race recap #5: 112 miles of mediocre, but forward, progress…

For as cocky and confident as I am in the water, I know that once we hit dry land, all of those hard core bikers who can barely swim go whizzing past me like I’m not even moving. It’s true. I’ve done studies. Lots of them.

Sometimes people tell me they are jealous of my mad swimming capabilities. And I just laugh because, well, I am crazy jealous of their mad biking abilities. It makes wayyyyy more sense to be badass at biking than swimming. It’s a much longer event in any triathlon and you can really make up a lot of time really quickly. Ironman is no different from any other triathlon I’ve done.

If I had a dollar for every time a biker passed me and said, “hey, nice swim,” I’d be able to buy a new tri bike to make me go faster. Seriously though, all I can hear in my head is “hey, nice swim… (too bad you’re not a faster biker!)! True story.

So. If there is one thing I have learned from triathlons, it is to swim like heck. And then, be humble (once out of the water…).

The bike is where I’ve struggled the most. And it is also where I have the least experience. I’ve been swimming my whole life and running pretty much since my high school volleyball coach made our whole team sign up for a 5K run (which was just about the longest 3 miles of my life). So whereas I’d swam 2.4 miles nearly a year ago and run 2 marathons previously (and countless half marathons), I only rode 112 miles once. Just a few weeks ago.

One of the issues is my lack of skill/ability/confidence on hills. I spent this year training to go UP but never would say I’m an amazing climber. Just ok. Let’s face it, I trained to go UP, which was hard enough. I didn’t train hard to go up FAST and there is a difference.

And going downhill, it takes me some time to build up the confidence on each and every different descent. I rarely descend in the aero bars – I like to have the brakes nearby. I’m terrified of crashing my bike. And those skinny road tires can be squirrely. So I’m a chickenshit compared to many others who will just tuck and go, screaming down the hill at 50+ mph.

Suffice it to say, I have a lot of room to grow as a biker.

Leading up to the big day, I fully anticipated a looooooooong day of biking. My reasonable guesstimate had me spending between 8 to 8 and a half hours on the bike to travel the 112 miles.

Now, before you go and do the math, you are correct… that is incredibly slow. In my defense, there are a few hills to conquer. Here’s the elevation profile from my test ride a few weeks before the race:

IMCDA bike elevation garmin 06.01.2013

IMCDA bike elevation garmin 06.01.2013

Getting out of the water, I felt good. Being out early always makes me feel a little urgent. Frantic. Quick, get out of transition, get out in front of people. Get riding. (So you can hurry up and be passed? I know, right? It has never made any sense to me either.)

The first leg of the bike course runs through town and out along the lake. It’s beautiful and mostly flat and fast and there are a lot of people around – spectators and other bikers. Then, all too soon, you leave town heading south on Highway 95 – away from all of the people and up into the hills.

I realized two things pretty quickly. First, I noticed that my aero bottle was no longer velcroed in at all and was jiggling out of its holder with every bump. I held it in, kept moving and tried to decide what to do. The obvious answer is STOP… but this was not necessarily the course of action I was going to pursue immediately until I realized that my Garmin was tracking speed and time, but not distance. That was what made me decide to pull over and stop.

I fixed my bottle (good news, now I didn’t have to hold it for the next 109 miles…like that was even a feasible option) and fiddled with my bike computer and the little piece that is on my bike spoke to no avail. I jumped back on, not wanting to waste too much more time (look at all of those people passing me! though right now I AM actually standing still) and chose instead to scroll through my Garmin options on the tiny little screen whilst 1) travelling 18-25+ mph, 2) avoiding near certain collisions with other bikers going 24-34+ mph 3) trying to avoid hitting any spectators foolishly trying to cross the street in front of bikes moving that fast, and 4) trying to remember which menu screen would take me to the place where I could check and reset my satellites, etc.

I know. It was a perfectly logical way to go. Multitasking on a bike. Probably as bad or worse than texting and driving. I know.

Fortunately, I avoided catastrophe. But unfortunately, my Garmin appeared to be having sympathy pains attached to my hubby’s watch, which, as you might recall, suffered a busted screen and come to find out later, made it through the swim only to die about 1:45 into the bike.

No major hurdle for me…my watch still told me how long I’d been out, what time of day it was and how fast I was travelling and there were aid stations every 10 miles. It was only an inconvenience – we’d been training on the course since April and I knew pretty much how long it would take me to get from point A to point B.

I had a quick and easy first 56 mile loop. Much faster than I had ever done it, which was both fantastic and troubling news. Everything I had read going into the race said to take it out easy on the bike. Everyone I talked to said that scorching your bike would never pay off and you would blow up on the run.

I was trying to stay positive and in fact, I was loving how quickly I was moving along the course – this was fun! But in the back of my mind, I had a more than slight concern that I was going to seriously blow up… maybe on that last 2 mile hill at mile 100. If not then I would definitely blow up on my run. Trouble.

As you might know, during an endurance event like Ironman, your body needs replenishing but can only digest between 200-300 calories an hour. Get behind and you pay for it when you run out of gas. And you can’t make up for it – take in more than you can digest and you’ll likely end up with GI issues that can haunt you. Nutrition and fueling can definitely make or break you on race day.

Aid stations were reliably every 10 miles and were fully stocked with wonderful, helpful, cheerful volunteers, water bottles, bottles of Ironman Perform (like Gatorade), Bonk Breakers, Chomps, Gus, bananas and of course, porta-potties. At each one, volunteers were stretched out in a line, yelling out what goodies they had. You slowed, pointed to the volunteer who had what you wanted and made eye contact, and snatched the goods on your way past. You could also ditch empty bottles and trash at any aid station (it was an automatic DQ if you purposefully ditched trash anywhere but an aid station).

I had 9 coworkers who had also signed up to do the race and my first pit stop was around mile 30, where I saw the friendly faces of some of my other nonracing coworkers who were volunteering.  Looking back, I think this is where hubby first caught up and passed me.

The stretch along Hwy 95 is hilly with a 2 mile uphill as you leave town and then mostly rolling mostly uphill until the turnaround. I have done enough training rides along this stretch to know that along with the slightly rolling mostly uphill of this section, you often get some headwinds to go with it to make it a little extra miserable. But we were lucky and the winds were quiet.

Honestly, my first loop was uneventful. Each aid station had phenomenal energy and there was enough bike traffic and chatter to keep you distracted. Course officials were patrolling to make sure no one was illegally drafting or blocking but I think their primary concern was with the people vying for cash prizes (in other words, not me!).

Once you hit the turnaround point to head north back into town about 4o miles into the 1st loop, it’s a fast 16 miles back into town. All of those rolling uphills turn into mostly rolling downhills. And the good news is that even though I’m not the fastest, most confident downhiller, I’ve been riding those downhills for long enough to be confident enough to cruise down them. I think I hit 40 mph or pretty darn close on one of them. But there were bigger people cruising right past me. Gravity.

After you cruised through downtown, back on the flats again, you headed out to pick up your special needs bag, which held cheeseburger #2 for me. Mile 65 was a happy one – more than halfway AND time to restock with new and exciting foods. And I got to see some familiar faces. I’ve worked with the volunteer captain for the bike special needs bag, Mike, on other non-Ironman things and before the race he told me where he’d be and had offered to throw my cheeseburger on the grill and warm it up. I didn’t take him up on it as I didn’t want to get “cold” or maybe more importantly, decide to order out for some fries and a milkshake and never get back on the bike. But I did stop long enough to restock my Perpeteum powder and reapply sunscreen on  my arms and shoulders and stretch my neck and back.

Leaving town again, you could feel the energy leaving the athletes. Everyone knew what was ahead. Hills. No fans. Just the quietness of our minds. It got quieter and quieter until about mile 80. You could literally feel the ginormous black hole that was swallowing entire athletes whole.

“I’m never going to make it back into town.”

“Holy geez, why would anyone sign up for this?”

“How am I going to make it another 42 miles AND back up that last big hill?”

Fortunately, I had friends and coworkers at the aid station at mile 90 and I knew that the turnaround was within reach. I stopped for a quick high-five and another porta-potty break. When I was racking my bike, I realized with excitement that my hubby’s bike was on the rack right where I had put mine! Hooray!

But that was quickly replaced with a sense of uneasiness as it sunk in that he is a faster biker than me and something must not be going well for me to have caught him. Uh-oh…no bueno.

I saw him coming out of the porta-potty and he waited for me as I just had a quick tinkle. We rode together-ish, back and forth for a few miles, but he put some distance between us as we hit the downhills.

Mile 100 hit and we all start climbing again. Of course by now, the sun is shining full bore. No breeze. Just bikers. Climbing.

Last hill before town so I’m feeling pretty good. Just 2 miles and then it’s all downhill. Training on the course was definitely an advantage and one of the major reasons hubby and I chose to do this course over, say, Ironman Canada, which is later in the year and would have given us much more time to train in the nice weather. I was probably the only person smiling on that hill and I’m only smiling because I had already ridden the entire 112 miles of the course this year and I knew, I just KNEW that if I had made it this far, I would make it up this one last stinkin’ hill for the last time.

High spirits.

That is, till I catch up to my hubby, a third of the way up the hill. He’s cramping and jumping off his bike to stretch his leg. Poop.

I can’t stop or else I will never get going again so I blow him a kiss, cross my fingers the cramp goes away and keep churning my legs. I counted to 100. Five times. One count every other leg. One count every third leg. Again, every leg. One. Two. Three. Four. Five… Ninety-nine. One-Hundred. One. Two. Three. Four.Thirty-seven. Thirty-eight. Seventy-one. Over and over and over again. Just to get my brain off the hill and off of worrying about hubby. At least until the top of the hill…

I make it and turn around to find that my hubby had jumped back on his bike again and had staved off the cramps at least long enough to make it up the hill. Talking with him for a few miles, I learn his nutrition had been a wreck since his watch died less than 2 hours into the bike. He had trained with the watch set to beep every 20 and 40 minutes, reminding him to eat and drink. Without a watch, he was floundering from the get-go, trying to gauge distance and time without a watch. He will tell you that he got some funny looks – in a world of Type A athletes who are trying to control every piece of the race day they can to have a successful finish, he was probably one of maybe 2 or 3 athletes who didn’t have a watch. I’m sure they were wondering what his deal was…

Anyway, we decide about 5 miles out to start the run together and go from there. It was no our initial plan to stay together but it seemed to make sense to keep each other company for a while. So down the hills into town.

As we come into transition, our family and friends are cheering for him – it’s like a homecoming parade. It was actually really comical. They weren’t expecting to see me right behind him so he’s soaking it all in and I’m like, “Hey guys, I’m here too!” Eventually they saw me…

I had anticipated finishing the bike in 8:00-8:30.

I finished the bike around 7:20, a full 40-1:10 faster than I ever thought I would. True it’s still nothing to write home about in the world of biking (I averaged about 15.3 mph over the entire course), but I was feeling darn pretty good about my day as I headed into my last transition.

race recap #4: two-point-four miles of epic open water speediness (aka, killin’ the swim)

This year’s Ironman CdA had a new swim start – called their Swim Smart initiative. You’ve probably seen photos of Ironman’s mass swim starts where there is a mssive wave of people running into the water simultaneously where they then proceed to duke it out, arms, legs, elbows, feet, and fists for a rowdy, aggressive and potentially dangerous 2.4 miles. Some people think this start is most epic. From a spectator’s point of view, I would definitely agree.

But let me tell you, I could not have been more relieved to learn about the revised start. And I say this as one 2318 athletes who started the race and as someone who is NOT afraid of long swims in open, chilly water (most days). And I say this as a strong swimmer who has mixed it up with the boys in numerous race day swim starts and swim drills and mass start practices. But I also say this as one of just 636 females who signed up to compete in IMCDA this year. Just look at these pictures and look at how many pinks caps you see…

green, green, green, green, green, green, pink!

green, green, green, green, green, green, pink!

before the start...

the beach beginning to fill up before the start…

swim start  5

And what do we know about boys? (Besides that they are bigger than me?) Boys are mean and aggressive. To each other, yes, certainly. No guy I know likes to be beat.

Now, put a pink cap on and go swim with the boys. They’re fine with it, really. They’ll play nice – they want to pat you on the head and console you that the swim is not going to be that scary and the water isn’t that dark and you’ll be just fine. Cute little girl. That is until you start swimming past them.

What do guys hate more than being beat? Being beat by a girl.

My swim time of 1 hour 10 minutes is not good enough to beat the pros, not even close. But it does put me in front of 75% of all the competitors.

And that means I beat A LOT of guys, some of whom got downright nasty when they realized it was a girl passing them. Grabbing, pulling and generally trying to swim over me. Some of it was probably an accident – absolutely, it comes with the territory of open water swims. But I have a hunch there were more than a few non-accidents. A handful of times, I did have to be more aggressive and take wider strokes to literally push people off of me.

The worst of it was in the first half of the first loop.

Anyway, I should back up. The new swim start went smoothly – no one knew quite what to expect, only that athletes were to “self-seed” like in a marathon. So each person would have 17 hours from the time they crossed into the water to finish the race. Volunteers held signs – 60 minutes, 1:00-1:15, 1:15-1:30, 1:31-1:45, etc.

self seeding

self seeding

Hubby and I had agreed to start the swim together and thought we’d seed ourselves at the front of the 1:15-1:30 mark. We had both swam the Coeur d’Alene Crossing last August, a 2.4 mile swim across the lake so we had a good idea of what our times might be. We figured I might be just a smidge faster than 1:15 and he might be around 1:20 so this seemed like a good plan.

Not knowing what to expect from the swim conditions and crowds, I had honestly told myself that as long as I was on the bike by 9 a.m. I would be “fine” (i.e. I would still probably make the cut offs throughout the rest of the day). For those of you who don’t know, the swim cut off for the 2.4 miles is 2 hours and 20 minutes. We were both confident that, excluding any extenuating circumstances (like getting hard-core kicked in the face and needing stitches or drowning), we’d be comfortably under that mark.

Mike Reilly

Mike Reilly gives some last minute instructions and words of encouragement. (Or possibly he’s just telling this guy next to him how to get to the restrooms…)

I found hubby on the beach near the warm up area and he had some pretty bad news (already). Someone had stepped on his watch and he hadn’t realized it until he got to the beach. The screen was cracked and neither of us thought it would make it through the swim, let alone the rest of the day. He didn’t feel like he had enough time to swim upstream to drop it off at his bike (at this point transition was closed anyways), so he was just going to have to keep his fingers crossed it would survive the swim and keep functioning throughout the day. (This was on top of the fact that he was competing with a broken wrist – an injury he had picked up just 16 days before race day when he took a tumble off his bike during a taper ride.) The watch issue would prove to be a really major complication and hurdle for him throughout the day (but more on that later).

We each took our turns “warming up”. The worst part of open water swims for me is often that initial shock of getting into the cold water and I find myself spending the first 500-600 yards slowing down my breathing and adjusting to the cold, especially as it hits the back of my neck. So my warm ups, including for IMCDA really only consist of putting my face and neck in the water and floating face down in the water for a minute, focusing on keeping my breath outwards slow and steady and calm. After I got out, we had a few minutes to hold hands and stand, in silence, surrounded by hundreds of others dressed in black neoprene wetsuits, inching up towards the start line as the people in front of us crossed the starting line and entered the water.

I was surprised at how calm I was – again, I think it had a lot to do with the revised start. I mean, just look how peaceful it looks.

the calm before the storm

the calm (wayyy) before the storm

crowds at swim start 2

When we got close, we kissed each other and wished each other good luck. And for some reason, my eyes welled up with tears. I’m really not even sure why. It was just one of many somewhat overwhelming moments where I realized how much we’d been through and sacrificed and put ourselves through to get to that point and perhaps realized that **it was about to get real and maybe also had a feeling about how much we both might endure throughout the next 13 or 14 or 15 or 16 or (hopefully not) 17 hours. I looked at hubby and he seemed a little overwhelmed too. I wiped the stray tears from my eyes (so as not to fog my goggles!), gave him another kiss and we were off!

swim start - under the arch and over the timing mat

swim start – under the arch and over the timing mat

I fought the crowds for the first half of the first loop and had some close encounters with fists, elbows and people trying to swim over me or pull me down. Right before we started, I heard Mike Reilly, the announcer, say that the left and right sides seemed crowded but the middle looked pretty open, so I decided to stay somewhere in the middle. I tried to stay wide on the turns as those get sloppy in any race.

ows2

After the 2nd turn, heading back into the beach, I noticed the sun was out and traffic seemed to clear up a bit so it was cruising time. I’ve already spilled the beans about my time – I was out of the water and running across the halfway timing mat on the beach just under 35 minutes with a dozen or so people. I heard my name as I passed over the mat and dove back into the fray for round 2.

The first part of the second lap was clear, but then all of a sudden we hit of all of the 1:45ers and 2:00+ers who had gotten in the water behind us. A few times, there was just a wall of people and no clear path through. I took more than one little detour  just to get around the slower crowds of people.

swimmers as far as the eye can see...

swimmers stretched out as far as the eye can see…

At the start of my 2nd lap, I also realized that my neck was burning, chafing on my right side. I cursed the stupid pocket sized bodyglide and tried to breathe mostly on the left (I’m an ambi-breather, haha, is that a term?!) to try to keep it from getting worse, but I had a good sized wetsuit burn-owwee by the time I was done with the swim.

Other than that, my second loop was just a tiny bit slower, just over 36 minutes for a total of just shy of 1 hour 11 minutes.I ran up onto the beach, through the arch and over the timing chip.

tick tock tick tock...

tick tock tick tock…

Wetsuit strippers are awesome. You take your top half off and lay down and they do the rest and pull you up and hand you your wetsuit and send you on your way in a matter of seconds.

The rest of the transition was pretty smooth, thanks in part to the dry run we had done when we dropped off bags and in part thanks to the volunteers.  I found the change tent and ventured in. It was still fairly quiet, not too crowded yet and people seemed in good spirits. No crazy negative war stories. So I found a chair easily and a volunteer came right over to help me with whatever I needed. I was pretty low maintenance though. I opted to leave my jacket and sleeves behind, so all I needed was some chamois cream, my socks and bike shoes, my race bib, and my helmet and sunglasses and I was on my way in what felt like a jiffy (but was really more like 9 minutes…)!

As I ran towards my bike, I could hear the people along the transition fence cheering but it is so hard to distinguish whether it’s people you know or not until a familiar voice yells your name!

With that, I jumped on  (ok, gingerly and cautiously mounted) my bike (I have been known to be a little too over-eager with this part only to get tangled up and nearly eat it right in front of all of those fans – trust me, it’s way more embarrassing to do that than to take an extra 30 seconds to gracefully avoid any unnecessary close calls with the pavement) and had only a mild sense of trepidation for the next 112 miles…

IMG_6081

race recap #3: race morning scramble…

Race morning, we had a 4 a.m. alarm. Yikes! – as far as I’m concerned, 4 a.m. the world simply doesn’t exist most days. Not surprisingly, it was a not-so-great night of sleep (but at least we had gone to bed early to kind of make up for it…?)

Breakfast for me was an Ensure and ¾ of a bagel with butter. I think there is a possibility that I had a banana too but it’s all a haze. It’s possible I had one bite of a banana and then gave up. Typically I’m not much of a morning eater and especially not much of a race morning eater so I usually have to force myself to eat on race morning. But my stomach must have had its game face on too because it was surprisingly cooperative.

We were out of the house by 4:45 a.m. and made a quick drive and parked without any issues just a few minutes’ walk to the transition area /and swim start (definitely an advantage to being a local) .

IMG_6065

It was foggy and peaceful on race morning, very mysterious looking. You almost expected to see Nessie poking her head out of the misty lake.

volunteers in the mist

volunteers in the mist

But perhaps most importantly IT WAS NOT RAINING! All week it had rained and all week the weather promised no rain and mild temperatures for about 30 hours, including race day but it was followed by another few days of rain and thunderstorms and you know how weather forecasts have a way of being either flat out wrong or just off by a day or two? So do I. I wasn’t holding my breath, but I was ecstatic when it turned out to be true!

race day rain sandwich

race day rain sandwich

It was still very quiet on the walk over to the transition. But as soon as we entered the transition, chaos took over.

First things first – we should’ve dropped our special needs bags off before we entered transition (more on that later…). But instead, our first stop was the bikes. I dropped off my first cheeseburger (yes, I said cheeseburger but don’t go crazy, it was just a little jr. cheeseburger), put my Perpetuem bottle in my water bottle holder and velcroed-in the aero bottle full of water. The 2nd water bottle slot was reserved for a bottle of Ironman Perform (energy drink) that I would pick up at the 1st aid station about 10 miles into the bike course.

race day fuel treat...

race day fuel treat…

Then, I found hubby who was done using the bike pump and we brought it back to my bike to top off my tires. (There were a lot of people who recommended NOT filling tires all of the way on the day before just in case it was hot out and the air expanded and popped your tires, so we erred on the side of caution).

After that, we passed our pump over the fence to our family and they went to stash it in the car and find a good place to watch the swim. Hubby and I headed off to grab a few things from our bike gear bags that we had dropped off on Saturday – I had food that I wanted to pre-stash on my bike so I didn’t have to worry about it during the transition (there would be plenty to do then and more pressure to do it faster…which would probably result in me forgetting something!). Hubby also had some things to pick up and stash on the bike, so we split up and decided to meet on the beach near the warm up area.

I didn’t have to worry about visiting the porta-potties – my race morning nerves were surprisingly calm and my stomach was being very cooperative. I dropped the rest of my food off at my bike and decided it was time to start squirming into my wetsuit. First was the sunscreen, then the bottom half of the wetsuit.

I body-glided my neck and hairline where my suit usually chafes with one of those itty-bitty little body glides they just started coming out with…which at first I thought was handy but quickly decided not to ever buy them again. First of all, they’re tiny and not well attached to the canister. So one swipe and the ¼ inch of body glide fell off and into the grass. And at 3 for $10 or whatever they were, you’re basically paying for the container and a dime-sized or two’s worth of body glide – it’s a total rip off. But I digress.

better to use the big ones than the pocket sized ones...

better to use the big ones than these silly pocket sized ones…

I picked it up off the ground and began applying it and threw what was left into my morning clothes bag with my sweats. I pulled out my goggles, my neoprene cap, my race cap, my water bottle and a gel and headed to drop off my morning clothes bag.

I had 3 bags left to drop before I hit the beach. It was chaos trying to drop off the morning clothes bag but relatively uneventful since it was only other athletes in the crowd, all of whom were trying to move pretty quickly towards their destinations whether it was a morning clothes drop off a porta-potty or the beach. By the time I dropped off my morning clothes bag (in transition), it was probably around 5:50, just a few minute before the pros started and they were starting to call for athletes to move to the beach. I asked a volunteer where to drop off my special needs bags and quickly found out that their instructions of just cutting through transition and out onto the street was incorrect and that I’d have to leave transition and walk a couple of blocks to the street corner where the trucks were waiting for the bags.

The crowds were starting to get thick outside the athlete area as spectators tried to find the best vantage points. I was like a fish swimming upstream – it was slooooooooooooooooooooow moving. I tried not to panic, but the crowds were packed in tight and barely inching along, if they were moving at all. Plus, by this time I was barefoot and desperately trying to move quickly and gently and also trying to avoid getting my feet and toes stepped on and walking gingerly to go easy on my shoeless feet. It took what seemed like forever to get to the trucks, but I quickly handed off my last bags to the volunteers, prayed I would see those bags where they were supposed to be later in the day, and headed back the way I came from for more upstream crowd swimming to get to the beach and the swim start.

I had my wetsuit halfway on, but at this point I was starting to tug the sleeves on. Just in case.

In hindsight, it would have been best to drop off the special needs bags before I ever went into the transition area, way before the streets and sidewalks were packed with spectators. But it all worked out ok. Thank goodness we decided to get up so early – an hour and 20 minutes in transition and I don’t know how I could have been too much faster other than the bag drops.  But I made it to the beach toes intact and  tried to collect myself as the pros hit their first turns about 1000 yards out.

race day recap #2: check-in and gear bags

On the Friday before the race we had a really fun surprise. Just as we were getting ready to leave the house, the doorbell rang. My mom darted for the door and up the stairs ran my brother’s boxer Charlie, followed by my brother and my dad! They had driven through the night all the way from Colorado to support us. It was an amazing surprise – I couldn’t have been happier to see them!

Check-in was on Thursday and Friday from 10-4 p.m. I had to work Thursday, so we went right after my brother and Dad arrived Friday morning, early-ish.The check-in is in the midst of a giant outdoor expo. Tons of vendors hucking everything and anything from race day wheels to compression socks to energy drinks to finisher shadow boxes to display your medal, photos and engraved time.  And of course, the Ironman store selling everything M-dot and all of the event-related gear. We headed straight to the check-in, not wanting to get distracted by all of the shiny things (yet) or have to check in with our arms full of purchases.

The line was fairly long, but it was a relatively smooth process. If I heard any complaint it was that it was a crowded tent. But I would guess that all of the rain had forced them to move the entire thing inside versus what I think their original plan of doing some things outside of the tent might have been.

First, you verified emergency contact information and signed the event waivers and medical release data. Then you showed your USAT card and ID to get your race packet – swim cap (neon pink for the girls and neon green for the guys), race bibs and stickers for the bike, last minute athlete instructions, and your Ironman race weekend bracelet. And last, we received a nice Ironman Coeur d’Alene triathlon backpack, which had all of our transition bags that we would need to pack and bring back when we checked our bikes on Saturday and the special needs and morning clothes bags we would need to bring on race morning.

After you had all of that in-hand, you were funneled out into the Ironman store to spend to your heart’s content on clothes, hats, stickers, mugs, etc. After all, you need these things to do the bragging for you about a very big deal race and what might be a one-time event. Right? Totally.

We shopped and then jumped in the lake for a quick 20 minute swim. Because of the rain nearly continuous rain over the 4 days leading up to the race, the water temp had dropped from around 65 to 61. Despite that, it was tolerable and we were thankful that we are locals and had been in the lake since May when it was in the mid 50s. And while you might think you can’t tell the difference between 65 degree water and 61 degree water, you’d be wrong…

Fortunately, the temperature mostly recovered in time for race day, but it was uber-depressing to watch the temperature plummet from the 17th to the 21st.

race week water temp

After the swim, we headed home and it was time to think about getting the bikes ready for race day. Bike check in and run/bike transition bags were due on Saturday from 10-3 p.m.

Friday night we hit the sack early, guessing that race day nerves would keep us from getting too much sleep and hoping to compensate for that by getting a decent night’s sleep 2 nights out.

Saturday, we rode our bikes from our house down past the check-in to make sure everything was shifting like it was supposed to. Things seemed to be in working order so we ditched the bikes in transition – the racks looked like they were going to be cozy so we kept our fingers crossed that everyone else would have more expensive bikes than us and as a result would be gentle and cautious when taking them off the rack the next day to avoid tangling cables or chains…

Bike racks in Ironman T1

Bike racks in Ironman T1

bikes bikes and more bikes...

bikes bikes and more bikes…

Our family met us at check-in with our run and bike gear bags and we left those bad boys overnight.

just look at all of those bike bags...

just look at all of those bike bags…

T2 bags

T2 bags

Before we left, we reviewed the map of where everything would be on race day and walked from the swim exit to the rows and rows and rows of bike gear bags, found ours (even though there would be volunteers to help), then walked to the change tents, then to our bikes, noting how far down we had to go. Fortunately, my row had a big tree right in the middle of it and hubby’s had an orange hazard cone right next to it to keep folks from tripping on a manhole cover, so we weren’t too hard to find. And then we walked from the bike rack to the run gear to the change tent to the exit. Walking it definitely helped me visualize how race day would go and made my transition smoother, less panicky and overwhelming and easier to remember on race day.

map of the transition area

map of the transition area

Then it was off to Wendy’s for race day burgers and to the grocery store for bagels, bananas and blueberries (last minute race morning breakfast restocking) and home for an early (bland and low key) dinner and attempted to sleep one last time before the epic journey…

race day recap part 1: preparation

You may or may not know that Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2013 – the BIG DAY – was this past weekend – Sunday, June 23, 2013.

As you might expect, the two weeks leading up to Ironman were taper weeks… though the first week of taper wasn’t as light as I thought (still had a 10 mile run and a 4 hour bike ride). The second week of taper was spent getting ready for company and frankly, my final taper week basically involved cleaning the house, a few short workouts and sleeping as much as possible. We’ve been quite busy with getting race ready, and we also had race fans come into town both surprise ones and planned ones, so I haven’t had time to write about race week as much as I thought I might. So I’ll break my race recap into a few different parts, starting with all of the preparation leading up to race day.

Ironman involves so much more than showing up on race day. True – most races do. But Ironman takes it to a whole new level. With an event 140.6 miles long and no external support allowed, the weeks leading up to Sunday were spent making lists and comparing our lists to other people’s lists to make sure that we remembered everything we could need for the day from chamois cream to race morning breakfast to race day nutrition and hydration to spare cartridges and making sure the right pair of running shorts made it into the run gear bag. Ironman races can take really little things and turn them into REALLY BIG PROBLEMS. A tiny little seam that chafes just a smidge in a sprint tri or a half marathon can leave you hobbling your last miles and the days following.

Despite the weeks of researching and checking and re-checking and adding to my list what seemed like constantly, I kept adding to it – post it notes to remember to make sure sunscreen is on the list, or handwritten notes on my printed copy I had on the fridge reminding myself to make sure I grab extra contacts just in case things went awry in the lake. And as you know, I was a little concerned about the weather leading into the race, so trying to plan for contingencies such as cold water, cold weather, wind and rain made planning even more important.

The week leading up to race day, we put out paper grocery sacks labeled to match the bags we would receive when we checked in and started packing early so avoid any last minute scrambles and identify what we needed to go out and buy before the other 2200 athletes arrived in town and bought out all of the local stores.

packing in advance...

Here’s the list I created for myself:

All bags:

  • sunscreen (I bought little travel bottles of it and put it in every bag we had. It did come in handy in my bike special needs bag on race day but they had sunscreen at both of the transitions and even some volunteers dedicated to putting it on for you if you wanted it! )
  • chapstick
  • washcloth
  • water bottle
  • athletic tape
  • eyedrops

Wearing on race morning:

  • Sweats
  • sports bra
  • tri top and bottoms

Green – Morning clothes

  • race cap
  • neoprene cap
  • goggles + spare goggles
  • timing chip
  • body glide
  • ear plugs (I didn’t use these…)
  • old water bottle/disposable water to take onto the beach and drink with gel
  • nutrition (30-60 minutes out) – I didn’t end up using this…
  • gel (10 minutes out)
  • wetsuit
  • mp3 player (pre-race, leave with family) – I didn’t end up doing this either…too chaotic.
  • Garmin/watch

Blue – Bike Gear

  • towel
  • spare contacts
  • helmet with race # sticker
  • race belt with race number
  • sunglasses (inside of a protective case)
  • arm sleeves (rolled down)
  • jacket/shirt/jersey
  • leg warmers
  • bike socks (rolled down, stuffed inside shoes)
  • bike shoes
  • toe caps for bike shoes (already on the shoes)
  • baggie of endurolyte capsules for first 65 miles
  • 2 spare bike tube (I normally carry 1 and a cell phone to phone a friend. But for race day I duct taped a 2nd onto my frame just in case I had a really unlucky bike leg)
  • gloves
  • chamois cream / travel lube to carry with

Orange- Bike special needs

  • perpetuem powder for 3 hour bottle
  • water bottle (they didn’t have any water at the special needs station – this was to mix with the perpetuem)
  • chamois cream /lube – travel tube to carry with
  • extra tube
  • 2 CO2 cartridges

Red – Run Gear

  • washcloth
  • water bottle to wash the bike grime off my face
  • eye drops (I DID actually pack them and use them here)
  • running socks
  • running shoes
  • vaseline
  • body glide
  • endurolytes capsules for the first 13.1 miles
  • hat/visor
  • new shirt? (I didn’t change my shirt)
  • running capris
  • underwear
  • positive note
  • extra race bib

Black- Run special needs

  • long sleeves / long sleeved shirt
  • vaseline
  • salt and vinegar chips
  • bandaids / tape

Bike – 1st 65 miles

  • Perpetuem – 3 ½ hour bottle, premixed and put on bike race morning
  • 3 stinger waffles
  • Wendy’s jr. cheeseburger (no onions)
  • 3 Gus
  • Almonds

Bike – 2nd 49 miles

  • Baggie with 3 hours of Perpetuem powder
  • 2 Gus
  • Wendy’s cheeseburger
  • 2 stinger waffles

I had a few others things on various lists – coke, candy bars, oreos, etc.  It’s hard to predict what might sound good on race day. But it’s also easy to go overboard and have WAYYYYYY too much stuff and you don’t want to carry any more than you have to… I could have gone without carrying Gus but I didn’t want to be forced to eat any flavors I didn’t want to so I carried what I liked. I also could have skipped the almonds, but I carried more calories than I needed in case I couldn’t stomach something during the race I could replace it without skipping a beat.

It’s quite the list, but maybe someone here will find it helpful. If not, maybe I’ll use it again later. Maybe…

transitions…

This past weekend was the last tri of the season for me (at least as far as I know…). It was an Olympic distance and it went, well, it went alright. It was a new PR for me, but I found myself less than pleased with it – it was barely a PR. But breaking down my splits, it didn’t add up – my swim time was just a minute or two slower than what I’ve been averaging this season. Actually slightly slower than I’d like to be, but I need to push myself more on the swim instead of cruising… another topic for another day. My bike was a full 7 minutes faster than my last Olympic distance back in July, and my time for the 10K run was almost dead even with my last Olympic distance race. So. By all logic, I should have hit a new PR by at least 5 minutes and yet…

I had only broken my PR by about a minute. What gives? Ah, darn transitions. The thing I don’t ever train for… Killed me this time!

We had been running late the morning of the race. Really late. And when we got there, we had to pick up packets, only to find out that my hubby’s registration didn’t go through so we had to straighten that out, track down the guy running the timing for the day and set up our transitions, get all wetsuited up and get down to the beach in time for the start. Whew. It was close. Needless to say, I was so rushed that I didn’t pay any attention to where we had stashed our bikes (racks weren’t labeled by numbers, it was a free for all). And I had hurriedly pulled all of my stuff out, not really in any sensible way. Boy did I pay for it. My transitions were all out of whack, especially T1. And that’s what cost me my opportunity to smash my PR. Silly transitions.

Ah, well. That’s the joy of racing, right? Anything can happen. Frankly, I’m not going to be practicing my transitions any time soon. And I suppose I’ll take rocky transitions over cramps or a flat tire any day. But next time I think I’ll make it a point to be there just a little earlier. Even if it means this “s0 not a morning person” needs to get up just a smidge earlier.

70.3 #2 recap…

We have had a crazy couple of weeks, hence my unintended absence from here…apologies.

Immediately after the Olympic tri, we headed out for a long backpacking trip. The backpacking trip tied into ‘taper week’ – does hiking with a 40 pound pack up to 13 miles a day count as tapering? Funny, it didn’t feel like I was training. At least not the race-specific training that I’d been so focused on for the past 19 weeks. But it’s not like I was sitting on a beach, reading. And I will fully admit that it was nice to do something that was active that wasn’t swimming, biking or running. The change of scenery was good too. Plus,it’s always nice to be out in the middle of nowhere where no one can reach you by cell phone or email or even the pony express.

We got back into town and had enough time to do a few last minute things – purchase last minute gear, last minute fuel and race day food, check in for the race, drive the bike course. 70.3 race day was yesterday for both hubby and me.

First, I will say this – from the get-go, I wasn’t entirely impressed with the race. It didn’t strike me as being very well organized and I didn’t get the impression that it was going to be very well supported. The shirt we got for doing the race was a baby blue sweatshirt, which my hubby was none too thrilled about… I will never understand why race directors don’t default to more gender-neutral shirts. As the race day progressed, I found more reasons to be unimpressed. For example, there were bathrooms and portapotties at the start. But throughout the course, options were woefully slim – just 1 portapotty on the bike (56 miles) and 1 portapotty on the run (13.1 miles). A learning experience, I suppose – we wanted to save a little money by doing a non-WTC, non-Ironman brand event, which I think in many cases is fine especially if the race is well-established and there are a decent number of athletes participating. However, this was a good example of  getting what you pay for…

Anyway, enough venting and on to the actual race:

The swim was alright – nothing too notable here. The turnaround was not the halfway point, it was earlier, so the second half really seemed to drag. The waters were real murky and there were FORESTS of milfoil growing… every once in a while, some would catch my hand or ankle and kind of make me recoil a bit, but knowing what was touching me helped the jumpiness.  A little. But I was in and out without incidence.

women’s wave start at the 70.3

By the time we jumped on the bike, it was probably 80 degrees and climbing. Too hot too early. I knew temperature was going to be an issue and combined with my lack of faith in the level of race support, I was pretty concerned with having enough water to survive, let alone thrive. We’d heard that we should plan to carry at least 90 minutes worth. To ease my concern, we purchased extra bottle holders so that we could each carry multiple water bottles. We sent out with 2-21 oz bottles + 1 24 oz aero bar bottle – 1 bottle loaded with frozen Hammer Perpetuem (a 3 hour bottle) and one of the water bottles was frozen the night before as well. The aero bottle was loaded with ice only the morning of the race and filled at the first aid station 12 miles into the bike.

It was a long, hot, lonely bike course and as I suspected, not well supported. It was good that we had driven the course in advance as they did not have volunteers at each turn – only some of the course turns, so you had to be paying attention. At the turns were there were volunteers stationed, many of them were sitting in their cars, just tiredly waving their hand out the window. Who knows if most of the racers even saw them. I’m usually very appreciative of volunteers and I try to always thank as many as I can, but yesterday I remember thinking at one point, “Really?  I’m out here biking 56 miles in the heat and you can’t even stand outside your car to make sure I go the right way? Just go home.”

I did a good job of hydrating – drank 1/3 of the 3 hour Perpeteum bottle and had Gus / Gels every 45 minutes. I also tried to drink enough water as well. I filled my aero bottle 2x on the course, but also finished with quite a bit. No cramps or fuel issues. Just mental stuff that had a lot to do with the fact that the course was so lonely. I’ll fully confess that I’m not the strongest biker. I have a lot of work to do on that front before Ironman next year. But I also wouldn’t consider myself to be a bad or poor biker necessarily, usually just middle of the pack… At one point in the race, I looked behind me and there was NO ONE. And I looked in front of me: NO ONE. And I thought, “holy crap, I’m going to be the LAST PERSON OFF THE BIKE!” How awful and depressing. It was totally demoralizing. Honestly, I lost some time off of it. I mean, I tried to laugh it off a little, thinking “well, someone’s gotta be the last person”. I tried to use  it as inspiration. But honestly, I didn’t think it should or would be me! I didn’t see anyone for a good 15 or 20 miles, from about mile marker 30 to mile marker 45 or 50 when I FINALLY found the bathroom.

Being concerned about the water situation, I had hydrated-up the day before the race and the morning of the race. So even though I used the restroom before the swim, I had to go again by the time I hit 8 miles on my bike. Oy. I kept my eyes peeled for a portapotty, but none came. Mile after mile, came and went and NO PORTAPOTTY. I considered a pit stop along the side of the road, but it was lined with, well, a road (it was not a closed course), and also private property. I have heard that some triathletes just pee on themselves and wash it off, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to do that either. I tried, 30 miles an hour, down a hill, not moving my legs and just trying to focus on peeing… couldn’t do it. I have never been so happy to see a portapotty as I was to see that one after 45 miles of holding all that water! Yikes!

Aside from all of that – being lonely and having to pee SO bad, the bike course was mechanically frustrating for me – I dropped my chain half a dozen times, something that used to happen a lot, but hasn’t happened to me ALL year. It was ridiculous. And SO frustrating. Did I mention that?

The bike is my weakest link, so I was relieved to get off the bike (as I always am) and (finally) see people again! But by this point, it was 92 or 95 or 100 degrees out, depending on who you asked. And almost immediately, you could see the impact the heat was having on people. Fortunately, the one thing the race directors did right was to have an aid station almost every mile along the run. And they were well stocked with water, ice, spots drink, electrolyte tablets, and gels. I’m not sure I would’ve survived without all of the aid stations, honestly. Or at least I would’ve had to have walked the entire thing, which would have stunk. I wasn’t necessarily moving that slowly on the run, but I stopped at every aid station to dump water on my head and back, and refill my water bottle with ice and water which is time consuming over the course of 11 or 12 aid stations. I was able to run 95% of the course, but the heat definitely threw a monkey wrench into all of my plans for beating my previous time, even if by just barely.

At the end of the day, I crossed the finish line running and feeling relatively good. Relieved to be done. The entire ordeal took about 7 minutes longer than last time, but I know that the heat on the run course had everything to do with that. It could have been a lot worse. I was happy to have avoided cramping, bonking, crashing, and DNFing so I’ll chalk it up to a success along the road to the Ironman.

confessions from an olympic tri…

Today was the first Olympic distance triathlon of the season for me (.93 mile swim, 24.8 mile bike and a 10k run) – it’s a little late in the training program (I think technically it was supposed to be last week or the week before to fit ‘perfectly’, but c’est la vie!) I’ve covered the distances in training, obviously, but today was truth time. So, confession time. What did we learn? How did it go?

1) First and foremost, I must confess that I was not really excited about this race. My hubby was also supposed to do the race and he had to work so I was on my own and I was really tempted to bail on the race also. It was a 3+hour drive away and an overnight stay because there was no packet pickup this morning. In some sense of the word, it was a victory for me that I even showed up!

the calm before the storm…

2) The swim was pretty rough, choppy and at times almost violent, which is NOT something I remember from this race last time. I puzzled over this throughout the rest of the race – I think it may have something to do with the fact that I’ve aged up to the next age group. Last time I did the race, I was 29 – in the first wave of the Olympic distance with only the half ironman-ers in front by about 15 minutes. This year, at the ripe old age of 31, I had to wait for everyone in the half-iron group (still well ahead of us, but I did pass a few struggling stragglers towards the end of the .93 miles) AND I had all of my wave PLUS the first wave to fight through. The water was choppy. People were all over the place and there was seemingly no end to watching out for feet, elbows and fists. This is not something that I snobby ex-pool-only swimmer likes to see. Whether being in a different age group made the different or not, I added a couple – 2 or 3- minutes to my swim time from 2010, which I was bummed about because, ironically, I’ve been swimming a heck of a lot more this year than back then. Confession: I was/am(?) a little concerned that I’ve been swimming and somehow gotten s-l-o-w-e-r.

(trying to) swim in the crowd

3) As you may have gathered from #2, I’m a front of the middle pack or maybe back to middle of of the front pack swimmer, depending on the crowd. What’s the confession here? It’s this: the benefit of being good in the water is not really not a benefit at all – you get to hop on your bike early and be passed by people who say well-intentioned but ultimately funny and demoralizing things like “Good swim…” and leave the “too bad you’re not a better biker” hanging in the air. I know, I think so too. I even heard a guy in the water before the start talking about how he never worked on his swim because he just didn’t see it as an advantage. Now now. You may blow by me in a few minutes, but I’ll put money on the fact that I’m probably less frazzled and winded from the first leg. But I digress.

C’mon climbers!

4) Ok, this is maybe the confession that concerns me the most with a 70.3 looming: Sadly, my climbers are not what they should be on the bike. Biking is definitely my weakest link and while I’m slowlybecoming a better biker with time and practice, I find I don’t push myself as hard as I do when I’m running or swimming. I think it has to do with the fact that I associate biking with casual rides around the neighborhood as a kid. You know, relaxed. Carefree. Not grimacing, sweating, legs and lungs burning kind of biking. Nothing quite like race day to make you put the pedal to the metal, really push yourself to try to compete with the fools that are flying past you like you’re standing still (even though your bike computer insists you’re moving at what you feel is a respectable clip). Fortunately for me, today’s course was rolly, but not hilly. Twenty-five miles of really pushing it and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was a little concerned about how well I’d hold up and how much gas I’d have when I hit the run. Plus, my knees have been hurting on higher cadence rides and I definitely noticed it today when I climbed off. But fortunately once I was on the ground it went away. (Note to self – probably oughta get that straightened out, wouldn’t you say?)

5) I forced myself to eat and fuel all day. Forced is the operative word here. I hate eating in the morning, but I had a banana and a bar and a bunch of water before I swam, three gels on the bike and one on the run. Lots and lots and lots of water. Other than the gross queasy feeling I had before the swim (which could definitely be attributed to the fact that my stomach deemed it too early to be accepting food and also to the fact that I was ready to just get this thing going already), and a brief moment around mile 18 on the bike where my stomach reminded me how hard it is to digest folded over bike handlebars (I spent a few minutes sitting upright), I felt good. Hm. No confession here, I suppose.

6) Last time I did this race, I thought I was going to die of heat exhaustion. I’m not gonna lie – this was really a big concern of mine for this year as well. To combat this, even though I really didn’t want to, I carried a water bottle with me and every water stop (there were 4 or 5, I believe), a cup of water went on my head and neck and I drank or filled my bottle with the other. In between stops, I made sure I was keeping my head cool and drinking a lot. I felt a lot better about the run this year than I did last time, that’s for sure. And I think I was able to shave a few seconds off of my last run time for the course as well.

7) Lastly, triathlons continually remind me to be humble. I try to be supportive, talk it up on the race course and encourage people. But in every race there is someone, maybe a few someones who (in a moment of judgy-ness or jealousy or poor sportsmanship or whatever you want to call it) “have no business being in front of me”. I’m not proud of it. Yet, there they are. And they’re there, in front of you for a reason. Maybe they’ve put in more work. Maybe they’re more determined because they’ve seen more adversity and overcome more so they’re stronger. Maybe this is their life’s dream and for you its simply a training run. Maybe they are there to motivate you to stick with it or kick it in at the end. Still others may be there to remind you to be gracious and thankful for the skills and abilities you have. Or maybe they’re there to remind you to be inspired by the people around you.

Today, around mile 5, maybe closer to 5 1/2, a gentleman who I knew had been with me for a while finally picked up his pace, ran up beside me and said “Hello, how are you doing?” I said “I”m great, beautiful day” or something to that extent. He smiled, commented on what a nice pace I have (he should know, he’d been hanging out in it for a while), and then sped off, beating me to the finish line by more than a handful of seconds. And as he ran off, I noticed the numbers on his calf read: 6-8. Man. Sixty-eight years old and still rockin’. I just smiled and shook my head, I picked up my pace but I wasn’t going to catch him. Mr. 68, you are my hero for the day. You reminded me to smile and be happy with the day and to be inspired by the journey that others are on. I can only hope that 37 years from now I’m still able to do this with a smile on my face.

rain, rain go away…

I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned this before (though I’m sure I probably have…), but every single race I had back in 2010, with 1 single exception, was in the cold and the rain. It was absurd. I mean, to the point where you couldn’t help but wonder if the big guy upstairs was trying to tell me something. Like maybe I shouldn’t be doing triathlons or something. Since we’re here, 2 years later, you can assume (correctly) that 1) I am stubborn and 2) I don’t listen very well.

The night before my first-ever 70.3, we camped in a supposedly racers-only campground (that’s a whole ‘nother story…) and there was a seriously epic thunderstorm. Complete with booming, holy crap, right-on-top-of-you claps of thunder, brilliant flashes of lightning and some serious driving rain. Big ol’ rain drops, pounding heavy on the tent. Not that I was sleeping so very soundly to begin with what with the pre-race nerves and such, but I remember waking up around 2 a.m. and saying out loud to my also awake hubby, “Seriously?!” And then thinking something along the lines of “Not again,” “Why me?” followed by “Un-freakin’-believable.” Which was then followed by a series of words that are not appropriate to list here and a list of potential accident scenarios that could happen between 2 a.m. and the 7 a.m. start that would be ‘ok’ reasons to NOT do the race (should it decide to keep on storming, that is). You know, along the lines of somehow slipping on something and breaking my ankle getting out of the tent in the a.m. Or maybe I would get attacked by the mythical grand Elk-asaurous Rex and his partner in crime, Big foot.

The chilly swim during the “calm between the storms” – Ghost Reservoir, AB, CAN. Calgary 70.3, August 2010

In the end, it ended up ok. At least in hindsight I can say it did. The water was freezing, thanks to downpour. It stopped raining in time for bodymarking and the swim (where it wouldn’t have mattered seeing as we were already cold and wet).

And then started again while I was on the bike (where it definitely DID matter). But the weather was perfect (by my standards) on the run – overcast and cool. 60-something. ­I guess there was a silver lining. It just took ¾ of the race day for me to find it.I was reminiscing about this earlier this evening as I was being drenched by a sudden downpour that consumed the last 18 miles of my 40 mile bike ride tonight. (According to weather.com, there was only supposed to be a 30% chance of rain until 9 p.m. tonight, so while I figured I might get some sprinkles, I didn’t think I was taking THAT big of a chance… though clearly I was wrong.) The deluge brought back memories – Ironman is in town this weekend, and I can only imagine the thoughts that are going through the athletes’ minds tonight as they all hope and pray for better weather on Sunday. Because you know, it’s not like there aren’t enough battles in a 70.3 or 140.6 mile long day. Clicking mile after mile under your own power present plenty of challenges without rain in the equation.

Tonight there was nothing to do but laugh and shake my head at the downpour. I had to get back to my car; I had no choice but to deal with the rain. Race day weather is just like that. You’re ready for the event. You’re trained up. Hopefully you did some training in the elements because let’s face it – the weather gods are not always nice come race day. There’s not a thing you can do about the weather but curse it or just grin and bear it. And if you’re unfortunate enough to be signed up for a race that I’m doing, you can bet that you’re gonna get rained on at some point in the day.

But I sure do hope that it clears up for the racers by Sunday…

My view of the storm I was stuck in… glad I only had it for 20 miles and not 100 miles! Since you can’t see the actual raindrops in this photo, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Race recap: sprint tri #1

6:30 a.m., hubby’s alarm goes off.

6:39ish – hubby’s alarm goes off again. SNOOZE. C’mon!

6:48ish – hubby’s alarm goes off and he rolls out of bed to start getting ready. I roll over and doze off again.

7:00ish – my alarm goes off, and I finally get up. Swimsuit under sweats and a beanie. Sandals, no socks. Old swim team habit.

7:20ish – start loading up all of the gear we’d packed up the night before (so as not to forget anything as I’m wont to do early in the a.m.)

7:27ish – eat a PB&J I had prepared the night before. Force feeding myself is always part of race day. I need to fuel, my stomach, full of nerves and not much of a first thing in the a.m. eater anyways, never agrees with me and my brain’s awareness of the fact that I will need my energy before too long. Thus, the force feeding.

7:35ish – jump in the car…and take off. Surprisingly, no “turn around, I forgot ________!”

7:55ish – arrive at event parking. Hubby glances at temperature gauge (clearly a mistake). It reads 47. Push hubby out of the car into the cold. Quickly close the door as to keep all of the cold air out there. Hunker down in the passenger seat as he makes faces at me… just kidding, I didn’t lock him out of the car in the cold.

8:05ish – bikes off of the car, pump up the tires, port gear to transition area. Wish for a sherpa or a horse or a wagon or something. (Ok, ok, I’m being dramatic. It’s not that far, but still…)

8:12ish – arrive at transition area at the same time as all other athletes. 33 minutes till pre-race meeting, announcements and instructions. Wander through transition looking for the “just right” bike rack to suit our needs. Begin unloading all the gear with fingers crossed that we didn’t forget anything crucial.

8:25ish – Gear’s unpacked, bike’s on the rack. Off to find volunteers with ginormous permanent markers who will write race numbers on your left bicep and your age on your left calf. (More on that later)

8:25ish – On the hunt for a portapotty… preferably a clean one, without any significant lines. Success, relatively quickly. Good news. It’s a quick stop. Bump into someone else I know, she sporting booties. Man, in hindsight that seems like SUCH a good idea… too late now. We exchange well wishes and head back to the transition area.

8:35ish – People are beginning to squirm into their wetsuits. Some people are even in the water. Hmmmm. Maybe time to start thinking about that… then someone stops by to say hi. We chat for a few minutes about – what else – the water temperature and we swap suggestions on how to brace for the cold. Oh heck, there’s no big secret. Ya just gotta get in. Lots of whispering of numbers – all seem to be in the low 50s. Are they talking temperature?! Someone mentions peeing. Sure. A nice temporary warmth.

8:40ish – ok, wetsuit time. I hope it still fits… squirm squirm squirm… there’s no good way to do this. Zip and stretch. No body glide used this time… I don’t remember if I should have used it or not so here’s hoping not!

8:45ish – time for a Gu. Espresso flavored. Wash it down with water. Race director (or maybe it’s just the announcer guy) is talking constantly now. Who knows what he’s saying. I think he’s calling the white caps to the beach to start – hubby’s in the first wave.

8:52ish – walk with hubby down to the water’s edge. He puts on a brave smile, gives me a kiss and jumps in, prepared to meet his maker, from the looks of his face.

9:00 – white caps are off to the races, including hubby. I don’t see him bailing for shore right away so I take that as a good sign. So far so good.

9:09ish, or maybe 9:12ish – Lots of folks in full wetsuits. Plenty of people with booties and neoprene swim caps. And a couple in straight up speedos and nothing else. I see two girls in bikini tops and briefs – certifiably crazy, all of them. I jump into the lake to get ready for my own wave start… Holy $@%#!*$^! New personal goal  for today – break world record for ½ mile swim. Get out as quickly as possible! I already can’t feel my feet and my hands. My chest is constricted and I’m trying so hard not to hyperventilate.

The Swim (.5 miles):
Too soon, I hear “GO!” and we’re off. I quickly find my way towards the outside of the group, desperately trying to control and calm my breathing while avoiding a foot, fist or elbow to the face. The downside to swedish goggles is that if I take a hit to the goggles, I’ll probably need stitches. At least it’ll give me a good excuse to get out of the water early…

Soon I find myself with just 2 pink caps in sight – one right next to me and one just in front of me. We’re quickly catching the silver caps, then the red, and a few hundred yards out from pulling into the beach, some of the white cap stragglers.

Transition 1:
I hear people yelling at me as I’m running out of the water towards the transition-

“Way to go!”, “Watch your step!”, and “#2!” Huh, could I have been the 2nd pink cap out of the water? I realize it may be possible. That means lots of people will be passing me now that we’re on dry land again. Being a fast swimmer isn’t all its cut out to be…

Pulling off my wetsuit  was easy enough. It was the small actions- putting on socks and shoes  – the things that required numb, frozen fingers to work that I had a hard time managing. It was a slow transition for me. Or at least it sure felt that way…

The Bike (14.4 miles):
Here’s where I realized I’ve definitely been training for an endurance distance race. 14.4 miles should be a walk in the park. I came hauling out of the gates, clipped in and quickly chugging along at 20 mph (fast for me). And I soon realize that it’s going to be a long ride if I run out of gas too quickly.

Here’s where you realize just how awful it is to have your age on your left calf… suddenly, everyone’s a target, including you. I was distinctly aware of the fact that the person in front of me for a good part of the bike was 21 – a full ten years younger than me and by gosh, I was out to prove that slightly older (more seasoned and wiser) is better (and definitely faster) than her . And on the flip side, I’m equally brutally aware of the fact that the 56 year old who just passed both me and the 21 year old like we were both standing still is older than the two of us put together. Yes, I will win my age group when I’m that old, I think to myself. You know, I’ll be retired and there won’t be anything else to worry about.

I think I held it pretty close to a 17 mph pace overall (I’m still waiting for the official results to be posted). But let me tell you, am I ever having some serious biking attitude issues. Anyway, since my bike’s been hurtin’ me for the past few weeks,I’ve been avoiding it like the plague. Not a good strategy. And it’s given me SUCH as negative attitude about biking. Yikes. So I finally went out and got a professional bike fit. Moving things around made me realize that the biking I’ve been doing has been on muscle groups ever-so-slightly different than the ones I was using during the race. Eep.

Headwinds a couple of times really made me groan to myself about how awful biking is. See what I mean? And that 21 year old was still just in front of me. I kept pace, knowing I would catch her at the end…

More headwinds, some less than fabulous pavement, but all in all relatively uneventful. I have GOT to fix my attitude! Now, buckle down and take that 21 year old! (You’ll be pleased to know I got her in the last 2 miles and improved my lead over her in the run portion as well, finishing several minutes in from of her.)

Transition 2:
Good, pretty quick. Jacket off, pull-on sleeves on. Quick swig of water and I’m off. Nothing much to say here.

The Run (5k or 3.1 miles):
I quickly realized 1) that I should have fueled more on the bike even though it was just a sprint distance. I could have used the fuel. And 2) my feet literally felt like bricks of ice. This is a strange sensation as you have no idea how your form is, how your foot is striking the pavement…plodding along.

The run is a comfortable place for me. I’ve spent a lot of time training for everything from 5Ks to a marathon, so I know what running feels like to me under all types of conditions and situations. While I’m not particularly fast, I think my experience is a strength for me come race day.

At mile marker 1, I stopped for water. I didn’t feel like I needed it, but I thought I probably hadn’t been drinking enough. I walked a few steps, drank some water, and started running again, only to have an immediate hammie cramp threat that lingered the entire run. This kept me from kicking it up a notch – not wanting to cramp and have to walk at all, I kept my pace quick, but under control.

I didn’t feel my feet until 2.5 miles into the run. They thawed slowly and strangely. But it was like magic when I finally did!

Hubby was at the finish line when I crossed, saw me come down the home stretch. I was happy to see he was smiling and that he didn’t succumb to the monsters of the deep during the swim. In fact, he was 4th in his age group without even trying.

And my final time was good enough for a 1st place age group finish.

All in all, a good race to get under our belts and a confidence booster for us both as we enter Week 13. Now all we have to do is keep training…