Reflections on Ironman Boulder

It’s almost New Years eve and I haven’t posted a single blog update this entire training or triathlon season.  In reflection it seems somewhat like the TRI season that wasn’t.  Now, that may seem a little odd given that I completed both the Boise 70.3 in June and Ironman Boulder  in August.  But in comparison to the 8 multi-sport events I raced in 2013, this year was all about one race…my inaugural IRONMAN.

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There truly was a single laser focus to the 2014 season, which certainly had both positive and negative elements.  Here’s a view on both perspectives:

Positives

Yes, I’ll start here with the Positives as I am an unwavering “glass is half full” sorta gal:

  • Introduction to the uber, triple secret (not really triple, but may double secret) Endurance GIRL Facebook group, fantastic group of over 500 women located in the greater Denver metro area who are focused on longer course endurance racing.
  • Trained with some awesome folks who I hope will be life-time friends
  • Was guided to my Ironman with the expert talents of super @CoachCary
  • Enjoyed beautiful mountain road riding including a self-support Elephant Rock (my 1st Century ride) and Copper Triangle; multiple rides up the infamous High Grade off of Deer Creek Canyon, Evergreen Lollipop, Squaw Pass and The Triple Bypass.

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The Triple Bypass is a 120 mile cycling festival over 3 mountain passes from Evergreen, CO to Avon, CO…there is actually a Double Triple which does both the east to west and west to east route on back-to-back days.  Can’t wrap my head around that one!

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  • Super support from my #1 crew THE GUYS Keith and Ryan
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  • Fun trip to Boise with @CoachCary for the Boise 70.3
  • Awesome in person and remote support from my friends and family at Ironman Boulder.

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  • Special etched in memory points for kissing the big guy Mr Keith in the finisher chute of Ironman Boulder
  • Having my brother Dave who was volunteering as a Finish Line Catcher put my medal around my neck
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Finisher photo with my brother…notice how I don’t look tired. That’s not a good thing that means I should have pushed HARDER!

  • The Finisher Chute…is truly a magical moment.  It’s kinda like a great golf shot after a less than stellar round of golf.  That Finisher Chute experience will keep you coming back for more!
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Entering the finisher chute Ironman Boulder

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Finish Ironman Boulder

Negatives

Here are some of the Negatives, not super bad, the world is ending kind of negatives but still stuff I’d consider a bit of a downer:

  • I only completed 2 endurance races…this felt honestly a bit anticlimactic
  • Training for a Ironman can take over your life!  Sure, you can cut the training short but if you do you’ll have hell to pay on race day.  When I say takes over your life I mean, it is SUPER disruptive… to the point that:
    • Your husband might say “I feel like a single parent”, or your son might say “Mom, I miss you!”,
    • Your friends invite you out to non-triathlon events on the weekend and you can’t because you’ve gotta train, other friends invite you to a party and you have to leave early because you need sleep because you’ve gotta train
    • You use up your weekends to get in the long rides and long runs
    • You give up sleep and waking up in the 4:00 hour becomes the norm
    • You lose perspective…a 90 minute run is considered a short run day
  • You become use to, in need of and maybe even a little addicted to the endorphins that fuel you 6 out of 7 days…to the point that on rest day, which you so look forward to, you’re “out of sorts” and grumpy.
  • During the actual Ironman race you lose about 20 IQ points from the start of the swim to the finish line…thankfully you get most of those points back (I think?)
  • The swim portion of an Ironman has less to do with pure swimming abilities and more to do with your tolerance for being bumped, pushed, kicked…it’s not swimming silly it’s water polo!
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The calm before the swim start of Ironman Boulder

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The swim…Ironman Boulder

  • During the run portion of the race you actually think about bodily functions, politely referred to as GI distress, in a way that isn’t typical…yuck!

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  • Post Ironman blues are not in your head…well, they actually are your head but they are real for many athletes after major endurance races including me.
  • Since your body, metabolism and caloric intake has been supporting a level of training effort that burns boatloads of kcals, post race recovery might find your pants getting a little tight, YIKES!  Put down the burger, wine etc….they are NOT your friends!

Million dollar question(s) that everyone seems to ask me.

Did you get a tattoo?  Nope, no ink on my person but I did “tattoo” my car IMG_20141015_092020_585

Will I do another Ironman?  Immediately after the race I thought NO WAY.  But, time seems to smooth out the rough edges and the highlights of the day become more pronounced than the downsides.  The answer is yes, I think I will do another Ironman but not for a few years.  I need to be sure I don’t miss out on important things that are not triathlon related.  So, I’ll focus on 70.3 and other “bucket list” events over the next few years.  Then I’ll gear up with the explicit goal of making it to the BIG SHOW…KONA!

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

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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.

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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.

Felt B12 – Biking Ace?

My gear addiction has gone to the next level and I might add not without some amount of guilt, fear and trepidation.  I have now taken the plunge and purchased an awesome über cool Felt B12 triathlon bike a/k/a “Ace”.

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Being a competitive swimmer in my former life…I’m not talking Olympic quality or even top 10 college level, but rather being a swimmer as a child and through High School.  And, those of you who are in this camp will generally attest that once a swimmer, ALWAYS a swimmer.  Anyway, my point here is that I had assumed that swimming would be the strong suit of my TRI-fecta.  But, NO, who’d believe it is the bike?!  Who knows why, I sure don’t!?  But those are the facts.

Until I purchased my Giant road bike a/k/a “Zen Boy”, who by the way I adore, I had not been on a road bike since my teenage years.  I am not a technically trained cyclist, I do not understand gear ratios, I do not know all the fancy hand signals… I honestly just shift on feel, follow the basic rules of the road and it seems to work reasonably well.   But, was I satisfied with my performance on the bike?  Was I willing to say hey I’m strong enough on the bike and swim to be an age-group contender at some Sprint distance races cuz there isn’t enough time for the fast runners (since I’m a penguin runner) to catch up on my lead?  Oh NO, couldn’t do that, could I?!  The reported 1-3 MPH extra speed on a TRI bike had me like a moth to a flame.

And…now I have a sparkling new, speed machine in my garage that frankly scares the crap out of me more than just a little!  But then looking back, the first time I clipped my SPDs into my clipless pedals on Zen Boy back in 2011 I was pretty darn freaked out.  So hopefully I’ll work my way through the pit in my stomach and adjust to the Look KEO cleats and aero position, and shifting and breaking being on separated parts of the bike and my Ace and I will work together smoothly and safely as a streamlined biking machine.

She’s BACK!

Guess what?!!  Pertussis is in the rearview mirror…good bye dreaded coughing fits, weakness and lethargy.  I’m  BAAAaaaaCK!  Yes, I AM BACK!  Back to feeling like myself, back to training, back to thinking about triathlon,  back to looking at races, back to planning my calendar for next year, back to looking at the results and paces of other athletes, back to buying gear, back to talking incessentently about Triathlon, back to reading the latest articles, back to being ME!

Here’s proof…over the last week, I’ve:

Ordered custom Infinit nutrition during Cyber Monday at 50% off! http://www.infinitnutrition.us/interview.asp 

Registered for Boulder Tri Series http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/events/non-ironman/boulder-tri-series.aspx#axzz2E0OWj05j 

Registered for USAT National Team Challenge  http://www.race-tracker.net/usat/index.cfm

Began swim technique training at SwimLabs http://denver.swimlabs.com/

Registered for Crescent Moon Sprint http://www.racingunderground.com/crescentmoontri/index.html

Registered as a volunteer for IM Tahoe  http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/events/ironman/lake-tahoe/volunteer.aspx#axzz2E0OWj05j

Purchased  EPC Team Adrenalin kit  http://www.epcmultisport.com/tag/team-adrenalin/

WooHoo!  WOW!  It is SO good to be BACK!

The Best Laid Plans…

As they say the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray…

Which I guess is the name of the game with Triathlon.  No matter how well you plan something, always expect the unexpected, in other words, just because you think you’ve done all you can….something can still get messed up (always have a Plan B).

My Off Season “Plan A” has been derailed…after initially feeling run down in early October resulting in a DNS for Race for the Cure 5K and then getting a lingering nasty “coughing fit” type cough and a DNS for The Stride 10K, I was after 3 visits to 3 separate Doctor’s finally diagnosed with Pertussis (a/k/a Whooping Cough).  Who knew that many states in the US are having an outbreak!  In China they call it the 100 day cough cuz the damn thing seems like it lasts FOREVER but more acurately almost 1/3 of a year!  Turns out my friend and coach @CoachCary has it too, actually she’s the one that gave it to me!   At least I have someone to commiserate with!

The antibiotics and steroid inhaler have alleviated many of the symptoms and I’m no longer quarantined or considered Typhoid Mary.

But…I was told by my Doctor (the guy that actually determine that I have Pertussis and who is also a triathlete) that I need to scale back my training–as in Zone 1 and Zone 2 work only or risk a set back, relapse or complications.  Meaning, no threshold runs, VO2 swim sprints or the like.  None of those training programs that hurt like hell but produce the much sought after endorphin rush.  NOPE! None of that for me!  Makes me want to pout, cry, stomp my feet and have a little pity party.  I can literally feel my muscle tone melting and fitness draining away.  What’s worse is that I was also told NO RACING for another 2-3 months….AARGH!

OK, enough already!  Plan B must proceed.  Meaning that my focus for the next number of weeks will shift to:

  • *  Strength and flexibility
  • *  Zone 1 and 2 endurance work in the three sports
  • *  Swim technique

Time to get off my butt and get busy…the pity party is over!!

Off Season Planning, Training and Purchases

My triathlon season for 2012 is over but that doesn’t mean that planning for 2013 hasn’t already begun!  @CoachCary and I met a few nights ago, chatting over a flight of wine and appetizers about:

  • What races to consider next year
  • What areas to strengthen
  • Duration of and how to allocate my off-season time

“Off-season” doesn’t really mean turn into a coach potato and shovel in French fries by the fist-full.  But, it does mean that I won’t have structured training and my workouts are not logged into www.trainingpeaks.com for several weeks.  Also, it gives me permission to sleep-in, relax, recover and reflect.

Here are the tentative plans:

Races for 2013

2013 will include a Ironman 70.3 and several Sprint distance events.  There are two 70.3 races that are finalists in the selection process:

1)      Vineman 70.3 – July 14th 

2)      Boulder 70.3 – August 4th

I hear great things about Vineman, the question is do I want to foot the bill on the travel expenses to an out-of-state event?  Also, if I got really crazy (which is known to happen with me and triathlon since I’m a bit obsessed) I suppose I could do both. Hmmm, we’ll see.

As for the Sprints those are still up for grabs. I truly enjoyed the concept of “racing” (yes, which is really subjective) at Outdoor Divas, so including a race or two that I can go all-out would be fun.

Also, an early season Duathlon (biking and running) might be in the cards to get the old body re-familiarized with multi-sport events, adrenaline flowing and heart rate pumping

Areas to Improve

Surprise, surprise, surprise…running is still on my list of things to improve.  Yes, running continues to be the weak link in the trifecta of events.  I’m planning to look for a running group.  As they say, to be a better triathlete you must swim with swimmers, bike with cyclists and run with runners.  Enough said on that.

Also, while I’m a reasonably strong swimmer I’m planning to tap into my existing credits with the Swim Labs experts to see if I can improve my technique and resulting efficiency (a/k/a speed) in the water.

New Gear

As I’ve professed before, I am a bit of a gear junkie.  I do love my toys, tools, outfits etc.  But honestly, my wish list is short this time…albeit expensive!

Momma needs a TT Bike.  Guess what!?!  The bike is by far the strongest part of my TRI events.  Although, I do love my Giant Avail Advanced, it is a road bike vs. TT Bike and I’m am seriously considering making the investment in a true Triathlon bike.  I hear that after adjusting to the aero position that my speed could increase 2-3 mph and my legs in theory should be better able to run (see previous comments about Areas to Improve) given the redistribution of muscles used on a TT vs. road bike.  I’ve already started to catalog which pros ride which bikes and how they are performing.  Of course, I don’t have a bottomless pit of money to spend, nor do I have a bike sponsor so that will constrain my options a bit!  Maybe Santa could bring me a nice Blue, Trek, Giant, Cannondale, Cervelo, Orbea, Specialized…with visions of TT-bikes dancing thru my head!

Half Iron Distance – Harvest Moon

It is now almost a week since I finished Harvest Moon which is a long course triathlon of the same 70.3 mile distance as a half Ironman.  I needed a bit of time to pass to let my thoughts coalesce.

Here’s a recap–The GOOD, the BAD and the UGLY.

(GOOD) Leading up to the race I followed my plan to a “T”.  I was diligent in my training taper, my nutrition, my hydration, my sleep.  I did NOT cut ANY corners.  (BAD) I was however more than a little nervous and it showed in my less than jovial manner (read bitchy attitude) and churning stomach full of butterflies for a few days prior to race start.

(GOOD) Morning of the race, I followed my typical routine of drinking like a camel and eating my oatmeal, PB&J toast and banana.  I arrived at the transition area when it opened at 6:00 a.m. and secured an ideal spot close to bike start and finish.   I was pleased that my friend and triathlon mentor @KirkMac was there to give me moral support.

After setting up transition items, (GOOD) Heather and I headed out on a brief bike ride and run to warm up.  I then put on my wetsuit and proceeded to complete a short swim, just to get wet and glide through the water.  Time seemed to fast forward at that point and before I knew it Wave 1 which included the old women (a/k/a ME), young women and Elites, was in the water with the countdown underway.

Now, swimming is in my roots.  I spent much of my early years during the summer and through High School in a pool.  Hair that resembled straw as a result of Chlorine was my norm.   I swam competitively and was a strong albeit not super fast swimmer and distance races were my strong suit.  The swim for this event was a 1.2 mile “wish bone” shaped course.  As the horn sounded, I started off using my typical approach of swimming fast for the first 150-200 yards and then getting into a rhythm, I then try to pick up speed a bit on the turn, fall back into a rhythm and then pick up speed again at about the 200 meter to finish point.  (GOOD) My swim start was fine, but, I soon realized I was starting to (BAD) swim off-course, inadvertently adding considerable yardage to my efforts.  After the turn around point, the wishbone swim course format introduced the feeling of swimming head-on into the oncoming swim waves.  Then…after all the yardage I swam in Masters, I got a (BAD) calf cramp in my left leg at about 200 meters from the swim finish; just when I was trying to swim FAST.  I thought, “YOU have GOT to be kidding me!  After all the time in the pool I’m going to get a frick’n leg cramp?!”  SH*T, it hurt too!  So there I was trying to stretch out my left leg by flexing my foot and still kick with my right leg while continuing to swim freestyle.  Not the ideal, most efficient or fastest way to race a swim.  My swim resulted in a time of 38:01 for 1,931 meters.

Running into transition helped me forget my calf issue.  I proceeded through the T1 drill of peeling off my wetsuit and putting on my shoes, helmet, sunglasses etc. as quickly as possible.  In retrospect my (GOOD) transition times were the only area where I actually beat my target goal time!  Hey, ya gotta look for the silver lining somewhere!!

(GOOD) Proceeding onto the bike course went smoothly and the first 25-30 miles of the 56 mile course went fairly easily.  But, the Harvest Moon bike course is deceiving.  (UGLY) The winds and elevation change at around the half way point and really start to wear you down, reducing your speed to maybe half of what it was on the front of the course.  I watched my “Cat-Eye” bike computer average speed slowly reduce as the miles wore on.  I knew that I needed to keep a pace of close to 19 mph to hit my goal time.  (BAD) The wind and strain made my upper body tight and tired.    I was discouraged as I saw that my average speed had fallen below 18 mph.  (GOOD) As I rode into T2 I saw my guys #1 and #2 positioned on a hill cheering me on!  THAT lifted my spirits…thank you GUYS!  Bike leg resulted in a time of 3:16:48 with an average mph of 17.1.

Once in T2 I quickly noticed that the hydration flasks that I’d filled with Infinit liquid nutrition while almost frozen when I arrived at 6:00 a.m. were now (BAD) warm, as in HOT and undrinkable.  That was a bummer as it left my hydration belt worthless.

As I started to run my body, shoulders, back and legs were sore and my spirits were a bit low.  My run goal had been 2:10:00 which equates to a 10 minute mile.  (UGLY) The day was also hotter than expected with temperatures heading up to 90 degrees.  An aide station with water and Gatorade was located each mile and every other aid station also offered food such as bananas, Oreos, pretzels, gels etc.  I had hoped to run between aid stations and walk through them to allow a short recovery.  That lasted until Mile 2.  At that point (BAD) my back and legs were starting to become quite painful in a muscle cramp sort of way.  I started to introduce more walking and less running.  This continued for the next 4 miles with other athletes also walking but many jogging by…with a quick “you’re doing great”.  Which while these words were offered with best of intentions, it made me feel a little like I SUCK!  They’re running/jogging and I’m walking…frick’n WIMP!  Close to the turn around, as this was an out and back  course, (GOOD) I came across a man (Michael) that was struggling as I was and I suggested we do a walk/run combo together.  Running with someone has an amazing effect on your ability to keep moving forward.  What a nice man!  Michael and I continued our walk run combo until mile 11 at which point Michael wanted to run the remaining distance.   As I jogged a little and walked and ran I could see the finish line in the distance.  I had told guy #2 that we should run through the final yards together.  So as I approach I could see my (GOOD) personal cheering squad and little guy #2 was there.  I yelled (or more likely squeaked) for him to run with me and so (GOOD) guy #2 and I ran the final 100 or so yards at an all out sprint.

That was the highlight of my day! I heard the announcer proclaim that Alison Kane from Centennial, Colorado had completed the Harvest Moon with a “fast finish”.  (GOOD) No penguin call-out for me on that finish!  Although, in fact, I really did deserve it this time!  With a run time of 3:01:21 with a true penguin pace of a 13:51 minute mile.

(BAD) Unlike when I cross the finish at Sprint or Olympic distance TRI, I didn’t feel that elation of finishing.   I felt a little…empty, discouraged, annoyed.  Where was that endorphin rush, that healthy “high” that I love?  Unfortunately, I had left it somewhere out on the 70.3 mile path to the finish line.

(BAD)  I told guy #1, “THAT was HORRIBLE” please remind me how much I hated this…don’t let me do this again”.  (UGLY) I then got a nasty queasy sorta feeling, something similar to what I vaguely remember from my college party’n days and I had to locate a private spot to address the issue…yes, I did in fact get sick post finish (sorry TMI).

THAT was Sunday afternoon.  (GOOD) And, after two beers, half a pizza, going to bed at 7:45 and sleeping 11 hours…by Monday morning, I had already started to forget, (similar to childbirth I guess) the pain and I was surprisingly only minimally sore.   (GOOD) By Monday afternoon, I looked.  YES,  I looked at possible IM 70.3 races for 2013.  I am a freak…a triathlon addict, maybe I need an intervention or something?!  Truth is, I want to beat my sad little PR for the half Iron distance of 7:00:58.

And so ends my triathlon season for 2012.  And, (GOOD) YES! I will be sporting a 70.3 car magnet.  Slow, maybe, but a FINISHER never-the-less which is truly AWESOME!

Outdoor Divas – Sprint Triathlon

I received a green light from the foot Doctor to participate in the Outdoor Divas Sprint Triathlon but lingering foot achiness and two weeks of NO running introduced serious risk, angst, and stress in achieving my season goal of making it to the podium at Divas.  It may sound silly but that really was the BIG goal for this triathlon season.  In fact, Heather R, Erin and I had all made that our goal for 2012.  Except then Erin decided to have a baby so that took her out of the podium line-up for this year but still Heather and I were driven to get on that darn raised box setup.

For the two weeks prior to the race since I had been told DO NOT run, I had ramped up my swim and bike to compensate and to focus on retaining my endurance threshold.  I biked hard and swam like a nutcase, all the while hoping that this would keep my running abilities (or lack thereof) from crushing my podium quest.

Now for those not familiar with Outdoor Divas, it is a women’s only Sprint distance triathlon (750m swim, 12.5 mile bike, 5K run) with a reasonable cap of participants–approximately 575 athletes registered for the 2012 event.  Participants include a blend of athletic abilities ranging from über competitive Elite folks to first timers.  I was somewhere in the über competitive, 2nd season rookie, non-Elite, sorta old, triathlon freak category.

In the few days leading up to the race I was SO psyched up; jazzed for the race with nerves and adrenaline.   As race weekend arrived, I was happy that most of my original group of friends that registered remained committed to participating in the event.

Pre-race dinner was a fun pasta night with guys #1 & #2 plus our friends the Bests.  Carb loading and laughs were certainly on the menu.  Race morning for me arrived earlier than planned at around 3:15 a.m.; that was NOT the time I set my alarm, but still that was the time by body said “let’s GO!”  I was too excited to sleep.

Full of nervous energy we all headed into transition and given that we were among the first to arrive we had our choice of where to rack our bikes.  We debated for several minutes on what was the best spot and finally I consulted with some competitive Elite looking gals who informed me…pick a spot with the shortest distance required to run with your bike.  Great advice, we picked a prime spot right next to bike start and bike finish.  Off on a warm up ride and run and then into Union Reservoir for a short swim.

The race directors held a pre-race meeting right before getting the event underway which included a fun little addition—the Colorado Fire Fighters calendar guys would be manning the aid station.  That certainly got a round of cheers.

I was in the 50-54 age group which placed me in the last swim wave.  I was determined to try to “race” each leg of the TRI and most certainly NOT to walk any of the run.    Soon the 1 minute notice was given for my wave and then 30 seconds, 15 seconds, finally a horn blast started my race.  I pushed myself on the swim but felt smooth and confident as I rounded the various buoys…heading into the last 250 meters the swim became a bit of an obstacle course of slower swimmers from the prior waves.  I bumped into a couple of gals but nothing close to a “water polo” type clash.  Soon I was out of the water, struggling to pull off my Helix and running into Transition I heard my time.  I felt pleased with an 11:42 for a 750 meter swim.

T1 as typical seemed to take an eternity and the run with Zen Boy (a/k/a my Giant Avail Advanced) out to the bike course was a bit of a stressful situation with a bottleneck of gals strolling their bikes out of transition and onto the ride.  To minimize time, I picked up Zen and ran with him out to the road and then as quickly as possible got to the bike mount location.  After almost skidding out on some gravel, within the first 20 feet of the bike course, I was off and running (or in this case biking) around the first of 3 loops of a 4 mile course.  Rules for the bike require you to ride on the right and pass on the left.  Now, I have a pretty nice bike and I have these big (formerly fat) strong legs and although I’m not an experienced cyclist I am pretty fast.  So since I was in the last group there were a ton of women in front of me, riding on the right wasn’t going to work much of the time as I was fortunate in that I was passing most of the women in front of me.   The bike course was quite flat which is nice if you’re opposed to hills, but on the flip side you don’t get the speed that comes with the downhill portion.  So I watched my Cat Eye biking calculator and as the bike portion progressed my average speed increased to an average of a 21.7 mph pace at the conclusion of the bike leg.

T2 went by without event and I was onto the run course which was an out and back 5K.  As I ran along I could feel my heart rate hitting the anaerobic zone meaning that I had reached my limit from an endurance capacity perspective.  Thoughts of walking “just a little bit” started to enter my head.  Then began a private and thankfully “silent” conversation with myself.   For all those early 4:45 a.m. mornings and for all those hideous, painful threshold runs that @CoachCary put on my calendar, I would NOT let myself down and I would NOT walk.  As I approached the ad station which I was happy to note occurred twice given the course being out and back.  These fabulous bare-chested specimens of manliness were handing out cold water and Gatorade.  Very nice…I certainly wasn’t going to look like a wimpy girl and walk through THAT aid station although it would have been nice to linger and look (gawk).  Did I walk?  NOPE, not this time!  As I was heading into the last stretch of the run, I saw my friend Heather B, up ahead.  We pretty much ran the last portion of the race course together.  Crossing the finish line at an all out sprint felt great and after downing a couple of bottles of water and a brief walk to recover I was no worse for wear.  Also, I thankfully didn’t get called a “Penguin” on this run.

AND…I was thrilled when I saw the result sheets.  With a time of 1:17:35, I had made it to the podium with a 2nd place finish in my age group and 30th place finish overall!  Heather also made it to the podium with a 3rd place finish in her age group!  And, Heather B and Christine also achieved PRs.  Woo Hoo!!

Broken Phalange

Yep a toe break.  Did it happen in some dramatic training event?  Nope!  No amazing story here other than just my general klutziness.  In short, I jammed my 2nd to smallest toe HARD into a piece of furniture.  After picking myself up off the floor, I sought out the trusty frozen kernel corn immediately for icing.  But to no avail.  My trusty foot Doctor confirmed via x-ray that my toe is broken and I cannot run for two weeks from the break.  I can then only run in a moderate fashion–meaning no distance AND no speed.  Shortly after I resume running, I must have another set of x-rays to ensure that I’m not dislodging the mend.  The question I have is:  What does this do to my quest for podium at Outdoor Divas (I know that was likely a pipe dream anyway)?!  What does this do to my first Long Course triathlon?!

Speaking with @CoachCary to set up a plan.  Plan A as well as a Plan B!

Long Course…Coming My Way

After completing the Lake to Lake Olympic, I thought long and hard about what I should do next.  More Olympics?  More Sprints?  More what?  I decided it would be great to experience all primary distances in one season, which would allow me to determine a more defined focus for next year.  So…although I am now feeling slightly (actually quite a bit) queasy (and panicky)…I have registered for Harvest Moon “long course” triathlon.  While not an Ironman branded event, hence not called a 70.3, the Harvest Moon event is still the same daunting distance.  1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and half marathon run.

Last year I rode the bike portion of Harvest Moon in a team relay.  This bike course in the plains of Colorado, includes rolling hills, considerable wind and is NOT easy.  In fact, after putting 110% into the bike in the 2011 Harvest Moon I could barely stand up and had to have a friend help re-rack my bike.  Of course, I also messed up my nutrition and didn’t eat anything on the bike course…lesson learned there.

September 9th will be here before I know it.  I will train hard.  I will do my very best to be ready.  I will be prepared.  And I will be SO happy to run across the finish line.

Olympics!

Yaaay, the 2012 Summer Olympic Games are only a few weeks away!

Sorry to disappoint, but the focus of this blog post isn’t THOSE Olympics; it’s about Olympic distance triathlon.  Up until this point my triathlon events have been limited to Sprint distance races and participation in relays for longer distance events.  But, I was expanding my horizons with the inclusion of Loveland Lake to Lake , which would be my 1st Olympic distance triathlon on June 23rd.

My training calendar had pretty much, from the beginning, been focused on the training volume required to support an Olympic distance race.  However, I hadn’t yet taken the leap to make it “happen” from a competing in that distance perspective.    Lake to Lake is a biennial qualifier to Olympic Nationals and generally more serious athletes compete in this challenging event.  2012, however, was not a qualifying year so the intensity of participants would likely be a little lower than typical.

Traditionally, Lake2Lake is longer than most Olympic distance events with a 30 mile bike ride.  However, 2012 has thus far been the year of serious and devastating forest fires in Colorado.  The fire that began on June 9th near Ft Collins right before my 1st Sprint Triathlon of 2012 continued and the team organizing Lake to Lake were forced to reroute the bike course.  In the end, the run also had to be modified to a 5.1 mile run versus a traditional 10K.  Still all-in-all, the event would be challenging, especially since temperatures on the day of the race were expected to hit 103 degrees!

I attended packet pick-up and pre-race information was collected on the evening before the race.  Guys #1 and #2 joined me for a pre-race dinner in the town of Loveland.  (Yes, I had pasta.)  Having my fan club with me makes these events SO much more enjoyable, well at least for me!  Thanks guys!

My friend Heather joined me at Lake to Lake and it was also her first Olympic tri.  On race day, we arrived at the transition area when it opened at 5:00 a.m. and picked a prime position right by the bike start and bike finish area.  We had our transition towels setup and per @CoachCary’s direction headed out on a pre-race warm up ride.  But, when we returned our transition towels and race items were moved and another gal had placed her items where our bikes were, even though we’d put our wetsuits in the empty bike position which is typical for saying this spot is taken.  Was she gracious when we informed her that she’d taken our place?  NO way!  Not only did she mess with our stuff and take our bike position but she was indigent in asserting that her stuff could and should fit into the designated spot and she then proceeded to give us condescending “educational” input on how transition areas worked.  Wearing her Kona t-shirt and Kona visor…she strutted her Kona-esk self and Kona garnered expertise and patronizingly dressed us Olympic rookies down.  Humph!  This wasn’t Heather or my first TRI event, nor were we uninformed on the rules, guidelines and social norms of a triathlon.  But, rather than waging war on “Betty” we decided to head out onto our pre-race run to warm up our legs and burn off some steam!  When we returned “Betty” had taken it down a few notches as she had somehow climbed down off her lofty Kona queen tower and decided to interact with us rookies as fellow triathletes, thanks Betty!

A warm up swim was next on the agenda and while short in duration it was sufficient in that I got wet, swam a couple of 100 meters and then proceeded  back onto the beach waiting for my swim wave.  Wave #3, the yellow cap group consisted of age groupers 50+ and Clydesdales.   What?!  Large horses swimming in triathlons?  No!  Clydesdales are men who weigh more than 200 lbs.  As I headed toward the group of swimmers awaiting Wave #3, there were a couple of guys doning yellow swim caps walking next to me.  They certainly weren’t 50+, so they must have been Clydesdales.   I think the weight limit on Clydesdales is set too low, these guys were young, strong, fit…dare I say it, studs!  OK, sorry, just couldn’t resist the play on words.

The swim was a counter clock-wise single loop in Lake Loveland that made up 1,500 meters or one mile.  Up until this point I hadn’t yet swum that far non-stop as an adult.  Of course, I swam considerably more distance than that in my twice weekly Masters swimming sessions but there is always short wall time between sets.  My time in the pool and open water training had me more than prepared and before long I was heading out of the water and running somewhere between ¼ and 1/3 of a mile from the water to the start of T1.   Somehow, transitions always seem to take FOREVER and I’m generally pleasantly surprised when I review my T-times after the race results are posted.

While I had no comparison to the typical Lake to Lake bike course. I was pleased with the bike route as it had reasonable hills and nice scenery that took us outside the city of Loveland.  While the temperatures were starting to climb the breeze on the bike makes it harder to notice.

However, once off the bike and heading into T2 then out onto the run I quickly noticed that the heat was going to be a bit of a challenge.  While I’d done some running in the mid-day sun…I certainly wasn’t prepared for the serious blast of heat that was facing me.  I seriously struggled on the run and included far more walking than what I’d anticipated or wanted.  Feeling like I was overheating, I took two cups of water at each aid station…dumped one onto my head and drank the other.   I was certainly happy to see the finish line, although not thrilled to hear the announcer say my name then note “doing the Penguin run”…ouch!

Regardless my results were respectable:

Swim-28:54 T1-2:14 Bike-1:10:24 T2-1:36 Run-51:30 for a total of:  2:34:40

And…given the heat wave I don’t think that my run/walk pace of 10:06 should garner a “Penguin” callout!  But…I’m committed to being faster next time!

1st TRI of 2012

My 2012 triathlon season kicked-off on Sunday June 10th at the Greeley Sprint Triathlon (www.greeleytriathlon.com).  This event has the reputation of being reasonable in size and well-organized.  It absolutely lived up to those claims!

I attended the pre-race meeting the afternoon before and felt ready to jump into my first TRI of the year.  BUT, on the morning of the event a major forest fire on the outskirts of Ft Collins coupled with a weather front had created conditions that introduced the possibility of the event being cancelled due to poor air quality and bad weather.  UGH!

Yes, the air was a bit smoky and the weather blustery but the event was set up and the athletes, me included were ready to GO!  After a brief delay, the decision was made…and it was a green light for the event to proceed.  Now the adrenaline was really starting to flow.

The swim for this event was a time trial start—I wasn’t familiar with the approach used which was oldest first and then each subsequent swimmer every 5 seconds.  And so, the oldest male age grouper who I believe was 82 started the age-groupers in the event (oldest female was 73)…what’s scary is that I was the 47th swimmer in the water as oldness goes!  EEEK!  Which was reenforced by the prominently displayed large black # written in Sharpie on the back of my right calf50!

So when it was my turn, as the others before me, I launched off of a rubber mat into surprisingly clean, clear and temperate water.  My new Sable swim goggles, immediately filled with water requiring adjusting but the 500 meter swim was quickly done.  Approaching T1, I thought how cool it was that they, had wetsuit “strippers”.  No! not the kind of strippers that wear minimal or no clothing, but folks that forcibly pull your wetsuit quickly off your body.  Given that I had @CoachCary’s Helix wetsuit on loan I didn’t want to risk damaging it…so, I proceeded with my typical T1 routine.  This time it seemed like I took forever to get that wetsuit off and after the race Guy #2 (son) said “Mom, you looked just AWFUL when you got done with the swim…like you’d run a marathon or something”. Guy #1 (husband) elaborated  “you were fine and didn’t look any worse than about half of the other swimmers getting out of the water”.  So glad to hear how awesome I looked…Humph!  True, I did feel a little off kilter and wobbly…who knows why!?  Anyway, my T1 time ended up being respectable at a 1:52.

Hopping onto “Zen Boy” my Giant bike, I could feel some difficulty in my breathing, which I think (duh) was due to air conditions.  The Bike portion of the race was uneventful (always thankful for that).  T2 proceeded quickly and I was out onto the run.  Now, I had debated about wearing my Garmin to track my run pace.  See…I have this issue were I cannot tell the difference between running a 7:30 vs. 9:30 mile pace…other than when I become exhausted since I cannot sustain a 7:30 pace and then have to either walk or jog at a snail’s pace.  Garmin was not worn…decided to just go for it.  Well…too quick of a run pace combined with less than crystal clean air resulted in my having to WALK for a brief time; on not one, or two but three occasions during this 5K.  WHAT?!  After all my training and focus on running!  And, YES, I had just run 10 miles without walking a single second at the Cherry Creek Sneak!  And, I was now walking during a 5K!  UGH!!  Frustrating to say the least!

Still before I knew it…up ahead was the finish line!  My stretch goal time was 1:10:00, my safe goal 1:15.   I finished in 1:09:34; Swim (9:26), T1 (1:52), Bike (28:44), T2 (1:22), Run (28:13)…and got a red cowbell for getting 2nd in my age group.  Just like when you have one great golf shot during an 18-hole round of golf, those numbers and that little cowbell will keep me motivated and asking with anticipation When’s My Next Event?!

Wetsuit Drama!

My 2nd open water swim practice of the season occurred in Grant Lake this past weekend in preparation of my 1st event of the 2012 TRI season—Greeley Sprint Triathlon on June 10th.  It seems my beloved BlueSeventy Helix has developed a small hole along a seam.  Never mind that it is only one year old and intended to be my ONLY wetsuit.

What to do?!

In reviewing the warranty information on www.blueseventy.com I saw that their wetsuits are under warranty (repair or replace) for 1 year from date of purchase, or 2 years if you register it (which I hadn’t bothered to do…darn it!).  I knew I had purchased it in June of 2011 but was it within the one year window?  Luckily, my purse is like a filing cabinet of receipts;  all well-organized and categorized.  OK, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, or just a complete lie from an organization perspective, but I do have about 3,000 receipts some of which could be considered antique documents buried in the bottom of my purse.  Unfortunately, my wetsuit purchase wasn’t one of them…darn it!  So,  I contacted the friendly people at Runner’s Roost in Lakewood, Colorado where I purchased the wetsuit and since it was a special order a copy was on file.  And, drum roll please…one year warranty was still in effect!  So (fingers crossed), given the fact that I have carefully followed instructions on wetsuit care, my suit would be either repaired or replaced.

Now the question was what to do for my upcoming event?  Swim in a wetsuit that was about to go in for repair and risk further damage or heaven forbid a wetsuit blowout? Swim in a loaner wetsuit model that I hadn’t ever trained in…ignoring my “nothing new on race day” mantra? Swim without a wetsuit in 70.2 degree water…brrr?  ANSWER:  None of the above @CoachCary to the rescue!  Cary is loaning me her BlueSeventy Helix, same size as mine.  Problem solved!

Reflection Time

After the completion of Harvest Moon relay, it was time to reflect on my first Triathlon “season” and contemplate what I wanted to pursue going forward.

Also, I was ready for a break.  I’d trained hard since registering for the Ft Collins Club Sprint event which meant 9 months of focused triathlon training.  Now, the amount of time I committed to training on a weekly basis, generally 10-12 hours, didn’t come close to what Ironman level athletes deliver week after week.  But, in my own humble way I had put considerable time and effort into my swim, bike, run.  I didn’t want to burn out and…more importantly I didn’t want to lose the support of my personal fan club (guys #1 (Husband) and #2 (Son)).  Striving for a reasonable balance between training-family-work is tough!

In 2012, I would “age up” and coincententially become eligible for AARPaaargh!  That really conjures up a visual that is SO contrary to Triathlon.   Yes, I would be competing in the 50-54 age group… OUCH!  But on the bright side, I would be the youngest in that age-group and hopefully being youngest would provide at least some small advantage.

Reviewing my 2011 season results highlighted a glaring weak spot and an opportunity for improvement.  My area of focus during the off season…would be my run.  To highlight how weak my run was in comparison to swim and bike, my results included:

  • SheRox (out of ~300 participants) – Swim (8%), Bike (5%), Run (38%)
  • TRI for the Cure (out of ~2500 participants) – Swim (6%), Bike (2%), Run (31%)

Also Lance Armstrong has been heard to say “Ride for Show, Run for Dough”, my Run wasn’t gonna win me any dough.  Yes, there was a clear area of focus for my winter training.  It would be running.

But, before embarking on more training, @CoachCary recommended I take a break from structured training and focus on flexible “workouts”.  For about a month my www.TrainingPeaks.com training calendar was left blank.  Going back to just “working-out” was an adjustment.  I had become so use to living by my training calendar.  While I missed the structure in my life that the training calendar provided, I also felt that my body (and mind) and family were benefiting from my resting.  Cary assured me that I’d come back better and stronger…and hopefully faster if I took a break.  So I followed my coach’s guidance.  Rest was at the top of my training plan!

Harvest Moon – Long Course Relay

Three personal triathlon events was my limit for 2011, my inaugural triathlon season.  But, I was able to convince two friends to join me in a relay at the Harvest Moon long course event in early September.  While not an Ironman branded event, Harvest Moon is the equivalent distance to a 70.3 Ironman race.  Brock swam, I rode and Chrissy ran.

Leaving everything on the road, so-to-speak, I could barely stand up at the completion of the 56 mile windy course of rolling hills out on The Plains of Colorado.  Also, I realized that I foolishly had not taken nutrition into consideration and had not eaten anything during my 3 hour bike ride.  As many say, nutrition is the 4th discipline in triathlon and it was one that I had completely ignored other than my pre-race breakfast. I will not make that mistake again!  It was a fun day and tee-d up the idea of possibly completing Harvest Moon in 2012 as an individual competitor.

 

TRI for the Cure – Sprint Triathlon

Next up was TRI for the Cure a Sprint distance triathlon held each August in Cherry Creek reservoir.  Three friends registered for TRI for the Cure and for all three this was their 1st triathlon experience.  Anne, Heather and Christine joined me in training for the event and all three finished, proud and strong…well done ladies!

As you may be aware, TRI for the Cure is dedicated to raising funds for breast cancer programs.  It is a big event with approximately 2,500 registrants and it is exceptionally well-organized.

My training and race prep continued but my persisting leg injury hampered by ability to focus on the running aspect of my training and race.  The dreaded up hill run on the Cherry Creek dam road was tough.  Still I was pleased with my results and finished in the top 5% overall.  In 2012, I plan on supporting the event as a volunteer “swim buddy”.

 

SheRox – Sprint Triathlon

My 2nd triathlon, SheRox was in early July. This Sprint distance event included a ½ mile open water swim in the fresh, clear waters of Aurora Reservoir.  Erin and Heather also competed in that event with their boyfriends and family cheering them on just like my guys #1 and #2 did for me.  While I was working through a bit of a tweaked leg which resulted in a less than lightening fast run split, but my time overall was respectable putting me at 6th place in my age group (out of 34 women).