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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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??





HITS Naples 2017 Race Report

12 01 2017

Why yes, it’s January 12th and I’ve already done my first triathlon of the 2017 season. Pretty crazy, eh? This year is shaping up to be a season chock full of racing and training, and I’m really excited about it. I’ll be doing a post soon with my schedule so you can see for yourself what I’ll be up to, but for now I’ll start you with my first race report of 2017, the HITS Naples Olympic Distance race.

It seems to me that January/February in Florida can sometimes have unpredictable weather. Some days it will be that beautiful cool weather in the morning and then warm up to a comfortable mid to high 70s. Other days, you’ll ask yourself, “Where did winter go?” as you sweat it out in 85 and 90% humidity. And sometimes, we’ll get a cold snap and temperatures will drop into the 30s-40s. Well, the weekend of the  HITS Naples race we had some less than ideal triathlon weather. On Saturday, for the Half and Full distance, though it was in the 70s, it thunderstormed off and on all day. The race still went off as planned, but the athletes dealt with wind and spurts of rain, often coming down in buckets.

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On Saturday night, temperatures dropped dramatically, and when I woke up on Sunday morning, it was 42 out with a real feel of 35 degrees. BRR! I had been watching the weather pretty closely, so I had made sure to stop by the Naples Cyclery on Saturday and stock up on cold weather cycling gear since I don’t really own any. This would prove to be a very, very, good decision.

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Sunday morning I had my typical breakfast of oatmeal, banana and nut butter, and then my parents and I drove to the race site around 6am. Transition for the Olympic distance athletes was open until 7:05, and we were staying about 10 minutes away, so this would gave me enough time to get there, deal with traffic, park, and get set up in transition. We did have to wait in a little bit of a line to get into the parking garage, but I think we were parked by 6:20/6:25.

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I got set up in transition, and then went back to the car for a little to stay as warm as possible for as long as possible. I put on my wetsuit and then made my way to the beach in time for the sprint start. When I got to the beach, I was shocked at how close the buoys were to the beach. And, that they had guards holding them by their lines!  The current was moving swiftly south and it was windy out. Oh, and there was a riptide warning in effect until 7pm that night. NBD. I huddled behind some stacks of beach chairs to stay out of the wind and watched the sprint start. Many of the athletes struggled to get out to the first buoy- they walked back out of the water, moved further north on the beach and then tried again. There wasn’t much swimming to get to that first buoy either. It was a few dolphin dives, and then a lot of people just walked. Once the athletes had made the first turn, there was more walking. I joked that they probably could have just floated to the other buoy faster than they were walking. This was certainly not a typical triathlon swim, and I was soon to experience it myself.

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After the sprint swimmers were done, the RD actually had the guards move the buoys a little further out, but the northern buoy was moved south of where it had been, so it was now south of the starting flag. Smart move! I stayed bundled up as long as I could, did some mobility work to get my joints and muscles a little warm, and then when it was 4 minutes from the start, I quickly disrobed, did some more warm up/mobility work and then it was go time!

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Swim:00:10:08.212

I’m not so certain I would call this a swim. It was more like a surf dash, which I used to do as a guard back in the day. But this was the longest one I’d ever done, and the air was definitely colder than the beautiful summers in Jersey. The water was much warmer than the air, so it actually felt good to get in. However, the current was not fun (and this is coming from someone who loves rough water!).

img_5576I basically dolphin dived my way out to the first buoy, and I could kinda start swimming to get around it. Then, I tried swimming parallel to the beach towards the other buoy, but it was really hard to get into a rhythm. We were right in the break, and the waves were coming in sloppy. The current was moving so fast that you were at the next buoy before you knew it.

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When I approached the south turn buoy, the lovely rising sun was directly in my eyes, but I turned and tried to catch a wave. At that point, I saw another female catching me on the left. On the way in, we were stroke for stroke. The way in was challenging because you were getting pulled hard to the south, and you really just needed to let it take you, rather than to fight it in hopes of a shorter run. It was also the deepest part of the whole swim! Finally my fingers touched and the girl and I got up and high knee-d it out.

img_5610We ran on the beach about 125 yards or so, and OMG was it COLD. My feet!! At this point, my heart rate was spiking, and I knew I needed to chill out a little for my own safety in the rough water. So, I backed off a little, let the other girl go (who, by the way, wasn’t wearing a wetsuit!!), and repeated that same loop. The second loop was much of the same. I had to fight the current to get around the first buoy, and then again, no falling into a groove at all as I went parallel to the beach. It was a matter of just making it through this water part of the triathlon and getting to the bike!

I made it out of the water in second place, and up on the beach I heard someone say I was 40 seconds behind. The competitor in me was like, “go get her!” but I was just here to have fun, so I tried not to worry about it!

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T1:00:04:22.384. Yes, I spent nearly 4 and a half minutes in transition during an Olympic distance race.

img_5637OMG slowest transition ever. But, I totally expected it. I was going to take my sweet time to make sure I was going to be warm for the bike. And, man was it worth it! HITS provides these nice stools to sit on, and in a normal Olympic I would NEVER sit on it. But today was not a normal Olympic. I sat on it, with my wetsuit half off and my towel wrapped around me and I dried off as much as I could. My toes and fingers were SO cold. I had more trouble than usual getting the wetsuit off my legs, and I’ve never had toes that numb before. I seriously was wondering if this is what it felt like to have dead toes. I took my time putting on my base layer, arm warmers, jersey, knee warmers, gloves, socks and shoes. I did not want to be miserable on the bike!

 

Bike: 01:09:16.716

img_5639I started the bike and I wasn’t sure if I was actually warm or if I was just numb. But, I realized that hey, I was actually warm! All the layers, the new knee warmers and the toe covers were doing their job and it was amazing. I’m pretty sure this was the first time ever I was happy to be out of the water and on the bike. I smiled and told myself just to have fun and think about my RPE. Be strong and don’t over do it!

The course was an out and back: we pretty much went due east for 12 miles and then came back. I think the wind was blowing 15-20 mph from the north, which meant that most of the course would have cross winds. There was a short section of the course where we rode on a North/South street so we got the benefit of a tailwind on the way out and a direct headwind on the way back, but the rest of the ride was all cross wind. For the most part, the roads were lined with trees and/or developments which blocked a little bit of the wind, but when we crossed the north/south streets, you really felt it blow. There were several times where I definitely felt my wheel get blown a little by the wind. I was thankful I wasn’t using 808s! I tried to stay around what I perceived to be Z3/4. I was passing people and it was great! The best part of the ride was certainly the short part where we went south. Hello 25mph without really working hard! Unfortunately, it was short lived. I passed several woman on the bike, and I was a little surprised by how many had made it in front of me during transition. I was really, really slow! In the last 5 miles, I passed two women who were looking pretty strong. The three of us traded places a few times, and I tried really hard to stay legal. In the last mile or so, I told myself I was NOT going to let these girls beat me, so I pedaled in HARD to leave them behind. Right before dismount, there was a bit of traffic, and some oblivious drivers. I had to slow way down and sneak past them. It was a little scary, but I still was able to get into transition in front of the two women. I think this put me back in second place.

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T2: 00:01:08.233

I quickly took off my helmet and shoes, and put on my run gear. This was a much faster transition than T1. I saw one woman get out of transition in front of me. I wasn’t sure if it was one of the two ladies I had just passed on the bike or if she had been in there before. Regardless, I was in and out pretty quickly, and I was ready to have a solid run!

Run: 00:53:19.069

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It was a beautiful day for a run, and my plan was to run strong for the first four miles and then really pick it up on the last two. I left transition in 2nd place, and settled in to a comfortably pace pretty quickly. My biggest problem was that my feet were still numb. Every step hurt, but not in an omg I need to stop kinda way- it was like my feet were asleep, but beyond that tingling feeling. I was worried that if I actually did run on a nail or anything crazy like that, I wouldn’t have known! Eventually, my toes moved into that tingling feeling and then I could finally feel them about halfway through the run.

img_5660The run course was an out and back which we did twice. About a mile and a quarter in, you made a right turn, went over a small bridge and then hit the turnaround. Then, of course, you went back over the bridge, made a left onto the straight portion until you turned around and did it again. Out and backs are both good and bad because you can see your competition all along the way! I wasn’t in 2nd for long; the girl who eventually won passed me less than half a mile in. She was speedy! I was running comfortably, focusing on my form and just enjoying this part of the day. I was pleased when the first mile beeped at 8:40- not bad for the effort I felt I was putting out.

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img_5666The rest of the run I tried to stay laser focused on execution. Yes, I was paying attention a little to the girls behind me as I made the turnaround, noticing that they were gaining ground, but I really felt like I was being in the moment during this run. Mile 2 ticked off at 8:40 also. Solid. I picked it up a little too much on mile 3, perhaps because I was close to the small crowd at the finish line, so I slowed a smidge. At around mile 5, at the right turn to go over the little bridge before the turn around, two girls wearing Iowa State kits passed me. “College kids”, I thought to myself. They were moving, and I wasn’t going to try to stay with them. I made my last turn around and was headed over the little bridge, when I noticed two girls behind me, maybe a quarter mile or so, one of which looked like she was running strong, and making up ground. I told myself that now was the time to dig deep and let it all out of the tank. So, I picked it up a notch. My watch had just beeped for 6 miles, when a group of girls yelled “Go Tiffany!” OMG the girl behind me had caught up. Go Steph, Go. Just then, she passed me, and the competitor in me said “Oh no she didn’t!” and then I passed her back. At this point in the course there was a quick left, right, left before the finish chute-  I really pushed hard here. But, whoa, that effort was not sustainable, so I backed off a smidge and she passed me again. We were just about in the chute, and hearing the crowd energized me to give it all I had for the last 50 yards. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough and I ended up .4 behind her. img_5672h_img_2948

img_5672j_img_2950img_5672n_img_2954Gah! Despite being out run, I am still quite pleased with my result. It was a solid was to kick of these season, especially considering I hadn’t done any specific training for this race. I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings!

Big shout out to my mom and dad for being out there all morning to cheer me on and take photos! Thanks!