good news/bad news…

Yesterday, I completed 112 miles on the bike. Yes. 112. And yes, it took me ALL day (as you may recall, I’m not the fastest biker). The good news is, I know I can do it. The bad news is, I know I have to do it again.

We did a short swim first, starting at 7. Which would have given me the chance to simulate my race day morning, only I hate mornings so instead I hit snooze a ton of times and finally got up at 6:20, ran around the house like a chicken with its head cut off and headed to the lake at 6:40.

The swim was shorter than planned (haha, good news!).  But it was shorter not because I was super fast, but because it was a heck of a lot colder than planned. At least we are getting slowly acclimated to it in the off chance it doesn’t warm up a whole lot in the next three weeks. Bad news – 55 degrees for an hour 15, hour 20 is a whole lot of cold as far as I’m concerned.

I learned a few things yesterday – first of all, don’t leave a third of your nutrition in the freezer when you leave the house (see above – snooze button). So, the good news is, I probably won’t do that again at least in the near future. The bad news is that I came up a tad short on the  nutrition end of things. The good news is I can finish the bike course on less nutrition than planned. The bad news is my marathon would pay for it.

Second lesson of the day? Even though it was pretty overcast for the most part and even though I’m pretty dark skinned and generally tan/rarely burn, I put on sunscreen after getting out of the lake and hopping on the bike. I learned I should definitely re-apply after the first loop. The bad news is, my back/shoulder blades area and my cheeks are rocking a nice little mild burn (which good news: will transform itself into a tan tomorrow and bad news: reinforce the whole triathlon=crazy silly tan lines).

We biked the Ironman course, which has 2,306 feet of climbing according to Ironman.

IMCDA bike elevation

My Garmin tells me I climbed 6,585 feet. So I’m not sure what that means other than: Bad news – lots of climbing, good news.

IMCDA bike elevation garmin 06.01.2013

 

Either way, I have NEVER been SO HAPPY to get off of a bike. Ever. Good news is, after my next 112 miles, I don’t have to ever ride that far again. Bad news? I have to run a marathon. But race day, if I feel how I felt yesterday, I would do anything – ANYTHING – including running a marathon, so long as you didn’t tell me I had to turn around and bike another 112 miles.

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!

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!

you know you’re training for Ironman Coeur d’Alene when…

More than a few things that have occurred to me during training that have made me chuckle over the past few months so I thought I’d share a few I’ve written down.

  • In your car’s cup holders, you have a water bottle (recently emptied or recently filled) and energy gels – GUs and Hammer Gels…and a spare granola bar or Clif bar in your glove compartment. Just in case.
  • And also, you have these things in your purse. And your gym bag.
  • Your tri team says “Hey everyone, its 47 degrees in the lake… let’s go swimming!” (WHAT?! No thank you!)
  • It is 32 degrees outside and snowing sideways. Your friends are cozied up in bed or reading a book and drinking coffee and you are halfway through your 60 mile bike ride.
  • Same as above, only 25 mph winds, or driving rain….
  • The 1st thing your friends ask you when they see you is “How is the training going?” Because a) they are excited for you; b) they never see you and c) they don’t know what else it is you do these days. And frankly, you don’t either.
  • You come home to packages on your doorstep and the contents? Ironman Perform drink mix, Perpeteum drink mix, 60 energy gels, and new running shorts.
  • You’re hungry. All of the time.
  • You know for a fact that if you swim early in the day and run or bike after work, you will sweat chlorine. Profusely.
  • Your laundry piles up three times as fast as you used to and you only have time to do it about a third as often as you used to. You do the math.
  • You’re praying that the race day water is at least 62 degrees. (Normal people recognize that swimming 2.4 miles in water this temperature is still too freakin’ cold.)
  • You can eat, drink and blow your nose on the run and the bike (and you have to remind yourself not to do the latter when you’re relegated to the indoors).
  • It’s super annoying when people talk to you like a sprint triathlon is the same as an Ironman.
  • Spring training doesn’t mean baseball, hot dogs and sunshine. It means windbreakers, rain jackets, and beanies and gloves on the bike. And dark ominous clouds and threatening raindrops on the horizon.

Eight weeks to go! How do you know you’re training? 🙂

IMCDA image

the weather gods must hate me…

Springtime in the Pacific Northwest is an awful and horribly unpredictable time to be trying to train for an Ironman.

Each weekend, as training progresses, there is a longer and longer ride staring up at me from that piece of paper on the counter. And each weekend, there is a terrible weather forecast staring at me from the computer screen. Bad on Friday, bad on Saturday and worse on Sunday. Substantial chance of rain, slight to middling chance of snow, windy as all get-out, a very good chance of you getting wet on the bike ride and 100% chance of freezing your bum off on your bike.

There are some who say that training in poor weather makes us stronger. And to an extent, I would agree.

But there are times when I cannot take any more. These are those times.

Each weekend that I have a horrible, awful, no good, very bad ride, I think it can’t get any worse. Two weekends ago, I had a 4 hour ride to squeeze in and the option between a bad weather forecast on Satruday and an even colder, wetter, nastier forecast for Sunday. So I took my chances with Saturday and found myself riding for hours in blowing gusting 25 mph winds  with snow, rain and hail to boot. My feet were frozen after 50 minutes. After 2 hours, I wondered at what point I should be concerned. At 2 1/2 hours, I stopped in a outhouse for shelter to warm up my feet. At 3 hours and fifteen minutes I had to stop in another outhouse to re-warm up my purplish, reddish feet. At 4 hours and fifteen minutes, I was relieved to see the “finish line” but I couldn’t show it because my face was frozen in a perma-scowl due to the blowing rain and snow (and the tears and snot running down my face probably didn’t help).

Last weekend, we had sun. But the wind was possible worse than the week before – strong and constant. At one point, I realized that I should’ve easily been cruising down the hill, but instead I was cranking away as hard as I could to go TWELVE MILES PER HOUR. DOWNHILL. That’s how windy it was. Not cool. Not cool.

Mentally, these rides are taxing too! I’m worried I have a limited amount of mental toughness and that I’m going to use it all up on getting through these dumb ol’ training rides…

I had high hopes for this weekend, but once again we have projected sunshine and nice weather until Friday, with WIND projected again for this Saturday and Sunday.

I’m not sure what I did to offend the weather gods, but I sure hope race day brings nicer weather. Because right now, more than anything, I just want to ride in calm, pleasant weather. Especially on race day. I need to find a sacrificial lamb or groundhog or something to appease them before then… anyone got the inside track on what the weather gods prefer? Squirrel? Deer? Gold? Anything?

boston…

Ask anyone why they run and you’ll get a lot of different answers. To relieve stress and maintain their sanity, lose weight, achieve new goals, have new experiences. But for many of us, one of the benefits of running is an unanticipated one – the camaraderie and community of runners you quickly find yourself in.

Thus, today I find myself absolutely sick to my stomach with a lump in my throat as I watch in absolute horror what is unfolding at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Two virtually simultaneous explosions. A third device nearby. At the finish line of the marathon? Yes, a marathon. All I can think is “Please say everyone is ok, please say this was unintentional. Please. Please say everyone is ok, please say this was unintentional. Please.”

And yet, so far at least 2 3 are dead and 9 17 of the 23 (and counting) more than 140 who are injured are in critical condition.

I didn’t know anyone who was running today. I didn’t need to. What I know is that they are runners. Just like you and me.

I can’t imagine – at one moment, joyful. Gleeful. Triumphant and victorious. Relieved to be crossing the finish line. And at the next?  Terrified, confused, panicked.

On so many levels, I simply cannot fathom…

Running is a journey. There are obstacles, challenges, bumps in the road. But training for a marathon is not supposed to end this way. No one should ever have to go through something like this. Ever. Anywhere. And yet I know this kind of thing happens around the world, nearly every day. It is a sad, sick world we live in.

There are no words.

My thoughts are with those in Boston and my heart goes out to everyone involved – the runners, first responders, the spectators, friends and family of the runners, the race organizers, the race volunteers and medical personnel.

training with a pack of dudes…

Over the weekend we found ourselves at a little tri-clinic with about a dozen to fifteen others getting pep-talked, drilled and advised by pros.

(Now before you read any further, the events described here did really happen and my thoughts on the whole thing, while accurately reflected here are largely intended to be somewhat humorous and tongue-in-cheek description of the day…)

Cliche as it is, most of the guys, being triathletes and, well, boys, spent much of their day trying to feel each other out, impress (someone? each other?) and out-do each other to find their place in the sausage-y totem pole. Who’s faster? Who can run further? Who’s done the most races? Who’s got the sleekest, most tricked-out tri bike? Who’s going to cry “uncle” during the workouts first and perhaps most importantly, who’s going to WIN?

Naturally, part of the day included swim drills so we divided up into 2 lanes according to speed / ability and did sculling drills, catch-up drills, drills to help with rotation and position, drafting drills and mass starts. It was all fine and good until the mass starts… we had to jockey for position and then swim out about 200 or so. In 1 lane. In a 25 yard pool. There were 6 or 7 of us in each lane. Seems like a good idea, right?

Being the smallest in the lane and also the only female in the fast lane, I let the hot headed dudes sort themselves out, not wanting to be on the wrong end of a testosterone fueled elbow or fist. Generally in these kinds of situations, including triathlon starts, that is how I roll. I’m usually faster than the average person and underestimated as well. Let others throw elbows in the pack, I’ll draft up the chain and pass later. No biggie. Better that than needing stitches.

But at the clinic, holding back meant I sacrificed my position further up in the line  for the entire drill. With just 25 yards to work with and 6+ people to the lane, there was almost always other people coming straight at you at high speeds and with not enough room to go 3-wide in the lane, you were basically were stuck in line until at least halfway down the lane when the oncoming traffic cleared. Then you had 10 yards or so to make a break for it, pass the other person and get back onto the right side of the lane before you got plowed over by oncoming traffic.

Sure enough, after just 25 yards I found myself behind a dude whose weiner, ahem – I mean ego, wouldn’t get out of my way. Every time I made a break for it, I’d pass him and hit the wall first – me on the left and him on a right. I’d push off strong with every intention of escaping quickly and unscathed and most importantly in front of him so I could swim at my own pace and not his snail pace. But being a dude, he couldn’t take getting beat by a girl so he’d push off to the right and crash into me, run me over and I’d find myself getting ramrodded into the laneline and stuck behind him again. (As obnoxious as this was, I can only assume he identified this as his last-ditch option to prevent a girl from passing him as he didn’t appear to be able to outswim me…) And then, just a few yards into the lane, I’m smacking the bottom of his feet, his ankle, even the back of his calf with every stroke, having to pull back and breaststroke even (the slowest of all swimming), waiting for my opening to make a break for it again. It got old real fast. But I did get some good drafting practice in, so at least there’s that.

Look, I’m as competitive as anyone. But seriously dudes? We all know you’re all big and tough. Strong and fast. The best and the baddest, right? The supercoolest. We know. Your egos are fragile and getting passed by a girl is only the worse thing that can happen. But please move out of my way. You’re embarrassing yourself and I’m embarrassed for you. Isn’t it worse to have a girl have to slow down and clearly cut back to 50% effort than to just let me go by? I’m promise I’ll be discreet – no one will even see it…