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 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!





Playing Tourist in Sydney

28 11 2016

(plus a little surprise at the end)

At 3:30am, Bill and I woke up. Hello jet lag! Thankfully, we were still exhausted from the past two days, and falling back asleep for a few hours wasn’t terribly difficult. Around 6, I woke up again, and decided to go for a run around the harbor. It was a beautiful, brisk spring morning- perfect runner’s weather.

I ran around the Opera House, stopping to take the obligatory selfie in front of the impressive structure. img_6456Then, I made my way into the Royal Botanical Gardens where I spotted a kookaburra and stopped again to take a photo.

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I made my way to Mrs. Macquarie’s point, took even more photos, before heading back to wake Bill and get our day started. #tourist

 

We decided that today we’d take it a bit easier than yesterday, and instead of doing a crazy amount of walking, we’d play tourist on the Sydney and Bondi Hop On Hop Off tour bus. The other priority we had for today: heal our still-feeling-cramped-from-a-14hour-flight bodies with a massage!

Apparently the bus was the thing to do, because we had to wait for the 3rd bus before we made it to the front of the line. However, this gave Bill time to find us a reputable spa and book a massage!

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It was turning out to be a stunning day- bright blue skies with not a cloud in sight. And, it was actually getting pretty warm out! We sat on the open top of the bus and started to get a feel for the layout of the city, the places we wanted to check out, and planned where we needed to get off to make our spa appointment.

img_6478The famous Coke sign at King’s Cross

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Beautiful public library!

Soon, my tummy was growling. I was dead set on grabbing lunch in Chinatown, so we hopped off at the Powerhouse museum stop, headed over a few blocks, and walked into the first noodle shop we saw. It was TINY, there were hardly any English signs, and a woman was hand-making noodles only several feet away. Perfect! We skooted our way into the last two seats, and soon a woman delivered our menus and some fresh hot tea. Bill and I didn’t have a ton of time to dawdle, since our spa appointment was rapidly approaching, so we spotted some vegetarian stir-fried noodles on the menu and ordered 2 of them.

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The steaming bowl of noodles arrived and I knew we had made a very, very good decision.

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OMG these were by far the most delicious noodles I had EVER eaten. No joke, I am still dreaming about them. I really, really wish I lived in a city with something remotely close to these. The slightly chewy texture, the sweet sauce, the crunchy vegetables. Ah-mazing.

We paid our bill and then hit it- we had about a mile or so to walk and 20 minutes until our  appointment.

As we walked through the city Bill asked me nonchalantly, “So, did you see the family of roaches living above the kitchen?”

Disgusted, I said “WHAT?  Gross. They were dead, right?”

“Nope.”

Now I was even more disgusted, but thankful that Bill didn’t tell me while were were there! We then proceeded to joke about our “roach soup” for the rest of the day and the remainder of the trip. And despite being really grossed out, we seriously considered going back at least once more before we left Sydney because the noodles were just that good!

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We made our way to the Ayurve spa for our massage and it was OH SO NICE. The spa was actually in the Westfield Sydney. Yes, that same Westfield brand that I’m sure many of you recognize from suburbia. It was a little weird to go to a spa in a department store at a mall, but hey, the massage was awesome!

Fully relaxed, we walked to the closest stop for our tour bus that would take us to Bondi Beach. I was so looking forward to this beach because I really, really wanted to go swim at the Icebergs Club.

As our bus made the final turn to head down the hill to the drop off stop, we caught our first glimpse of the beach. Not gonna lie, but I got a little giddy when I saw the beautiful beach below and the surf rolling in. img_6485Something about the ocean just makes my heart flutter! When the bus stopped, I’m pretty sure Bill and I were the first ones off. We high tailed it over to the beach and stood on the grassy area for a few minutes just watching the waves roll in, mesmerized. The surf was up and there were loads of surfers in the water. I could tell that Bill was excited too- he used to surf a lot when he lived in California and he’s a water person just like me. It made me happy to see him happy.

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We walked closer and made our way onto the beach. Of course I put my feet in the water, and man was it chilly! We walked to the north end of the beach, and along our walk we saw a group of kids learning about water safety, and then a little further up there was a group of high-school aged girls with paddle boards, ready to tackle the open water. I’m pretty sure both of these groups were organized by one of the lifesaving clubs that calls this beach home. If I lived here, I can guarantee I would be part of one of those clubs.

 

We probably could have spent hours just staring at the ocean, but we didn’t have a ton of time before the last bus picked up and I really wanted to check out the Icebergs.

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We walked to the south end of the beach, and to my dismay, the lap pool was closed. It was too rough:(

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I was a little bummed (but maybe a little relieved too, because man, it would have been one cold swim!!), but hopeful I might get another chance later in the week if time allowed.

The other thing I had wanted to do while at Bondi was the Bondi to Coogee walk, which is this beautiful 4k walk along the shore/cliffs from Bondi down to the “suburb” of Coogee. This week there was an added bonus: Sculptures by the Sea, where artists installed their works right along the path. What better background could you ask for?

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I checked my watch and knew we didn’t have a time to do the entire walk, so Bill and I found a big rock that overlooked the ocean and some of the path to sit and relax for a bit.

Shortly after we sat down, Bill gave me a present. It was a small rectangular box, wrapped in some polka dot tissue paper. I tore open a little piece of it and saw a familiar red box. Um, this is the box for my pearl necklace. A little confused as to why I was being gifted something I already owned, Bill told me to put them on. Then he gave me a smaller, square box, also wrapped in the same polka dot tissue paper. Is this what I think it is?

Inside, there was a beautiful silver ring with a single pearl in the center of 6 sparkly white sapphires. He looked me in the eyes and expressed his love for me, and told me he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. ❤ Yes, me too!

As I put the ring on, Bill asked me if I knew how pearls were formed, and explained that when an irritant gets into a clam, it creates this protective coating, which eventually becomes the beautiful pearl. “So, if you put up with an irritant long enough…” he trailed off and we both started laughing.

After some kisses and some cuddling, we realized it was time to head back to the bus and back to Sydney.

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Back in town, we switched to the city hopper bus and snuggled up close to each other as we enjoyed the cooler evening air and some more of Sydney’s sights. I was still on cloud nine, and couldn’t stop looking at/touching my ring. It’s beautiful. Bill’s not the most traditional guy, so I was over the moon that he had gotten me a ring. (Yes, that’s very superficial of me, but I don’t care). We ended our night with a beautiful sunset at Darling Harbor where I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. What an absolutely perfect day.

(Side note: I didn’t actually take a ton of pictures of my ring; I wanted this to be our little secret, at least for a little while! And now, well, I guess the secret is officially out!)

Bondi will always have a special place in my heart!

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