Ironman Wisconsin 2018

2 11 2018

I’m waaaaay overdue with this one, but I finally wrote what I could remember from my 2nd 140.6, Ironman Wisconsin. The first half of this post was written much closer in time to the race, whereas the latter half was written quite recently, and I think you’ll notice the difference. Oops.

Race Morning:

I woke up a little before 4. Today was the day I tackle Ironman #2. It was weird because in some ways, I felt like this was my first Ironman. 4 years had passed since my last full, which gives you plenty of time to forget the little details of the preparation, bag drops, etc. But at the same time, I generally knew what to expect from the day. I had actually re-read my Cozumel race posts in the days leading up to this morning, and that memory of just wanting to stop moving was now fresh in my mind. I was mentally preparing for a very difficult day.

I checked the weather to see that it was 50 and would only warm up to about 70 before cooling back down. 50 is a little chilly for this Florida girl to be wet and on a bike, but I knew once the sun came out it would be a beautiful day. The forecast did not help me come to a conclusion on what I would wear on the bike- whether to go with my TriMarni long sleeve jersey/jacket that is nice and toasty, or if I should go with arm warmers and newspapers. I had packed both in my bike gear back and came to the conclusion it would be a game time decision.

I put on my kit, braided my hair, and headed downstairs for breakfast. I had my usual pre-race meal of a Belgian waffle, PB, bananas, syrup and a dollop of yogurt, and a cup of iced coffee (hot would have been great this morning, but iced is easier/faster and what I drank all summer). Side note- at Muskoka, I purchased Belgian waffles from the bakery section (not frozen) and they were so yummy that it has now become my go-to prior to a race. Sometimes nerves make it hard to get down breakfast- but when there’s a yummy Belgian waffle waiting for me, the nerves don’t seem to matter:-)

After breakfast I filled all my bottles – I already prepped them with powders the night before so now I just needed to fill them. All 12 of them. Yes, I filled 12 bottles:

1 for pre-swim w/Skratch

3 to put on my bike, all with Skratch

3 to put in bike special needs, some with Skratch and one with NBS

4 flasks for my run bag, Skratch and NBS

1 bottle for run special needs, to refill my flasks.

And then I had a 1L bottle of water I filled halfway to sip on throughout the morning (note, I did not drink the whole thing!)

Phew, that’s a lot!

I finished putting things in my special needs bags, grabbed my bag full of water bottles and my transition bag, and headed out the door. I wasn’t sure how difficult it would be to find parking, so I left pretty early and made it to the parking garage just before 5.

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Transition opened at 5 and closed at 6:30 and so I had plenty of time to get myself sorted. As I walked toward the terrace, I was able to drop my special needs bags in their designated drop off, which is right on the square just before the finish line. Then I headed in to the terrace to add my bottles to my run bag, and I also added 2 of my homemade PB & J rice cakes to my bike bag (and one was already in my special needs bag). After I made sure my gear bags were appropriately stocked, I headed to my bike to add my bottles, computer, and give my bike one last look over. There was definitely a nervous energy that you could almost touch in transition. It was surprisingly quiet with the exception of some small talk here and there and the distinct sound of tires being aired up. (side note: the woman next to me had an electric pump, which I hadn’t ever seen before at a race. That definitely was a different sound to start the morning.) Once I was confident in my set up (well, confident enough!) I headed out of transition and into the terrace to stay warm until needed to head towards the start.

One of the really cool features of IMWI is that Monona Terrace is essentially triathlete central for this race. It’s the convention center and the “changing tents” are actually conference rooms/ballrooms. There are real bathrooms to use- and this is one instance where I’m okay with the # of men being much larger than women because there was always a line for the men’s room, but never the women’s! And, in case of cold weather, you can hang out inside to stay warm before the race. I found a spot on the floor next to one of my TriMarni teammates and we hung out until it was time to head to the start.

After dropping my morning clothes bag, I eventually made my way into the swim corral. It was a rolling start, with people self-seeding. Marni had told me to line up with the 1:00-1:05 group, so I headed towards the front of the corral only to see the sign for 1:01-1:10. I kept wondering when the person with the sub 1:00 sign would show up, so that the faster swimmers would move ahead, but that never happened. I stood off to the side along the fence, right by the glasses table. I chatted with a few people around me, including my new friend Amelia, whose quick thinking to do a little swimmer dance when the camera came near, landed us a spot in the race-day video!

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Soon, it was national anthem time and then the pro start, and then they started the AG athletes at 6:50am. Since I knew there had to be some sub 1:00 swimmers (and I hoped they had lined up near the front of my group) I let a few rows of people go ahead of me before I made my way under the arch and to the water’s edge. “Here we go!” I thought and I started my watch and dove in.

Swim:

The water was in the low 70s, which to me felt perfect in my wetsuit- if even a little warm by the very end. The water was a lot calmer than it had been the prior afternoon when I dropped my bike off- I was so thankful there were no white caps. But that being said, there was a little bit of wind in the morning (which was only going to pick up throughout the day) which made it a little choppy. The swim is one big loop: first you swim parallel to the shore, then make a left and swim out into the lake for a little, make another left and swim for a good mile back, and then make another left towards the shore and swim all the way in. When I started the swim, I was sandwiched between two people and I felt like we were heading too far in towards the center of the lake rather than swimming parallel to the shore. After a few failed attempts to push them both to the right a little, I stopped, let them get out of my way and continued on my own course, towards the first turn buoy.

I feel like I was constantly surrounded by people- sometimes being able to catch a draft, other times I was being drafted off of. On this first segment, I saw a pink cap with a purple sleeved wetsuit swim up next to me and as soon as I saw the goggles, I knew it was Marni. I had been wondering where she was, and was happy to be along side a familiar face. She’s a super swimmer and I knew she would go sub 1:00, which was my stretch goal, so I considered trying to stay with her. But I knew I had a long day ahead of me and didn’t want to push it too hard on the swim. I’ve been really focusing on my IM effort being about 80%, so I told myself to swim my own race and stick to my own pace. She put a few body lengths between us right before the first turn buoy, and then shortly after making the turn, I lost her.

The swim out to the next turn buoy was pretty choppy and the sun was directly in our eyes. Again, I swam next to people pretty much this whole time, but again bounced between being the one drafted off of and drafting off of others.

Once we made the next turn, I knew we had a LONG stretch. This was the longest leg of the swim, and I just tried to find my rhythm and stay in my own race. For this section, I fluctuated between feeling really smooth and feeling like I couldn’t find my rhythm. I found feet when I could and got a little help, and other times, I had some open water. Just about the time I was thinking, man this is a long swim, when is it going to be done? I was nearing the last turn buoy! Hooray! Sure, we still had a ways to go, but OMG I’m almost done the swim leg of my Ironman.

As we approached the swim exit, I had a feeling I didn’t break 1:00 like I really wanted to. I was guessing maybe 1:02. I gave myself a little pep talk because 1:02 is totally respectable! Soon, I touched the ground and a volunteer helped me out of the water. I pressed lap on my watch and my feeling had been right- no sub hour. Oh well, I swam my own race and most certainly did not over do it out there, which was the smart thing to do on such a long day.

Official Time: 1:01:35

T1: I pulled my wetsuit off my shoulders and down to my waist. I opted to skip the wetsuit peelers because I didn’t want to lay down on the cold ground. As I pulled my wetsuit off my arms, I heard my watch beep. Uh oh, I think I just hit a button I shouldn’t have.

I have never experienced a swim exit/T1 like this before. It was absolutely insane in the best way possible. After the wetsuit peeler station, you continue to run towards the terrace and then up the helix for the parking garage. The entire way, and I mean ENTIRE way there were tons of people- often 3-5 rows deep cheering for us. It was seriously the coolest thing ever, and you feel like a million bucks. It was a GREAT way to end the swim and begin the next part of the race.

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(Photo courtesy of Erin!)

Once I made it into T1, I had a volunteer help me get myself sorted. Man, I had a lot to get sorted. I decided that I had wanted to put on my compression socks for the bike for a little extra warmth. This required me to take off my chip (which I had safety pinned the strap) and then put them on while wet. Not the easiest thing to do, even with the help of a volunteer. I also made a game time decision to go with arm warmers and newspaper, rather than my jacket, so my volunteer was unwrapping my arm warmers. And then, I needed to throw my skratch chews and rice cakes in my back pockets. Finally, I was able to put on my helmet and sunglasses, grab my shoes and head out to my bike. I opted to carry my shoes and run in my socks because my bike was at the far end of transition, close to bike out. I didn’t want to risk falling on my butt because I was running in bike shoes! As I approached my rack, I called out my number and when I was at my rack, I put on my shoes and a volunteer gave me my bike. As I was leaving transition, I heard Karel yell my name. I looked up and searched the crowd to find him and wave hello. Time to go bike!

Official time: 00:10:11 (oops, that was a little bit long!)

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Photo from Karel

Bike:

I knew going in to this bike it was a tough and technical course, with over 5,000 feet of climbing (5,115 feet according to my Garmin). The “technical” part I think comes from all the turns. I mean ALL the turns. I think there are about 200 turns over the course of 112 miles! Oh, and everyone always complains about the conditions of the road- hello roads that are terrorized by horrible winters. The course is a “lolipop” with a stick and a loop, and you ride the loop twice. I had ridden a section of the loop a few days prior to the course and then drove the rest of it, so I had some sense of what to expect on race day. It was rough for sure, but I definitely ride some roads of comparable conditions here in FL.

I carefully rode down the helix to get started on the stick. I don’t remember too much exciting from the stick, other than having a slight tailwind. I looked down at my Garmin and was like WHOA, a little speedy there Steph, but soon I made a turn and the tailwind ceased. People joke that the ride really begins when you start the loop, and it kinda did feel that way. The roads got a little rougher and there was immediately a short punchy hill.

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Another Erin Photo!

I’m not gonna lie, that first part of the loop isn’t really exciting. Lots of turns, rough roads and nothing much to look at. However, there was one house that had LOUD dance music playing and that was awesome. I feel like the interesting part of the course starts when you get to Mount Horeb. Mount Horeb is the longest climb on the course, and it’s really not that long. I got to the top with a smile on my face and spotted my TriMarni teammate Diane who was there to cheer. There was a decent number of people out there cheering, and a woman with a sign that literally made me LOL (but I can’t remember what it said!) It was fun to see people out on the bike course – which typically doesn’t happen- and this was only the beginning- there were waaaay more crowds to come!

The bike is infamous for what people call the three witches (or B@#$*!S) – three short but steep hills which are kinda a pain, and you get the pleasure of riding them twice. However, these hills are LINED with spectators. Seriously, it was like a tailgate out there- someone offered me a corn on the cob (which I almost took) at the second hill! The crowd’s energy was incredible and it just made those hills WAY more tolerable than if I was out there grinding alone.

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Soon I was wrapping up my first lap and I couldn’t believe it! I was doing this thing and having a great day! I stopped at special needs and swapped out my bottles and grabbed more skratch chews and headed out for lap two. (I wasn’t going to write this because I didn’t want to sound like a jerk, but the one thing I remember from special needs is riding up and stopping in front of where the bags for my number were.  I had heard them call my number and I yelled my number as I slowed. There was no one there with my bag ready to go; the volunteer who presumably was manning the bags that were in my number range was standing off to the side eating a sandwich. I yelled my number again, and noted that the cyclist who had come in behind me and was stopped at the next row over was being assisted. I’m sure it was only seconds later – but it felt like forever until volunteers from the next line of bags down scrambled to grab my bag and help me out. I was super appreciative for their help but in the moment I was kinda frustrated. Looking back, I know how silly and selfish that is! The volunteers need to eat, and they’re VOLUNTEERING their time. And, it’s not like a few extra seconds was going to kill me!) I tolerated the first part of the loop, and enjoyed (well, as much as one can when riding 112 miles!) the last part of the loop before heading back on the stick. Ooh, that way back. It is so deceiving because you’re like “ooh, I’m almost done, since I’m done the loops.” No, no you are not almost done. You still have 12 miles, on crappy roads OH, and throw in a headwind. UGH. It was not the most pleasant final section of a ride, but I got through it. It was nice to also see one of my TriMarni teammates ride by me. We exchanged a few words to check in with each other and then he took off.

Soon, I found myself back at the Terrace! I switched to a low gear to ride back up the helix, and once at the top, I carefully dismounted, stopped my Garmin (I even joked with the volunteer about #priorities), and headed into the Terrace. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t have that terrible feeling of OMG I just want to be off the bike. Sure I was ready to be done, but I didn’t have any ill feelings towards being on my bike. I’ll count that as a win!

Official Time: 06:12:59

T2: As I ran into the women’s changing room at Monona Terrace, I immediately heard “STEPH!” and was greeted by my friend Jess with a big hug and huge smile. Gosh, it was so nice to see a familiar face and such positive energy! Seriously, made my day! Jess was a super volunteer (she’s volunteered in T2 several times before and is a triathlete herself) and helped me get all ready for my run. It was definitely a quicker transition than the bike! She had me ready and off and running in what felt like record time!

Side note:  I realize that I have now had two super positive Ironman T2 experiences with friends named Jess. See IM Coz race report. I think this means it’s becoming a tradition?

Official Time: 00:04:08

Run:

I ran out of the Terrace into a beautiful, sunny, late afternoon. It was such a beautiful day out, and I was excited to see how epic this run course would be with all the spectators. I may have taken it out a teensy bit too fast, but I was energized by the crowds. I started out the run feeling solid- I was running well and I was hopeful I’d keep running strong. I saw friendly faces all over the course, including my AirBnB host and one of my old co-workers. I reminded myself to continue fueling and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. I was pleasantly surprised by how well I was doing.

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Photo thanks to Kathy!

Unfortunately, I started feeling not so great around mile 11 or so. I had a little bit of an unsettled tummy, but I was just feeling sluggish. My hands were also feeling a little tingly and numb. I assumed that was circulation- maybe I was running really stiff in my shoulders or something so I kept trying to shake out my hands but nothing seemed to work. Around the halfway mark (ish) one of my teammates ran past me. She was looking great! We exchanged and few words of encouragement, and I kept trying to resolve my issues. I ate a tums, and that actually helped my tummy, but my run just kept getting slower and slower, and my walk breaks were longer and longer. I was getting so frustrated because I trained so hard this summer- I didn’t train to walk this much! I forced myself to run when I could, but again, I was feeling blah. That’s totally expected in the marathon of an Ironman, and so much of the Ironman is mental strength. So I just kept up positive self-talk and forced myself to keep moving forward.

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Former colleague Danielle took this photo!

At one point, I though that maybe I should try going to the bathroom. I had kinda needed to pee when I started the run, but the feeling passed as I got further along. I had been drinking a fair amount of water so I wondered if I could get some relief that way. I love my Naked running belt and I love my one piece tri suit, but they are seriously a hassle to get out of, especially when you’re 15 miles in to the marathon of an Ironman. So, I just sat down on the porto potty and went, without pulling my kit down. Yup, I just told the internet that. Sorry for the TMI, but that’s the reality of an Ironman. The brief moment of being seated was nice, and my stomach felt a little better after going, but it didn’t solve all my problems.

The tingling in my hands didn’t stop despite me raising my arms, shaking my hands etc. so I started to realize that this must have been nutrition/electrolytes related. I started grabbing pretzels or chips at every aid station, but could only stomach so many. It helped a little but then I’d quickly be back to feeling blah. One of my TriMarni teammates was on his first lap and he caught up to me and we walked together for a bit. We played leap frog for a bit, but eventually we parted ways. I was getting incredibly frustrated by my pace because I knew I had a better race in me, but my out of whack electrolytes were causing me to have a stinky run. As I approached the aide station around mile 23 or so (I think?) I saw them handing out chicken broth and decided what the heck, it can’t hurt at this point, right? Everyone always talks about how great this stuff is, so why not give it a shot? I gagged a little at the smell (it’s been a long time since I’ve eaten chicken) but slurped it down. Within 1/4 mile (maybe, I’m not really be sure) I started to feel better. Like A LOT better. I started to run, and run well. The tingling was gone and it was like I was a new person. At the remaining aide stations that had broth, I took it, and continued to run strong.

I ran up State Street and around the capitol square with a huge smile on my face. I knew I was running fast, maybe too fast to really take it all in, but I just felt so good (finally). I could hear the finish line and just got so excited that I was finishing this ironman feeling GOOD. I could feel myself getting choked up as I came around that last turn to hear Mike Reilly calling my name. “Stephanie Gibson, You are an Ironman!” Seriously, there is NOTHING that compares to that finish line feeling. I crossed the finish line and was greeted by volunteers and a huge hug from my friend Rendy (she works for IM and was able to be at the finish line). It was so incredible to have a familiar at the finish line! I let the volunteers guide me to the food tent and wrap me in a mylar blanket, as it was starting to cool down as the sun set. I sat down to relax and revel in what I had just accomplished. I would highly highly highly recommend IMWI- the crowd support is second to none which makes fo an absolutely unforgettable day. Thank you Madison for a great event!

Official Time: 04:55:57

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***

I crossed that line so proud of what I had accomplished, but I’d be lying if I told you I was satisfied with that run. It’s an Ironman and anything can happen, but I’m confident I have a better marathon in me.

For reference, here are my last few splits according to Garmin:

Mile 23: 15:55 (OOF!)

Mile 24: 12:49

Mile 25: 10:38

Mile 26: 9:47

Last .45 according to Garmin: 8:02.

I’m not sure when I’ll have another go at this distance, maybe 2019? Maybe not for another few years? That’s still TBD for now. But for now,  I’m gonna enjoy a little off season!

 

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Ironman 70.3 Muskoka Race Report

17 07 2018

Well friends, it’s been awhile. I hope you’ll still let me call you friends! I’m popping in to write up my race report from Ironman 70.3 Muskoka because it was a day I don’t want to forget!

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Pre Race:

We flew into Toronto on the Thursday before the race. I had purchased our flights with miles and the cheapest flight got us to YYZ at 11:15 pm. The race takes place in Huntsville, ON, which is a good 2.5 hour drive north-and I was told by locals it could take twice that long on busy summer weekends- so we opted to spend the night close to Toronto and then drive to Huntsville in the morning. For those of you unfamiliar (I was!) the race is Ironman Muskoka because the district is Muskoka. The town which functions as race HQ is Huntsville.

 

 

We went straight to the Summit Center, which is where Ironman Village was, and I unpacked my bike and took it to get looked over by the bike support folks from D’Ornellas since it looked like part of my headset was crooked. While I waited for my bike, I perused the M-dot gear and got checked in. I got a kick out of the fact that Ironman Village was on a hockey rink. Once I got the all clear on my bike, I took it out for a 50 minute spin on the first part of the bike course.

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It was so fun! Yes, it was challenging, but there was so much GREEN everywhere and lakes, and the change of terrain and scenery was exactly what I was needing in my training right now. It made me really excited about race day. After my ride, it was time to check in to our AirBnB!

PSA- if you ever do this race, you must, MUST stay at the Fairy Avenue Getaway – our hosts were amazing, and the location CANNOT be beat! It is literally ON the swim course, a block from the run course, and a short 15 minute walk to the Summit Center.

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The AirBnB’s backyard

Once we checked in, the river was just calling my name. I mean, how could I NOT go for a swim when the water is RIGHT THERE? I threw on my wetsuit and jumped in to the cool 74 degree water. Confession- two weeks ago I posted in the TriMuskoka group to get some information about the water temp. Someone responded that the water was 65 (well, he actually told me the temp in Celsius), so I ordered some booties just in case. Well, the week before race day, they had a heat wave- temps got into the 100s! But, that also warmed up the water, which made this girl happy!

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I swam a little, but also putzed around/floated to try and get a feel for the current. I kept hearing about how this swim is against the current once you get to the river, but to be honest, I couldn’t really feel much pull. I practiced some sighting and found a few landmarks for the race before I got out.

IMG_7586Friday night before a Sunday race meant PIZZA! We walked to downtown and went to the Mill restaurant for some coal fired pizza. It was quite tasty, as was our cheesy Naan. Carb it up baby! I was planning on not having any alcohol until after the race, but I couldn’t stand not trying a local brew. So Bill and I shared a Muskoka Brewing Lager. We enjoyed it so much that we actually ordered a second. Oops. 🙂 After dinner, we got some groceries and then headed back to the Getaway to relax. It was the night before the night before so I made sure to get to bed early!

 

 

Saturday morning I woke to no alarm. It was so nice to have slept in a comfy bed with the windows open and cool, fresh air coming through the windows. Hooray for cooler temps! I had a leisurely breakfast before heading out for a 45 minute ride, followed by a short run. I ended up getting distracted on my run by all the hub bub downtown. Huntsville is a small town and there’s a main street that’s several blocks long- but in the summer all the “cottagers” are out and about (please say “about” with a Canadian accent here- “A-boot”) and today was no exception. There was a small market with local artisans all from within 100km of Huntsville where I meandered and chatted with some of the vendors. Then I heard some bag pipes, which I discovered were prepping for the parade of bath tub boats. Yes, there was to be bathtub races later in the afternoon as part of Dockfest.

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Back at the house, Bill and I ate a hearty lunch before I prepped my race gear. A little before 2pm we walked over to the Summit Center to drop my bike in transition and attend the athlete meeting. I was a little surprised to see that when I got to transition, there were no assigned spots. We needed to bike with our age group, but it was first come, first serve in those rack. Had I known that, I would have gotten there closer to the time transition opened to secure a better spot. Oh well, at least the 35-39 AG racks were directly in front of the Bike Out!

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This is the hill immediately out of transition.

At the athlete meeting, the RD basically walked us through the athlete guide, but I always like going just in case anything had changed. Also, former professional triathlete Lisa Bentley gave us a little pep talk. She talked about a time where she was racing and her shifters weren’t working. She was on a hilly course and she was stuck in the big ring. Rather than throwing in the towel, she decided that she wasn’t going to give up, that she was going to throw her heart over that hill- do whatever it took to get over this hump. She told us to race with heart. What she said spoke to me, so on race morning, I wrote on my wrist “Race with <3” as a reminder.

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After the race meeting, we went home, and I relaxed on the hammock and read. I’m currently reading Deena Kastor’s book and I’m loving it- I took nuggets of inspiration from that book into race day too. In the early evening we made dinner in the kitchen at the Getaway (rice, sweet potatoes, tempeh, and tomato soup) and went to bed early!

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Race Day:

I woke up at 4:45am after a pretty good night’s sleep. Despite being in a house with other triathletes, I was the first one up. I made myself a Belgian waffle with PB, banana, and syrup and cracked open my iced coffee. I stepped outside to a brisk 49 degrees. I looked out on the glassy river to the rising sun and thought to myself that today was going to be a good day.

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I got on my kit, braided my hair and walked over to transition. I arrived a little after 5:30 and began to set out my stuff. As I put my water bottles in my rear cages, I realized that they were way too tall; I’d have to maneuver my bike out by angling it to the side so that everything could roll under the rack. It will be awkward, but I’ll make it work. I pumped up my front tire, and then moved to my back. As I was unscrewing the nozzle, my valve extender came off in my hand and I heard that awful rush of air coming out of the tire. “No No No!” I thought. This is not how I wanted my day to start! I quickly walked my bike over to the D’Ornellas folks, and asked for help. Thankfully, they were able to fix it up quickly and I could get back to setting up my transition area.

When back, I starting having yet another bike issue- my handlebars/front end of my bike kept turning sideways. I could not get my aeros to stay straight ahead while on the rack. I finally got it to stay by putting my bike shoe on the side of my wheel. Hopefully that would work. The other thing I realized is that this was the first time I was racing with a between the handlebars bottle (I used to use the built-in hydration bladder in the down tube) and between the aeros was where I usually laid my helmet, sunglasses and nutrition. Hmm, I guess I’ll put it on the outside of my aeros, but still on top. I gingerly put my helmet, nutrition and sunglasses, on the handlebar, did one more once-over of my stuff, and headed out of transition to get in a warm up.

By this time the sun was fully out and it had warmed up quite nicely. I did about 10-15 minutes of dynamic warm up and stretching before going for a short jog. At about 6:45, I headed towards the swim start, a short walk away.

After a potty break I put on my wetsuit and did a little swimming around after the playing of “Oh, Canada.” Soon, it was time to line up and then move into the water. I was a little nervous, but ready. I was excited for this course and to see what my day would bring. At 7:15 we were allowed in the water and we made our way to the start line for a floating start. At 7:20, the gun went off – time to get this party started!

Swim: 29:31

I took off at the start to get out of the crowds, but it quickly thinned. I was able to settle in to a nice rhythm and I had plenty of open water. There were no other pink caps near me that I could see. This is a position I’m used to in smaller races, but it was cool to be up front in an IM branded race.

The course takes you out into a lake, kinda like three sides of a trapezoid, and then down into the river, straight to swim exit. The lake part was nice- the sun was high enough that it wasn’t in my eyes. And the water was refreshing and wetsuit legal. I started passing people from previous waves by the 2nd or 3rd buoy, but it didn’t get crowded until I was in the straight away in the river. But, it never got too hectic; I was always able to find myself some open water.

I sighted off a big house on the river and I thought it might have been where we were staying, but when I got closer, I realized I still had a little ways to go until I was passing the Fairy Ave Getaway. Soon though, I swam by and I saw Bill and our hosts sitting on the dock. I waved several times, before I realized I should stop so that the guards don’t think I’m in distress. I later found out that they didn’t see me because the sun was directly in their eyes. I had to laugh when I saw my Garmin’s map:

 

 

 

I swear I didn’t get out of the water to give Bill a kiss!

Shortly after passing them, I was nearing the exit. I was assisted out by a nice volunteer and I skipped the wetsuit strippers to save some time. I ran up the really short but steep hill to get onto the road, and then ran along the carpet (thank goodness!) to get into T1. When I looked at my watch, I smiled- I went sub 30, and I felt like my effort was controlled- much more so than I usually am. My day is off to a great start!

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T1: 2:46

When I got to my rack, I had a minor heart attack- my helmet was missing. OMG, did it fall off, and the officials come by and DQ me for a messy transition area? Did it fall off and break and I wouldn’t be able to race? After what felt like a long time (it wasn’t) I realized that my helmet was on the ground, under my bike. My nutrition and glasses had spilled out, but I quickly grabbed them and got myself ready to ride. When I went to pull my bike off the rack, my strategy of angling my bike wasn’t working. It would not fit under the rack. So, I awkwardly pulled out my rear bottles, put one on the ground, and pulled the bike out, before putting them back. Oh it was awful. I’m sure it didn’t take all that long, but it felt like forever and I felt like such a rookie! Finally, I was outta there!

Bike: 2:45:09

Despite being a flatlander, I was seriously looking forward to this bike ride. I was pumped about the change of scenery, cooler temps, and hills. I just needed to make sure I didn’t burn out my legs on all that climbing. The ride was an out and back this year due to some construction, and it was the first year it was 56 miles. Normally, it is a bit longer- 94km and a big loop. The elevation change was the same as it had been, but apparently the part that was taken out had some steeper climbs and more technical sections. I was totally happy with the course we got. The first part of the course had some punchy hills, but then after the left turn at Baysville, there were more gentle rollers. Then we turned around and did it in reverse.

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The roads were lovely for the most part- there was a section between 14-17km that we had been warned about and it was clearly marked. There were a few other pot holes along the way, but I was super impressed by how smooth the roads were for a place that probably has a lot of freezing and thawing.

The course was a beautiful as I was hoping- so much green, lots of lakes, some large rocks along the side of the road. The roads were open to traffic, but the traffic was sparse. I was really impressed because I also noted that some race staff was actually out biking the course- and I saw one of the guys help someone with a flat. I’ve never seen bike support on bikes before!

I was feeling really good on the bike- and reminded myself to be patient, and pace myself. I ate on schedule and was really happy to not have any nutrition issues. I was shocked by how many people seemed to just spin up the hills.

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I played leap frog with a few men- the men outnumbered the women nearly 3:1 by the way!- and one of the guys, when I passed him a second time, remarked in a very French accent, “Oh, it’s the pink lady again.” Yes it is!

On the bike, I saw one woman fly past me, but I think she was in the 40-44 age group. There was one or two other girls from the earlier women’s wave that passed me, but that was it. I was really happy to have ridden as strong as I did. Usually, I’m just waiting to be passed on the bike.

After the turnaround, we had a headwind coming back to Baysville, but once we made the right turn to head back to Huntsville, we got a little bit of a push from that same wind.

Soon, I couldn’t believe I was almost done. I had ridden smart, and was ready to tackle this run!

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T2: 1:48

When I arrived in transition, I noticed one other bike on the 35-39 rack. Dang, she was speedy. But, I was in shock that I was in 2nd place. OMG can I hold on to this? As I was leaving my bike and heading out, I noticed another girl on my rack just getting in from the bike. Shoot! She’s close! I reminded myself to focus on my race, not hers, and got myself out of transition.

Run:1:57:29

As I was leaving transition, I struggled to put my bottles into my new Naked Sports belt. I had practiced putting the belt on and putting bottles in, but I think I was usually standing still to get them in. I think I’ll need to do that next time! Anyhow, I finally got the bottles in right before I starting up a short hill, followed immediately by another short hill. Oh boy, this was going to be a tough run!

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Downtown Huntsville

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The crowds in downtown Huntsville were AH-Mazing! So many people! They were so needed because you’re hit with a short hill that their cheers helped you up. The town’s fire department had a truck spraying water to cool down the athletes. It had warmed up for sure, but it was nowhere near as hot as any of the races I’ve done. I honestly didn’t really notice the heat. The truck’s spray was actually a bit much- it was stationed near the top of the hill and it was flowing so fast that a little river was forming. Ok, not really, but the water was probably an inch deep on the road and just FLOWING down the hill. It was super early in the race (I don’t even think we were a mile in) so I didn’t want to soak my shoes and socks, so I ran around (almost onto the other side of the road) to dodge the flow of water. We made our first of many turnarounds (this route had 6!) and down the hill and over the bridge. Once we got out of town, I didn’t really enjoy the course. There was a short section where we ran through this narrow stretch and it wasn’t clear whether we should be running on the right or left side of this tiny trail. I think on one lap I was on the right side and the next I was on the other. It seemed to be dictated by who was coming at you on the trail. Then, there was this longish out and back along a highway. It wasn’t really pretty, and it seemed to be a false flat going out to the turnaround. We also had the wind in our face going one direction, and a tailwind in the other. After the straightaway, we were back into a little neighborhood, had another turn around, and then we went back downtown to do it all again. Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 7.31.18 PM

I was actually feeling surprisingly good on my first lap. I was drinking my skratch and eating my chews. I had zero tummy issues, which I was super pleased about. I decided I wasn’t going to look at my watch because I’d get in my head about pace. I’d go only by feel for as long as I could. When my first mile ticked off, I knew it was fast. I didn’t need to look at the time to tell me. I reminded myself to be patient and think of the first 5k as warm up. I tried to slow it down some, but when I looked at my times after, I really didn’t succeed at that. I definitely was out too fast.

Shortly after I left the downtown area, the woman who racked her bike shortly after me passed me. SHOOT. The run is my weakness and I wanted to hold on to a top 5 position so badly! I reminded myself not to worry myself with her, but focus on my run, on having good form, and doing the best that I could on this day. I kept her in my line of sight- she was never too far in front. She didn’t seem to be making her lead any bigger. Soon, I caught up to her again. And then, at an aide station, I passed her, and I never saw her again (I think she ended up in 6th).

I was feeling decent as I started the second lap, but I was starting to get tired- but I feel like my level of tired was appropriate for where I was in the race. As I ran over the bridge for lap 2, I spotted Bill. He talked to me a little, gave me some encouragement, and told me that the app hadn’t been working for him (which is why he missed me on the first lap). I told him I thought I was in 2nd place in my age group. I kept running though I knew I was slowing. I found myself walking more than I wanted to, but I was still reminding myself to have good form.

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Eventually, just before the 16km marker, two girls passed me- they were running strong, and the one girl was right on the other’s shoulder. I looked at their calves and bibs and realized one of them was in my AG and I couldn’t quite tell if the other was as well, thought I was pretty certain she was. There was no way I’d be able to stick with them, so I just kept my head on my own run. I just did NOT want anyone else to pass me on that run. I wanted a top five slot so badly.

Eventually, I was back at the bridge and ready to make the turn to take me back to the Summit Center. Bill ran with me, feeding me positive thoughts. I was hurting by then and didn’t really respond, but I was happy he was there. Soon, I was entering the finishers chute, I saw the time on the race clock- 5:30, 31, 32…As I was approaching I did some quick math since I knew I started 20 minutes after the clock started. Holy crap I was going to go in the teens! I crossed the line with a big grin on my face and stopped my watch- 5:16. O.M.G. What a day!

Overall time: 5:16:41

4th AG/46

23rd female/326

240th OA

Awards and Roll down:

I knew I had had a heckuva day, but I wasn’t exactly sure what place I had gotten. Bill’s IM app wasn’t working, and my phone was still in transition. And, I couldn’t find a place they were posting the results.

Eventually, Bill went on Facebook since I knew I had linked up my account to the IM app. He asked me, “Who’s Theresa Miller?” and I told him she was one of my SOAS teammates. He went on to read her comment: “Awesome race Stephanie!! Congrats on a podium finish!!” I started crying a little. I was in shock. I had finally made it to the podium at an IM race!

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My face when he read that I had placed:-) 

After what seemed like forever, they got to age group awards. I stood on the stage with the other ladies in my AG- one of whom was 2nd OA with a 4:30! I was super pleased with my 4th place award!

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Since this is one of the first races that’s a qualifier for the 2019 70.3 Worlds, they made an announcement that if you won your AG and knew you were going to take your slot, to go ahead and line up and get registered. Unfortunately I spotted the girl who won my AG in line. There was only one slot for 35-39, so I knew my chances were slim to none for a roll down. But, I waited around anyhow, and one slot did roll down, but it went to the 40-44 AG (I think)- that AG was the largest women’s AG. 35-39 was the 2nd largest. Oh well!

I am still super pleased with my race, and I’ve been given a nice confidence boost by this result. Hard work really does pay off, and I’m motivated even more to keep training hard because the results will come.

 

 





See Ya, 2017. Hello, 2018!

5 01 2018

I always like re-reading my year in review posts, so despite being a few days late, I’m going to share some highlights from my year. I’ve structured this year’s a bit differently than I have in the past- I took a page outta Beth‘s book and modeled mine after hers.

First, some stats on 2017:

Training:

I swam: 168 miles

I biked: 3,031 miles

I ran: 809 miles

(these numbers don’t include indoor trainer miles)

Wow, that’s quite a lot! My bike miles are essentially like riding from Florida to Washington State!

 

Racing:

In 2017, I completed the following races:

  • HITS Olympic triathlon (January)
  • Best Damn Race Half Marathon (February)
  • Clermont Olympic triathlon (March)
  • IM 70.3 Florida (April)
  • IM 70.3 Wisconsin (June)
  • IM 70.3 World Championships (September)
  • IM 70.3 North Carolina (Beach to Battleship) (October)
  • Tampa Bay Times 10K Turkey Trot (November)

Phew. That’s a lot of racing! But, it resulted in a new PR in the 70.3 distance and in doing so, I FINALLY broke 2:00 on the run. I finally learned how to race the 70.3 distance, thanks to trying again and again and again and trusting my coaches. I learned so much from them this season and I can’t wait to see where 2018 takes me and my racing.

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I also was lucky enough to race in the 70.3 World Championships. Hands down, my favorite race I’ve ever done. (IM Cozumel is a very close second though!) Not only did I experience a world-class race, but I also learned to race without putting pressure and expectations on myself that typically end in disappointment. With no pressure, I enjoyed every second of my race and it was amazing. At the same time, it lit a fire under my butt to try and qualify for 2019 in Nice, France. We’ll see if I can make that happen late in 2018 or early in 2019.

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Travel:

I went up to Madison, Wisconsin 8 times in 2017. I also got the pleasure of being in Minnesota for a few days in April, and I was just home in New Jersey for Christmas. I took one international trip to ITALY! Ah, I’m drooling just thinking about all the good food! Bill and I went to Rome, Florence, Pisa and the Cinque Terre.

 

 

 

Life Events

2017 was a big year for Bill and I. We moved from Tampa to St. Petersburg and it has been awesome to live on this side of the bridge. Sorry Tampa, but St. Pete is better:-)

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And, surprise!

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Bill and I eloped in December!

 

No fuss. No pomp and circumstance. Just me, Bill, our friend Domenique and the county clerk. Super simple. (and way cheaper than a “real” wedding).

 

So, switching gears a bit…

5 Things I’m looking forward to in 2018:

  1. Ironman Wisconsin. This race is my big race of the year, and I am pumped. Seriously, this finish line. I am super excited to hear Mike Reilly call my name as I cross the line of my second Ironman.
  2. Bad Ass Women’s Retreat – Next month (!!) I’m headed to Austin for the first time, which is exciting all by itself. However, I’m going there for a women’s retreat with some of my favorite female triathlete friends! Several of my TriMarni teammates organized this weekend of awesomeness which is going to include some run, bike, swim, but also some yoga and a cooking class! Heck yes! I am so so excited about this!
  3. Ironman 70.3 Haines City– Funny how a race I told myself I would Never do has ended up on a list of things I’m looking forward to in 2018! This is a TriMarni Team Race and we are going to SHOW UP! There are 20-some of us who are going to be there and it is going to be awesome!
  4. Triathlon CAMP! I plan to attend TWO camps this season, both in Greenville, South Carolina. Bring on riding in the mountains! They are going to be several days of HARD work, but gosh they are SO worth it!
  5. Last but certainly not least, spending time with Bill. As of right now, Bill doesn’t have as much travel scheduled for 2018, which means we’ll get to spend more time together! Hooray! I’m excited to explore all the fantastic things St. Pete has to offer with my new husband:0)