it’s just $50 more…

Once upon a time, I was standing in the kitchen, declaring to my hubby my decision to do a half-Ironman. It was a somewhat random decision and a little out of the blue, so not surprisingly, Hubby asked “Why?” To which I confidently responded, “Well, I know I can swim. And I know I can run. And any fool can ride a bike!

That was then. But now?

Turns out, NOT every fool can bike. SIGH. Almost every fool can bike… I appear to be the grand exception.

Ok, maybe I’m not a completely awful biker but that is how it feels a lot of days. More days than not an individual who I’ve deemed NOT worthy of passing me for one reason or another goes whizzing, I mean WHIZZING past me with what appears to be virtually ZERO effort. Let’s agree that: a) there is a good, valid reason they’re faster than me, like the fact that they’ve probably put a lot of time and effort (and $$) into biking and therefore deserve to be faster and b) I’m not a great biker, probably because I haven’t put in as much into it as the speedy bugger that just passed me. 

Here’s the thing about biking that I’ve discovered. Unlike running, which you can do with really pretty minimal equipment, and swimming, which is almost purely technique-driven, biking is hugely gear-driven in my opinion and way more so than the other 2 sports involved in Ironman.

Weight, rolling weight, cadence, road vs-tri bikes, racing wheels, threads-per-inch, carbon frames and super fantastic components and accessories just to name a few things… All of these things can add up to have an effect on race day. And each of them is “Just $50 more…”. (Actually many of them are just $100 more or $200 more, but I digress.)

If you’re me, you learn about them 5 or 6 weeks before race day.You know, when you’re spazzing out about making cut-off times and freaking out about trying to figure out all of the logistical stuff and squeezing in a couple of last looooong bike rides and its too late to do much about a lot of them.

Cool gadgets. Aero bar hammocks? Whoa, what’s that? (I’m sure I need one…)

The latest and greatest tri shorts? Spandex colorful enough that your family and friends can find you in the crowd of athletes (and flattering enough that you’d dare drape yourself in skin-tight fabric from your neck to knees for the duration of the day (12-17 hours?) when thousands of athletes better looking and in better shape than you and thousands of spectators will see you and judge you based on how well you are pulling off said spandex…). And more importantly, comfortable enough that it’s tolerable for that long?

Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching.

There are stats that will show you just how expensive completing an Ironman is. And I’ll admit I was pretty skeptical of the numbers. The popular figure seems to be $10,000. That seemed like an exaggeration at the time but I may be changing my tune.

But here we are, just 29 days from race day and new gear seems to be appearing at our house – if we don’t pick it up in the store, it magically arrives at our doorstep almost daily (oh, e-commerce, how I love and loathe you…). Cases of energy gels for training. Protein powder. New running shoes. Drink mixes. Water bottles. Shorts. New tires for race day. Neoprene cap and swim booties, just in case the water is freezing.

Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching.

Another bike fit to fine tune a few last minute things (Cha-ching)…which leads to a new bike seat or two to make the aero position tolerable (Cha-ching, cha-ching). You may even be as (un)lucky as me and have to try a bunch of different seats to find the one that will work.

Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching.

I haven’t kept track of our spending for Ironman. I guess if I were to add anything to that $10,000 figure it would be to say that I think a lot of the spending is front and back-loaded. Gear to get you up and going. And then all the last minute stuff you discover you “need”.

And that’s where we’re at. Broke, exhausted, grumpy, tired of energy gels and surrounded by a mess of FedEx boxes. There are a lot of things we’ve decided to pass on (like $300 on renting race day wheels to save 10-15 minutes).  But hopefully there are also a lot of things that we’ve “invested” in that besides draining our accounts will hopefully also more and more ready for race day. Here’s hoping…

It’s like this – only my bank account does NOT say 1-0-0-0-0-0-oh so you can’t help but  feel broke when you get home!

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bib numbers…

…are officially posted. **it just got real.

2013 IMCDA bib list

warm enough for open water…!

SUNSHINE!!! Sunshine means good things for the lake and good things for race day. I know I’ve been complaining a lot about wind and cold lately. Heck, last week I was bringing in my flowers overnight because it was dipping below freezing and we were still wearing long sleeves to run and beanies under our bike helmets in the morning. Well, the weather gods finally decided to take pity on me and give me an entire week of sunshine and warmth for my sanity. Thank goodness.

Sunshine!

Honestly, jumping from 50 degree days to 80 degree days literally overnight made running outside a little hard since we had no time to acclimate (there is just no pleasing me, I know!).

But a week of sunshine and 80s means really good things for the lake so I’ll stop complaining. We’ll take it!

USGS Lake CdA water temp 05.11.2013

Which means it’s time for open water swims! Last Friday, May 10 was our first open water swim. And thanks to the 80s, we got to swim in 55 or 56 degrees instead of 50 or 52. And believe me. Five degrees makes ALL the difference in the world. I’ll be honest – I was really kind of dreading it but it was infinitely more tolerable than I thought it would be. And had I forgotten anything I needed for the swim – and I mean ANYTHING – I would’ve been ok with scratching the whole thing and waiting till later to jump in. But it wasn’t to be. We were in for about 30 minutes and I could still feel my feet when we got out. If that was the temperature on race day, that would be just fine.

Looks like its just about time to quit the pool swims and spend the last 6 weeks getting reacquainted with chilly waters, waves, other people, sighting into the sun, murky waters with bug-eyed fish staring up at you and swimming with others. Have you done your first open water swim of the year?

sweating the small stuff…

Someone once said, don’t sweat the small stuff. That someone obviously never did Ironman.

There are all of these little things (that all add up and can easily make the difference between making it and not making it). When you think about it, so much has to go RIGHT for you to make it from Day 1 of training, 6 months of training. And there’s a ton of things that need to go RIGHT for you to cross the finish line on race day. These little things compound, especially (seemingly) after about 65 miles on the bike. And all these small things are the things we need to sweat right now.

Clothing issues: to tri suit  for the day or change at each transition? Seams on your running shorts or bike chamois can cause major issues over 140 miles. Bike shoes slightly too small?

Gear issues: Aero bars too close or too far away? How’s the bike seat – do you have a road seat that doesn’t work once you need to spend hours in the aero position? Running shoes – too old or too new? Both can cause issues. Do you know where you chafe?

Temperature issues: How cold is the water going to be on race day? Are you acclimated to it? Have you planned for it (aka – booties, just in case? Ear plugs to keep the ice cold water out of your brain? Are you used to the neoprene cap that makes you feel like a little munchkin is hanging onto your throat for dear life the entire swim?)?

Then there’s the food issues: leading up to race day and of course during the race. Nervous stomach? How am I going to eat breakfast that morning with my stomach in knots? What am I going to eat to keep my energy up and not bonk but also not have gastrointestinal issues that put a premature end to the day? Can I possibly manage to choke down one energy gel every 40 minutes for 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 hours (for me, I’ve come to realize the answer is no)?

Hydration issues during the event: Have you been training with what they will provide on the course? Does your stomach tolerate it or will you use your own? If you’re using your own, how are you going to carry and restock?

Special needs bags – what’s going in them? You don’t get them back and they may get lost in the shuffle so it needs to be good stuff, but good stuff you may have to go without…

Race week strategy. Race day strategy. Survival strategy. All the stuff of many many little things.

As the workouts get longer, the small things become a bigger deal. A seventy mile bike ride last weekend left my lower back KILLING me. I could not have possibly ridden another 40. Something needed to be done. A new bike fit to make the aero position doable for hours upon hours.

This weekend’s 80 miler was a test run for the new fit – the back is much better. But now the saddle is no bueno. Great. Saddle research, saddle shopping.

It was also a test run for different food – non-energy gel food – sweet potatoes, tortilla with honey and almond butter, fig newtons. Mostly good – no Gu-gut bomb, and while I could’ve done a better job toward the end, no major bonk.

But with just 6 weeks to go, there’s a very small (and quickly shrinking) window of time in which to fiddle with things. So there is also a sense of frantic desperation… we are frantically fiddling, researching, and fine tuning with hopes that things will click in the next few weeks and we’ll be golden by race day!  Here we go… sweating the small stuff 24/7 till we’ve got it all figured out!

riding in the wind…again…

Practice 70.3 today… more on how the whole day went. But let me start with this – it was WINDY! I know, you can hardly believe it, it’s not like I’ve EVER complained about how very windy this spring has been.

Today, I was asking for it. We set up our test run in farmland, on the prairie. It’s not rocket science. If you ride in farmland, it will be windy. It’s the prairie. What did you expect?

riding through farmland on a windy day...

I’ve realized that whenever I ride in the blowing, howling wind, I always sing this song stuck in my head. And I feel a little like this cranky old lady too (and sadly, I’m probably only moving very slightly faster than her…):

And today was no different, in fact I think I saw Auntie Em fly past me on her rocking chair while I was riding:

Thankfully, I think I’m getting a tad more comfortable holding a squirelly bike straight(ish) in the gusts and hopefully that will be the silver lining from all this wind training. I have to hope something will come from it!