Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Swimbike Ironman Texas

What an amazing day!!!  And almost a surreal experience.  I don't know if i can explain how I was feeling on Friday.....we had a great day together, getting to know one another and going through all of the pre-race stuff.  But, it just didn't feel like I was going to race.  I wasn't nervous (except for that whole tandem thing) and I felt like an outsider looking in on all the pre-race chaos.  Bike and bag check-in, attaching numbers to helmet and bike - all the typical pre-race stuff without all the pre-race performance anxiety.  Except.....I still had to perform.  For the last 3 weeks, I've been casually talking about the swimbike that I have to do.  No biggie right??  At least I don't have to do the run! (not to mention I am not fit enough to do the run but that's a whole 'nother Oprah but really am I even fit enough for the bike???).  Just another 2.4 mile swim with another person tethered around my waist - no biggie.  Just another 112 mile ride on a tandem. Even though I had never ridden a tandem.  With another person.  Blind person for that matter.  And campy gearing.  It'll be fine, right??
Pre-race tattoo time:  Kompetitive Edge, TYR, QR

Race morning arrived as it always does - Patricia was full on race nerves and Sonja and I were initially calm.  That lasted for me until we got to that nervous energy mosh pit called TRANSITION.  Holy Moly - the nerves in that place could launch the space shuttle and it absolutely launched my nerves - I have decided they are contagious.  All of a sudden, I realized I just wanted to do right for Patricia.  I wanted to do well by Patricia.  Her goal was now my goal.....OUR goal.  That sounds strange because that was the goal all along but it was at that moment that that I knew I would do everything I could do to make it happen.   I would push on the bike I had never ridden to make sure she would have plenty of time to get the run done in that heat and humidity.  And make no mistake, it was an ambitious goal.  12 hours!!!

Sonja was awesome sherpa mom for Patricia and I in the morning.  She helped track down the last minute stuff Patricia needed and was a good listening ear for me.  I saw Triboomer in transition and he made me cry with some wonderful words (yep, I was nervous - the emotions proved that) ......congratulations to him for a great race!  We had plenty of time to walk to the swim start (about a mile away) and just tried to stay in the moment.  We got bodymarked and it was time to get in the water!  Patricia knew she needed just a bit of time before the gun went off to get over her initial panic but the greatest thing happened getting in.....no panic.  We calmly got in and swam over to the start.  I positioned us a couple of feet back from the pros (we got to start at 6:50) and wide of the buoys.  I wanted to make sure we had room when the age groupers got to us.  That starting time turned out to be great!!  We had clear water for the majority of the way out - no traffic and no one getting run over.  Of course, there was one mishap about 15 minutes in.....the tether on Patricia's end untied!  But no worries, we stopped and got everything taken care of and were off.

After that it did get a bit crazy.  I was staying just a bit ahead of Patricia so that I could spot everything going on around us.  If I saw someone coming up behind, I would either pull her closer to me by the tether or I would scoot closer to her so that no one could get tangled up in the tether.  She kept hitting me in the head, the ear, the hip, the butt etc. etc.  But whatever, she was holding a decent pace.  I was also getting brutalized by some of the people passing on the outside - padded swim cap next time!!  At times, it was so congested that I swam a modified breast stroke next to her to keep watch.  I was very pleased that we never really got run over - thank you swimmers for recognizing the day-glo orange caps we were wearing!  The final stretch of the swim was in a fairly narrow canal that was lined with spectators cheering.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw PIC!!  She said transition was around the corner and I asked her to have a mix1 ready for me - we'd been in the water for a while at this point and I was actually getting hungry:)  She ran ahead to meet us in transition.
Finishing the swim in the canal - we are the two orange caps in the middle
I saw our time getting out and I knew Patricia would be disappointed.  Crap.  She wanted to do a 1:30 and we were right at 1:40.  But she did that swim all on her own - as much as I wanted to help her get to 1:30, I knew if I pulled her she would be pissed.  She wanted that goal and she wanted to do it on her own with the only help being a working set of eyes.  As soon as I told her the time, she freakin' started sprinting to transition - she was pulling me along!!  I am usually much more casual about transition for longer races but this girl was on a 12 hour mission.

We screamed into the change tent, sat down, and Sonja got us all ready to go.  That was it!!  Now on to the part that scared the be-jesus about of me......tandem time!  Coming out of transition (and out of the swim), the crowds went absolutely beserk when they saw us and the tandem bike and realized Patricia was blind.  Mike Reilly was announcing and pointed her out......number 81 Patricia Walsh!!  With all of the yelling and cheering Patricia and I had a hard time communicating - we couldn't hear one another.  She was in a rush but I just wanted to safely get on that darn bike and not take anyone down in the process.  We got our right feet clipped in and pushed three times with our left legs......and got moving!!!  The spectators went wild again!  I manuevered us through the first corner and we started the trek out of town.

Mind you, this was the second time I had been on a tandem with Patricia.  The first was on Friday for an entire 2 loops of a parking lot.  All I can say is that a tandem handles much differently from any road or TT bike.  The center of gravity is way behind the front rider.  Sonja and I had talked about just taking it easy for the first hour and getting used to the bike.  Good idea!  Not to mention the fact that there was so much rider traffic on the way out.  It was just not smart to do any sort of push initially.  It was dangerous.   The next big moment was my first bottle grab.  We'll just call that one a FAIL.  We started wobbling almost uncontrollably when I reached that we were thisclose to crashing.  Patricia suggested she just hand me bottles after that - OK!  We were literally just figuring things out as we went.  Since I had no access to bottles without Patricia, I knew this would be my big "sacrifice".  I would try to stay on relative track nutritionally but I knew I would be short liquid and calories.  I just had to get her through the bike.  I let her know when we were approaching an aid station and we would decide whether or not to slow.  If we did, she would stick out her hand for Perform or water.  It worked incredibly well.

So, here's what we have so far:  new to tandem riding, getting used to cornering a tandem, not bottle reaching, no aero bars, not my bike.  Oh, did I mention this bike had Campy gearing and I have NEVER ridden with Campy????!!!  Yeah!  That caused us some gearing mishaps.  But, I handled it like a champ:)  Really, this could have been a complete effing disaster!  But we did it.  We got comfortable with each other.  I got comfortable with the bike.  After 40 miles or so, Patricia could even tell that I was cornering better.  I have had some questions/comments that would make it seem that Patricia could coast along while I just pedaled away.  It didn't work like that at all.  She was a full participant in the bike.  My job was to set the pace, make sure she wasn't panting or pushing to hard so that she could run the marathon after the bike.  There were times when I called her out on pushing too hard - I could feel the pressure on the chain.  As I said before, Patricia was a full participant in this Ironman.  I was only her set of eyes.
This is somewhere between mile 100-110...not sure why I'm smiling 'cuz I'm pretty sure I was melting!
Now, usually during a 112 mile bike in an Ironman, you don't have many people to talk to.  It gets kind of boring.  But we talked to all sorts of people!  And some of the comments we heard!  Good comments like "go tandem" "go CDifferent", "you girls rock, have a great day"!  And silly comments like "that's cheating" "she's not pedaling up front" "that's drafting" "that's not fair".  Really?  Not fair?  OK, how about we blindfold you and you try riding a bike??  I also tried to keep our conversation light and encouraging.  Someone had posted signs over the course that read, "Welcome to Ironman, now you are broke".  And, "Ironmom, because having babies wasn't tough enough".  And, "Pain is temporary. Your finish video on the internet is forever".  Silly things like that I would read to her that we would giggle over.  Sometimes she would not want to talk.  That was fine, we just kept pedaling.  I started telling her major mile markers....60, 70, 80.  Triple digits!!

It was incredibly hot and humid - the heat index was 100.  The only saving grace was that we had clouds and some light showers for the first half.  How was I feeling during all of this?  I hurt.  I was on a bike I had never ridden and my body was not particularly pleased about it.  My bike training was not quite ready for 112 but it wasn't too far off.  I wasn't comfy for the first 40 miles.  But part of that was because I had to pee so bad (very well hydrated).  And just so you know, you do NOT pee on a tandem.....unless you really dislike your partner, bad form.  My back started hurting.  My right glute at one point was just on fire.  But I was not about to bitch and moan.  I just had to get us through 112.  Standing up to stretch in a tandem is also difficult.  Standing up to pedal on a tandem is difficult.   Everything needed to be communicated and coordinated.  My quads were starting to burn.  The last 12 miles were particularly difficult.  The sun had come out and it was unbelievably hot.  We were on our way back into town and riding next to stopped traffic and you could just feel the heat coming off the cars.  Both of us just wanted to be off the bike.

I had been keeping track of our pace but my stupid Garmin decided its memory was full somewhere around mile 70. I deleted the history and made a note of the time and miles.  But, of course, race brain could not remember all that data (right, time and miles) and so I wasn't quite sure how we were doing.  I asked a couple of riders what the race time was (one had the nerve to say if you were keeping track you weren't racing???) and finally figured out that we were still under 6 hour pace.  Just keep pedaling!!  Finally, we were back in the Woodlands with all sorts of wonderful people out on the course cheering.  And that was it!  We were back to the roaring crowds at transition.  Off the bike, and once again SPRINTING towards the change tent.

All of a sudden there was a Hello next to me and it was Sonja.  It was switch time.  We grabbed our bag and headed in.  I took a back seat in getting Patricia ready - Sonja and the volunteers had that covered.  I just poured ice water on my head, in my face and down my bra.  Honestly, I could not imagine going out for a run......but I didn't have to.  Patricia did.  Our bike split was 5:46, which included an "easy" first hour and a 3 minute pee break!!  Race time was 7:30, she had to do a 4:30 marathon to get to 12.  She had quite a cushion to get there.

Go Patricia!  Go Sonja!!

After they left the change tent, I just sat down on the chair and tried to get my stuff together.  I was drinking water and sucking on ice.  Eventually I put on some other shorts and probably 20 minutes later I finally emerged from the tent.  I got the lay of the land and figured out how the run was working and stopped and talked to Matt for a bit.  Biggest problem with stopping after the bike?  I ended at the change tent.....not the food tent.  Major bonk one hour later.  Matt's wife Kristin had a table on the race course right at mile 10, 18, 26 (3 loop course) and I finally located her and some food.  I'd eat and go cheer on the athletes.  And I was waiting to see Patricia and Sonja.  Finally, they came around and Patricia looked like she was hurting a bit.....Sonja was keeping her going.  The next loop, they looked better and Sonja was working the crowd into a frenzy for Patricia - they were still on pace.  Last loop and the race clock was at 11:39.  I took my position at mile 26 and waited.  And waited. 11:45, dang I was nervous.  And then I saw them come around the corner.  I jumped up and down and squealed with delight!!  As they passed I joined them for the final .2 into the finish.  The crowds were once again going berserk as we went by finishing with a 6:30 pace.

11:50.  She beat her goal by 10 minutes and was so happy!!  It ended up being incredibly happy and fulfilling for Sonja and I as well.  What a great day and what a great experience.  11:50.  Dang.  The fastest blind woman in the world at the Ironman distance.

The Finish Line.  I love how there are spectators with their jaws literally dropping watching us.   And yes, that's how I look when you go from 0 to 6:30 with no warm-up and fully belly.

Christine, Patricia, Sonja, me, Griffon
Congratulations Patricia!!  And Thank You for letting us be a part of your day:)

The midnight finish line party picture with Dana and Nina (we really only see each other at midnight finish lines!!)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ironman Texas!!

Check out this great blog from NUUN about Patricia, Sonja and I!!

Holy Hotness and Humidity Batman.....we are in Texas!!!  It has been a whirlwind of activity since Sonja and I arrived yesterday afternoon.  And the best part was finally meeting our athlete Patricia yesterday.  It was incredible how we all just fell into a groove with one another and quickly became buddies.  Patricia seems like our long lost sista and is officially PIC3:)

I had no idea what to expect with a blind person/athlete.  I don't know anyone who is blind and wasn't quite sure how this whole thing was going "to work".  But there was no "working", Patricia is so completely self sufficient that at times yesterday it seemed like maybe Sonja and I were blind!!  For example, at the grocery store checking out, Patricia asked me to hand her a bottle of water from the fridge next to me......Son and I looked at each other and then asked her how she knew there was water there.  She simply replied - don't you hear the motor of the fridge?  Yeah, ummmm.  No.

After settling into our hotel room, it was off to the athlete dinner.  I tell you what, these people know how to put on a dinner for 2,000 hungry triathletes:)  Seriously though, it was a great venue and an awesome buffet.  Texas hospitality is at an all-time high here.  This community is embracing the inaugural event and is completely welcoming!  The venue appears to be very spectator friendly on the run as well.

T-1 to Ironman Texas!!

There was some serious business to take care of today.....the tandem bike (BTW, a sweet titanium Seven) did not come together as smoothly as planned last night so it needed some bike mechanic love.  While Sonja and Nigel (another guide) took care of the tandem, Patricia and I headed off to the swim - we needed to get in together with the tether and practice.  The water was kind of cold getting in but as we swam out a bit it just felt kind of nice.  Patricia had warned me that getting started in the swim was the toughest part for her - it's complete sensory deprivation for her.  She panicked just a bit but within a few minutes she worked through it, got her head in the water and started swimming well:)  I practiced pulling the tether to guide her and only ran her into one buoy:)  We worked out our communication and made our way back.  I was very pleased at how well the swim went.  Tomorrow is going to be a bit more difficult though since we start with the pros 10 minutes before the masses.  I admit to being a bit nervous about this part but I will try to keep us wide and as close together as possible.

We met back with Sonja and started the 20 minute walk back to the expo.  Now it was fun time!!  Quintano Roo bikes were in the expo and we had met Mac (and his wife Kristi earlier in the week - thank you!!!) and talked TT bikes (since I am in need of a new bike!).  We learned all about the QRs and  wind tunnel testing and cables, and stack and reach, and brakes, and everything else!  Then it was demo time.....what can I say, the QR is a fantastic ride and felt quite a bit different from what I've been riding for the last 2 years.  And I really liked it!
Pink camo bike.....speedy plus no one will see me passing them!!!
Clearly VERY excited to take pink camo for a ride!
Then a really cool thing happened.  Even though we had the tandem back from the shop, it still needed our pedals and seat adjustments.  This was a little more complicated that I thought but QR's Mac, Brad and Troy (Trey??) were unbelievably helpful.  To say they went above and beyond is, well, an understatement.  They even measured me to make sure the seat height was good and I wouldn't trash my knees!  And as Mac said, they were going for "complete awesomeness" for our tandem fit.  THANK YOU to the guys at QR!!

Me, Mac, and Patricia dialing in the sweet tandem ride!
Then, the next big step in our pre-guiding prep......getting ON the tandem and RIDING the tandem.  I was very anxious about this.  We found an empty parking lot and successfully clipped in and rode the bike....PHEW!  Handling of this bike is much different - the center of gravity is much further back than I'm used to and turns need to be wide and conservative.  I only have one bottle holder so we will be slowing for each aid station to make sure we both stay hydrated and that will probably be the other dicey situation.  But, I'm sure that after say, 40-50 miles, we'll be in the swing of things.

After tomorrow's swimbike, I then hand Patricia off to Sonja for the run.  And I am off to spectate and cheer the remainder of the race!  Track our progress tomorrow at Ironman.com.  Patricia's number is 81.

And now, relaxation and feed time.  Good luck to all the Ironman Texas athletes tomorrow!!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ironman Texas!!

This coming Saturday, I will be participating in 2/3's of Ironman Texas and PIC will do the other 1/3!!  I am so excited about this!!  Here's the story:

A couple of years ago I met Matt Miller who started the C Different foundation.  C Different is a non-profit foundation that was created to enable blind and visually impaired athletes compete in athletic events, with their main focus being on triathlons in general, and Ironman distance triathlons in particular.  C Different pairs sighted guides who complete the triathlons with the athlete in all phases of the race: swim, bike, run.  Matt was guiding Aaron Scheides in Clearwater for the 2009 70.3 World Championships and I remember seeing Matt and Aaron on the final stretch of the run as I was heading out for my second lap.  It was incredible - they were tethered by the waist and running (kicking ass) side-by-side.  Totally inspiring and amazing.  I think they finished around 4:15.

Last summer, Matt and I trained quite a bit together as he was preparing for Ironman Lake Placid and we talked lots about C Different, USAT's treatment of vision-impaired athletes, the athletes and the guides.  I was absolutely fascinated by guiding and knew that at some point I would guide an athlete.  He actually asked me to guide at Ironman Lake Placid last year!!!  And after careful consideration, I said no - I think I should do an Ironman on my own before taking the responsibility to guide someone else!

Fast forward to three weeks ago......I got a text from Matt.  It said something to the effect of would you like to guide an athlete at Ironman Texas?  Her guide canceled on her last minute (3 weeks to go) and she has been training for a year.  You could do the swim and the bike and PIC could do the run.  I was definitely interested and so was PIC!

We asked our families if they would be OK with us heading out of town (again) to support this athlete.  They said Yes (and a HUGE thank you to Michael for holding down the fort while I'm out).  We asked our Coach if it would be OK for us to guide this athlete - it seemed to fit in perfectly with our seasons - he said YES!!  So, Coach is doing a quick bike build for me (6 hours today) and same for Sonja on the run.

On Thursday, we will head to Texas and meet Patricia, our athlete.  She is an amazing individual, she's run a stand-alone marathon in around 3:15.  She's already done an Ironman.  She wants to break 12 hours in Texas.  Sonja and I will do everything we can to help her achieve her goal.  I spoke with her earlier this week and I really can't wait to meet her!

How does this work you ask?  Well, I'm not sure.  But we will be tethered at the waist during the swim and I will swim beside her to guide her along the course.  This is the hardest part for her as she's dark (totally blind) and gets disoriented in the water.  Then, we will hop on her tandem bike and we will ride 112 miles together.  She told me a tandem is kind of tough to get going - clipping in and starting - so we will practice before Saturday.  We will also practice bottle hand-offs.  After the ride, Sonja takes over and runs!  To say that this brings PIC (Partner In Crime) to a new level is an understatement.  We are both incredibly excited and grateful to have this opportunity to help Patricia and to give back to our sport in a somewhat unexpected way.

On Saturday, cheer Patricia on!!  I will post her number later in the week so that you can follow her progress on Ironman.com.

Since C Different is a non-profit, they can always use funds to continue to support the amazing things that these athletes and guides are doing.  If you have a few extra dollars (or even extra hundreds:), your donation will be greatly appreciated.  Please donate here!!!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Equipment FAIL

What’s worse than a technology fail?  Yep, an equipment fail.  As I was riding my trainer yesterday and putting together some thoughts about a weather FAIL, I glanced down at my top tube.  And I noticed something on it.  Hmmm.  Must be some sticky drink or gu stuff dried on there....I reached down and felt it.  WTF?  It wasn’t sticky stuff.  It was rough.....maybe just the carbon clear coating coming off I am hoping.  Not the big C word.....crack. 
No, no, no.  I denied the obvious fact for an hour while I finished up my ride.  But I knew.  I had no idea how it happened.  But I knew what it was.  A crack. My heart rate and power numbers went down as my mind started whirring through what this all meant.  All I could think about was $$$$$$$$$.  I got off the bike and once again told myself it wasn’t what I knew it was.  I got a flashlight and looked up close.  Crack confirmed.
I spent the next hour crying.  This may sound strange, but I LOVE my bike.  It may be 5 years old, I may have bought it used, but I LOVE my bike.  This bike has been to Australia and Hawaii with me and California, Tennessee, Alabama, Illinois, Oregon.  I LOVE my bike.  It’s practically an appendage.  I have already spent 128 hours this year on this bike (not that I'm counting or anything).  But no longer.  I will never ride this bike again.  Wow.    
So in the midst of everything else going on (really just life in general), I have to figure out my next move.  Do I send it to Calfee and have it fixed?  What do I use in the meantime?  Is it really worth sending it off when it is old (5 years) and the maker (Isaac) no longer exists?  Will insurance cover it?  What kind of bike do I need/want?  Coach has given me a couple of options but you start talking about reach and stack and narrow and long and all I hear is wah wah wah.  It is too much for me to think about!!
I have a headache. I am still on the verge of tears.  I didn’t sleep well last night.  I’m trying to come up with a plan - one step at a time right now right?  My road bike is being released from its basement imprisonment.  I need to put a saddle on it and clean it up.  Then I’ll call insurance.  And then I’ll figure out next steps.
Make no mistake about it....I am in mourning.  I walked into a bike shop with lots of beautiful Specialized and Orbea bikes.  I did not look at one of them.  Not even a sideways glance or touch or quick component check.  I’ll look soon enough, I have a race coming up June 5!!!  

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Technology FAIL

It seems to me that technology is taking over my own life!  I'm pretty sure I can give up tweeting and blogging and checking email - Wildflower was a great lesson in being disconnected.  But workout technology?  I'm not sure I can live without this!!  We (I) have power meters, heart rate monitors, cadence detectors, flatulance suppressors, ipods, etc.  I've said it before....but does a workout happen if Garmin doesn't record it?  And who is this Garmin guy, and who gave him/her all the "power"?

In the past month I've had several technology fails - my power meter has conked out a few times where the data would have been nice to have (including Wildflower), my heart rate monitor has started spitting out bizarre readings - like average heart rate of 186 on an easy ride/run or saying I have no heart rate at all.  Both of which are quite disturbing if you ask me.

Today was an EPIC technology fail.  I had an MAF test at the track and it's been awhile since I've had one so naturally, I have been looking forward to it.  The forecast for today looked like crap but I figured the weather people had it wrong like usual and it wouldn't be raining/hailing/snowing/windy for my run.  Unfortunately, they got this one right.  I woke up to snow.  Yeah!  The kiddos were off to school and I kept waiting for it to clear or at least give me some indication (like SUN) that I would have a 1.5 hour window to get my work done.  It didn't happen.  It was heavily misting and after consulting with PIC (I asked her if I was completely crazy to run outside), she suggested I find my inner Seattle-ite, and go for it.  As I got out of my car and walked to the track, I was already getting wet.  I stepped in a puddle and now my feet were wet.  Awesome.

My warm-up was good, I wasn't cold and I was feeling pretty nice.  But then I looked at my Garmin. (evil music here please)  And it was showing my heart rate was 170.  Crap.  Not today.  Not now.  I need an accurate reading for the test!  How can I do this workout without the data?  Crap.  So I adjusted the chest strap 100 times.  Now the heart rate monitor said I was dead - no heart rate whatsoever.  Except I wasn't at the beach so I was pretty sure I was still alive.  I took the strap off and made out with it.  Again.  (wetting the electrodes)  I turned the darn think off.  Nothing.  I couldn't get a good reading.  Dang.  Now what?  I decided to continue on - I was already here ready to run and I was already wet.  How was I going to do my workout?  Well, I decided to be my own heart rate monitor and use perceived effort (gasp in horror).  My goal heart rate wasn't all out and it wasn't all easy - it was somewhere in between.  It was time for me to use my own intuition and see what I could come up with.

I turned on my ipod (no way I'm running without music today) and tucked it into an inside pocket since I was already 50% soaked.  The stopwatch still worked so I was off running.  It was raining/snowing/hailing and windy.  It was wet.  But I just ran.  I hit lap when I was supposed to and checked in with myself at least once around the track.  Self, where do you think you are at?  Self, are you pushing too hard?  Self, dial it down just a bit - you are breathing too hard.  It turned into a conversation  with nice music background.  At some point during mile 3, the hail picked up and I was getting hail-whipped in the face.  It kinda hurt.  And then technology fail #2 occurred.  My iPod decided to not work.  Noooooooo!!!!!  Great, I'm thinking, it got wet and I have just ruined yet another iPod.  Apple loves me.

At this point, my gloves were soaked, my hats were soaked, my feet were soaked.  And no music.  Things were just not getting any better.  But I continued on.  Surprisingly (ha), I was the only one at the track so mid-way through I turned around and ran the other way.  I kept checking in with myself and as expected my mile splits were getting slower but not too bad. After mile 7, I called it quits even though I was supposed to go to mile 8.  I was done - I was wet and I was getting cold and my foot started aching a bit.  I walked to the car and started stripping off my wet clothes in my front seat.  Probably not a good idea in the parking lot of an elementary school but I haven't been arrested.  Yet.  And then I got cold.  No surprise there either.....time for a hot shower at home and some hot soup.

To be so dependent on technology is sometimes just frustrating.    And I just got to thinking....with all this technology are we ignoring our own best monitor - our intuition?  Perceived effort?  I think I was pretty close to my numbers today - probably within 5 beats either way.  But more importantly, I got the work done.  Maybe I was a bit high maybe a bit low.  But I can still put this run in the 'ol training bank - heart rate monitor or not.

Now on to budget for a new ipod.  And budget time to get to REI to exchange that stupid Garmin for a new one.  Intuition and perceived effort are great internal indicators but I want the numbers!!!!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wildflower - The Race!

As is par for the course when I bunk with PIC, I slept fabulously the 2 nights before the race!  Race morning I wasn’t nervous just excited and was able to put down a great breakfast of Justin’s Nut Butta on naan bread and a mix1 - breakfast of champions.  Or bridesmaids.  I digress.   I was ready to go!  

Sonja's parents and cute kiddo Annie showed up while we were packing up but Annie was sick!  She had a mean fever and wanted nothing more than to cuddle with her mama.  I could tell PIC was torn......how can I race when my kid is sick?  I should stay here with her and be her mama, not an athlete today.  I tried to give her as much space as possible but soon it was time to go.  She sent Megan and I down to transition and would meet us in a bit.  As we left, I soon realized I had a problem (minor compared to Annie's fever).  Aero helmet and big transition pack don’t mix.  But you can’t ride without a helmet....what’s a girl to do?  

The Beak

Tatoos, numbers.....not much more real estate on the arm
The weather was warmer that morning than it had been since we’d been at the lake and it seemed the wind had died down too.  The pros went off at 8 and then all the men and then the women.....and my start time was 9:25.  Never started that late before.  PIC and I watched the pros and the men come out of the water and into transition and cheered them on!  We called it the Guns and Tenderfoot Show!  It seems, the bigger the arms on the guys, the softer the feet and the bigger the tip-toeing up transition!  About 9 the wind decided to pick up again so the chop in the water was AWESOME for the ladies.  No worries, I lined up for the start and we were off!

Having a little chat with my higher power, another girl looks like she needs a nap!  Starting line photos are pretty entertaining.
I was off the front to the right of the first turn buoy and was with 3 other ladies sprinting at the front.  I had women on my feet hitting and trying to swim on my legs, I kicked pretty hard and got out of there.  Clearly, 2 of these women were FAST and I knew I wasn’t going to be hanging with them.  I tried to get into their bubbles but they took off.  Before I knew it, I was looking at the turn buoy and I had miscalculated my line - I had to cut in pretty good for the buoy.  Oops.  First open water swim of the year.  The chop was with us on the way out so I tried “riding” the waves and letting them push me forward.  but the chop made it extremely difficult (for me) to sight.  For the most part, all I could see was water or a kayak.  Finally the turn came up and I saw another pink cap!  As suspected, the chop on the way in was dreadful.  I was trading places with the other pink cap, getting face fulls of water every other breath or so and was so glad to see the turn into shore.  The other pink cap got a bit ahead of me at the finish and beat me out by a couple of seconds.  Third out of the water for my age-group.  
I love my new TYR/KompetitiveEdge kit!!!  But I couldn’t find the pocket to shove my First Endurance Liquid Shot in!  Pink cap beat me out of transition while I practically had to take my top off to find the pocket - need to do a little practice with that.
I was excited to be on the bike!  The crowds were incredible out of transition and lining up along the road to the first hill.  It was really cool.  The first hill I just kept my eye on my heart rate - I love hills and I didn't want to blow myself up early because I was so eager to be racing, going fast and climbing.  This course is amazing.  It is beautiful and tough.  The first 20 miles are really just little climbs and a couple of screaming downhills.  I felt great.  My legs were with me, my heart rate was exactly where I thought it should be - and maybe even a tad low - and I was passing people non-stop. I finally caught the pink cap that beat me out of transition:)  So at this point, I figured I was either 1st, 2nd or 3rd in my age group - the pink cap wave was 40-49.  I kept pedaling hard and loving every minute.  Every once in a while I'd look around and just smile at the blue sky and beautiful hills.  There was a fierce headwind and crosswinds and I didn't mind it at all - wind has been the story of this year so far with training anyway and with Kona around the corner, I am embracing the wind:)  It was pretty scary though to see three ambulances and a flight for life.  At one point around mile 20 I passed an ambulance with someone holding up an IV.  Yikes.  
Around mile 3 coming out of the campgrounds, love the crowds!
At mile 35, I reminded myself that this was where the race really started.  And at mile 41, Nasty grade!  I got in my lowest gear right at the get go and some woman said to me....that sucks to be in your lowest gear at the start of the climb.....whoa - was this some smack talk?  I laughed it off and just pedaled on by.  I actually really liked that climb, it reminded me of Olde Stage in Boulder only a little less steep, a little longer, and a lot more oxygen. About mile 50 I started feeling the effort.  I'd been riding as hard as I knew how for 2.5 hours.  And I was certainly not going to meet my goal of 2:50 on this course.  Now I just wanted to beat 3 hours.  I missed the last hand-off at the aid station and rode the last 6 miles without fuel.  I didn't worry about that though because I knew my nutrition had been solid to that point.  It was time to reenter the park and all the crazy cheering crowds!  
2:58, 2nd age group
Next up, Run!
OK peeps, I didn't know if I was going to blog about this but then I figured I pretty much tell everything as it is during a race and the following turned out to be a big part of my experience.  So, if you don't want to read about my period, or blood, stop now!  You have been fairly warned!!  You can skip this blue part and read about awards:)

I felt great coming in to T2!  My legs weren't feeling all that bad and the crowds certainly lifted my mood.  As I went to rack my bike I noticed my seat was covered with blood.  Crapola.  Now what?  My period had certainly picked a bad time to be on a rampage - I was in the middle of a race!  What do I do?  Stop?  Medical? Lay down and cry?  Go home and camp out in the "red tent"?  Keep racing and "go with the flow"?  I just wished I didn't have to deal with this!!  I drank my Pre-Race (coffee on crack) concoction and started running.  I guess I would figure it out soon enough.

So, I ran out of transition completely preoccupied with what may or may not be covering my legs.  All I could think about was Bree Wee and her experience in Cozumel.  Thank goodness I wasn't wearing white!  Mile 1 passed and although I wasn't thrilled with the split, I did feel pretty good.  I kept running.  The course now went onto trails around the lake and I loved this part!  A girl passed me and I figured she would be a good little rabbit for me and I kept her in my sights.  I ran up the first steep hill and had a goal to NOT walk the monster hill from miles 4-6 and I did a pretty good job until the last bit of mile 6.  I walked.  But as soon as it crested, I immediately started running again.  About this time, a couple of female volunteers were announcing the next aid station so as I ran by I asked them if they could see blood as I was pointing to my crotch and legs.....they said no!  I needed to hear that, I was somewhat relieved:)

My run training up to this point has been sloooowwwwww......but with a purpose.  Chuckie has been so diligent with getting me running again and healing up my foot.  We've been taking it slow and easy and slowly building up the miles.  So I knew not to expect anything special coming into this race.  Really, I was worried if I could even finish a half marathon!  And, I definitely wasn't trained for the Wildflower hills.  but I was motivated and I felt good and I was pain-free!!!  Miles 7 and 8 I felt like a freaking rockstar and passed my rabbit friend.  Of course, that was the part through the campgrounds and all the cheering crowds and awesome aid stations.  I was just running as hard as I could knowing that I was coming on the HARD part - miles 10 and 12.  Mile 9 is a nice downhill for a mile, but it is really tough to enjoy when you know that all you are going to do at the bottom is turn around and run right back up it.  It was getting hot too!!  Ugh!  The best part was seeing Sonja kicking it and high fiving her - it's been awhile since we've done that!  Mid-way through the sufferfest of mile 10 I saw Megan and she yelled at me to not let that girl catch me. What????  Yikes!!  I sped up to a solid 9:30 pace (ha) and just willed myself up the hill.  Now there was just one more *(*&(*(^&%(*^ hill left.  Oh, and period update?  Yep, I now had blood streaming down my legs.  Awesome.  So I knew I was one mile to the finish - a brutal downhill - and I would be done yet I wasn't planning any finish line celebrations, I just was trying to figure out to clean myself up!  Immediately run to the lake and jump in?  Get to transition and fresh shorts and supplies?  Paperbag over my head?  The finish just wasn't as glorious as it should have been since I knew I had executed a great race.  Medical was immediately at me asking what happened, why it appeared as though I was bleeding out, and if I was OK.  I'm sure they thought I had left my uterus out on the course somewhere.  But the medical gal was awesome - she gathered some supplies and led me to a nice bathroom with a sink:)
1:52 6th or 7th in age group
One stinkin' mile left!

A word about the aid stations.....WOW!  I can't think of a race where there was so much enthusiasm and skin showing at aid stations!!  The volunteers were awesome - beer may have helped some of them out but no matter - their cheering and splashing was the best.

PIC, Megan and I walked through the food area and ended up at results.  We all checked out our splits and finishes and for some reason mine showed I was 5th.  I was so confused because no one passed me on the bike, no one from my age group passed me on the run and there were only 2 girls off the front in the swim??!!  But, well, OK, I was fine with 5th.  Awards were going to 5th so I was excited I could be there.  As it turns out, results were screwed and I was 2nd!!  Bridesmaid!!  And the amazing studette that was 1st?  Yep, that was fellow Kompetitive Edge teamie Susan Williams.  You may remember her from the 2004 Athens Olympics - she was the bronze medalist in triathlon!!!  Pretty cool to be somewhat (OK, not really) in the same zip code as Susan:)

Total Time: 5:25:41, 2nd age group, 14th overall

After the dreadful walk up that dreadful hill to our campsite, we barely had time to shower before heading back down for awards.  But it was fun!  Fellow teamie Grant won his age group and was second overall amateur (FAST), Susan and I went 1-2 and Sonja was 4th in her age group.  What a great showing for KompetitiveEdge!

KE Teamies: Sonja, me, Kendra, Grant

Awards with Tim Hola, Grant and Son!

As we all walked back to our campsite for the night, some folks were gathering on the road cheering and talking and I heard something about naked men.  A finish line was being put up and we were looking around wondering what the heck was happening......all of a sudden a bunch of naked men and a few naked women came running up the road in an apparent naked race.  There are all sorts of "fun" photos that documented this run but since this is a family-friendly blog and I'd rather not have my blog taken down.....here are a couple of pictures:

And that's all I have to say about that!!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


The One and Only - that’s the tagline for Wildflower and after spending 3 nights at Lake San Antonio, I have to say that’s the truth.  This race has been a bucket list race for years, you hear about the camping and the crazy people and the comraderie and the race and Nasty grade and the run and how it's the Woodstock of triathlon. And I also heard that you either hate it or love it.  Well, I LOVED it!  
After PIC and I signed up in December, Megan Killian (former Trakkers teamie - she ran support for me at Chicago Tri last year!) decided to race and then we had a bona-fide girls trip to Wildflower!  We all gathered in San Jose at PICs parents house Wednesday night, got our groceries at Trader Joe’s (surprise!!), packed up the Sportsmobile and got on the road for a 2 hour drive to Lake San Antonio.  

Please Trader Joe's, please come to Colorado....pretty please!

The girls all loaded up and ready to roll
Of course, we still had to navigate to the race site and with all the conversation and singing of camp songs, I managed to miss the first turn-off.  No worries, we got turned around and drove to the North side entrance.  Oops.  Mistake number 2.  We needed to be on the complete other side of the lake.  All told, we ended up driving almost the entire course including Nasty Grade so we had a great idea of what was awaiting us on race day.  
We found our perfect camping spot, got set up and decided to head down to packet pick-up to get our numbers, go for a swim and check things out.  The lake is gorgeous!  We stood on a dock where people were jumping in to get our wetsuits on and then realized it was the first time all of us were getting into our new TYR wetsuits.  Let the wrestling and wrangling begin!!!  I managed to stuff mysely in that darn thing and felt like I had just wrestled a gorilla.....and won:)
Sweet setup with the van
I will get you on wetsuit!

Take that wetsuit!  Megan is still fighting the good fight.

PIC and I doing our thing

I may be doing the inaugural wetsuit pee in this picture.  Or not.
Friday brought a little course recon.  It was definitely bumpy coming out of transition and we had about a mile before we hit the first big hill of the day - and it’s a big one.  It lasts about 1.5 miles so I was already planning how to ride it on Saturday.  Check this out - PIC took a picture of Megan and I climbing that hill and then a picture of the lake.  Lots of elevation gain in just 2 short miles!!  Run recon took us on the trail at mile 8 to mile 9 and we knew there was an out and back downhill/uphill for a mile each way.  And it was fully exposed - no trees.  If it was warm on race day, it would be brutal.

Nice little climb at mile 1.5!!

This point is only about 2 miles into the bike!
I cannot tell you how relaxed I was!  PIC and I travel so well together and Megan was a great addition to our team.  It was completely chill.  After we did our recon, we ate a bit and had some feet-up time.  I was just reading and listening to the wind rustle the trees and some of the conversations around us.  Then we went off to the expo for cartridges and lip balm and pink laces and silly pictures and it was feet up time again!  The campgrounds were filling up and there were loads of triathletes running around and testing their bikes. 
Silliness on the shuttle

I sure hope the girls in my age group aren't this big....

Love the pink laces and love my new KSwiss Kwicky Blade Lights!

Ahhhhh, first race of the season!!