Life after Ironman…

It’s been two blissfully “uneventful” months since Ironman Coeur d’Alene. I have been meaning to post, but, well, there’s frankly not much to say.

As you are aware, the weeks leading up to Ironman were jam packed with activity. Mostly training. And planning in the spare time.

Believe it or not, I have not done any other races since Ironman. I hemmed and hawed about picking up the Lake Stevens 70.3. Or the Priest Lake Olympic distance. Or… something. But nothing really caught my fancy. And those things that did seemed to conflict with work or other pre-existing life plans.

The physical part of the post-race recovery was quick it seemed. Well. Hubby was in a cast up until a week or so ago, nursing that annoying little wrist break that preceded IMCDA by 16 days… But other than that, neither of us were hobbling in a distorted fashion across the finish line. No blisters, no torn muscles or ligaments from a crash or overtraining. We are lucky in that sense.

In fact, I took the week off and ran again the following Saturday. Nothing serious, mind you. Just a simple, easy jog. And I’ve been about 3 times a week with some friends training for the Portland Half Marathon in early October.

The mental recovery is trickier it seems. Faaaaaaaar trickier.

Here’s the big piece: I’m super unmotivated. About working out. And about food. And about everything in general.
Frankly, I would be happy to lay my happy butt on the beach day after day with a book and some Cheetos and read/nap my summer away in a orangey fake cheese powder haze. (That’s right – in this delusional scenario, work would pay me to do this…)

Yes – I just did an Ironman. And yes, I should take time to recover. But I feel like I have and I’m slipping out of the “just” did Ironman and into the phase were I should probably start doing something again. Probably.

I need a new goal… something exciting (and that is the trick, isn’t it?).

But alas, nothing is really speaking to me. I know I will find something. Stay tuned.

Any Ironmen out there have any suggestions for mental recovery and/or new epic things to do/conquer?

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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…

the 10 day forecast…

Thursday morning, I got bamboozled by Mother Nature and a friend of mine who wanted to go for a nice, early morning open water swim in the lake. I think I have probably mentioned this before but in case I haven’t… I am NOT, I repeat, NOT a morning person. So reluctantly agreeing to meet for a 6:30 a.m. swim was not an easy (or logical) thing for me to do.

But I did, so we showed up. It was early. And windy. Windy, windy, windy, windy.

And the lake looked like this:

 The Coeur d'Alene Sea!

 Beatiful, right?

WRONG.

Those are WAVES crashing on the shore. WAVES!  On a lake! And we had to swim in it! Not cool, Mother Nature, not cool.

We managed to grind out just under 1 mile. But it was SO slow going. And I got tossed around and I drank a lot more of the lake than I wanted.

So, that got me to thinking. I really, really, really, REALLY don’t want the lake to be that choppy. REALLY. It CAN’T be!

So yesterday, I checked and the 10 day weather forecast now includes the day of IRONMAN. (holy crap). The good news is that it looks pretty good right now so keep your fingers crossed for us:


10 day IMCDA weather outlook

I know I will be holding my breath for little wind and no rain!

race day preparations…

Ten days to go. Yes, that is ten. Just ten. 1-0. A measly little week and a half. Almost single digits now, folks. Yikes.

Yesterday, on a “short” two hour bike ride I saw the first signs of Ironman route prep on my bike ride:

first signs of Ironman

Oh my. It’s almost game time!

weekend failings…

This past weekend was the last big weekend of workouts before our two-week taper period leading up to Ironman.

Now, at this point in the game, long workouts are L-O-N-G. Like eat breakfast before you go and don’t get back until dinnertime long. And also at this point in the game, long workouts are hard workouts. Whether they’re hard because they’re long or hard because you’re tired or hard because you know how long and hard they’re going to be is anyone’s guess.

Dig deep and get them done, right?

WRONG.

Saturday was my last chance to get a 19 or 20 mile run in before race day. A couple of weeks back, I got a 17er in and on Monday I was hoping to fit in 20 miles after work but I was running alone and ended up no getting an early enough start at calling it at 16 when it was dark (you know, for safety’s sake).

Saturday was a trainwreck from the start. All I wanted to do was sleep in for once. So we did. Kinda. And then we had a late breakfast and went to the farmer’s market and the tree nursery and it got warmer and warmer as the day went on and I frankly spent the better part of the day dreading the 20 mile death march I knew I was going to have to log.

Finally I was able to drag myself out of the house but it was truly doomed – my mental game was absolute crap. After two miles, I almost called it. After 3, I was sitting on a curb literally trying to pep talk myself into pulling it together. It was pathetic. Mile by mile, I pieced together the most mentally miserable run perhaps of my life. And my times were slow to boot because mentally I couldn’t get out of my own way.I know how much your brain plays into this and yet, I could not get my head in the game to save my life.

So there I was, slogging out the miles. Ever so slowly. Ever so painfully.

Now. (Warning: potential TMI ahead…) I was running in my tri shorts in order to determine whether to run in them on race day or change pre-marathon. I had 16 miles in them earlier in the week and had started to chafe ever so slightly, so I had lubed up extra carefully and brought a reserve for mid-run lubin’. Around mile 9, I made a stop at an outhouse and reapplied, early I thought. Better safe than sorry… only it stung and I knew that was the last straw. Seriously, the straw that broke this camel’s back. I called in the reserves, duked it out for another mile and hubby came to the rescue.

Sunday, we thought we might get one last training ride in – a good 70 or 80 miles or so. But my mental game was STILL not in it. We took a turn onto the bike course and I couldn’t hack it. Twenty-five miles was enough for me that day. Too bad I messed up my hubby’s training day along with my own. (Thankfully he’s the most patient and forgiving person on the planet so he just picked up the miles today while I was at work…).

Apparently after 22 weeks of 9 workouts a week and being tired and hungry and rushed and cranky ALL of the time and just digging deep and getting them done, I was pretty much spent. I have sometimes halfway worried that I have only a limited amount of willpower, only so many times that I can dig deep before my reservoir is empty. And this weekend, I apparently just didn’t want to take the chance that these workouts would be the last ones I could grit my teeth, grin and bear it…lest I attempt Ironman with an empty willpower reservoir.

I had a hard time after each of the failed workouts, trying not to see them as bad omens or epic fails. And it took me some time. I’m not a quitter. Truly. But this weekend sure made me feel like one. Each workout that has not quite gone as planned (and there have been a few over the past 6 months) has an opportunity to be a learning experience. This weekend I learned that I will be changing my bottoms after the bike. But mostly I have learned that it’s good to take a break when you feel like you need one. Body or mind. And not feel guilty about it.

This weekend’s workouts were not exactly what I had planned. But even so, I can’t let doubt get the best of me – I’ve gotten the miles in, I’ve put in the work. Now to enjoy the taper weeks and try not to throw up every time I think about race day and  the fact that it is just 13 days away…

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!