Friday, June 29, 2012

IM CDA - Bike

After a disappointing swim - well I wasn't even that disappointed more in awe of what I had experienced - I couldn't wait to go for a nice long bike ride.  A new coach this year and a new schedule and a new taper.  I had been feeling good to this point so what could this bike yield?

The course was made for cyclists like me and PIC.  I mean, we eat hills for breakfast on most days!  There is nothing I like more than climbing (when I'm fresh of course).  So with my mocha liquid shot stuffed down my top and arm warmers on, I made my way out onto the bike course.  And wow, what a first mile!!  Yes, it's a mild uphill but with spectators lining both sides of the street yelling and cheering, I just had a huge smile on my face and was so happy to be doing this race......thank you spectators for the love:)  Heading out of town, I finally realized why there was so much chop on that second swim lap - the wind was howling.  Really?  Good to know the weather forecasters in Spokane/CDA were just as inept as the ones in Denver.  Thank goodness I put on my arm warmers since it was cloudy, windy, and spitting just a bit of rain from the sky.

Blurry and happy to be on bike!

My legs did not feel great those first 20 miles or so.  Damn, I thought, the taper was 2 days too long!!  But I wasn't worried,  I was just happy to be on Oreo (drop dead sexy fast Quintana Roo CDO.1) and out riding a tough course.  The first out and back I tried to count how many women were in front but I only really remember seeing teamie Katie and her huge smile, waving at me saying Hi Sonja!!  It looked like I had some girls to hunt down.  After heading through town, the course takes you on an out and back on what seemed to be some decent uphills and  a few fun downhills to break it up.  Nope.  That course was straight uphill to the turn around with 1 or 2 very short downhills.  Wow!

I told you the bike was drop dead sexy fast!
There wasn't too much drafting on course.  There were a couple of sections that got a bit congested but hills have a way of spreading folks out.  One of the girls in front of me was drafting behind a pretty big (maybe 5?) group of men.  I mean, she was right on their wheels not even really trying to hide - I tried passing her and the guys but unsuccessfully.  They gobbled me up again.  I let them go and just watched the draft fest from behind.  Then I noticed the guys finally dropped her on a hill, she was all by herself on the hills and I was reeling her in.  I finally successfully passed her and later found out she received a penalty so I never saw her again.  I did, however, see lots of the men that had passed me early on later in the ride.  Oh, you men.  Is it really such a big deal to be passed by a woman?  I myself almost got a penalty for taking too long to pass but escaped with a warning since the guy I started to pass sped up......grrrrrrr.  I spoke with the official on the motorcycle and he had seen what had happened so I graciously thanked him and let the guy go.  Not worth a penalty.  Of course, about 10 miles later I saw him again and this time successfully executed the pass:)

My legs felt unbelievably strong.  My heart rate was unbelievably low.  My nutrition was spot on.  My QR was shifting beautifully and was looking for speed.  I even peed on my bike (success!!!).  I never felt.....tired.  The initial achyness I felt starting the bike was gone.  When I stood up out of the saddle on the climbs I felt like I could climb forever - that is such a rad feeling.  And it appeared I had made up some position for the women.  I could really only see a couple ahead of me.  After mile 70 I was pretty much on my own which can be tricky to stay motivated.  A girl passed me around 80 and said nice riding which was cool......that gave me a bit of a pick up so that after a few minutes I knew I could take her on a downhill.  See, PIC and I can descend.  Pretty much like bats out of hell.....we like to go fast and take some risks.  It's fun to do and it can really pay off in a race.  So on this downhill, away I went and didn't see this girl again til the run.  Mile 90 and the final turnaround to town.  Legs were still with me and I had to pee again.  But it just wasn't going to happen on the bike.  Hydration - good, nutrition - good.  One last big hill and it was time to run!!!

Did I mention I really liked this bike course?  The roads were all well-paved with no "surprises" and no gravel/dirt.  It was well marked.  There were 2 no pass zones that while I hate being not allowed to pass, it was clearly for the safety of the athletes.  And they weren't that long.  The course seemed to be well monitored by officials and it seemed that the mechanic guy was always pretty close (thankful I didn't need him).  And the spectators.  Thank you for making me feel like a total rock star!

Bike: 5:36:23 top amateur (as near as I can tell by results!!)

Transition was uneventful and the tent was empty.  I had 2 (!) volunteers helping me which was good as I was trying to put fresh socks on over my wet socks.  D'oh!!  Quick stop at the port-potty, sunscreen application (Skin Strong for the sunscreen - love that stuff) and it was off on the run!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

IM CDA - The Swim

Finally, race morning!!!  Oh, thank goodness.....let's do this thing!!

The Swim (i.e. the ugly)
OK, how do I best describe the swim start in CDA?  Well, it's a beach start.  But in a very limited amount of beach.  It is so limited in fact that the "lines" of athletes waiting to get in must be 30 deep.  I had mentally prepared for the start.  And my goal was to get on the front line, sprint at the cannon, and settle in for a strong swim.  What I didn't do is get to the start line early enough to get in the water and splash around a bit.  My bad.

Front line  - check
Sprint at the cannon - check
Settle in for a strong swim - yeah this is where it all fell apart.

The start at the cannon
For the first time in my triathlon swim career, something unexpected happened.  I dove into the water and sprinted fairly fast trying to get in front of all the athletes around me.  I took about 10 strokes and then realized I couldn't breathe.  Seriously couldn't breathe.  I was having a panic attack.  I am NOT prone to these but looking back and analyzing the start i know exactly what happened.  The water was maybe 57 degrees and that my friends, is freaking cold.  Too cold for me.  I had done a swim on Friday and thought I could deal with the first 5 minutes.  But with the craziness around me at the swim start and somewhat getting knocked around, I was unable to get over the cold shock. I rolled onto my back and tried to catch my breath.  But it wasn't happening.  I was pulling at the neck of my wetsuit thinking that if I released some of the pressure my chest would be OK to breathe.  Didn't happen.  In addition, waves kept coming over my head with the cold water and I inhaled lots of water.  But the cold left me gasping for breath.  I looked towards the beach, all I could see was a sea of green and pink caps....hundreds and hundreds.  I felt trapped.  I couldn't see a kayak.  I was in trouble.

OK Michelle.  Deal here, we have to deal.  You are a swimmer OK?  You can swim.  Relax. Keep kicking your legs so no one will pull you under, do a bit of backstroke to keep you moving.  I stared up into the clouds and tried to get into an almost meditative state.  Breathe, breathe, breathe.  OK, I was breathing but still having problems swallowing water and gasping for breath.  Oh, this was ugly.  I am NEVER doing another one of these.....So I tried rolling onto my stomach and actually swimming.  NOPE.  We are having NONE of that.   My chest immediately tightened up and I couldn't get a breath in.  What a nightmare.  I am a swimmer and I am unable to swim.  Am i really doing this first lap backstroke?  I started talking nice though....sure do backstroke.  You were a pretty decent backstroker back in the day and that's kind of all you can do right now.  So I backstroked.  Finally, about 500-600 meters in, I tried swimming again.  And I was able to get some strokes in.  Phew.  But I had to go way wide with no one around me.  The red turn buoy seemed really far to my left and I started swimming towards it.  I was now in the masses of swimmer I have never had the "privilege" to swim with.  Lord, I hope to never swim with them again.  They are an aggressive violent bunch:)  And, I still had to rollover onto my back a couple more times during that first lap.

I finally finished the first lap and headed back for the second.  I was able to get into somewhat of a normal stroke for me even though I could only breathe on one side.  Smooth sailing from there right?  Nope.  The chop started.  The wind had picked up (forecast did not call for this!!!) and now we had big chop to deal with.  OK, not ideal but I can do this.  I didn't have to roll over again on lap 2 which was a success and I finished the swim knowing that I had conquered a pretty severe panic attack.  I expected a time of 1:10ish but I missed looking at the clock on the way in and just got to T1.  So I was pretty happy when I learned after the race that my split was 1:02 and I was first out of the water in my age group.

I'm the "freaky" one looking relieved don't you think?

Wetsuit strippers are my heroes.  Really.  They had my Freak off in a mater of seconds and I was off to the change tent.  It wasn't nearly as empty as I'm used to but I found some empty seats and got to the business of getting ready for my ride.  As always, the volunteers in the tent were amazing - very helpful especially when dealing with a wet, cold athlete with numb hands.  We got my arm warmers on along with everything else and I was on my way!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pre-CDA Report

I am back from CDA!  It's been 48 hours since I crossed the finish line and I can still feel the hurt and exhaustion deep inside my body.  Of course, you expect this from Ironman.  It isn't an easy day no matter what your pace.  I just don't remember hurting this badly after my previous two Ironman's.  Kinda like child birth I suppose....

Anyway, the lead-up to CDA was great.  I came into the race happy, healthy and confident.  In fact, I was so relaxed that last week I had a moment of....wait, I'm too relaxed, I'm too confident.  And Ironman will tear up those who approach the day with too much confidence and not the right preparation and/or race plan.  But then I sat back, looked at the work I have done over the last 6 months.  I thought of just being healthy on the start line.  I was confident in my race plan.  And if that doesn't get me ready....nothing will!!

I arrived in CDA on Thursday with my substitute PIC (actually there is NO substitute) and athlete Peter.  PIC was with her family but joined us later for athlete registration and a little drive around the bike course.  Rumor had it that the new course was hilly with a couple of significant climbs.  The course lived up to what we had heard but tried to alleviate some of our nerves by saying - hills always look steeper in the car (yeah, whatever), we tried.  And the last hill coming back into town???  Sure, it would be fine at mile 50ish but at mile 100 on lap 2?  Seemed like a cruel joke the race director was playing.  Then we drove the run course - it's beautiful!!  And once again, a steep little hill that I'm sure the RD was saying "mwaa ha ha ha".
CDA!!  Here we are!!

Friday was all about trying to relax after swimming in the lake.  It was ccccccccold!  That initial shock of the cold water hitting the face was brutal, I seemed to get a cold headache right away.  But within 5 minutes, I had numbed up and was swimming well.  So I thought it would be the same on race day - just misery for the first 5 minutes while trying to get in front then all would be OK (great thought but more on that in the actual race report).  A quick bike ride with a couple of intervals to get the blood moving and I just wanted Sunday to be here already!!  From there on out it was sleep, eat, drink, feet up, eat, rinse and repeat.
Looks all sweet and innocent doesn't it??

There was a huge Colorado contingent racing CDA so there were friends and familiar faces all over the place which just kind of made it seem like home:)  And in addition to athlete Peter, I had 2 other athletes racing as well - Kirsten and Justin.  Exciting!!

Nerves settled in Saturday night and I got all teary eyed watching the track and field olympic trials.  But a Nike commercial that was on that night really stuck with me.  It started with Joan Benoit Samuelson and their kid counterparts.  The entire commercial is awesome but one line opened my eyes, ears, and heart.  "Someone has to be the best.....why not me?"   And why not me for CDA?? (I hope this doesn't sound conceited because it is sure not meant to be) I had done the training and I knew I was ready.  In fact I felt more ready than I had in my previous IM's.  I also knew my competition would be fierce (as it always is).  But I had set that little goal back in October as soon as I crossed the finish line at Kona.  I wanted to go back.  I wanted to qualify again.  And that was why I was in this see if I could do it.  Again.  A tall order for sure.  We all know they just don't hand those slots out.  I would have to give the race everything I had.  And so with that line in my head, I went to bed.  Tossed and turned for an hour or so and finally fell asleep.