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Race Recap: Ironman Canada – The Bike & T2

THE BIKE – 6:02:39 // 18.53mph average speed

As I made my way down the first stretch of road I tried very hard to ride conservatively. Riders were gunning it out there! But having ridden the course before I held back, wanting to stay smart.

Ironman Canada Bike

Bike time!

The bike course is extremely challenging, with about 6600 feet of climb overall. There was much debate in the months leading up to the race as IMC had posted a number in the 4k’s, but as it turns out they used a method of measurement that didn’t account for the rollers which make up a significant portion of the course. However, even with the rolling hills the vast majority of the climbing took place mile 14-22 and mile 96-112.

The course can be broken down into segments pretty easily:

  • T1 to Callaghan Valley Rd.– Mostly rolling with a couple significant ups but more significant downs (approx 14 miles)
  • Callaghan Climb + Descent – Straight up with hardly a break for 8 miles, then straight back down (approx 16 miles)
  • Climb back to Whistler – Mostly rolling but more of a climb (approx 10 miles)
  • Descent to Pemberton – Screaming downhill with a handful of short climbs and rollers (approx 20 miles)
  • Pemberton Flats (out & back) – Pancake flat farm road with some sketchy pavement (approx 30 miles)
  • Climb back to Whistler/T2 – Up, up, up with hardly any flats or downhills to spin (approx 20 miles)

Ironman Canada Whistler Bike Course

So, I’ll do mini recaps to follow that format.

The luckiest part of the entire day was the weather for the bike. Not only was it sunny and mild, but the wind stayed at bay which isn’t usually the case through the mountain pass and farm valley.

The bike was fun, when I wasn't bleeding, flatting, or serving my penalty.

The bike was fun, when I wasn’t bleeding, flatting, or serving my penalty.

T1 to Callaghan Valley Rd. – The entire time I was worried that I was working too hard. My heart rate was on the high side but not insanely so, and by the time we’d gotten to Whistler Village I felt more steady so I kept with that level of effort. The road was extremely crowded and there was lots of passing and leapfrogging with riders around me. I saw quite a few people pass on the right or hanging out on the left for extended periods of time but rather than get irritated I rode on focused on how the hills ahead would spread the field out and did what I could to ride legal. I had my first family sighting and it was great to hear their yells as I whizzed by.

Callaghan Climb + Descent – The climb up was just as tough as I remembered. I had hoped that it would feel more like the second day of camp (a slower but steadier spin) but instead I felt like I was fighting the road the whole stretch. I was still within a comfortable zone, but I felt like I was working too hard to be getting passed left and right by EVERYONE, men and women alike. It was amazing and inspiring to see people powering up with seemingly no effort, but it made me feel weak to get completely crushed so early on. I (sort of but not really) wish there had been a timing mat at the bottom and top to see how many people passed me. When we hit the turnaround at the top I was relieved to be done and check the tough part of this portion off, but I was also somewhat worried about how I’d fare for the remainder of the day with my spirits already a little low.

Climb back to Whistler – The climb back to Whistler felt strong, and was probably my best portion of the bike. I rode strong but smart, got good nutrition in, and made up some ground that I felt had been lost. This section wasn’t easy, but I was pretty familiar with how to push it to make the best of both the ups and downs. And the second family sighting was great too! At this point I felt like I’d regained some momentum, though my heart rate was still high for my perceived effort.

Descent to Pemberton – This portion was fast fast fast, just like I knew it would be. I spun out my gearing quite a few times and simply had to coast until my momentum lessened. The view was beautiful, and it felt like a perfect day to be on the bike. Some of the stretches were congested but other times I truly couldn’t see another rider on the road. This race was the first time that British Columbia has closed a highway for an event, and it was amazing to ride this section without fear of traffic, or the noise.

Pemberton Flats – I hit up special needs, switched out my bottles with the quickness, and pushed hard to get away from aid station chaos. After a couple turns I hit the flat country road slog. I felt strong, but the road was packed full with bikes. For the first while there were only riders heading out, but after some time the pro’s and elite ag-ers started heading back to Whistler and passed the opposite way. And as more people passed by the more packs I saw on both sides of the road.

I caught up to a group riding tight, and as I got closer it was more and more evident that they were purposefully riding that way, and even taking turns pulling. I passed, but a few minutes later a rider passed back, then another, then another, then another, and before I knew it I was dropping back for, no joke, 20 riders. I re-passed when I could, but the same thing happened again. And then again, with a different leader. It may be hard to ride legal on packed flat roads, but it’s not hard to not cheat!

It was challenging to get away from the group and so when we hit the turnaround I put my head down and hammered. I felt like I had made some ground but quickly realized my nose was bleeding heavily. I wiped it onto my forearm and kept working. At this point a couple of men passed and warned that the pack had chosen my wheel to suck. Crap, I thought I’d lost them!

I couldn’t work any harder without feeling worried about the climb to come so I kept my head down and kept spinning and kept sniffling my bloody nose and spitting. As we neared the town of Pemberton again I glanced left and riders had started to pass en mass, it felt like I was getting swallowed by a swarm of bees. It happened so fast that my only option was to sit up and brake and as soon as I did I saw: an official. My stomach dropped – I’d just given these guys a free ride for the entire way back, but all the officials saw was me braking. The motorcycle pulled a u-turn, rode up alongside me, and shoved a red card in my face. I was beyond angry but I made eye contact to acknowledge my suggested infraction. I rode away, and fast, full of rage. A few of my friends who’d warned me about the pack were just up the road, and when I caught up I told them what had happened they were just as angry as I was.

Bike2

Pre-penalty tent, post flat, mid-bleeding.

Climb back to Whistler/T2 – All too soon we had started the climb back to Whistler, and as soon as I started climbing my bloody nose got worse. I stayed conservative up the first mile climb trying to think about what to do. I felt considerably more tired than I wanted too, but my heart rate finally seemed under control. Was I tired because I was upset? Or was I tired because I was worried? Or was I tired because I was tired? After the first climb there was a fast decent to a short flat…which is where I flatted.

Luckily it was my front wheel, and luckily I’d had plenty of practice changing flats this summer. However with a bleeding nose and a penalty I hadn’t served yet it was tough to keep a good attitude through yet another thing. I didn’t want to give up, but I also didn’t want this day!

I got the flat fixed quickly and hopped back on my bike and spun up the rest of the hills. I felt like I got passed 100x and probably did, but I didn’t feel able to fight back and I still don’t really know whether than was a physical fitness issue or my bad attitude.

With a mile or so to go I found the penalty tent, dismounted, and served my 4 minutes. I watched rider after rider fly by and felt like my day was slipping away but I tried to stay positive. Another athlete rode in at my 1 minute mark and asked the volunteer for a tissue or towel; he must not have known they aren’t supposed to give you anything. I guess the volunteer didn’t know either because she handed him a tissue, he took it and looked at me, and handed it over. He must have noticed the blood all over my face! Lovely.

Take my freakin' bike already!

Take my freakin’ bike already!

T2 – 2:38

T2 was quick and easy. Throw the bike at whoever looks most capable of catching it. Grab your run bag, run into the tent. My volunteer wanted very much to be helpful but I’m so minimalist there wasn’t much for her to do. She straightened my race belt so I’d get it right side up, handed me socks, and did a good job cleaning up after me because all of my items – even the ones I didn’t use – were properly packed up when I got my bag back later that day. The jog out of transition was long, but on to the run!

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Race Recap: Ironman Canada – Swim and T1

THE SWIM – 1:10:55 // 1:40/100 yards

Suiting up!

Suiting up!

Making my way down to the water I wasn’t as nervous as I sometimes am for the swim portion of the day. Things that I think helped contribute to that: I had a solid plan, I had quite a few solid swims in Alta Lake prior to race day, and 2 days before the race I found out that the start was deep and in water. One of my biggest fears had been a shallow water start and having to navigate the first 90 degree turn only a couple hundred yards from shore, so learning that we wouldn’t have to turn for nearly 1/2 mi made me feel much better.

G's IMC Mugshot of the day - Alta Lake

G’s IMC Mugshot of the day – Alta Lake

So, as I mentioned, the swim was a deep water start with the start line running about 200 yards, from the first buoy all the way to shore. It was angled a bit as well, so that no matter where on that line you positioned yourself it would be the same distance to the first orange (turn) buoy. The course was 2-loop, but what made it different from a lot of other 2-loop swims is that swimmers stayed in the water for both loops and only made their way back to shore to finish the leg. Usually 2-loop IM swims have a mid-way check point on the beach where swimmers have to exit, run across a timing mat, then enter the water again for the second lap.

Ironman Canada Whislter Swim

I walked through T1 and was sure to cross the timing mat to turn my chip on. On the beach there were hundreds of athletes milling about nervously, but I got straight into the water. The more time I could just float around and acclimate the better, especially knowing that the water was the perfect temperature and there was no risk of getting cold. I got in a solid warm up with a few short hard strokes and treaded water while Oh Canada played, the pros went off, and AGers started getting into the water. I was surprised how many hung back and stayed on the beach, it was almost like athletes weren’t sure how the start was supposed to work.

Athletes getting ready

Athletes getting ready

My plan was to start a bit off of the buoy line to try to avoid the chaos but also to not get in faster swimmers’ way. Randomly I saw 2 of my teammates that I hadn’t yet spotted that day floating within 10 feet of me. We laughed and joked about how skilled we were at following our race plans; since we all have the same coach we figured she had given us similar instructions on where to start. It was great to have some familiar faces nearby though, and since both teammates are stronger swimmers than I am I felt safe positioning myself right behind them and knowing that I’d have space.

ironmancanadaswimstart

3…2…1… Go Time

The first loop of the swim wasn’t too eventful. It felt very crowded, but there were only a couple of times that I felt held up by the traffic around me. Generally I was able to work hard and keep pushing my effort and pace. The turns were pretty rough and congested, but for how many people were within arms reach (A WHOLE LOT) I feel like the experience was pretty calm.

The second loop of the swim got a little more dicey. Swimmers were much more spread out by that point so there weren’t so many people to be conscious of, but it felt like swimmers began to flail a lot more. The water got more rough and even though there was plenty of open water I got hit quite a few times trying to pass groups or when people wanted to fight over the feet I had found to draft off of. I wonder if the same thing happens in a 2-loop swim when a beach exit midway is required.

The 2nd to last stretch before the turn back to shore I started feeling tightening in my left calf, and then in my right. Cramping doesn’t usually plague me during exercise, but I’ve gotten cramps in my sleep enough to know exactly what was happening. I immediately stopped kicking and tried to keep moving forward using only my upper body in hope that my calves would chill. That did it for a couple hundred yards or so, but as soon as I started working hard again my right calf cramped up as bad as I’ve ever felt it. I tried to swim through but I couldn’t keep my lower half from sinking with how paralyzed I felt. I stopped, sat up for a second, and manually flexed my foot with my hands. The cramps came and went a few times during the rest of the swim but I was able to swim through them and before I knew it I was at the last turn buoy.

The last stretch back to shore was the worst part of the swim, in my opinion. I don’t know if people lost their form because they were tired, or if seeing the beach makes people more competitive with each other, but it was a pretty brutal fight to the finish. I tried not to shy away from faster feet and the advantage of swimming in the pack, but with plenty of space around there were too many errant arms and legs for my liking. It felt chaotic and like there was a lot of panic in peoples’ movements. But finally the water got so dark I couldn’t see a thing, which meant it was shallow enough that sand was getting kicked up. I stood up about 2 strokes too early but quickly made my way out of the water and across the timing mat on the beach.

T1 – 3:21

I got to the wetsuit strippers and felt like there were 1000 of them and 1 of me! I scurried up to 2 guys and they had a hard time but after a few tugs successfully stripped my suit off.

The inside of the tent was extremely dark, and I felt like there was no one there – athletes or volunteers – so I got to work by myself. I threw my suit, cap, and goggles on the ground, dumped my bag and started putting my shoes on when a volunteer asked if I needed help. I told her I only needed help packing up and a couple of moments later I had grabbed my helmet, sunglasses, and was off to find my bike.

Tracks!

Tracks!

The transition area was a little bit clunky in terms of the set up; no fault of IMC but the park was strangely shaped so it was hard to make the best of it. I found my bike with no difficulty though (tip: always walk your race day path through transition a few times before the race!) and made my way out of transition, across train tracks, up a path, and to the main parking lot to mount. As I got on my bike I was so so so glad I had remembered to put it in the small ring, as climbing up the hill to get out of the lot was more of a b*tch than I remembered.

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Are You Ready

In the last 3 weeks I’ve been asked So are you ready? more times than I could possibly count.

Am I ready? Well. I’m as ready as I’m going to be.

This year I haven’t done a great job of tracking things here on the blog, but Training Peaks (where I log my workouts) doesn’t lie. My year in training started out similarly to how last year did, but the last 3 or 4 months were not similar at all. The summer months brought much longer long days, more two-a-days, and more overall hours, but also more rest days too. There were a lot of days when I thought I don’t know if I can do this. And then I did.

For a moment I thought about pulling number of miles swam, ridden, and run, feet climbed, and calories burned, but those numbers don’t really mean anything to you or to me. What means something to me is that I completed every single workout as well as I could. I gave every session my all. Sometimes I wished I had more to give, and a lot of times I wished I was fitter and faster, but all you can give it what you have. And there is nothing more certain in this world to me than that I did just that.

So when I say I’m as ready as I’m going to be, what I mean is that the cards can fall as they may on Sunday and I will have no regrets about my preparation for the day. There are no should have’s, could have’s, or would have’s that I feel leading up to that start line. I do have hopes, dreams, wishes, and some anxiety about what will happen on that day itself, but I am as ready as anyone possibly could be for a day when anything could happen.

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Race Recap: Saunders Subaru Victoria Half Ironman

Though I haven’t been so diligent about updating the Internet about how training has been going, overall the answer is very well. I continue to see small but consistent gains, especially in swimming and biking, and if I compare the athlete I am now to the athlete I was last June there really isn’t much of a comparison. My training has been strong and is going quite well. However, that doesn’t necessarily always translate to a crazy PR or the race results that you want to see.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect in Victoria. The course is a bit short (comparison below) but not enough to affect how hard you’re going to work or how you want to pace yourself for the day.

Half Iron Distance Chart

The Victoria Half Ironman course is also known for being very fair (meaning tough) with a bike that has lots of climbing. As proof, during the race my Garmin got 3,320 ft of climb, and others as much as 4,200! In my pre-race meeting with my coach we talked about goals for my effort and heart rate, but only once did she acknowledge pace when she asked what my previous PR was. When I told her 5:24 and change she smiled and said, “Well you’ll have a new one soon.”

Pauole Sport at Victoria Half Ironman

This was my first race with my new team and coach, and the pre-race experience was really great. Especially because not only was I surrounded by Pauole Sport athletes, but some of my favorite friends from my old triathlon training group were there racing too! Knowing so many people made what’s usually a nerve-wracking experience go more smoothly, but it also made the 75 minutes I had to get transition set and warmed up FLY!

Fast forward to the end:

Overall Time: 5:06:58 // 2nd AG // 10th OA (including female pros)

And then rewind back the beginning:

Swim 34:35 // 1:38/100 yards average pace

Victoria Half Ironman Swim

The lake was the perfect temperature, the water was clear, and I had plenty of space around me, so when I felt the sensation of panic about 400 meters from the shore I was extremely disappointed. My swimming has come so far in the last 9 months and this was NOT how I wanted my day to go. There was a traffic jam in front of me that I couldn’t get around, and though thinking about it doesn’t make me nervous now (who cares, people, meh!) in the moment it did. I sat up and floated for over 60 seconds and watched my friends swim farther and farther away. Pretty soon white caps (the color beginners wear) started passing me by and so I put my head down and swam, HARD.

The rest of the swim felt very long, but once I got moving I felt strong and steady. There was some weird clumping happening; it honestly appeared that experienced swimmers were flanking their friends to prevent any contact from a more aggressive athlete. It felt a little bit unfair, especially since they were blocking valuable swimming space but I kept moving because it wasn’t my battle to fight!

Once I actually started swimming I didn’t get passed once, so that felt good and helped me feel more in control of my day. As I exited the water I tried to hurry up the ramp even more than usual. With a wasted minute or two up front there isn’t room for dilly dallying! I heard Garth cheering and yelling my name and tried to make eye contact and give him a smile as I ran, but I’m pretty sure I looked more like a dead drowned rat than anything else. Even with my lame stop this was a 3:15 swim PR for me, which is HUGE.

T1 2:01

Bike 2:49:16 // 19mph avg speed

Once on the bike I immediately started trying to pick people off. Breathing hard I rode away from transition and out to the main road where we’d ride 2 laps. I knew my heart rate was much higher than what it should be, but I also knew that it would steady out once my body accepted the bike. I passed all of the athletes I knew in the first 12 miles, and then it was time to get comfortable being uncomfortable and hold my effort.

DSCN7532

The bike course was extremely beautiful with views of the countryside and Cordova Bay. It was also tough, with very few flat sections and hills so rolling you never for a second stopped working. The hills were mostly long and gradual so no granny gear was needed, and the downhills I pushed in my big ring up front  and smallest cassette ring.

Nearing the end of the first loop I wondered if I could maintain my effort to do that again. And I also wondered where all of the other people were! Once I got through the initial congestion and got a few drafters off my back there really weren’t many other bikes I could see in front of or behind me. The occasional disc wheel and aero helmet passed me, but truly just a handful. Other than that it was me, the road, and my own heavy breathing.

I did maintain my effort for the second loop up until there were only a couple of miles remaining. In retrospect I probably didn’t need to back off, but all of a sudden I realized I’d become so absorbed in racing my bike I forgot I still had a half marathon to run! It was time to start preparing for it.

T2 1:01

DSCN7562

Yes. Spiderwoman was in T2!

Run 1:40:05 // 8:02 min/mi avg

Victoria Half Ironman Run Start

The run was 2 loops around the lake and though there was a feeling of relief to only require my own 2 feet for the last portion of the day I was also nervous. I was recently diagnosed with a stress reaction and hadn’t done much running in the last few weeks. I knew my fitness was fine, but running felt foreign to my body and it was pretty clear immediately that at least this portion of the run was not as “flat and easy” as I had pictured in my mind.

I chugged away and tried to keep my feet fast and light and my breathing under control. I passed back by some of the men who had overtaken me in the late portion of the bike and none were as competitive with me as they had been while riding on 2 wheels. Rather than grinding by and grimacing, most of them congratulated me and wished me well, and I did the same.

Around mile 2 or 3 my friend Julie passed me by. Though I was surprised to see her so soon in to the run I wasn’t surprised that she was winning the race between the two of us. She’s a stellar runner and a strong athlete! We cheered each other on and I watched her disappear into the woods in front of me wishing that I could keep up. However once she was out of eyesight my heart rate dropped, running got easier, and I felt myself lock in for the long haul.

Victoria Half Ironman Run

As I went back into the woods for loop 2 I noticed that my heart rate was in the appropriate range, but in the lower end. I was trying so hard to run on feel and I’d done a good job but probably had it in me to push harder for this final loop. I very much appreciated the course markers in km’s and immediately started my countdown.

When I got to 2km remaining I pushed with everything I had left. It wasn’t so much that my legs were tired, but my heart rate was high and my everything was tired! In the last 2km I passed at least 4 or 5 people and sprinted (red: ran faster, because it probably really wasn’t anything like a sprint) up to the finish right on the heels of 2 guys.

Victoria Half Ironman Finish Line

As I crossed the finish line I was relieved and happy. In my wildest dreams I had hoped for an overall time lower than the one I earned, but I can honestly say that I have never ever worked so hard. I worked smart, but I worked hard, and my heart rate data shows it. I wish I was a better runner and hadn’t let Julie pass, but I’m so proud of the 18 minutes I knocked off my old PR to achieve a new one. And other than the time I lost in the swim I have no other regrets from the day.

Victoria definitely made me less nervous and more excited for Whistler come August. It turns out I do remember how to do this triathlon thing…

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Weekend Volume

Long weekends are made for staying up too late sleeping in traveling training. With an extra day to fit in the same amount of responsibilities + more hours to spend outside, I hoped this would be a good one.

I’m getting better at managing anxiety when I open up Training Peaks and see a block bigger than anything I’ve done before, but I’d be lying if I said that in days leading up I wasn’t a little bit anxious about how exhausted I knew I’d be come Monday night.

My training is so different from last year in a lot of ways. At this point in the cycle I’ve learned the patterns and in’s and out’s so it doesn’t seem drastic. But there are a few big things that are making a difference for me – I think at least – this year.

  • REST DAYS. As in, I have them. Not an obscene number, and I’m still perpetually tired and regularly sleep 9+ hours on the weekends (yes I go to bed at 8:30pm on the regular). But it’s good stuff for the mind and body having those couple of days per month to recharge and shower in my own house (as opposed to the gym or office).
  • BIKE. BIKE. BIKE. I wish I had a real tally of the number of times I rode on the trainer this winter. I’ve gotta bet it was less than 15. AND I LIVE IN RAINY SEATTLE, FOLKS. Through cold and rain I made it outside and I’ve gotten better on the bike for it. And thus this weekend will be my first century ride of the year whereas last year I didn’t reach that milestone until mid-July.
  • BE A FISH. Last year I averaged around 3200 meters 2.5x/week. Since December I’ve been swimming 4k yards 3x/week, and alongside better and faster swimming. Not only does it help build overall hours, but I’ve actually moved up a lane and gotten faster and more comfortable in the water.
  • VOLUME. Not much to say here other than with all of the above, there’s a lot. I already have a new PR in “training hours per week” with 3 months to go until race day.

In talking about that last one, volume, the plan for this weekend was as follows.

SATURDAY –

Planned: 80mi ride, 45min run     Actual: 82mi ride, 5.65mi run

SUNDAY –

Planned: 15mi run     Actual: 30min open water swim, 15mi run

MONDAY –

Planned: 45min open water swim, 2hr ride     Actual: 45min open water swim, 2:35 ride

Nothing to really gawk at, except for the fact that I survived and all. Per the usual there were no mind-blowing breakthroughs this weekend or any huge gains met. If we’re being totally and 100% completely honest I’d tell you most of it felt pretty freakin’ hard. But I silently reminded myself that it should be hard and pressed on, and amidst some struggle there were a few good little confidence boosters.

  • On Saturday I rode the third long weekend in a row, with building distance, at what I consider to be a speedy pace. It’s braggy, but this is my blog and so I do what I please! I’m proud of the fitness I’ve gained and my ability to hang with riders I would have been dropped by last year.
  • On Sunday I swam in open water. In open freezing cold water. With people. In the rain. And didn’t have an anxiety attack. It may be sad but it’s very very true: This is a huge confidence booster for me. And to build on that I it again on Monday.
  • On Monday I rode in pissing rain on my heavy rain bike on some of the most tired legs I’ve been the proud owner of in a while. It wasn’t pretty or easy but I put the time in plus some, and had fun.

Never mind that come Monday evening I watched 5 consecutive TV shows moving from the couch only to snack, hydrate, or pee, and was in bed by 9:30 and slept until 6. Or that this morning it took me over an hour to kick my butt to the curb, where my 11mi run may as well have been 100mi it felt so hard. Still, I checked all of the boxes and got it done.

This weekend will be the last big one in the build for Victoria. It’s a doozy, but if it’s half as good as this weekend was I’ll feel pretty confident going into my first tri of the year.

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New Team

There’s no time like now for a little training update. Right? Especially since tomorrow marks exactly 3 months out from August 25, also known as Ironman go time?

After IMC last year I was ecstatic about my race for a couple of days, then exhausted for a few more, and pretty soon after that I started thinking about the next one. It didn’t take me very long to decide for certain that there would be another, but I didn’t want a repeat of 2012. I wanted, and still do, a lot more than that.

I want to go to Kona. And if I don’t get a spot I want to walk away knowing there was not one thing that I could have done to be more well-prepared to earn it. If I believe that in my heart, I will be a happy Ironman no matter what.

I can’t complain about my 2012 season or Ironman Canada. If I had a magic ball the only things I’d change are things that can’t be controlled anyway: freak weather in Boise, freak bike crash in July, more freak weather at Lake Stevens. I have not an ounce of regret about how I handled any of it, but when the season quieted down I knew, and know, that I can do better.

What worked for my first Ironman (and second summer of triathlon) isn’t the same thing that that will help me continue to grow as an athlete. If anything, 2012 was more of a preparation against failure rather than aggressive and planned growth. So last fall I outlined what I needed to do to be better and came up with a few things:

  • Bike more. No matter the bike, no matter the weather. Saddle time!
  • Train, purposefully, with FAST friends. Force myself to (try to) keep up.
  • Join a master’s swim group to swim more. <- Thinking that if I swim more, I’ll get better, and hate it less, maybe.
  • Challenge myself. Make myself uncomfortable. Work through it, and find confidence.
  • Have fun.

Then in December I did something that was pretty challenging for me (thus meeting one of my goals?). I broke my routine with the friends and coaches I had become comfortable with and  joined a new tri team: Pauole Sport. And I think I was more afraid for that first day of master’s swim than I was the morning of Ironman Canada.

The good news is: it’s working. I’ve gotten stronger in the water and on the bike. And on my run off the bike as well. I have a pool (literally, ha) of talented athletes to use as carrots, training buddies, and resources. And I’ve met some awesome people who I’d want to hang out with even if we didn’t all have to ride for a million hours every Saturday so we may as well do it together. And on top of all of that my new coach is fantastic.

Things still feel exhausting and hard on many days, but having confidence in my coach’s plan, having friends to endure it with, having resources to learn from, and having the occasional day off is currently making all of the difference in the world for me. These things make it possible for me to spend time with my family and friends, have a (small) life, stay sane, and still think Ironman is fun while getting better.

Greg LeMond’s quote is the real truth, “It never gets easier, you just go faster.”

 

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It’s That Time Of Year

#trainertime

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Next Up: ING NYC Marathon

I can’t promise that Ironman posts are over. Especially because I’m racing another one next summer, and even more so because something that you’ve dedicated nearly every spare moment to for an entire year doesn’t disappear off the radar just because a date ticked by. Before I had even devoted 6 months of training toward IMC I knew I’d have a hard time letting go of what happened in Penticton once finished. I knew I’d need something immediate to keep me going. I knew that a fall full of “recovery” would be bad for the psyche and worse for the heart.

So when I toed the line at the Lake Samish Half last January and another runner told me our NYC qualifying time was something like 1:36:00 I went for it. Though I didn’t have a stellar day I came in under the mark. And all of this is exactly why I registered to run the NYC marathon as a guaranteed entry the very next day. So now let’s talk about that.

So now we’re at about 6 weeks until the ING New York Marathon. For the record, that’s about 6 weeks less than what I’d like to see on the calendar. Though I just “ran” a marathon I now understand how different an Ironman “marathon” is from a normal one; running 26.2 after biking 112 and swimming 2.4 is about guts, heart, and strength. Running 26.2 alone is about fitness, and then heart.

My running fitness isn’t where I want it to be right now, which is frustrating. I have the endurance in my body but not the speed in my legs or capacity in my lungs, which is even tougher for me to accept. But I’m still really excited to run a marathon. The process of The Marathon is what introduced me and then got me hooked to the world of endurance sports, and not surprisingly I could go on and on and on about how grateful, happy, and excited I am to be part of that community. I credit the sport and community with reminding me of who I am and who I want to be, with how I’ve met inspiring and amazing friends, and with how I found a job that’s not work. I worked really freaking hard to make these things happen, but the universe delivered, and saying that I’m thrilled to be here would be a massive understatement.

So back to the marathon, I haven’t run one since April 2011, which was easily 100x more painful than IMC. But I’m excited to be a runner in a sea of many in New York. I’ll go back to Boston one day for certain, and uninjured. But I don’t know that I’ll go back to run NY more than once with the new standards and lottery! So I plan to soak it up and have fun, and if I have even half the fun I did in Penticton it will be a success.

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Race Recap: Ironman Canada 2012

I asked the twittersphere how long a race recap could get before it got “too long”. I received a lot of good responses, all of which reminded me of something. It was my day. And I want to remember it. Plus, this is my blog. If you lose interest, I’m sorry I’m not sorry.

It was an amazing and wonderful day, one that words can’t do justice. And the journey to get there has been, dare I say, even better than that single day. So without further ado, my Ironman Canada race.

 

Ironman Week and Race Morning

About how I did hardly anything leading up to the race, and it was awesome. Except when I thought I had kidney stones again.

 

Swim and T1

About how I finally had a good swim in a race, and that I should medal in transitions.

 

Bike and T2

About how my bike was pretty strong  until my stomach started hurting. I still threw down a good ride, but it wasn’t a good sign of things to come.

 

Run and Post Race

About how I ran until my stomach no longer hurt, and the only leg I didn’t cry on.

 

Happy reading or snoozing!

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IMC – Successes and Opportunities

Post race, even small ones, I always try to pull out a couple of successes and learnings. No matter how awesome or terrible a race is there are always things to remember and replicate – or never ever do again – next time.

Lather. Rinse. And Repeat. Self, remember these tips!

Pre Race

  • Race vacations are a must!! Spending the week in Penticton, but away from the chaos, was a really great decision for me. By the time race day rolled around I not only felt totally engrained in what was happening, but also totally relaxed. Heck, I even had a favorite Safeway checker at that point! When all of the crazed triathletes arrived I retreated to our castle townhouse and stayed away from anyone that would psych me out (everyone). I lived in my Ironman-less bubble of denial until I was ready to get amped up rather than letting the crazies rub off on me.

Swim

  • As part of Operation: Survive the Ironman Swim I’ve been quietly trying to figure out ways to avoid a panic attack during the swim. Turns out a mile warmup run with strides plus swimming for just a few moments does the trick quite nicely.
  • Usually I try to only focus on myself during the swim, thinking that if I don’t acknowledge the feet kicking in my face that it’ll calm me down. It wasn’t intentional, but during the IM swim I found myself focusing on EVERYTHING happening around me, and sighted far beyond the clusters in front of me. I didn’t get an anxious about the people right in front of me because I was able to look past them, to the open clear water up ahead or the next buoy.

Transitions

  • You don’t win an Ironman in transition… but I feel like I sort of deserve a medal for my T1 time! And my T2 time was slower but it included a trip to the porta potty so I’ll take it. Though I haven’t done many triathlons to truly have the art of transition down I did put a lot of planning and thought into what I was putting in my bag and what I could enlist help with should I get a volunteer to myself. I didn’t put anything extra in my bags because I knew I didn’t need to take time making decisions and it kept me focused and moving. Keep it easy.

Bike

  • I went out on the bike too hard, and I knew it. So once I calmed down I checked my HRM and worked hard to relax and lower my average heart rate. I let people pass me and said “so long!” It was hard to do, but when I got to Yellow Lake and passed folks back during the climb I knew I made the right move. I made smart decisions and stuck to the plan.
  • Special Needs Rules. I had plans to not stop, but once I did the math I realized I’d need more hydration and infinit than I could carry (duh) and I didn’t want to have to mix on the go. I included 2x 24oz bottles in my bag and made sure to drink from mine first. Those extra bottles saved me, because I was having trouble taking in calories that weren’t in liquid form. The set up was easy and the volunteers rocked. I just tossed my empties at stations along the way, slowed to a stop, grabbed my bottles from the volunteer handing them to me, and rode on!

Run

  • Again with the smart decisions. My stomach was not happy and I feared that everything would make it worse. Rather than risk a total bonk I had tiny drops of gu at a time and resorted to Pepsi for additional calories. When the pain scale got too high to think about withstanding for more than a mile I slowed to a walk for however long I needed to alleviate the pressure. None of this was in my plans, and I’ve never had GI issues during a race or training, but I’m glad I stayed calm because no matter how much my run disappoints me I still believe this was the right method.
  • I didn’t allow myself to think of the run as a marathon, but rather an aid station-to-aid station event. This attitude got me through 4 hours and 16 minutes of running, but looking back it felt like maybe 3 hours. Small goals worked for me at that point much better than larger ones.

Do Not Accept $200. Do Not Pass Go. DO NOT REPEAT!

Pre Race

  • Too. Much. Food. I attribute my demise on the run to my Ensure, 2 bagels, peanut butter, and banana. Blech. All that after the previous day’s pasta dinner, sandwich, bagel, etc. My stomach still sort of hates me, over a week later.

Swim

  • There are many things I could do to improve my swimming, but given my current fitness, pace, and swim anxiety there is nothing I could have done – other than be a better swimmer – to make my swim better.

Bike

  • I knew I would go out too hard, I always do. I wonder a little bit if my stomach issues were due to the intensity up front. They started on the bike but didn’t hinder my performance until the run.
  • I could have used more nutrition on the bike; once my stomach started up I stayed conservative. Ideally I would have had more calories and more liquids to top myself off for a strong and hydrated run. I did a good job bringing a couple of options just in case, but I need to force myself to eat while I train like I want to eat during a race to simulate how to handle GI upset.
  • Cut up Powerbars don’t work. If you slice 3 up into little tiny bits and put them in a bag – even after letting them try out for 24 hours – they will still end up as a single glob.

Run

  • Mile 15 was the only point during the run where I remember focusing on distance. My thought was, “Well, eff. I haven’t run more than 15 miles during training, and I still have over 10 miles left to go!” At this time my body was starting to kick the GI distress and wanted to run, and my legs were honestly not that poorly off, but my knee-jerk reaction was to continue to conserve. With some better psychological preparedness I could have better spent that energy focusing on HTFU.
  • Despite stomach issues, tiredness, etc., etc., I could have pushed myself more on the run. As soon as my GI alleviated I picked it up for a handful of miles. Then I let doubt creep in a bit knowing that I still had 5 miles left and backed off. At the time I thought playing it safe was smart, and it might have been, but I know that I could have fought harder out there.
  • There is no need to carry any food, at all. With aid stations every mile my own bouncing gu’s did nothing but annoy me.

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