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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Three Sisters and Back to Bondi

2 12 2016

I awoke to the sound of the car starting. It was still pitch black out, but I knew immediately that Bill had gone to the car to warm up. His sleeping bag is actually a camping quilt, overstuffed so that it is 40 degree bag. Despite all his layers, he was definitely not comfortable in this temperature.

I most certainly was not going to get out of my warm sleeping bag, so I closed my eyes and kinda fell back asleep. Soon, the sun arose and I joined Bill in the car.

“So, what’s the plan?”

I could tell Bill hadn’t gotten much sleep (I mean, look at how small the car is! He’s 6’4″!) so we opted to start heading back to Sydney. But first, we needed to stop at the Three Sisters again, and actually hike over to get up close and personal with the girls:-0

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On the way back to Three Sisters, we were able to check off another thing from our “must do/see” in Australia list: we saw wild kangaroos! Just like deer in the states, a few shot out in front of the car, and we had to quickly break. I was only able to get a shot of this guy, who was still hanging out in someone’s farm, separated from his friends.

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We got back up to the visitors center and boy, was it windy! We followed the trail, went down some steep steps and crossed wooden walkway that was just a bit sketchy. Don’t. Look. Down. I told myself!

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We grabbed some photos, watched the crazy cockatoos (which are wild there, and are obnoxiously loud!) before heading back up. Some other walkers stopped to chat with us and told us we should check out the falls that was just up the road a bit. It was still pretty early, so I convinced Bill to stop. Well, not after stopping at this super cute coffee shop where I had the most amazing fruit cake ever.

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Absolutely NOTHING like the boxed sticky stuff you get. This was clearly homemade and outstanding!

We didn’t spend a ton of time at the falls; we actually saw them from a distance but didn’t want to walk all the way over and down to the bottom. It was chilly and we were both ready for a nap.

On the way home, we found a safe spot to stop and pulled over to take a 30 minute nap. Much needed!

We still had plenty of time before we needed to return the car, so I asked Bill if we could go back to Bondi and do the Coogee walk to see the sculptures. He agreed and navigated us back to that special place:-)

Today however, was a completely different day than Tuesday. It was much, much cooler, cloudy, and rainy. The surf was much calmer and the beach was empty.

We waited out the rain at a noodle shop and though it was quite good, it wasn’t quite as tasty as roach soup place. With full bellies and drier weather, we headed to Sculptures by the Sea. On the way, we passed the Iceberg club, which to my dismay was closed. Apparently every Thursday the pool is closed for cleaning. Argh! I guess that just means I need to go back!

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The art walk was really rad- so many beautiful and interesting sculptures. Here’s a few of my favorites!

 

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After we had seen all the sculptures, we headed back to the main drag to a brewery that had caught our eye on Tuesday. We grabbed a beer sampler at the Bavarian Bier Garden and played some foozeball. I am absolutely terrible and Bill whooped my butt every game. Tired and over foozeball, we headed back to Sydney since it was certainly not a beach day.

We returned the car and walked in the rain to our AirBnB, a loft studio in King’s Cross. King’s Cross is definitely more of an interesting neighborhood than Circular Quay: eclectic, artsy, and just the right amount of seedy.

The rainy weather did not make it an appealing night to be out and about, so we grabbed some take out Mexican, bought a bottle of wine, and had a relaxing night in.





Aussie Wildlife and a Night in the Bush

30 11 2016

Wednesday morning we woke up not quite as early as the previous two days, but still earlier than most people when they’re on vacation. That gave us plenty of time to pack up our things because today we were headed out to the Blue Mountains!

As if Sydney couldn’t get any more awesome, there’s a mountain range about two hours outside of the city center with national parks, beautiful vistas, waterfalls, and of course, camping!

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Before skipping town, we grabbed breakfast at this Venezuelan place on the corner. The arepas and tequenos (fried cheese sticks)  were delish and the guys running the place were incredibly friendly. Highly recommend!

We were initially going to take the train out to the mountains, but I am so glad we decided to rent a car. The flexibility it afforded us was totally worth it. Especially because we were able to stop here on the way:

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It was totally worth the $30 entry fee (per person). There were so many animals and a number of opportunities to pet and feed them. For instance, just after paying, you walk through the gate of a chain link fence and immediately there are what looks like tiny kangaroos hopping towards you.

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No joke, this was 15 seconds after we had walked into the park. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the name of what these guys were (perhaps a wallaby?), but there were several out and about, and a few others were in their designated habitat, which was set up so that they could come and go freely.

We also got to see koalas and we even got to pet one named Victor. Unfortunately, they don’t let you hold them. Just pet his bum and pose for a photo while he sleeps. Quite glamorous I tell ya.

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Since I can’t remember all the names of the animals we saw, I’ll just post some of the pics.

We spent several hours at the park before our growling tummies told us we were well overdue for food. Park food was not appealing, so we hit the road in search of something tasty. Unfortunately for us Americans, Yelp does not seem to be their app of choice for rating and reviewing places to eat. They’re more Trip Advisor people it would appear. Anyhow, we found a small Thai place with decent Pad Thai and then we hit up a grocery store to get some supplies for our night/morning in the bush (oatmeal, some krumpets, and some water).

(Other fun things we found at the grocery store but didn’t buy)

I knew we were going to camp at/near the Three Sisters, but I hadn’t done much more research than that. Normally, I’m the planner and Bill’s the lax one when it comes to figuring out our itinerary,  but it always seems to work out when he wings it. So, this was my experimentation with “winging it” – I figured there’d be signs telling us where to go. Unfortunately, when Bill typed “Three Sisters” into the GPS 50 bajillion hits came up. Ok, not 50 bajillion, but definitely more than a handful. We picked one and off we went.

Soon, we arrived at what looked to be a restaurant in the forest. Someone who clearly worked there was just closing the door as though business was done for the day, so I ran out and asked where Three Sisters was. Surprisingly, she wasn’t quite sure, but directed us back towards the highway and Katoomba. We searched again in Google Maps, and found another “Three Sisters” in the general direction the woman had pointed us. Thankfully this time there were clear signs directing us to the Three Sisters at Echo Point Katoomba.

When we arrived, it was really windy and starting to get chilly. We ran out to the overlook to get a few photos before I went into the information center to ask where we could camp. It was late afternoon at this point and I knew we would run out of sunlight in the next few hours, so time was of the essence. I was thankful they were open- 45 minutes later and we would have been out of luck! I told the woman at the desk we wanted to camp and she asked if we were bush camping or in an RV. When I confirmed bush camping, she gave me a sheet of paper that listed a number of free (YES!!!!) campsites we could drive to. She told me two of her top picks and off we went (for another 20 minute drive!)

Finally, after a lot of twists and turns and downhill, we made it to the Old Ford Reserve.

We immediately got to unpacking and setting up our tent. Correction: we didn’t bring a tent; we brought a tarp, a ground cloth, and our trekking poles for our shelter. This would be my second time tarp camping, and to say I was a bit nervous to do this in the Australian bush was an understatement. We were in the land of crazy wild and dangerous creatures and I was not going to be surrounded on all sides by an enclosed tent?!

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NBD, just a little skink.

Why, you ask, did I agree to do this? Well, for one, this would be our only night out in Australia. In New Zealand, two of our nights would be in the Department of Conservation’s huts and there was one other night where I thought we’d be camping out, but we had the flexibility to get a hotel room if we wanted. So, for one real night outside, Bill and I agreed that the weight of the tent wasn’t worth bringing all this way. And, if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you, right?

Novices in tarp tenting, we spent a bit of time setting up our A-frame abode. I’m sure an experienced boy scout would have had a good laugh at us, but hey, we got it set up. Unfortunately, our campsite of choice was covered in these prickly things that poked through our ground cloth. Worried about puncturing our inflatable sleeping pads, I went in search of a new campsite.

We found one on the other side of the paved road, along a dirt road that didn’t seem to get much use. We were now further away from all the other camper vans than we had been previously, but at least this one didn’t have the prickly things!

Attempt number 2 at setting up camp was more successful. We decided to go with the lean-to this time, since it would have been a tight squeeze under the A-frame because our tarp isn’t a full-size tarp.

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Winner winner, campfire dinner!

Before we actually made our dinner, we explored our surroundings a little more. There was a hill just across the dirt road, which led up to what I believe was a horse farm; but if there was a stable, it was nowhere in sight. There was also a creek down the paved road in the other direction, but there were signs warning that it was unsafe to drink. How unfortunate, because it sure was pretty!

Finally, we made our dinner as the sun set. As it got darker, it got cold! We went for another walk (with headlamps on) back up to the top of the hill where the sky was absolutely full of bright stars. It was stunning! I don’t think I have ever seen that many stars- it makes you realize how small we truly are in our great, grand universe. Our star gazing didn’t last too long because I was needed another layer! Jeans + short sleeve shirt + fleece was not enough for this Florida girl.

Back at the tent, we changed into warmer sleeping clothes and curled up to watch a movie on the iPad. Yes, I said we watched a movie. I needed the distraction so I didn’t think about what might have been lurking beyond the tree line. Eventually, I was tired enough that I could fall asleep. I closed my eyes and prayed nothing would come get us!