Ironman 70.3 World Championships – Pre Race

18 09 2017

Back in July, I received an unexpected email from Women For Tri inviting me to participate in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships. Without another race on my schedule until October, my response was HECK YES! Still feeling a little bummed from my less than stellar performance in June and lacking motivation to train since my next race wasn’t for a few more months, this was exactly what I needed.

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I knew going into this race that this course was not suited to my strengths (exception: swim). The course for the World Championships was planned to be different than the “regular” Ironman 70.3 they hold in Chattanooga in the spring. The swim was a loop (rather than point to point), with the majority of the swim being upstream. If you’ve heard anything about the swim in the Tennessee river, it’s likely that you’ve heard about the speedy current. Swimming with this current is what many athletes find appealing about the full IM in Chattanooga. Well, Race Directors thought it would be “fun” to have athletes swim against that current for the World Championships.

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The bike would have 3,408 feet of climbing (as compared to 2,218) with the first part taking you straight up Lookout Mountain.

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The run was most similar to the spring race, a two loop course and almost 1000 feet of climbing.

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This Florida girl would be way out of her comfort zone at this race, but I did what I could in my training, completing some run workouts on bridges and some longer rides out in San Antonio (FL) where there are some hills.

The two weeks leading up to this race were less than ideal. I was out for a run one evening, and less than a quarter mile into my run, I rolled my ankle. Thankfully, it ended up being a minor sprain and I was back running in a week, but the Type A athlete in me was freaking out from the minute it happened. A weekend COMPLETELY off two weeks before a race? The horror! I think it actually ended up being really good for me to rest up!

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Once I was finally able to get back at it, we now had our eyes on Irma. She was days out still, but it was pretty stressful tracking her and trying to figure out our plan for heading out to Chattanooga/securing the house/bring the kitties? etc. (We decided to bring them.)

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We left for Chatty on Wednesday night around 10:30pm for the Saturday race (women were Saturday, men were Sunday). Our original plan before Irma was a thing was to drive for several hours and then grab a hotel wherever we decided to stop. Well, thanks to evacuation orders, at 1am the roads were like rush hour, and there were ZERO hotels anywhere with vacancies. We drove (well, mostly Bill drove) until 4:30am before stopping at an overflowing rest area for a two hour nap before hitting the road again. The kitties were not pleased with this whole situation so they were meowing for most of these two hours. Not ideal 3 nights out from a race.

We FINALLY arrived in Chattanooga mid-afternoon on Thursday. Exhausted, we dropped our things at the hotel, grabbed some food, and then immediately took a nap. I didn’t want to sleep too long, for fear of not being able to get back to bed that night (and Thursday night was the night before the night before- the most important night to get sleep!) but man, did it feel good to lay down on a bed. After about a hour and a half/two hours, we slowly got out of bed to head down to the race site so I could get checked in and then go to the welcome banquet and pre-race meeting.

From the minute we got close to the race site you could feel the excitement. There were signs of Ironman everywhere- Billboards, the M-dot on top of the aquarium, and lots of very, very fit people walking around. Bill dropped me at Ironman Village so I could check in- I wandered through the maze of vendors and loved hearing different languages spoken all around. It finally hit me- I was at the World Freaking Championships. Holy cow.

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Check in was a breeze and IM does not skimp on swag for World Championships events. I took some photos and held off on merch (for now) before finding Bill and making our way to the convention center at the Marriott for the welcome banquet.

IMG_2106The spread at the welcome banquet was decent- salad, fruit, mac n cheese, potato salad, cornbread, bbq pork, chicken, pecan pie and brownies. Not the best for vegetarians, but I made it work. After the welcome banquet, they had the pre-race meeting, where we received the welcome news that they were going to do something to the dam up the river so that the current would be MUCH weaker than it currently was. They also said they’d be monitoring the water temperature closely, and would make a final call on Saturday at 5am, but water was currently not wetsuit legal. I learned that we couldn’t access our bike or run gear bags on race morning, so they needed everything in them when I dropped them off tomorrow. After the meeting, we immediately went back to our hotel (which was close to the airport, about 20 minutes from the race venue) and went to bed!

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Friday:

I slept in as much as I could before heading in to the race venue for my pre-race workout. It was a beautiful morning- cool but sunny. It was so nice to have cooler temps!

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I started with a swim in the river to get a sense of the current. I knew that they said it would be less strong on race morning, but I wanted to get in and check it out. They had buoys set up to do a short loop, about 600 yards. The water was not wetsuit legal, so I put on my speed suit and waited in line to get in. I chatted it up with some friendly Wisconsinites before getting to the entrance. The water was really refreshing when I jumped in, and at first I didn’t really feel the current. As long as I was swimming, I couldn’t quite tell how “bad” it actually was. Sure, the shoreline seemed to be moving past me in slow motion, but that’s pretty normal. However, I started to run into a slower swimmer so I stopped. OH. Hello current! Immediately, I started drifting backwards. Lesson- just keep swimming! For fun, I lapped my watch when I started swimming upstream and then again when I was swimming with the current. With a few short stops on the against the current part, my pace was 2:11/yard, but on the way back (with the current) it was 1:11. OH BOY!

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After the swim, I dried off, chatted with some friends, had a snack and then finally decided it was time to check out the first part of the climb up Lookout Mountain. I followed a group of people out of the downtown area up to the climb. As soon as I hit the climb I remembered driving up this road more than 10 years ago for a fall break trip and being a little scared to drive up the mountain on the windy, steep roads. Now, here I was going to BIKE up this thing. I took a deep breath and switched into my lowest gear.

The climb is steep- I’m not sure of the grade but I was definitely thankful I had switched to a climbing cassette a few weeks ago. I pedaled up the mountain, pushing watts, but I wasn’t working overly hard- I didn’t want to blow up before the race even started! Just keep going, just keep going. I looked down at my computer and it showed that I had gone a mile in about 10 minutes. OOF. Tomorrow is going to be a long day. I didn’t let it get me down- I was here at the World Championships- my bonus race!

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After 14 minutes, I reached a pull off in the road and figured it was a good place to turn around and head back. Oh boy. The way down was super scary. The road had cars on it and it was windy and steep. I tried hard not to ride my breaks the whole time, but when I finally reached the bottom my hands hurt from grabbing my brakes. OMG I really hope the back half of the mountain is not like this. I texted Marni and told her I was nervous about the descent, but she assured me I would be fine and the back half wasn’t as technical. That was definitely reassuring, but I was still a bit nervous about this course.

I made my way back to the car to drop my bike before heading back to the Village for the Women for Tri photo. Unfortunately, I was a little too late and missed it! Since I was in the village, merch was calling my name. Le sigh. Always gets me! Finally, I headed back to the hotel to pick up Bill and get some real lunch.

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After lunch, I packed up my gear bags, got my bike ready, and rested a little before heading back to the Village around 4 to drop it all off. I was a little rushed when we finally got there, because I had plans to meet up with a friend from college around 5, but I got it all dropped and didn’t let myself overthink anything.

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At 5, I met my friend and her family for what would be a highlight of the trip- a helicopter ride over the course. It was so beautiful and such a fun way to see Chattanooga! Thank you Rock Creek Aviation!

Finally, it was time to head back, grab dinner and get to sleep. Tomorrow was race day!

 

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Ironman 70.3 Wisconsin – Race Report

19 06 2017

Wow, it’s been awhile since I’ve said hello in this space! Well, hello, friends! Long time no see!

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I wanted to take a few minutes to write down a race report for my 2nd 70.3 of this season: Ironman 70.3 Wisconsin (Madison).  Yes, I didn’t write up a report for my April HIM, Florida 70.3, but in short: despite a sloshy tummy on the run, I had a solid day and ended up with a PR!

 

IMG_9183Unfortunately, I can’t say that I walked away from Madison with a shiny new PR. In fact, I walked away with the complete opposite: it was my slowest HIM. If I said I wasn’t disappointed, I’d be lying. Going in to this race, I felt prepared. I felt strong. I felt fit. I was confident because I had been consistent in my training. But, things happen and the day unraveled differently than what I had envisioned in my head. And we learn. That’s all you can do is learn and move on.  🙂

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Pre Race:

My alarm buzzed at 4:30am and I was up and at-em. I prepped my overnight oats and all my bottles the night before, so I could quickly get my self together, eat breakfast, check out and be on my way to the race site. I was staying about 15-20 minutes away and I was out the door just before 5am.

Parking was easy-peasy for this race. (Almost) Directly across the street from Olin Park (the location of transition and the Ironman village) is the Alliant Energy Center, which has a huge parking lot. Cars entered and went left to park and be close to the school bus shuttles to the race site, or went right to park on the other side of the lot and walk to the race site. I went right and quickly found a spot and walked myself over to transition.

I had racked my bike the day before, so getting myself set up in transition was quick! After getting all set up, I mentally ran through T1 and T2. Yup, everything’s here! Today was going to be all about managing the heat, and I was okay with that (though I’ll be honest, I was certainly hoping for a cool-weather 70.3 when I signed up for this!)

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I went over to the Ironman Village and schmoozed with some folks in the Endurance House tent so I could leave my bag there (why oh why are there no bag drops at Triathlons??) and then did a short jog to warm up. They announced there’d be a short warm up swim from 6:30-6:45 so I checked my watch, looked at the Port-o-pot lines and opted to get in line rather than continuing my warm up so that I could make it to the swim warm up. I made it through the line with just enough time to get on my wetsuit; but then they kept pushing back the warm up time and eventually cancelled it because there was no ambulance on site. Whomp whomp.

Oh well, it was close to go time, so I funneled in the chute and awaited the cannon!

Swim: 1.2 Miles

The swim was a rolling start and OMG that was amazing. They grouped us by expected finish times: 27 and under, 27-30, 30-33, and so on, and let us into the water one at a time- a constant flow of athletes into the cool Lake Monona. I lined up at the back end of the 27-30 group; I’d gone 31 and some change at Florida in April, and with my new wetsuit (Xterra Vengence full suit) on, so I was feeling pretty confident that I could hang with this group.

I dove in to the brisk 70ish degree water (hey- it was cool for this Florida girl!), let some water into my wetsuit and then started swimming. My stroke felt pretty good, and I had open water. I cannot tell you how awesome it was to not slam into a wall of slower swimmers and attempt to swim around and/or over them. I think rolling starts are definitely better for both the faster and slower swimmers!

The swim was an out, over, and back, and I was putting in some good effort. I think I was probably pushing a little too hard, since this was the first time where I thought to myself, “Ugh, this swimming thing is SO HARD. I just want to be on the bike!” Being a swimmer, this is an odd statement to cross my mind, and I’m not sure if this speaks to the effort I was putting in (too hard?), my general feeling of being at a plateau in my swimming, or just the confidence I was feeling in my biking ability? Regardless, that thought crossed my mind in the first half, but by the second half of the swim, I  had backed off a little in my effort and was really enjoying the swim. The water was absolutely the perfect temperature and I was experiencing a balance of passing a few people but also maintaining my position. The swim was mostly flat, with the exception of some chop out by the turn buoys, and once you were halfway through the swim, the yellow buoys were now orange, so you knew approximately how much you had left in the swim.

Soon, I could see the shoreline, and eventually my hand hit the ground. I popped up and ran out, lapping my watch and catching a glimpse of my time. When I saw a “29:XX” I was super happy, but didn’t want to get caught up in times. My goal for today was not to worry about times, but to have fun, and race by feel. This course plus the heat would not make for a PR day for anyone!

Official time: 30:00.

T1: I got out and ran to the wetsuit peelers- they were awesome! And then kept running. and running. Around the long side of the transition area, into transition, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 rows and then finally down to my bike. Thankfully there was carpet and grass the entire way and my feet didn’t get torn up! Helmet, sunglasses, shoes, and off I went!

Official time: 3:47

Bike: 56 Miles

There was a bit of a jam at the mount line, but I was able to get on and get going. I spotted a girl in a Coeur kit on a hot pink bike right in front of me and for a split second I thought I might be able to race her. Um, not so much. And, earth to Steph, you don’t start the bike leg of a 70.3 “racing!” (I wish that “earth to Steph” message had actually come in on Sunday morning).

Right after leaving transition, I spotted one of my coworkers and waved hi! It was fun to have people I know out there! That gave me a boost and I was confident I’d have a good day out there.  The first few miles (maybe 2-3? ) of the bike were on a bike path which in theory sounds great. But, it was a bit bumpy and a little narrow. By the time I was nearing the end of the trail part, my legs were feeling blah. I tried not to let it get to me- because it was early on. I told myself to back off,  spin the legs; this is only the first part of the day and there’s a long way to go. At the left turn just before mile 5, I was passed by a man that was probably in his fifties, had a bit of facial hair, and was probably close to meeting the requirements for a Clydesdale. A woman passed me right after and asked me, “Can you believe he’s wearing Teva’s?” Um, what? I did a double take, and sure enough, the guy that blew by me was wearing sandals! Anyhow, I tried not to let the fact that people were passing me bother me. It was inevitable, since I’m a swimmer and started near the front.

My plan was to lap my watch every 20 minutes- to treat each 20 minutes as it’s own section: nothing before it, nothing after it. Be present. The first interval I constantly reminded myself- this is warm up, it’s okay that your legs don’t feel awesome. By the end of that first interval, I was craving a drink of water. It was hot and I was thirsty. I hadn’t planned to stop at any aide stations, except maybe the last one, but at the one at mile 13 I grabbed a bottle, squirted some in my mouth, some on my head and then tossed the bottle.

The hills kept coming. Nothing was too steep, but I definitely found myself out of my saddle quite a bit. Mental note: change to a climbing cassette if I do this race again (Yes, I said that last year too). The course was pretty but the roads left something to be desired. Around mile 20, Erin passed me going up a hill, and she asked how I was doing. I wasn’t feeling as snappy as I would have liked, and my stomach was starting to get grumpy. Where was my power? I couldn’t believe I was only 20 miles in and starting to have GI issues. No, no, no!

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I told myself I could handle this, and if I just backed off and sat up some more, it would help. Yes, it did help some to sit up, but I don’t think I backed off enough. By mile 35 I was seriously considering a DNF. I still had over an hour to go at the pace I was holding, and there were so many more hills. But, I couldn’t stop- there were people out there tracking me from afar who I didn’t want to worry, and I knew I had some coworkers waiting for me on the run. I will not quit!

At the last aide station, around mile 4o I got off my bike. I never get off my bike in a HIM. But, I was hopeful this would be worth the stop and that I’d be able to “save” my race by stopping. I asked them if they had Tums, but unfortunately, they didn’t. I took a bottle of water, and drank some of the cold gatorade they had there. Not gonna lie- that orange endurance Gatorade was like magic elixir. It gave me the boost I needed, and I got back on my bike, gave myself a pep talk, and rode. The good feeling that I had lasted only a few miles, and I wished I had taken that bottle of Gatorade with me. I spotted my friend Emily and her kiddos around mile 45, which was so fun; I just wish I had been feeling better. :-/ For the rest of the bike I just took in water because my stomach did not want to have any Infinit. When I finally got back to transition, I was ready to be off my bike and upright, but I knew that I was going in to the run depleted (I think I had only taken in ~500 calories for the entire ride) and would need to manage that challenge.

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(no, this pic was not from race day, just from riding some of the course the day before!)

Oh- the one thing I don’t want to forget to point out is the spectators! This is probably one of the first HIMs where there were spectators smattered throughout the bike course. Like, a lot of spectators! On big hills there were groups of people with signs and cow bells, the town of Paoli had LOTS of people out to cheer, and there were small handfuls of people at other times on the course. I loved the support we got out there- Thank you!!!

Official time: 03:14:08

T2: Honestly, I don’t remember much about this transition. I took my time getting on my run shoes, race belt and hydration belt, stopped for sunscreen and saw my friend Kathy waiting for her relay.

Official time: 2:54

Run: 13.1 Miles

Oh the run. The half marathon at the end of a HIM has been my nemesis for pretty much the entire time I’ve been doing this distance. And today, I was going in to it with not enough calories. Maybe I could turn my day around, but I was fairly certain the focus of the run would be about taking care of myself.  The run starts on the same bike trail as the bike course- with a short out and back before heading around the lake. I know this route fairly well- I did the race last year, and earlier this spring I ran the first half of the course with my friend Kathy. There are some small hills throughout, but nothing too crazy.

When I started the run, my stomach was still feeling a little off, but it was much better now that I was vertical. But, I took two tums at some point in that first mile and honestly, it was a life saver! However, I then started to get a side stitch! I focused on breathing through my nose to try and get rid of the stitch, and walked a bit with my hands on my head. At the first aide station, I took a coke. Yes, I know that was early, but I figured that would be good for my still trying to settle tummy. Thankfully, it was. I recall feeling the best I had since the swim, and looking down at my watch to see paces I had hoped to hold. I felt confident as I ran up one of the hills and didn’t walk. Wow, this was a tough hill for me last year, and this year I hardly noticed it (Thank you TriMarni training).

Unfortunately, the good didn’t last too long. The heat plus being low on calories plus the mental game caused me to walk much more than I had planned. I knew I was going to walk the aid stations, but I found myself going about half a mile before needing to walk, and then walking for longer than I should have. I grabbed ice and water and coke at pretty much every aid station, and started on some pretzels a little later on. By mile 8 I could feel myself starting to bonk and my tummy was getting agitated again. I took another two tums and just kept putting one foot in front of the other. “Just get to the next aid station” was all I could think about. In the last few miles, I saw two girls in my age group: one, I kept trying to catch up to and the other who would pass me while I was walking and then I would pass her back when I switched back to running. It was those two that kept me going- the desire to catch the one girl in front of me (I didn’t) and to not let the girl behind me pass me (she didn’t). Finally, I was in the final stretch! The last tenth of a mile in this race is downright cruel- it’s up a short hill to the finish. And on top of that, there’s a photographer to capture it all! I dug deep-real deep to get up this hill without puking and without collapsing. My hamstrings started to get tight and oh my goodness all I wanted to do was walk. But, you’re SO CLOSE. Those moments to get to that finish were tough, but to cross that line was such a sweet, sweet feeling. I truly feel like I fought hard and earned that finish today.

Official time: 02:22:03

Final time: 06:12:52

25th AG/106

154th Female

687 OA.

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Reflection:

Yes, this was my slowest HIM time by FAR. (I’ve never been over 6:00.) But, all in all, I can’t really be too disappointed. I still managed to be top 25 in my age group, and I learned a heck of a lot about racing a 70.3. I’ve been talking to my coach a lot about what happened out there, because it was really odd for me to have GI issues so early on. I train with INFINIT and haven’t had any issues on my training rides. I think the issues stemmed from a combination of things: my food choices 24-48 hours before the race and starting out the ride with too high of a heart rate. The heat may have contributed too, but I think I started pushing too early and my heart was pumping blood to my muscles rather than to my stomach to digest! I’ve got several months now until my next and last HIM of this season (but am considering throwing in one more for good fun), so it’s time to file this one away, and gear up for some fun summer training (aka HARD training!).

I’m super thankful for the abilities that I do have- that I can run, bike, and swim and push my body to new limits. I’m thankful for an amazing coach, teammates, family and friends. I wouldn’t be here without their help and support! Thank you!

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Photo courtesy of my SOAS sis Jess!





2017 Race Plans

23 01 2017

Howdy bloggies! I figured I’d check in with a short post about my upcoming season. I have a jam-packed race schedule and I’m pretty stoked about it.

January:

HITS Naples- Olympic Distance

See my race report for the low down!

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February:

Best Damn Race  Safety Harbor– Half Marathon

Last season I was signed up for this race and hoped to snag a new PR. Unfortunately, (actually a year ago this week!) I sprained my ankle and that goal went out the window. This year, it’s just a training day and I have zero expectations!

March:

Tri Marni Camp & Great Clermont triathlon– Olympic Distance

I’m really excited to be a TriMarni athlete this year, and camp is a great chance for me to meet some more teammates, allow Karel and Marni to see me in action, train my little heart out, and most of all, have fun! Oh, and there’s a little race at the end of the weekend, NBD.

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April:

Ironman 70.3 Florida

Several years ago, a few of my friends did this race, and I recall them complaining about getting sick on the bike because of the nasty water. I vowed I would never do that race. But, here I am, registered for it. Not quite sure what possessed me to do it- I think I wanted an early-ish season 70.3 to get a baseline, but I’m looking forward to getting out there and seeing what I can do.

 

June:

Ironman 70.3 Wisconsin

When they announced that Milkman was becoming an Ironman branded race, I was a little bummed. IM is taking over all the small local races and it is kinda sad. (and yes, I know I’m feeding the machine by registering for all of these darn things!) However, I enjoyed this race last year and since it just so happens that I’ll be up there for work that week, I figured why not have another go? I fully expect this race to be more competitive than last year, but hey, at least the age groups will be “real” age groups this time! This course is definitely not suited to my strengths (hello hills!) but it will be a fun summer time race. Oh, and some of my SOAS sisters will be racing too!

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October:

Ironman 70.3 North Carolina

This race, on the other hand, is more suited to my strengths- hello flat course! I’m pretty excited about this race because there are a bunch of local Tampa triathletes headed up to Wilmington, NC together, so it will be fun to see everyone out on the course. I’m a teeny bit concerned about the weather because this races has seemingly been a little unpredictable in the last few years, but hey, I’ll take what’s thrown at me! I hope this race will wrap up my season on a high note!

 

Tell me, what’s on your schedule this year??