Monday, June 22, 2009

Finally, Kansas 70.3 Race Report

OK, it's been 8 days since Kansas and I will do my best to remember and document everthing that happened.  But to sum it up?  Awesome.  Going into my first half-ironman distance, I have to admit to having relatively low expectations.  In fact, I made the "panic" phone call to Steve the week before saying that I didn't think I was ready, not in good enough shape etc.  Then reality took over and I realized that I have done an amazing amount of work going into this race.  I kept thinking about all of the long training days that I have done and realized that this distance, in terms of time, was really nothing out of the ordinary.  Sure, putting together a half marathon after riding 56 miles would be different (or difficult....) but I knew that I could put myself out there for 5 1/2 hours.  

I left on Friday morning with Michele and Anthony Beeson.  They were kind enough to drive us and our bikes to Kansas and I got to hang out in the back seat with Barry.  After some clever engineering tactics by Anthony, we got the bikes loaded and we were off.   Boredom for me set in about 30 minutes later and I started texting PIC who then set me up on Twitter. (@michelleford6p for anyone who wants to follow!) That kept me going for awhile until my phone battery starting getting low!!!  But really, it was an easy drive and 8 hours later we arrived in Kansas.  Of course the room we checked into was a smoking room!  I am not kidding!!!  As soon as we walked into the room I thought I had smoked a pack of cigarettes, it was horrible.  There were only 2 other rooms available at the hotel and they were smoking as well so we went with the least offensive of the 3.  Yuck.  To top it off, we ended up smelling like smokers.  Oh well, we headed out to dinner and called it a night.  

Saturday was course recon, packet pick-up, and bike drop-off in transition.  We took the scenic route to the race site and a got a pretty good idea of how the bike course would be:  up then down then up then down then up then down.  You get the idea.  Nothing terribly steep or long, just kind of relentless.  The entire PC gang was waiting for us and we got on our bikes and rode the run course.  Nothing too exciting about the run except for one big downhill and then turn around and go up it again.  And do that twice since it was a 2 loop course.  

The neat thing about this race was the military presence.  There were teams of military personnel, Operation Rebound (from the front line to the starting line), and individuals who were competing.  It was pretty cool to be amongst our troops.  

Me and Beth in a HUGE helicopter - it could hold 2 fully loaded hum-vees!

We'll just say that there was a "bachelor" party at one of the campgrounds along the run course.  I couldn't wait to see her again on the run!


Doreen, Beth, and me.  Team PC had females represented in almost all the age-groups!

Race morning started early.....3:20am!  Transition opened at 4:45 and there was limited parking at the race site and we are all Type A's soooo.....need I say more?  For me, things weren't going as smoothly as normal on a race morning.  Shall I say I was waiting for shit to happen and leave it at that??  Beth and I were hanging out and having our pre-race moments (love these) and finally things started moving along for both of us!!!  LOL

Anyway, one of the hard parts of this race for me was all the variables that I needed to prepare  The forecast was pretty awful:  rainshowers by 7:30am, flooding, hail, lightening etc.  My swim wave was at 6:42 so I figured all this would happen while I was on the bike.  Would I need arm warmers?  Rain jacket?  Would we get pulled from the course due to lightening (happened last year)?  I packed my running shoes and socks in plastic baggies in T2 so that I would at least have dry feet momentarily on the run if it came down to that.  As we drove to the race site though, there was cloud lightening.  Darn it, I thought the swim would be cancelled, and I like the swim!  But as the sun came up, there was no lightening.  There was no rain.  Yet.  It was cloudy but the temp was great.  So with a few final preparation (and yes, another port-o-potty stop!  For those keeping track at home, that would be 4) I pulled my wetsuit on and got in line for the start.  

I was mellow and quite frankly, happy at the start.  I wasn't nervous, I was excited.  I was surprisingly relaxed.  I lined up in my usual place at the start and noticed that only a handful of girls were toeing the start line of the swim right up front with me and the majority of my wave were in the backseat, so to speak.  Somehow I spaced out at the start for probably 1 second and because of that I took a hard kick to my upper right thigh.  Ohhhhhh, Owwwwww!  That was a first, I have never been kicked nor have I ever kicked anyone at a start.  I felt the muscle tighten and I thought it was going to be a cramp, it hurt like hell.  I put my head down and relaxed and got the hell away from the girl that kicked me, and then the cramp let go.  Phew!  That could have been bad.  I saw one girl in front of me but I was sticking to my plan of a "casual" swim and I let her go.  Almost immediately I was in swim traffic, the water was not clear so I swam up on a couple of people in front of me and had to dodge several other swimmers along the way.  But the nice part of being in the second wave of age-groupers was by the time I hit the last straight-away, I had no one ahead of me and it was smooth swimming the remainder of the way.  I'd love to say I felt great but I really didn't but I didn't feel awful either.  However, I was surprised at my time.....29:11, I did think it would be a bit faster.  I was second out of the water for my wave. 

I heard some great cheering coming out and it's always so humbling to have people you don't know cheering for you.  And then the people I do know!  I heard Troy.....I swear that man's booming voice gets me going every time.....I heard Syd out there too as I entered transition.  I'm so used to an Oly distance race where you gotta get in and get out FAST.  But not this time, I put on socks, put my stuff in the bag so it could get transferred, helmet and I was ready to go. The cheering coming out of transition again was awesome and then I figured out that I was one of the first few age-group women on the bike course!  

The goal on the bike was to spin it out the first 5 miles before getting into the big ring.  So that's what I did getting out of the park.  The spectator support was just fantastic but as I left the park I was out on my own.  One of my other goals for the bike was to have fun for 56 miles, to smile, and enjoy the day.  It was a bit eerie though, as I was only getting passed every once in a while at first by the guys I had passed during the swim.  Lots of sperm helmets and disk wheels!!  But no women were passing me.   It started to rain a bit but never a down pour.  I settled in and noticed that the course was marked every 5 miles.  Great!! Now I had something to help me out with nutrition!  Every time I saw the mile sign I took a drink out of my bottle.  And every half hour to 45 minutes I took a gel.  This, I knew, would be tough....getting in enough nutrition to hold me for the entire race.  But seeing those signs really made my job easier.  I kept checking my heart rate too, just to make sure I was in the proper range.  Every time I checked I was exactly where I wanted to be, and after 15 miles my legs finally let loose of the cobwebs and I felt I could push more.  Around mile 20 I caught the lead girl in my age group and was now in first position for my age group.  About this time too I got caught up in a group of guys who were drafting off of each other.  I was trying to get around them but every time I passed them, one of them would immediately pass me back.  Grrrrrr.  One of them was an Australian who said something to me......either it was encouraging or mean....but I couldn't understand a word of what he said!  I hung with these guys for a couple of miles but then realized I was a tad bit high on my heart rate and really not into the drafting scene so I let them go off of the front.  At about mile 40, a gal from my age group passed me.  Well, with the disk wheel she had, passed may not be the accurate word.  She FLEW by me.  And so I was in second again.  The miles just kept ticking by and the hills just kept coming, it really was relentless. Even though I say relentless, I have to admit I really liked this course.  The hills seemed to be just my size and I felt very strong the entire way through.  At about mile 50 I realized that I was almost done with the bike, and now had to run a half marathon......HA!  All in all though I felt great throughout the bike and was ready to test the legs on the run.  And the weather??? Thank goodness the meteorologists in Kansas City are as accurate as the ones in Colorado - only a couple of rainy moments.  No hail, lightening, or flooding.  
2:47 (20.0mph ave.)

Coming off the bike I did nothing fancy like a flying dismount.  Heck, I don't even like doing those in an Oly!!!  I didn't even take off my shoes.  I just didn't know how my legs would feel...would I even be able to walk???  I was definitely stiff in my lower back (expected) but my legs were OK.  I put on my dry shoes and socks, grabbed my visor and race number and got out of transition.  

Leaving T2, I saw Troy and Annie (Sonja's super family) right away and then Sydney and a couple of her pals a bit further up.  I believe I gave them a huge smile but it may have looked more like a grimace, not sure.  But I felt good and knew I was on my way to meeting my goal of having fun.  The bike had gone well, and now I just had to put 13 good miles on my legs.  I quit thinking of it as a half marathon at this point because it seemed a bit overwhelming and I just started to tick off the miles.  Those first couple of miles though.....well, there's no other way to say it.  They hurt. It took almost 20 minutes for me to feel like I was in good form.  The crowd was awesome - I heard my name a few times and it was incredible.  It made me want to go fast!!!!  (BTW, there were some people cheering for me and I couldn't figure out who they THANK YOU and leave some comment love so that I can cheer for YOU next race!)  But I couldn't do that (not that I could) or I would risk a blow-up of epic proportions.  So I glanced at my watch to make sure I was in my range and sure enough, I was.  Good.  I saw Steve, he looked strong.  I high fived Sonja she looked great.  I saw Keith and Beth and they looked fantastic too. My body felt horrible and I just tried not to think about it.  I also had to remember nutrition.....and to keep getting liquid and calories down my gullet.  The sun finally made a appearance and it was getting hot.  At each aid station I took Gatorade (well I tried....I'm not real accurate with the cup but managed a gulp or two!) and a sponge.  

Finishing up lap #1.

As I finished up lap 1, I knew I was keeping a decent pace.  And I knew there was still a possibility of blowing up.  But more than anything I knew that I could do it.  Finish it and hold onto 2nd place.  I saw the 1st place girl and wanted to wheel her in but I wasn't gaining any time on her so I completely focused on getting to the finish line.  I was more than half way done with the run and every step I took got me closer to the finish.  I felt in control of my race and counted down the miles......5, 4, 3....and then I had 2 miles left.  Yippee!!!  But I was hurting again....really my feet were killing me.  But not enough to stop or slow down.  And then I was at the finish chute.  And Mike Reilly (of Ironman announcing fame) saying, "Michelle Ford from Aurora, Colorado".  It was unbelievable.  I pumped my fists in the air and checked my watch. Holy Moly.  5:03?  WTF?  In all my pre-race calculations, I only came up with a 5:15.???  I had no idea how I got that time but everything hit me like a ton of bricks (yellow bricks, see picture below) and all I had left was tears.  Well, sob actually.  Thank goodness PIC was there at the finish too and she gave me a big hug and I just cried.  It. Was. Awesome. 

Anthony, Beth, Keith, me at the finish

Oh, and the run??? I managed to PR off the bike with a 1:42.    And I held onto 2nd place in my age group.  And I grabbed a slot to the 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater in November.  

Me and Coach Extraordinaire Steve having a "moment".  I may still be crying.

PIC Sonja had a kick butt race and placed 2nd in her age group too.  And we're heading to Florida together.  Of course!!  Sisters from another mother.  And father.  Whatever.  

Awards were actual yellow bricks.  Very cool.  

Team Practical Coaching had a stellar day - we nabbed 4 Clearwater spots.  I can't tell you how happy I am that Anthony and Steve will be joining Son and I.  Beth had a 4th place age group finish and just missed a Clearwater spot, we will miss her:(  There were also many PR's among the group and as always, I am so proud to be a part of this wonderful team.

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