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!

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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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We made it to Sydney!

11 11 2016

One of the main reasons we were able to make this trip happen was that we used Delta miles to buy flights. Virgin Australia is their partner airline and what we’d take to get from LA to AUS. It was my first time on any Virgin branded plane, and I was quite pleased with the plane and the service.

img_6438Our plane left LA on Saturday night (October 22nd) at 10:35, which to my east coast body felt like 3:30am. We had been awake since 5:30am EST, so to say we were exhausted was an understatement.

 

One of my well traveled friends recently told me that the key to surviving the flight and not having terrible jet lag was to stay awake for the meal plus 1 movie and then sleep. I barely made it through dinner (I selected the vegetarian option, which was a nice mushroom stuffed ravioli, by the way) before I could barely keep my eyes open. I was in the middle seat (in coach) between Bill and a very nice woman who I’d chatted with briefly at the start of the flight, so I wasn’t expecting the best sleep, but I popped on the complementary eye mask, my ear plugs (they provided some too), adjusted the seat and headrest, and surprisingly, I was able to sleep! It wasn’t the best sleep of my life, but it was definitely a longer sleep than I was expecting!

I woke up a little before they served breakfast (which I believe was 2-3 hours before we landed), read for a bit (Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country) and before I knew it we were landing. OMG OMG OMG we are in Australia!!

We arrived around 7:30am on MONDAY, October 24th. Thank you international date line. I never experienced October 23, 2016. Hope nothing important happened!

We cleared customs and immigration with no hiccups (but we made sure to declare our camping knife and food!) and headed to the CBD (central business district) to drop off Bill’s cases at a storage facility (he was heading directly to a gig from this vacation and needed to bring all that stuff with him). Obviously I needed to get a doughnut when I passed this window:

 

It’s Doughnut Time!

Raspberry with a coconut sugar on top-it was super sweet but also super tasty!

Sugar rush complete, we scurried off to drop our backpacks at our AirBnB, in the Circular Quay/Rocks part of town. Our place was like 4 blocks from the Harbor- perfect location for tourists like us!

Today’s goal was to fight the tired and enjoy as much of the day as possible (since it wasn’t even noon yet!), so we started by walking to the harbor and wandering around.

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When I first saw the harbor up close, with the opera house to my right and the bridge to my left, I thought to myself, OMG I can’t believe I’m actually in Australia! We strolled around for only a short bit before realizing our stomachs were telling us it was about time for a proper meal. So we hit up a little cafe just outside the harbor where we shared some eggs and a slice of lemon merengue pie, after seeing the foot tall pie in the window. So much for a “proper” meal I guess!

The rest of the day consisted of:

  • Visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art, and experiencing virtual reality. img_6449
  • Wandering around the Harbor Bridge. That thing is massive!

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  • Learning about astronomy at the Sydney Observatory and lounging for a bit on Observatory Hill

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  • Walking around some more, including a stop at the local Lululemon to find out where we could do some yoga.
  • Stopping for a mid-afternoon margarita and table side guac at a hip place called Mejico. YUM!
  • Getting our OHM on at a yoga studio called YogaBar. The studio was in the mall, which was interesting, but it definitely felt good to move! I wish we had taken the later class, which was a more traditional yoga class; the one we took was part yoga/part weights, but we took it because we weren’t sure we’d be able to fight the jet lag long enough to make it to the later class.
  • Enjoying some dumplings from a dumpling bar close to the AirBnB.
  • Crashing HARD at 8:30pm.

PHEW. That was a LONG day! We packed a bunch of stuff into our first day, thanks to such an early arrival. I was so excited to see more!