Monday, November 19, 2012

Ironman Arizona Race Report

Sun Devils and Sir Mix-A-Lot

Arizona wasn’t one of the bucket-list races that I was looking forward to because it’s scenic or challenging. In all honesty I only picked it because of timing with hopes of capitalizing on my current fitness and possibly scoring some early 2013 season Kona points. Mentally, leading up to race day, proved to be one of the most challenging races to prepare for. Like many Northern cities, Boise Triathletes start winding down their season by mid-August so finding people to train with after Vegas is difficult and nearly impossible after Kona. I’m pretty limited on my training partners anyways since I train (aka “work”) during the day when everyone else is working and train during the evenings.

It was nice to leave the cool 50deg temps of Boise for the 70deg temps of Tempe. The swim venue was…interesting. A man-made cement “lake” in the center of town near ASU that I imagine is used mostly for water drainage during monsoon season. The water is stagnant and made me a bit queasy as I scouted it the day before the race. I opted to skip the open swim and was glad on race morning that we jumped into the water before sunrise and I couldn’t see what I’d be swimming in.

As the canon sounded to start the race it was still very dark so I sighted off the silhouette of the bridge that marked my waypoint. The sun was just starting to light the horizon but it was still difficult to see the orange buoys in the low light. An hour is a long time for my mind to be without stimulus. As I stared into the murky waters of Tempe Town Lake I was mentally coaching myself on my swim form, “Long and Strong”, “Long and Strong”, “Long and Strong”. Mentally this was to keep me thinking of proper swim form and add some kind of a rhythm to swim to. I repeated this in my mind over and over then all of the sudden the words began to carry a beat:

“Long and Strong”, “Long and Strong”

'Cause I'm long, and I'm strong
And I'm down to get the friction on
So, ladies! {Yeah!} Ladies! {Yeah}
If you wanna roll in my Mercedes {Yeah!}
Then turn around! Stick it out!
Even white boys got to shout
Baby got back!

Oh no! Quick, think of a different song. I can’t spend the next 50 minutes with Sir Mix-A-Lot stuck in my head. The harder I tried to more the words came effortlessly to my mind.

Oh baby, I wanna get with you
And take your picture
My homeboys tried to warn me
But that butt you got makes me so horny
Ooh, Rump-o'-smooth-skin
You say you wanna get in my Benz?
Well, use me, use me
'Cause you ain't that average groupie…

All the way back into T1 the lyrics to Baby Got Back were stuck in my head. It was a good beat and a good way to break up the monotony but there was no way I could spend 5 hours on the bike with this in my head. I needed a different song.

I thumped my way into T1 and felt comfortable about my swim. It wasn’t a PR, it was “average” for me this season. As I looked at the bike rack I could see that there were only a couple of bikes left which meant I wasn’t last out of the water. I had no clue how far back I was, I just knew I needed to focus on having a solid bike. I wasn’t planning to have the fastest bike split because I’d only been on this bike fit for a month and hadn’t put down enough miles to allow my muscles to adjust. I’ve been making adjustments to my bike fit all season and these latest changes were the ones that I felt would get me the closest to my optimal position. This course is flat. I know a lot of people warn about the false-flat on this course that you have on the way out but compared to the courses I typically choose to race, this was going to be flat and fast. I’ve never raced an Iron-distance course with a flat bike and run courses like this let alone a 3-loop course so I wanted a steady effort and try to make up some of the gap with the middle of the pack by the start of the last loop.

Photo courtesy Kevin Tu

I exited T1 like a turbo 'Vette and the first loop of the bike felt good. I had a good cadence and felt strong. As I started the 2nd loop there was a lot more bike traffic. I came up to the Aide Station to grab my Special Needs bag to collect some more nutrition but after I grabbed my bag a guy came flying past me on the right side and ran into my arm, knocking the bag out of my hand and sent me into panic mode just to stay upright. I don’t know why he was passing me on the right at all, let alone through an Aide Station. I would have liked the nutrition I had in that bag but I was going to be ok with everything I had on my bike. The 2nd loop was a little bit slower so I figured I would be fine and would push the 3rd loop a little bit harder…until I made my way along the straight section of Beeline Highway on the 3rd loop and saw wall-to-wall athletes on both sides of the road. I missed one of the Aide Stations because athletes were 3 to 4 deep. The road was so crowded at times that I had to sit back and wait to pass because they were riding 4 across and 3, 4, sometimes 5 deep as they passed slower traffic. I couldn’t cross the yellow lines in the center of the road so there was no other choice. 3,000 athletes on 37 miles of road is very busy. Yep, no lack of people to cheer for as you ride with them along the course.

Instead of the 3rd loop being my fastest it ended up being my slowest by 1.5mph. I was just caught up in traffic a couple of times which added up. It was frustrating during the moment but looking back, no worries. I felt great on the bike and could have gone much harder given the opportunity. I wanted my bike split to be right at 5:00 and if I felt great, to be a couple of minutes under 5:00. Well, I felt great and was on pace to go under 5:00 but just couldn’t get through the traffic. I still hit my target and it was a good feeling to know that I could have gone faster, today just wasn't going to be that day.

I guess I biked myself into 11th place as I entered T2. As I came in didn’t know what place I was in or how far back I was of the top 10 but knew there were a couple of girls right behind me. The run plan was simple, maintain my pace and let attrition weed off those in front. If you’ve never had the chance to race here, the run course looks like a Dennis the Menace map, all urban running with about 20 90deg turns on each lap. Within the first couple of miles, a couple of girls I passed on the bike passed me back and I had to convince myself to stick to the plan, thinking they were going out too hard, too early and that I would catch up to them the last half of the course.

Photo courtesy Kevin Tu
Like a motor in the back of her Honda my pacing was good all the way through the first half of the run and I was on my way to finishing just outside of my 9:30 overall time goal. As my luck would have it, while I was running back onto the sidewalk on one section my foot clipped the top of the curb which sent me tumbling head over heels, literally. I was so embarrassed and not wanting to draw attention to myself I jumped up like nothing happened and it was all part of the plan. But I couldn’t run off right away. I had landed on my tailbone and then as I began to run my hamstring was tight. I hobbled off knowing I would survive but the second half of the run was going to hurt if things didn’t loosen up, which they never did. I ended up walking the sections on the last lap and a half that had any kind of elevation change, which wasn’t much, but mentally I was struggling to stay in the game. Once again I had created my own obstacle. I was frustrated with my luck, or lack of, and just wanted to finish the race.

I finished with an overall time sub-10 which is awesome to reach that benchmark in my career. It wasn’t necessarily the course I wanted my first sub-10 finish but it’s good to see my finish times consistently dropping regardless of the course. Next benchmark is sub-9:30 which I plan to hit in the 2013 season and then the 2-3 year goal is going sub 9:00. I was outside the top-10 finish I had planned on but based on the finish times my training times are exactly where I need to be.


Choosing my goggles for race day was going to be tricky since we would start before sunrise then sight directly into the sun for a little bit before making the turn. I opted for the TYR Remix with the light blue mirrorred  lens that actually ended up being perfect for the conditions.

It would have been advantageous to have a disc wheel for this course because there were a couple of times where I was fully cogged out and girls on disc wheels easily passed me almost as though they were soft pedaling. A nice gift for your competitive Triathlete spouse would be a disc wheel, a new wheel set, maybe? (Hint, Hint) A wheel sponsor for Christmas would be nice.

The big question, would I ever race this event again? I’ve never raced a flat Ironman distance course before and Tempe has some other benefits like temperature, time of year for kicking off the new season and large Pro field for benchmarking the season but the course doesn’t suit my race style. The venue is centrally located but there’s no place to park, the stagnant water you swim in has left me on the verge of a sinus infection. The 3-loop bike and run courses are relatively flat, mind numbingly boring and so crowded you hardly have room to move. If I were to race this course over again I’d put an extra water bottle cage behind my seat and then try to grab 2 water bottles at aide stations. As isolated as you sometimes may feel on courses like Challenge Pendicton or Leadman Bend, I’d rather circumvent the crowds, enjoy the scenery and add some elevation. It’s unlikely that this will make it on my 2013 race schedule, but then it wasn’t on my 2012 schedule until mid-September.

For the Critics...notice how I am NOT the only one who utilizes the "Front Pocket" to hold my nutrition on the run. Great shot of TJ Tollakson using the same water bottle "cage". Maybe it's something only TYR athletes do. I think it just goes to show that great minds think alike.

Up Next

I’m currently working on my 2013 race schedule and plan to have a tentative schedule by the beginning of December. I’ll likely compete in 8-10 Iron and Half-Iron distance races next season while mixing in some local road racing and shorter distance Tri’s. The hardest part is figure out which ones I can afford to travel to; traveling this much is expensive. I’m going to spend the next month enjoying the Holidays with my husband and kids while just maintaining my base fitness. The preseason training will focus a lot of time on muscle memory to improve my swim timing and a complete run overhaul with a target to cut valuable time each mile. Next season, watch for faster swim times, faster bike splits (yes, I know I can still get faster on the bike), and a faster, more efficient run.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Leadman 250 Bend Race Report

Smoke, Tears and the Navigationally Challenged

Not familiar with the Leadman Tri series?  This is part of the Life Time Fitness company and they promise to put together races under the Leadman Tri name on some of the toughest courses. Leadman originated in Leadville, CO in 1983 and now the series spans 3 months of racing including a 100-mile trail run and 100-mile MTB race. They take the term "endurance athlete" to an all new level. They call it the 250 because the race is across 250k (156 miles) of some of the toughest and most scenic venues. The swim is 5k (3.1 miles) followed by a 223k (238.5 mile) bike and then a 22k (13.7 mile) run. They also offered a 125k version of Bend which was a 2.5k (1.55 miles) swim, 106k (66.9 mile) bike and 16k (9.94 mile) run. Read more about the Leadville race series here.

Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu, the longest officially recognized name of a place, has 85 letters. It's the name for a hill, 305 meters (1,000 ft) high, close to Porangahau, New Zealand. Just like that names slides off the end of your tongue, I envision myself gliding through the clear cold ice melt of Cultus Lake with only the slightest of effort. If only I could say that the colder the water the faster I swim because it dulls the senses, causes my body to constrict and makes me more streamline. The morning kicked off with the swim in cool, calm conditions. I was doing really well and hung with the pack all the way up to when the canon sounded to start the race. About 800 yards after we jumped in the water I dropped off the pack, backed off and began my solo journey through 3.1 miles of crystal clear mountain lake water. I wasn’t going to win it in the swim but I always seem to lose it in the swim. As I completed the first 2.5k loop and took a glass of water from the aid station it didn’t look like I was more than a minute or two behind the pack. Like a sumo wrestler at a ballet I jumped back in for Round 2. I never bridged the gap or ever swam with anyone the rest of the way and exited the water in a manageable 11th. My hands and feet were numb but not as bad as some other swims this season, nothing like Oceanside or Boise. As I ran to the bike racks I could see that my bike was one of the last still there. I wasn’t too worried because I knew the race wasn’t going to be won on the swim and that there were 138 epic bike miles ahead of everyone. Still, I didn't know how far back I was and don’t like being at the back of the pack and there as some strong cyclists racing so with some haste I put on arm warmers and a jacket to keep the cool mountain air from chilling my core within the first couple of miles.

The bike was challenging. Having race Pacific Crest Long Course a couple of time I was familiar with how difficult the day was going to be. You ascend from 4400 feet to 6600 feet over the first 45 miles, with much of that coming on the Mt. Bachelor climb. It was very confusing as you came out of Cultus Lake and headed south to the turnaround. It was supposed to be 10 miles down and back but for some reason they had moved it to 20 miles. The Sparks Lake climb was a heart pounding 2 miles of 9% grade followed by 2 miles of 3-4% all above 5,000 ft elevation. The air is thin and the entire course is very quiet, almost an eerie quiet but I would say it doesn’t quite measure up in difficulty compared to Richter at IM Canada and the Nasty Grade at Wildflower. It’s similar in climbing distance as Richter and a little less steep than Nasty Grade. The kicker comes leading into the climb where you have a 13 mile stretch of steady uphill with 17 uphill pitches that serve as a good warm up before the quad killer. This section kind of reminded me of the 7 pitches after Richter in Canada without the descent after each steep pitch, just false-flats between them. And then you get to loop back around and do all of this again before riding the 20 mile decent back into town going 45mph.

My race plan for the bike was experimental but simple, let my Trek Speed Concept chew through 8,000 feet of elevation in 138 miles faster than Joey Chestnut dunks and chomps his way through 68 hot dogs. Actually, my plan was to keep the heart rate low and cadence high and the thought of eating that many hot dogs makes my stomach churn. I’d never raced 138 hilly miles before and then had to run a hilly 22k right afterwards. I've ridden 140 miles before during training for IM races but never raced it. I wanted to be conservative and have something in the tank for the run then go all out and completely bonk only miles into the 22k. As I rode south on the first 10 miles I saw course signs at an intersection for the 125 distance racers to turn but I didn’t see any course markers indicating which way the 250 distance racers were supposed to go. I knew we followed a similar course but according to the course map we were supposed to go ~11 miles before our turnaround. Without seeing any course markers I turned and headed down the road and immediately felt like I made a mistake. I stopped and positioned myself so I could see both roads from the same point, then came a quick prayer. "WHICH WAY?" As soon as I opened my eyes I saw a guy with a red bike number go straight. Red race numbers were the 250 racers. That was all I need and gave chase. After I got on the correct 250 course I saw the course marker for the 250 distance pointing the correct direction. It was just over a slight hill on the other side of the intersection. This race would have turned out much differently if that specific course marker was 100 feet before the intersection, not past.

I caught up to Paolina Allan about mile 30. I raced with her last month at IM Canada and knew we have similar race abilities so she must be having a bad day if I’m catching her. We chatted as I passed and told her to keep the gap but ride with me so it’s not as lonely. Shortly after Paolina dropped off then I caught up to Jennifer Lebuke right before I stopped at the Special Needs station to drop off my jacket. I didn't want to stop but my arm was stuck in my jacket sleeve and I couldn't get it off without wrecking myself. It wasn’t until the climb at Sparks Lake at about mile 60 that I caught up to Heather Gollnick. An average human speak 4,800 words in 24 hours. To go 60 miles without talking to anyone meant I needed to make up for lost words as I met other racers on the course. I was cordial and cheered for her as I passed but inside I was like…”Holy crap, I just passed Heather Gollnick, she’s a 5-time Ironman champ.” I'm sure she looked at me like I was an auctioneer in training as I tried to squeeze 500 of my 4,800 word daily allotment in the 5 seconds as I passed. I checked my heart rate and my cadence just to make sure I wasn’t outside my ranges. She must be having a bad day or just pacing herself for 6+ hours in the saddle. Anyways, no time to stay and chat.  The next 60 miles were ugly with strong headwinds on a lonely, worn out stretch of the road  and then at about mile 120 I caught Haley Cooper-Scott as I neared the summit of Mt. Bachelor for the second time. I’ve raced Haley a couple of times this year so I knew her abilities and I also knew I was going to be at a disadvantage as soon as I crested Mt. Bachelor since the next 18 miles going into Bend were all downhill and she was riding a full rear disc. I had to hammer now and get a good lead or she would just pass me again on the freshly paved road before entering T2. As I closed the gap between us I watched as she looked back to see who was coming and I purposely sat up to make it look like I wasn’t closing on her. Then the next time she looked back I was actually right next to her and it kind of startled her.

I pulled into T2 in 4th position with a 6:30:09 bike split, that ended up being the fastest of the day, and watched as Mackenzie and Christine ran out. I wanted to follow but with the thick smoke I needed to take my inhaler. As I sat down during T2 to put my shoes on and take my inhaler everyone was going crazy telling me they were only a couple of seconds ahead of me, don't sit, GO! Trust me, I would have loved to followed but it’s too hard to take my inhaler and run. As I ran along the course I saw Linsey Corbin and only thing I remember hearing Linsey say is, “Don’t cry, they’re right in front of you.” If only she knew these weren’t tears of joy or sadness but tears of pain. I have sensitive eyes to smoke and they were burning so bad it made it look like I was crying. During the 2,475,576,000 seconds of the average life, averagely we speak 123,205,750 words, have sex 4,239 times, shed 121 pints of tears. During that run, I shed about half of those tears.  My legs felt better than they have coming off the bike in a long time and it didn’t take long for me to get into a groove. Don’t be confused. This run course was not flat or fast. Lots of elevation change as well as different terrain kept things mixed.  At mile 3 I caught up to and passed Mackenzie and could see Christine not too far ahead of me. Unfortunately we were on a switch-back portion of the course which allowed her to see me coming up and caused her to run harder before I wanted her to. A mile later and instead of being the stalker, I have Haley on my heels stalking me. I ran at threshold for the next 2 miles trying to shake her but like lint on a bad sweater she matched my pace. In the end I broke and she pulled ahead. Paybacks, I guess. My heart was jumping out of my chest and miles 8 thru 10 were then some of the hardest I’ve ever pushed through. Then, I started to empty my stomach involuntarily which then made me feel much better. Nice…that’s how I can tell whether I’m giving it an honest effort…losing your cookies on the run course. I didn’t need that nutrition anyways, it’s just extra weight. Like I always say, “Get it up. Get it out. Get on with it.”  On the run they had mile markers every 0.5 miles and part of it went through a golf community. Somehow I got to a point where I wasn’t seeing mile markers anymore and wasn’t seeing any other runners. As I looked around I noticed a guy running in the same direction but a couple of blocks away. Somehow after mile 10 I had missed a turn and added a little extra sightseeing. Once I got back on course the next 3 miles were my fastest splits of the day and about a half mile before the finish I was able to overtake Kristen who had lead through the swim and the bike. Final 22k run time was 1:44:25 which resulted in a season defining 3rd and a final time of 9:36:14.

Next Up

Arizona it is.  I made the decision before I left for Leadman that I wanted to end the season with one more Ironman distance. I had been planning to race 70.3 Austin but since the focus is now on Kona points for 2013, Arizona offers a lot more and as long as I place inside the top 10 I would earn more points than winning Austin. Granted, I would be outside the money if not in the top 6 but my ultimate goal is to go back to Kona as a Pro. I could technically race Austin as a warm up for Arizona but this late in the season I don’t have cash to travel to both. After Arizona, then it’s time off, hunt for sponsors and Holidays with the family. 2013 will bring…wait and see! Faster times for sure.


I’ve already been asked, by a number of people how I carried enough nutrition with me on the bike. I’m not going to spend a lot of time explaining it because I’ve talked about it a lot in previous race reports. VESPA, people! Fat is fuel. I carried the concentrate with me on the bike and the run then only took water at the aid stations to mix it with. The approach is a little unorthodox compared to conventional carbohydrate beliefs…but it works.

There must be something subconsciously wrong with me where I don’t feel like I’m racing if I’m not chasing everyone. I swim faster than this during training in the lake. Someday, like a snake in the grass, I’m going to surprise everyone by exciting the water only a couple of minutes behind the lead swimmer. Sometimes I wonder why the first discipline in a Triathlon can’t be something like boxing or arm wrestling. This was a 5k swim but I swam 3 minutes faster than I did at Canada which is a shorter course. Go figure. Luckily I have TYR who makes me look good getting in and out of the water and also recognizes that for moms like me the only way I’ll have good looking abs again is if they are painted on. It's all about intimidation.

Would I do this race again? Without hesitation. I’m already putting together my race calendar for next year and I’m trying to make this one fit. I love the distances and the emphasis being more on the swim and the bike and not having that body pounding marathon at the end. Sure there were some things that went a little awry and could have been done differently but seldom do you ever go to a first year race and have everything set up perfectly. I heard of racers taking wrong turns and getting off course, heck, I did it too, on both the bike and the run which both cost me precious minutes and energy. That was the longest, loneliest 138 miles I’ve ever ridden. The entire field was so spread out. Not seeing anyone for so long was physically and mentally draining but watch for my name on the start list again for next year. Leadman refers to it as Epic. I prefer single syllable words like “Hard”, “Tough” or a simple grunt especially after that much distance and elevation on the bike. I’m still winded. Instead of Lead-man, Lead-legs is more like it.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ironman Canada Race Report

Of all my bucket-list races, Canada has always been at the top and now that I’ve competed in the race I would agree with previous racers that it was the best on the entire WTC circuit for venue and community support.

The swim start is a water start but the beach area is long enough that even with the start flags 200m off the shore you’re still only in chest-deep water. There was no countdown to the race start that we could hear out in the water and next thing I know the cannon had sounded the start. Everyone paused for a second, looked at each other with a look of bewilderment wondering what happened to the National Anthem and countdown. It was almost as though everyone realized at the same time that the race has started. I got into a good position and was swimming along with the main pack then 100m in, cough…hack…suck up some lake water. Out of nowhere, I receive my “Welcome to Canada” elbow to the throat. It’s amazing how a blow to the throat affects all of your senses. Your eyes water and vision becomes blurry, the lake water you violently sucked in blows out our nose, your ears ring, you can taste a mixture of algae/fish water and blood in the back of your throat, and you feel like going Jackie Chan on everyone in front of you. Losing the main pack and swimming 2.4 miles alone blows and is mentally difficult to push forward..

Now racing solo behind the rest of the pack, , all of the sudden there’s a kayak blocking my way. As I poke my head out of the water with a “Don't let me get in your way” look, I could barely hear her through my ear plugs. Looking in the direction she was pointing with her paddle I realized she was saying that I missed a buoy. As I lifted my goggles and looked back I realized that the white VIP boat was behind the white turn buoy. With the angle you swam into the buoy you had to look close to see it. I was sighting off of big orange buoys and didn’t realize there were rectangle white buoys on the corners. While I talked with her I could smell bacon! Did that sneaky Chuck Norris-like blow to the Adam’s apple throw off my sense of smell? I love bacon. I asked the kayaker why I smell bacon and she said it was coming from the VIP boat. No need to sight, jus t follow your nose. How unfair! Like it didn’t suck already that I was swimming by myself, now I had to swim an extra 75m back to the turn buoy and swim the back half with the smell of bacon engrained in my mind.

I exited the water alone, a little woozy from a bit of chop generated from the helicopter as it filmed the race. The plan for the ride was to maintain a steady effort through Richter Pass and then try to negative split the back half, especially after cresting Yellow Lake. We had beautiful weather on the first half of the ride with cool conditions and practically no wind. I tried to stay on my nutrition plan but being a little woozy gave me the dry heaves and putting in too much on an upset stomach can cause more issues. I wish I understood why I get motion sick so easy. I wasn’t feeling good for the first 40 miles and I was chewing Tums like I own stock in the company. I had no idea how far behind the bulk of the girls I was then on the out-and-back where you can pick up your Special Needs bag I got another glimpse of the girls in front of me. One of them was all red faced and veins popping out her neck, on a flat section. She was working way too hard. Luckily my stomach settled down before the climb over Richter Pass and as I crested the top I was looking forward for the downhill to add some mph to my average but instead of getting gravity to my advantage, instead I pushed into a stiff headwind. I made myself as small as possible and was glad to see 45mph on my Garmin at one point. Even with that, there were guys that I had passed on the uphill that flew past me on the downhill because they have a little more weight to help push them. As we neared the Yellow Lake climb I could tell I was making up more time on the girls in front of me and I thought for sure I would catch most of them by time I crested the hill or at least on the downhill. As I climbed I wasn’t making up as much time as I thought and noticed my rear wheel was starting to feel a little squishy. I t wasn’t flat and with only 20 miles I figured I’d ride it out and see what happened. I rode a solid time for the day, not the time I thought I would ride but the best I could do for the day. When I picked up my bike at the end of the race my rear tire was completely flat so I felt lucky I was able to make it without stopping to change a flat.

Exiting T2 there were a handful of girls right in front of me. I told myself to keep them close, the race doesn’t start until mile 18, keep it steady and work on passing them after the turnaround. The crowds were incredible and I had to keep forcing myself to slow down and not get caught up in the excitement. As I neared the turnaround I could tell I was gaining on some and losing time on others, I had to keep telling myself to maintain my IM pace. Then about mile 11 the wheels started to come off and it felt like someone had strapped a parachute to my back. My legs started to feel heavy and my stomach started cramping. As I ran I was trying to think of what might have changed that would be causing me to fell like this was the first time I had run a marathon. I think taking in too much nutrition towards the end of the bike was now starting to haunt me. I haven’t had nutrition issues for a while now, it wasn’t hot and the only thing I changed was how much I was taking in over the miles. It was time to modify the race plan and just try to hang on for the next hour. Every time I tried to push the pace I couldn’t. It just wasn’t going to be my day. I finished, which is an achievement of itself. Not how I had planned but eventually I have a good race. I ended up 7th and walk away knowing what I can change to make the next one better.

Next Up

As the season draws to a close for most athletes, some head to Vegas, others to Kona, I’m headed to Bend, Oregon for the Leadman 250; 5k swim, 223k bike and 22k run. I’ve raced part of this course before during Pacific Crest so I kind of know what the course will be like. There’s a portion of the bike I’ve never been on and I’m not sure how to prepare for the weather. Late September in this area is not exactly tropical. Morning lows can dip into the upper 30s and daytime highs typically only reach the low 70s. If I can stay warm enough during the 3 mile swim it should be a beautiful race. After Bend…I’m not sure. Austin? Arizona? Time off? Most certainly some family time.


I think the most costly mistake I made was not getting enough nutrition in early on the bike. It was kind of a catch-22, put fuel in on an upset stomach and you can just make it worse, not put enough in or put too much in and you can suffer further into the race. And suffer I did by putting too much in too late into the bike. The back half of the run was painful.

The thing to remember on this course is there’s more to the race than 1 climb on the bike. Go too hard too early and you can fade on the back half of the bike or end up dropping out part way through the run. Two girls went out hard off of the front on the bike, consequently one dropped out before making it 10 miles on the run, the other suffered through the run but lost her lead early on the run and probably thought about dropping out on more than one occasion. It’s a long day out there, you don’t necessarily need to win it within the first hour. The men’s winner was something like 6th or 7th into T2 and strategically made his move on the back half of the run.

There was a lot of controversy leading up to race day as the community of Penticton said goodbye to WTC and 30 years with the Ironman brand and welcomed in the Challenge Family for Challenge-Penticton starting in 2013. I don’t know the legality of the change and who has a contract with who until 2014 because I wasn’t racing it because of the race brand on the race. I wanted the experience of biking over the famous Richter Pass and Yellow Lake. So many people had told me about the amazing course and community support, I wanted to experience that for myself…and I was amazed at how right they were. I thought it was so much better than they had described. I have never been to another race that has as beautiful of a venue with the community support to back it. Everyone talks about it in a positive light and everyone I passed along the street while training would cheer and wish me luck followed by them announcing what Aide Station they would be at.  Moving this race under the Challenge Family is a good move that will bring the race back to the community and make it about the athletes. If you wanted to race here but are disappointed this race is no longer under the Ironman brand, I would still encourage you to make the trip. It’s not the name that makes this a bucket list race, it’s the community.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Ironman 70.3 Boulder Race Report

Rocky Mountain high...Embrace the Burn...and then pass the oxygen!

John Denver wrote a lot of songs about Colorado but I needed more of a "Racing In Boulder for Dummies" book to better prepare me for the handicap I was going to feel. Boulder has never really been a “bucket-list” race and this year it was selected not because of the venue but more on timing. The area around Boulder is beautiful and the temperatures during the summer are eerily similar to Boise. A month ago I contemplated not making the trip because the entire state was burning from wildfires and racing in smoke sucks. I wanted one more hard half IM effort about 2 weeks out from Canada. There isn’t much on the schedule that wouldn’t cost a fortune to get to so Boulder looked like my best option. It’s a tough location for most people to race at an elevation of 5,430ft which intensifies the sun and the air is so thin you feel out of breathe just watching the college students ride their single speeds. There’s a great Tri presence in the area with local amenities and a small-town feel that make it easy to understand why so many Ironman champions call this place home. Not that I’m leaving the Boise area any time soon, I can just see some of the benefits.

My plan for this race was simple, race hard and quit sucking. I left my bike set-up the same as Vineman, no power meter and race mostly by heart rate and feel. Racing by “feel” turned out not to be very effective because the high elevation made my lungs and legs burn on pre-race rides and runs. Arriving 3 days before race day wasn’t going to be enough time to adjust; advantage here goes to the locals or at least those that call this place home for part of the year. The reason I left my bike set-up unchanged from Vineman was because I had a fit adjustment scheduled for after the race.

Water at the swim venue was…well, let’s just say I’m pretty sure Coors doesn’t use any of this "Rocky Mountain spring water" for brewing their lager but hands down it beats swimming in the Hudson.  The algae bloom was so thick I was certain I could walk on top of the “water” with a pair of snowshoes. I hate when waters gets like this in the summer because it plays on my childhood fear of water and I mentally struggle swimming when I can’t see the bottom. Prior to the race I opted to stay out of the reservoir during training and instead slap feet with the “Who’s Who of Triathlon” in the public pools. This time I was prepared for any water temp with both my TYR Freak of Nature wetsuit and Torque Pro swim skin. The water temps were almost 80 degrees when I arrived but the days leading up to race morning had thunderstorms with wind which helped cool the water off enough to make it wetsuit legal. Swimming at elevation, I knew my swim time was going to be a couple of minutes slower than Vineman. I told myself that if I could come in around 32:00 and with a pack that I would be setting myself up for a decent race. I just needed to find the pack within my pace and stick with them.

Ohhh…the burn! Swimming at 5,430 feet hurts, bad! 500m into the swim it started to feel like hypoxic training. Everything burned the entire loop but I was happy when I exited the water in 31:22 with a pack of 4 other girls. I had this euphoric feeling when I stood to run out on the beach because I wasn’t exiting the swim alone but that was quickly substituted with a feeling of disorientation and dizziness. As I crossed the timing mat my legs felt like rubber, I was seeing stars and my head was spinning like I had just spent 30 minutes on the Tilt-A-Whirl at the amusement park. So this is what it feels like to be on the verge of blacking out...I don't like it. I’m sure I was quite a sight as I attempted to run a straight line into T1. I tied for 15th out of the water but still a good time, all things considered.

I could tell by the number of bikes lift on the racks that most of the girls were on the course ahead of me. There were 4 other girls in T1 with me and as I exited I quickly passed one of the gals that exited ahead of me as she slipped her feet into her shoes. I held off putting my feet into my shoes longer than normal because I wanted to add some distance between us. All for not, she then caught back up to me as I put my feet into my shoes as I rounded the first corner. She shadowed me as we came to the first hill but then she tried to grind up the hill as I spun up and added some distance that would take her a while to make up. That climb in itself was enough to reinsure my last-minute decision to change out my cassette so I had more gears for the hills. I wasn’t expecting a ride of epic proportion, simply something that exhibited my true capabilities. As the miles ticked away I continued to meticulously pick off riders in front of me. A smile, a wave and words of encouragement as I passed each girl. As physically draining this ride was, it was quickly becoming mentally strengthening the more miles I put behind me. I was focusing on anything but the burn in my legs and then on the second loop I rode up behind this girl riding ahead of me with the weirdest race kit design from behind. As I rode closer it became apparent that her speed-suit up her crack…now my eyes are burning too! A G-string on the bike cannot be comfortable…is that even legal race attire outside of Brazil? Girl…get a bigger suit, as cool as it looks, that suit does NOT fit! I inserted a 3 mile interval just so I wouldn’t have to look at that the rest of the ride. Apparently passersby in cars found it more amusing as they slowed to video the “scene”. As I rode into the AG waves, which can make it a little difficult to tell whether I was passing anyone of interest, they were giving me race splits as I passed them; the nicest racers I've raced with. Having others on the course with you helps with the mental aspect of the race because you aren't alone on the course but I was quickly reminded that I still have to be on alert as a gal came to a complete stop at one of the aid stations instead of rolling through. I just about dumped my bike as I maneuvered to avoid a collision and consequently missed my opportunity to get a refill of water. Since there aren't any out-and-back portions on this 2-loop course I had to assume that I was still doing well and I needed to push harder to negative split the second loop. Embrace the burn! My Trek Speed Concept carried me passed a total of 7 gals for a new PR bike split of 2:21:37 to enter T2 in 9th. This bike split bested my previous PR by 11 minutes which was set last season on a very, very flat Rev 3 Portland course which felt good knowing I still could have gone faster. I almost felt like I rode like my hair was on fire, it was nice to have that feeling again.

As I left T2 I could feel the heat radiating down and even though the air temp wasn’t quite 80 degrees, it already felt like the mid-90s. The course offers no shade so you’re fully exposed to the elements as you grind your way through 2 loops. My lungs and legs were burning from the bike so I just kept an eye on my heart rate. I was thinking about how scenic this course could be but in reality reminded me of running along the irrigation canals back home. 3 miles in, my pace began to slow as my heart was jumping through my throat. It felt like I was wearing a run harness strapped to "Refrigerator" Perry. I soon started to see stars...again. No…not Dibens or Carfrae. The “on the verge of a black out” type of stars. I had to stop and walk for a couple of minutes while my heart rate normalized which allowed that last gal I had worked so hard to pass on the bike to pass me and put some distance on me. If only we were closer to the “so not Coors water” reservoir so I could jump in for a minute. There’s only one short little out-and-back section on the course then the rest of it is a loop so you really don’t get to see if anyone else if fading or showing any signs of a weakness that you can exploit before getting to the finish line. I had some ground to make up since I took that little star gazing break and I was still chasing my goal finish time of under 4:30. I’m not very good with numbers but my original plan was to run a sub 7:00/mi pace on the 1st  loop. My body was obviously not conditioned to the altitude so running sub-7’s to make up lost time would only put me in the medic tent after the race. I could tell I was regaining ground on the gal that passed me while I enjoyed my leisurely Sunday stroll. As I came around the corner between miles 11 & 12 I pushed harder trying to make up the rest of the gap but I ran out of  road and ended up 15 seconds back of her to finish 10th with an overall time of 4:33:43.Oxygen please!

I’m totally happy with my first top 10 finish in the 70.3 distance knowing there are areas where I can still make improvements. I now know a sub- 4:30 finish time is totally within my capabilities even on some of the more challenging courses. This was probably the best run WTC events I've competed in over the years. If they could change the course, the area would make an awesome full IM distance race.

Next Up

Canada…eh? One more of the bucket-list races and probably one of the races I’m most excited about; I toe the line August 26th. This is probably the closest I’ll come to international racing until I start making some money at this sport. I’ve wanted to race Canada for years because of the challenging bike course and beautiful race venue but I could never get the timing to work into the family schedule. I need to carry momentum from Boulder through the end of the season and keep chipping away at my times for each discipline. After Canada, a short recovery and focused training for Leadman 250 Bend. The 5k swim is not necessarily playing to one of my strengths but I’m super excited about the 223k bike that takes you over Mt. Bachelor twice. I love racing on courses that challenge more than your flat-land skills and this race will definitely be won by how smart you race the bike leg. It’ll be interesting to see what the weather does; cold, wet, maybe snow. I’ve raced portions of this course before during Pacific Crest so I know each climb over Mt. Bachelor is going to burn.


Try on your race day gear and practice in it before race day. If your speed suit feels like someone is giving you a snuggie when you’re on your bike, you should probably tell you sponsor that you need the size medium instead of extra small.

High altitude training (above 5,000 feet) can pay back huge dividends if you know how to incorporate it into your training. Not all of us have the privilege to “live high, race low”. I had planned my high altitude training around driving or riding to the higher elevations but then missed all of it because of smoke from local wildfires. If you can plan better than I did, there are other methods for replicating the thin oxygen, some more expensive than others. Be diligent on your research.

Right gear selection is paramount. After racing Oceanside I learned my lesson about being prepared for each course and conditions. I made a conscious decision to pre-ride or drive every bike and run course before race. After I rode the Boulder course before race day I knew I had selected the wrong cassette for the course and my lower altitude lungs. I would have been fine had I lived in Boulder or spent the last 3 weeks training there. Learn from my mistakes, make sure you are familiar with your race course before race day and trust your gut if you feel like you need to make adjustments to your gear selection.

I get tired of reading and hearing people complain about the course being too hard. It's a freakin' IRONMAN people! They aren't intended to be "easy" or "fast". This is exactly why St. George was cut to a 70.3 distance. The Ironman race is intended to challenge your inner warrior against some of the most difficult conditions, courses and competitors in the World. In reality this is supposed to be a race against the clock and the simple act of completing the course before midnight should be considered a personal triumph. We often get too caught up in chasing the dream of qualifying to race in Kona or Vegas and when we don't, we struggle to see through the fog and recognize the achievement that just occurred. I too struggle with the constant quest for a Kona/Vegas slot, more-so now since qualification as a Pro is not based on a single performance and many sponsors are only interested in signing the big names. At the end of the day it's not whether you won your division, but did you improve on your previous time and have fun doing it. Strive to continually challenge yourself and Embrace the Burn!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ironman 70.3 Vineman Race Report

I'm no Meredith Kessler...yet.

Car loaded to the hilt, I headed West with great anticipation of racing through the scenic vineyards of Sonoma County. Good thing I checked with my husband before I pulled out of the driveway because the route I had in my in my mind would have taken me to Lake Stevens…I needed to head southwest, not northwest, I guess. He reassured me that it was loaded in the navigation and all I needed to do is listen to the directions. It’s bad enough not having anyone to talk to for that long but going through southeastern Oregon at a snail pace 55mph made me think racing in Racine, 28 hours drive, may not be a bad idea. 

California bound for the second time in a season brought with it mixed emotions. I was excited to be racing Vineman, another bucket-list race, but also uncertainty and trepidation. The doubt is mostly mental uncertainty in my own racing abilities and the dread of spending 12 hours in a car just to get another lesson in “Battle for Last Place” dished up by the veteran Pros. The half IM distance races have not been kind to me this year and I really didn’t want to travel 1,400 miles by myself only to cross the finish line scratching my head wondering where I went wrong.

Race morning ushered in with a layer of fog, sorry “marine mist”, that kept air temps cool but we were promised it would burn off by mid-morning. I had learned about the California fog at Oceanside and was determined to have a different outcome. The big difference was that the water temperature was a cozy 71deg. Earlier in the week the swim was not wetsuit legal for the Pros but as race day neared the temperature dropped slightly allowing for everyone to wear wetsuits. Last year when I raced Rev 3 Portland the water temp was also in the low 70s and I learned the hard way that a wetsuit in warm water can be like swimming in a sauna, so I left mine home, not thinking I would need it. Not quite as bad as swimming in Florida but you can really overheat your body if the water temp is warm and so is the air temp. The difference with Vineman is the air temp in the morning was only supposed to be in the mid-50s which meant a swim with a wetsuit could help keep my core temp up for the first portion of the bike. Good thing TYR was there to loan me a wetsuit so I wouldn’t be the only one wearing a swim skin.

I'm no Meredith Kessler...yet...because she swims like a fish, I swim like a brick.

As the horn sounded for the start of the Pro men I looked around at the women to see if I could find someone that would be about my same swim speed that I could pace off of. I was paying attention to wetsuit brands so I could just identify the colors in the water. Once I dove into the water it didn’t make a difference anyways because the water was so green with algae you couldn’t see more than a foot in front of you. I hung with the lead pack for a long time, it felt like a couple of minutes but in reality it was probably only a couple hundred yards; curse you lead pack. I wasn’t the only one that couldn’t hold the pace Meredith was setting but as I started to fade into my pace I actually fell into a smaller pack that was working well for me…until about 400 yards from the finish I somehow beached myself on a sandbar. How I was the only one to get stuck in the sand, I don’t know but by time I jumped back into deeper water I had fallen off the “loser” pack and now found myself last in the water; curse you loser pack. I sprinted for what seemed forever only to catch back up just before the finish line. My heart sunk as I realized I was last out of the water with the clock reading 32:01 but then I remembered that the clock started with the men so my swim time was actually a 30:01! Holy crap! That’s my fasted 1.2mile swim by 3 minutes. I had a glimmer of hope that I may not be too far behind the lead pack. But last place? Thank goodness TYR sponsors me for my personality and not my “dominating” swims.  

I'm no Meredith Kessler...yet...because she ride like her hair's on fire, I ride like I'm dragging a boat anchor.

As I entered T1 there were a couple of other girls just in front of me. I had no idea how far ahead the bulk of the girls were but I had figured I was only 3-5 minutes back. My race times have been towards the back of the pack for the last couple of races so I was changing the race plan for the day. No power meter and a couple of adjustments to the bike fit were on order. I was warm from the swim and the cool air felt good as I made my way through the vineyards. This was a beautiful point-to-point bike course with no opportunity to see the leaders so I just had to assume how they were racing. Heart rate & cadence were my tools for the ride but as I rode along neither were looking good at all. I caught up to one of the gals that exited the swim just in front of me but as I passed she jumped on my draft like I was going to tow her all the way to T2. I had to put on a little bit of a surge just to shake her off my wheel and then settled into my rhythm only to watch her sail past me a couple of miles down the road tucked in the draft of one of the leading AG men.  Nothing like taking advantage of the Race Officials being busy at the front of the race. I’m not totally surprised and I’m sure they weren’t the only ones drafting during the race, I’ve seen it before at all levels. It’s just sad that people can’t be honest on the most basic of things. There was no way to keep up plus my heart rate was elevated more than it should be but my cadence was lower than where it should be. I have asthma and take an inhaler before racing which jacks my heart rate up but not this high so I backed off a little so I wouldn’t blow up. These were tell-tale sign that I’m not fully recovered from racing CDA only 3 weeks earlier and my body wasn’t ready for another hard effort. There are a lot of variables that go into determining how soon I should be able to race again and it was becoming apparent that I hadn’t played my cards right on for this one. I’m glad I didn’t spend the money to go to Rev 3 Portland a week earlier as originally planned.

I eventually found myself alone on the bike course. It’s dangerous enough leaving me to just my thoughts for more than a few minutes but I was now at an intersection that didn’t have any volunteers and no signs pointing which way to go. I drove and rode what I thought was the course prior to racing but I realized after about 10 miles that I was on the course but it wasn’t the same course I drove a couple of days earlier. In my defense, when driving the course the road names on the IM directions are different than the street signs which are different than what the locals call it. I recognize I may be a little navigationally challenged, my husband says cartodyslexic, so when I didn’t know which direction to go I just waited for the next bike to go by and follow him…potential issue averted.

I'm no Meredith Kessler...yet...because she runs like an antelope, I run like a one-legged pirate with my wooden leg filled with gold.

Not a good bike split for the day but I just couldn’t push any harder without my heart jumping out of my chest. It was the best I could for the day but I’m sure the changes I made to my bike fit aren’t quite right because my tailbone started to hurt by mile 30. I fell and broke it over the winter break but it hasn’t bothered me too much until this fit. The really sucky part is it didn’t set me up for a very successful run either. You would be amazed how much your tailbone impacts your ability to run. It was all about damage control at this point…I had passed one gal on the bike and I saw a couple on the road right in front of me so I knew there were a couple of rabbits right in front of me. Unfortunately a 1:30 - 1:32 half marathon was not a possibility for the day with the way my heart rate was and my tailbone was sending a pulsating pain down my left leg. I settled into a manageable pace for the first mile thinking things might loosen up a little the more I ran. After a couple of miles I was starting to fill a little looser and kicked the up pace. After the first 8 miles I decided to pick it up a little more since my heart rate was staying in control, the pain wasn’t going away so why not get this over faster. After running through the La Crema Winery loop I opened it up until I crossed the finished line.

Not last place but well below my capabilities. Live, learn and focus on the next race.

Next Up

Invading to Boulder in 2 weeks. I know, I’m throwing myself into the lion’s den by racing in the training grounds for many of the world’s top professional, high elevation, the cards are stacked against me. I need to go anyways to fix the fit on my bike. After that I go International, well, north of the Border for IM Canada and then in September I will ride laps around Mt. Bachelor at the Leadman 250 Bend; that 223k bike course is gonna be killer.


I’m no Meredith Kessler...yet...but give me time and I will be the best athlete I can be. I’ve raced with Meredith at 4 of my 5 races this year but she’s raced in 7 during the same time with an incredible 5 wins, a 2nd & a 3rd. She is an amazing athlete and an incredibly kind person and a true professional. I'm not trying to make Meredith appear larger than life and I really don't feel like I'm a complete failure, I just need to hit my stride. Meredith has had an incredible season andI recognize that I still have lots to learn and one of the best ways is to by trial and error…eventually it’ll all come together. She's racing her 46th Ironman in Kona this year, Canada will be my 8th, that makes me look like a rookie. Nothing beats race experience and nothing beats the support from my husband and my kids. In a couple of years I'll be racing and training with my kids. I'm not sure how my husband is going to afford having four of us racing at the same time. Planning for next year...starts now!

 “Honesty is a very expensive gift. Don’t expect it from cheap people.” – Warren Buffett. Draft legal triathlons are not common in the US and I prefer to believe that it’s called an Ironman and not Ironmen because it’s intended to be an individual effort. I’m continually amazed at the number of Triathletes, AG and Pro alike, willing to jump on the wheel of a friend, competitor or someone they might not even know, draft for miles only backing off when they hear the rumble of an Official’s Harley Davidson coming down the road. I live by the idiom “Cheaters Never Prosper” so stop jumping on my wheel thinking I’m going to drag your lazy butt along the course; I'm suffering too.

Not being well known among the top Pros has been interesting. Some are very clique’ish and sometimes remind me of road racers who judge acceptance based on the bike you ride, the brand of wetsuit, apparel or shoes you wear. Others see a new face and are very willing to go out of their way to make you feel welcome to the elite class of athletes who often share similar struggles in this demanding sport that they love. There is an interesting story I won’t publish about my request to ride the course with other riders being refused and then later being told that if I had said that I was “Pro” then I would have been welcome. If you ever want to go for a ride with me and we’re going the same direction, I won’t ever tell you no. Now, don’t expect it to be a no-drop ride if I need to hit certain paces or intensities but this doesn’t mean I won’t loop back for you on my recoveries. Also, if you ever catch me acting entitled, please punch me in the face…another story for another time.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Ironman Coeur d'Alene Race Report

Ironman CDA has been one of my favorite race venues since I first raced there in 2005. It’s a beautiful venue and my family says it’s very spectator friendly with the 2-loop swim, bike & run courses and transitions centrally located in a family friendly park.

Previously I had always been trying for a Kona slot. This year would have been no different but qualification as a Pro is based off of a points system and with a lackluster start to my first year I was a wee-bit out of contention for a slot. This year was shaping up to be about personal pride and to gauge the effectiveness of my training program. I had personal time goals that were based off of what I knew I could do on this course. The bike & run courses were some unknowns since they had changed both the since I last raced here in 2010. The run had only minor changes but 80 miles of the bike were completely new. I had riden the new sections of the bike course and liked it. It wasn't going to be like racing in Florida but it wasn't as techincal as course has been in the past.

Race morning brought cloudy and cool temperatures with the threat of rain throughout the day. Most importantly, it was 3:30am and I had woken up on my own, before my alarm. The obstacle that derailed IM St. George had been eliminated. That was the most restful night of sleep I’ve had before the race. Likely because my husband took all of the stress of me getting up on time by telling me to go to sleep and he would make sure and wake me on time. Thanks, hubby, for putting my mind at ease.

I don’t have much of a game face but I did my best to put it on even though I was reeling with anticipation. I felt physically ready to tear up the course but I wasn’t sure how I would do mentally throughout the day. An Ironman is as much about your mental strength as it is about the physical aspect. The biggest decision of the day was how to dress. It was a cool morning, 50 degrees, with the threat of rain in the morning and then it was supposed to clear up and be sunny and warm. This was going to be a hand warmer and toe warmer kind of ride. I needed warm gear for the bike because the water temp was cold, warmer than Boise but only in the mid to upper 50s. I tried to find gear I could live without after the race since I would likely shed my top layer at an aide station after the first loop and the odds were high that they would not make it into the Lost & Found. I didn’t want to lose my TYR arm warmers so I fashioned a pair out of some lime green socks that I had picked up with the intention of using them for the Underwear Run the next time I made it to Kona. I had a windbreaker vest and I planned to use hand and toe warmers since riding 112 miles while you’re freezing Is no fun.

One of my favorite things about the swim at CDA is that it’s a 2-loop course which allows me to see my 1.2 mile split. I knew I needed to have a good first loop so I could get out in front of the 2,400 Age Group athletes that were starting 35 minutes after the Pro wave. As I completed my first loop I noticed it was a 31:40 which was about par for me in a cold water swim and right on track for my goal finish time. That meant that I only had 3 minutes before I would be swarmed. I needed to try to stay in front of the pack because I don’t do well swimming in large packs. I still have an uncontrollable fear of water from when I almost drowned as a child and I still freak when other people touch me while we swim. I know, odd that I would choose a profession that requires that I try to swim with the pack but this is one of my ways of working through my fears.

I made it a short distance before I could hear and feel the concussion of the canon sounding the start of the race for the rest of the field. By time I made it to the first buoy I found myself engulfed by the sea of black wetsuits as the elite amateur men and women caught up to me. I tried my best to hold the same pace as the leaders but it only worked for a couple of hundred yards and then one of them inadvertently raked my goggles down over my eyes. By time I had them back on I was being swarmed and it started to feel more like a boxing match than a swim. As I exited the water I saw the clock read 1:06:32. It was a couple of minutes off of what I thought I could do but was still a PR for me by more than 2 minutes. I couldn’t help but feel disappointed in myself thinking I was the last Pro out of the water and likely 8-10 minutes behind the rest of the pack. I wish there was some kind of leader board I could look at when I came out of the swim to see exactly what I needed to make up. That could be a double edged sword though.

I purposely took a couple of extra minutes in T1 to add layers that I could shed as my body warmed. I was cold, shivering from the swim but not nearly as bad as Boise. I needed to warm myself quickly because the shivering burns needed energy. My strategy for the bike was to stay consistent and negative split the second loop. I had biked a 5:20 at this race in 2010 on a course I felt was a more difficult and technical. I planned to better that time by ~5 minutes and worst case match it. As I made my way to the first turnaround I saw Meredith and Heather and then a couple of minutes later, Kate and then the rest of the field as they all started to head back into town before heading out to ride the 40 mile out and back on Highway 95. I figured they were already a couple of miles ahead of me and riding strong but I couldn’t tell exactly how far back I was because I wasn’t sure how far back I was coming out of the water. For some reason my legs were flat. I don’t know if it was just because of the cold swim but I was hoping to shake it off quickly.  

It was different riding towards the front of the field. In years past, as an Age Grouper, I always had lots of people in front of me that I could work to pick off 1-by-1. Now, I had a lot of open road…man how boring. It’s dangerous to leave me with just my thoughts for that long. As we rode along Highway 95 we had a pretty strong headwind that seemed relentless. I then started to see the lead males on their way back into town…Lieto…O’Donnell…and then there was Heather not too far back and right on her tail was Meredith. Heather had made up the gap from the swim but Meredith wasn’t about to let her break away. I’m not very good at telling whether I’m making up or losing time so I kept my head down and pushed as hard as I thought was smart. I was still feeling sluggish so I was hoping a conservative bike would translate into a solid run. Fast forward to the last couple hundred yards coming into T2. The course is set up where you have 2-90deg turns, a right and then 50 yards to a tight left which leads you down a100 yards to the dismount line. It was set up no different than in years past. As I prepare for these turns and for a quick dismount in T2, I pull my feet from my shoes and then pedal on top. I successfully completed the first right-hand turn but as I stood to pedal and position my bike and body, I pushed down on my pedal my foot slipped off of my shoe and I came down full weight on my top tube and aero bars. I smashed my ribs into my elbow pad on my aero bars and then came inches away from crashing into the barriers that line the street. My bike was wobbling out of control and I almost endo’d over the front of my bike. I came to a stop half way between the turns and got off my bike to collect myself for a couple of minutes. My crotch hurt so bad! It knocked the wind out of me when I hit my ribs. The near crash had my adrenaline pumping but I was hurting bad. I was not about to DNF another race so I just stood humped over in the middle of the street to collect my wits enough to walk-jog my bike the rest of the 150 yards into T2. A final bike time of 5:34:59…that’s backwards of where my time should have gone. The near crash wasn’t helpful but that likely only added a couple of minutes to my overall time. I was still off by nearly 15 minutes from last time.

My feet were on fire as I entered the changing tent and as I looked down to put on my shoes I noticed that I had skinned the balls of my feet and my right ankle as I drug them across the asphalt like Fred Flinstone to prevent myself from crashing. Like running a marathon isn’t hard enough. Now I needed to go the distance without skin on the bottoms of my feet. Quitting is never an option at the beginning of any race but sometimes you have to know when to call it a day. Call me stubborn or stupid but I couldn’t bring myself to end the day like this. I mean, my kids were here to watch. The solution, Vaseline the open wounds to minimize the rubbing and suck it up for the next 3.5 hours. There wasn’t much I could do about my crotch feeling like I’d been kicked by a horse other than hope that would pass with time; preferably by time I exited T2. My ribs felt like they were broken and taking a deep breath was painful. I thought about going to the medical tent for a brief second but even if my ribs were broken they wouldn’t be able to do much. I hoped that they would loosen up within the first couple of miles. I have the absolute worst luck!

I thought I would be a little conservative on the first couple of miles just to test out my feet and loosen up my breathing, maybe add 30 seconds per mile to my pace and then adjust as needed. Out for the first loop I saw that Meredith was now well ahead of Heather even though both of them were still looking strong and there was a huge gap between Heather and Kate who was running in 3rd. As I ran in the opposite direction towards the turn around, I could already see that some of the girls were starting to fade. That made me feel a little better but I was far from feeling like Queen of the Mountain and I was mentally making plans for just completing the race. I wasn’t going to be able to run anybody down today. Self-preservation became the goal, hold my pace and try not to get passed. As I was completing the first loop I saw Meredith and then saw Heather but thought it odd that Heather no longer had a bike leading her along the course. A couple of miles later I saw Hailey Cooper-Scott had run herself into 3rd but for some reason the bike leading her said “2nd Place Female”. Odd. As I ran back out to the turnaround on my final lap my run form was compensating for my injured feet resulting in poor run efficiency and an even slower pace. I tried to focus on other things like the energy of the crowd, the beautiful scenery, I even made sure to cheer for other athletes as they passed, I did anything to help the time pass and keep my mind on other things.

I later found out that the reason why Heather no longer had a biker when I saw here on the 2nd loop was because apparently her crank fell off during the last portion of the bike and fellow Pro Christie Sym gave her bike so Heather could finish. Yep, that’s against USAT rules and resulted in a DQ. Apparently she disagreed with the Official’s ruling and said that she was going to complete the race and then challenge the ruling at the end. I guess they caught up with her at mile 20 of the run and told her to hand over her timing chip or risk a 6 month suspension. Wow! Suspension? Read Heather's account of how it all happened here.

I totally agree with the rule of not allowing help from support vehicles but I think USAT needs to redefine what “outside help” truly means. If fellow competitors are willing to stop and help with mechanical issues or even hand over their gear to assist a fellow athlete, I say let them. I remember Chrissie accepted a CO2 cartridge during the 2008 Worlds and then went on to win. How is someone giving their bike different? I think this is what makes us Triathletes different than other athletes. It’s not like road racing where you are out of luck if you’re on the wrong team as the "neutral" wheel-wagon goes by. Maybe it’s time to update the USAT rule book.
Anyways, I ended up shuffling through the run with a sluggish 3:45 for a finish time of 10:35 and 7th place but still 20 minutes off the time I had on this course 2 years ago. I was truly thinking I could go under 10 on this course. Looks like I need to make some more adjustments to my bike training if I’m getting slower instead of faster and heal up my feet so they are in good condition for my next race. I did nail my nutrition for the first time ever on a full Ironman distance race. Historically I've always had GI issues on the last 30-40 miles of the bike and then all of the run. I've learned over the years that I can't use any of the nutrition offered on the course because it tears up my guts. I started using a product called VESPA last year when I raced Wildflower. Obviously I tested it out during training rides and runs ahead of time, and I'll admit I wasn't immediately sold on the idea. I wanted something I could use so bad I stuck with it and made the recommended diet changes. Today I take it prior to the swim and I've learned how to pack it along with me for both bike and the run. It means I have to carry everything with me but I think it's a small sacrifice for something I can use. If you suffer from GI issues when you train and race, there are options out there that may work for you. If you would like some ideas, please contact me and I'd be willing to offer some suggestions of where you can start. I'm not a dietiitian or nutrutionist, this is just tribal knowledge I've gained over the years.

Next up for me…Vineman on July 15th. That race has been on my bucket list for years. I’m also contemplating trying to race Rev 3 Portland on July 8th. I raced there last year and loved the Rev 3 staff and now they have a new bike course that will be more challenging. I'll have to see how I feel in a week. Beyond that, I’m gunning for IM Canada, another bucket list race. I’m not sure about racing at Boulder next month; the entire state is burning. Maybe the Leadman Tri Epic 250 in Bend?