Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ironman 70.3 Monterrey race recap #2

To finish out Saturday, we had to walk our bikes about 1.5 miles to transition to check them in for the night. The check in process and body marking was very smooth. I was happy with my spot - only a few bikes away from the bike out!

Everyone turned in early - I didn't even eat a proper dinner, just went back to my room and foraged on snacks that I had brought with me. After setting everything up so I would not forget anything, I took part of a sleeping pill so I would get a few hours sleep and hit the sack. My alarm was set for 4 am but I woke wide awake at 3, laying there until the alarm sounded. We met in front of my hotel to take a taxi to transition to finish setting up. We picked up one more new friend from San Francisco. After catching a cab back to the hotel, I was able to go back to my room for a few minutes. This was a good thing since I realized I forgot to charge my Garmin! Crazy, since this has been apart of my pre-race routine forever! With one minute to spare, it was fully charged and I met up with Monica from San Francisco to walk to the swim start to meet the others.
Gotta love the background--porta potties!

I was in the first wave start after the pros--yay for putting old ladies first! This made me happy, kind of a mental edge even though I knew I would be passed by other waves. My fastest mile swim before was about 45 minutes so I figured I would beat the 1:10 cutoff. I was pleased coming out of the water in 50 minutes. I had to stop a couple of times when I was being jostled around but swam continuously for the most part. We had to run up a bunch of stairs to get to transition but it was a smooth one. I remembered helmet, etc!

We had been warned of a section of  about 600m of cobblestone that would be rough. Ha! Understatement. I wasn't on my bike for 5 minutes before I lost my water bottle from my aerobar, my bike box lid popped off and the tire lever flew out and one of my rice packets came out of my pocket. I had planned my nutrition so I would not have any extra - Feed Zone rice cakes and Skratch drink. Losing one of the rice cakes meant losing a couple hundred calories. Luckily, the weather was cooler than the day before - instead of mid 80's it was more like low 70's. The brick-like cobblestone was about 3 miles in addition to the regular stone. It was so jarring, my arm felt like it was coming out of it's socket.

The pictures don't do it justice! There was one section on the rock portion that funneled down into one bike width. I felt sorry for the people behind me because I was riding cautiously through. The bulk of the miles were on Constitucion Avenue which was akin to their highway. After I got a few miles onto this road, I stopped to put my top back on the bike box so I wouldn't lose anything else out of it. On top of the rough section of road, we had winds. We had been told that we would have a headwind on the downhills and tailwind on the uphills but no such luck. It felt like riding in Davis County where there is a headwind both directions. It was difficult to stay in aero for long stretches because of the wind gusts. According to my plan, I was eating or drinking something every 15-20 minutes. I was too afraid to toss my old water bottle and grab a new one on the go so on the second loop, I stopped for a half a minute to refresh my water. It was during that second loop that I was thinking again "how the heck will I ever do a full ironman!" The bike course is about 90 km with an aid station every 10 km so I just focused on using them as my markers and enjoying the scenery. As I started the third loop (all the while hoping my bike would hold together and not shake apart), I had never looked so forward to starting a run! I wanted to finish with my rice and Skratch on the third loop. The first aid station was pretty empty so I pulled over, finished food, got a new water bottle and went potty since there were no lines. The one thing that makes me chuckle now is that on the last loop, I was actually talking out loud to the round speed bumps that were on the highway. If you've ever been in a car in Mexico, you know how crazy the driving can be so they put these round bumps throughout the road so make them slow down. I was saying farewell to them as I passed over them.

It took all the mental toughness I've ever had to make it through that last loop of cobblestone and into T2! I was shaken to the core! My goal was 3 hours on the bike but it took 3:31.

There had been a possibility of rain so I had left my running shoes and hat in a plastic bag. I put my bike shoes in the bag, popped a few salt tabs and a gu and took off running out of transition. I was able to maintain my 5:1 run/walk ratio for the first loop. The sun came out for a little bit during my run but it was cloudy and a little rainy for most of it which was nice. There was an aid station every kilometer. I managed to stay hydrated and dumped water on my head every couple stops. I discovered that one of my gu packets had disappeared on the bike as well. Sometime into the second loop, I was saved by eating part of a Kind bar and having a shot of Pepsi. I don't like full sugar soda but it did taste good at that point!

I really didn't have an idea what to expect on the run and figured if it took me 3 hours, it would be okay. My goal overall was 7 hours. Into the run, I changed that expectation to 7:30 so I was happy when I finished with 7:17 and a 2:43 run.

I ran into Rich at the finish line and we sat and talked for a few minutes but didn't see anyone else. I knew it would take me awhile to walk my bike and stuff back to the hotel so after picking up my morning clothes bag, went to retrieve the rest of my stuff and my bike. I got about halfway back to the hotel before I realized I was missing my helmet! Dang it! It blew off my bike in transition. I learned several lessons that day with my transitions and nutrition.

MaryEllen's dad, Bill, had my phone but I never saw him so I had to wait until meeting up with them later that evening to get it. It had exploded with texts and FB posts - thank you all! I had no idea where I had placed until I read Lizz's post.  There were only three people in my age group so I knew all I had to do was finish the race to place but was excited to see that I came in 2nd place.

Going to the awards ceremony was fun. It was after the slot allocation ceremony for those who qualified to go to World's. Of the people at my table, 4 made it through the qualification. Very exciting and I was happy for each of them. Luckily for me, the woman who took first in my AG accepted the slot so that I wouldn't have to make that decision. I'm pretty sure at that point I never wanted to compete again!

After dinner, it was back to the hotel to get things packed up. I had made plans to take bike back to bike shop to disassemble but when I got there Monday morning I discovered it closed because it was a holiday. Trying not to panic, I went back to the hotel lobby and started taking things apart. Luckily for me one of the nice hotel workers was a mechanic and came to my rescue! My flight was not scheduled until later in the afternoon but I was able to get on an earlier one, so off to the airport! I had the same taxi driver as had taken me to the bike shop, Jose. He spoke English and we had a great conversation. I actually gave him a hug for all his help as he dropped me off! Guess I was emotional about leaving.

If everything went well (you know that's not where I'm going with this!) I would be back to SLC around 9 pm instead of my original midnight arrival. We were a little late arriving into Houston and the lines for customs/immigration were very long - so much so that I was still in line as my connecting flight was leaving. Once I made it up to the guy, he asked me to stand to the side and wait for someone. Evidently I was flagged in the system so after a 15 minute wait, I was taken into a room and asked if I'd ever been arrested. Excuse me? I told him no and he said, "Good, because I didn't find anything on you."  Oh my word, this adventure was never ending!  Off to collect my bags and recheck them. By the time I got to the counter, I was so ready to just be home so I felt sorry for the agent as she watched my eyes fill with tears as I asked her to get me home. The next plane departed late so by the time I arrived at home and crawled into bed it was 1:30 am. I'd been up for 22+ hours!

I'm so grateful for the opportunity I had to push to another level. I don't mean this to sound like an acceptance speech but to all my friends and family who cheered me on and believed in me, I appreciate you. My wonderful, kind and loving coach, Lizz, was so instrumental in getting me here, I love her so much!

I met so many people with great stories - one kid had been at the Desert Tri last month when I was there. He decided to start triathlon and registered without even owning a bike! I didn't get his name to look at results, I hope he did great. Another woman was having Monterrey be her first race back six months post surgery - having her hamstring reattached. She won her age group and qualified for World's.  I'm sure there were as many stories as there were people.

I am almost done rambling but want to give another shout out to Milo, tri club president from Monterrey - he answered all my questions via email, text and in person. If you ever want to train or compete in Monterrey, let me know and I'll hook you up with this wonderful gentleman!
I know there are lots of things I missed talking about but you all get the idea of how emotional this was for me. I get to recover this week and then onto the harder training for Ironman Texas!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ironman 70.3 Monterrey race recap #1

Transition Area
You'll have to bear with me - this may be a long, rambling report! This was beyond a doubt the hardest thing I have done to date. But well worth it - it goes along with my mantra of doing something every day that scares me! This scared the crap out of me.

The adventure started early in the week when I took my bike to have it disassembled and packed in bike case. It was a good feeling knowing that I could check that off my to do list. The day before I left, I received a message from an online friend who had already arrived in Monterrey asking me if I could find a cable for him - TSA had zipped through his and one could not be found. It was an easy chore and then I headed home to finish packing. My flight wasn't super early but I had to leave the house about 7 am for the required two hour check-in. As far as flights go, all went smoothly and I sailed through customs in Mexico and caught a taxi to my hotel.
Aaron - my new friend from Wisconsin met me so I could give him the cable and he helped me get my bike put together. Except we hit a snag when I discovered I was missing the cap to my handlebars. Wow, that stressed me out!
I was able to reach Hernan at the Cycling Boutique bike shop and he assured me we could get everything taken care of in the morning. There was not a lot left to do except find a place to eat dinner. The hotel staff recommended a place so away in the cab we went. It wasn't exactly the best place for a pre-race dinner and I was so tired that I was barely able to eat anything. After dinner we discovered the spectacle in the front window.

The next day we took my bike to the bike shop and they took great care of me and I was able to breathe a deep sigh of relief. Aaron also got his bike/cable put back in working order. We were able to head to the expo just across the street. It was mostly easy to communicate with everyone but anytime we heard English being spoken, it was like a magnet! We met MaryEllen, Barbi & Bill from the Dallas area and then some folks from New Hampshire.

The expo was a little unorganized but flowed okay if not a little slow. The IM 70.3 merchandise had not cleared customs so the store did not open until later in the day.

A few weeks prior to the race, I had been introduced through FaceBook to a Monterrey resident tri coach by a mutual friend. Milo turned out to be my saving grace! He was so nice and helpful and he was who introduced me to the bike mechanic and offered to help in any way he could. It was fun to find him at the expo and give him a big hug! Their tri club had over a hundred athletes competing on Sunday.

Aaron and I took out bikes out for about thirty minutes within the park loop so we could rest assured that everything was in good working order.  Dinner plans were made with the Texas folks and we were to meet up with some of their other friends at the Sierra Madre Brewing Company downtown. We met Tori from Connecticut and Rich from Texas for pizza, drinks and lots of laughter. It was the first half ironman distance for Tori, Barbi and me so we talked a lot about this.

I was able to sleep much better that night knowing my bike was working. A group swim was planned for Saturday morning. The race swim is in a man made canal and no swimming is allowed except during competition. It helped to calm my nerves to get in the water to know what to expect. It was like swimming in a giant pool - the water was about 68-70 degrees so it was wetsuit legal.

Afterwards, we headed to the English speaking athlete meeting. There was some conflicting information so we wanted to make sure our questions were all answered. Of course, we met more "friends".  Questions all answered, we ate lunch and then I headed out for a quick pre-race run. I think the temperature hit mid-80's that day so it was a slow, tough run.

I'm going to wrap up this post at the end Saturday so I can write more detail of actual race day on the next post!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Desert Triathlon

When you go to the desert on an adventure, you're bound to run into dinosaurs. We found this guy somewhere north of Palm Springs! And an adventure it was. Taking off from SLC late Thursday evening put us into St. George after midnight. In December I decided it would be a great idea to do a sprint triathlon a couple of weeks before the half ironman. The venue was the same as the HITS tri I did in early December. I was fortunate enough to have talked a couple of fellow tri club members into competing as well so we decided to make it a weekend trip with lots of driving.

The plan was to get to Palm Springs in time to pick up packets, do the group swim, and get a quick bike and run done. You know what they say about making plans? Ha! The day started out just fine but then the rain started coming and didn't stop for most of the way.

At one point, an hour or so before our destination, a BMW decided to make a U-turn in front of me on the freeway going 65 mph. He must have hydroplaned and his life may have flashed before him as he looked up at my truck just inches from the driver's door as he passed in front of me heading towards the center barrier. Nerve wracking to say the least. We made it in time to pick up packets but missed the swim and the weather was not conducive to running or biking. After checking into the hotel and getting settled, dinner was at my favorite place, Babe's. It has the best barbeque!
The alarm was going off early so we headed back to get our gear ready for the race in the morning.
It was wonderful to wake up to clear skies and mid-fifty degrees. The sun rising over the lake was a welcome site!

Race morning is always exciting with anticipation of what's to come. We set up our transition areas with lots of time to spare and met a few of the people racked around us. This was going to be a very competitive race, one woman next to me had done Kona four times! Oh well, I wasn't in it to win it; just to get wet in preparation for Mexico. The water was about 65 degrees. It felt so pleasant compared to the fifty degrees it was in December. Carmen and I were in the last wave and Melinda was about 20 minutes before us.
The whistle blew and we were off! I started way too fast and was barely around the first buoy when my brain started asking me how the hell I was going to swim a full ironman. I pushed the thoughts away and focused on the moment and came out of the water four minutes faster than my last tri. It was a little chilly so I decided to wear a wind breaker on the bike and it was a good thing for me to do. The bike course is relatively flat and even though I was in the last group getting out of the water, I was able to pass several dozen on the bike, averaging just under 18 mph. The best part for me though was starting the run and having strong legs. I didn't feel noodle legs that often happen and was able to run strong. The run was around the lake mostly on trails. It was a little shy of a 5k but I was able to manage about a 10 min pace which always makes me happy in a tri. I was even able to pass someone in my age group in the last quarter mile! Overall it was a good race, taking quite a bit of time off my last one. I finished 7 out 12 though because there were some screaming fast old ladies in this age bracket! The winner-Kona lady-was 28 minutes faster! I'm not sure that is even an attainable goal for me!
We all did great and were glad to get that first one out of the way for the year.
Amazingly enough, the weather did not hold, so after getting cleaned up and heading back to Utah, we dealt with pouring down rain most of the way!
I am proud to have worn the kit for my race team - - and look forward to a good year of representing them!
Let the tapering begin - nine days until departing for Mexico!