08:13
:15

Do what you love, love what you do!

Posted in Racing by

I raced the Inaugural  Boulder Ironman in 2104. I had not raced an Ironman in 3 years and was a little anxious on how the day would unfold. My anxiety stemmed from the fact that I received my Trex Speed Concept 12 days before the race and I got injured, ankle tendonitis, the first day I rode then ran off the bike. I swam as fast as I could, biked steady despite serious back pain since I had not ridden aero all year, and when I ran my ankle did not bother me.  I crossed the finish line first in my age group/second amateur. I felt fine, a little nauseas. Then ninety minutes after finishing I was  feeling worse. I went to medial and my blood pressure was 60/40. I was sent to the ER after receiving 2 liters of fluid on the med tent cause my blood pressure was still 60/40.

This year with the strength I have gotten riding my Trek for a year, no injuries,  my nutrition, hydration dialed in, I was certain to have a strong race and get a Kona slot. My number one goal when I get to the start line of a race is knowing I have done the mental and physical preparation to achieve my performance goal. To focus on what I can control and evaluate the “things” that can happen that I can’t control. I felt 100% mentally and physically prepared so was pretty relaxed race morning. I still did my Plank A Day

IM Boulder 2015 is probably my favorite course. Warm swim with no current. The bike course is within Boulder County, fairly fast, with a couple hills. The marathon has some beautiful areas on the Boulder Creek path. Lots of out and back sections so you are never alone. The community is awesome!
Every Ironman I have done provides an experience, each one unique. I approached this years IM Boulder focused on running strong. I was confident that if I ran within my fitness, I would get a Kona Slot. This was important to me cause I struggled on the run at Legend 100 triathlon and Tri the Boat Half. I am not injured and training had been going great. I attributed my sub par run performance during these June events to nutrition and lack of proper ‘rest’ mainly pre race. I made a conscious effort to not let nutrition or weather get in the way of my fitness and performance in Boulder.
Pre race: I did everything right. Tapered off my training and maintained a high level of calorie and carbohydrate intake as well as hydration a couple weeks out and especially the week leading up to the event. I hit my “key workouts” and was very confident what my power on the bike and pace would be on the run. I would finish under 10:30 in Boulder.

IM Swim IM Swim: I was thrilled the water temperature was 78 degrees and everyone who was racing to get a top 5 podium or Kona slot could not wear a wetsuit. My swim training was almost non existent this year. This year the plan was controlled pace. I caught a draft behind 3 other guys so the swim felt relatively easy. The downside of not wearing as wetsuit was that I seem to swallow more water then normal. This happened in 2009 Kona IM and caused some major GI issues that caused me to walk the entire marathon that year. Always grateful to be a strong swimmer exiting the water in :57 minutes
Photo credit: Boulder Daily Camera

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T1:
Long and uneventful. Love the volunteers!

 

IM Boulder BikeBike: As mentioned above I love this course cause it is not very hilly (relative to other Ironmans). My bike nutrition consisted of a powergel, one bottle of Gatorade and a bottle of water, about 200 calories per hour(same plan as in 2008 Ironman). This year I added BASE salt on the bike.
I had my IM power dialed in and decided to scale back cause I wanted to be ensure I would have a strong run. I started ‘trying’ at mile 60 and my body responded perfectly. Like so many other racers, I was intimidated by the few climbs between miles 90-100. When I got to the first set of hills, I had the power to get up them. Then my body seemed to start to fall apart approaching mile 95. Photo taken by Dana from 303triathlon. I was feeling pretty week.mile 97
Falling apart meant I was feeling breathless, nauseated, dizzy, and no strength. Thoughts of not finishing the bike entered my mind. I never had breathing issues and even considered not finishing the bike portion of an Ironman. To be safe, I coasted the last 12 miles. Mentally I struggled at this point. “How was I going to run a marathon?” I dismounted and was pleasantly surprised to see a 5:20 bike split, under my 5:30 goal time. I felt like I took it easy on the bike compared to other Ironmans I have raced. This year the marathon was 100% mental game for me before I got off the bike.

 

T2: Awesome volunteers!!! I am always grateful to dismount the bike with no mechanicals or crashes. I heard of someone crashing at the dismount line due to another racer and another participate got hit by a drunk driver at mile 108. Both survived and finished the race. I am sure many more stories out there.

Run: When I started running I was in 4th place and my legs felt descent, nothing like the glycogen depletion that I felt when I ran in Tri the Boat and Legend. My breathing was under control and I was running 8:30 pace. I knew if I ran a 4 hour marathon I would still break 10:30 and get a slot to Kona. About mile 8, nausea started again and at mile 11 I was walking due to the same breathing issues and nausea I felt on the bike. At that point a paramedic came to chat me me and directed me to the med tent. I thought it a good idea to get my blood pressure checked because last year it was 60/40 when I finished.

I sat down, although they told me to stand, I could not stand anymore. They brought me orange, grapes and chips. At that point I wanted my race to be done. My mind was not into it anymore and I was struggling like I have never struggled before with breathing. I watched my competitors pass by and knew I was not going to get my 4th overall place back, let alone a Kona slot. So what to do. The medics suggested I stop. If I did quit, I could have put the blame on them if I chose too.

I respect the Ironman Distance and part of the deal, what happens during the race, is dependent on that day. When you decide to train and race then you should accept the struggles and disappointments as much as the “wins/accomplishments”. I knew my body and mind were capable of walking and finishing the race. I just needed to change my mindset. About 15 minute later I stood up and started walking.

When I got to the “hot spot” mile 12-13, where most spectators were cheering, I was able to jog , looked at the time and my goal now was to finish under 12 hours. Heck, 11 hours was still a possibility. From miles 13-26.2 I jogged from aid station to aid station and walked while sipping water.

IM Boulder Run wave

Believe it or not, at mile 18 I had a feeling (and was right) that I was in 5 th place in my age group. I still had a shot at breaking 11 hours so I started to pick up my pace. That lasted for 3 miles, then the nausea/breathing issues came back and I slowed to a walk/jog. Two women in my age group passed me, they were struggling, and we went back and forth, the final 2 miles they passed me and I would not keep up. I finished joyfully 7th in my age group.
IM Boulder Finish

It is easy for me to smile while running even though I am struggling cause I am doing what I love. Running, biking, racing, I am very grateful for what my body can do! So many great photos on my facebook wall, thank you!

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Thank you to the hundreds of volunteers on the course. Races cannot happen without volunteers. Thank you to my sponsor support, Team Timex and Powerbar. Thank you to Patrick Ray, PRTriWorks for getting my bike race ready. Thank you Tish Moore of the much needed pre race massage. Then you to my husband Don who supports me 100% every day. Thank you to Eddie for the homestay in Boulder. Thank you to all my friends and family, the list goes on and on, I am very grateful for all of you, for the well wishes.

 

 

 

 

 

The following weekend I took place in a 6 person Women’s Ultra Ragnar Relay cause my friend dropped out. I was not sure how my body was gonna handle 40 miles of running on an overnight trip. I felt great and our team finished 2nd Ultra, behind a mens team and 10th overall including all the 12 person teams. We had a blast

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Ragnar final leg exchange

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07:21
:15

Dreams and detours

Posted in Fun, Racing, Training by

Have you ever mapped out and organized what you thought was the perfect plan to achieve a dream but it didn’t happen?  Maybe it did happen, but the time table, course and order you thought events would happen were a total surprise.

Dreams

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It’s fun to look back at the road map of our lives and see all of the twists and turns.  From your first true love, buying your first car, graduating college, finding a real job, getting married, having children, coaching other athletes, running a 10K, qualifying for Boston, competing in the Olympic Trials, qualifying for Kona, winning a National Championship or winning the Ironman World Championships, none of these goals had a straight road.   There were often bumps, road blocks or incredible detours that took you way off course, or so you thought.  In my life many of the road blocks have helped me appreciate the guts and glory of my dreams. Once you’ve achieved your dream, it just reminds us we are all human and not everything has to go in the order we have determined is “perfect”.
I hadn’t planned on Kona this year until our great friend Jason made it into the lottery.  We discussed it as a family, or should I say my husband booked the condo, airline tickets and let me know we were going.  I was primarily focused on defending my status as the reigning two time National Champion in Olympic distance and seeing if I could get a good result at the World Championships in Chicago.  I put a plan in place to qualify for Kona, Nationals in August, World’s in September and hit Kona this October for the 6th time.
The plan on paper seemed challenging but surely something I could do.  I was about to come face to face with a few of those road blocks I’d mentioned.
I teach spin class at 5:15 a.m. two days a week to get in my intervals and run brick.  One morning, one of my regular 5:15 spin clients who I was going to coach for her second Ironman touched my shoulder and took me aside.   “Susanne, I have a new race to run…I have breast cancer.”  I was in shock!  She was early middle age in great shape and always took good care of herself.  In a flash my client’s dream took a major detour.  She had reminded me that I’ve never had a mammogram and I am 43 years old.  I was moved to make an appointment that same week, just 3 weeks before my Ironman qualifier.    Like most triathletes I prepared to be at my best for 6 months and peaked to perfection for the race.  The appointment was not even a blip on my emotional radar.  A few minutes into the appointment I was shocked to find I had a lump of my own.  My doctor calmed me down and told me it was probably just a cyst so I dismissed it.  The ultrasound a week later showed more concern and I was not so calm.  This lead to another week of waiting until I
had a biopsy of the lump.
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Only a triathlete can appreciate that I biked 75 miles the morning before my 10 a.m. procedure.  The doctor’s quickly let me know that this was my last ride and swim for at least a week.  That was a tough reality to take with a Hawaii Ironman World Championship qualifier looming just 3 weeks away.  I had one of my best friends Cathy and husband Scott at my side in the waiting room for support.  Ironically, my friend Cathy happened to be the angel at my side when my husband had a heart attack and was unconscious for 8 hours without any movement only 2 years ago.  This past experience gave me the “hope and faith” that this moment in time too was just a detour in God’s great plan.  Early the next day my cell phone rang!!! I answered with excitement because it was only 24 hours after the test!  Waiting is the hardest mental training I’ve ever gone through.  The first time waiting for my husband to wake up and say my name after his heart attack and now the doctor on the other end of the phone line had my fate.  A 112 mile ride in 105 degree’s is only physically demanding, but the emotional side of a process is much harder.  My stomach churned waiting for him to speak.  “Susanne, your biopsy is negative!”  Glory and relief poured over me.  I called my husband but no answer.  I left the message of joy!  After 3 weeks of mounting fear I was cancer free!  Scott called me back an hour later.  I said, “I’m cracking the champagne! Where are you?”  He replied, “I’m in the driveway.  I was let go from my job today.”  In disbelief I said, “WHAT, are you kidding?!?!”  Ok, well I quickly replied again, as he walked in the door “We are celebrating.  I am cancer free and you are a free man from work. This was a strange turn on route to my Kona qualifier.
My husband had bought a ticket to Coeur d’ Alene just a week prior.  We had decided that if I did have breast cancer I needed his support and if I didn’t, well then we’d be our usual team.  We had overcome a breast cancer scare, overcome his loss of a job and on the way to Idaho.  I headed up a couple days before him only to find the predicted race temperature was 105.  By the time Scott landed 2 days later, I had come down with Bronchitis.  Neither one of us talked about it.  Scott kept telling me “your fine” don’t think about it.  But we both knew.  Bronchitis, Ironman and 105 do not play well together.
We went to CDA Ironman with 6 people and only 3 finished.  The Ironman announcer would say that it was the hottest Ironman he’s ever been to.  Me too!  I envision it now as a Seinfeld episode.  Kramer would have had a hose spraying me down from head to toe only to have it backfire and hit him.  Elaine would have a kiddie pool of ice every 5 miles on the run allowing me to jump in while she sips a cold drink.  My friend Erin reminded me of George Constanza who literally stopped while running her own race, squatted down and started cheering and dancing for me.  I could see Jerry at mile 25 of the run saying to some spectator, “Why are they doing this again?  They paid $675 to race?”  “seems a bit nuts to me”.
As my dream unfolded over the coarse of 4 weeks so did the detours and distractions.  I had crushed the swim, sub 57 min.  The bike went great  for 75 miles… until it didn’t.  I had lost places in transition, which never happens.  I lost places at the end of the bike.  Only 3 go to Kona and I was on the run starting out in 5th.    My husband and his computer saw I was 7 minutes out of Kona, then 6, and 5.  I began to drink up, stretch and loosen up.  4 minutes down and the girl ahead of me was fading.  3 minutes, I can do this, 2 minutes, I got her, 1:45, 1:30, 1:20…..the end of the road came at 26.2 miles…..I was 4th.  In the last 15 years I’ve been out of the top 3 in my age group only twice.  The emotions stirred.  Happiness that I finished, relief I didn’t have  to take another step, curiosity at who was ahead of me, disbelief that I didn’t catch them, sadness that the Kona dream was over and peace of knowing I had given 100%.
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 As time passes we all reflect.  I got my diploma in 1994…but I had to take summer classes.  Looking for a spouse I saw none and finally found him while not looking as he was my home stay 15 years ago.  My son came 3 months after trying to get pregnant.  My daughter took 5 years.  I started racing Ironman simply to lose the baby weight after having the kids.  It was my dream to finish my first Kona.  The 2nd time I raced the Ironman World Championships, I was 1st American Amateur.  The 3rd time I broke the existing 35-39 age group world record…and was second to the winner on the day.  The 4th time in Kona I set a record for the fastest American Amateur over 40 in the history of the Ironman.
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The truth is we don’t know where the detours are, when we will see them or where the story ends.  This year took a detour.  I won’t be going to defend my National Championship at Olympic distance in August.  I won’t see my family in Chicago at World’s in September.  I will be in Whistler in 6 days on a detour to Kona.  We don’t know how this will end and if I’ll be in Kona in October or 4th in Whistler.  I do know that God’s plan and joy are bigger than I could ever imagine.  I must say it’s been one heck of a ride so far!  Thank you to my family, friends, Timex Team and Sponsors who keep this road so supported, memorable and motivating.
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05:28
:15

IMTX – The story of how an extra large pizza punched my ticket to Kona

Posted in Racing by

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Seriously?!?! Did IMTX really happen?!?!

I know a lot of people know this, but I took the Washington State Bar Exam at the end of February (which I PASSED. BOOM!!!) and I wasn’t “training” during that whole prep time. It’s impossible. Stressed is an understatement and the whole sleep thing doesn’t really happen like it should because the brain NEVER turns off. I like to call what I was doing, “exercising for my sanity.” Coach cut the schedule back to one workout a day at no more than 90 minutes which I usually did at lunch time to break up the day between morning review lectures and afternoons of wanting to poke my eyeballs out. Sometimes I had to cut those 90 min to 60 min and sometimes I had to choose a nap over a swim and my HR was always through the roof because of the lack of sleep and stress so yeah…it was just a mid day exercise break.

Once that was all said and done though, the IMTX focus was ON! Ooof. That gave me what…like 8 weeks of build and 2 weeks of taper? I wasn’t out of shape but I wasn’t really in shape. I’d say Coach P nailed it but man o man going from bar exam to ironman was like going from zero to 90mph (and week 1 of that was spent at 7000 ft in Jackson Hole at my sister’s wedding. I don’t like to make life easy). March was tough!!!…I’d like to blame any grumpiness/hangry-ness on my part in the month of March on Dave Orlowski. He’s responsible for this ironman nonsense being born way back in 1978.

Just kidding, Dave. You’re AWESOME! :)

Because of all of the above, I don’t think I could’ve been in a better place mentally going into IMTX. Of course we all WANT Kona but on top of the whole Bar Exam thingy, I aged up to 30-34 (I’m still 29 at the moment though) and those girls are STUDS…especially on the bike. My little chicken marathoning legs can’t quite bike like some of the quadzilla girls out there. I don’t know how they do it! So for all of March, April, May, and race day I told myself to make sure I was having fun…and to ESPECIALLY enjoy the process after I found out I was officially out of academic prison (middle of April is when I found out I passed the Bar). If Kona happened, GREAT! I’ll take that! If that opportunity comes around, you DON’T turn it down! If it didn’t happen, life would go on. I blew up at mile 24 of CIM back in December while on track for a 2:58 marathon and ended up running a 3:02 so I would go back for revenge on those 2 minutes if Kona didn’t happen. No stress. Just enjoying the process and the day.

Fast forward to The Woodlands…No wait…rewind to about 9 days before IMTX. I fell in a hole. Yep. On my last long run I fell in a hole. I have NEVER done that on a run. I scraped up the palms of my hands and more than tweaked my ankle. Connie the Cankle GOT FAT. I actually mustered up the courage to finish that long run since it was my last long run before race day and I knew while running those next 11 miles that I was probably going to pay for that decision. I did. It got huge but I’ve finished an ironman looking worse but I don’t even know how I did an ironman on it. It’s still fat. I should probably start getting concerned about that.

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(Connie the Cankle pre-IMTX)

Ok…now fast forward to The Woodlands…

I got to Texas on Wednesday before the race. On Friday, the absolute BEST Sherpas and friends in the face of the universe drove 7 hours from Jackson, Mississippi just for ME?!?! I feel so undeserving and incredibly grateful all at the same time. From the second Donavon and Darryl got into town, they didn’t let me carry anything, they ran errands if I needed something…you name it. I swear I tried to carry my bag and bike to bike check-in on Friday but NOPE, they wouldn’t let me! On top of that, it was non-stop laughing for all of us the whole time and that makes race day stress SO much better!

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Race morning was more of the same. A QUICK trip to T1 to put food and what not on the bike and in bags. The whole week before race day was full of non-stop thunderstorms (I actually hadn’t heard thunder or lightening since 2013 when I left the dirty south and moved back to Seattle!) so transition was one massive mud pit that smelled like a giant turd (not even exaggerating one bit!). We walked to the swim start with my awesome pal and all time favorite gal to race with, Caitlin Glenn and her gang that included my equally AWESOME former Timex Teammate, Melanie Sherman! Donavon and Darryl broke the tension by playing fart noises from an iphone app while walking past groups of people and talking about the burritos they ate the night before. Apparently later they connected the phone via bluetooth to a LARGE speaker and played more fart noises when people walked by while they were riding their trainers while I was out on the bike course. Yep. Those are my peoples!

And then the race happened…

I’m not too sure how I feel about these new rolling starts but I totally get the reasoning behind it. It was probably better for Connie the Cankle though because I had less mean men trying to grab an ankle. I was really worried about that possibility. I hopped in near the front of the 55min-1hr group so getting trampled and feeling like I was a sardine in a tiny tin can that was going to drown in a washing machine was kept to a minimum for the most part. I did slip on the boat ramp though. That was “awesome.” My goal was somewhere between 57 min and an hour so I’ll take 1hr on the dot. I found a few groups of feet to jump on throughout which was nice because at one point I got gapped between groups and my solo efforts to bridge the gap weren’t very successful until a dude came up beside me with a sweet draft. Oh…and super nifty exciting stat…I was SECOND out of the water in my age group! Less than a minute down. Darn. Just missed a swim prime!

T1 was a fun run through the giant turd smelling mud pit. Pretty much everyone put their shoes on at the bike exit. I had so much food stuffed in my bra it looked like a massive uni-boob. I’m pretty good at eating on the bike.

The first 40 miles were GREAT. We had a SWEET tailwind and I was riding well for myself…then the Kona conditions happened. Heat, humidity…and STIFF headwinds with crosswind gusts. Must be nice to be a big dude and able to stay aero in that. I spent A LOT of time on the hoods. You’d think we would’ve gotten a break at some point. NOPE. Just NOPE. The whole rest of the way. I did my best to stomach some sort of food every 20 minutes. Gels, uncrustables…there was a snickers at one point in there too but since it was hot I had to shove that whole thing in my mouth at once because it was melted. One of my uncrustables got soggy from water I had poured on me so it was a good thing I always pack a few extra gels. 5:46 is decent for me on such a windy day. That tells me on a good day I’d be closer to 5:30 which is what I was aiming for. No complaints. Except for the quadzillas, it seemed like the average bike for most was around 5:45 and I only dropped to 9th place even though I wasn’t paying attention to positioning all day. I told myself not to because then I’d start stressing about Kona possibilities.

T2 was uneventful. I shoved more food in my bra and off I went. The turd bath smelled even more awesome at this point in the heat and humidity. The change tent smelled even better. I don’t even want to think of what the puddles I ran through barefoot ACTUALLY contained.

THE RUN:

My favorite!!! I normally wouldn’t be too thrilled with a 3:41 (that sounds ungrateful. I know that’s great off 112 miles but I know I have better in my legs, that’s all) but in Texas it’s moving. The run course in The Woodlands always seems like a survival fest. I felt good for the first mile and then after that, I walked pretty much every aid station. I actually didn’t look at my watch (the new Timex ONE GPS) AT ALL for the whole run. I couldn’t. I knew it would bring me down seeing walking/running splits. I was positive I wasn’t even going to break 4 hours. That’s how awful I felt on the run course. At this point in the day, Darryl was dressed like Gumby and Donavon was dressed like a giant whoopie cushion…so if you saw them at the beginning of the portion leaving the waterway after that grass mound hill we have to climb, THOSE WERE MY PEOPLES!!! Donavon later changed into a cheerleaders outfit and I had no idea it was him until he chased after me for like 50 yards yelling ridiculous things. I stopped to pee on the first lap. I’ve never figured out how to pee on the bike. I just can’t. My bladder gets pee shy. When I raced IMTX in 2013, I didn’t even pee all day because it was 100 bajillion degrees that year and my mom likes to bug me and ask me a million times after races if I’ve peed yet so when I passed Donavon, I told him to tell my mom (via FB) that I stopped to pee. I knew she’d be so proud! Those first two laps were ROUGH though. I almost threw up a few gels. I was doing my best not to over heat and just stay positive. On the second lap I stopped to poop. S*** happens and I felt so much better for it. Lap 3 was the best lap…because it was the last lap and I really REALLY wanted to be done and demolish some pizza.

SO here’s why an extra large pizza punched my ticket to Kona…

By lap 3, the course was FULL of people. People everywhere. People stopping at aid stations and and just plain scattered all over the place and whatnot. Just people everywhere trying to survive the BRUTAL day and become an ironman. I made the decision at mile 24 to NOT walk anymore aid stations…mainly because I REALLY wanted pizza. Darryl and Donavon are aware of my post ironman love for pizza. Pizza tastes WAY better than usual after 10 ½ hours of exercise. They tried to keep it a secret but I knew they were planning on ordering a pizza from Grimaldi’s Restaurant on the finish line and having it waiting for me. Did I have the BEST Sherpas in the face of the universe or WHAT?!?! At mile 25 ½ I saw a girl with a 33 on her leg and passed her but at that point, you don’t know what lap anyone is on so I just thought, “cool!” and kept on trucking at the pace that I was going…because PIZZA. Plus, I STILL didn’t know what place in the AG I was in or how many girls I had re-passed back on the run course or how many Kona spots were on the line. It turns out she was on her 3rd lap like me…and she was in 3rd place in our AG…and there were 3 Kona spots…and I beat her by 10 seconds. I’ve actually been on the other end of that 10 seconds before and missed a Kona spot. I didn’t even know I got 3rd until Jennie Hansen wrote on my Facebook while I was demolishing the infamous extra large pizza that I got THIRD. WHAT??? THAT REALLY HAPPENED?!?!

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I think my picture from awards the next day really sums up the best weekend ever (the one at the very beginning). 10 weeks ago, I didn’t think Kona was going to happen this year and I was okay with that. I knew it COULD be a possibility but I didn’t want to stress about it. I just wanted to go RACE. I worked my BUTT OFF in those 10 weeks between Bar Exam and Ironman but I just made sure I enjoyed the whole process and day. This will be my second time going to Kona and it almost feels way better/sweeter than the first time I qualified…and what’s REALLY exciting is that Caitlin won 25-29 and IS GOING TO KONA TOO!!!…and Melanie is going to come…and we’re trying to convince Darryl and Donavon to come because the weekend was just so hilarious with them around and they HAVE to be there! They’re also both racing Whistler so I get to be their Sherpas for that weekend. I’ve got high standards to meet but there are plenty of shenanigans in the works.

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As always, big thanks to Tristan and Team Timex and every single one of our team sponsors. I feel so lucky to be part of the best team in the world! Coach P for nailing the 8-10 week Bar Exam to Ironman plan and believing that Kona was a possibility the WHOLE time (he always nails my training plans though so I was never worried). My Sherpas, Darryl and Donavon, for driving 7 hours on Friday and making the weekend FUN and less stressful even if it meant having to take my computer and phone in the bathroom out of fear that they would hack into my Facebook when I wasn’t paying attention. My parents for getting excited for this stuff as much as I do…and all my friends in the tri community. You guys make this FUN as well. Misery loves company out there and cracking jokes with friends when the going gets tough helps lighten the mood.

See you guys on the Big Island!!!

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04:20
:15

Posted in Racing by


The Horsetooth Half Marathon is a local favorite. My first race of the season for many years.

In 2011 I ran the Horsetooth Half Marathon Course with Athletes in Tandem. I have run it every year since with them except 2014 when the snow and wet weather prevented the kids from joining the event.

This year I was grateful to be able to participate with Logan. I help him uphill, he helps with manage a quick pace downhill. Although there is a challenge on the upper body, back, shoulders and chest  pushing the stroller up the first 2 mile of hills, you can see from the course profile, lots of downhill. The tough part is the little rollers on the bike path the final 2 miles.

HT Half Profile

Here is a video clip displaying Monster Hill.

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My new Castelli jacket kept me warm

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I earned the rest of the day lounging in my SKINS compression

Thanks Timex!

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04:06
:15

Ironman South Africa: Beastie Eastie

Posted in Racing by

For some reason, I tend to sign up for Ironman races that start early in the season, perhaps so I can guarantee that I’ll be spending hours indoors on the trainer. This year was no exception, as my first race was Ironman South Africa on March 29th.

I felt like I had put in solid training leading up to the race. I spent a week at my coach’s house in France getting some quality outdoor sessions, and I even took advantage of a few unseasonably warm days in March to go test out my bike setup. I felt very prepared and ready to race when travel time rolled around.

While getting to South Africa might mean a long flight (about 10 hours), it is almost the same time zone as Europe, so that meant zero jetlag. My flight left in the evening, and I arrived in the morning. This was an excellent setup for a long-distance flight.

After fleeing the German winter and arriving in the South African summer, I made sure to hit the practice swims and do a bit of riding on the course. Port Elizabeth is on the eastern Cape, on the Indian Ocean. It’s nickname is “the Friendly City,” but also “the Windy City.” It would live up to both of those.

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On race day, I noticed that pre-race, the wind was not blowing at all. The weather was shaping up to be beautiful, which was a relief after a few days of cloudy drizzle. We were treated to a beautiful sunrise and apparently there were some dolphins spotted near the swim course. The announcer reassured us “so if you see something, its a dolphin, not a shark!” Given that one of the pre-swims was modified due to shark sightings and the start is on “Shark Rock Beach,” it’s probably good he pointed that out.

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This race has two age-group waves, and I was in the second, starting at 7am. By then, the sun was already well above the horizon, so it should have been easy to see where to go.  After running from the beach, I settled into a good rhythm even though the water was choppy. The course involves one down and back, so we swam for close to 1500m in one line. What a change from all that swimming in a 25m pool!

The way out was uneventful and there was only a bit of the inevitable dunking and kicking. However, on the way back, I could not see any buoys for the life of me. Instead, I headed towards some hi-rise buildings and then re-adjusted once I could see the turn about 200m from me. It probably was not the shortest line, but it got me back to the course and I made it out of the water with no problems.

Onto the bike course and the wind. I should clarify – it is not as if the winds were overly strong. They were just coming from the wrong direction. The course is a big loop (that we do twice) that heads out west and then returns east. As you are heading out, there are some long climbs and a few shorter, steeper ones. The way back is mostly flat. The local saying about the course is “bestie westie, beastie eastie” since you can pick up some serious speed with a tailwind on the flat section. Unfortunately, we had beastie eastie winds.

I didn’t realize this until I had gotten to the westerly point of the course. I had been looking at my computer and thinking “wow, I’m making good time” for the climbs. I now realize that it was because I had a tail wind. On the second lap, those hills felt even easier. I’m glad that I had my power meter to keep me under control.

But when we finally turned back east for the second half of the loop, I then realized the wind direction as it slammed me in the face – the second half of each loop became quite the slog. I tried to stay in my aero bars, even in some of the slight climbs. Adding to the misery was the fact that the last 20km of each loop was on poor-quality chip seal roads. That just felt like an eternity and I was so happy to get to T2.

I headed out on the run feeling pretty good. A large part of the three loop run course goes up and down the main drag and there were people lining the route for miles. Many of them had set up tents and chairs, so it was like running through a giant tailgate. However, a few miles of each loop headed out towards the less populated university campus. That stretch was pretty lonely, and it seemed like the aid stations were never going to come.

For most of the run I felt decent and really enjoyed the atmosphere. Probably the best part of the race was the water at the run aid stations: instead of cups, they gave us plastic baggies filled with water and sealed, kind of like a water balloon. To drink, you just tore a hole in one corner. Not only were they ice cold, but you could also carry the water much more effectively than with a cup. I would usually take two and I could stretch that water out for almost a mile.

On the last lap or so, my quads were starting to really cramp up. As badly as I wanted to walk, I didn’t allow myself to think about that. Instead, I fell back to my default of simply counting to 20 over and over again. My quads really seized up in the last 400m as I was attempting to pass another woman so I had to slow way down before finally crossing the finish line.

In all, I was pleased with the way that I raced, but not satisfied with my placing. But I felt like I made big improvements in my race strategy as well as my mental performance. The entire trip was a lot of fun and I got a chance to go on a game drive and enjoy the sunshine for a few more days.

I owe lots of thanks to lots of people: my Blueseventy wetsuit, goggles, and transition bag were all top notch; the Trek Speed Concept and Shimano C50 wheels did their job in the headwinds; I relied on my Stages Powermeter to keep me from overbiking; the Skins arm coolers really helped to keep me cool and not get so fatigued from the road vibration; and my Timex bike computer and watch kept me informed. Also, thanks to my coach, Rich Laidlow, and all my Timex teammates for your support.

 

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