Monday, May 23, 2011

Texas to Kona, tales from the Woodlands

Where to begin? This past weekend, to quote Beth, "race day magic" happened in The Woodlands, Texas. Long story very short, with the glorious details to follow, I wound up 3rd in my age group, 4th amateur overall and 17th female...including the pros at Ironman Texas. Oh yeah, and I got a slot to Kona! Another October vacation in Hawaii? Yes please!!

Knowing that vacation time would be limited this year with all of my (hopeful) travel plans, I knew that I could only fly to Texas on the Thursday and race Saturday, which left little time for acclimatization to a very hot and steamy climate. Thank god for two things. 1. I grew up in Ohio so I am no newbie to the heat and humidity, the bike leg reminded me of home and I had many thoughts of my family and I riding all throughout my childhood. Just around the loop, right mom? 2. Thank my stars for my endless supply of nuun, hydration was going to be the name of the game in Texas. So Iron Anne, yes with the broken metatarsal picked me up and we were off to plan and prep our bikes and race day bags. Along the way, we ran into fellow nuuners, Sonja and Michelle who were going to be guiding Patricia, a blind athlete to a sub 12 hr finish. Need some inspiration? look no further, these girls were amazing!

There was a practice swim on Friday and with all of the overcast weather there was talk of it being a wetsuit legal swim. The rest of the day was filled with dropping off bikes and transition bags, and getting the visual picture in my head of how transition was going to flow so I could visualize that night. After that was done, Anne and I picked up my pre race nutrition go to of Chipotle and headed back to the hotel. We relaxed, triple checked our game plans and called it a night around 8PM. Old ladies? Yes. Fast old ladies? You betcha. Saturday morning the alam goes off at 4AM for a 7AM start and we are up and at 'em fueling up with oats and nuun. Sunscreen on, hottest kit on the market from  on, hair braided and we are out the door. And for all my ladies out there, can I tell you that there is no additional sports bra necessary with? And trust me, this was a new one for me. Phenomenal. No more double bagging.

In transition we pumped up our tires, checked our bags for the last time and headed on down to the water, which was a short walk away from T1. I was hoping for no wetsuits allowed and got my wish, the water was a balmy 79 race day morning. However, I was baffled by all of the age groupers who chose to, despite being taken from the rankings, wear a full sleeve wetsuit in that hot water. I would have overheated for sure. BIG shout out to TYR Sports for getting me into the Torque pro, I had the 3rd fastest swim in the AG and no nasty neck rashes like other suits I've worn. The swim ended down a very narrow canal allowing for a very cool finsih, seeing and hearing all of the fans was spectacular. Into T1 in style I go! The volunteers as always were phenomenal, getting my gear sorted for me and able to tell me that there were only 4 other age group women in front of me. Good news! Total time in the water, 1:05, right on target.

The bike had reports of being very rolling and windy with a lot of chip and seal pavement. Much to my surprise and delight, the roads were unbelievably clean, I actually took notice of the lack of crap in the shoulder. Score one for the IM Texas team. My pretty pony was loaded up with salt tabs and gels in preparation for the ride. The sky's remained overcast throughout much of the ride, keeping the heat and humidity bearable. No Wildflower exams sun burn for me thank you very much. East Texas again is very similar to Ohio, not a lot going on and very beautiful in a calming way. Top age grouper Beth and I spent the majority of mile 20-70 motivating each other riding peacefully through the Texas forest with only the annoying occasional male interrupting our speed train. I heard a male age grouper describe the bike course as "boring" today and I thought he couldn't have been more wrong. I already have such great memories of this place. Did I mention I already signed up for Texas 2012? Total time on the bike was 5:22 averaging 20.87 mph...with a little less wind, I coulda, shoulda, woulda rode... Mrs Consistency was my name this race and I remained in 3rd place in the AG, with only superstars Beth and Jenn ahead of me.

I got off the bike feeling pretty good but knowing that hydration was going to continue to be a factor, even though at EVERY aid station on the bike I grabbed a bottle of water. I could feel in my body things weren't perfect. No problem though, we (to quote super supporter Meredith) keep calm and carry on and focus the first few miles on cooling down and fueling up. Following coach Marks strategy, I wore a hat so that I could put ice underneath it and continually cool my body. My goal was to run 8:15's and set a marathon PR of around 3:35. The day would not see that, only 8:34's for a total time of 3:44, also a PR of 2 minutes and again 3rd best on the day for the AG. See the trend developing? Like I said, it was very hot and steamy and you could see the carnage developing all over the course. And with three laps of it, you could see it go from bad to worse as the day wore on. The real wind developed on the run course and I would have hated to be out on the bike then, it was gnarly!! The run was three laps of almost 9 miles and I thought to myself, just three hour long tempo runs to do. You do one every week, no reason why you can't go do three in a row. This is how it always starts for me. And a very wise woman once told me on the morning of my firs Ironman just one year ago, that I "GET" to go out and do this. There is no "have" to about this day. And so that was my thought process much of the day, especially on the run. I had read a quote the night before from professional Angela Naeth and she said something that resonated with me along the lines of we choose the pain, and if we don't like it then perhaps we should choose to do something different. This would be my motto on the run. Super hot, three laps of madness, only made more fun by the spectators sitting course side at a restaurant and getting drunker every lap. But they still managed to recognize me every time...must be the kit :). Thank the stars for the spectators, they truly make it an amazing day and their job is as hard as the athletes. OK, where was I?

The final six miles were tough, I could feel my body slowing and the desperation to walk at each aid station for longer each time was getting hard to overcome. I did walk through most aid stations and told myself that I could have another break at the next station. This kept me going. I had no one to tell me of my splits or who was coming for me, but I knew that I hadn't been passed out on the run yet and that would be my only way of gauging where I was at, as there was no real opportunity to see the competition. I was hoping to cross the line in as close to ten hours as possible, knowing that on a flat course, this type of goal would be achievable. Turns out, only one age grouper would break the 10 hour barrier, and she is a true star. I crossed the line in 10:18, for 3rd place in the age group and a slot to The Hawaii Ironman World Championships for the second time in as many tries. Over the moon. This would be how you would describe my emotions. And I think it showed going down the finish line...can't wait to see the pics! But first, there would be a quick pit stop in the medical tent, just to make sure I was OK. Not too bad, just needed a bit of warming up and I was good to go. And it was luxury at it's best, the nurses even got the tracking device and were able to tell me my race stats. How's that for service with a smile?

A quick shower later and Anne, (who even with a broken foot and no run training for five weeks before yesterday, finished on the podium in her AG in 4th place) and I were out enjoying a hot meal, a cold glass of vino and an even colder milk shake. One has to replace vital nutrients right?!! And there may have been a stop at Lululemon to treat ourselves to a podium award of a different kind. We watched as the later finishers came in, and then decided to call it a night. Today was very busy as well, I had to go give the WTC all of my money and sign up for Kona, and next years Texas event.

Flying back to SFO, and tomorrow I'll celebrate with Mark on a super swanky date an even more important occasion, our two year anniversary! And I got just the dress for it in Texas. Turns out, not everything is bigger in Texas ;)

Major thanks again to all of my sponsors, you make me faster, and keep me better hydrated and looking cuter than anyone else out there. For this, I am truly grateful.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Thoughts On My Mind 6 Days To Texas

May 15th.  How did it get here so quickly?!!  I'm looking at the family of two calendar and already the summer seems to be jam packed and full of fun.  But seriously, Ironman in 6 days? 

This weekend we came to Lake Tahoe with some friends to watch the tour of California and get away from the Bay Area for a few days.  That meant that two days of taper would be at altitude, and seriously those gals from Colorado have got some iron lungs.  20 seconds into an effort and you would have thought that I was an out of shape, overweight gal from my breathing.  I will say this for the record.  Training at altitude never inspires confidence.  Period.  No problem though as I was riding with one of my best pals who is 4 months pregnant and we had tons of catching up to do.  Taper workout number one done.  

One of my key items that I always bring to altitude is my supply of nuun.  And everyone always seems to need it- good thing I am such a good sharer.  Altitude makes you so dry and nuun keeps all of the altitude sickness that Mark always gets at bay.  

We were all amped up to watch stage one of the tour and had our fingers crossed that the weather predictions of below freezing temperatures and a rapidly moving storm would pass over and not bring any snow.  Wake up this morning at 8, peek out the window and what do I see?  A large coating of the white stuff and more falling from the sky.  Shoot!!  Quick check of Twitter and the web revel a decision to be made at 9.  9AM comes and the start is delayed until one.  perfect for us, we grab another large breakfast at the Log Cabin in King's Beach and head back home to taper workout number 2 at altitude.  Taper workout number 2 felt much better than number one although riding on a spin bike indoors really isn't my thing.  Oh well, we make do right?  As we leave the gym to get ready for the race, turns out they cancel the whole stage less than one minute from the start.  Poor riders have less body fat on them than your average triathlete.  That mixed with thirty degree weather and snow is not a good combo.  Rumors flew that the riders were willing to ride but a neutral stage and that the tour organizers wanted only a race and so they decided together that no race was the best way to go.  Poor us.  So what to do now? Another meal?  Why not!  Wild Cherries in Truckee here we come.  This happens to be right next to the local Dairy Queen.  Seeing how as the one was closed on my way home from Wildflower, I made an exception to my no out of competition Dairy Queening.  

This leads to another one of my thoughts.  I have real trouble during taper mode not feeling deprived of food.  I know, you are thinking I must be able to eat what ever I want when ever.  How I wish this was true.  And most of the times, I do not struggle with this, but this particular taper has been bad for me hunger wise.  I am close to the end and I know I have been so focused nutritionally that I think mentally I need a break.  One more week girl!  Tomorrow is a new day.  If any of you ladies have the secret to this or just any tips, please share them with me!

So now here we sit driving home in Sunday night Tahoe traffic, me typing away on the iPad.  How I LOVE technology...most of the time.  This week will be busy, busy, and more busy!  Massage tomorrow to get the last kinks worked out and muscles firing properly.  I have to get my nails done so I can feel girly on the course and then of course my bags need packing.  The bike is already en route to Texas via tri bike transport.  One less hassle for me to have to worry about.  Seriously worth the cash, especially since my CBM (chief bike mechanic) will be sitting this one out.  I fly out Thursday morning and will meet Iron Anne there.  She is racing but likely won't start the run due to a broken metatarsal that happened five weeks ago.  Almost enough time to start running, but not for a full marathon.  This is a true disappointment.  But, we will make it a girls weekend and celebrate another ironman and her birthday on Saturday night with a guessed it, Dairy Queen!!

So with six days to go here is what I have to say.  I am SO looking forward to this race.  The heat, the humidity, the tough mental spaces that will inevitably come- I feel I have a strong plan for them all.  I have a feeling of calm this time around and know that my preparation has been what it needs to be.  If all goes as close to plan as possible next Saturday, I know the race of a lifetime is possible.  And that makes me smile from ear to ear.  

More to come in just six short days.  

Monday, May 2, 2011

Wildflower Weekend: Sun, Wind and a Podium Finish

I was SO excited for WF weekend this year after missing it last year for Ironman St George. Mark had plans to ride down as usual and I would take my friend Anne with me in the car for company. Things fell apart quickly. Mark and I had a wedding to go to and he was our chosen delegate and Anne broke a metatarsal a few weeks back and the camping of WF would be no good for her, as we have her on a "super" taper to IM Texas later this month and need to keep her injury free. So, I would be on my own driving down and would connect with my new South Bay team, TRIbe. Thank goodness for them, they made it a true WF weekend, filled with beer and BBQ after the race on Sat night (not that I could actually drink after the race..but at least I gave it an effort).

I am training for Ironman Texas on May 21st, so there would be no taper for WF, only a few days of rest before Saturday. This meant I had very low expectations for myself as the field at WF is always stacked with some of the best competitors from around the in point, the podium ended up being from Washington, Idaho, California, Utah and Colorado (blessed with altitude). Having low expectations is always good as it lets me be very relaxed before the race which is good. I was excited, the bike had been prepped by Chief Bike Mechanic and coach, Mark before I left for Lake Naciemento, and the weather was looking to be phenomenal.

I opted to camp in the car, which is just as cozy as any tent with a thermarest and settled in with fellow campers who, not racing, decided it was time to crack a bottle of Jack on Friday night. Ear plugs? Check. I even offered to hydrate them with some nuun, but they passed. Their funeral, not mine :) I slept better than I normally do even in my own bed and woke up Saturday morning at the pleasant hour of 6. They left the ladies for last this year which meant I was to go off at 9:15...better get your sunscreen ladies, it's gonna be a hot one!

A big bowl of Leapin' Lemurs later and I'm ready to head down to Transition to get set up and prepped for the day. I found lots of friends down there which always makes the morning go by quickly, and takes away any nervousness. I knew it was going to be hot as there was no "typical" WF fog in the morning, only bright sun and already warm at 8AM. I double checked my sunscreen plan (but it totally failed my shoulders) and headed down to the water. The gun went off and I SWEAR my TYR Hurricane makes me swim better. I feel so fast and perfectly formed in it. I started in the front row hoping to catch some good feet and ended up being the feet. I was with the front 3 girls until the turn around, all of us swimming next to each other (no the best drafting strategy) and then the buoy came. I could feel the current helping us on the way out and had prepped for when the turn came that it would not be nearly as much fun on the way back in. I was SO right, chop chop chop went the water and I got a bit off the pace. I reeled the top gals back in by the end and came out in 4th position (tied with 3 others for this spot) and got out of T1 in 3rd.

After a small mishap with getting my already clipped in shoes on...I do this at every race, why was there a problem Saturday?!! I was onto the bike. The plan was to ride as if there was no run afterward and see how that went. Being that we had gone after ALL of the men, and we had swum over about a quarter of them, it was now time to take more down on the bike. It was so windy that I felt like I was back in Kona! I tried to legally use each person in front of me as a draft as I passed them, slingshotting my way around the course. This worked until I found myself in no mans land head on with the wind. No problem, everyone is facing the same thing. Nasty Grade came and went and the Energizer Bunny was waiting at the top for us as always beating his drum signaling the end of the hill. 12 miles to go. I continued my rolling buffet and spun into T2 feeling pretty good.

Back in T2 there were very few bikes racked and I told myself that I have been working on the run for years, now get out there and do it! Year by year, race by race, fewer and fewer women are passing me. When I first started racing, I used to dread the run, the time when I would go from being a top contender to fading to top 10 if I was lucky! So I started running and fueling. I must have had a gel every 2 miles and let me tell you, this was MAGICAL! No bad mental spaces on the run and I felt fantastic. The first 8 miles of the run are all on trails and the first 5 are VERY hilly...don't even ask me about mile 4-5- the split was ugly and the pace may have included some walking. May have. Getting to mile 8 is always good and went by quickly. This is the section through the camp grounds and the crowd really rallies you here. I saw friends cheering for me and those happy to see some of the lead women coming through. Mile 9 Brings the 1st and only opportunity to see the competition and where you are in the standings. 1,2,3,4,5...OK I only counted 5 and then me. I turned and then a minute later saw 2 gals gunning for me. I knew out of the 5 in front of me that at least 3 were not in my AG. OK, Hailey- keep it in your pants and you could do this. Run for your life! 11-12 was a long slightly uphill mile and I started to feel the fatigue set in. I checked back and didn't see the other two girls and knew that mile 12-13 is all downhill and I had better work it. And work it I did! I hit the line in 5:17, feeling good.

Turns out 5:17 was good enough for 3rd in my AG and 6th woman OA. At Wildflower?!! Ohhh buddy I was excited. Protein shake me baby!

Things I was really pleased with: Breaking :30 on the swim. By the hair of my chinny chin chin, but mentally this needed to happen. I have had a tough time with that number lately and it's good to be back under :30. My run. I only got passed by one girl younger than me and I was able to run 11 minutes faster than in 2009, the last time I was at Wildflower. This is progress people! Fueling was also a total success. I will try to eat a gel every two miles in TX as well, keeping the stores topped off is key and I really was able to feel how successful of a strategy this is.

The only disappointment on the weekend? My ritual of passing by a Dairy Queen after every race was not to be this year. The Gonzales DQ has been closed and is up for lease...not that it would have been open at 8AM on my drive home, but I had to at least try. mark made it up to me later Sunday night with local fried chicken, a cheese plate and some coconut macadamia nut gelato. Gets me every time.

Now I will rest, recover and get ready for 20 days from now in The Woodlands, Texas for the first Ironman of the year. Here's to having the third race of the year go as well as the first two.