Monday, September 21, 2015

All Aboard...

Technically I've been 'tapering' for a week now but it wasn't until after Sunday's run that I could honestly let myself taper.  This training cycle has been different than the others.  It's been hard, it's traveled with me to multiple states and countries, it's involved friends, sickness, wedding celebrations, and just a short race at 70.3 Worlds just 4 weeks out from race day.

I was able to get in some great training in early and mid-August.  Many of the long rides I was fortunate enough to do with the company of friends.  My mid-week bike workouts I was able to enjoy the company and being pushed by my good friend e.bougie (thank God she's back on the bike).  At times it felt easy, the training didn't feel like work, I couldn't name anything I'd rather do more.  A
Casual spin around the bay in Traverse City, MI
trip to northern Michigan for my brother's wedding was filled with open water swimming (out our back door), long rides along beautiful shoreline and perfect temperatures for long runs.  The wedding came and went, the training all got done, I didn't miss a beat (of the wedding or the training).

Just 11 days after returning to DC, Adam and I were jet-setting to Munich (via Moscow) for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.  I was diligent about washing my hands, eating 'normal' foods, taking vitamins and getting my training in.  The German and Austria country-sides were breath- takingly beautiful.  We wanted to swim, bike, and run all over the place.  After almost 24 hours of travel time we made it to Munich.  The next morning we ran to a 50 meter outdoor pool and got back into the swing of things.  After our short stay in Munich it was on a train and down to Zell Am See.
Zell Am See-Kaprun, Austria
 We did some easy rides, got lost in the Alps, and some great open water swimming in the Lake Zell.  On Sunday we raced, hard, through the Alps.  It was 91 degrees when I got on the bike and 96 degrees when I got off and started running.  The conditions were rough, to say the least.

We took the day after the race off to explore the glacier nearby town and to then catch an afternoon train to Vienna.  We did an easy ride along the Danube and stopped for just a quick feel of the water.  I had felt something coming on all day Monday and now Tuesday had me struggling just to soft pedal for an hour.  Long story short I came down with some sort of sinus infection accompanied by a horrible cough and fever.  A German pharmacist helped me out as best she could.  Walking to the cafe just to get hot tea or soup felt harder than any workout I'd done over the summer.  I stopped worrying about workouts and did everything I could to get healthy. In the back of my mind wondering if I'd really be ready for an Ironman in just a few weeks.

Getting healthy took a good week and some meds once we were back in the states.  A few easy workouts with that nasty cold sweat feeling and there were soon glimpses of where I was pre-travel
and pre-illness.  I worked long hours and fit in my training that week so we could drive to the finger lakes region of New York for a wonderful wedding.  Another weekend of big training and another wedding.  Short recap..1.5 swim miles, 112 bike miles, 30 run miles.  To top it off the last run on Sunday evening was the best of all.  I'm back.

How does this story end...we'll see one week from today in Chattanooga.  I can say I'm confident I can execute my race plan on Sunday and I'm looking forward to an awesome day accompanied by great family and friends, both racing and supporting.  Here's to having a Fearless Mind, See you in Choo!

Bib #579 (Same as IMLP '14)


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Hopp, Hopp, Hopp at 70.3 Worlds

The trip to Zell Am See, Austria for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships was a long time coming for Adam and I.  We qualified very early at Augusta 70.3 in September 2014.  We knew it was a possibility that one of us might qualify or get a roll down, but we had never thought we'd both win our AGs outright and get a couple of hours to make the decision to go or not.  You can read all about that race here, but fast forward 10 months and we were packing our bags for a European adventure.

Planning for a race in a country you are completely unfamiliar with and a language you don't speak a lick of can be a tad intimidating.  We spent a little bit of time looking for accommodations near the race site before deciding to book through Endurance Sports Travel.  They took care of accommodations, transfers to/from the train station, and had a masseuse and bike mechanic on hand for us.  Our hotel was steps off the run course, a few blocks from the finish and just a couple blocks from the race expo area.  Our hotel also included breakfast and dinner daily which was huge since we didn't have kitchen access.

Taking the Long Way
We booked our flights well ahead of time and found a great deal on airfare, with Aeroflot.  It was a good $700 cheaper than the next cheapest option and our bikes would go for free.  The catch...we flew from DCA to Moscow, then Moscow to Munich.  The way there wasn't so bad with the help of the jet stream and just a short layover in Moscow.  I didn't realize how far past Munich we were flying to get to Moscow, oi that hurt when I saw the plane on the little map over Munich and we still had 4+ hours to get to Moscow, just to back track to Munich.  All in all the plane ride wasn't horrible, the food was fine, we slept through most of both flights, got up a few times and wore compression gear to help keep the blood flowing in the legs.  I made a mistake in wearing compression pants with the idea I would put my compression socks on once we were in the air.  Whoops, I fell asleep, forgot about the socks and had some nice soft ball sized ankles once we landed.

First Stop - Munich
We arrived in Munich in the early afternoon, walked our bikes and luggage from the central train station to our AirBnB and then set out to explore via foot.  After dinner we returned back to build our bikes up and get a solid night of sleep.  The next morning we ventured out for an easy run to a local swimming pool.  There was a bit of a language barrier between us and the lady at the font desk but we worked it out and she pointed us towards the locker room.  After some back and forth of if it was the men's or women's locker room we both entered.  Apparently co-ed locker rooms are quite common.  After my initial shock we got into our swim suits and headed out to the 50m outdoor pool.  The pool was gorgeous with crystal clear water and plenty big enough for multiple lap lanes.  Unfortunately they only had 2 lap lanes set up and it was pure chaos.  No one was divided into slow or fast lanes and people would suddenly change strokes in the middle of a length.  It was actually good practice for getting around people and a bit if sighting, somewhat like open water swimming just between 2 lines.  We spent the rest of the day doing touristy things before consolidating some of our luggage and preparing to head to Zell Am See the following morning.

Platform 9 3/4 
We arrived at the train station with plenty of time to print our tickets and board the train.  Unfortunately we found out that OBB is an Austrian company, and they can't print the tickets in Germany.  Adam tried some fuddling around, but to no avail, so we decided since we already had paid for the tickets we'd get on the train, it was about to leave in 3 minutes.  The train was decently full and we had a bit of trouble finding a car with open bike space.  We had just a short trip before transferring trains in Worgl.  Luckily for us the conductor didn't throw us off the train for not having printed our tickets, but he made sure to sternly tell us to print them for the 2nd part of our journey or we'd pay extra.  We met a few other athletes at the Worgl train station and enjoyed a gorgeous train ride into Zell with them.

Triathlete Central - Zell Am See
Upon arriving in Zell we exited the train to find our ride from EST right outside the main door.  Apparently some other athletes had made our train that they weren't expecting for another couple of hours.  Since Adam and I had our bikes together they loaded are luggage into the van and we followed the van back to our hotel, luckily it was only about 1.5 kms and a gorgeous day.  We got settled in at the Living Max Hotel and headed over to packet pickup.  The town was packed with triathletes and people on holiday (the last week of holiday for many Austrians and Germans aligned perfectly with race week).  The swag for WC athletes was pretty good, a legit Ogio transition bag was the big squeeze.  We spent the rest of the afternoon checking out the lake, relaxing and meeting some cool people.

Pre-Race Shenanigans
The Alps, through the clouds.
With race day getting closer we went for a short swim/bike/run workout on Friday morning.  The water was perfect, just cold enough to be comfortable in a wetsuit, clear enough to see feet in front of you and mostly calm.  After a quick 20 minute swim we met up with Cheyenne and Witek for a little spin around the back park of the course.  Our little spin turned out to be a little long as we overshot
the turn-around by quite a bit.  Time flew by as we were surrounded by gorgeous views of the Alps, glacial rivers/streams, and even castles.  Once off the bike we headed off for a short run along the lake.  It was a tad warm by this point but not bad, my legs felt good and I felt ready to go.

The rest of Friday involved more pre-race logistics - race briefing in English, car ride of the bike course, parade of Nations, and the Welcome Banquet.  The race briefing was oddly entertaining and the European side of IM was elated to have the race for the first time off North American soil. The bike course was stunning and the climb everyone was talking about didn't seem all that bad.  We put on the red, white, blue that we had and set out for the parade of Nations.  It seemed a little disorganized but we got to catch up with Cheyenne, Witek, Kathy and Tobias as we paraded through the city center of Zell Am See.  The welcome banquet wasn't quite as exciting as some that we've been to but it was nice and not too long.

Saturday was race day for our fried Tobias along with 2600 other athletes racing in the Zell Am See 70.3.  Their race started at 6:30am and they had some cool weather early in the day, a stark difference from the day we would have on Sunday.  We cheered on some people on the run course until seeing all 3 DC Tri Kits pass by (Tobia, Kyle, Jody) and then headed out for an easy spin along the lake.

Saturday evening was our time for bike racking and gear bag drop off.  It would be a clean transition for us (similar to full IM races) with a bike gear bag, run gear bag and a change tent.  Transition was humungous!  Once we dropped everything off we had to wait in a very long line to pick up our timing chip before heading back to our place for dinner.

Racing in a Postcard
For once we didn't have to wake up before the sun on race morning!  With an official race start of 10:30am and my wave not starting until 12:05pm I got to 'sleep in'.  After our pre race breakfast we went outside to catch an ETS shuttle to the race start.  After waiting about 10 minutes there was no sign of a shuttle so we joined the masses of people walking the 2km trek along the lake to race start.  Once we got to the swim start area is was very crowded with athletes and spectators galore.  We made our way into transition with the crowd.  First stop was the bike - loaded nutrition and hydration on, pumped the tires, and checked to make sure the brakes were good to go.

Once we had our bikes ready to go it was time to play the waiting game.  We found a nice shady spot along the fence inside transition to hang out.  We had our morning clothes bags with hydration and snacks as well as wetsuits, inhalers, flip flops, etc with us.  Transition closed at 10:30, the pro start time of the race.  To our surprise not only did transition close but morning clothes bags also had to be dropped by 10:30!  Oi, the purpose of the morning clothes bag seemed a little lost.  Now I had to decide to get rid of my flip flops, tri slide, Osmo, and inhaler at 10:30 or hold on to them and risk never seeing them again.  Luckily Cris has the same inhaler and since my was brand new and hers was on the way out I took a couple puffs of mine before handing it off, knowing I could use hers before race start.  I decided to hold on to the flip flops and tri slide - which I haven't seen yet, but I know Cris was able to rescue the flops post race so I will at least get those back.

As my start time approached I slipped into my wetsuit did a  short warm up swim and then got into the swim start corral.  It was approaching high noon during an odd heat waving moving through this region of Europe.  It was hot as we all stood, waiting,  donning our black neoprene.

THE SWIM - 1.2 Miles - 38:28
The start of the swim was physical, we had been warned that it would be so I was prepared for it,  thankfully!  There was full on grabbing, punching, shoving, kicking.  As we spread out over the first couple hundred meters things seemed to settle down and I was able to settle in on some feet.  The
clarity of the water, the added buoyancy of the wetsuit and the fast swimmers providing a decent draft had me feeling pretty good.  I was moving well and felt strong, excited to see what kind of PR I might pull out on the swim.  It was a bit disappointing that some of the buoys were not even close to being in line with the others, especially at a WC event.  I noticed a few times that I seemed to be swimming off course but more or less kept on feet and felt good about the line I swam.

I was slightly unhappy to see a 38 on my watch as I exited the water, but I couldn't be too displeased at my only other 1.2 mile swim this year was much slower.  The disappointment really came after the race when I looked at my data and was the line I swam.  I zig-zagged myself 283 yards more than I needed to swim.  I held the fastest pace I've ever held in open water (not counting current aided swims!).  On the bright side working on my swimming is getting me faster, on the other hand it doesn't matter how fast I swim if I swim off course.

T1 - 5:35
Super long transition!  Ran in grabbed my bike gear bag, into the change tent - bike shoes, helmet, sunglasses, race bib on, and out of the change tent. Grabbed MR off the rack ran down to enter the exit of transition and ran through the bike mount area.  It was probably close to 1/4 mile of running.

THE BIKE - 2:49:18
I got on the bike feeling pretty good.  I was slightly alarmed that transition had taken me 5+ minutes but figured it was on par with everyone else's time.  I didn't know it at the time, but it was 91 and sunny when I got on the bike.  Another hot day at the races!  I felt good the first 20k or so of the bike, I was trying to keep the power up and let my heart rate settle from the swim/transition.  Heart rate showed signs of settling, power was being slightly erratic and I had my first bottle of Osmo down in the first 20 minutes.  Just as my HR was settling the infamous climb started.

The 13 km climb is full of spectacular views and quaint towns.  The grade for the first 11km undulates between 4-6%.  I was feeling great, staying hydrated and having a great time riding through the alps for that first 11k.  The last 2km are an awesome grade of 15% and more and those last 2km are tough.  My wave was the last to start so I saw a decent number of people walking the last bit of the climb.  Once cresting the top you have a very short period of somewhat flat before starting the
descent which is also very steep and swithbacky at the top.  I took the descent carefully and was a little nervous as my rear brake started squealing every time I'd try to slow myself down.  After the first couple kilometers of descent it straightened out and became more gradual.  The course really wasn't crowded and it was a blast taking that descent with no other athletes to worry about.  As we approached the town of Zell Am See again before heading out to do the last bit of the course I noticed the bike was starting to feel difficult.  We had gone over some rough road and wooden bridges a few times and I had the thought that perhaps my back brake could be rubbing.  I told myself it was fine when I started and that I was probably just tired from the long climb and the hot weather.  I pushed on through Kaprun and past the Kaprun castle and finally back into transition.  We will really never know if it was rubbing or not during the race, but unfortunately it was rubbing when I picked my bike up from transition that evening.

T2 - 4:34
Another long transition, but at least a bit faster.  Did a flying dismount, racked MR, put my Rose Physical Therapy Visor on, and headed out onto the run course.

THE RUN - 13.1 Miles - 1:55:20
I had a small handheld of Osmo preload/active with me.  I quickly drank that during the first couple miles of the run and tried to stay in the shade as much as possible.  It was a nice boost to see our friend cheering along the lake early into the run.  I was feeling pretty good and HR was where we expected it to be as I got going.  I was taking water at every aid station and running through hoses when I could.  The crowd support was decent but I seemed to pass quite a few people who were exhausted from cheering in the heat of the day and they were mostly silent.  The cheers of Hopp,
hopp, hopp and Super gave me a nice boost when I needed it the most. Adam thought the crowds were great, he also started in the first wave after the pro men and women, so I'm sure the spectators were excited to see racers coming through at that time.  The run was a double out and back and included a nice long hill right before the turn around at the other side of the lake.  I was feeling ok, but knew I wasn't running as fast as I would have liked or as fast as I'm capable of on a better day.  I tried to continually push my HR up but about 9 or 10 miles in it got hard.  I was taking caffeine, drinking coke and was having trouble getting it to go anywhere.  The last few miles I knew I could push it and hold on until the end.  Somehow I found enough energy in my legs to jump at the finish line, unfortunately it wasn't caught on camera.

FINISH: 5:33:15
Not exactly the race I had pictured in my mind but then again I also thought we were going to have a high of about 76 on race day.  That would have been nice.  Overall it was a great experience and it was truly like racing through a post card.  Adam and I have the opportunity to race against some of the best in the world, develop new friendships with some amazing athletes and swim, bike, run our way through the Austrian Alps.  It really was a great trip and a great experience.

Post Race Fun
Adventure along the Danube!
Since we flew across the big pond and it was my first trip away from the North American continent we decided we needed to stay for a little while.  I was nervous about this decision as I knew I'd still
be in the midst of IM training.  We made our post-race plans, making sure we'd be somewhere that I could get the workouts done.  Adam did a lot of the work booking through AirBnB and getting train tickets for us and our bikes.

We visited Vienna, Salzburg and went back to Munich for a day before our long journey home.  Unfortunately I started battling some type of sinus infection the day after the race so the swims, rides and runs we were excited to undertake in Austria and Germany didn't really happen.  I was able to soldier on and between bowls of soup, hot tea and resting see some awesome sites including the Danube, the Salzburg Castle and the Salzhan River.

Thank you to all of my wonderful sponsors, support crew and coach for helping me get to Austria. Biggest thanks to an awesome supportive family that encouraged and supported training throughout family wedding weekend!  Thanks Rory, Kara, Mom, Adam, and Gary!  One more to go, see you all in Chattanooga!  Thank you to Snapple Tri Team, DC Tri Club, Rose Physical Therapy Group, Fuel Your Passion Coaching, District Taco, Osmo Nutrition, Louis Garneau, Xterra Wetsuits, and TrainingPeaks.