Move’n on UP!

I’d begun to contemplate moving up to a full, meaning a FULL Ironman since late 2012…by the way, just saying the word makes me just a little bit queasy.

Since early this year there were rumors swirling around about Boulder being the future venue for a 140.6 race.

Boulder Res Flatirons

ironman boulder

Those rumors were then validated and before I knew it I was receiving a special “VIP” opportunity to register for the inaugural race of Ironman Boulder.  Was this because I was really a V.I.P?!  Ha, ha don’t I wish!  The answer is that all athletes that were competing in the entire Boulder Tri Series (Boulder Sprint, Boulder Peak and Boulder 70.3) were offered an early registration opportunity for IM Boulder.  I had toyed with registering for Tahoe for 2014 but then felt that I was being given “an offer I couldn’t refuse” with Boulder.  Plus, logistically and financially competing in what would be my 1st and likely ONLY Ironman in Boulder just made much better sense:

  • I could ride and run the course as part of my training
  • My extended family could attend the race
  • I wouldn’t need to travel to the race venue which would save a ton of money
  • Good friends could be there along the route cheering me on

So, I kinda felt that I HAD to register for Boulder.  Plus, I just knew I’d be MAD at myself either way.  MAD if I didn’t register and try to become an Ironman and MAD at what I would put myself through from a training perspective.  For those of you that haven’t seen this video, I believe this will pretty much sum up what my life will be like during the peak portion of my training:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B03dFMG8nR4

So…on registration morning July 14, 2013 I did “IT“, I logged on to Active.com, I hit enter and then when I received the confirmation email…REAL panic set it!

I was heading to Ironman Boulder which was planned for August 3rd 2014!  WOW!

I just keep telling myself, relax, breathe, …  keep calm

70.3 Worlds!

Ironman 70.3 Worlds

Ironman 70.3 World Championship!  Wow, still can’t quite believe I actually had the opportunity to race with the Who’s Who of triathlon!

I met Julie Moss on a brief training run

I met Julie Moss on a brief training run

Craig "Crowie" Alexander...hotter than the Vegas sun!

Craig “Crowie” Alexander…hotter than the Vegas sun!

In the days leading up to the race I was nervous but felt prepared from a training and nutrition perspective.   I’d anticipated blazing heat in the Nevada desert and did plenty of heat training.

The logistics of this race were a bit daunting since there were many unknowns–1st travel race and 1st point to point meaning two separate transition areas.  Going forward, I’ll know what to expect and Ironman managed events are SO well run that there are plenty of folks to ask and all of them were pretty darn helpful!

I shipped my Felt bike “ACE” via TriBike Transport, which worked like a charm.  20130907_155521And, I’m SO glad I rented a car versus relying on taxis.  Also, I got a Garmin GPS from the rental car company which really helped a ton…yes, I know I can use Google Maps on my phone but having the Garmin on my dashboard made things a ton smoother.  Setting up T1 and T2 on the day prior to the race was interesting and was completed without issue.

Setting up T1

Setting up T1

Learning #1…make sure IF (as I may not ever do this again) I ride with someone to the race start ensure that they are on the same page from a arrival to race venue perspective!  I hitched a ride to the race with some other athletes friends-of-friends, they were to pick me up at 4:30 a.m (transition opened at 4:00 and it was planning to close at 6:00, I was in the 1st non-pro swim wave and we were about a 25 minute drive away).  They showed up at 4:45, we got lost (they didn’t have a Garmin, which cost us 10 minutes) plus when we got close to the race venue traffic was seriously bumper to bumper for hundreds of cars.  It was 5:20 a.m, then 5:30, 5:35…I needed to load up my bike nutrition and I was starting to FREAK!  The folks I was driving with were much more seasoned triathletes and were also in later swim waves. Somehow I had previously gotten the phone number of Ironman 70.3 Worlds “command central” of the race (true).  Anyway, I called them and said “Do you realize that there are hundreds of cars waiting to find parking and are you still closing T1 at 6:00?!”  To which they answered “Yes, Mamam, our plan is to still close transition as planned at 6:00”.  OH CRAP!!! Now I was really starting to FREAK OUT!

Oh yeah and it was raining, not just a sprinkle but like we needed to build an ARK!  So, I said “Stop the Car!” and I joined the many other athletes that were running toward transition which was about 1.5 miles away…hey that’s one way to get my pre-race run warm-up in!

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Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Henderson, NV swim course

I made it to T1 and loaded up my bike with gels etc..  Guess what?!  Electrical tape doesn’t stick too well in the rain.  But, I made it work.  My bike was in an awesome spot close to bike out so I only had to run with my bike a relatively short distance although much of it was up a hill.  After getting my bike prepared I headed down to the swim start which was already lining up.  And, by the way, they did NOT close T1 at 6:00 it was likely 6:15 or so, but still I was somewhat pressed for time.  I lined up, the pros were off and going, my age group got in the water and we swam to the start line treading water (first time I’ve done that type of swim start) and we were OFF!  Once the race started I felt better.

Except it continued to RAIN!  And as I ran through swim exit toward my bike, which was about a ½ mile…I started to worry.   Until then, I hadn’t EVER ridden my TRI bike or actually my road bike in the rain.  On bad weather days I just opt for a spin class instead.  And it wasn’t just a drizzle it was really RAINING!  Water was pouring off the brim of my helmet, thankfully I have TRI bike shoes so the water was running out the bottom, I wear socks when I ride which were soaked, but somehow my prescription sunglasses (photosensitive) didn’t get completely water spotted.  Still, I was nervous and with my recent loss of biking buddy plus the fact that my son so kindly shared his nightmare dream of me dying in this race…I was more than a little cautious.

0466_06221 The bike course was tough and I did see a pretty major wipe-out of three bikes colliding and all riders down and out.  The rain stopped at around mile 40, which made a huge difference when looking at my bike splits…once the rain was over my average mph jumped from around 16 to almost 22 since I was comfortable putting the pedal to the metal…and that wasn’t a super easy part of the bike course either.  Still it helped improve a marginally effective, BUT safe, ride.

Transition bags and changing tents were a new concept for me also.  It wasn’t bad and once again, now I know the drill for future reference.  The run was a 3 looper with about 2 miles up and 2 miles down.  I did run thru a few aid stations but also walked on some hills.  Still my pace overall was similar to Boulder although the course in Henderson was much more difficult and toward the end of the run it was starting to heat up with blue skies.0466_37673

Nutrition once again worked really well.  For fear of dehydrating, I seriously drank ALL the time.  All water bottles on the bike plus one from an aid station, every run aid station I refilled my handheld water bottle plus drank coke (love that nasty stuff) after mile 8, a full water bottle at finish, 3 mini chocolate milks and two pints of Stella mid afternoon after the race.  You’d think I’d be spending a ton of time in the porta potty (or other) but nope…after all that I must have still been dehydrated.  But I felt fine.

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Overall an awesome experience!  My sister in-law Melissa traveled to Vegas to support me which was FANTASTIC!  Mel and her extended family were there at the race cheering me on and I saw a few other Colorado tri friends there too.  Having folks who actually know you call out your name during the race is an amazing lift!

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With a 6:35:47 finish time, I wish I would have had a faster race but it all came down to a slower ride and if I had “do overs” I wouldn’t change a thing.  I qualified for and finished the Ironman 70.3 World Championship race and I have one of the worlds BIGGEST finisher medals to prove it!IMG_20130908_152744

An IronGirl is NOT an Ironman

IronGirlWhile all of my races this year were Ironman managed events there was one that somehow did not fit the mold and that was IronGirl at Cherry Creek in Aurora, CO.  This sprint distance triathlon was close to home and I anticipated a chance to podium, which were the two primary reasons I had entered.

After Boulder 70.3, I’d come to realize that I actually really LIKE, maybe even PREFER the long course race distance.  Sprints are pedal to the metal for an hour, 1:15 or 1:30 or 2:00 or whatever time it takes you.  Long course races are trying to stay at the top of your aerobic level and are really much more focused on endurance.  Also, I’d come to appreciate and maybe even expect the smoothness of a well run race like those put on by the folks at Without Limits and Ironman.  Since IronGirl was under the Ironman umbrella I expected the same.

Hmmm, my first indication that IronGirl wasn’t “really” an Ironman organized event was when I checked-in on race morning and the body markers put my race number on my arms and my legs rather than bib number on arm and age on calf.  When I mentioned this they were completely unaware of the standard body marking protocol.  Next was the fact that there was not clear marking from swim exit to T1, which I mentioned to the race director who promptly brushed me off saying volunteers would staff.   There was however a pretty clear shortage of volunteers.   Course signage for the bike course were mixed in with general event signs showing parking this way…which would be confusing for anyone that had not ridden the course.

Anyway, for me, none of this presented a challenge since I’d ridden the course many times and on race morning I always walk the swim in, bike out and in, run out to finish.  But…as with most women-only events there are many gals for whom this is their first triathlon and maybe ONLY triathlon.  A goal that they’ve set for themselves, maybe with a group of friends, maybe something to check off of the “bucket list” or maybe a start to a new fitness focused hobby.   It was these women that I hoped were not adversely impacted by the lack of adequate signage or trained volunteers.

My warm up and race proceeded without issue.  I was in the first wave and therefore was one of the first gals out of the water and onto the bike.  During the bike course I noted again the confusing signage and on the run I was shocked that there were no volunteers along the route (except for the aid station), not one volunteer at the turn of the run.  As I ran to the finish I noticed some poor women close to finishing their bike and following the wrong sign which put them into a parking lot versus T2.

After finishing I was SUPER impressed by the breakfast buffet.  Seriously THE BEST post race food of any event.  Fresh, tasty, diverse and high quality.  And, seating included big round tables with linen table clothes.  Very nice.  But I do NOT compete in triathlons simply to eat food at the finish…I can go to a brunch somewhere post race if I like.

IronGirl Cherry Creek

IronGirl Cherry Creek

As I enjoyed the tasty brunch, the typical camaraderie of women’s races was apparent.  Gals were celebrating their first TRI, others were thrilled with a PR some celebrated a podium position and yet some others were frustrated that they couldn’t locate T1 after swimming or took a wrong turn on the bike course because they followed the wrong sign.  I did give my honest feedback after the race.  Who knows if anyone will listen?  They needed 3 times the number of volunteers, the volunteers needed to be trained, signage needed to be improved…but with some tuning this race can be a wonderful addition to sprint distance events in Colorado.

By the way, I did podium with 3rd place in my age group and got a nice little piece of silver jewelry…but, by now I was a bit distracted as Vegas and 70.3 Worlds was looming large on the horizon.

“A” race for ACE and Ali – Boulder 70.3

Ironman Boulder 70.3Ironman Boulder 70.3 was THE race of my 2013 season.  The event I had train for, dreaded, dreamed about and stressed over.

As I focused on my half Ironman training and preparation I thought back on what I had learned, both good and bad, from my other races. The infamous Harvest Moon of 2012 loomed large, at this race which is a half Ironman distance but not an Ironman branded race, I had seriously misjudged my nutritional needs.  Effectively, bonked and ended up walking much of the 13.1 mile run, missing my goal time by over an hour.  After THAT race I was demoralized and demotivated…in fact for a short period of time (OK, it was really only about 24 hours) I swore off long distances races.  Well, as anyone that is a triathlete knows this sport is HIGHLY addictive!

To ensure that I didn’t have a nutritional breakdown I practiced my hydration and nutrition on long brick training sessions and during The Peak race.  I was hyper committed to my training calendar.  I made each workout count and trained like I was heading to the World Championships.  I had even begun to jokingly tell my hubby “IF I qualify for World’s, I’m heading to Vegas…ha ha!”.    I also added more open water swimming to my repertoire including two Aquaman races—1 mile swim and 5K.  Now those, for anyone not familiar, are NASTY as in pretty darn brutal.  Until I did my first Aquaman I didn’t fully appreciate how much recovery you get after the swim when you’re on the bike during a triathlon!  PHEW, going from a swim race to a running race meant you had your heart race at close to max for the whole time…much harder in my opinion than a Sprint distance triathlon.  Thankfully I also had some great friends to train with and training with friends always makes it much more fun and you seem to push yourself harder!

Bike training with Craig, Anna and Bart

Bike training with Craig, Anna and Bart

As race day approached, I felt surprisingly calm.  I didn’t have pre-race stress, I wasn’t super bitchy…it was because I felt prepared.  I was ready to RACE!

To make Boulder 70.3 even more special we had extended family (Nessie and Kate) in town on vacation from England.   Having these super fun gals there along with my #1 fan Mr. Keith was fantastic, #2 fan was at his first sleep away camp so no one was cheering Go! Triathlon Momma Go!, but there was plenty of GO Ali, GO to be heard!

Transition area before Boulder 70.3 with Marla

Transition area before Boulder 70.3 with Marla

Race day arrived bright and sunny without issue and my unusual Zen state continued all the way thru race prep.  When I lined up in the self-seed swim corral I stood next to my triathlete buddy and fellow Masters swimmer Craig.  We wished each other a great race and before we knew it we were plowing thru the water on the 1.2 mile loop.  Soon I was racing thru T1 and out onto the ride on my bike “ACE” (doesn’t everyone name their bike?); who is seriously a streamlined speed machine!  I really tried to stay in the moment and appreciate just being there.  I thanked God for being able to do what I love.  I was racing in Ironman Boulder 70.3!  WOW!

Bike course Boulder 70.3

Bike course Boulder 70.3

Soon it was T2 and onto the run. The half marathon was two loops around Boulder Reservoir, which is notorious for having ZERO shade!  The run was hot but I continued forward and used a strategy of walking thru the aid stations.  I ultimately ended up walking a bit more than just the aid stations but mostly ran.  I also found a strange love of Coke (and I NEVER typically drink soda), cold, flat, Coca Cola is a magical thing, something like instant jet fuel!

As I neared the completion of my race, I was certainly happy to see the finish line, but not exhausted in a devastating way…I had paced myself much better than in earlier races AND my nutrition was spot on!

Run course Boulder 70.3

Run course Boulder 70.3

I waited with my family and friends to see my finish time.  A race time of 5:51:24 was better than I had hoped and placed me 9th in my age group.  I hung around for awards and soon I came to realize that I really DID have a chance to qualify for Ironman 70.3 World Championships.  A slim chance but still worth waiting for as it would all come to “roll down”.   Roll down means that if the 2 spots that were allocated to my age group were not taken by those that placed ahead of me, or those women had already qualified in another 70.3 race…the 2 slots would progressively “roll down” to the next qualifier.   Good grief, was this really going to happen?  Was I really going to legitimately qualify for the half Ironman World Championships?!!

WHAT?!  I am going to Vegas?!

WHAT?! I am going to Vegas?!

And…the answer is YES!  I did, the same girl that only two years prior who had not even run a 5K, that same girl was heading to Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Henderson, NV in early September.

I had a little pit in my stomach, was that panic or excitement?!?   I think maybe a little bit of both!

The Legend of The Peak

Boulder Peak triathlon, it’s almost legendary NO actually it IS legendary.  The perils of the grade on Olde Stage Road plus being a Hy-vee 5150 US Champion qualifying race, make for one really AWESOME event!

Oh!  the stories I’ve heard:

  • Olde Stage max grade of over 20%
  • Athletes walking up that portion of the bike course http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btLTxM0CZoc
  • Athletes toppling over on Olde Stage because of an inability to downshift
  • How granny gear on Olde Stage just wasn’t low enough
  • Speed limits set on the downhill due to the technical nature of the ride
  • It’s the hardest triathlon I’ve ever done, I heard from a badass athlete friend

olde-stage-profile

EEEeekk!  Seriously, enough to put the fear of God into me!  Frankly, I’d be really pretty pissed off at myself if I had to walk it and even more so if I toppled over going 0.5 miles per hour!  There was NO WAY I was going to ride Olde Stage for the very first time on race day.  One of the many benefits of living in the Denver metro area was the proximity to the Mecca of triathlon…BOULDER.

Being a qualifier race for Hy-vee 5150 US Championship, which  has the largest prize purse of any triathlon, even more than Kona, which is odd IMHO, gave the race even more cache.

Triathlon Payout

To test my mettle on Olde Stage my coach and I rode the bike course of The Peak directly after finishing Boulder Sprint.  Figuring, if I could do a decent job of riding The Peak on tired legs, I should be in pretty good shape to have a good ride fresh from the swim on race day.  Was it tough?  OH Yes!  Was my HR maxed at the top of Olde Stage?  You betcha!  Was the ride doable?  Absolutely!  Riding the course a couple of additional times before race day also helped.

The Peak draws a blend of age groupers and top-tier pros such as TO (Tim O’Donnell), who by the way is even hotter in real life, all competing in this pretty awesome Olympic distance triathlon right here in Boulder, Colorado!  As an added bonus to racing at The Peak, I got the opportunity to watch some talented pros AND secure a photo opp with Ironman world champ (and TO’s finance) Mirinda “Rinny” Carfrae.

Mirinda Carfrae

Pre-race bike warm-up at The Peak

Pre-race bike warm-up at The Peak

The Peak was an awesome race, although I didn’t have a stellar swim or run…my bike was pretty strong.  Finishing 9th overall in age group, which was good enough for me to receive a nice little email congratulating me on my performance at The Peak and inviting me to register for the 5150 US Championship, which was on September 1st!   How cool!  I thought about registering but I held off.

Peak9

My focus now was on to the Boulder 70.3 which was my “A” race of the season.  I was driven to redeem myself after my less than fabulous race at Harvest Moon long-course (i.e., half Ironman distance) in 2012.  I’d wait and see how the Boulder half went and then maybe register for Hy-vee.

Boulder Sprint – 1st TRI of the Season

Boulder Sprint

1st TRI of the 2013 season (Father’s Day) June 16th  @ Boulder Sprint. Finished 6th in age group but coulda or shoulda been 3rd or 4th

IF:
* I didn’t swim into slow poke swimmers who self seeded too fast
* I didn’t swim off course and add another 100+ meters
* I didn’t rack my bike in the wrong spot and lose it in transition which added at least a couple of minutes
* I didn’t walk thru the aid stations and run like a penguin

Lots to learn from this race!  Onward! …next up is Boulder Peak Olympic distance on July 14th

2013 Multi-Sport Season Retrospective

2013 retrospective…I’m not sure how it actually happened but my 2013 multi-sport season is now in the rear-view mirror.  And, when I look back there at what transpired— I’m surprised, a little exhausted and possibly slightly proud of my old self and what my “old” body was able to accomplish.

There was much training, friendship and racing involved this past season including:   Trail runs, epic mountain rides, running races and Elephant Rock cycling festival.

Lucky Laces 5K with Lauren and Erika

Lucky Laces 5K with Lauren and Erika

Early morning training run at Wash Park

Early morning training run at Wash Park

Cherry Creek Sneak 2 - 2013

Cherry Creek Sneak 10 Mile Run with Himee, Lauren, Heather, Nico and Cary. Hot day, hard race and no PR but did convince some nice lady to lend me her ID so I could get into the beer garden. Good grief, I stopped looking less than 21 more than 20 years ago!

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Dawn at Grant Ranch, 1st open water swim training of the season

First training ride on my Felt bike ACE, with Marla

First training ride on my Felt bike “ACE”, with Marla

Colfax 13.1

Colfax Half Marathon with Cole, Heather and Bart. No PR for me but a still a good race with good friends. Why does beer taste so AWESOME after an endurance race?

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Beautiful 8 mile run up Green Mountain

Dawn at Grant Ranch last open water swim training of the season

Dawn at Grant Ranch last open water swim training of the season

Mostly all happy times, with one BIG sad spot that brought tears to an otherwise fantastic season.

This sadness was related to the loss of my #1 cycling buddy and fellow Masters swimmer Randy Herndon.  Randy lost his life in a tragic cycling accident in Boulder in mid-August of this year.   He died too soon, but died doing something he LOVED.  Randy did not live his life on the sidelines; he lived his life 100% engaged.  I will fondly remember him for his crooked smile, quick wit, encouragement, kindness and mental toughness.  I’ll certainly miss him but he’ll be in my thoughts and bring a smile to my face and heart as I push forward on my multi-sport journey.

The highlights of my season included 7 multi-sport events.  WHAT?!   Yep, that’s right 7 multi-sport events between June and September!  Sounds a little crazy even to a triathlon addict like ME!  Was each training and/or race day rainbows and butterflies?  Did I start each training session thinking yippee I get to do VO2 Max this swim workout or rejoice the opportunity to do those long fartlek run sessions…heck NO!  But, I think I can honestly say that I remained committed to my plan, followed what my coach set forth.  I did not miss a workout, I did not skimp, wimp or otherwise cut any corners.  I worked hard.

Now, did I accomplish all my goals?  NOPE.  I’m still a penguin runner, though thankfully no one actually called me that this year.  But, I did hit the BIG goals.  So here’s the crib note version of the season’s races:

  • Boulder Sprint
  • Boulder Peak (Olympic) – Qualified for 2013 Hy-Vee 5150 US Championship
  • (2) Aquaman  – 1 mile swims and 5K run
  • Ironman Boulder 70.3 – Qualified for  Ironman 70.3 World Championships
  • IronGirl Sprint – Qualified for 2014 USA Triathlon Olympic-Distance National Championships
  • Ironman 70.3 World Championships – Won AGE GROUP…just kidding!!!

Yes, sir-ee  Ironman 70.3 World Championships…ME and the Who’s Who of triathlon, who’d believe that would ever happen to me, a Sophomore age grouper and penguin runner?  World Record set by ME?  Baa Haa Haa, NO!!! But, I did feel super fortunate about being there surrounded by the best of the best at the ½ Ironman distance.

IronMan 70.3 World Championship qualifier happy dance!!

IronMan 70.3 World Championship qualifier happy dance!!

So there’s the abbreviated story and I’m sticking to it.  Details of races and training to follow.