13.  Just kept my head in it and kept on moving forward but knew that I didn't need to dig deep as those behind me were slowing even more.  I also knew I had to do this again in Chattanooga 5 weeks later.  88 degrees was hot for a marathon especially after 112 on the bike.  As I made my way back toward the park to make my final turn around for lap 4 I was excited but also ready to be done!  Now that the 1/2 athletes were off the course the crowds were thinning out a bit.  I made my way down the long stretch of road and got another glimpse of 2nd place...I was putting in huge time still and decided at mile 22 to just use a port a potty and be comfortable for the last bit.  I was also feeling horrible for how slowly my brother was having to ride a bike, hahaha.  AS we got to mile 25 the two motos joined us for the final 1.2.  OMG I though they were going to tip over trying to ride slow enough to escort me.  As was made the final right turn back onto the main road that led to the park I started to let myself believe it.  I was going to break the tape, I'd thought about it, I wanted it, I'd even dreamt about it, but 140.6 is a long way to go and it seldom goes perfectly.  The moto's peeled off, my bike escort peeled off and I made the final right hand turn into the park and had the finish chute all to myself.




FINISH TIME - 11:05:10 (1st OA)















It wasn't a PR and it wasn't what I know I'm capable of but given the conditions of the day it was a great day.  Overall I loved the experience at MiTi and if it fits into my schedule in the future I will likely go back.  Like I said earlier, given the conditions I would never choose to wear a wetsuit in 78 degree water again.  I also think being prepared for what the bike course consists of (and not having a slipping seat post) would be a huge advantage for this course.  Just knowing times will be slower than a smooth 112 across the board.   Having the opportunity, as an amateur, to have lead motos, a bike escort, break the tape and take home money is rare these days.  All of the event staff were great and communicative and working with much less man power than the big brand.  Given that, I'd say they manage to pull of a great day.  One of my biggest suggestions would be to have a proper awards ceremony in the evening.  As the top overall females we had to find each other and help ourselves to the podium for pictures.  When my crew asked if they were going to do awards they said no, just go to the awards table and collect your award.  Thankfully, the other 2 ladies were hanging around and once we all approached the podium the man in charge of awards did a small announcement/ceremony for us. 


Thank you to everyone who made this race and journey possible.  Thank you most of all to my amazing family and friends that were there to cheer me in person and from afar.  Thank you to DC Triathlon Club, The DC Tri Club Elite Team and all of our sponsors including TaveKaan, Louis Garneau, District Taco, Osmo Hydration, Honey Stinger, Rudy Project, xx2i optics, Xterra Wetsuits and to SBR Sports Inc, AltRed, and Rose Physical Therapy Group.  Huge thank you's to Fuel Your Passion Coaching and to Andrew who raced a phenomanal 70.3 and then was the best sherpa, info relayer, stuff gatherer, and support man ever.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Rev3 Williamsburg 2018 Race Report

I've always had Williamsburg in the back of my mind as a race I might like to do at some point.  With a July race date and being even further south than DC I knew the weather was highly likely to be very hot and humid.  At DC Triathlon Club's annual meeting in 2017 I won a free race entry for the 2018 race.  I already knew my 2018 race schedule was going to focus more on local/driveable races with friends, free on top of checking the other 2 boxes was ideal.  It also fit nicely into the calendar with the races I had already planned on registering for.

Williamsburg was also announced as the goal race for many of the DC Triathlon Club's programs.  Racing predominately long course it is not often I end up at a race with a strong contingent of club members.  I was excited to be at race with my teammates, fellow club members and friends and less stress about winning, slots, etc.  This race fell nicely at the end of a recovery week after a big build block, so with not much of a taper this race was purely on the schedule as a training race.

Pre-Race: Saturday

Bike racking with Prochnow
I drove down to Williamsburg from DC early on Saturday morning.  Traffic was surprisingly somewhat heavy but moving well by 7am.  I stopped for my traditional BIG BREAKFAST on the road shortly before getting to the race site.  Once at the race site I met up with Heather and did a little
shakeout workout - bike/run/swim.  The weather broke just in time for us and it was actually cool (low 80s but with what we had the weekend before 107, it felt perfect) and not humid!  I felt awesome during our shakeout and had a really good feeling about the race.  Race check-in was simple and quick.  Once we had our bib # stickers we got our bikes all stickered up and dropped them off to transition before heading to the condo's our team had rented for some R&R.

RACE DAY
Transition set up with Ellen
Pre-Race: Sunday AM
I woke up at the usual race day time of 4am.  Did all the important things like braid my hair and eat some applesauce before making sure I packed everything up and heading on out to the race site.  Parking was ample and close to transition.  I immediately went to transition and took my bike to the mechanics to get my tires topped off with air - I used to haul my pump around and do this myself but
it is far easier to not lug around a pump and have help with the disc wheel/crack pipe that I can have a hard time inflating on my own.   I then loaded on my nutrition and hydration, calibrated the power meter and made sure my bike/run stuff was all set out and ready to go.  I had some time to head over to the DCTC tent and relax for a few before getting into my Xterra Speedsuit and walking over to swim start.

THE SWIM - 1.2 Miles - 36:41
My shakeout swim on Saturday had gone well.  I was going into this race calm and confident with realistic swim expectations.  I knew that I might have a "fast" swim based on prior years results and the current that you *may* get to swim with.  We had a time trial swim start this year.  I put myself near the front but back enough to be away from all the super fasties.  The first 1/2 of the swim was great, I felt awesome, everything was clicking.  I was sighting well and swimming straight and swimming more or less with those who also started near me (instead of getting swam over).  Once I made it to the turn buoy shit got crazy, no joke.  I made the turn and attempted to sight the next buoy - between the glare of the sun and that fact that there wasn't a buoy I was clueless as to where to go.  I looked for heads and there were people swimming in literally every direction.  I could hear water support people telling swimmers "you're ok, you're ok, just keep swimming" to other swimmers.  I knew from the course map it was pretty much a 160* turn so I went with my gut and started swimming.  I stopped multiple times to attempt to sight a buoy and ended up just relying on heads.  It worked out fine, but I was nervous and not thrilled.  The sun beating into our eyes didn't help either.  Eventually I saw the swim exit, I'm not sure I've ever been happier to see a swim exit.

Turns out a sighting buoy floated away.  The current of the river + the current of the creek (after the turn) + the tide cause a whirlpool effect and was pulling people back out to the river and limiting forward progress.  Apparently a good number of athletes were unfortunately pulled from this swim due to the currents.

T1 - 3:02
This was a long run up the boat ramp and then up the park road back to transition.  The pavement was smooth and nice enough to run on.  As I attempted to peel my speedsuit down the quick release zipper flipped down and got stuck.  The shoulders of the suit were stuck over my upper arms and I felt like I was hostage in my speedsuit.  I asked another woman also running up to transition to flip my zipper up.  Once she figured out what I meant I was able to peel it down and pick up my pace to transition.  A quick shoes, helmet, sunglasses on and I was off on the bike.

THE BIKE - 56 Miles - 2:30:39
I had heard great things about this bike course - a rolling country course that rides fast.  Sounds like my dream bike course.  I hit it hard out of transition and passed a good amount of people within the first 5-10 miles.  I also got stuck behind a very hesitant old man driving a large pickup truck and stuck behind some slower cyclists.  I was very frustrated - then when he did pass I was basically riding the same speed he was driving so when he got to another hill I got stuck again.  Like stuck to the point where I almost had to unclip.  I was trying to beg him to pull to the right and let me (us) pass.  He didn't.  Eventually we got around and all was better in the world.  About 20 miles in I got the info from a volunteer that I was 7th female.  I figured I was in a good spot, not even 28 miles in, I knew I'd be catching at least a few more ladies on the bike before we got to 56 miles.  After the first 15 or so miles this course felt empty.  I was riding completely by myself for the most part, I'd pass a lone cyclist every few miles, maybe.  Just before the 28 mile point I passed a middle aged man.  He apparently didn't like this move, sat on my wheel for a few minutes and passed me back.  I dopped back and tried to let him go.  Before I knew it I was passing him again (easily I should add) - again, he didn't like it.  He sat on my wheel for another couple of minutes and then passed me again on a false flat.  As soon as he got in front of me he was moving WAY slower, I wanted to yell at him to stop F*cking with my race, but kept it in.  I sat up, stopped pedaling and the officials came by on the moto.  I stayed back and again tried to let him go.  As we got to a right hand turn up the road I made the turn and stepped on it.  As I passed him he said "damn girl you do work on that bike".  No shit sherlock, I caught you and passed you from who knows how far back.  Let me go.

Once around him it was some more lonely miles as I counted each female that I passed.  A lot of the roads weren't all that smooth so there was a lot of vibration out there.  The back half of the course had a bit of a headwind and merged with the Olympic Distance race for the last few miles.  By the time we had merged with Olympic Distance I knew I had moved up to 3rd female and I knew who one of
Coming into T2, Gu wrapper in mouth
the females ahead was, as well as knowing 4th wasn't far behind me.  I had passed her around mile 45 and she hung on for a good bit. 

I had nailed nutrition, hydration, and HR plan for the bike so I was pretty pumped about coming into T2 in 3rd OA.

T2 - 0:56
Flying dismount and a super quick run in to swap shows, grab my race belt and hydration bottle.  I had a little trouble getting the belt on as I ran out and I dropped the plastic bottle so had to stop and back track a couple steps.  It all worked out, I was just a bit of a mess initially.

THE RUN - 13.1 Miles - 1:40:46
I hit the run course and was with another female (Jenn) instantly.  She had been in 2nd OA.  I stuck behind her for about a mile.  I then decided it'd be fine to just make the pass and that I didn't think she would hang.  Oh boy, was I wrong.  She stuck to my shoulder like glue.  Every time I thought I was opening a gap she's reappear on my shoulder.  The double out and back run course that was also the Oly run course was fantastic.  We got to see all the other athletes and cheer for each other and watch the race unfold.  What was happening in front of us, what was happening behind us.  4th place had put in a hard effort early to catch us around miles 3 or 4 but she was breathing very heavy when she caught and passed us.  We ran on her shoulder briefly before making the pass for good, she had spent too many matches catching us.  Around mile 7 or so I decided to run on Jenn's shoulder for a bit.  As we made it to the turn around on lap 2 I noticed that we were actually making up a good amount of ground on 1st place.  I never would have thought we would catch her on the run.  That helped mentally give me a boost and keep pushing for the last 3 miles or so.  As we made back towards the park and headed up and over the bridge 1 last time Jenn tried to get me to pick it up with her and kick it in (we were still at least almost 1/2 a mile from the finish).  Jenn put in some work and started opening up a gap as we rounded transition.  I had to let her go, but when I looked up there was the woman who had been in 1st, I made the pass and finished as hard as I could but wasn't able to close the gap Jenn had opened up.

FINISH (unofficial): 4:52:03 - 2nd Female, 1st AG
We shared some finish line hugs and respect for the shoulder to shoulder race we had just had.  It was the most fun I've had on a race course in quite some time.  When I came out of T2 I chose to compete.  I could have settled in to a slightly easier pace and let her go.  I was fearless and took a chance to see what my body had on the day.  I'm so glad I did, it was awesome.  I a ton about myself and racing.  I got to see some of my best friends multiple times on the run and cheer for them and encourage them.  This was a huge race for me with a 70.3 run PR and an all around solid day (as well as 70.3 unofficial PR).

OFFICIAL RESULTS/AWARDS - 4:56:03 - 4th OA, 1st AG
Just before awards we checked results again and my finish time had 4 minutes added to it.  At first I was like "WTF" and then I remembered the moto from the bike course.  Crap, crap, crap.  I spoke with the head referee in which he said "it looked like you were really trying to drop back, it just took 5 seconds too long to get to 3 bike lengths".  Wow.  Ok, my bike is pretty dang small and I was certain I had made back far enough it in time.  But thanks for realizing I was really trying and still nailing me with a penalty (I guess when you stop pedaling and sit up it's a good indication that you are trying, I wasn't going to hit the brakes, nope nope nope).  Had the moto come up just a couple minutes earlier it would have been the egotistical male age grouper getting the penalty.  Oh well, not a big deal - no cash, no slots or anything up for grabs at this race.  It bumped me down in the overall results a couple places to 4th but also meant that I got to stand on the age group podium with 2 of my best girls. Podium sweep for us, and it was amazing! My first and only penalty in 9 years of racing - and a silver lining with an age group podium sweep.  Lesson learned pass the dude with authority and tell him the first time not to f*ck with my race :P 

Thank you to all of my sponsors for the continued support - Xterra Wetuits, Rudy Project Helmets, Louis Garneau, SBR/Triswim, District Taco, DC Triathlon Club, Tavekaan, Rose Physical Therapy Group, UltraGrain, XX2i Optics, and Louis Garneau.  And thanks to all of my DC Tri Elite teammates that made this weekend so much fun.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Big Dance on The Big Island: Kona 2017 Race Report

If you follow me or are a somewhat regular reader of this blog you probably know that I got my first KQ at Ironman Maryland in 2016.  I had a year to plan, to get fit, to try and prepare for the conditions, to watch all the prior editions of Kona that I could get my hands on.  You might be wondering why in the world it had taken me so long to write this race report given that I had the opportunity to see one of my goals and dreams through to the end.  Well...life happened.  In that year I fell in love, completely and selflessly in love with my best friend.  He came to Kona and we had the the best time and the best post race vacation.  And not too long after it was over, I was heartbroken and for awhile didn't even want to think about the trip/race.  So now that we've covered that I'll say the Big Island is absolutely amazing.  We spent 10 days in Kona and then about 5 days traveling around other areas of the island and I feel like we could have easily spent another 2 weeks exploring, hiking, snorkeling, etc.  It's definitely worth a visit (hello Volcanoes!) whether or not you go for a triathlon.

Kona Bound
Getting to Kona from the East coast isn't quick.  It was relatively easy, just time consuming.  We had a 2 leg journey - Baltimore - LA and LA - Kona.  With quite the long layover in LA.  Upon arriving in Kona the airport is pretty much all outdoors and it was gorgeous!  We decided to divide and conquer to get the checked bags and rental car as quickly as we could so we could just get to the hotel for the night and get some sleep.  Thankfully my bike bag fit nicely into the trunk of our Buick rental car!  Quite seemlessly we were off to the King Kam for the night.

Ho'ala Swim
I had decided to go out to Kona 8 days before race day so that I could participate in the 2.4 mile practice swim one week out from race day.  Race start was literally right out the door of the King Kam.  I was super nervous about swimming 1.2 miles out into the ocean and turning around and swimming 1.2 miles back.  The water was crystal clear, everyone was just happy to be there and no one seamed to be overly physical or anything.  I tried to just dial in a comfortable effort and stay steady.  For my first non wetsuit ocean swim and taking it relatively easy I felt great and was happy to have done this before race day.  I came out of the water with the star of the week...Bob Babbit of Breakfast with Bob.

Race Week
The week leading up to race day is crazy busy! You can book yourself full of activities if you want to but I prefer more of a low key and relaxed lead up to race day and this week in Kona and on Ali'hi Drive may have been a bit over stimulating for me.  We moved into a great condo just above the Poke Shack for the week and the rest of the Sherpa crew arrived.  I was lucky enough to be joined by the best crew ever. Mom, Gary, Rory, Kara and my best friends Erin and Brian all joined the party and made for an awesome week in Kona.  There are breakfasts, parades, runs (undie-run), coffee boat swims and parties hosted by all the big sponsor companies and no shortage of fellow athletes/friends to catch up with everyday, not to mention putting the final touches on the training.  Erin and I biked almost the entirety of the bike course in different segments leading up to race day, including the climb to Hilo and back.  It was hot, windy and hard.  We started from Waikoloa, not Kona, and it didn't seem so bad when it was only a 40 some mile ride.




Pre-Race: Friday
Erin and Kara helped me organize and pack my transition bags, we made sure my running shoes were laced how I like, nutrition was sorted and packed, bottles were filled.  I biked down to the pier for bike check-in and bag drop off while Rory and Kara had walked down a bit earlier to work on some
chalk art and catch Breakfast with Bob.  I got in line and walked through the bike check-in area,
which is completely lined with bike reps frantically calling out and scribbling down your components, sponsors, helmet, saddle, etc.  One did make special note of District Taco, I can guarantee I was the only District Taco sponsored athlete racking my bike that day.  As I approached the pier I was partnered with another athlete who would be racked near me and we were paired with a very nice volunteer.  I was paired with Lectie Altman, if you follow Coeur Sports or the age group triathlon world you may have heard about accident she was in and her hard fought recovery she is currently taking on.  This was not her first Kona, she was calm and confident
and helped calm my nerves a bit as I was overwhelmed with excitement, fear, doubts, joy and everything in between.  Our volunteer was very sweet and walked me through transition step by step.  We racked my bike and hung my gear bags and stopped multiple times to point out different parts of the swim course to me.  Once the bike racking was done we hung out for a bit and watched some of the pros come through for racking.  Then it was out of the sun and heat to chill in the Normatec boots and share a great dinner with my Sherpa crew.

Race Day: Saturday AM
Rory and Kara volunteered for body marking on the pier so they were the first to head out.  I was up and had my classic pre race applesauce breakfast before getting a ride down to the pier with Gary and Mom.  I got in line to head into the athletes only area on the pier.  I was able to spot Rory and Kara for my body marking, then it was on the get weighed and then a stop for some pre race hydration before heading out onto the pier to make sure tires were pumped, nutrition and hydration loaded onto
the bike and bike computer was ready.  Once the bike was good to go, I got into my speed suit, turned in my morning clothes bag and was happy to take a few moments to attempt to relax with Lori and Brian.  I was so thankful to have them near as I was getting quite anxious.  We watched the flyover, the pro men, the pro women and then sent Brian off with the AG men as we waited for the final wave of the day - the AG women.




THE SWIM: 2.4 Miles - 1:17:24
I lined myself up to the right and a couple rows back.  I knew I wouldn't be contending for a spot at the front of the pack with this crew.  This swim is amazing, crystal clear water, scuba divers, helicopters, drones, the iconic turn around at the Body Glove sailboat and of course the famous steps bringing you out of the water and onto the pier for the rest of your day.  I was able to find feet and stick with them for about 30-40% of the swim.  We had relatively calm waters and though I had been warned that it would likely be a very physical swim I didn't experience much more than a couple taps or bumps.  I don't say this often, but this was hands down my most favorite part of the day.
Out of the change tent and to my bike!

T1: 5:02
Up the famous steps and under the fresh water hoses as I peeled down my Xterra Speedsuit.  Into the change tent for a quick slip on of my LG aero tri top, put on my LG shoes and get covered in sunscreen before heading out to my bike and running out of transition.  Ellen was just behind me in transition and we were able to share positive vibes on the way out.









THE BIKE: 112 Miles - 5:58:54
I headed out on the bike feeling good and confident as I made my way up Palani toward Kuakina Highway for the prelude to the Queen K.  As I attempted to make my first shift for the short climb up Palani my worst fear came true, my rear shifter didn't work.  I quickly pleaded with Madame Pele, if there were any day and any course I needed my bike to work properly it was now.  Today. In Kona.  Hundreds of training miles with no issues, I needed 112 more miles out of this shifter.  And that's exactly what I got. Crises averted.  The out and back on Kuakini was just a quick trip but brought up back through the "Hot Corner" to see all the spectators before sending us out to grind away on the Queen K up to Hawi.  I knew within the first 20 miles or so that this may not be my greatest day.  I couldn't get comfortable on my saddle at all.  I hunkered down as best I could and executed the plan - HR, hydration, nutrition, enjoy the day.  I make it up past Waikoloa and knew the cross winds and climbing to Hawi were only about to pick up, as the air temperature and pavement temperature continued to heat up.  The commentators say is every year "112 miles of heat, hills, and humidity" well they aren't wrong.  I made my way to the turn around in Hawi and hoped for a bit of a tailwind on the way back to Kona, nope, no such thing.  I took 3 fresh, ice cold bottles of Osmo from my special needs bag and headed south.  I had done a decent job of keeping myself cool, I was drinking gatorade and water from every aid station and taking an extra water to cool myself with.   Around mile 75 or so the soles of my feet began to burn.  I had never experienced this before - not even during 140 mile rides of constant pedaling around Cambridge on brutally hot and humid days.  My HR began to drag a bit so I started taking Coke (with a sport top cap) at the aid stations.  My stomach wasn't feeling awesome but I knew I needed to continue to eat if I wanted to have a shot at running 26.2 miles.  I reach my hand into my bento box (new top thanks to Felt during race week) to grab a waffle...all I could sense was waffle mush.  I paused...and then went in for a full scoop and put if down the hatch.  I knew there wouldn't be another aid station for 15 or so miles and I needed calories to keep the engine running.  The thought it now makes me want to vomit, I don't know how I didn't vomit then.  I continued on my way back to Kona, reminding myself that Kona isn't about fast, it's about steady and consistent.  As I approached town I was able to see the front of the women's pro field on the run course as well as some of the top finisher's from the pro men's field.  I made the turn back down toward the pier and heard the cheers from my crew as I approached the dismount line.  I've never been happier to pass off my bike to the volunteers and get on to the run.  I kept my bike shoes on as I dismounted as I had been cautioned the heat from the pavement would likely burn my bare feet should I decide to leave the shoes on the bike.













T2: 4:34
A quick run into the change tent - put on run socks and shoes, changed into my sleeveless tri top and grabbed my racebelt.  Got another slather of sunscreen before heading out for the final 26.2

THE RUN: 26.2 Miles - 4:58:42
As I exited the pier I heard the announcer call out the top 3 male finishers - oh boy, they were done and I still had a marathon to run.  I dialed into my HR and started getting my bottle of Osmo pre-load/active in to help keep me hydrated.  I headed out on Ali'l Drive, past my friends and family and out past our condo.  I was able to see some friends on this out and back and new full well some of them were putting together darn good {AMAZING} days!  Icey sponges were available at every aid station and I took advantage of every single one.  The first few miles ticked off, I was feeling good, I was sticking to my nutrition and hydration plan, I wasn't moving "fast" but I had a steady and consistent pace that I would have been thrilled to hold on the day.  By mile 7 my feet were on fire, the soles of both feet just felt like they were going to rip off.  I pushed the pain aside and told myself to just keep running, that way I'd be done and off my feet sooner.  I made my way up Palani, past my crew and past Lee, whom I told "I'm never coming back here again".  I got a little pick me up at the Base tent around mile 12 or so with some cheers and rocket fuel as I carried on toward The Energy Lab.  I had used The Energy Lab as a specific visualization exercise many times during long runs, knowing it wasn't going to be easy, and I looked forward to putting in the work in the actual Energy Lab.  I promised myself I wouldn't look down at my feet as they felt like they were covered in blood.  Any other race and I would have stopped to look and assess the situation and maybe DNF if it were a major heealth concern.  But not here, not on the Big Island, not on this day.  As I made the left hand turn and headed down I knew my feet were not in a good place.  Holding run form and pace was extremely difficult, by mile 16 or so my stomach had started to revolt against anymore sweet sugary things.  I kept moving foward and after what felt like forever got myself out of The Energy Lab.  As I turned back onto the Queen K my feet were killing me - I had started to do some weird hobble-run on the outer most edges of my feet to attempt and dull the pain.  The sun was setting quickly and any hope I had of a daylight finish had diminished.  It was not completely a manage the day, manage the conditions and get yourself to the finish line in one piece kind of day.  Around mile 23 Pete was waiting for my on the Queen K - it was so nice to have someone to listen to my complain about my feet!  I told him, completely seriously, that we would be spending the night in the hospital because I likely needed a skin graft for the soles of my feet.  I trudged on back toward Kona, past the Base Tent, past Palani, past Rory and Kara, until the right hand turn that would take me back to Ali'i Drive.  That final downhill was the worst! I used my chews as a bite stick, as the friction between my feet and shoes was about a 9.7/10 on the good old pain scale.  One last right hand turn onto Ali'i Drive and I soaked in that final stretch.  I knew my crew was waiting for me at the finish line.  I took in the chute, I raised my arms, thanked my Dad, and celebrated.
Focused and Forward in The Energy Lab.





FINISH: 12:24:36
This was not my best race, not my worst.  It was an incredible experience, a learning lesson and the culmination of an amazing journey.  The island is careless with people's dreams, even the best of the best will crumble in the conditions the island throws at you.  Having experienced it firsthand, it makes it all the more amazing what the top pros and age groupers can do.  We stuck around the finish area to cheer in the midnight finishers and went back the following day for the awards banquet (highly recommend if your travel schedule allows).  I then took a week off, of pure vacation, no bike, no running, so swim workouts, just relaxation.  No thinking about what the next race was or when it would be.  Honestly I didn't know if Ironman was in the near future, distant future or ever again at the point.  I spent entirely too much time at the local pharmacy buying all the blister care and protective products I could find to give me a fighting chance at walking normally for the rest of our trip.  Spoiler alert, I didn't need a skin graft, my feet weren't bloody, but the soles of both feet were completely blister covered.  From the tips of my toes to my heels (thanks humidity, salt water, and sockless bike!).  A few days out from race day and I already knew I wanted to go back to Kona - maybe not immediately or relatively soon but I needed to come back to this island.  I prepared as best I could, but there is nothing to prepare you for that course and those conditions other than being there and racing on that course, in those conditions.  Now more than 6 months out, I have 140.6  #8, #9, and #10 on the schedule.  I know that I want more than anything to get back to that island, to feel the energy, to take on one of the hardest single day events in the world.  Stay humble, stay hungry.

My Crew <3 td="">


Breakfast with Bob, Poncho Man and Rinny

Heather Jackson at bike check-in

Andy Potts at bike check-in