Saturday, November 30, 2019

2019 Lessons and Musings and a 2020 Sneak Peak

Taking the tape and $$ at MiTi 140.6 '18
I was fortunate enough to go into the 2019 season with my Kona slot already secured (IM Chattanooga 2018).  I was in a calm and confident spot going into 2019.  I had figured some things out nutritionally in 2018 that seemed to be an overall win for everyday life and performance.  I had a
fun, competitive and successful season in 2018.  I had raced with my best friends, I raced with my love, I raced surrounded by family, and I raced on my favorite Ironman course on the North American circuit, and I had fun getting dirty in the Cat3 and Elite Cat 1,2,3 field to close out the year in cyclocross.   When I started my training in 2019 I set some goals and I was completely content being patient to achieve those goals - letting the fitness come back, not forcing anything, and enjoying my last months in DC.

I was in a place where I was finding true joy in the process.  I was all in and loving my training.  The rides with friends around Mt. Weather, the rides up to Poolesville and beyond, and my time on the trainer or endless loops at Hains Point.  One of my challenges for myself in 2019 was racing 2 70.3 races just 6 days apart (Sunday, Saturday) at IM VA 70.3 and Kinetic 70.3.  These races were both less than a 2 hour drive from home which made it logistically easy and low stress.  Yes that 2nd race at Kinetic was a big ask for my body - but we made it work - and I walked away a stronger athlete than I was before.  I think the biggest thing I took away from that was learning to run/race on fatigued  legs.  I was in a place where I expected the cumulative fatigue to play a role and I was able to mentally work through that and prove to myself that I can continue to run hard on tired legs.  It honestly felt like a new level was unlocked in terms of leg durability after this double down on 70.3s.  With realistic goals and expectations, as well as a good amount of racing experience I do believe the double 70.3 can be a helpful training tool for Ironman - and fun if you're stoked about both of the races!  The downside of this - recovery is tough.  The days between the races are all about bringing the body and legs around as much as you can.  I had had a few big weeks in a row - Team Camp, 70.3 #1, 70.3 #2 and then back into Ironman training with a long ride at Mt. Weather the weekend after.   I ended up with a full blown sinus infection and prescription for antibiotics.

My crew cooling off in a beer cave.  So thankful for them!
Another lesson learned - when you're on antibiotics and recovering from illness (2 days off work and no workouts) don't try to be a hero on your bike, honestly don't expect much from yourself on your bike.  I had had plans, for a few weeks, with a group of friends to ride SkyMass in prep for Ironman Ireland.  I wanted this ride so bad.  I showed up, optimistic of the beautiful day ahead of us.  At 15 minutes into the ride and just a short way into the first climb on Skyline Dr.  my brain felt like it had a heart beat and wanted to beat out of my skull.  My heart rate was skyhigh and I was pedaling as hard as I could and the watts just weren't there.  We made a quick stop at the top of the first climb for the bathroom for a few riders and I thought about calling it a day, then and coasting back to my car.  I chose to eat a Honey Stinger Waffle, drink some Osmo and continue on my way.  Heck my favorite part of the ride is the last 40 miles, not the first! I might as well get to my favorite part!  We made it to the Wayside and I put down some chips and a coke - hello energy! Too bad it only lasted about 20 minutes.  I made it into the valley and through Luray and to the base of Massanutten. Oh I made it up Massanutten, with my 2nd slowest time ever, and multiple times that I felt that my bike was just going to tip over.  I was so spent by the time I made it to the top I couldn't think straight, I could barely stand over my bike without falling over.  Thank goodness for good friends - we descended and they pulled this hot mess through the valley and back to our cars in Front Royal.  There were times where sitting on their wheels should have been easy and I just couldn't do it.  It was fun being with my friends, it wasn't fun suffering like that and being scared at times that I didn't know if I'd actually make it back.  Lesson learned  - let the body rest and recover and antibiotics can really deplete your system! One week later I set out on the same ride with Erin and we crushed it.  I felt like a completely different human - I needed that.  As much as I should have known it was the sickness + antibiotic, it doesn't stop doubt from creeping into your mind.

Indeed it is. My dad's last words to me.
I also realized in the spring at some point that I was racing in 2 Ironman events with a women's pro field.  Qualifying to race as a pro was never anything that was in the forefront of my thoughts and goals.  After some Top 3 amateur finishes a couple times in 2018 (at races that didn't have pro fields)
I let it cross my mind, but I was most definitely not going to pick my race schedule in 2019 based on trying to qualify to go pro.  It was complete luck that both inaugural races I was registered for had women's pro fields.  After the flat and 27+ minutes on the side of the road at Ironman Ireland I finished 7th amateur, had I been 20 minutes faster I would have been in the race for Top 3 amateur.   I surprised myself with that one.  I kept my focus on the goals I had set at the beginning of the season without much more thought about it.

Lucky to be in love with my best friend.
After returning from the trip to Ireland I had a few days in Michigan and then I was off to officially move to Hawaii.  Lessons #3 and #4 - having a super supportive partner is a complete game changer.  Andrew would drive out while I was doing long rides to make sure I had cold water/Osmo when I needed it, especially when I was new to the island.  More importantly he biked with me for almost all
of my long runs during the summer months in the build up to Kona.  To have cold water, more Osmo, caffeinated chews, etc when I wanted it, was priceless.  I am so so lucky.  And the other lesson - not working full time can be boring, but man I was sleeping like a champ and recovering between workouts like it was my job.  Sleep is so important for your body to adapt to the stress you put it through.

Lesson #5 - choosing races you're excited about and feel passionate about doing help bring out the best in you.  I signed up for Traverse City 70.3 because I really really wanted to race in Traverse City.  TC in August is basically the prettiest place you can be in Michigan at that time and it's just hands down one of my favorite places in the world.  Mom got us an awesome condo at the old insane asylum and I had a solid support crew - the only person we were missing was Kara.  After the travel and taking a couple days to shake things out I was feeling pretty good.  When Andrew arrived in TC the day before race day this was the first we spoke about a potential top 3 overall finish.  I wanted to go for the age group win to have the opportunity to take a slot to Taupo anything else was just bonus.  I had told Andrew I only wanted to know my over all position if I was 6th or better.  He delivered
IM TC Run 2019 + Focus Face
with all the information throughout the run and when he asked me to drop the pace by 20s, he did it because he knew I was capable.  He had watched me do it in every long run leading up to race day.  I went into a place the last few miles of that run that I hadn't gone into before during a 70.3 and I am so excited to dig back into that place in 2020.  I left everything on that course and came away with the age group win and 3rd overall amateur.  Kim and I talked on the phone and briefly discussed if I would take the slot to Taupo knowing that taking both the slot to Taupo and the pro card wasn't very realistic (just the way the schedule and timing is - if I wanted to take the pro card in the 365 days that I was eligible I would no longer be able to race as an amateur at Taupo).  I figured I'd keep the focus on having a solid day at Kona and we'd discuss what we wanted to do for 2020 after that.

I recently published my Kona race report - lesson #6 from that experience - you've got to take care of you and keep the stress low going into race day.  There are so many events and things to go to/do/see in Kona that it can be overwhelming.  I wanted to be a part of it all in 2017 and it stressed me out and wore be down.  With our condo within walking distance to the pier and increased awareness to take care of me we had a great lead up to the race and a great race day in 2019.  Some people are built to race on that island, in those conditions, I'm not sure I'm one of them but I pulled the best I could out of my body on the day.

2 week countdown is on!
Lesson #7 - oh my goodness wedding planning can be stressful!  Vendors want money and numbers and timelines, you start realizing you want this little decoration or that little thing and it all adds up.  (Lesson #7.5 doing Whole30 to ensure the dress fits and trying to do hard run/bike efforts is really really hard and depleting!  Our Whole30 is over very soon, we've enjoyed it but we're definitely ready to have a bit
more pep in our step during workouts). Our wedding is in 2 weeks, it's going to be amazing and awesome and our families have been so incredibly helpful and supportive.  We briefly thought about doing a Hawaii wedding right after Kona - to give our guests that wanted to, a chance to spectate Kona.  I'm really glad we didn't do that, my brain may have exploded.  I'll just leave it at that.  Kind of like a race - slowly the stress is being replaced by excitement for the day!

I'm enjoying off season, though mentally it's hard to wrap your head around off-season when it's 80 degrees and sunny.  It's so nice out I feel like I should be outside working out all the time.  I'm getting my plan together for the 2020 season - it's going to be a new challenge and a new journey.  I'll be part of the Team Zoot Ohana and I couldn't be more excited to meet the other amazing and awesome athletes.   It's an interesting cross roads moving away from your team of 6 years, a large part of your support system and also trying to find a team that will support a rookie pro.  I'm excited and thankful to be part of the Ohana.  I've got a plan I'm excited about to keep developing my swim and some really awesome people in my corner helping me make some changes.  I've got what I think the first half of 2020 will look like race wise - and I'm excited about it.  Yes, I'm nervous to toe the line with the best female pro triathletes in the world - but this journey isn't about them, or anyone, but me.  We are all on this journey for different reasons and the way we define success is different for each and every one of us.  2020 will be challenging, I'm excited to see how I step up to the challenge - after all if it doesn't challenge you, then it doesn't change you.   Since I was about 11 years old I've had a small poster on my bedroom door that says "Have you ever dreamed? Have you ever made it come true?".   So there's that :)

Off Season Bachelorette Weekend <3 td="">
Off Season Riding with @girlsridehawaii

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Kona 2019 Race Report

It's been a minute since my 2nd trip to the Big Island and as I begin planning my 2020 race season it's definitely time to get this race report out.  The trip started out great, with a quick 30 minute flight over to Kona from Honolulu.  No disrupted sleep, no time change, no tight hip flexors or sore neck muscles.  What a difference that made over the all day journey I took from the east coast in 2017.

The week leading up to the race was great and it flew by.  Andrew and I did the Ho'ala Training Swim on Sunday morning follow by a ride up to Hawi.  I'm so glad I did that ride, my experience on the bike course in 2017 was so uncomfortable and just bad that I needed to have some good rides on the
Queen K and up to Hawi to know that this wasn't anything I wasn't capable of.  There was a lot of swimming from Dig Me Beach, visiting with friends, hitting up other local beaches and taking it all in.  We were lucky enough to have a condo just a couple blocks from the pier which made the logistics of the entire trip so easy (highly recommend staying within walking distance). 

Bike check in and gear drop off day.  The energy is buzzing and at an all time high for the week as amateurs and pros alike rolled there bikes down to the pier.  There were some rain storms predicted for the afternoon so I chose to check in my bike in near the very end of the allotted time.  Bike check in went smoothly, we watched some dolphins play off the end of the pier and I found a stow away Forky in my bento box!  We headed back to our condo to get the final items prepped for the next day and enjoy dinner.    I had left my Garmin bike computer plugged into the charger in the condo since before we left for bike check in. When I unplugged it to pack it for Saturday morning there was an alert "Rear derailleur battery critically low".  You have got to be kidding me -  one of the reasons Andrew and I switched my bike from mechanical to eTap was to decrease the risk of something going wrong with the shifting (I'd been through 3  SRAM Red rear RTC shifters since 2016 with the most recent one failing in July here in Hawaii).  After a slight freak out since at this point transition was closed, I hatched a plan.  I had my charging brick with me, so we'd get to transition around the time it opened on Saturday morning and I'd get the battery charged.  According to my online research I'd have anywhere from 5-9 hours left of shifting once the alert came on, which likely would get me through the entirety of the bike course but figured I'd charge it as much as I could race morning to decrease the chance of losing my shifting.  Once there was a plan in place I was able to calm down and enjoy dinner and visualize my day on Saturday.  We reviewed the race plan and the cheer plan and got to bed pretty early ready for the day to come.

I got onto the pier after the required body marking tattoos and weigh in and promptly got the battery on the charger while I topped off my tires with air, loaded on my nutrition and hydration and check
the brakes.  The charger wasn't indicating much of an improvement after 45 minutes so I doddled around a bit longer to leave it plugged in - but I was starting to need a porto-potty and they moved them all off the pier this year along with the rule once you leave the pier you can't come back on until T1.  One of the ladies racked next to me asked if I was ok and when I responded "oh yeah, I'm just charging my eTap" her response of "Oh Shit" wasn't the most confidence boosting hahaha.  After 60 minutes of charging and communicating with Andrew via text I decided to get on with my day.  Over to the porto line and then some chill time with Andrew before I was herded into the swim start corrals.  This is the first time Ironman has used swim start corrals at Kona due to the implementation of the age group swim start waves. It was a bit crowded and messy getting into the corrals, with some of the later corrals filling up and then having to work your way through all the anxious athletes.  As the first wave a male amateurs hit the water things started to spread out in the corrals and we started making our way toward the stairs.  I realized one thing I wanted to do was not race with my earrings in and of course I realized as I was putting my swim cap on that I had left my earrings in (mind you these are like $12 cubic zirconian studs).  I debated about just throwing them away,  taking them out in T1 or trying to hand them off.  I figured I'd try to hand them off.  As we inched forward I scanned the cheering crowd for mom, Gary, Andrew, Cynthia, Danielle, Ron, Cheyenne - anyone that I knew and it was looking bleak. Then an old DC Tri friend, Christina, appears off to the other side fo the corrals.  I passed off the earrings, telling her I didn't need them back.  Shortly after the pass off we made our way under the arch and down the stairs.  I saw my mom in the grandstands and tried waving and yelling to her but she didn't see me in the crowd of swim skins and purple caps. 

THE SWIM - 1:17:36
The water was a bit choppier than it had been in the week leading up to race day and more so than it was in 2017.  Thankfully it wasn't anything I hadn't dealt with in the open water swims in prep for Kona.  I was able to find feet early and stick on them like glue until we hit the turn at the Body Glove
Boat.  After the final turn to begin making out way back in to the pier I pulled ahead of the feet and tried to draft off of some others.  There were a few areas of currents and a lot of older men that we were having to swim through.  About 2/3 of the way back to the pier my trusty old feet from the first 1/2 of the swim pulled ahead again and towed me into the finish.  I'm not sure who this woman was but she was wonderful to draft off of.  As we neared he tall gatorade bottle marking the end of the pier I thought to myself, "man I'm really like to be done swimming now".  My guess is that was probably around 1:07 (oh how I'd love to consistently swim an unaided 1:07). I was optimistic that on a good day I'd see 1:15:xx for this swim - given the chop and currents I'll take the 1:17.  I exited the water feeling great and ready to get on my bike and roll. 

T1 - 5:13
I made my way up the stairs and under the fresh water shower, which felt amazing.  I took my time in T1 to get my aero jersey on, dry my feet and put on my socks and bike shoes.  I rarely wear socks with my bike shoes (especially during races) but the burning and blisters from 2017  were not something I wanted to experience again.

THE BIKE - 5:31:51
I used the short galavant around town at the start of the bike to settle in, hydrate and get comfortable.  By the time I hit the Queen K to head toward Hawi I was feeling great.  I saw Andrew, Liz, my mom, Gary, Christina and others all cheering along Kuakini and Palani.  I felt confident in my nutrition, hydration and pacing plan given the training I was lucky enough to do on Oahu in prep for this race.  Unfortunately it was evident that my Quarq power meter wasn't quite working, likely due to the downpour Kona got hit with shortly after bike check in had ended on Friday.  No big deal, I can ride by HR and feel quite well.  About 20 miles in I kept hearing a rubbing sound coming from what sounded like my front tire, I quickly pulled to the side the check for a flat.  All was good, not sure what the sound was, but it didn't come back after the quick stop.  I continued on, eating, drinking and taking it all in.  The lead males started coming by on their way back to Kona on the other side of the Queen K.  At about mile 45 I ran over a wad of electrical tape that someone had dropped.  It stuck to my front tire.  I knew I'd be stopped around mile 63 to grab my special needs bag so I didn't want to
stop an extra time to pull this tape off.  So up to Hawi I went carrying this wad of tape up along on my front tire.  Yes it made an annoying sound the entire way up.  I hit the turn around in Hawi, restocked my nutrition and hydration and settled in for the ride back to Kona.  The descent from Hawi was the first time in the day where the winds and heat were extremely noticeable.  The breeze was no longer cool, rather more like a hot oven directly on your face.  The winds made things difficult, I watched as people in front of me were blown sideways - more than once almost causing a bad accident amongst cyclists.  I knew that when I was going to pass these people, to do it with authority, since I didn't want any wind gusts blowing them into me.  From my pre rides and from race day I will hands down say the most difficult part of this ride is the short section from the bottom of the descent back up to the Queen K.  It is slightly uphill, often hot and and into a head wind.  Mentally you just want to be back on your way on the Queen K but you're not quite there yet. Once back on the Queen K I took some Coke in a sport top bottle and kept myself cool with cold water at aid stations.  I was feeling pretty good, just working into some wind at points and managing the elements.  My plan was to leave whatever I had left on the bike out the course once I hit the airport.  Well, let me tell you riding back to town from the airport with no wind is far different than riding back to town from the airport with a headwind.  I did what I could on that last section and was feeling pretty good, despite hot as I rolled back into transition.

T2 - 4:39
Long time DC friend Pam promptly came over to assist me once I was in the change tent.  I didn't want to rush this change, I wanted to cool down a bit, make sure my socks and shoes were on properly and hit the run course as comfortable as possible.  Pam helped me achieve that and made sure all my things made it back into my gear bag once I took off.

THE RUN - 3:59:04
I hit the run course feeling good.  Legs were ready to run, body and mind were ready to go.  Up over and down to Ali'i and oh man the energy on Ali'i was great. I saw all the people and some people that I didn't have a clue who they were but they knew me and were cheering for me by name.  Great chalk art from Christina, cheers from Whitney and Liz and others from DC and Hawaii and everywhere in between.  I hit the turn around on Ali'i still feeling good and running strong - this was already a huge win over 2017 when my feet felt like they were raw and bloody by this point in the race.  As I headed back toward Palani I saw all the familiar faces including Andrew, mom and Gary cheering before I came through the hot corner and made my way up Palani.  Close to the top I looked to my left and
saw Crowie cheering me on.  My response was "is that Crowie?" to which he said something along the lines of "yes, now get on your way".  Shortly after making the turn onto the Queen K you run by the Base tent, alway a pick me up and I was looking forward to getting a fresh tube of salt.  Matt spotted my quickly and ran alongside me with the camera before passing off some Rocket Fuel as well.  It took me another 5 minutes to process what he'd likely do with that video, but I figured he'd send it to my crew back on the east coast, which he most certainly. did.   I could feel the fatigue of the day and the undulating and never endingness of the Queen K getting to me.  My pace started to slow and I took a quick stop in a porto for comfort's sake.  I was running well for the most part and staying consistent.  I made the left hand turn into the beginning of the energy lab and knew exactly what to expect thanks to having run it earlier in the week.  It was in the energy lab that I finally let myself take some caffeinated gels - I definitely should have taken these earlier.  If I could change one thing I did that day, it would be taking one on my way up Palani and consistently every 45 or so minutes after that.   I grabbed some Osmo at special needs after the turn around in the Energy Lab and let the energy of some of my dear friends carry me back to the Queen K. With the caffeine in me and the words my dear friend Ellen told me repeating in my head as I exited the Energy Lab I was ready to to rock the last bit of this marathon.  I was able to pull my pace back to sub 9, and run down a lot of people during the final 10k or so.   My legs felt good, my body felt as good as it could, things were going well as long as I kept fueling properly.  With a couple miles to go I saw Andrew over on the other side of the Queen K running along and cheering me on.  I kept wanting to try and drop him, apparently my tired legs weren't quite up to the task.  I took in every step of those final few miles on the Queen K.  The energy at the Aid Stations, the volunteers dancing, screaming and cheering as they blared Livin' On A Prayer.  My day had gone almost as well as it could have, sure maybe we left 20 minutes or so on the table with slightly better (perfect) execution but on this day for this race I gave everything I had and left it all in the lava fields of the Big Island.  The final turn onto Palani and one last time through the hot corner, I smiled and was grateful for every step, every cheer and the support from everyone over the past years.  I'm not sure when I'll be back to race Kona again, it's not likely in the next couple of years (though I won't turn it down if the opportunity arises).   More on that to come on the blog in the near future.  The final run down Ali'i was unforgettable, lined with people, friends both new and old, the energy and lighting (golden hour) was perfect.  I made 1 last pass before hitting the red carpet and slowing to let us all have our own moment.  I raised my hands and enjoyed that finish line arch for one last time in my DC Tri Club kit, one last time in the 30-34 age group, and completely satisfied with the day I put together on the Big Island.  I got to cross the finish line into my DC friend AJ's arms and into my mom's arms who then gave me my lei.  What a memory and what day!

FINISH TIME - 10:58:23
Yes, I said above there were maybe 20 minutes left on the table with more perfect race execution.  That being said I historically don't do well in hot, humid environments like Kona usually blesses us with. I have a high sweat sweat rate, I lose a lot of sodium in my sweat and I couldn't be more thankful for the recommendation from Michelle to try The Right Stuff.  I started training with it about 5 weeks out from race day, it was a game changer and helped me come off the bike during training and on race day not feeling depleted.  I had said in a post in the days leading into Kona that this race
would be a bit of swan song for me - I'll still be racing, just not sure if/when I'll race in Kona again.  It was also my last race as part of the DC Tri Club Elite Team - this club and this team have truly helped me develop both as an athlete and as a person since 2012.  I was lucky enough to spend 6 years as a member of the Elite Team, meeting new friends and training partners.  Always having someone there to push me, encourage me and support me.   Alas, with a move to Hawaii and no longer being local to DC it's time to let the team environment help raise up another athlete.  So thank you, DC Tri Club for helping me figure out this whole Ironman thing, for taking a chance on me on the Elite Team in 2014 and for all the support since the beginning.  Happy to have you all out to Hawaii for training camp in 2020!

Thank you to my #1 squeeze, Andrew.  He biked with me on long runs as an aid station and moral support, he made sure my bike was ready to go for training and racing and he supported me every step of the way to get back to Kona.  He was out there ALL day on race day, cheering, smiling and giving me high fives (and information at all my other races).  His support and belief in me help make doing this at a high level possible.  Now we're and the throws of wedding planning which is kind of worse than overload for Ironman, but the end is near and we can't wait to celebrate in just 1 month.

Thank you to my family for being supportive and coming out to cheer me on in person.  A big thank you to my momma, who hasn't missed a full Ironman race!  They all wore matching shirts this year with my picture on it, cheering from near and far.  Thank you to my dear friends - those of you from the DC area, my friends back in Michigan and my new friends in Hawaii.  Your cheers and your support do not go unnoticed.   My dear friend Erin for the pre race pep talk before race day, my friend Ellen for giving me some mental tricks as I came out of the Energy lab.  To my girls Heather and Shannon for always believing in me - what a difference it makes knowing your friends and training partners want the absolute best for you.  To all the TriGirls in DC and all of those who helped me learn some training routes in Hawaii a sincere and big thank you.

And of course, thank you to coach Kim Schwabenbauer.  We've been on this journey since February of 2014 and we're not done yet.  The gains of made not only physically but mentally are in no small part to Kim's coaching, prep work, and own experience racing Ironman.  I

Thank you to all my wonderful sponsors including Alt-Red, Osmo, Gu, Louis Garneau, Rudy Project,  Xterra, Zealios and Boca.  You help make training and racing consistently possible and fun. 

If you're still reading keep an eye on this space in the near future for a look at my 2020 plans!