29 June 2012

IMCdA Race Report: The Bike

We join our hero (um, that would be ME) just seconds after she's collected her bike and crossed the mount line. Read the rest of my Ironman Coeur d'Alene experience by clicking here.

I crossed the mount line and continued jogging with my bike for another 20 meters or so. Since WTC doesn't allow athletes to leave shoes on their bike, I knew I would have to stop to get on the bike and didn't want to deal with the congestion that always happens in the first 5 meters after the mount line. So I crossed it, kept jogging, and found a quiet spot to get on, get clipped in, and start my 112 mile journey.
Right away I noticed my stomach and throat were slightly unhappy. I think the stress of the swim made my throat close up a little and maybe there was some lake water in my stomach. So I just rode easy for the first out-and-back along the lake, waiting patiently for my stomach to calm down so I could start the fun part of the day...eating! I knew that I had plenty of time to get all of my calories in so didn't rush things. I also chose not to wear arm warmers or a jacket or anything...just my normal tri race kit. I was a little chilly but not shivering so this was the right call for me. Before the race I had rubber-banded some chemical handwarmers to my aerobars so my hands were nice and warm. They stayed that way throughout the ride and I was super happy I didn't have to mess with gloves. Try it sometime!
See? Chaos at the mount line. Best to get some space.
As I came through town the second time (about 16 miles & 50 minutes into the ride) I finally felt good enough to start eating. This was perfect timing because soon after we left town on Hwy 95, we hit Mica Grade which is a long slow climb. My goal here was to keep HR in my decided range and to distract myself from the hundreds of people passing me, I munched on a Honey Stinger Waffle...mmmmm. A couple guys actually commented that I was being super smart by spinning easy up the hill. That made me proud. On the descent, I tried to similarly keep HR in my decided range so that meant staying aero and pedaling until I ran out of gears. My descending motto for the day was "brave and safe" and I was consistently able to catch a lot of people on these downhills. 

The rest of the first lap was awesome. I was eating happily, keeping HR in the range I wanted, and feeling great. I mixed it up with a lot of women here, they would pass me on the uphills/false flats and I would catch them on the descents. I noticed a few F25-29ers but not enough to get any sort of judgement on how I was doing within the AG. The sun came out from time to time and I just felt really lucky to be enjoying the beautiful day and scenery and exercise. As I was still outbound on Hwy 95, I suddenly feel a rider approaching very close on my left. Before I can react, I feel a huge SMACK on my butt. What the? But I soon find out it's just Mike, announcing that he's made up for my faster swim and is now in front in our bet. Hopefully he won't get too much farther in front of me.
Towards the end of the first lap, I started to hurt. Specifically, my left knee started to hurt in a way that told me my left IT band was in trouble. Crap. I had not experienced this pain at all during training. What the heck was it doing, showing up in a big race like this? My mind drifted to a lot of "what ifs". What if the pain gets worse? What if I can't run? What if I can't climb Mica Grade a second time? What if I am doing permanent damage? Everything else in my body felt fine so I decided to try not to worry about the run until I actually got there. I told lied to myself that the pain wouldn't get worse, and that the change in motion of running would make it go away.

I finished the first 56-mile loop in about 3:04 and change and my HR was perfect. My muscles were perfect. My stomach was perfect. My knee was not perfect. This one hurty part of my body started to affect my mental state and I began to struggle on the lake section, miles 60-70. I passed bike special needs without visiting my bag since there wasn't really anything in there that would help me. There were a lot of dudes pulled over taking a pee break so I did the same except while rolling. I shoved a Snickers down the hatch in an effort to restore my happy mental state, and it worked for a little bit, but once I hit Hwy 95 for the second time I knew the entire outbound section would be a struggle against the increasing headwind, false flats, and mental blues.

Unfortunately, I was right about miles 70-90. My knee hurt. I couldn't climb at full strength. My HR kept dropping and I was unable to consistently revive it, despite consuming more calories (with caffeine even) and trying to pick off riders ahead of me. At least twice (and maybe three times) I asked people next to me if the turnaround was close. Once I actually announced that "it's right up around that bend! I can see people turning around" when in fact we still had about 7 miles to go. For lack of better words, miles 70-90 sucked. I just kept hoping that I wasn't losing too much time and that the headwind would turn into an equally strong tailwind on the way home.

I FINALLY made the turnaround (mile 90) at about 5:10 into the ride and knew my chances for sub-6 were gone, but I could still hustle and pull out a bike split close to my race plan. And I tried to hustle, I really did, but my HR stayed peskily low. I finished eating everything I had with me (which was about 1900 calories) and grabbed a few gels from the last aid station in a desperate attempt to revive my HR. Fortunately, one of the gels I grabbed was my fav Roctane flavor Cherry Lime which gave me a boost until the backside of Mica Grade. I clawed my way up that thing, tried to haul on the downhill, and then focused on ignoring my knee pain for the rest of the trip into town. On the last no-passing zone, I got caught behind a paceline of a tri bike, a road bike, a mountain bike, another tri bike, and then me. I was pretty pissed off at this point because the mountain bike wasn't even racing, he was spectating! Even though he was keeping pace with the group, I was just angry at being held up this close to the finish. Once the no-passing zone ended, I jumped around these guys and booked it to the finish.

My final bike split was 6:13:08 and that moved me up to 7th place in the F25-29 age group (of course I had no idea of my placing during the race). I dismounted, leaving my shoes on the bike, and handed it off to a waiting volunteer. I ran into the change tent and 2 ladies helped me with putting on socks and running shoes, getting body glided, visor on, gels stuffed into pockets, and away I went. I knew immediately after leaving transition that overcoming the pain in my knee would be a major obstacle, but that's a story for the next post... Pin It

27 June 2012

IMCdA Race Report: The Swim

Taking some inspiration from my coach I'm breaking this race report up into three sections, mostly because I don't feel like writing the whole thing all at once! So you are getting the swim today.
From runthisamazingday.com. Katie, Sonja, me.
Race morning started out like almost every other morning in the last 12 weeks...with a large bowl of steel cut oats. I ate breakfast at the house I was sharing with 4 other athletes and 4 ironsherpas and we headed out in 2 cars for transition about 5am. I got dropped off and walked over to the start with my friend (and teammate and rival) Mike and we did the whole body marking/drop off special needs bags/place nutrition on bike thing with minimal fuss. I had my headphones in with sweet pre-race music and I was totally relaxed and ready. Like I said in the prologue, I knew I was fit and was just ready to start solving the problems of my first ironman-distance triathlon. I found Sonja and Katie by the flagpole and we spent some time chatting before it was time to put on wetsuits. Katie and I splashed around in the water before heading over to the swim start. There was a huge traffic jam of athletes and spectators so getting to the swim arch was pretty slow and nerve-wracking. Part of me was sure they wouldn't start while so many athletes were still on the sidewalk but part of me was sure they would start right. on. time. So Katie and I squished our way though lots of other neoprene-clad athletes (there is a reason no one goes to clubs in wetsuits) and finally made our way onto the beach. We chose a spot right about in the middle of everyone and just hung out. I was chatting with 2 dudes in front of us, asking what they thought their swim times would be (to see if we had "seeded" ourselves in a good spot) when BAM! THE CANON WENT OFF! The race was started and here I am chatting away with my goggles still on my forehead...whoops.
I splashed into the water with the rest of the athletes (I think 2700 or so started the race) and was hit by a fit of nervousness. This is very unusual for me so I just tried to swim it out. I was not getting hit, punched, kicked, or otherwise physically abused, it was just a lot of cold splashy water that made me unable to put my face in for at least 150m. I Tarzan-swam for at least 3 or 4 minutes trying to convince myself that sooner or later my face was going to have to go IN the water. And, eventually, it did, but not before being passed by A LOT of swimmers. I was never full-on panicking during this episode, I was just trying to absorb my nerves, keep my breathing even, and get to swimming. Once my stroke evened out, the first turn buoy came up surprisingly quickly. Soon I was swimming for shore and trying to find a somewhat decent line. 
I was really happy to see the lake bottom and then finally stand up at the end of the first loop. A volunteer was shouting "thirty-seven minutes" which was exactly what I had planned for. I was pretty excited to get back in the water and finish the swim. Except, the weather had other plans for me. During the first loop, the wind had picked up quite a bit and now there was a lot of chop on the water, even more than my practice 2-mile swim a few weeks ago. This made finding the buoys really hard and I resorted to swimming in the middle of everyone, hoping that the pack would not lead me astray. The turn buoy took FOREVER to get to this time, and I was not exactly enjoying life. I couldn't wait to make the final turn for home and swim with a tailwind (or would that be tail-wave?). The last leg I was all over the place, zig-zagging from the outside of the crowd to the inside of the buoy line. Jeez. I was upset at myself for this poor navigation but refused to get angry...just tried to swim a better line to the next buoy, and the next buoy after that, etc. 

I exited the water in 1:17:13 with lap splits of 36:54 and 40:19. During training I had been targeting a 1:15-1:20 swim so I was pleased that it was over without any major disaster. I ran up to the crowd of wetsuit strippers and found a really attractive guy to take my wetsuit off, score! Then I picked up my gear bag and decided to transition outside of the tent since I didn't really need to change clothes. I was fast but deliberate in my transition, making sure everything (helmet, sunglasses, garmin, wristband, salt tabs, race belt, chammy cream, bike shoes) was put on properly so I wouldn't have to fuss with it later. Right as I was finishing, a volunteer appeared and offered to re-pack my bag for me...yes please! (This seemed to be a theme of the day...whenever I was wishing for a volunteer, they just appeared! Thanks!) More volunteers directed me to my bike, where I unracked it and took off for 112 miles! Pin It

IMCdA Race Report: Prologue

After many many weeks of training, this:

turned into this:

Before the race when my coach asked how I felt, I told her, "I feel fine, I'm just ready to start problem-solving". And the race did not disappoint, it gave me more than one problem to solve, which I will tell you more about in the next few days. But the redeeming quality about Ironman (and adventure racing, for that matter) is the day allows you plenty of time to fix things if you keep your head on straight and stay focused on your goal.

More to come, folks, stay tuned! Pin It

20 June 2012

IMCdA: The Soundtrack

I believe in the radio gods. Which is funny because my car does not have a radio ('twas stolen, and I’m too lazy to replace). But perhaps the equivalent thing in my life is the shuffle gods, whom I trust to pull up the most applicable song for the current situation. Over past three seasons, these 'deities' have masterfully delivered inspiring songs right before my big races that I keep in my head during the event. In 2010, it was Ragged Wood before the Lake St. Louis Olympic Tri. In 2011, it was Pumped Up Kicks before ITU Long Course Worlds. And now, the shuffle gods have pulled up Some Nights straight from the depths of the interwebz and into my earbuds. And I can’t get enough. In the last 5 days, I’ve listened to fun. at least 20 times (wait, let me check iTunes…yep….32) and I plan on keeping it on repeat right up until I have to turn my morning clothes bag in on Sunday. And even once the iPod is gone, the song will continue to circulate in my mind and I’ll probably even sing a little bit out loud on course. Competitors, beware!!
I always love it when athletes share their playlists so here are a few other songs that have got me through this Ironman build:
For The Beauty Of The Earth – traditional, but I like the Steve & Danny Thompson version, even though it's a little Enya-ish...it's got good tempo.
In The Mood – traditional, but I like the Glenn Miller Orchestra version
But on a more serious note, Some Nights is the perfect song for me right now. This ironman build has allowed me to get a good look at what long-course triathlon training is all about. It's lonely. It's hard. I never really wish[ed] that it all would end, but I could use [training with] some friends for a change. And now that I've almost reached the end of the road, I'm still not sure what I stand for...Triathlon? Adventure racing? Can I do both? Do I want to do both? Do I want to just sit on the couch? I've put a lot of time and effort into preparing for my first Ironman, but I still have no idea how things will go competitively on race day. Will I be at the pointy end of the field, maybe in my age group? Or not even close? And if I'm not close, will I be satisfied?
IM training in a photo: Easy St...STREET NOT THRU!
One thing that sticks out most in my head for this training cycle is the amount of times I've said "no". No to mountain bike rides. No to adventure races (even subbing on really fast teams). No to sleeping in. There hasn't been much balance and I'm not sure I like that. On one hand, I take a lot of pride in executing my training day in, day out. On the other hand, would IMCdA be ruined for me if I hopped on my mountain bike for a dirt crit? That's a slippery slope to start down, and for my first IM I preferred not to stray off the path of 100% dedication. 
Last long ride...view of the cockpit.
But the balance will be struck in the month of July, and possibly the rest of the summer. There is some dirt in my future, hallelujah! I have a few events picked out even, and I'm super stoked to do some non-triathloning.   Don't get me wrong, I still love me some swimbikerun, I just need to swing the training pendulum of my life back towards to off-road side of things for a bit. And I'm still not sure where that pendulum will eventually land, it's all a part of the process, figuring these things out.
Tater bikes go in a tater trailer. Loading up on Monday night.
So I've raised a lot of questions that you probably weren't expecting. Honestly, they've been brewing in my head for weeks but I wasn't really expecting to write about them here...just...after the playlist, this post seem sort of short so I kept rambling. Sorry if it's too mental, at least you got a good list of songs out of it!
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11 June 2012

IMCdA: The Bet

I've been friends with Mike since the spring of 2010 when we raced a 24hr AR (my first!) as part of a 4-person coed team called Mid-Rivers Adventure. At first I was intimidated to have him on the team because I'd heard reports that he was uber-fit and fast. And I was...well...not so much. And usually in those types of situations, fit and fast guys can get impatient with their not-so-fit-and-fast teammates. But as it turns out, if Mike ever got impatient with us, he channeled it into helping the team move faster (carrying packs, running extra for punches, etc.) and we were able to successfully clear the course for my first taste of overnight racing.
Mike C, Mike G, Bill L, and me at the finish of 2010 LBL Challenge.
Since the 2010 LBL Challenge, Mike and I have logged a few more adventure races, a few more triathlons, and a bunch more training hours together. Even though he's always a good deal faster than I am, I enjoy trying to stay on his wheel/heels when my schedule allows it. Plus, like any good training buddy, he makes funny, honest, and interesting conversation so I know there will never be a dull moment even if we are meeting for 3 hours on the Katy Trail.

One of the highlights of my (short) racing career happened on a 2-person team with Mike, where we pulled off a 3rd place overall finish at the 2011 Bonk Hard Castlewood 8hr AR. We raced without our normal navigator, Bill, so we shared the map duties all day. I knew we had the fitness to compete with the top teams, but the great thing about AR is that fitness doesn't get you all the way to the finish line - teammwork does. But we stayed calm, in contact with the maps, and dedicated to a team finish...ON THE PODIUM!!!

So when Mike and I both found ourselves signed up for Ironman Coeur d'Alene, I knew it was going to be a fun race. And what's more fun than an Ironman? Betting on an Ironman! That's right, it's my first attempt at the 140.6 distance but I've got a fun wager to help motivate me through the dark times. The bet is a simple time bet, well except I negotiated a handicap of 0:60:00 (1 hour). So in order for me to "win", I have to finish 0:59:59 or less after Mike finishes. He seems to think this is extremely generous. I think it's extremely ambitious. Let's look at the numbers:

Emily: 4:56:47, June 2011 Grandma's Marathon
Mike: 3:23:08, April 2012 Go! St. Louis Marathon

Emily: this is my first ironman
Mike: 11:20:34, September 2010 IM Wisconsin

Emily: 5:34:21, May 2012 Rev3 Knoxville HIM
Mike: 4:33:51, May 2012 Headfirst HIM (bike shortened due to weather)

Emily: 5:27:58, August 2011 Pigman HIM
Mike: 5:03:00, August 2011 Pigman HIM

The one and only edge I carry into this race is my training. I've been laying down weeks and weeks of focused sessions. Mike's been training too, but not as consistently due to some major life changes (ahem...moving his family to DENVER this month). But he's got more fitness and more Ironman experience to draw from. It's really anyone's game at this point. And what's the prize? An all-inclusive steak dinner for the winner, paid for by the loser.
I can almost taste it.
So who do you think will win? Either way, it's been fun trash-talking about this bet during training. Both of us are convinced the other will win handily. It makes for great motivation. And anyone who wants to buy Mike a few grasshoppers on Saturday night in Couer d'Alene, you have my 100% approval and encouragement! Pin It