Saturday, November 27, 2010

IMAZ: The Run

The run.  Oh the run.  This was the big question mark of the day.  With a long run of only 90 minutes under my belt I had no idea how this was going to go.  Sure, it would hurt.  All over.  But when? My foot would hurt too, but when?  Would I be able to run the whole thing?

All these thoughts were swirling around my head as I left T2.  A marathon.  A marathon?  Are we kidding here?  I did a quick assessment of how I felt and quickly determined I didn't feel good. My back was sore and tight and my quads were sore and tight and my shoulders were even achy.  26 miles?  There is just no way.  I focused on getting to mile 1 and getting my run cadence going.  To make matters worse, the wind picked up so there was a vicious headwind and it started to rain.  I exchanged a few words with a guy next to me about how much the weather sucked and then I passed mile 1.  Dang, I still feel like crap and now I had shooting pains in my right hip.  Where did that come from?  I haven't had pain there before!  25 miles?  No way.  C'mon Michelle, keep running and things will loosen up.  Get to mile 2 and the aid station and reassess.  The rain stopped. 

By this point, I had passed a few people and been passed as well.  I certainly wasn't putting up a blazing pace, but it was exactly what Chuckie and I thought I could do - steady and strong.  But one of the men that had passed me was an old guy.  Now, I really don't have anything against old guys except that I don't want to be passed by one.   I kept him in my sights and had my first bogie.  Over the first of many bridges and the mile 2 aid station there was a sign for massage and I thought to myself....that would take care of my hip pain!  No Michelle, you are not stopping for a massage.  And you are not walking aid stations.  Got it?  Keep moving. You may slow down to grab a cup but that is it.  Time to focus on mile 3.

Here's the challenge with a 3-lap course.  The mile markers.  It was just a huge tease to see a mile marker that said 20, and one that said 9, and the one you were on was 3.  Once again, my overriding thought was no way.  I started playing head games with myself - ignore the high number mile markers and know that the next time around you will be at the middle number!  And then when you hit the middle mile marker, the next round will be the high marker!  As silly as that sounds, it worked.  It made the miles just a bit more manageable.  As I approached the next aid station at the top of a rather steep little hill, I passed my bogie.  My back had loosened up a bit and my hip pain was gone.  
Bogie behind me!
Over the next bridge and heading back towards the big crowds I realized I felt OK.  Not great, but OK.  And for the first time I thought that I might be able to do this.  A guy came up on me, noticed my Trakkers kit and asked if I knew Sonja.  Really?  Hmmm, do I know Sonja....of course I do, I'm PIC!!  He introduced himself as her ex-boyfriend and I chuckled at the randomness.  The next mile was where all our support crew was set up and their cheers lifted my spirits!  I cannot begin to tell you how much I love these people:)  Through the rest of the first lap, I concentrated on the lower mile markers, keeping my leg cadence up, and running through the aid stations.  To keep on top of my nutrition, I would take a little sip of Liquid Shot as I approached an aid station and follow it with a sip of water.  Before I knew it, I had completed lap 1.   2 more to go.
Finishing Lap 1 and still, somehow, smiling
The next few miles ticked along uneventfully.  Even though my body had had enough, I was able to continue putting one foot in front of the other and continue moving forward.  This was now the longest run I had done since June, my foot was holding up well so far, and my pace was not slowing down.  All in all, it was going well!  The head games were continuing.....I was at the middle mile markers and in double digits for miles and the next lap promised the high mile markers.  I had not slowed down, stopped or walked any aid stations.  But make no mistake, I was hurting.  I remembered the "looks" that Chuckie and Sonja would give each other while we were out training and when we'd talk about Ironman day.  The knowing look, the look that said....she has no idea how deep the pain cave gets in Ironman.  She has no idea how bad she will hurt.  The look that you can give only when you have experienced it yourself.  Of course, I knew I would hurt - that's what it's all about.  But I thought it would be the marathon hurt around mile 20, I didn't realize that it started much, much earlier.  It started on the bike.

Mid-second lap I came upon the cheering spectators and my awesome support crew again.  They were going nuts!  Michael yelled at me that I was 4th in my age group and that 3rd place was 2 minutes up in teal shorts.  Chuckie yelled for me to dig deep, that this is what it's all about.  So I picked it up just a tad, my legs were saying to do it, my lungs had no problem with it and though I hurt all over, I knew I could catch her.  I had to catch her.  My age group last year only had 3 Kona slots and if I wanted to get to Kona, well, I had to catch her.  I continued to run strong through the half-way point. And then the unexpected happened at mile 14.  Or maybe it was expected.  Not sure.  I took a sip of my liquid shot, had a sip of water and as I passed the aid station, my stomach flipped over and out my mouth.  Yep, I puked.  It was so sudden, it surprised me.....I was feeling fine just 3 minutes ago?!  This can't be good I thought to myself but it didn't matter.  I had to keep moving forward.  I still had miles to go before I put this Ironman to bed.  So I started to run again and my stomach settled.
No more smiling, pain cave end of Lap 2
From then on, the deal-making with myself began.  I allowed myself to walk the aid stations.  Sometimes I would walk a bit further than the aid stations.  But I always started running again.  I knew that once you start walking it becomes extremely difficult to run again.  The cheering crowds got me through lap 2 and then I noticed I was finally in the high mile markers.  I passed mile 18 and remembered that everyone says it's where the race really starts.  And, I had promised myself coke after mile 18 to keep me looking forward to the next aid station.  That was pretty much the only thing keeping me going.  I was trying to accept the fact that I wasn't going to make my secondary time goal, I wasn't going to finish while it was still light, and they were now offering chicken broth at the aid stations. Plus, there was no way I could pass 3rd place unless she totally blew up.  It was a distant possibility and that kept me going too.  Mile 20, my foot started hurting.  Badly.  6 miles left?   I wasn't uplifted by this at all.  If any woman passed me, I checked to see what age group they were in, but thankfully at that point, I wasn't being passed that much.  I thought about next season and how I was going to become a 70.3 specialist because I was not doing an Ironman again.  Ever.

Mile 23 I found a woman to run with and we pushed each other.  We'd stop at the aid stations and I just concentrated on staying with her. Or behind her.  But close enough that I could suck some of her pace for my own.  We talked a bit but I can't remember what we said.  Mile 24.  It was dark.  But I was still moving and running.  I could see where the finish line was and I had to get there.  Mile 25.  I saw the sign and for the first time all day, I knew I was going to finish.  I was going to be an Ironman and immediately tears welled up in my eyes.  One more stinking mile.  My pace quickened and the finish was getting closer.  Michael and Charlotte were at the 26 mile mark screaming their heads off.  Ron and Eric were screaming their heads off too, I tried to manage a smile.  And there it was, the finish chute.  The music.  The bright lights.  The cheering.  Oh my goodness.  How many times over the last year have I imagined this moment.  This feeling.  This accomplishment.  Mike Reilly was yelling my name and I high fived the spectators.  The clock read 11:07.  I didn't care, I held my arms up.  I am an Ironman.    
The finish chute was right around the corner

4:07, 11th "fastest" in age group

Once again, the volunteers amazed me.  There were two "catchers" that took me by the arms and held me up. They wrapped me in a blanket and I could tell they were assessing me to see which way I needed to go:  medical tent or food tent.  They were the nicest people, I may have fallen in love with both of them as they took care of me (I don't even remember if they were men or women).  People were congratulating me and I was a bit overwhelmed with the entire scene.  Sonja appeared through the crowd and was hugging me.  I was so happy to see her.  She took over from the volunteers and led me to the food tent and told me what to eat:  salty fries, soft drink, grapes, pizza, chips.  Finally, a chair!!!!  I sat down and started talking.  I'm pretty sure I told her I was never doing that again and she said that was normal, everyone says that.  I told her I couldn't believe how badly I hurt and she just nodded her head.  I told her I puked and she patted my back.  She signed me up for a massage.

Then I asked how her day went because she started out not feeling great - a cold had come on and she was pretty miserable that morning.  She looked at me and said she won her age group.  I cannot begin to tell you how proud I was of her at that moment!  I know how hard this woman has worked for the last year and how she has put her heart and soul on the line to go to Kona for the first time and for the opportunity to head back to Kona.  And before I even heard her story I knew she had to dig deeper than she ever had before.  But I was also a bit disappointed because I knew I wasn't going with her.  Even though I was never doing that again, I still wanted to go to Kona.
Sonja at the finish

That face says it all
Finally I was reunited with Michael and Charlotte!  Charlotte came and hung out with me while Michael retrieved all my bags and my bike.  She had some funny questions like mommy, were you mad when you were running because you looked really mad!!!  The three of us then walked (slowly) to the car.  Michael went on ahead so that he could pick us up, and Char and I just meandered across the Mill Street bridge.  I looked out over the lake and the swim was a distant memory.  Was that just today?  I could see some of the aid stations and the runners still out there and I cheered them on.

Back at the hotel, we met up with the amazing support crew we had out there:  Helen, Eric, Troy and Annie (Sonja's family), Michael and Charlotte (my family, Isabelle had to stay in Denver), twitter (and real) friend Ron, Chris, Tyler and Anne.  I know from experience how difficult it is to spectate a race and these people are the best!  Thank you for your support and cheers!  I cannot express how much it impacted me during the day but your support absolutely made a difference.    

It was time to start the celebration!! As we drove to the margarita bar restaurant, I checked twitter and was again overwhelmed by all of the mentions and support from my twitter family.  I started scrolling through and saw that I was in fact fourth.  But wait, there was something from twitter grandma sitbones that said Chuckie saw a mistake in the results.  What?  I scrolled a bit more and to my complete surprise, I had officially come in 3rd in my age group.  The supposed 3rd place woman did not complete her third lap.  I had a Kona spot.  And just like that, I was back on the Ironman bandwagon and doing another one!

Overall time: 11:07:44
3rd place age group

After the celebration and margaritas dinner, Sonja and I tucked our families into bed for the night and we headed back to the finish line for the midnight finishers.  We met up with Nicole and Nina and cheered for everyone coming in after 11:00.  This is really where the heart of Ironman is....these people who have been going for 16+ hours.  For everyone cheering for them and telling them they are an Ironman.  To have champion Chrissie Wellington running the final few finishers in, well, it is an amazing experience.
Rock Star Chrissie dancing at the finish
The clock hit 17 hours, and the official Ironman day ended.  The reality of the day, the pain, the accomplishment, the 3rd place finish, all came down and I was raw with emotion and tears, what a day!

Friday, November 26, 2010

IMAZ: The Bike

112 miles, that was next up on the agenda.  I just needed to get out of town, out of the cheering crowds, out of the intense excitement without spiking my heart rate too much.  Chuckie had given me a specific range to work within, a high number to not exceed, and a plan if I did accidentally go above it coming out of transition.  But I looked down at my watch and I was 5 beats below that number, so a smile came across my face.  Good start!  I immediately settled into the bottom of the range.  My plan was to stay towards the bottom on the first lap, mid-range on the second, and try for the top on the last lap.  With a 3 lap course, I also knew that I would need to break it up in chunks to make it more manageable mentally.  But I wasn't quite sure how that would work.  Since it is a lap course, the obvious answer was to chunk it into laps so I concentrated on getting through the first lap.

Within 5 minutes I passed a girl (hehehe does 40-44 qualify as girl?) in my age group.  And I passed her solidly, almost like she was standing still.  A few minutes later, a male pro passed me......which only meant I had passed him in the water with a 10 minute head start.  I giggled about that.  Another guy passed me and said, hey Michelle nice job!  I thought it was someone I knew, but then realized my name was on the race number.  But that was cool he gave me a shoutout.  Then I passed another girl in my age group and I was a bit concerned.  How many women in my age group beat me out of the water???  Focus Michelle, focus....I concentrated on getting to the turnaround.

Have I mentioned that is was windy?  And cold?  And that there was a possibility of rain?  In transition, I decided not to bring my rain jacket since it was sunny at the time. But it was still chilly and I needed to make sure I stayed warm so my body could concentrate on cycling hard and not on keeping warm.  I went with my Trakkers jersey over my tri-top, arm warmers, and compression socks for warmth.  It looked initially like I had overdressed since I saw no one covered as much as I was, but I was warm, not hot, and that was what I needed.

The course is simply an out and back, uphill to the turnaround and supposedly a screaming downhill on the way back.  It is known to be a fast course and I was looking forward to going fast.  On the way out I noticed that it was a bit gusty but I didn't put that much thought into it.  The uphill seemed easy!  Let's give a big shout-out to the taper!  Except when I hit the turnaround, instead of a screaming downhill I realized that the reason the uphill was "easy" was the intense tail wind I had.  Which now meant I had an intense headwind.  Zoinks.  I was struggling to stay above 20mph.....on the downhill.  I remembered some people telling me that the winds here were famous errr infamous for switching directions so I figured that would happen at some point.  I saw PIC heading up and wished I could warn her of the wind.  Mind you, we have been training in the wind for the last few months.  Sometimes with winds so intense that I couldn't take my hands off the bars for fear I would lose control of the bike.  But we figured there was NO WAY the wind could actually be that bad on race day.  Right???  Coming back into town, there was a big flag that looked like this:
This picture is from one of my windy training rides
The headwinds were brutal.  The crosswinds were brutal.  I was holding my aero bars tightly, not the loose, relaxed grip I normally (without wind) have.  The only good thing that was going on was that I was completely used to grabbing my bottles in the wind and I was staying on top of my nutrition.

The nice part of a 3 loop course?  Coming into town and all the cheering spectators.  I heard Tyler yelling and saw Anne and Michael and Eric was taking pictures and I was so happy to see them!  So many people were yelling my name, I had no idea if I knew them or if it was the name on my butt.  But who cares?  It was so uplifting!
Start of the 2nd loop
But onto the next loop.  Instead of chunking this part into just the second lap, my next goal was to get to mile 63 and special needs bags.  The wind was still howling and the uphill was once again "easy".  And, once again, the downhill was not easy.  I made it to special needs and the volunteer quickly found my bag and I drank my V-8 and ate half a rice krispie treat.  I also had an extra rain jacket in there but it was sunny so I didn't take it.  That ended up being a mistake a mere 10 miles later when it started to pour.  It may or may not have been hailing but with the winds whipping the rain/hail into your face with gusts up to 30mph who could tell the difference?  It was miserable.  Now there were puddles to deal with and potential slipping issues and avoiding the dangerous white lines.  This ride was starting to get pretty difficult.

The rain stopped as I came into town but with my glasses dirty I had a hard time seeing things in the road and hit a couple of bumps pretty hard.  I thought to myself, that could be bad but then saw the awesome support crew and turned around.  Why is my front end handling so poorly?  Oh no. No.  Noooooooooo! I passed Tyler who was telling me to pick it up and I yelled, Am I flat??  He didn't understand me and Anne thought I said Am I fast?  But I knew.  I had flatted and had little control of my bike at this point.  Ok, let's deal with this.  Don't freak out.  Just deal with the problem.  I got off my bike and looked at the tire (remembering that we bought these tires because they were supposed to be bomb-proof!!).  Are there any obvious thorns?  Any obvious tears?  I didn't see anything.  What do I do?  Change the tire?  I decided to gamble.  There was a bike support tent about 5 miles away and since I couldn't see any damage, I figured that pit stop would fill and seal the tire enough for me to get there and talk to the support guys.  So that is what I did.  And then I rode conservatively to the tent.  Sonja finally caught me and asked what was going on.  I told her I flatted and was heading to the tent.  She said, don't worry you are so far ahead, just take care of it.  She went on her way and I stopped.
Starting the 3rd loop, front tire is squishy
The tech guy looked at my tire and we both thought I'd be OK without putting a new tire on.  He filled it up with air, told me where the next support tent was in case I needed it, stuffed the extra tire in my back pocket and I was on my way.   Allright Michelle, get back on your game.  But I was having trouble, I felt deflated like my tire, I was tired, and my back was starting to hurt.  The wind never did change directions and I felt I had lost the will to fight it any longer.  Women were starting to pass me and I had no idea who had passed me while I was fixing my tire.  I was encouraged by the fact I only had 10 miles left on the bike.  I was not encouraged by the fact I would have to run a marathon after I got off the bike to finish this.  And, I knew I would not make my initial goal time.  All of a sudden, this Ironman thing was feeling like a bad idea.  I decided not to think about what came after the bike and concentrated on getting back into town.

Once again, I cannot say enough about the Ironman volunteers.  I got off my bike and someone was right there to take it.  I attempted a "jog" to get my run bag but that didn't happen...I was stiff.  Another volunteer handed me the bag and I slowly jogged to the change tent.  I wanted to cry but I smiled instead and another volunteer complimented me on my smile.....oh if you only knew what I was thinking.  It was sunny as I entered the tent so I ditched the jersey and arm warmers and changed out of the wet socks.  As I was leaving, volunteers asked if I wanted sunscreen and remembering that Chuckie and Sonja said not to get sunburned, I said yes.  Well, as you can see, they caked me in sunscreen!!
Coming out of T2 slathered in sunscreen

5:51, 19.1mph
8th "fastest" time in age group, 3rd in age group after swimbike

Run next......

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Swim

61 degrees.  Brrrrrr.  That is cold water.  My plan was to enter the water after the pros went off and go to the front of the line.  This may be surprising but I am scared to death of an aggressive swim start.  I don't like being hit, pushed, swam over, kicked just like everyone else.  And, there have been times that I have panicked in that kind of situation.  I figured it wouldn't be too aggressive of a start since we were heading out for a long day and I could do a bit of a "sprint" to find clear water right away.  I really wanted to say to the boys around me at the start.....we're all friends right?  No need to beat each other up, right?  But I didn't.

The pros getting ready to start at sunrise

Gettin' ready. You can see me right? I'm the one in the purple cap.

The energy of the Ironman start is like none other.  The bridge and the "lake" side were filled with spectators.  Every one was cheering and yelling and the music was playing and Mike Reilly was asking everyone in the water if they were going to be an Ironman today.  It was intense to say the least.  I held onto a kayak for a bit but I was feeling completely comfortable in the water and really buoyant - I barely had to move my legs and arms to stay afloat.  The water was cold but that neoprene cap was the best $20 I've ever spent.  I wasn't that cold!

All of a sudden, without any warning, the gun went off.  And the day was underway.  I smiled and started swimming.  The water clarity was horrible so I pretty much swam head out for a minute or 2 while I settled into some clear water and my pace.  My breathing was good but I was taking in a bit more water than I had wanted to which always grosses me out, especially in that water.  There were a few folks around me but everyone was doing their own thing and the traffic was manageable.  I smiled, this was just the start I wanted.  About half-way through the first part of the swim, the lane narrowed and then the traffic increased.  It was all still good though, I was singing songs in my head and trying to find bubbles and concentrating on my breathing and counting yellow buoys.  Finally, I spotted the red turnaround buoy!!!  I was in a group of about 4-5 and 3 of these were purple (women) caps.  My turns were good but after we negotiated the second turn to the long stretch back, we ran into some pretty big chop.   I was swimming stroke for stroke with a purple cap next to me when I took a huge amount of water in, ugh.  Don't barf, don't panic, settle down, cough it out and move along.  And with that I decided to go to the outside a bit and out of the traffic.

The Mill Street bridge was getting closer and then I spotted the red turn buoy and realized the swim was almost over.  I was kind of bummed because I felt great in the water and I wasn't cold which was somewhat of a surprise.  But, it was time to think about the wetsuit strippers, transition, and getting on the bike.  I stumbled up the metal stairs and a volunteer steadied me.  I found a nice looking lady to help me with my wetsuit and I was running to transition. I saw Troy, Ron, Eric, and Chris on my way to transition and I attempted a smile.  I glanced at my watch and saw a 57 something.  Cool!  Happy with that!!
Didn't realize I was running with my eyes closed!
Ironman volunteers are simply amazing.  These people are wonderful - they take care of you and get you on your way.  My volunteers greeted me at the change tent, helped me put on a jersey, arm warmers, and compression socks (for warmth).  They put on my helmet and sunglasses and shoes.  Then, they stood me up and sent me out for my bike.  The volunteers were yelling my number and one of them grabbed my bike and handed it to me.  I love these volunteers.

The roar of the crowd was amazing and then I saw my support crew (Michael who took the video, Charlotte, Tyler, Anne and a bunch of random Europeans) at the bike mount line.  They were literally inches away from my ear as I was attempting to get on my bike.  It. Was. Awesome.  Check out this video, it is pretty funny.  You can see me in the background grabbing my bike and then as I run around and try to get on my bike without cracking up.  And yes, the big loud booming voice is my friend Tyler...who can't move fast when that voice is yelling at you???

Swim:  57:17
3rd in age group and 8th woman overall


Weather in Tempe is supposed to be predictable right?  They boast 333 days of sunshine a year so you'd think that Ironman Arizona would have a great chance of falling on one of those 333 days, right?  I had been watching the weather forecast all week and it was holding steady at cloudy and 70 degrees for race day.  Perfect!  But as Sunday drew nearer, the forecast was getting worse-er.  As of Friday, there was a very good chance of rain and high temperatures only around 65.  Uh-oh.  The topper was a water temperature of 61 degrees.  Hmmmm, I wasn't prepared for this!!

But, I had a back-up plan.  Michael and Charlotte were flying in on Saturday so I called them up Friday night and had them bring a few extra items of clothing that I might need.  Except there was fog in Denver.  And their flight was delayed.  And delayed.  And I had to have my bags checked in by 3:00.    Ironman handed me something to potentially freak out about but PIC and I decided that these weren't problems that a bit of cash-ola couldn't solve.  So a couple of trips were made to purchase rain gear, cartridges, a neoprene hat, Yankx, and wah-lah, problems solved! No worries!  
At check-in.  I've always wanted to be a bag lady!
The fam finally arrived at 5:30 Saturday night (they were supposed to arrive at 10:30am) and we had a great time having dinner with our wonderful support crew.  Then it was off to bed!  I fell asleep right away but was up and at 'em at 3:30!  

And then the nerves set in.  A day that was one year in the making was finally here.  Ironman day!  I got up, drank some coffee, stretched, changed clothes, looked out and saw the moon and thought the weather would be just fine!  I headed up to PIC's room about 4:30 to eat some breakfast - my standard mix1 and Justin's almond butter sammy.  The food went down great but I was a bit of a mess.....I was really teary.  I was filled with every emotion - excited, nervous, scared, happy, scared, nervous.  The training, the preparation, the hours, it all boils down to this day.  Will I execute my strategy?  Will I nail my nutrition?  Will I be able to run?  Will it rain?  Will I flat?  Will I get sick?  Will I poop myself?  Will I finish?  Will I enter the pain cave?  How far in will I go?  
Yep, the nerves.
With all of these questions racing around in my head, we headed down to transition.  Thank goodness Sonja was with me, with 3 Ironmans under her belt she was my resident expert and I didn't want to leave her side.  But that's just how it is with us.  We know each other, we get each other, and we were both nervous in the morning.  Me: What do we do first?  Son: We hand in our special needs bags.  OK!  Done.  Now what?  Let's do our first round in the porta-potty lines.  OK!  Now what?  Time to get body marked.  Done.  And now?  Load our nutrition and bottles on the bikes and pump the tires.  Check.  Oops.....first novice Ironman mistake, I forgot to put my bottles into my bike special needs bag.  And so we walked back and the wonderful volunteer dug through all the bags to find mine.  Back to the porta-potty line. 
Transition area at 6am
And then it was 6:30.  30 minutes to go-time.  It was time for me to let go of my nervousness.  It was time to relax and smile and believe in myself and the day.  If it rains?  Ok, not much I can do about that.  If I flat?  Again, out of my control.  But I do have control over my attitude and outlook and it was time to soak it all in.  I'd heard a line a few days only do your first Ironman once....and as obvious as that is, it is so true.  I was here to do an Ironman!  My first!  Something I have wanted to do for years!  Let's go!!!  I wanted to treasure the moment so I could always take it out of my basket of memories, polish it off and say - that was an awesome day.

Everyone kept asking me before I left, what are your goals?  Kona?  I know I didn't give people the answers that they wanted to hear and I was intentionally vague about my goals.  They were just for me and a few others. Sure, I'd love to qualify for Kona, but we all know that a first-timer qualifying for Kona is a lot to ask for.  And, with my foot issues, the run was a huge question mark.  The longest run I had done before Sunday was 90 minutes the week before.  90 minutes!!!  But my main goal was to cross the finish line.  Kona was a secondary goal.  I also had a time goal in mind.  And I didn't want to be on the course when the chicken broth came out. And I wanted it to still be light.  But I really just wanted to finish.  

Next post.....the swim!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Finish

"And from Aurora, Colorado, another first time finisher, Michelle Ford....YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"

With those words from the voice of Ironman, Mike Reilly, my inaugural Ironman was done.  The day was everything I imagined and more, and a few unexpected moments as well.  The race report is coming but I thought I'd share this finish line photo that my friend Ben took of the computer screen as I crossed the finish line (thanks Ben)!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ready, Set, Wait

Hola from Tempe Arizona, cactus land and home of Ironman Arizona!!!!!  It’s almost time for the BIG day.  Or rather, the long catered training day with VIP parking.  A year ago at this time, I signed up for IMAZ - it’s pretty easy to hit that send button on along with $575 when the race is a year away!  It’s funny, I always had the excuse to NOT do an Ironman when I worked 40+ hour weeks in an office with an hour commute downtown each way.  But I wanted to.  I said, “if I ever do an Ironman, it’s because I’m not working in an office anymore.”  And then I got canned so I ran out of excuses.  It was time to ante-up and make the commitment. 
So last November I hit the send button.  I made some changes that needed to be made in order for me to start the race knowing I was fully prepared.  One of the changes was to hire a new coach, and though I haven’t spoken/written much about that decision here, it was without a doubt the best decision I have made since I hit the send button!   See, though I have guided several athletes to Ironman success (and a Kona finisher), I needed my own guide for this journey.  I know the work it takes for my athletes and how I ready them for the big day but when you turn that around and look in the mirror, I needed this coach.  I needed his guidance, advice and enthusiasm.  A bonus was when he made the decision to move to Boulder in the spring.....and every Wednesday and Saturday or Sunday was spent training in and around Boulder.  It. Was. Awesome.  
And though PIC was definitely training for Ironman - first Coeur d’Alene, then Kona - I felt like I was just kind of tagging along.  I wasn’t in “official” IM training yet.  But there were long swims, long rides, and the start of long runs.  And, BONUS, I was racing faster than ever!  We’ve had to deal with an injury starting in July that was years in the making unfortunately, but with Coach’s cautiousness and my perserverence I will be on the starting line Sunday.  So my IM training didn’t even feel like IM training until about 6 weeks ago after returning from the Hawaii sojourn.  And after witnessing the action in Kona, I was ready for it!  I was Ironman training!  It. Was. Awesome.  
So here I sit by the pool at my cute little hotel in Scottsdale.  PIC and I have already signed our lives away at IM registration.  We rode some of the course this morning and then it’s off to find a nice outdoor pool to swim in.  And the athlete banquet tonight!  Tomorrow, a light swimbikerun and a quick trip to the airport to pick up Michael and Charlotte.  And then the preparing of the bags: swim to bike, bike to run, special needs.  Then, Newt will get dropped off at bike check-in and patiently (yeah, right) wait for Sunday morning.  Ready, set....WAIT.
I’ve been sleeping great for the last couple of weeks.  I’ve cut down on sugar and SHOCKER I’m only drinking one cup of half caf coffee in the morning.  Oh, and even bigger SHOCKER??!!!  No wine/beer for me in the last month.  I’m a lean, mean (well, not really mean), hungry (yep, for food and racing) racing machine!  

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ironman Training.....

Ironman Arizona is in 17 days!  Little did I know when I signed up for this event a mere 347 days ago that my life would become little more than a training, sleeping, eating, laundry-doing, eating machine.  Did I mention eating?  Sure, Chuckie has been "training" me for an Ironman all year.  But only in the last couple of weeks has it felt like I'm in Ironman training mode.  Before (let's just say before Hawaii), training was great, it was an addition to my life.  There were the Train Like a Pro Wednesday's.  And Train Like a Pro Saturday's.  But I had plenty of time to, you know, grocery shop.  Blog even.  See/call/write my friends.  Make the bed.  Brush my teeth.

Since returning from Hawaii (yeah, I know, it looks like the family vacation blog won't happen.  Or the way cool ride up Haleakala), things are different.  Maybe it's just me.  Maybe with Arizona looming on the horizon my focus has become laser-like.  You know, eye on the prize.  Or maybe it's the training.  The schedules that Chuckie has been sending my way.....but I think it is a combination of both.  At this point, I am actually surprised that there is not a permanent imprint of my bike saddle on my ass.  I am also surprised that there are any other type of drinks out there other than electrolyte based (don't even mention beer or wine.  I'm hungover just thinking about it).  Gel blasts and sport beans are a new group on my food pyramid.  Compression socks go with any outfit.  Really.  And the sniff test has been reintroduced to my daily workout gear (you know the test, sniff the shirt/shorts/socks and if you don't pass out from the smell, it's good to wear!!).

And the training.  Oh, the training!!  All of a sudden, a 2 hour ride seems like 20 minutes - it's nothing!  My senses are all messed up....2 hour ride = short.  4 hour ride = not as short.  6 hour ride=about right.  Endless repeats in Lefthand Canyon?  Sure, I'll cry for a bit but whatever....I'll do it.  5000 in the pool?  Bring it.  Super secret CV workouts?  Yep...not afraid (although anyone who has witnessed me in the gym doing said super secret CV workout are probably afraid of the dripping sweat girl who is cussing at her heart rate monitor).  

And what does all this training also mean?  I'm hungry.  All the time.  Breakfast #1 usually includes a veggie egg scramble and cinnamon raisin toast smothered in Justin's Nut Butter.  Breakfast #2 (a mere 2 hours later) includes a mix1 and an almond butter/agave sammy (yes, I have eaten my weight in Justin's this year and drank cases and cases and cases of mix1!!).   Then there's lunch, early afternoon snack, late afternoon snack, dinner, post-dinner snack and pre-bed snack.  That's right, I'm eating like a teenage boy!  And I wake up feeling like I haven't eaten in, well, 10 hours!

And what does all this training and eating mean?  I'm tired.  All the time.  If I could eat, sleep, train, eat, sleep, train....that would be perfect.  However, my family would probably (hopefully) miss their mom!  I avoid stairs like the plague.  I'm sure it looks pathetic to anyone who has seen me climb stairs in the last few weeks.  Really?  She's training for an Ironman?  Why is she gasping for breath and holding her legs after climbing 12 stairs?  She must be really out of shape... I also now have race-brain permanently.  I only understand heart rates, power numbers, yards to meters conversions, electrolyte content of all sports drinks, and gear choices.  Please don't ask me any complicated math problems such as 1+1, or how many is in a dozen (isn't that 13?).

With all this training and eating, I certainly didn't expect bottle-making to become such a big part of my life.  I remember when my girls were babies and we had to make bottles for daycare every morning.  Measure the formula, mix in the water, shake and repeat.  I am doing this once again.  Measure the formula EFS, add water, shake, chill, repeat.  Measure the formula Ultragen, add water, shake, chill, repeat.  Fill the bottle, add nuun, drink.  Don't forget the hand bottles!! Then, at the end of the day clean the bottles so that in the morning, you can do it all over again.  Of course, sometimes the sniff test goes into effect here as well.  Let's see, the last time I washed this bottle was 9 days ago and it's only a little funky's fine!

Another side-effect of the training is the amount of clothing I go through in day.  And since the weather has gotten colder, there are now multiple layers of clothing that I may wear.  Last week, a ride in the cold and wind had me wearing the following:  sports bra, base layer, arm warmers, jersey, long sleeved jersey, long sleeved shirt, vest, jacket, shorts, compression socks, knee warmers, wind pants, gloves, booties, hat (that would be a grand total of 14.  I think).  Did you know that amount of clothes takes up almost a full load of laundry?  That was just one day!  Oy vey.

I sure hope this doesn't come off as complaining because......wait for it......wait for it......I LOVE IT!!!  This has been an amazing journey so far and in 17 days I get the opportunity to line up and swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and the run 26.2 miles.  I can't wait!

And then I'll have to stop eating like a teenage boy or else I'll gain 15 pounds in 2 days.