Monday, September 23, 2019

Making Magic Happen - Traverse City 70.3 Race Report

In summer of 2018 the rumors began and the official announcement was eventually made that there would indeed be an Ironman 70.3 Traverse City.  I'd been going up to the Traverse City area pretty regularly ever since I was very young, with my family.  In the beginning it was most often for a winter ski trip, then as we got older we also started going in the summer and as we became more familiar with triathlon we always thought how cool it would be to have an Ironman event in Traverse City.  So naturally, I registered for the event pretty much as soon as I got the email for priority registration.  Little did I know I would be moving to Hawaii in the summer of 2019, I briefly considered getting a refund or transferring my registration, but that was just a fleeting thought as I knew in my heart I wanted to in Michigan for the Inaugural Ironman Traverse City 70.3.

The transition to living in Hawaii went about as smoothly as it could have.  I headed out just a couple weeks after Ironman Ireland and began laying down the miles on the island.  It took a bit of time for my body and my heart rate to get used to the conditions but everything fell into place.  I put in some big weeks and some big workouts (Kona prep) en route to TC 70.3 and was heading into Traverse feeling confident in my training (albeit slightly exhausted).

Logistically, traveling to northern Michigan from Hawaii wasn't too difficult, it just takes time.  It you're good at sleeping on a red eye it definitely makes the time pass more easily!  Overall my travel went smoothly and no bike fee (thanks American Airlines!).

We arrived in Traverse City on Thursday afternoon and checked into our condo at the Traverse City State Hospital.  The old insane asylum has been renovated into shops and restaurants on the ground floor and condos on the floors above.  We had a great 3 bedroom condo with large chef's kitchen and plenty of space for 4 of us and all the triathlon things.  We enjoyed Thursday evening walking around downtown and grabbing dinner at The Blue Tractor.

Friday morning, Rory and I woke up early to hit Lake Michigan for a practice swim.  It was perfect, water was like glass, nice temperature (wetsuit legal, but fine without a wetsuit), and clear.  After a short swim we headed back for breakfast and to drive the bike course.  After returning I headed out to do a shake out ride on the first few miles of the course - mainly to check out the climb we'd be hitting in the first 3 miles.  It was long, but nothing too steep and the cool temperatures made it quite pleasant!  We did some more race things Friday - like checkin/packet pickup and the underpants run!

Saturday was the regular big breakfast - at The Omelette Shop and then picking up Andrew from the Traverse City Airport before bike racking, pre race briefing and go over race day logistics with the sherpa crew.  We put our chef's kitchen to good use and even use the pot filler to help us make our pre race dinner.

Up early with applesauce, banana, protein powder and osmo for breakfast.  I gathered my things and Mom, Gary, Andrew and I headed out in the car for transition. Rory slept in a bit and walked up to swim start in the morning.  We found a great street parking spot (free) and began walking the couple blocks to transition.  Traverse City Tourism had their building open with heated restrooms so we stopped there just across the street from transition.  I barely had finished my business when I bolted out of the stall to tell Andrew he had to go back - I had forgotten all of my bottles (I haven't pulled this stunt since my first Ironman in 2012).  Thankfully Andrew and Gary headed back to get the bottles (pre made in the fridge) while mom and I hung out in the heated building for a bit.  It all worked out and I went to get my bike set up and when I was just about done they had returned with the bottles.  We then headed over to the Infinite Mulitsport Club (mom's tri club) team tent to stash my bag and get my wetsuit on.

THE SWIM - 1.2 Miles - 37:48 - 26th
I lined up with the 35-37 minute group and we were swiftly moving toward the water once the age group race started.  I hit the water with a few dolphin dives and got into a good rhythm rather quickly.  I felt great, was sighting well and passing some people while maintaining a draft for most of the swim.  It took doing the North Shore Swim Series in Hawaii for me to appreciate the buoys and course markings Ironman uses for the swim course.  It is so wonderful seeing right where you need to go and knowing pretty much exactly where you are on the course (the NSSS used like 2-3 buoys for a 2.5 mile swim).   After hitting the 2nd turn buoy I was trying to pick up the pace to the finish but made a small sighting error that took me off course just a bit (I maybe lost 30s-1min).  I exited the water feeling good and ready to hit the bike course.

T1 - 3:21
I utilized the wetsuit strippers and then headed under the pedestrian tunnel to my bike.  A quick pause to put shoes and helmet on before grabbing Rinster and hitting the bike course.

THE BIKE - 56 Miles - 2:37:23 - 1st AG (1st Amateur)
This bike course had pristine pavement for 55 of the 56 miles.  I'm talking fresh, smooth, blacktop.  It
was lovely.  This bike course also had a 3 mile climb in the first 5 miles followed by rollers, that by car appeared to be such that I could likely carry momentum through them (similar to Chattanooga) and have a freakin glorious ride.  Well let me tell you, these rollers were mostly momentum killers.  lots of climbing, lots of pushing the descents.  About 15 miles in I caught a man (here we go again) that tried to hop on my wheel.  He'd hop on for a few minutes then pass me in which he's almost immediately slow down and I'd have to repass  (FYI to the dudes, the reason it feels easy on my wheel is because you're drafting and saving 30% of your energy).  I somewhat politely asked him to either drop back or go, but don't stay with me.  He told me we were riding the same speed, after which I broke it to him I caught him from significantly further back and I'd appreciate it if he didn't mess with my race.  He went away eventually (saw him on the run course where he made a comment of oh there's my DC Tri Friend, yup here I am, now 4 miles ahead of you, hiiiiii!). 

We made the turn up M22 and then back right to start heading back towards Traverse City...holy headwind batman! Thankfully pretty much every long ride I do in Hawaii the 2nd half is into a fairly strong headwind.  So I put my head down and focused on the power.  I was thankful for the short out and back for a brief relief from the wind.  The short out and back (maybe 2-3 miles out, then back to the main road) had a U-turn at the end of it.  I went into the U-turn following one man with a man I had passed about a 1/2 mile back behind me.  I took the turn carefully and was waiting for the straight away to pass the man in front of me - oh well the man behind us had other plans.  Without any vocalization he cut inside on the apex of the U-turn and then swung out, cutting me off and running me towards the gravel shoulder in the process.  Yes, I vocalized my displeasure.  He apologized and said he owed me a beer as I rode off, I never saw him again.  I dug in finished out the ride with an effort I was happy with, but I wasn't sure about the time.  With this being a new course, and thinking it'd ride more like Choo I was thinking I'd ride in the 2:25-2:27 range.  I kept reminding myself, if I'm riding a 2:37, everyone else is likely riding slower.  Just keep on it.  The last couple miles bring you down a nice descent and then a flat mile of a bit rougher pavement into transition. 

T2 - 1:48
Nothing special here, except that there was such a quick lead in after our last turn to the dismount line that I didn't yet have my feet out of my shoes on the bike, so I rant into T2 with shoes on.  Not my usual MO, but it worked and thankfully I had a VERY short run to my bike rack.  Helmet off, visor, sunglasses and sock/shoes and race belt on. 

THE RUN - 13.1 Miles - 1:40:21 - 2nd AG
I hit the run course and had a bit of difficulty getting my last Alt Red out of the little torpedo it was
stored in.  After shaking that around and hitting it against my leg enough it finally came loose and I could stop looking like a complete weirdo.  I saw Andrew and my mom shortly into the run course and heard Andrew tell my I was 3rd and the girl in front of me was actually behind me by 2 minutes.  I wasn't quite sure he he was telling me I was 3rd overall or 3rd age group, so I figured he must mean age group.  I went out a bit fast for the first mile, but was able to reign it in and settle into a solid pace.  The course had a couple hills along Boardman Lake, but those were over powered by the sheer amount of energy from the spectators all over the run course.  After my first trip along the lake I saw Andrew and Rory again, this was where Andrew told me I was 3rd overall.  This was also where I was starting to feel less than awesome.  Hearing that I was 3rd overall lit a fire under my bum and I got to work.  A short jaunt on the road to the turn around and then back up to the lake to do the horseshoe on the path.  I got some caffeine in me and when I passed my Andrew and Rory around mile 10.5 I knew I was still 3rd overall and Andrew asked my to drop the pace by 20s.  Holy crap, I thought, ok we've done this on my long training runs.  I can do this, just get to work. I caught back up with a man who had passed me shortly before and ran on his hip up to the top of the last hill and final U turn before passing him for good.  One man, around mile 11, wasn't happy with my passing him and even vocalized that I shouldn't pass so close - we're running dude, on a narrow path, with 2 way traffic in a race with 2500+ athletes, I'm not about to expend a bunch of extra energy, it's be easier to get around you if you'd just move to one side or the other.

The final leg back to town was fun, paved and a shaded road lined with spectators.  I saw Andrew one more time and heard him say I had opened up the gap to 4th overall a little bit more.  I was feeling good pushing the pace and held it down all the way to the line.  It was so much fun getting to see so many friends, both old and new, along the race course.  Friends I met in DC, friends from high school, athletes of mine, etc etc and of course having my family all over the course.  I crossed the line thinking I had finished 3rd overall and 2nd age group.

The finish line is right downtown in front of the state theater and had a ton of crowd support.  I was pretty tanked when I got there so the volunteers brought me a chair and gave me a cold water
shower.  My Mom and Gary were there, Rory was there and Andrew got there shortly after.  We celebrated the 3rd overall finish and I even told Andrew that I was impressed with how fast my age group winner ran (she ended up 2nd in the AG).  We shared some race stories with other IMTC finishers that had finished near me before making our way back to the village for food and massages.  After food and massages and wiping down with some baby wipes before putting on clean clothes Andrew and I made our way back toward Ironman Village for awards and 70.3 Worlds slots.  It was then that Andrew said something about me winning my age group, I was like Whhhatttt!?  He said, "yeah you were 1st AG, 3rd overall amateur".  Oh my, that's a fun surprise!  He and I chatted a bit about what that meant and if I'd be taking a slot to Taupo for 2020 70.3 Worlds.

I did not go into this race intending to race for top 3 overall.  I had told Andrew the night before that if I was in the top 5-6 overall off the bike to let me know, otherwise I just want to race for the age group win.  It turns out the bike course at Traverse City was much more difficult than anyone really expected, which likely helped me immensely.   I also pushed myself harder in this race than I have ever pushed in a 70.3 and dug into a place on the run that I can only hope to dig into more often, which was evidenced by the level of soreness I experienced the couple days after!

There's always things we learn from every race experience and this was no different.  I wasn't unhappy with my swim, I'm working to get that down to a solid 34 consistently (and lower from there).  I think the biggest thing this year is that my swimming was consistent across my 70.3s, in past years it's been all over the board, so at least there's that.  We'll keep working - developing that catch, drafting every chance I get, and enjoying the process. 

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Friday, July 12, 2019

Ah, Sure It'll Be Grand - Ironman Ireland 2019

When Ironman Ireland was announced in 2018 I had no hesitations about registering.  Years prior, I had said if there were ever a full in Ireland, I would do it.  Amazingly a few DC friends also registered and we were all in for the inaugural Ironman Ireland 2019.  I think registration open more than a year in advance of the race day - course maps weren't yet available.  What we did know is that it would be a "rolling" 2 loop bike course with a steep climb on each loop, a cold Irish Sea Swim and a "flat" run.

Fast forward to the start of 2019 and thanks to my KQ at Ironman Chattanooga 2018 I knew Ireland could be a pressure free chance to gain more experience racing the distance.  2 of the 4 friends from our DC crew at the transfer or defer their registration so Heather and I started planning our trip.  We were both lucky enough to bring our super sherpa mom's along for the adventure.  My training cycle and build were pretty decent going in to the race.  I had gotten a good confidence boost from my back to back 70.3 success in May, but I also knew that overall volume wise this IM training cycle was on the lower end and I had missed almost an entire high volume week due to illness.

I had quite a bit of travel leading into race week - drive DC -> Michigan, fly Detroit -> Toronto -> Dublin, drive from Dublin to Youghal in Cork County, Ireland.  Thankfully the big drive to Michigan went very smoothly and I had quite a few days to relax and get organized before heading to Ireland.   Once in Dublin, on Wednesday morning, we picked up our SUV rental car - which was definitely a mini van and tackled to task of driving on the left side of the road and driving from the right side of the car.  That first trip to Youghal was just a tad stressful.  On the motorway, just cruising, it was fine.  When we stopped for lunch in a small town the roads were very narrow, people were parked any and every which way and some of the intersections were mind boggling with everything appearing "backwards.  Mom and I made it to our BnB (Glen House BnB) mid afternoon.  I was feeling good and energized so I headed out for a run while mom napped before dinner.  The mid 50 degrees and cloudy weather was perfect running weather and I felt awesome checking out bits of our race course.

On Thursday we had a classic Irish breakfast before heading out to check out the swim course.  Oh my goodness, that water was cold.  I was in a full sleeve TYR Hurricane Cat 1 Wetsuit, neoprene cap

and neoprene booties.  The sun was out and there were plenty of other swimmers testing out the water.  We were lucky enough to have 3 buoys out and some lifeguards on paddle boards along the course.  The first few minutes were tough, I knew one I got my face in that it would take a few minutes to get my breathing under control in the cold water.  Once I was feeling good I swam out to one of the buoys and back for a total of 15 minutes of swimming.  By the time I was getting out, I was pretty used to the water and confident if it was the current temp (54F) or any warmer I would be ok.   Some of the women getting out weren't ok, people were uncontrollably shivering, soaked and unable to use their fingers.   After leaving the beach we were able to go check into our AirBnb on the upper strand, which we would be staying in for the remainder of our time in Youghal.  Our hosts were amazing and made sure we knew where everything was and helped us out with things like outlet adapters and tips for groceries, restaurants, etc in town.  I got my bike built and headed out on a little cruise while we anxiously waiter for Heather and her mom to arrive before going to race check in.  I had fun exploring the first 20k or so of the bike course.  I got a little lost on my way back, but everyone in Ireland was so nice.  An older gentleman could tell I was trying to figure out where to go and he pointed me in the right direction.  While I was building my bike I got to meet our neighbor, Norma and her son John.  They were absolutely amazing and we saw them a lot throughout race weekend.  Everyone in Youghal was excited about the race and you could feel the energy building.  The local residents were spending some of their time (if not most of their time) volunteering with race stuff and they were all excited to meet an athlete. Once back from my ride it was time to head to race check in!  Our house was almost smack dab in the middle of Swim Start and the Finish Line (Athlete Village) so we set out on a nice walk to check in.  We made it at the end of check in hours so it was not busy at all. We breezed through the check in process and picked up some Ironman Ireland swag in the store before heading back towards the house.

Heather and I with our neighbor, and biggest fan, John.

Friday was another swim, this time with Heather, and the water felt even colder.  Once back from the swim we had planned on riding easy for a bit, but it took us almost 2 hours to get our feet to warm up before we could head out on our bikes.  Aside from the water temperature the sea was lovely.  Relatively little chop (less than many lakes I've swam in), somewhat clear water and jellies floating by, but nothing that seemed to sting.  Once on our bikes I took Heather through town to have a go at Windmill Hill. Her decision to go with an 11-32 cassette for the year paid off as she cruised up the hill.  We did a short out and back on the first section of the course after the descent from Windmill Hill - which took us right by our AirBnB.  Once home, we headed into town to meet with the Mom's for lunch and do some more swag shopping, then hit the grocery store to get the necessary items for pre race dinner and big breakfast on Saturday.

Comfortable and cute IM gear, well done.

Saturday was your usual pre race shenanigans. We had pancakes, eggs, and sausage for breakfast and then set out on foot to rack our bikes and drop our gear bags off.  We decided to drive the bike course (thank you Heather for driving) and oh my.  What we found were not what we would consider roads. Maybe cowpaths, driveways, multiuse path, etc would be a better name for some of what we would be riding on.  There were roads that were no wider than Mt. Vernon trail and crazy rough, but they were all gorgeous.  There were descents into hard turns, into climbs.  There were steep climbs and less steep but longer climbs.  There were towns almost every 10k that were excited and ready to cheer for us on the day.  Signs hung, bikes painted, flag strung across mainstreet, I've never seen anything like it for Ironman.  At one point we were so lost on what looked like it definitly wasn't part of the course a policeman came by, rolled down his window and said "Ironman? Follow me!"  So we ended up with a police escort for about 20k, which made the route finding much less stressful!  Once home, it was time for rest, relaxation, hydration, and topping off the energy stores.

Super Sherpa Mom's!

RACE DAY 6/23/2019
We were up early (3:45am) to get in our pre race breakfast and make our way to transition for a 6:35am start time.  It was pouring rain, it had been pouring rain for about 3 hours.  The much anticipated storm was indeed blowing across the Irish Sea right into Youghal, on race day, nonetheless.  Four meter swells were anticipated, and they didn't disappoint.  Ironman had notified us the night before that the swim would be shortened/altered due to the cold water temperature and a final decision would be made by 6am race morning.  Well 6am came and went and absolutely nothing had been said about the swim.  Looking out at the sea you could sea the buoys that the swim course buoys were not even in place and the waves coming in were making it difficult for the water safety team to even get out onto the course.  I took one look and told the man beside me, "if we were in the states there is no way they'd put people in that water".  He replied with, "well this is Ireland and an inaugural event, there's no way they can cancel the swim".  I headed into the open loo and enjoyed the few moments of being dry and out of the wind.  Heather and I went back and forth, going into transition, sitting outside transition on the curbs with our Mom's, then trying to figure out if anyone was making any sort of announcement.  Eventually, around 6:30am, word started getting around that the swim was cancelled and we all needed to be standing by our bikes by 7:20am to get into the change tent and prepare for a TT bike start.  I'm no stranger to this methodology - 3rd times a charm or so they say.  My 10th Iron distance race and 3rd with no swim.  To say I was relieved that I didn't have to swim 2.4 miles in the angry Irish Sea is putting it lightly.

The Bike - 180km - 6:25:22
I was cold standing in line to start the bike, but as soon as I crossed that timing mat the shivers disappeared and I was so happy to be racing.  I dialed in the my effort and power as I knew heart rate might be funky with the cold and windy conditions.  The first portion of the course was pretty fast and I was passing many of the 300 or so people that had started in front of me.  The roads were completely closed to traffic, thank goodness considering how narrow some of them were.  There were rough patches, that seemed to get a little rougher when covered in water, but it was gorgeous and it was an adventure riding on the left and passing on the right.  After overbiking the crap out of the first

56 miles at IM Choo last fall my main goal was to hold back on the bike and nail my marathon.  I was feeling great, eating, drinking and not cold at all.  I had chosen to wear my Rudy Project Wing57 aero helmet with visor.  This thing was awesome at Kinetic Half in May, I could barely tell I had anything on my head.  It was awesome for a bit in Ireland until it just started to fog, and fog more and more and more, until I was peering out of a thin slit of unfogged visor at the very top.  The rain and technicality of the bike course were difficult enough so I ripped the visor off, and not wanting to lose it, shoved it between my jersey and my sports bra.    Shortly after this one woman flew by me, I was shocked and pretty much knew she was likely over biking so I let her go - noticing she was in my age group as she passed.  I was confident I'd see her again.  I made the hard right hand turn at Dungourney and was leap frogging with an Irish man who clearly didn't like being passed by a woman.  I would pass him every downhill/flat section and he would come up absolutely mashing his pedals while standing on the uphills to pass me.  As we made our way through Inch and toward one of the final descents before hitting Murphy's Hill I had moved right to pass him.  As I completed my pass the dreaded sound happened - BOOM! - I knew instantly it wasn't his tire or the man behind him, it was mine.  I was able to safely make my way to the left side of the road, into a pile of sandy dirt surrounded by waist to head height weeds.  I calmed myself, reminded myself this would only take 5 minutes max, removed my front wheel and removed the tire and tube.  I got the new tube in and as I was having trouble seating the tire back into the rim an official came by and offered help.  He got the tire back on and I inflated with my CO2.  Air was going in and everything was awesome, until, BOOM! Nooo, my spare tube just blew** (see note at end for further details).  The official didn't have any spare tubes, so he was radio-ing in for a bike mechanic to come to the descent just after inch, as another guy came down and hit the same sharp object I hit, blowing his front tire as well.  He only had one spare tube.  As athletes wizzed by that I had passed miles and miles before hand I thought about throwing in the towel.  A few athletes came by asking if I was ok, but with the descent they didn't stick around long enough to actually hear that I needed a tube.  I knew Heather would be coming by as well and when I saw the DC Tri Club Elite Team Red, White, Blue and Yellow I raised my arms in joy.  She promptly stopped and gave me her spare tube.  I told Heather she should go, that this was her race too, and she insisted she stay and make sure I was ok.  I was covered in dirt by this point, she looked down and saw the shredded tube and exclaimed how shocked she was by the appearance of the tube.  We got the tube started and I then gave it to the official who was nice enough to finish the job and pump it with his hand pump that he had in the rear gear box of his motorcycle.  Getting into his rear gear box was another adventure, since he was on a downhill, he couldn't get off his bike so Heather and I had to get into the box, which in the process we unlocked the entire thing from the bike.  Thankfully Heather figured out how to reattach it before all was said and done.  She noticed when she gave me her spare tube that she had lost the top to her QR speed box, and CO2 and likely whatever else was in there on top of the tube.  27 minutes, YES 27 minutes later, I was back on the road.  I was on the road but my Garmin 500 bike computer was donezo.  Turns out laying sideways in a downpour doesn't do good things for the screen.  The computer would beep as if it were turning on, but nothing on the screen.  Ok, no big deal, ride by feel and start you watch up so have a timer to help with fueling.  I thought maybe I'd just ride with Heather for the rest of the 62 or so miles.  As I made my way up the much under valued Murphy's Hill (not as steep as Windmill, but much longer) and back into town and up to Windmill Hill I started to think gosh I owe it to Heather and myself to actually keep racing - if she flats she's pretty much done - No tube, no CO2 and if I flat again, I'm likely done ( I did have another CO2 but wasn't confident in it seeing what happened the first time around).

Windmill Hill was bloody amazing.  I've never seen anything like it in a triathlon.  We approach windmill hill from a small residential road the runs perpendicular to the hill.  We made a blind right turn and then wham, you were climbing, there were spectators 3-4 deep lining the entire 1/4 mile climb, an announcer, a drum line and beautiful arches at the top to signal the end of the climb (the steep part of it that is).  The only thing that let you know you were approaching Windmill Hill was the increasing roar of the crowd as you made your way along the narrow residential street on approach.  At times the crowd would come in so close I was slightly praying for a little push.  I saw a couple athletes walking and a few in front of me also rode up.  The chants from the crowd were amazing and with less then 20% of the race females they were ecstatic to see the women that were racing.  They cheered for everyone like you were winning the whole thing!  As I made the left hand turn at the true top of the climb I began the descent that would bring us right past our house for the long weekend.  I was confident I would see the mom's there and try to relay the information that I had a flat and some back luck.  The mom's indeed were there, problem is they were cheering so loudly I couldn't get a word in edge wise!

A quick stop at special needs as I was just about to start my 2nd loop.  I grabbed one more bottle of osmo, restocked my Honey Stinger Waffle Supply, and lapped my watch so I'd have decent data for the 2nd loop, and took off, knowing I had work to do.  I also took a moment to move my visor down around my hip - and it fit like a glove (so well I almost forgot to ditch it in T2).  I passed a good amount of people that I had lost time to during my flat in the first 20k or so.  The roads seemed to open up a bit and at times I felt as though I were riding alone.  The crowds in each small town were just as awesome on the 2nd loop.  People getting soaked to the bone, others staying dry in the tailgate of their SUVs or minivans, while others were hanging out doors/windows of shops or homes.  At times the rain came down so hard it hurt my face.  I was nervous about the descent after Inch where I had flatted during the 1st loop.  I spent a good 15k or so before Inch thinking about my plan for the descent - stay left, as far left as possible.  Heather rode the left edge of the road and was fine.  Myself and the other man who flatted right after me were both riding right to make a pass.  Thankfully when I got to the descent I was pretty much alone and there was plenty of space for me to stay left without having to slow down.  Some fun curvy back roads led us to Murphy's Hill - still hard and seemed even longer the 2nd time around (maybe because I hadn't had a 27 minute break before going into it this time).  My favorite sign on the bike course was on Murphy's Hill - Humpty Dumpty Had Wall Issues Too, as well as one of my favorite spectators.  A man in a yellow poncho, sitting in a camping chair at the end of his driveway enjoying an Irish beverage.  He was there just cheering, giving us energy and entertaining everyone that came by.  After Murhpy's Hill I knew there was one test left - get up Windmill Hill one more time and then it's downhill for a couple miles into T2. 

Windmill Hill was even more amazing the 2nd time around.  Thanks to the crowd the path up had narrowed even more.  There were 3 men in front of me and as the spectators saw a female coming up they started with their cheers of "Go Girl Go" and "Put the Men to Shame".  One by one each man in front of me dismounted his bike and walked up - thankfully they were far enough ahead when they dismounted that it didn't cause me any issues.  Sorry dudes, just had to chick you on that climb.  The energy of the crowd definitely helped lift me up through the climb.  It wasn't easy, the road was soaked, traction when standing was low and my legs were just a bit tired from the 110 miles I had already ridden (with approximately 6900 ft of climbing).  The 22% grade is no joke, it was intimidating to look up at just standing at the bottom of the hill in the days leading up to the race.  I can only thank my dear DC friends for going to ride SkyMass with me multiple times in the lead up to this race.  34r - though not as steep is much longer and probably the best training we could have gotten in/around DC to prepare for Windmill Hill.

T2 - 5:28
One of my slower T2 times for Ironman, but relatively quick for T2 times at this race.  Many people spent upwards of 20-30 minutes in T2 trying to warm up.  I stripped off my latex gloves and arm warmers after racking my bike.  Changed my socks and shoes, grabbed my nutrition and headed on out.

THE RUN - 42.2km - 3:51:28
I came out of T2 with a small group of athletes - one other female and a few men.  Our first stretch of boardwalk wasn't too unpleasant - light rain, some sand, and light wind but I held what felt like an easy pace and had to reign myself in a bit as I was actually running way too fast.  As we made our way off the boardwalk and up lighthouse hill for the first time our group started splintering.  I saw my mom on the right hand side and finally had a chance to run over and tell her that I had gotten a flat - apparently Andrew had already figured out that I likely flatted due to my bike splits that came through and the pictures he had seen of my kit still being in one piece. 

As I made my way done lighthouse hill and past the finish line the crowds thickened and it was then that I realized I had a shadow.  The other female I had run out of T2 with was on my shoulder like glue, and she was a local tri club member so it seemed like everyone knew her and cheered their faces off for her as she ran by.  I soaked in the energy and enjoyed the company as I knew we weren't in the same age group.  We made our way down to the turn around and back through town to run back up lighthouse hill (I got to see Alistair making his way down the red carpet to his first Ironman victory and Kona qualification as I was running) and along the back entrance to transition to claim our colored wrist band for each lap.  I was feeling strong, fueling consistently and not bothered a bit by the weather.  It was perfect running weather in my opinion.

Loop 2 was more of the same.  I still had a shadow, the crowds erupted for her, and I was nailing my fueling plan like a champ.  I surprised a volunteer when I got a cup of cold water and threw it on my face.  It felt great!  As we made our way towards the run turn around Mary, my shadow, started showing signs of tiring.  We had passed a few of her friends and they were telling her she was 2nd in her age group and to just stick with me.  She responded with something along the lines of I'm trying but my legs are getting very tired.  Been there, done that, tired around mile 9/10 of an Ironman marathon makes for a tough 16 more miles.  As we made our way back up lighthouse hill (mind you, you will run up this hill 9 times - so the course is not flat - like Maryland flat - it's mostly flat.  It just has one hill...that you run up 9 times!) Mary fell off my shoulder.  I was somewhat relieved to just be on my own for a bit.  As I came around for the start of loop 3 the wind had picked up a ton along the board walk.  It was a tough head wind exaggerated by the sand blowing in your face.  Back up lighthouse hill and then down and out to the run turn around. Still feeling strong, kicking along and loving the growing crowds along the entirety of the run course.  The most barren place was the boardwalk, but the energy of starting a new lap and people coming out of T2 helped liven up that stretch.  As I was finishing loop 3 I started having that feeling that I needed to go to the bathroom.  It would come and go, and had I been racing for a place or a slot at this point I probably could have held it.  Knowing there were at least 5 amateur women ahead of me I made the choice to stop by a porta potty at mile 19.  It was the best 75 seconds of my day.  Dry, stomach felt better and I was looking forward to running again.  Sorry to whomever when in there after me, as I blew that thing up, but it was well worth it.

I claimed my 3rd wrist band and headed out for the 4th and final complete loop.  My legs were tired, I was hitting the caffeine hard and I knew I would be ok - legs just seemed to not want to bend quite as much and my glutes were tired.  I started feeling some small rubbing on my left heel but didn't think much of it.  All to be expected I suppose.  One last time through the run turn around and I knew I was on my way home.  Dry clothes and warm food would be waiting for me.   Lighthouse hill was feeling pretty big that last 2 times up it - yup that 4+ loops includes one more trip up lighthouse hill after completing the 4th loop.  It make for a wonderful downhill finish.  I was running near 2 other man as we crested the hill for the last time - one man sped up so I let him go, the other just kept near me so I sped up in order to each have our own 15 seconds of glory on the red carpet.  There's nothing quite like an Ironman Finish line with Mike Reilly on the mic, especially an inaugural Ironman backed by the entire local town.  It was an amazing experience so I took a moment to take it all in and enjoy my finish.

I made my way to the indoor food tent and it was great.  The volunteers were amazing, upon entering I was asked if I'd like a massage, I responded yes and was led to a table.  I was wrapped in a mylar blanket, given hot tea, pizza and a dry t-shirt (my race shirt) all while I was on the massage table.  The massage therapist had me flip on my stomach and promptly said "Oh, no.  I'll clean that up for
you and then you'll need to go to medical".  I had no idea what she was talking about, but ok.  The message was great, the pizza was delicious and the warm tea was superb.  After finishing the massage I took a look at my left heel and oh my dear god, my shoe looked like a murder scene.  Let's just say I'm glad I didn't feel that.

Finish and Post Race Thoughts - 10:22:18
This is not a fast course, not a PR course unless the only other races you've done are maybe Lanzarote and Wales.  The feedback I've heard from people who have done both Wales and Ireland is that Ireland is a tougher course, so take that as you will.  I used to dislike "tough" courses - I just wanted to go fast and PR every race.  This was the first time I can honestly say I truly enjoyed the challenges the difficult course and the day threw at me.  It was everything I've trained for - physically, mentally, emotionally, etc.  More than 1000 athletes did not start on race morning that were registered, a whopping 37% of women that started the race did not finish.  Those are crazy statistics.  It speaks volumes to all those who persevered through that day.  I went into this race with a somewhat silent goal of going top 3 amateur.  I knew the fitness was there and that if I controlled what I could I would be in the race for a top 3 spot.  I ended up 7th amateur overall, and 4th AG (30-34 ladies killin' it at Ireland!) just 25:18 behind 3rd amateur female (remember those 27 minutes I spent on the side of the road - doh).  I was bummed for a bit about my flat fixing failure** that kept me sidelined for so long, more importantly I was so freakin' thankful to have an amazing best friend and teammate that stopped her own race without hesitation to help me get back on the road.  I'll let you all check out @ironvet's blog post when she writes it, she had a great day despite freezing on the bike. 

I would hands down do this race again.  The people of Youghal were nothing short of Amazing.  The course is challenging - it will be a cold sea swim, the bike will not be fast - you have to be smart, strong, and willing to adapt and the run course is 42.2km with 9 hills and lots of flats.  The course rewards those who are smart and patient.  It's unlikely that Youghal will have another weather day as poor as on race day 2019 but there's always a chance.  That being said the days on each side of race day were picture perfect this year.  Personally for me I perform well in the cold/rain so I wouldn't mind similar conditions, though they make for one heck of a clean up job post race!  I realized after this race that the success and joy is in the challenge and the journey, and this race was challenging.  Sure every Ironman is challenging, but some are more predictable than others, and Ireland was not predictable one bit. 

Dinner with our neighbors (John and his parents)

Post race with neighbor, John.

**I know you're all wondering what those asterik's were about.  Well let me tell you I was the luckiest girl on the Emerald Isle that day.  In my haste to change my tired (and the torrential down pour) I failed to notice, as did the official who change the 2nd tube, that I had actually blown my sidewall of my tired.  It looked as though someone had scored my tire with a razor blade and then boom at one point the sidewall had a whole in it.  I'm not sure what I hit, I know it was likely the same thing the man who came down shortly after me hit, and I surely hope someone swept the rode and that it didn't claim anyone else's front tire.  Had I known my sidewall was blown I would have attempted to support it with a gel wrapper and been a nervous wreck riding another loop on those roads.  Probably best I didn't know, but a DAMN MIRACLE that tube held through another loop.  I discovered the blown out sidewall once I returned to the states and put my bike on the trainer - my bike was sitting on the trainer - I touched the handle bar and the front tube blew again.  It was then that I knew something was up and sure enough I found it.  So I'm not quite as bummed about my CO2 failure - just that much more thankful for Heather and the official that helped save my day. 

A VERY special thank you to friend and teammate, Heather Prochnow.  There's not a lot of people in this world or sport that would have done what you did.  The sport is lucky to have you, DC Tri Elite team is lucky to have you and I'm blessed to call you one of my best friends (now get to Hawaii to visit already!).  I am so proud of the day you put together despite all your challenges, you'll get to Kona - it's coming for you.  And another very special thank you to both my mom and Heather's mom for being super Sherpa's all week long.  Thankfully they had an awesomely located home base on race day to dry clothes and what not, but they didn't miss a beat when we were coming through town on the bike or run.  And they were up with us in the downpour at transition all morning.  Best travel partners and race sherpa's ever!

Thank you to DC Tri Elite Team - for pushing me, challenging me, and changing me.  Thank you to our sponsors - Osmo Hydration, Gu Energy Labs, Louis Garneau, Rudy Project, and DC Triathlon Club.  Thank you to my sponsors AltRed and Honey Stinger Nutrition.  Huge thanks to my coach Kim!  And a big big thanks to my love Andrew! I am currently writing this blog from our new home in Hawaii - quite different than Ireland! Now this truly is the Road2Kona and I have the biggest and best supporter I could ever ask for.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Ironman Chattanooga 2018 Race Report

Flat out...I was in it to win it.  I was going into this race fit, confident, and hungry to claim a slot to the 2019 Ironman World Championship.  I was coming off of the excitement of winning Michigan Titanium as I went into my final build block for this race - patience paid off and my body came around in time to get a couple weeks of quality work in.  Andrew was on the road for work for the majority of September - which means less deliciously cooked for me meals, but no less support.  I can't even begin to explain how supportive this man has been from day one.  Early on while we were dating he asked me what my goals for the year were.  Without hesitation I told him "win Michigan Titanium and punch my ticket to Kona at IM Choo".  He never doubted me or even brought up 'what if I didn't achieve those  things' - he 100% devoted himself to supporting me to achieve them, whilst training for his first Ironman.   Anyways, back to IM Choo 2018.

We left Wednesday after work and drove about 4 hours before staying at a hotel for the night.  We woke up and hit the road on Thursday morning - arriving in time to get in some easy workouts, check-in and relax in the afternoon.  Unfortunately, after hearing murmers of a swim cancellation on Wednesday, I heard "officially" on Thursday that there would be no swim.  Yes, I was bummed since I was ready for a current assisted swim PR - but let's be honest, no one does Chatt to set themselves apart on the swim.  I shrugged it off and was thankful I did MiTi the month before in order to get in a full 140.6 swim, bike, run. 

On Friday we moved into the house we had rented with the DC Tri crew.  This was the first time I'd stay in a house with friends while racing an Ironman.  It was great, I'd do it again in a second.  It was laid back, supportive and exciting with friends racing their 1st, 2nd and returning to Ironman after a few year hiatus.  Not to mention our super sherpas in Ron and Andrew.  Some shake out work on Friday on the bike and run and then settled in and had a relaxing night starting to pack gear bags and prepare the bike for drop off on Saturday.

BIG BREAKFAST.  That's really all you need to know.  Aretha Frankenstein's is where it is at, and yes it is true, the blueberry pancake is at Aretha Frankenstein's is one reason I chose to go back to Chattanooga.   After big breakfast I did some final gear bag prep and then headed to drop off while Andrew headed out on his last long ride before IM Louisville.  We also got word that we would be starting the bike in TT format based on bib # - thank gosh for AWA and bib #250. 

I was lucky enough to be able to visit with my cousin's on Saturday afternoon for a bit and just chill out.  No worries, Sunday was going to be like every other training day.  Nail the heart rate, nail the power and be confident in my training and race plan.  Once Andrew was done with his ride we packed it up and headed back to the house for a nice evening with friends...and sorting out Garmin issues with Angela :)

Early morning wake-up - but not as early as most Ironman races! Due to the cancelled swim we got about an extra hour of sleep in the morning.  It was great.  The race day vibe was a little different as people were all about and in and out of transition getting ready for the day - which would still be great than 140.6 thanks to the lovely 116 mile bike course at Chattanooga.  After getting everything set up I found mom, Andrew, and Gary and we camped out near the port o potts.  As the time was nearing I realized I forgot my Turbine (nasal dilator) but thankfully had previously thought ahead and packed the non sport version in my transition bag for just this type of scenario. 

I headed into transition and soon the line started rolling.  2x2 athletes went off.  Since Ironman is 70-75% male dominated I was surrounded by mostly males, who were also AWA.  Now AWA can mean a couple things - either you did really/pretty well in 1-2 races or you race A LOT and just got points that way.  Either way the egos were out and big!

THE BIKE - 116 miles - 5:18:48
I was thankful that I had practice in this situation at Ironman Maryland in 2016.  I knew my HR might be crazy high at first from the adrenaline hit of starting on the bike.  And high it was!  I headed out holding goal power and let me HR start to settle down and settle into it.  It felt easy and there were packs forming - so I stepped on it a bit.  I knew there were some girls that I'd be competing with not far ahead based on their bib numbers.  Just over 10 miles in a passed a pack of 4 ladies, at least 2 of whom were in my age group.  I nicely looked over and said respect the rules as I passed by.  I was yo-yoing with a couple men who were absolutely horrible at riding their momentum on the rolling hills.  Before the 20 mile mark I came up on another very strong athlete from my age group.  There was a man in front of me that as he passed her slowed to exchange a couple words with her - as I passed she was looking over at him saying she didn't want to be doing this today.  It was a great confidence booster for me and I used that motivation to keep me going on the first loop.  As my first 28 mile split came in I knew my power was too high to sustain for the full 116 and I needed to keep my HR in check for the hilly run.   I rolled through special needs and unfortunately had to wait a bit longer and yell a bit more than ideal to get my bag brought to me.  As I got rolling again I rolled through Chikamauga and got a nice pick me up and some info from Ron and Andrew.  A small climb, descent and left hand turn to start loop 2.

I knew by this time I was very near the front of the female race.  I backed off a bit because I knew I wanted to finish the bike course strong.  The headwinds picked up and the majority of people I began passing were those still on loop 1.  I rode most of loop 2 alone with the occasional pass or passerbys of a group of drafting men.  I kept the nutrition in, the HR in check and let the power do what it needed to do to not blow up my HR.  It was getting warm, warmed than the weather predictions had stated.  I made one more pass of a woman as we rolled in during the final couple of miles and another final pass at the dismount line...boom!  haha.

T2 - 2:19
A quick run in to the change tent to put on my run shoes, visor, and race belt before hitting the run course. 

THE RUN - 26.2 Miles - 4:08:23
I felt good and I knew the run course would be lonely for the first lap.  Due to the flooding of the river more of the run course was diverted onto the wide open industrial highway - not may favorite part but it was ok.  As I was running in the concrete desert I heard my name and some yelling - I looked across the 5-6 lanes of road and there on the other side was Andrew, on a bike share bike - yelling "you've got a 20 minute lead on your AG.  Keep your pace and you got this!" Alright, I'm pretty darn good, I know this course and I've been running well.  A mile or so later I got passed my Matt Russel - who then stopped in a porto potty and I passed him - and then he passed me again.  I got to see the front of the male pro race play out as it passed by me.  Including Snapple and Virginia local Adam Otsot near the end of my first loop and near the end of his marathon.  During the small section where we overlapped on the concrete desert I was able to see both Paige and Courtney looking strong and solid.

Finishing my first loop and coming in to special needs I still felt pretty good.  I took my 5 hour energy and saved it for a few miles later as I headed back out onto the concrete desert.  Near mile 17 Andrew appeared on his bike share bike again - this time the news wasn't so good.  I was getting run down and my lead had widdled down close to 2 minutes and my pace was slowing.  The first round of hills had taken it out of me.  I held on, I found a running partner who was doing his first IM and I told him I had to get my ass to the finish line fast and punch this ticket to Kona.  Near mile 23, uphill, it happened.  She had bright green on and I couldn't miss her.  I knew she had started in front of me (bib #) so I tried to just keep her in sight, but she had a motor and got up that hill and out of sight so fast.  It was a great pass and I knew at this point I needed to finish strong and as fast as I could.    Up, down, Up, and down and across the bridge and into the finish line.  Oh that finish line felt good, the temps had gotten into the 90s and people were suffering out there.  It wasn't my best IM marathon, or even my 2nd best, but it was my best on the day.  I probably overbiked - and maybe backing off 5 minutes on the bike would have gotten me another 10-15 minutes back on the run.  You never know.  What we did know was that I was 2nd in my AG and that it was going to be a close call as to if F 30-34 would get 1 or 2 Kona slots. 

Best Finish Line Catcher in the Sport - My Momma!

Midnight Finish Line
After some chicken broth and massage I got cleaned up and headed back out to cheer in Angela and find Courtney and Paige.  We shared our crazy stories from the day and Angela and I headed to get her cleaned up and get a pizza before the midnight finish line.  I was happy with my overall race and I knew I just needed to cross my fingers and know that if my AG only had one slot we would be the first to get a re allocation.

Sunday morning - awards and Kona Slot allocation.  We did the usual pro awards and age group awards.  Took pictures with Courtney, Angela and Paige, took more pictures yada yada. Sat through the race video and the volunteer video - all the while just wanting to know if I was headed back to the Big Island.  After a 30 minute or so break before the official start time of slot allocation it was finally time.  And guess what...the very first announcement was that there was a re allocation from the oldest female and that slot would be going to F 30-34.  Yes I shrieked and I shed a tear or two.  I was so damn happy and excited.  I was going back to Kona!

We celebrated that night with tacos, margaritas, and ice cream as our time in Choo came to a close.  Tuesday morning everyone headed out and Andrew and I were in for one long drive from Chatt to Arlington.  Our road trip was great and every hour spent in the car getting to and from races with him in 2018 was great - at times we were both sad when the road trips came to an end, but not that sad as we were usually getting hangry.  Once home it was time for sherpa duties, cyclocross and planning for 2019 :) 

Special thanks to those who have supported me from the start and those who put their hearts into helping make my dreams a reality.  Thank you to Andrew, Mom, Gary, Rory and Kara - hopefully we can have a strong sherpa squad in Kona 2019!  Thank you to DC Tri Club and the DC Tri Elite Team and all of our sponsors - Louis Garneau, Osmo Nutrition, Honey Stinger, Rudy Project, xx2i Optics, District Taco, Rose Physical Therapy Group and also to UltraGrain, SBR Sports Inc, AltRed, and HaloSport.  Looking forward to building on the momentum of 2018 for 2019!