Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Ironman Texas 2014

I headed out on Wednesday last week for Texas to compete in the Ironman Texas race. I was excited. I felt like everything I've done for the past 4 years had led me to this point. Especially all the hours of training I had put in in the past six months. Little did I know that in 72 hours, I would be wondering if it had been enough.

Thursday morning I met up with my fellow Utahns and went to the Ironman Village to register and buy all sorts of memorabilia and pick up our bikes.

Our plan was to go for a ride of an hour or so but we soon found out the roads in the area weren't very friendly for smooth riding. After the fact, we figured out we needed to go in a different direction to get out of the main traffic areas. As it was we pedaled around the river and checked out the transition areas.

Then it was time to go to the athlete dinner and get motivated by the voice of Ironman, Mike Reilly!
My coach and friend, Lizz, was supposed to come down but I received word that some sick kids were preventing this from happening. I was disappointed but I had a lot of my tri family there to cheer me on.

Friday morning was the practice swim. It was calming to be able to get into the water and even more so with the revelation that the water temperature was such that we were going to be wetsuit legal! After a quick shower, it was time to drop the bike and bags off at transition.

I have to say, at this point, I was really calm. I knew the "hay was in the barn" and there was nothing left to do but get started in the morning. We met up for an early dinner and then I headed to hotel to do my final preparations and sleep.  I did not have a good night's sleep which is usual for the night before a race. At 3 am I received a text from Lizz that she was on her way down - making the 9 hour drive to be there! Couldn't go back to sleep after that!

Race morning - The morning was beautiful. After setting up and checking our T1 transition, we had about a mile walk to get to the swim start. As far as swim starts go, it was pretty normal. Lots of energy, anxiety and anticipation. And long bathroom lines. But eventually we found our way to the water and the cannon went off.
I had thought I would hang back and to the side like I know a lot of first timers were going to do but I started in the middle of the pack. It wasn't so bad really, I got jostled around a little but nothing more. This was going to be my longest swim ever. I had no idea what to expect so I kept my head down and played Dori ("just keep swimming, just keep swimming"). I didn't look up or look at my watch so by the time I turned into the canal, I had convinced myself that I was the very last swimmer out there. I felt/saw a kayak behind me which confirmed my thinking. We have 2:20 to do the swim so imagine my surprise when the volunteers helped me out of the water and I was at 1:58 AND there were still lots of bikes in transition. The volunteers were so great. In the changing tent, they helped me get into my T1 bag and get my shoes and sunscreen on. One of the many things I learned on Saturday is what I need and don't need in my bags. Off I went to grab my bike. The crowds were still cheering even a couple of hours into it!

I felt good so even though the wind was more than I had planned on, I felt like I was hanging in there and it wouldn't be an issue! And it wasn't for the first 30 miles. I wasn't tracking my speed so a lot of this is in retrospect. I had practiced my nutrition on my long rides so I stuck with what I knew, water sips every 15 minutes and some Vitargo every 10 miles. And salt tabs. I'm not sure when things started going downhill but I know when I got to 40 miles, the wind and "rolling" hills were starting to get to me. Training in wind had made me confident but when I reached 50 miles my confidence was waning. I was enjoying the scenery and especially when we rode through the Sam Houston National Forest. It was beautiful and I remember thinking it would be fun to go camping there! I passed the 60 mile cutoff point and stopped at the aid station a couple miles further up. They informed me I had about 14 minutes to get moving before they would have to pull me. I freshened up a bit, refueled and refilled. I started to take off but realized that with the predicted headwinds I was not going to make the 80 mile cutoff time so I walked back to the med tent and told them I was pulling myself.

I have never not finished a race. This was a very hard decision for me and I've been second guessing myself for the past 4 days. I know it was the right thing for me to do but it's still disappointing. I was loaded up in the SAG wagon with 3 others who couldn't finish and we started the long drive back to The Woodlands. I sent a text to Lizz on what happened so she was waiting for me when I arrived. Not sure if I cried or not but it was great to see her "coach" face and have her help me dissect some of what happened. She kept saying "when you do your next one" to which I said "oh hell no"!!!

After a quick shower, I grouped up with my crowd to cheer for the racers still on the course. It was really fun to see them run by a few times and then to see them cross the finish line! We took a little break to eat something after our group had finished but went back to the finish line just after 11 pm to see the end of the race. If you've never been at an Ironman finish at midnight - you must! The energy from the crowd is amazing, we are all loudly cheering in the last of the runners. It can also be heartbreaking to see someone who isn't going to make the cutoff by just seconds.

Sunday we went to the awards banquet. I keep using the word amazing but it really does describe the people, the energy and the determination of all the participants. By this time I had become more amenable to thinking about registering for another full ironman race. A few of texts from coaches and friends were encouraging me to make the attempt and to not waste the training I had worked on. So far there isn't one that will work in my schedule but I'll keep looking. In the meanwhile, while still at the banquet, fresh from defeat, with coach's approval, I registered for the Boise 70.3. It's in 17 days. I haven't looked at the course but know that for myself it's important to jump back on that horse!

Most of my group left on Sunday and try as I could, there were no available flights to get me home earlier so I spent the rest of the day and the next morning doing one of my favorite things!
On Monday morning I received an email saying that I had a run workout to do. I wasn't sure my legs would cooperate but they did and I actually felt better for it.

I know I have forgotten a lot of the goings on from the weekend, it was an emotional time for me. I do know that I have learned a lot - about participating in an Ironman and most importantly, about myself. I hope to take that knowledge and keep on pushing myself to the limit!

I'm grateful to all who have encouraged and supported me on this journey. I have an amazing tri family, coach and friends. And an even more awesome husband and sons who have cheered me on from the very beginning. Love you all!!!!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Volunteer Weekend

I'm going to start at the end of the weekend because I am a pretty sappy person and wanted to share this. Driving home from St. George yesterday, I saw many vehicles with bikes from the Ironman 70.3 race. I too had my bike on my rack as well as a friend's bike who had competed in the race. Even though I didn't compete Saturday, I felt this bonding experience whenever I passed one of these cars. I thought, yes, I am apart of this crowd! I am SO GRATEFUL for that and for the entire tri community for all that I've gained in the past few years. Okay, done being emotional!

It was great fun to volunteer again this year. I did body marking and was excited to see everyone first thing in the morning when the adrenaline is working hard. The day was beautiful - even at 4:30 am.
The buses were all unloaded and the swim start was going to begin. The pro men started it off, followed by the pro women and then the relay teams and age groupers.

I had a perfect viewpoint for the exit from T1 towards the bike mount line. I hope everyone could hear me screaming their names!

When we could leave the lake, I went home for a bit until the road opened up and I could make it into town to see the run portion. It was a very hot day and the Salt Lake and Southern Utah Tri Clubs had an aid station where they were handing out ice, water and otter pops. It was the perfect location to cheer on the runners!

Coach Jen was having a blast with the megaphone!
I stayed until I saw most of my friends come through the run area but had to head out to meet my mother-in-law for dinner. We also had an appointment for facials at the Red Mountain Spa. If you've never gone there and want to splurge sometime, check it out! We arrived early enough to sit and relax before our scheduled time. I had to laugh a little because I can never still my mind and I remembered this funny pic.
Yep, that's me!

It was an early to bed night because I was set to ride 100 miles on Sunday. This was it, my final big workout prior to IMTX taper. I am grateful to Carmen and James for riding the first 30 with me. It was a beautiful morning again. No wind, perfect temperature. For the first 3 hours anyway. :-) James and Carmen headed back to Sand Hollow after the first loop and off I continued. Besides the time and mileage, I was fine tuning my nutrition. As the day went on, the wind picked up and the heat was rising. I was able to use my mom-in-law's house as a pit stop but soon realized I was going to run out of nutrition. I stopped to take a drink by the cows in the picture above. They didn't like it and started talking to me! I finished up at 6 hours and a little over 80 miles, with 4700 feet of climbing.

I learned a lot yesterday, like that I need to reapply sunscreen on my face since I wipe my nose and rub it all off. I learned how much nutrition I need to plan on and what I can carry. And most of all, I learned that I can do this!

13 days.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

GPP Endurance Tri Camp

I have never been to Arkansas and did not know what to expect. What a beautiful place! There are rolling hills that aren't so rolling in places and the people are wonderful.

A slight detour for me on the way to camp happened on Wednesday. I was able to fly through Atlanta and go the store and meet with a few of my team members. It was fun to put faces to names.

I went to the tri camp put on by GPP Endurance from Thursday to Monday. This is my fifth tri camp and I was looking forward to it and to seeing Coach Lizz.
There she is! The time is too far and in between for our face to face chats. She coaches me from afar via Training Peaks, email and texts. I was probably most looking forward to this part of camp.

Besides the fact that this camp was in Arkansas, the biggest difference for me from past camps is that I was not the newbie! I was, in fact, an experienced triathlete. Who knew that would ever have happened. It was fun talking with others who have not done a triathlon yet. But being experienced by no means translates into knowing it all - I learned so much and still have so much to learn.

We started the day on Friday at the pool at 5:30am with a two hour swim. The local tv station was there doing a story on the camp and the reporter was actually participating in the camp!
After the swim, we had a little break to get ready for the rest of the day.  We met up at the GPP facility for introductions and a little workout, then headed out for a 30 mile bike ride.
Everyone made it even though we had some flats and a tumble off the road by one person. She was okay, just a little scraped up. That evening we were all participating in a trail run race. I'm not particularly fond of trail running but am always up for a challenge. We had the option for 5k or 10k and of course my coach said "10k!". This was a boy scout benefit race and they did a really great job with setup, volunteers, course marking (although some of my peeps would argue that point!). I even got to see an old friend from my very first tri camp.
So fun to see Coach Shawn!
Almost every single GPP camper earned a medal at the race. We pretty much swept it all!
The next day, after a "dead to the world" sleep, we started all over again! GPP workout, bike, run and open water swim.

As most of the time happens during a camp, the minute the itinerary was printed, it changed. There were severe storm warnings throughout so we had to adapt and work around it. We lucked out for the most part but Sunday instead of a planned long bike ride, we stayed inside and rode computrainers plus some mini clinics, run and swim analysis and bike fits.

We actually lucked out and didn't have to run for shelter since the tornadoes missed us by a few miles but instead of having our end of camp party at Coach Kevin's home, we opted for having at GPP.

One of the many highlights of the weekend was getting to meet Gordon Haller - the very first Kona Ironman winner. He trained with us all weekend and then we were honored to have him speak to us Sunday night. What great stories he has! If you haven't heard much about him, check out this website.
It was a joy to meet Gordon and his lovely wife, Beth.
We had a little band action after with Coach Moe and his band. It was a great way to wind down.
There was still a half day training planned for Monday but I was missing out on it so I could get things packed up for my flight home. I've decided I need to get much more familiar with my bike so I can be self sufficient. In the meanwhile, I am eternally grateful to my bike expert friends. I've already talked about Top Gear Bikes in Bountiful and Jeff at Precision Bikes who have helped tear down and reassemble my bike but I have to give another shout out to Joe in Arkansas who was waiting for me to arrive on Thursday and met me early Monday morning to pack it all up again. Thank you so very much!

I am trying to write this in a hurry because I am heading down to St. George to volunteer for the IM70.3 this weekend and to cheer on all my racing friends. I'm forgetting so much about the memorable weekend and haven't even touched on how much food gets eaten during one of these training sessions! I absolutely love everyone that I met this weekend and look forward to a long friendship with you. And to the GPP coaches - thank you for all your support and feedback. You continue to make me a better athlete!
I hope to do you proud as an athlete and fellow coach - Oh yes, by the way, I PASSED the certification and am now a proud USAT level 1 Triathlon Coach!